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January 13, 2013

13 Films I Need To See ASAP

The film critics connected with Twitch Film have decided to write their lists of Shame. These are lists of great films the writers admit to having not seen, despite their presence on many “best-of” lists. At first I was very dismissive. I mean, how can someone call themselves a film critic having never seen classics […]

The film critics connected with Twitch Film have decided to write their lists of Shame. These are lists of great films the writers admit to having not seen, despite their presence on many “best-of” lists.

At first I was very dismissive. I mean, how can someone call themselves a film critic having never seen classics like Lawrence of Arabia or Seven Samurai? But, the truth is we all have skeletons in our closets. Besides, people don’t become critics, in film, music or food because they know everything already, in some kind of encyclopaedic way, the become critics because they get the opportunity to write about something and over time they develop expertise in that area. Critics are made, not born.

The really great crime is pretending to know everything – that’s when a critic becomes shrill, unhelpful or just plain idiotic. The lists of shame are great way for these critics to get the skeletons out of the closet and move forward in their work.

And, as I started to think about the genres of films I enjoy and the movies that repeatedly make it to onto the critical lists, it was clear I needed my own list of shame.

That said, when I looked at the film critic’s lists of shame I was immediately thankful, not just for being older and having seen some of the films on their lists on first release, but also for a few quirks of my upbringing. As a kid, we had a show on commercial television in Australia that screened great classic films on Sunday nights (and often two films). Along with the classics occasionally screened on our national broadcaster that gave me a huge start in classic dramas and comedies, westerns, film noir and even silent films. A little before I entered my teens, a government funded TV station was launched with a mandate to broadcast non-English language programmes and that was my introduction to great arthouse and world cinema. So, even before I left school I’d been lucky enough to see many of the films that appear on the best of lists published around the world.

But, of course, my film experience has some gaps!

My List Of Shame

13. Spirited Away (2001) – This animated hit from the legendary Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki is considered to be one of the best recent animated films from Japan. Lisa Schwarzbaum, writing in Entertainment Weekly described it as “a triumph of psychological depth and artistic brilliance.”

12. Sherlock Jr (1924) – I grew up with a pretty strong aversion to Silent Era comedies (with the exception of those starring Charlie Chaplin) and it was only in later years, after seeing films like Steamboat Bill Jr. and The General, that I started to appreciate the talent of Buster Keaton. This is still ranked as one of his best, most visually impressive and funniest films

11. YiYi (2000) – This three hour drama, centred around the life of one Taiwanese family has often been described in ways that suggest an epic study of human existence. Edward Guthmann’s review in the San Francisco Chronicle described YiYi as “Wise, delicate and impeccably performed.”

10. Bye Bye Brasil (1979) – This Brasilian road movie about a touring circus sideshow was nominated for a Cannes Palm d’Or and is one of the best known and most successful South American films of its era.

9. L’Atalante (1934) – Now considered one of the best films of all time and a classic of French cinema, L’Atalante was tragically under-appreciated on first release, with the director dying soon after the film was savaged cut and re-edited for the cinema. I’m familiar with frames and scenes of the film, because it is so often discussed as an influence on later French New Wave and European Art Cinema. Thankfully, we now have a fully restored DVD/Blue-Ray version that returns the film to its original length.

8. Sansho Dayu (1954) – I have an abiding love for Japanese historical dramas and like the other films I’ve seen from director Kenji Mizoguchi. Sansho Dayu is often considered one of the best in this genre. Speaking of the film’s impact, New Yorker’s Anthony Lane said, “I have seen Sansho only once, a decade ago, emerging from the cinema a broken man but calm in my conviction that I had never seen anything better; I have not dared watch it again, reluctant to ruin the spell, but also because the human heart was not designed to weather such an ordeal.”

7. Calle 54 (2000) – This documentary focussed on Latin Jazz is widely regarded as one of the best music-oriented films of recent years. Critically heralded upon its release, Calle 54 was eclipsed by the much more commercially successful Wim Wenders’ film Buena Vista Social Club. Writing in The Washington Post, Fernando Gonzalez said “This is one fan’s valentine to the music he loves. It just happens that the fan is a terrific filmmaker and the music loves him back — and we get to see it and hear it all. What a treat.”

6. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) – I saw a lot of classic British films growing up in Australia, but I never saw this one. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise as the film was massively cut, from 153 minutes to 90 for TV. In recent years critics have come to consider it one of the best British films of all time. Stephen Fry, talking about the film in an interview said, “It takes a longer view of history which was an extraordinarily brave thing for someone to do in 1943, at a time when history seemed to have disintegrated into its most helpless, impossible and unforgivable state.”

5. Sweet Smell Of Success (1957) This critically acclaimed film, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, was a commercial flop when it was first released. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick who is best known for Ealing Studio hits like The Man In The White Suit and The Ladykillers under mounting pressure from the studio to make it less dark. One of my favourite critics, David Denby of New York Magazine considers this the best cinematic depiction of New York City.

4. Man With A Movie Camera (1929) – I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen this avant garde documentary mentioned in critical and scholarly articles about the history of cinema. Praised just as much for its inventive use of new techniques as for its subject matter, this is considered one of the most important films in the history of cinema. Critic Neil Young said of Man With A Movie Camera, “It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Goddard’s ‘Breathless’ 30 years later.”

3. Come And See (1985) – Set during the German occupation of Belorussia in WW2 this film is considered by many to be one of the best war films of all time and regularly appears on critical and industry best of lists. The title of the film comes the words that introduce the appearance of the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which might in part be why some call this Russia’s Apocalypse Now.

2. Wild Strawberries (1957) – As a fan of Ingmar Bergman it is embarrassing to admit I’ve never what many consider to be one of his best films. To make matters worse, Wild Strawberries influenced several of Woody Allen’s best films, including Stardust Memories, Crimes and Misdemeanours and Deconstructing Harry. Philosopher Roger Scruton said of this film “Wild Strawberries is one of many examples of true cinematic art””

1. Evil Dead 2 (1987) – While I quite liked the original film in this series, The Evil Dead and much of director Sam Raimi’s later work, Evil Dead 2 came out during a period in my teens when I was totally off horror films (and kind of up myself). Since then I’ve had opportunities to see this movie, which many consider to be one of the most entertaining, if not one of the best genre films of all time. Time to bite down hard on a classic I might well have ignorantly slagged off all those years ago.

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Responses
Spike 10 years ago

Spirited Away – Not ” one of the best recent animated films from Japan”. One of the best animated films from anywhere, period.

Sherlock Jr – unforgettable, funny as hell

YiYi – incredibly moving

Wild Strawberries – my first Bergman film, changed my life

Evil Dead 2 – essentially a higher budget remake of the first Evil Dead, it is the best in the series.

    Fernando Gros 10 years ago

    Spike – thanks for confirming the choices! I look forward even more to seeing these films!

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