We don’t know everything at LSS, but we do know it’s Christmas, and many of you penned in by the COVID-19 panic will be anxiously looking for a few movies to while away your forced confinement. So what follows is our personal choice of ones we think are the best in their classes-but it is just that, our choice. If you can think of any better, let us know?
Western: The Searchers John Ford 1956 Still utterly relevant; even as it explores the the themes of ethnic hatred, rape and dark obsession, it achieves the ultimate aim of art: its characters and world are transformed by the experiences so that the end of the film seems utterly remote from the beginning. John Wayne’s savage war veteran finds some reconciliation with his demons at last. All against the background of a burning, hostile landscape.
Runner up: The Outlaw Josey Wales
Sci Fi: 2001 A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick 1968 The once world- beating special effects now look a bit creaky, and the plot hard without a couple of viewings. Yet nothing comes close to this in conveying the vast unknowable mystery of time and space. That’s why early critics struggled- the universe is much bigger than a few glib phrases and plot lines. Therefore,oddly, it’s one of the most authentic films ever made.
Runner up: Forbidden Planet
War: Paths of Glory Stanley Kubrick 1957 In war either the other side kill you for courage, or your own does for cowardice. Nothing and no one quite conveys the harrowing cruelty of death inflicted on a group of innocent men for refusing to obey stupid and suicidal orders. Some people can only watch this once and never go back. Clue-if a movie can do that to you, what must a real war be like?
Runner up: Das Boot
Detective/Noir: Blade Runner Ridley Scott 1982 So good it could have swept the categories for sci fi or love and romance, this tale of policemen hunting rogue genetically engineered replicants in an ecologically destroyed Los Angeles may actually be further ahead of its time than its release date suggests. Van Gelis’ soundtrack is masterful in conveying Scott’s moods, and Harrison Ford’s laconic detective is in our view his best ever performance. In 2120 who or what are we going to call human?
Runner up: The Maltese Falcon
Musical: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Jim Sharman 1975 Alright, we know there’s some big budget blasters out there packed with talented singers writers and directors. In our view none quite touch this cheeky melange of punk, goth and good old rock and roll. Not even Sound of Music has a cult following and audience participation like this, as attendance at a scary midnight theatre performance will show.
Runner up: West Side Story
Comedy: The Producers Mel Brooks 1967 An outrageous, painfully funny account of how two crooked Broadway entrepreneurs attempt to scam their investors by producing a sure fire flop. For us, later Brooks efforts were a little too long on pastiche and short on real comedy, but this exploration of grotesque venality uses parody sparingly, and lets is characters do the work. That said, their musical Springtime for Hitler plumbs true depths of bad taste and crass offensiveness. How can you not admire lines like “Don’t be dumb-be a smartie. Come and join the Nazi Party!” bellowed in a raw Bronx accent?
Runner Up: Dr Strangelove
Christmas: The Lion in Winter Anthony Harvey 1968. No Santa, elves, snow, or heart warming ghosts rattling a collecting tin. This one, based on real events, depicts a strife torn Christmas for the dysfunctional Angevin family and their egomaniacal head Henry II at Chinon castle in 1183. Watch as future and present kings and queens snipe, snark, betray, lie, deceive, quarrel and attempt murder around the usual lavish food, drink and decorations all one Christmas long. Do the auteurs of this film know something?
Runner Up: It’s a Wonderful Life
Gangster: The Godfather Francis Ford Coppola 1972 In a strong field, nothing has ever quite matched the dark sinister power of Marlon Brando’s Don Vito Corleone, and the array of psychotics and sociopaths who surround him. Epic in that its sequels form a near perfect triptych, it raises deep questions and about the springs of American society and where real power ultimately lies.
Runner Up: Goodfellas
Classic: Ran Akira Kurosawa 1985 Transposes Shakespeare’s King Lear to Samurai Japan. There’s plenty of blood, action and betrayal. But the tale is essentially the same: doting deluded old fool of a King gives away all his power to his scary children, and imagines that everything will be the same afterwards. Not without contemporary relevance. Spoiler alert: no one lives happily ever after.
Runner Up: Great Expectations 1948 version
Love and Romance Casablanca Michael Curtiz 1942 Yes, we know it’s pretty stock plot with certain characters like Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre all reprising themselves. And we know it’s all a bit far fetched and too goody at the end. In that case, why do so many people like it, why does it never fail to make all the lists of all time greats, and why is it referenced again and again? Because no one’s ever going to make a better one, that’s why.
Runner Up: Quest for Fire
Epic: Gone with the Wind Victor Fleming 1939. So majestic in its sweep characters and scenery that it became the benchmark for epic films forever. Even Goebbels tried to ape it a few years later, but all he got was a turkey. GWTW managed to sneak in some quite shrewd political analysis. To some cocky southerners ,eager to flounce out of the Union, Clark Gable counsels: “Are you sure? All we’ve got is cotton, slaves and arrogance!” More prosecco, anyone?
Runner Up: Lawrence of Arabia
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