Monday, August 4, 2014

Carter's Top 50 Films (August 2014)

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe."

Just under a year ago, I composed a "Top 40 Favorite Films" list. Following Lee Sabo's suggestion that I treat such lists as a kind of thought-exercise, like a Rubik's cube, I have decided to create another such list now, for fun. I have expanded it to fifty selections this time.

Remember, this is NOT a list of "must-see" classics provided by a film scholar or "expert," but rather a slapdash list of my "favorite" films at the present moment, the main criterion of value being how much pleasure I take from viewing and re-viewing these particular movies.

I have tried to go on instinct and simply jot down what the Top 50 might be, without reviewing my list from last time.

Here are a few notes on the changes and what they tell me about my tastes these days:

I typically do not throw newly discovered films into my "Favorites" list until they've had some time to "season." Given the types of films I generally prefer -- films made for adults with some narrative, thematic, and/or visual substance and ambition -- it doesn't do to rush movies into my personal canon until I ensure they will withstand the test of time.

That said, two films I discovered only last year -- We Need to Talk About Kevin and Holy Motors -- have made this list. These two are definitely solid favorites despite their newness to me.

I may be kind of "over" James Bond, I haven't sat down to do a Bond-fest in quite some time, and thus Thunderball -- still the best-ever Bond film IMO -- has been bumped.

I could have put First Blood and Blue Velvet and Female Trouble and especially Nebraska on this list, but the first three are ones that I haven't returned to as much lately and the last one is a "new favorite" I've only seen once -- Nebraska needs further road-testing before making a list like this.

I also more or less ignored documentaries on that previous list -- I don't know why -- and have corrected for that omission here.

So. . .

Tabloid (2010)*
Pitch Black (2000)
Holy Motors (2012)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Bernie (2011)
Brother's Keeper (1992)
Blade Runner (1982)
Zodiac (2007)
Memories of Murder (2003)
The Room (2003)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
King Kong (1933)
King Kong (1976)
Nashville (1975)
Chinatown (1974)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Shampoo (1975)
The Parallax View (1976)
The Birds (1963)
Dogville (2003)
Rashomon (1950)
Caché (2005)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Videodrome (1984)
Contagion (2011)
Election (1999)
Muriel's Wedding (1994)
The TV Set (2006)
Cure (1997)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Duel (1971)
Alien (1979)
The Terminator (1984)
Rio Bravo (1959)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Heat (1995)
Double Indemnity (1945)
City Lights (1931)
Fargo (1996)
A Serious Man (2009)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
Chuck&Buck (2000)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Deep Water (2006)
Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

UPDATE 8/6/2014: A few more ruminations on the process behind and implications of this list:

First, Mother and Snowpiercer did not unseat Memories of Murder, the latter still being my favorite Bong Joon-ho film. This highlights the subjectivity of the film experience, in that Memories, while a terrific film, and surely worthy on an artistic level of being on any quasi-objective "best films" type list, is my #1 Bong Joon-ho film in part because of my personal tastes (I love serial killer stories) and due to how strongly I bonded with it when I first saw it (I was absolutely spellbound). As a scholar and film critic, I would say that Mother (2009) is Bong's objectively best film, and that Snowpiercer (2014) is his best big-budget, mass-audience film. But humble little Memories of Murder is still my personal favorite.

Other substitutions on this list are more arbitrary -- Contagion for Bubble, Dogville for Melancholia, The Birds for Psycho -- and these were based mainly on what came to mind this time. I probably like each of the films in these pairs about equally at the end of the day. In related news, I vaguely considered swapping in Zero Effect for The TV Set, because I saw the former Jake Kasdan film more recently and remembered how much I like it. But no dice on that one. See how arbitrary this process is?

Eyes Wide Shut, The Lost World, Election, and Rashomon represent films that would have made it onto last November's list if I were more honest with myself and/or I had remembered them when composing it.

Finally, yes, I do enjoy Jurassic Park 2 more than I usually enjoy the original Jurassic Park; I have watched the sequel MANY more times than the original. As with the Bong films discussed above, I know it's odd how much I like the second Jurassic Park film -- I am not saying that it is objectively better than the first, only that I personally enjoy it more.

* This was a really tough one; Errol Morris is my favorite documentarian and I struggled with whether I should put Tabloid, The Thin Blue Line (1988), or Standard Operating Procedure (2008) down as my fave. Tabloid won out because I watched it (again) most recently so its pleasures were freshest in my mind.


  1. I'm flattered that you thought so much of my suggestion. I find that doing this every once in a way is a way to keep my memory fresh and to take stock of how I've changed as a film-watcher.

    I've seen all but a handful of these, and a couple would be on my own favorites list. My favorite Errol Morris film - by FAR - is Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. That would be one of my top ten or fifteen.

    1. I'll have to re-watch that Morris film -- it has been awhile. I love all his films though.

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