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— Errata Movie Podcast —

I've been in list mode recently. It's a good way to stave off blogger guilt ("you're only as good as your last post," "people are drifting away") during a busy summer.

Recently a friend pointed me at, a fun site where you can maintain a list of your 20 all-time favorite movies and view other users' lists. The site can even calculate how much affinity your list has with someone else's.

Here's my current list (circa June 2004), followed by some commentary:

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
The Kid (Chaplin)
Rear Window (Hitchcock)
Late Spring (Ozu)
Good Men, Good Women (Hou)
The Man with the Suitcase (Akerman)
The Dekalog (Kieslowski)
The Bicycle Thief (De Sica)
The Son (Dardenne & Dardenne)
Nostalghia (Tarkovsky)
The King of Comedy (Scorsese)
Sans Soleil (Marker)
The Conversation (Coppola)
Toby Dammit (Fellini)
Nashville (Altman)
Dead Man (Jarmusch)
Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (Morris)
Nightjohn (Burnett)

And now a few notes:

  • That's only 18. Arriving at 20 movies is really, really hard. I suppose that means the list should be bursting at the seams, but by leaving a few empty slots I remind myself that it's a work in progress. Sight & Sound limits the critics and directors in its poll to ten! Rosenbaum's top 1000 sounds like a luxury by comparison. Oh, but you think that's easy?
  • I followed the one-film-per-director rule.
  • The list above is a snapshot of a list that's sure to change. It's something to blush about in 5 years.
  • I notice that 4 or 5 of the entries are movies that I saw for the first time in the last couple of years. Maybe that means I'm being impulsive, but I hope that my life continues this way. More good movies are waiting, and a list shouldn't ossify, although I suppose a foundation would be nice.
  • Earliest film: 1921 (The Kid)
  • Latest film: 2002 (The Son)
  • Number of silent films: one. I'm sure that Murnau's Sunrise, Lang's Metropolis, or Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc could make the list, but I've only seen one of them projected, and I only have two slots left. Math. Also omitted are Vigo's L'Atalante, Lang's M, and Dreyer's Vampyre which are early talkies but so quiet they almost seem like products of a middle era. Plus I admit that a certain contrarian streak makes me want to leave all of these staples out of the list, even though I love each one.
  • Number of American films (liberal definition): a whopping nine. Number of films made in my lifetime: twelve. Clearly I could stand to broaden my selections.
  • Number of films from Iran: zero. I mention this because what about Kiarostami? Or Samira Makhmalbaf? Or Jafar Panahi?
  • Number of documentaries: two. But, what exactly do Sans Soleil and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control document?
  • Number of comedies: one, I suppose, The Kid, which I chose over, say, City Lights because I think it's the point at which Chaplin discovered his talent for twisting comedy and drama, second-by-second, into a single strand, and I'm not sure he ever wove them better than in the sequence where the authorities come to take his kid away. I love Keaton, too, but even a great movie like The General, which displays an elegance that Chaplin never possessed, fails to capture universal human experience the way Chaplin could.
  • Well, is Toby Dammit a comedy? Yes, if comedies can remove characters' heads — and why not? — so make that two. Fellini's short is part of a crummy anthology whose English title is Spirits of the Dead. If you rent the DVD, you may skip the film by Malle, you must skip the film by Vadim, and then you have to rejigger your audio settings so that you're not listening to the English-dubbed soundtrack but instead listening to Fellini's original soundtrack, the one with Terrence Stamp's own voice. His character doesn't understand the things that are said to him in foreign languages! The hideous dubbing on the DVD flattens everything to English and completely obscures this very important joke.
  • Why Nostalghia versus Stalker or Andrei Rublev or any of Tarkovsky's other films? Well, for me his movies require repeat viewings before I feel like I've gone beneath the surface, and Nostalghia is the one I've seen the most. Also, I've never seen Andrei Rublev projected, and it's hard to appreciate Tarkovsky on a TV as small as mine. Besides all that, the imagery in Nostalghia continues to amaze me.
  • Number of children's movies: one, I suppose, Nightjohn. I imagine many kids would love Chaplin's movie, too, but Nightjohn was made specifically for them, by the Disney Channel, even. But that's not why it's on my list. Director Charles Burnett worked within a narrow assignment to make a movie that is honest about slavery like few movies are. When little Sarny defies the rules of her masters and learns to read, literacy seems as important as breathing. It's a profoundly moving depiction of how education empowers people and how withholding it enslaves them, which is, by the way, still true.
  • Ghost Dog or Dead Man? I go back and forth, but when I think of Johnny Depp's hallucinogenic trip beyond the gates of the village at the end of the movie, I lean toward Dead Man.
  • Nashville or maybe The Long Goodbye? Tough one. I need to see The Long Goodbye again.
  • The Conversation or The Godfather? The Conversation. Nothing against The Godfather, but movies that feel sparse often appeal to me more than sweeping epics.
  • Nothing by Claire Denis? My God, nothing by Claire Denis!
  • Nothing by Jean-Luc Godard? My God, nothing by Jean-Luc Godard!
  • Nothing by Carl Th. Dreyer? Sweet Mother of God, nothing by Carl Th. Dreyer!
  • Or Lang? Or Hawks? Or Bresson? This is getting out of hand.
  • Also nothing by Bergman, but you know there's a retrospective coming around later this year and I'll wait until I've seen more of his work on film.
Posted by davis | Link
Reader Comments
June 27, 2004, 06:44 PM

I forgot about Toby Dammit. I'm going out to rent it tonight here:

which seems like a great movie rental find, especially since it's around the corner.

June 28, 2004, 03:33 PM
Doug Cummings

Great list, Rob! And I liked your commentary almost as much as the list itself. :)

I'm glad to see you appreciated "Nightjohn"--it's my favorite Burnett of the three or four of his I've seen.


June 28, 2004, 07:05 PM

Very interesting list. Sans Soleil has been one of my must see movies for years, but I never seem to get around to it. Hopefully this will be the year. And I agree completely about The Conversation.

Here's my list:

June 30, 2004, 06:26 PM

Nothing by Antonioni? My God, nothing by Antonioni!

July 1, 2004, 12:48 AM

Heather, that does look like a good find. A few searches of their database turned up a lot of good stuff. Hope you like Toby Dammit. I seem to recall that you're a Fellini fan, so it should be up your alley.

Doug, thanks. And thanks for the pointer to the ymdb. Nightjohn is the kind of movie I wanted to tell everyone to see, which is of course hard to do. Did you happen to see Burnett's short, "When it Rains"? It's great, with a quick rhythm and a kind of effervescent community spirit. It was over so quickly that I really need to see it again, but I believe Rosenbaum listed it as one of his 10 faves in the most recent Sight & Sound poll. And Armond White calls it, "a masterpiece about the disparate elements of a modern American community and the humane art?the good humor?that binds it" (according to the PFA notes).

Donald, I hope you enjoy Sans Soleil. I find it very inspiring. The content is fascinating, but also the form appeals to my sense of collage... I always enjoy connecting disparate things, and Marker does that very, very well. By the way, unless you speak French, I suggest watching the UK version, if you have the choice. Marker does both English and French versions of his films, so it's fully blessed and easier to follow because you don't have to read subtitles. Also: our ymdb lists have 9.36% affinity. :-) Nice list. Lots of great Hollywood classics.

July 1, 2004, 12:56 AM

Antonioni! I can't believe I forgot L'Avventura. What can be done to remedy this, now that the list is set in stone? Hmm.

Actually, I would love to see Antonioni's movies on a large screen, which I've never been able to do. That imposing architecture wasn't meant for television at all.

January 19, 2007, 04:59 AM

Nothing by Aki Kaurismäki? He has made some great films.