Saturday, January 31, 2009

90s Films

Gaston's Films

Hoop Dreams
All About My Mother
Pulp Fiction

Honorable Mention:
Schindler’s List

Azimuth's Films

1. Schindler's List
2. Pulp Fiction
3. Life is Beautiful
4. Miller's Crossing
5. Unforgiven

Honorable Mention:

6. Fargo
7. Goodfellas
8. Silence of the Lambs
9. Beauty and the Beast
10. The Shawshank Redemption

80s Films

Gaston's Films

Blade Runner
Blue Velvet
Do the Right Thing
Raging Bull

Honorable Mention:
Once Upon a Time in America

Azimuth's Films

Best Films, 1980-1989

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. Raging Bull
3. Ran
4. The Elephant Man
5. Blade Runner

Notable Films, 1980-1989

6. Brazil
7. E.T.--The Extra-Terrestrial
8. The Last Temptation of Christ
9. The Right Stuff
10. Platoon

70s Films

Gaston's Films

Godfather II
Days of Heaven
The Deerhunter

Honorable Mention:

Azimuth's Films

Best Films, 1970-1979

1. The Godfather
2. The Godfather, Part II
3. Chinatown
4. Annie Hall
5. Jaws

Notable Films, 1970-1979

6. Star Wars
7. Taxi Driver
8. Days of Heaven
9. Apocalypse Now
10. Network
(tie: Nashville)

60s Films

Gaston's Films

8 ½
Lawrence of Arabia
2001: A Space Odyssey

Honorable Mention:

Azimuth's Films

1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. The Graduate
3. Psycho
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
5. Dr. Strangelove

Notable Films, 1960-1969

6. To Kill A Mockingbird
7. Easy Rider
8. The Apartment
9. 8 1/2
10. Midnight Cowboy

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 50s

Gaston's Films

Singin’ in the Rain
Seven Samurai
The Searchers
Seventh Seal

Honorable Mention:

Azimuth's Films

Best Films, 1950-1959

1. The Searchers
2. Seven Samurai
3. La Dolce Vita
4. On the Waterfront
5. The Seventh Seal

Notable Films, 1950-1959

6. Rashomon
7. Vertigo
8. A Streetcar Named Desire
9. High Noon
10. Sunset Blvd.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The 40s

Gaston's Films

Out of the Past
Citizen Kane
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Bicycle Thieves

Honorable Mention:
Shadow of a Doubt

Azimuth's Films
Best Films, 1940-1949

1. Citizen Kane
2. Casablanca
3. Bicycle Thieves
4. The Maltese Falcon
5. The Third Man

Notable Films, 1940-1949

6. The Great Dictator
7. It's A Wonderful Life
8. Sullivan's Travels
9. The Lost Weekend
10. Double Indemnity

The 30s

Okay. Here's what we start with. Five films per decade, one honorable mention. Between the two of us, that's a possible twelve films, which should approach the cream of the crop. My choices are my faves which are functionally my choices for best. Once we work our way through each decade we can start the responses about the best decade...

Gaston's list

City Lights
Trouble in Paradise
Duck Soup
Gone With the Wind

Honorable Mention:
The Lady Vanishes

Azimuth's List

Azimuth's Films

Best Films, 1930-1939

1. Gone With the Wind
2. It Happened One Night
3. Duck Soup
4. Bride of Frankenstein
5. The Wizard of Oz

Notable Films, 1930-1939

6. All Quiet on the Western Front
7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
8. King Kong
9. M
10. Modern Times

My Best Records of 2008

These are the records I would set aside as the ten best of 2008:

1. For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver
2. Fleet Foxes
, Fleet Foxes
3. Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
4. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, Sigur Ros
5. Microcastle, Deerhunter
6. The Seldom Seen Kid, Elbow
7. Volume One, She & Him
8. Nouns, No Age
9. Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
10. Attack and Release, The Black Keys

These would be my "honorable mentions" for the year, in order:

11. Fur,
Blitzen Trapper
12. Dear Science, TV on the Radio
13. Modern Guilt, Beck
14. April, Sun Kil Moon
15. 13 Blues for 13 Moons, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
16. Vampire Weekend,
Vampire Weekend
17. The Stand Ins, Okkervil River
18. Heretic Pride, The Mountain Goats
19. Consolers of the Lonely, The Raconteurs
20. Distortion, The Magnetic Fields
21. Brendan Canning's Something For All of Us, Broken Social Scene

I have not listened to the following records, but I really want to:

Saturdays = Youth
, M83
Hercules and Love Affair, Hercules and Love Affair
You & Me, The Walkmen
Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, Grouper

I listened to and didn't give too much of a shit about:

Re-Arrange Us, Mates of State
Third, Portishead
Let the Blind Lead Those Who..., Atlas Sound
Songs in A & E, Spiritualized
Partie Traumatic, Black Kids
Death Magnetic, Metallica
Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards It Did, The Twilight Sad
Youth Novels, Lykke Li
Off With Their Heads, Kaiser Chiefs


People who talk up Stay Positive can go fuck themselves. That record is the definition of "wheel-spinning." I'd rather listen to Viva La Vida.

Top 2008 Albums...

I listened hardcore to maybe 25 albums this year. I browsed end of the year lists and sampled things that looked interesting. I did a bunch of Top 500 all time listening too, so this list is necessarily truncated. My taste this year tended towards things that 1) I could run to 2)sounded like a beach that I was at or that Bruce Springsteen would sing about and 3) sounded right in the dozens of airplanes and metro rails I rode throughout the year.

In no particular order:
Anathallo/Canopy Glow
Blitzen Trapper/Furr
Bon Iver/For Emma, Forever Ago
Fleet Foxes/Fleet Foxes
Gaslight Anthem/The ’59 Sound
M83/Saturdays = Sound
My Brightest Diamond/A Thousand Shark’s Teeth
Sun Kil Moon/April
Vampire Weekend/Vampire Weekend

The individual songs I listened to most (again in no particular order):
Blind/Hercules and the Love Affair
Blue Ridge Mountains/Fleet Foxes
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa/Vampire Weekend
Furr/Blitzen Trapper
Inside a Boy/My Brightest Diamond
The Light/Sun Kil Moon
Kim and Jessie/M83
Noni's Field/Anathallo
Nothing Ever Happened/Deerhunter
Re: Stacks/Bon Iver
Time to Pretend/MGMT

Top films 2008, in media res...

Current Top Five, in no particular order:
The Dark Knight
Man on Wire
Synecdoche, New York
Tropic Thunder

Ten films I want to see from last year:
1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
2. Waltz with Bashir
3. Slumdog Millionaire
4. Frost/Nixon
5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
6. The Reader
7. Happy Go Lucky
8. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
9. The Wrestler
10. Che

Rated, Over and Under

Laura Linney, a perfectly acceptable three star actress...

That's the assertion I'm building this post on. Let's forget individual best lists for awhile and start making larger categories. Four star, three star, two star, one star, etc. actors and actresses...

Who is rated (perfectly in tune with their critical legacy)? Who is overrated? Who is underrated? How do you choose?

For example:

Four Stars:
DeNiro, Brando, Streep, Hepburn, Stewart

Three Stars:
Bale, Crowe, Linney, Depp, Winslett, Kilmer (underrated in my book)

Two Stars:
Wayne, Pitt, Clooney, Portman, Johannson (overrated in my book)

One Star:
Keanu Reeves, Diaz, Roberts

Zero Stars:
LeBlanc, Alba, Van Damme

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Actors, and the Directors who love them

Something tangential.

What do you think about the relationship between particular actors and directors...and because there are WAY more male directors than female directors, this consequently means less chance of this for women?

1. Ford and Wayne
2. Hawks and Grant
3. Capra and Stewart
4. Hitchcock and Grant
5. Hitchcock and Stewart
6. Scorsese and DeNiro
7. Scorsese and Dicaprio (last three films, PLUS next two films)
8. Anderson and Wilson
9. Soderbergh and Clooney
10. Kurosawa and Tofune
11. Herzog and Kinski
12. Scott and Crowe
13. LaBute and Eckhart

There are some director/actress relationships.
1. Griffith and Gish
2. Cukor and Hepburn
3. Hitchock and Bergman
4. Hitchcock and Kelly
5. Lynch and Dern

Any ideas about this phenomenon?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Criteria call

I'm talking to you, T. Azimouth.

I want a positive argument from you. What is the rationale for any number of bad films erasing DeNiro's list? We still haven't talked about all the stink bombs in Brando's column (The Island of Dr. Moreau, anyone?).

My argument against Brando is NOT based on the fact that the bad films erase the power of Streetcar OR On the Waterfront. The argument instead is that he has FEWER great films than DeNiro.

I want a positive argument that demonstrates why a bad film in somebody's category should diminish their legacy. If this is true, should the LACK of bad films be seen as a positive? How many STINKER Cary Grant films can you come up with? Jimmy Stewart?

DeNiro could make 57 sequels to Rocky and Bullwinkle, in my opinion, and still be the greatest male film actor. You can't match him great film for great film, great performance for great performance. Is it a coincidence that almost all of his iconic performances correspond to great films, unlike some of the other actors we discussed?

De Niro Takes...De Nero?

Since 2000:

Righteous Kill
What Just Happened
The Good Sheperd
Arther and the Invisibles
Hide and Seek
Meet the Fockers
Shark Tale
Godsend (shudder...)
Analyze That
City by the Sea
The Score
15 Minutes
Meet the Parents
Men of Honor
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

More considerations

I've been buzzing about, skimming through these actor discussions. I have seen far fewer films than you two gentlemen; nevertheless, I shall offer my opinions.

As far as the number of quality films a person acts in, I suppose we have to think about the length of a person's career, which I'm sure you've considered. Someone like Elizabeth Taylor, who was quite captivating in her early career hasn't continued. What do we do with someone who has a career like hers? And are you all thinking specifically about leading roles, or can someone be a supporting actor/character actor? What if the person has the potential to be both and has played integral roles and less-visible parts? I guess I'm asking if a person's versatility should be a factor in determining said actor's greatness.

For me, it seems to be about being able to dissolve one's public persona (say, who we the public think DeNiro or Eastwood or Streep *is*) and becoming this other person. That sense of versatility then becomes the trump card when considering greatness, and I think it's particularly remarkable when an actor's appearance (ie his or her physical beauty or age or unattractiveness or something like this) fades. Someone like Joan Crawford I enjoy a great deal, but her later pictures, she's just Joan Crawford being another version of herself (the public persona we attach to her), the melodramatic bitch-goddess. That's why I can get behind someone like Gene Hackman being considered as a masterful living actor.

That being said, I can think of a couple of living actors who may not be the tippy-top of the poll but certainly deserve a second look:

1. Sissy Spacek

2. Tommy Lee Jones

3. Shirley McClaine

Maybe I'd throw in a Sally Field or a Ralph Finnes, because of their abilities to sort of dissolve into their roles.

Also, Judi Dench has a long TV career too. She's quite good in As Time Goes By. And for the record, I'd like to say Paul Newman and Peter O'Toole are two of my favorites. Kudos to considering Cary Grant. I think he was an equally adept comedic and dramatic actor.

Lastly, and this is more tangential, I have less a problem with using the term "actress" to mean "female actor," simply because it's more descriptive and specific than "actor."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Exceptional Meryl Streep Performances:

The Deer Hunter
Kramer vs. Kramer
Sophie's Choice

Strong Meryl Streep Performances:

The French Lieutenant's Woman
Out of Africa
The Bridges of Madison County
The Hours
Angels in America
The Devil Wears Prada

Totally Crazy Meryl Streep Performances:

Death Becomes Her
A Prairie Home Companion

OSCAR Nominations:

The Devil Wears Prada
Music of the Heart
One True Thing
The Bridges of Madison County
Postcards from the Edge
Evil Angels
Out of Africa
Sophie's Choice (won)
The French Lieutenant's Woman
Kramer vs. Kramer (won)
The Deer Hunter.

That's right: she's been nominated 12 times. 12. With a 13th for Doubt a near-certainty. She also has two Emmys. 6 Golden Globes. An AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. 2 National Board of Review Awards. 4 NSFCA Awards. And 2 SAG Awards.

I think her pedigree stands up, and I think she's a pretty solid pick for best female actor of all time.

Some mini-arguments

I'm still working out my top ten lists. I have done a little bit of work, though.

1. Robert DeNiro
I can tell you right now that this cat should be on top. Perhaps not the most talented among the bunch (you could say that Brando had more raw sexuality and chops), but definitely the best all around candidate with range and an amazing list of films (by far, the best out of the top 300, imho).
Check these out: Raging Bull, Godfather II, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, Mean Streets, Deer Hunter, and King of Comedy and Casino somewhere in the top 500...
If we needed a tiebreaker between him and Brando (more on him in a sec), check out GF II where I think ONLY he could have pulled off a performance as the young Brando-Corleone.

2. Brando
Influence? Hear it. Strength/quality of individual performances? Okay. The breadth just isn't there though. Sandy Koufax of acting. He's hurt by the fact that he only has two leading roles in Top 100 flicks. He's at best a bit player in Apocalypse, something akin to Welles in Third Man (though not as good as Welles's turn as Harry Lime). Incidentally, the lack of great FILMS to support the great PERFORMANCES is one reason why I've rethought Nicholson and Hoffman. Just not there.

3. Cary Grant
WTF? Why isn't he on our top list...maybe top 5? Talk about no respect! Look at this guy's list from the top 300:
North by Northwest, Notorious, Bringing up Baby, His Girl Friday, Philadelphia Story, Only Angels Have Wings, The Awful Truth, Gunga Din...
We have range and quality in spades.

4. Intriguing also rans (those who won't quite make it but who are analogous to Oldman as best supporting nods...)
a. Joseph Cotton
b. Sterling Hayden
c. Gene Hackman
d. William Holden


Cross reference each actor with a list of the Top 100 films (your list, The National Film Critics list, AFI, just something); how many Top 100 films is each actor in?

Evaluate range; is DeNiro the same character in each of his top movies? No. Does he have good performances across a range of genres? I would say yes.

Subtract points NOT for bad films but BAD performances in BAD films; thus Oldman can't be blamed if JFK gets crushed under the weight of Kevin Costner. His performance as Oswald is terrific.

Tiebreaker? Boxoffice. Possibly Oscars.

Holla back.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Best Actors, Living, Dead, Men, Women, and Otherwise

My thoughts on your list, Jonathan, then my lists:

I like a lot of the love you're giving out here, even though I don't agree about Dame Judi Dench (care to highlight some notable work I might not be thinking of?) or Angela Bassett (same question?); however, I am a total loss as to why in the freaking world you included Charlize Theron. Yes, she's good in MONSTER, fine in a few other movies...but where is she transcendent? REINDEER GAMES? TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY? THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE? AEON FLUX? She's spent the majority of her years as gratuitous T&A, and although her recent push towards "serious" work has been successful so far, she's hardly spent enough time doing it to really rank among the elites. My opinion? You're giving an ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT bump here...

Okay, gripes are done for now. So, first the (co-ed) list of living, working actors:

Daniel Day Lewis
Meryl Streep
Benicio Del Toro
Cate Blanchett
Tom Hanks
Robert De Niro
Kate Winslet
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Dustin Hoffman
Willem Dafoe

Honorable Mentions:

Gary Oldman
Sean Penn
Ian McKellen
Johnny Depp
Helen Mirren
Anthony Hopkins
Clint Eastwood
Jack Nicholson
Emma Thompson
Christian Bale

Now, for Best Actors Ever, in order:

Marlon Brando
Robert De Niro
Meryl Streep
James Stewart
Paul Newman
Katherine Hepburn
Daniel Day-Lewis
Bette Davis
Henry Fonda
Charles Chaplin

**a caveat: I'm thinking of almost exclusively American/Hollywood actors here, with a few Brits-this isn't to suggest there aren't excellent Asian and European stars-it's just that I'm not sure it's fair to evaluate them based on the limited work I've seen. But one gratuitous shout-out feels about right:

Word to Toshiro Mifune!

Alright, let me have it, already.

Synecdoche, New York

Two and a half Stars

Riotously funny for about 45 minutes while the film establishes Philip Seymour Hoffman's character. Much less so for the next hour and a half. Kaufman is still obsessed with what living in this world means given there is no God or immortality. In fact, the only surprising thing about this film is that there is no attempt at spirituality. Immortality? There's only art. God? There's only the director/writer, and this time Kaufman's both.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Top Ten Actors

AFI says this:

1. Marlon Brando
2. Laurence Olivier
3. Robert DeNiro
4. James Stewart
5. Alec Guinness
6. Humphrey Bogart
7. Gregory Peck
8. Jack Nicholson
9. Henry Fonda
10. Spencer Tracy

What say you? Give me a list and we can talk about it.