Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The 40s

Gaston's Films

Notorious
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

6 comments:

T. Azimuth Schwitters said...

side note: graham wants in on this. if you're game for that, shoot him an email to let him in as an editor/contributor.

T. Azimuth Schwitters said...

So, I posted a long reply that has apparently disappeared into the empty space of the internet. Let me try again, albeit more succinctly:

1. We both seem to think BICYCLE THIEVES is not only a great film, but the best and most representative film of the Italian neo-realist project. Good for us. I call it a "lock."

2. CITIZEN KANE. Great film, needs to be on the list...my only question? Is this a noir? And if so, does that mean we should try to limit the number of other noirs on the list? We both picked 3 in our original lists of 5...that's a lot. Either way, this movie stays on--it's just a question of how many more like it?

3. CASABLANCA. I think we need at least one movie that represents the efficacy of the assembly-line years of the Hollywood studio system. This movie is widely regarded as the best product of that period: more than a half dozen writers, director changes, stock actors playing against type throughout...and yet, the movie works unbelievably well. I think it should be on this list.

4. NOIRS. In my mind, there are three contenders for this spot. You've added a third, which I'm not sure about, but I'll put it in here for now:

THE THIRD MAN
THE MALTESE FALCON
DOUBLE INDEMNITY
OUT OF THE PAST

THIRD MAN has the looks and the character, FALCON has the iconography and the performances, INDEMNITY has the direction and the best femme fatale of the bunch. I'm not a huge fan of OftP--it seems like an awkward hybrid, somewhere between the precision and beauty of movies like MALTESE and the gritty violence of the Hammer films from the '50s--I'm not sure I would use it. But, if you can make a case for it, I'll admit that it is a good enough movie in and of itself to merit consideration. Anyway, I say we pick one of these.

5. HITCHCOCK. I think we need one Hitch film from this decade, and I think the only real contenders are:

NOTORIOUS
REBECCA
SHADOW OF A DOUBT

I like REBECCA best because 1) I think it's the better story, 2) it has the best production value of the three, and 3) the suicide-temptation scene is just essential viewing. Totally awesome. Anyway, NOTORIOUS is a close second, if only for its ability to take the UNexciting and make it so tense it becomes hard to breathe while you watch it (I'm thinking of that escape at the end of the movie...where nothing, at all, happens, to anyone). SHADOW is a fine film, and a good one to write about, but sloppier than either of the others. Your thoughts here?

RUNNER UP: I'm thinking we choose between the dramas for this one. I'll put up THE LOST WEEKEND against your BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. This is honestly a toss up to me: they're both great films...but maybe not as 'essential' to the '40s as the other films we've listed.

WHAT WE'RE LOSING:

1. SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. I hate to see this go--it's Sturges's best, and it holds up so, so well. Also: Veronica Lake=Super Hotness.

2. GREAT DICTATOR. If you haven't seen this, see it. If you have, you understand just how difficult it is to let it go. The scene with the globe? Honestly, one of the best scenes I have ever seen, ever.

It seems like you're coming out ahead here, but damn, why don't you marry noirs if you love them so damn much? 4 of your 6 films are noirs. Branch out, yo. And give me CASABLANCA, you cold hearted bastard.

Gaston Monescu said...

1. There's no way I can argue that OotP is the most essential noir. It's my favorite. I think it's the best.

I don't think that Third Man really qualifies. It certainly wasn't judged as such when it first came out. Now, I'll get to it later, but I think 3rd Man is not in this discussion.

So...no Out of the Past and no Third Man. What do we have left?

Maltese, Double Indemnity, and Laura and/or Postman. Laura is too melodramatic, and isn't even the best noir with Gene Tierney (that would be Leave Her to Heaven). Postman has cumbersome voiceovers, and it's best moments come from Hume Cronyn, a supporting actor.

So, Maltese and DI. DI has NEVER done it for me. Can't say why. I think Bogart/Bacall in Big Sleep out-chemistry all of these films. Maltese Falcon is just more interesting to me, and it's widely accepted status as the genre's initial film. I say MF takes OotP's place.

2. I would take 3rd Man in a heartbeat over Shadow of a Doubt. Didn't think about it. It's amazing.

3. I like Casablanca. It's certainly more important than BYooL. And of course that's the film that's going to have to go. But let me just say that I haven't responded as emotionally to a film in the past five years as I did to that one. I think it was the Fisher King my freshman year of college since I cried during a film. I just thought BYooL was amazing. Sad to see it go.

4. Hitchcock. Well, what do we have? Rebecca was Hitch's first US film. It won best picture. Shadow was Hitch's favorite of all his films. But Notorious: Bergman and Grant. And of course Rains. It's the anti-Casablanca. I don't think you can argue that Rebecca is MORE essential in Hitch's canon, because it's largely been forgotten. Shadow of a Doubt is great, but not up to Notorious's snuff.

So that makes my revised list
Citizen Kane
Bicycle Thieves
Notorious
Maltese Falcon
Third Man

Best Years as my honorable mention...

Gaston Monescu said...

1. Great Dictator. This is TOTALLY 5th wheel Chaplin. One good scene, but one awful scene (that soliloquizing finale).

2. Sullivan's Travels. I know. Can we say it's the best comedy of the decade? His Girl Friday? Heaven Can Wait (totally underrated)?

T. Azimuth Schwitters said...

ouch for GREAT DICTATOR, a personal favorite of mine! You're right about the rest, though-I'm basically in agreement on the revision, with REBECCA edging NOTORIOUS if only because I personally like it better. But I'll make the swap. Let's wrap this one up:

CITIZEN KANE
BICYCLE THIEVES
THE MALTESE FALCON
CASABLANCA
THE THIRD MAN

Honorable Mention:
BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES

On that note, you're right: it is way more emotionally affecting than LOST WEEKEND...which is saying something, because that's a moving film. Moving on, then?

Gaston Monescu said...

Done and done.