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September 30, 2009

100 Greatest Movies

Filed under: Uncategorized — rmangum @ 2:56 am

The boys over at Battleship Pretension have posted the listener-generated list of the top 100 movies of all time (well, minus the top ten, which they’ll be announcing next week on the show I think). I like the list, except for two inexcusable exclusions. The first is The Maltese Falcon. If Memento is on the list, then this should be. Okay, the story is not deep, the style is not revolutionary, the themes (if there are any) do not tap into some zeitgeist. But the characters are archetypal for the genre of film noir, the cast, acting, and dialogue are superb, the story is tight, not a moment of it is boring, and when I thing of tough-guy private detectives I inevitably think of Bogey as Sam Spade. Come on, people! The kicker is that I voted for this list, and I left it out, too. You could only pick 10 films, and I was trying to be objective, and so I picked Casablanca (which much of the same cast). Big mistake, apparently. I wonder how many other voters had it at number eleven.

The second exclusion is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I did in fact vote for. It’s cold, it has no human characters, really, and the ending is still pretty bewildering. But this movie revolutionized what movies could be about, what they could say and how they could say them. The thing is, no other film has really gone down the trail blazed by Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke, least of all any science fiction film.

On the show they also lament the presence of any documentaries. I forgot to include any in my voting, but let me now suggest Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, and almost anything by Errol Morris, but especially The Fog of War.



  1. I kinda of shake my head at Tyler and David’s plea for objectivity. I don’t know of any evaluative statement you could say about a film that would be objectively true, except something useless like “Well the whole film is in focus”. I sort of understand it for compiling a list of greats, but I still chafe at the notion that I should consider a film I don’t especially enjoy as being objectively better than one I do. That said, I firmly believe The Maltese Falcon is better than Casablanca. The prior has a driving force to the plot that plays out brilliantly, while the later sort of bumbles through what feels like 3 or 4 different scripts stiched together.

    Comment by JMangum — September 30, 2009 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

    • You might be right. I think I sort of bought into the critical hype about Casablanca being essential to any great movie list. I do, however, think that their are some objective aesthetic virtues which one can identify in contrast to what has mere personal resonance, even if I can’t articulate the difference at the moment.

      For instance, take a look at the controversial Modern Library top 100 books of the 20th century lists (http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html). The first list was generated by writers and critics, the second was a reader poll. The influence of libertarians (especially objectivist ones) and scientologists skews the results of the latter, particularly on the non-fiction list (http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnonfiction.html). I think those readers just voted for the books that meant the most to them personally, and the result is a poor list. Did Ayn Rand really write the best book, fiction and non, of the century? The first list, however, suffers from its own prejudices as well. Perhaps the Lord of the Rings and Finnegan’s Wake both belong on the list. (Surprisingly, readers voted for the high-brow Pynchon- and the scholarly Paglia on the non-fiction list- but the critics didn’t).

      Comment by rmangum — October 2, 2009 @ 12:15 am | Reply

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