Top Ten Movies: 1964

umbrellas of cherbourgh

Hey, remember how I promised 1923 next? Yeah, well, that’s not happening. At least, not yet. Instead, I’m going the Michel Legrand route. I went to a retrospect screening of two Norman Jewison classics last week, a Steve McQueen double feature of The Cincinnati Kid and The Thomas Crown Affair. Neither one a 1964 flick, I know, but before the start of the screenings the crowd was pleasantly rewarded with some of Legrand’s famous scores playing on the speakers, a build up for, fun fact, The Thomas Crown Affair since that feature was edited in rhythm with Legrand’s music, something quite unheard of here in the States but common practice for anyone collaborating with the established composer in France. And it really paid off! So why not discuss my favorite film of 1964, for that matter? It’s arguably Legrand’s most iconic and, in my opinion, his best. There’s more than top craftsmanship at work in The Umbrellas of Cherbourgh. Everything coalesces into an exceptional fantasy, a world so unto itself that it’s hard to match its rare balance between buoyancy and pathos. Seriously, there’s a luster to it all that keeps it very much alive and magical. That’s plenty enough for me to have it top a marvelous year inundated with music. So at number one it goes.

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy)
2. A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester)
3. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick)
4. Bande à part (Jean-Luc Godard) and Gertrud (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
5. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)
6. Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger) and Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara)
7. Charulata (Satyajit Ray)
8. The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller)
9. Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni)
10. Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer) and Fail-Safe (Sidney Lumet)

A lot of liberties were taken with the top ten. In fact, so many liberties that the number ended up at thirteen. Let’s just look the other way, no? And so, moving on… ahem, you want to keep talking about music? Well then, buddy, hold my beer. There’s Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night, which captures and preserves everything behind the phenomenon that was, is, and forever will be The Beatles. Then there’s Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (its release year getting tossed around enough), one of the absolute best experimental movies and a strong influence on people like Martin Scorsese, who discovered that needle drops could be just as effective as film scores, if not more. There’s also a lull to Godard’s Bande à part (another Legrand score)you know, separate from that dance sequence that will always be the coolest thing ever in, like, the whole entire freakin’ world, of course.

On the more mature side, Gertrud and Charulata are reaped with character wealth, living up to the art house scene that was thriving at full form in this time period. Red Desert is gorgeous and a bit of a bore, which in my strange logic allows for it to feel like a subconscious experience, and thus all the more effective. The Naked Kiss is brilliant lunacy. And Seven Days in May and Fail-Safe are unparalleled political thrillers made by TV veterans that have become legends in that medium and at the movies.

Knowing me, you’d know that the 1960’s is my personal favorite decade, so those omitted from the list cut real deep. And that’s after thirteen! There’s Roger Corman’s beautifully photographed Masque of the Red Death, shot by none other than the late Nicholas Roeg. There’s Billy Wilder’s very odd Kiss Me, Stupid, which almost made the list but, c’mon, I need to display at least some sort of self-restraint. John Huston’s delirious Night of the Iguana, not perfect, but it’s got aging Richard Burton and Ava Gardner chewing up the scenery. There’s also The Pawnbroker, another Lumet output that could easily substitute for Fail-Safe on any given day. And the list keeps piling! There’s Peter Sellers’ best Inspector Clouseau movie in A Shot in the Dark, I Am CubaNothing But a Man, The Americanization of Emily, Before the Revolution, Blood and Black Lace, Diary of a Chambermaid, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Soft Skin, Topkapi. Clearly, I’ll have to stop at some point! So why not here? But I will make a special mentioning for Lilith and The Pumpkin Eater, two quaintly dated melodramas that I relish beyond comprehension. So check those out if you ever get the chance.

Next time, 1923? Maybe, just maybe.


Top Ten Movies: 1995

la ceremonie

Months and, *ahem*, maybe, just maybe, years back, I had promised 1995. Well… here it is! Better late than never, right? And an interesting year at that. Not memorable for heavyweight masterpieces that are largely part of the mainstream discourse today, with perhaps the exception of Heat and Seven. In fact, I’d call it a rather passive year. Those movies that have stayed with me certainly are the ones that relish in the languid. Lyrical experiments, if you must. I mean, just take a look at Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. It’s about as antithetical as you can get when it comes to a romantic drama. And yet, it is one of the most astounding of its kind because it’s so naturally disarming. It almost appears too easy when so many others of its ilk toil for conventionality. And lyricism can also be a manner to describe a handful of other gems that came close to making the cut. I’m talking to you, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Smoke. There’s even an unsettling peacefulness all throughout Claude Chabrol’s La Cérémonie that is painfully effective in its layered observation about class. It’s all so wonderfully macabre. That, along with an essay length discourse I could easily have regarding its perfect summation, are reasons it lands at my number one.

1. La Cérémonie (Claude Chabrol)
2. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater)
3. Heat (Michael Mann)
4. Safe (Todd Haynes)
5. Underground (Emir Kusturica)
6. Seven (David Fincher)
7. The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi)
8. Toy Story (John Lasseter)
9. Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-Wai) and La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz)
10. Carrington (Christopher Hampton)

Safe is Todd Haynes doing Kubrick, while Underground is Kusturica channeling Fellini. The White Ballon still renders emotional power through its simplicity, something Middle Eastern films were insanely attuned in achieving at this peak period. Then there’s Toy Story, which is quite possibly the most influential film to this day, ushering a new mode of animation that has seldom seized to desist. Carrington beats out the Jane Austen flicks because beyond its entrancing oddness, it covers the Bloomsbury Group, a topic you NEVER see covered anywhere. Then there’s Fallen Angels and La Haine. The former, heroin for the film-crazed, while the latter comes to show just how the French New Wave method of moviemaking, with things like La Cérémonie, was beginning to look old-fashioned. Hell, the Kassovitz film had Vincent Cassel practically yanking the baton away from his father, Jean-Pierre Cassel, in the Chabrol flick.

Others that almost made the cut include Living in Oblivion, To Die For, Strange Days, and Dead Man Walking. In a recent viewing, I was surprised to discover just how dated Leaving Las Vegas has become. And Casino and Clockers are lower tier works from solid filmmakers. As for Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. That there’s a movie that would have probably made the list had I watched it recently. But ten years has made it a bit of a haze, which is no fault of the film whatsoever.

Interesting stuff beyond that include Devil in a Blue Dress, Kicking and Screaming, The City of Lost Children, and The Addiction. But what I don’t miss is The Usual Suspects.

Next time: 1923… Yeah, yeah. I had promised that one too.

Top Ten Movies: 2018

I often read stories of the olden days where a young cineaste would have to scour the ends of the earth to find a semi-watchable print of some ultra-obscure film snatched away from accessibility. Isn’t it funny how things turn out then? Now there’s far too much content at one’s disposal. So much so, that at the year’s end you find yourself guilt-ridden, not by the elusive prints you missed at the movies, but by the amount you’re still left to watch because you can. So I’m sorry Private Life and Shirkers. I’m sure you’re solid films that are just a click away, but I can’t go down that rabbit hole with only a handful of days left in the year. But what I can talk about is what I have watched. So here I go. At my number one, if the image above hasn’t already given it away, is Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War. Yes, another art house dandy that, though I seldom gush about when compared to old-timey schlock, is what I ultimately find myself respecting. It’s, ironically, both cold and passionate in that old faithful French term I butcher unsympathetically once pronounced, L’amour fou. And much like some of my personal favorite kind of stuff – “stuff” being movies, you know? – it’s a tone poem; a mood, if you must. It reminds me of a John Cassavettes type of ambiance – Too Late Blues, for instance – set on a grander European scale, with an Andrzej Wajda world-weariness and Basil Dearden coolness binding it all together. How’s that for throwing film studies directors into the conversation? But seriously, it’s quite a vision. It’s also simple and succinct when it feels like 2018 is at a race to see who can make the longest damn movie in the world. So there you have it. At number one it goes.

1. Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)
2. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
3. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
4. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
5. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
6. Burning (Lee Chang-dong)
7. Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)
8. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci)
9. Double Lover (François Ozon)
10. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)

Not a year goes by where a Hirokazu Kore-eda film doesn’t hover around my decision to place it in my top ten list. Shoplifters is a keeper, and his best since Like Father, Like Son. Then there is First Reformed, where I think Schrader returns to a manner of storytelling I’ve missed, and one I think is his best, that of a dogmatic approach towards a jilted life surrounded by apathy and fighting for faith. And yet, Schrader’s the last to be pessimistic about it. In fact, there’s a lot of hope set amidst its bleakness, something I don’t think he’s expressed since maybe Light Sleeper (a discovery for me this year). After that, there’s The Favorite, nasty and fun. And Happy as Lazzaro, surprising in its imaginativeness, but even more surprising because it proves that an innocent tale like Vittorio De Sica’s Miracle in Milan can still work today in our age of irony.

Movies that just missed the cut include Zama, The Rider, Sunset, Leave No Trace, and American Animals, to name a few. As for a category I always like to discuss, favorite movie moments, there’s Chris Hemsworth gyrating and forcing a crowd to play Russian roulette to Deep Purple’s Hush in Bad Times at the El Royale, Marion Cotillard also dancing, but this one to Bob Dylan, in Ismael’s Ghost. There’s the tense confrontation between Marina Foïs and one of her very troubled students in The Workshop, the Miles Davis track scene in Burning, and, just to keep up appearances, an insane sex act between Marine Vacth and Jérémie Rennier in Double Lover that had me missing old school De Palma and Verhoeven. There’s also all of Juliette Binoche in Let the Sunshine In, and performances by Gemma Arterton in The Escape and Daniel Kaluuya in Widows that I really enjoyed. 2019, let’s make it a good one!

Top Ten Movies: 2010


To steal an opening line from one of Roger Ebert’s reviews about a favorite filmmaker of his, “Sooner or later, everyone who loves movies comes to Ozu.” The same could be said of Abbas Kiarostami. Others like the Italian Neo-Realists had already played with documentary-like narrative. But what Kiarostami perfected was new and refreshing. Why not imbue that much more of the real world into the story? In fact, immerse it so much so that there’s no mark point as to where verisimilitude ends and actual reality begins. Movies like Close-up, and especially the Koker trilogy, are prime examples in this mental exercise of establishing a new interpretation of the real world through several layers of its manipulation, fore-fronting the Iranian film wave that took high strides by the 1990’s. If it all might sound a bit too labored, it isn’t, really. There’s too much humanity in Kiarostami’s characters for any reduction into a sort of film essay genre. Take Certified Copy as an example, a sort of Brechtian Before Trilogy. How far is Kiarostami playing the audience in its portrayal of the relationship between its two leads? They continuously argue about artwork copies in comparison to their original sources, never reaching a conclusion about whether forgery is valid in its own artistry. Once watched, the obvious extension made here is to the protagonist’s own veiled past. Are they two people that actually met for the first time or are they a married couple of fifteen years? Either way, they’re playing roles that the audience can’t separate truth from, for like Kiarostami’s other movies, it’s not easy to distinguish the real from the not. It’s quite astounding to be able to make a film that could express just about every complex trait of its filmmaker all in one narrative. It’s even more astounding to do that with characters like Juliette Binoche and William Shimmell, because no matter how clever the exercise is, you remember their banter and adoration for one another so much more. So who cares if the whole thing feels indecipherable, real or staged or both, if there’s love for it anyway. And so at number one it goes.

1. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami)
2. Mysteries of Lisbon (Rául Ruiz)
3. Nostalgia for the Light (Patricio Guzmán)
4. Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
5. Poetry (Lee Chang-dong)
6. The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski) and Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt)
7. Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl (Manoel de Oliveira)
8. The Social Network (David Fincher)
9. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasenthakul)
10. 13 Assassins (Takashi Miike)

Mysteries of Lisbon is one of two Rául Ruiz movies I’ve watched and should be more than enough proof to anyone of his directorial legacy as one of Chile’s best… even though this one’s a Portuguese film. Then there’s Patrico Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light, another Chilean master with a heartrending – and I mean that with every sense of the word – documentary that parallels astronomy with Chile’s own tragic past during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Really, there’s something in the way the astronomers look up towards the stars that gets to you when compared to the relatives of fallen victims whose missing remnants they’re still looking for down in the buried and barren desert landscape. Carlos has the exceptionally well-executed OPEC terroist attack sequence and Poetry has Yoon Jeong-hee with a role almost too complex for anything American, perhaps with the exception of Michelle Williams in Meek’s Cutoff.

The Ghost Writer is my favorite thriller of the year despite some interesting work up against it like Chloe or All Good Things, and Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl is the funniest, although Four Lions comes pretty darn close. The Social Network needs no added commentary and Uncle Boonmee I remember in scenes more than as a whole. I could have also placed Vincere or Sweetgrass at number ten, two overlooked treasures lost in time, but I can’t deny my fandom for the pulpiness of 13 Assassins. I’m just happy to see Takashi Miike up there because a great movie it is.

And yes, I am aware I missed some pretty good stuff like The Kids Are All RightWinter’s BoneAnimal Kingdom, and especially Another Year.  But what I don’t miss is Inception and Black Swan. Just watch The Red Shoes instead.

Next Time: 1923. If Buster Keaton could talk I bet you he’d have a Southern drawl.

Top Ten Movies: 2017

Phantom Thread

If you’ve ever watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, there’s a looming question that begins to dominate your every thought while the movie progresses: Why the hell doesn’t she just leave? Why does demure Joan Fontaine allow herself to endure her husband’s ambiguous temperament and, even more reasonably questioned, why does she put up with that damn maid’s psychotic obsession to humiliate her? Paul Thomas Anderson runs with this premise and sets it ablaze in Phantom Thread. His film begins like his protagonist, staid and orderly. Begins. So the joke’s on anyone expecting a BBC masterpiece classic. Vicky Krieps plays the Joan Fontaine to Daniel Day-Lewis’ Olivier-like enigma, attempting to decipher her own place inside of his world. When she can’t, conventionality curtails and that’s when things go off the rails in a refreshingly unsettling manner. It’s as if her character must break the mold of classic storytelling to achieve her own personal goal, for like the film strip melting away in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, character motivation breaks the fourth wall. And so a countryside stroll sharply detouring off course and heading straight for us shocks more than any foreign film I’ve watched this year, granting Phantom Thread high enough kudos in my book to position it at number one.

1. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. The Son of Joseph (Eugéne Green)
3. The Lost City of Z (James Gray)
4. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Juho Kuosmanen)
5. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)
6. The Orinthologist (João Pedro Rodrigues)
7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) and Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
8. God’s Own Country (Frances Lee)
9. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
10. Happy End (Michael Haneke) and Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont)

The main perk of working at a movie theater is the ability to watch a glutinous amount of films without, say, mortgaging your house – although there is a movie pass to ease this sorta thing now, I hear. But yeah, this list reflects a wonderful opportunity to catch just about everything possible. The Son of Joseph is small-scaled and imperfect, a topical French trope – see also Happy End and Slack Bay – that works gangbusters. Then there’s The Lost City of Z, which since I’ve already made a habit of comparing new titles to older films (my life, basically), is a lot like The Bridge on the River Kwai in its ability to exceed genre and tap into novel-like depth. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is honorable mention territory in other people’s lists that cuts deeper for me for no other reason than its energy and fun. And Nocturama is quite remarkable at being so damn original in its news-topic premise that American films would have patted down for Oscar attention.

I’ve mentioned Happy End and Slack Bay, two eccentric pictures that look homespun compared to The Orinthologist. But since Apichatpong Weerasethakul took the year off, it was João Pedro Rodrigues who pointed his camera towards the jungle. The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Graduation are wickedly funny and incisive, respectively, and God’s Own Country is a movie that is probably better known in the U.K. but got kinda shafted in the States over Call Me By Your Name. Seriously though, give the former a chance if you can. Josh O’Connor gets my ballot for best male performance in the awards show playing in my head.

And where are all those runner-ups, you say? Well, here. Those that could have made the list include Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope, Andrey Zvyaginstev’s (don’t even ask me how to pronounce it) Loveless, and Robin Campillo’s Beats Per Minute – BPM. Oh! And the first two-thirds of Escapes! It’s like watching Kenneth Anger film grammar with a gnarly segment on Teri Garr and another one on Flipper, amongst many.

Then there’s stuff like Ladybird, After the Storm, Get Out, Faces Places, Lady Macbeth, The Death of Louis the XIV, and Free Fire – which I just realized as I’m typing I liked more than Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri if we’re going that direction.

Things that I missed include Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In, and Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone (did this even play in L.A.?), so I’ll be making the rounds for those in 2018. And speaking of 2018, here’s to hoping everyone has a great next year!

Top Ten Movies: 1966

Blow Up 2

Ah, such were the days when college freshman ransacked art house theaters, lurking in cramped little rooms full of budding green-horned intellectuals searching for discussion springboards in critical studies courses. And what a time! Up on screen they encountered pinnacles of sorts, movies tearing apart at the screen in radicalizations. It’s not an exaggeration then to read down at this list and note that any of these titles on any other given year could have easily ranked at the very top. But alas, the days of Persona and Au Hasard Balthazar are misty-eyed over. Not that there aren’t bona fide masterpieces – whatever that means – today. It’s just not the same scene, man. Far too many wonderful outlets prohibit a singular, dogmatic mentality to rule supreme. No Godardian deity to enshrine en masse or Sarris/Kael arena to pit oneself against as fervent cineastes nervously flip through the pages of Cahiers du Cinéma in defense of Louise Brooks and Allan Dwan. Hell, I wasn’t even born yet and I miss it. But we do still have the movies. And at the top are two of the best damn pieces of celluloid we’ll always have around. Masculin-Féminin captures said youth thriving in said habitat, all raised fingers in opinions, chugging down coffee, and chain-smoking cigarettes en route to bed for both sex, and, most importantly, more bon mots. The movie’s ethnographic (yeah), iconoclastic, and fun. Perhaps Godard’s most disarming, not that it isn’t dark (just picture a Disney star today casually discussing abortion). But then there’s Blowup, which takes it one step ahead by stripping away post-adolescent energy and leaving the remains, nihilism, knowing damn well that that’s where the generation was headed to anyway. Pretty hard to top that, don’t you think? And so at number one Antonioni stands in a hellishly impressive year.

1. Blowup (Michelangelo Antonioni)
2. Masculin Féminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
3. Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
4. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky)
5. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson)
6. Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles)
7. Seconds (John Frankenheimer) and The Face of Another (Hiroshi Teshigahara)
8. The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (Pietro Germi)
9. Cul-de-sac (Roman Polanski)
10. The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (Roberto Rossellini) and Nayak (Satyajit Ray)

A sucker for buxom 60’s blonde expatriates dabbling in glitz town, – and who isn’t!? – The Birds, the Bees, and the Italians was a wonderful discovery for me in the Virna Lisi cannon, and, quite possibly, the very best of the commedia all’italiana genre. It speeds way through three story lines on crack, with each premise topping the one that preceded it until it reaches a mother of a politically incorrect conclusion. Seconds is the All That Heaven Allows with Rock Hudson playing the Jane Wyman role, while Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Face of Another shares an eerily similar premise to the Frankenheimer drama, which nevertheless is executed just as, get this, surgically. Cul-de-sac has always given me the impression of being Polanski in “pure” form and The Taking of Power by Louis XIV is remarkable in its nonchalant take on a period piece. Seriously, it’s so relaxed that it feels like you’re watching a cinéma vérité reel that just so happened to be filmed in the 17th century.

Those that missed the top include The Battle of Algiers, which on many days is better than most of the stuff I’ve got up here. Seriously, I’m beginning to regret its omission. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, whose reputation I’ll let speak for itself. And Black Girl, Ousmane Sembéne’s claim to international recognition and an incisively frigid piece that’s less than an hour long. Oh! And Monte Hellman’s The Shooting for several reasons, one being Jack Nicholson’s Byronic-like wardrobe and Will Hutchins, ah Will Hutchins. But the list keeps rolling off. There’s John Ford’s oddity Seven Women, somber and strange, really strange. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, an actor’s workshop dandy. Closely Watched Trains and Daisies, Czechoslovakia’s outlets. Wings, Larisa Shepitko’s outstanding debut. Who Are You, Polly Magoo?, a stamp of the time, along with Modesty Blaise, Alfie, and Georgy Girl. Roger Corman’s surprisingly perceptive The Wild Angels. Shohei Imamura’s The Pornographers. Alfred Hitchcock creating a tense scene on how hard it is to truly murder someone in Torn Curtain. And Seijun Suzuki with two wild tales of – surprise, surprise – youth in Fighting Elegy, and, my personal favorite of his, Tokyo Drifter. Lastly, I’d like to make a comment about Robert Downey Sr.’s Chafed Elbows. The comment being that if you like midnight movies here’s one hell of a way to sleaze still-photo storytelling. I wonder what Ken Burns would do with that.

I’ll be on hiatus for a couple of months but will return with 2010. In the meantime, enjoy some Chantal Goya and the wonderful Yé-Yé music I so passionately adore.

Top Ten Movies: 1944


A cigarette lighter extending from an unknown hand off-screen. A phone call with nothing but the sound of your own breath. And of course, the concrete clicks of heels walking in a shroud of something more than night. Before 1944, crime movies were Tommy guns and James Cagney. “Listen, see?” and devoted molls. The cops were righteous and sides were chalk-line clear. But the war did a little something. It muddled morality. After 1944, the good guys were bad and the bad guys were good, the women were seductive, corruptive, and the streets lingered in dread. There were desperate stoops above every gutter. Temperate con artists playing life like a rigged chess game. There were beggars pinching chump change ’til their fingers bled, crooked women straightening their seams, and American royalty throwing money like peanuts at a circus, demanding a show. Yes, 1944 cut the ribbon, shot the gun, waved the flag, whatever you’d like to call it. And the race was on. It could have gone to The Woman in the Window, honed. It could have gone to Murder, My Sweet, derisive. Hell, it almost went to Double Indemnity, iconic. But Laura has a little more: Clifton Webb, venom so deadly it cleans. That and a David Raksin score so specific to the film and yet so ambiguous overall, that it creates an anthem for a genre as elusive as smoke wafting in the air. “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died.” And so at number one it’ll always be remembered.

1. Laura (Otto Preminger)
2. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder)
3. Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minelli)
4. Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges)
5. Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk)
6. Ivan the Terrible, Part I (Sergei Eisenstein)
7. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges)
8. A Canterbury Tale (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) and This Happy Breed (David Lean)
9. To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks)
10. The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang)

A twofer by Mr. Sturges and his ideal blend of humor and Americana, with jolted performances by Eddie Bracken in both that were like a shot of heroin to a country lethargic by war. Then there’s Meet Me in St. Louis and Judy Garland, who does a lot of work to make up for a couple of kids that have me missing W.C. Fields terribly. But man, is she a movie star or what!? And Howard Hawks strew along a couple of his friends and told them to act, plucking Lauren Bacall amongst the crowd and saying “Hey, wait a minute. This one’s got something!”

Overseas, things were beyond rough. Obviously. And yet. And yet! Great movies were made. Powell and Pressburger had the oddity A Canterbury Tale, a very sincere and inspired booster for a nation not only fighting at its present but for its past. David Lean’s classical take on tradition and family in This Happy Breed is an exceptional case of that too. And the Soviet Union did that, boost national morale… well, sort of. Ivan the Terrible, Part I is patriotic without being so. It isn’t gentle and nostalgic but rides its chants of victory with lightning, overwrought even. It’s also one hell of a work of art, the way people are framed and shots are cut. But this is Eisenstein we’re talking about, so you know the drill.

Those that just missed the top ten include quite possibly the first deliberate camp movie – you know, like, on purpose – with Maria Montez (“Geev me the Cobra jewl”) in Robert Siodmak’s classic Cobra Woman. Which, since we’re on the topic, is one of four movies Siodmak directed that year! All wielded by a visionary with a firm hand and all wonderful: Phantom Lady, Christmas Holiday, The Suspect. Ella Raines is undoubtedly actress of the year (see also Hail the Conquering Hero above). Then there’s Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, magnificent in letting Shakespeare breathe and allowing Sir Laurence to don one of my favorite haircuts in movie history *ahem* Javier Bardem *ahem*. The Woman Who Dared, a quietly valiant effort by France’s underrated Jean Grémillon, is about French pride at a time it desperately needed it. Then there’s also Rita Hayworth glitzing in brilliant technicolor for Cover Girl and William Castle debuting with a Lewton-esque gem, When Strangers Marry. I can keep going with another Fritz Lang project, Ministry of Fear, the rich ghost story The Uninvited, Canada Lee stealing the whole movie from Tallulah Bankhead in Hitchock’s Lifeboat, De Sica handling kid actors in The Children Are Watching Us, MGM warming up for The Best Years of Our Lives with Since You Went Away, and Bing Crosby introducing Swinging on a Star in the Oscar darling, Going My Way. But I’ll stop here, I guess.

Next month: 1966. There might not even be an American film in the bunch.