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Category Archives: Other Lists

My Student Tomato-Meter: 2017 Edition

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The Fall semester is about to began, which means it’s that time of year when I post my updated “student tomato-meter” showing the aggregated results of the ratings — on a scale from one-to-10 — that my students have given to every movie I’ve shown in my film studies classes dating back to the Spring 2009 semester. I’ve now taught 96 classes and shown a total of 447 unique movies. Below is a list of all the films I’ve screened to date, presented in chronological order by release date, along with the average ratings given by my students. Below that I’ve also included a list of the top 10 highest-rated films. My goal as a teacher is to show at least one movie by every great director who ever lived. Please scan the list below and feel free tell me in the comments section who you think I might be missing.

Sherlock Holmes (Berthelet, USA, 1915) – 4.3
Les Vampires (Feuillade, France, 1915-1916) – 7.0
Broken Blossoms (Griffith, USA, 1919) – 5.9
Within Our Gates (Micheaux, USA, 1920) – 7.0
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, USA, 1920) – 6.9
The Golem (Wegener, Germany, 1920) – 6.0
The Phantom Carriage (Sjostrom, Sweden, 1921) – 7.3
Nosferatu (Murnau, Germany, 1922) – 6.7
Safety Last! (Newmeyer/Taylor, USA, 1923) – 8.4
Our Hospitality (Keaton, USA, 1923) – 8.4
Greed (Von Stroheim, USA, 1923) – 6.9
Coeur Fidele (Epstein, France, 1924) – 5.2
Sherlock Jr. (Keaton, USA, 1924) – 8.0
The Hands of Orlac (Wiene, Germany, 1924) – 6.2
Waxworks (Leni, Germany, 1924) – 5.1
The Freshman (Newmeyer/Taylor, 1925) – 8.3
Seven Chances (Keaton, USA, 1925) – 8.2
The Gold Rush (Chaplin, USA, 1925) – 8.1
The Navigator (Keaton, USA, 1925) – 8.1
The Last Laugh (Murnau, Germany, 1925) – 6.6
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, USA, 1925) – 5.1
The General (Keaton, USA, 1926) – 8.4
Faust (Murnau, Germany, 1926) – 6.9
Secrets of a Soul (Pabst, Germany, 1926) – 6.6
Sunrise (Murnau, USA, 1927) – 6.9
Metropolis (Lang, Germany, 1927) – 6.6
Hindle Wakes (Elvey, UK, 1927) – 6.6
The End of St. Petersburg (Pudovkin, Soviet Union, 1927) – 5.0
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (Shub, Soviet Union, 1927) – 4.0
The Docks of New York (Von Sternberg, USA, 1928) – 8.4
Speedy (Wilde, USA, 1928) – 7.5
The Crowd (Vidor, USA, 1928) – 7.4
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, France, 1928) – 6.9
Lonesome (Fejos, USA, 1928) – 6.7
A Cottage on Dartmoor (Asquith, UK, 1929) – 8.3
Lucky Star (Borzage, USA, 1929) – 8.1
Asphalt (May, Germany, 1929) – 6.8
Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov, Soviet Union, 1929) – 6.2
City Girl (Murnau, USA, 1930) – 6.7
City Lights (Chaplin, USA, 1931) – 8.5
M (Lang, Germany, 1931) – 8.1
Madchen in Uniform (Sagan/Froelich, Germany, 1931) – 7.1
Freaks (Browning, USA, 1931) – 7.1
Vampyr (Dreyer, Germany, 1932) – 7.1
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang, Germany, 1933) – 7.6
Duck Soup (McCarey, USA, 1933) – 6.8
It Happened One Night (Capra, 1934) – 8.5
The Goddess (Wu, China, 1934) – 7.6
L’atalante (Vigo, France, 1934) – 6.8
Top Hat (Sandrich, USA, 1935) – 8.6
My Man Godfrey (La Cava, USA, 1936) – 8.5
Modern Times (Chaplin, USA, 1936) – 8.0
Redes (Muriel/Zinneman, Mexico, 1936) – 6.9
The Awful Truth (McCarey, USA, 1937) – 8.5
Grand Illusion (Renoir, France, 1937) – 7.0
Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, USA, 1938) – 8.2
Holiday (Cukor, USA, 1938) – 7.9
Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein, Soviet Union, 1938) – 5.0
Midnight (Liesen, USA, 1939) – 8.7
Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, USA, 1939) – 8.2
The Roaring Twenties (Walsh, USA, 1939) – 8.2
Stagecoach (Ford, USA, 1939) – 7.7
The Rules of the Game (Renoir, France, 1939) – 7.1
His Girl Friday (Hawks, USA, 1940) – 8.3
The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, USA, 1940) – 7.9
The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, USA, 1940) – 7.4
The Lady Eve (Sturges, USA, 1941) – 8.2
Citizen Kane (Welles, USA, 1941) – 8.2
How Green Was My Valley (Ford, USA, 1941) – 7.8
The Strawberry Blonde (Walsh, USA, 1941) – 7.6
The Maltese Falcon (Hawks, USA, 1941) – 6.9
Casablanca (Curtiz, USA, 1942) – 8.4
The Palm Beach Story (Sturges, USA, 1941) – 7.5
Aniki Bobo (De Oliveira, Portugal, 1942) – 7.2
Cat People (Tourneur, USA, 1942) – 6.0
The More the Merrier (Stevens, USA, 1943) – 8.2
I Walked with a Zombie (Tourneur, USA, 1943) – 6.0
Ossessione (Visconti, Italy, 1943) – 5.2
Double Indemnity (Wilder, USA, 1944) – 8.1
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Sturges, USA, 1944) – 8.0
To Have and Have Not (Hawks, USA, 1944) – 7.5
Murder My Sweet (Dmytryk, USA, 1944) – 7.0
Brief Encounter (Lean, UK, 1945) – 8.0
Detour (Ulmer, USA, 1945) – 7.4
Rome, Open City (Rossellini, Italy, 1945) – 7.2
Notorious (Hitchcock, USA, 1946) – 8.5
The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, USA, 1946) – 8.4
My Darling Clementine (Ford, USA, 1946) – 7.5
The Big Sleep (Hawks, USA, 1946) – 6.0
Dead Reckoning (Cromwell, USA, 1947) – 8.2
Out of the Past (Tourneur, USA, 1947) – 7.7
The Lady from Shanghai (Welles, USA, 1947) – 7.7
Body and Soul (Rossen, USA, 1947) – 8.6
Pursued (Walsh, USA, 1947) – 7.1
Black Narcissus (Powell/Pressburger, UK, 1947) – 7.1
La Perla (Fernandez, Mexico, 1947) – 6.5
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, USA, 1948) – 8.8
Rope (Hitchcock, USA, 1948) – 8.7
The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, UK, 1948) – 8.3
Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, Italy, 1948) – 8.0
Call Northside 777 (Hathaway, USA, 1948) – 7.7
Germany Year Zero (Rossellini, Italy/Germany, 1948) – 7.5
Fort Apache (Ford, USA, 1948) – 7.5
Spring in a Small Town (Fei, China, 1948) – 6.7
A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz, USA, 1949) – 8.4
White Heat (Walsh, USA, 1949) – 8.3
The Third Man (Reed, UK, 1949) – 8.0
Jour de Fete (Tati, France, 1949) – 7.8
Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, USA, 1950) – 8.8
Los Olvidados (Bunuel, Mexico, 1950) – 7.5
Devil’s Doorway (Mann, USA, 1950) – 7.3
Union Station (Mate, USA, 1950) – 7.3
The African Queen (Huston, USA, 1951) – 8.3
On Dangerous Ground (Ray, USA, 1951) – 7.5
Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, USA, 1952) – 9.0
Umberto D. (De Sica, Italy, 1952) – 6.8
The Big Heat (Lang, USA, 1953) – 8.5
Pickup on South Street (Fuller, USA, 1953) – 8.2
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks, USA, 1953) – 8.2
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Tati, France, 1953) – 8.1
The Band Wagon (Minnelli, USA, 1953) – 7.9
Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, USA, 1953) – 7.8
The Hitch-Hiker (Lupino, USA, 1953) – 7.7
City That Never Sleeps (Auer, USA, 1953) – 7.5
The Naked Spur (Mann, USA, 1953) – 7.0
Tokyo Story (Ozu, Japan, 1953) – 6.7
Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953) – 6.7
Rear Window (Hitchcock, USA, 1954) – 8.9
Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, Japan, 1954) – 8.3
French Cancan (Renoir, France, 1954) – 8.2
Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1954) – 7.0
The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, USA, 1955) – 9.1
All That Heaven Allows (Sirk, USA, 1955) – 8.0
Artists and Models (Tashlin, USA, 1955) – 7.8
Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, USA, 1955) – 7.2
Pather Panchali (Ray, India, 1955) – 6.4
A Man Escaped (Bresson, France, 1956) – 8.1
The Searchers (Ford, USA, 1956) – 7.4
Bigger Than Life (Ray, USA, 1956) – 6.8
Aparajito (Ray, India, 1956) – 6.6
An Affair to Remember (McCarey, USA, 1957) – 8.0
Vertigo (Hitchcock, USA, 1958) – 8.8
Some Came Running (Minnelli, USA, 1958) – 7.9
Touch of Evil (Welles, USA, 1958) – 7.6
Big Deal on Madonna Street (Monicelli, Italy, 1958) – 7.5
Cairo Station (Chahine, Egypt, 1958) – 7.0
Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda, Poland, 1958) – 7.0
Throne of Blood (Kurosawa, Japan, 1958) – 5.9
Some Like It Hot (Wilder, USA, 1959) – 9.1
Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, USA, 1959) – 8.9
The 400 Blows (Truffaut, USA, 1959) – 8.8
North By Northwest (Hitchcock, USA, 1959) – 8.6
Rio Bravo (Hawks, USA, 1959) – 8.6
Pickpocket (Bresson, France, 1959) – 7.3
Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Resnais, France, 1959) – 6.8
Psycho (Hitchcock, USA, 1960) – 8.7
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Naruse, Japan, 1960) – 8.1
Les Bonnes Femmes (Chabrol, France, 1960) – 8.0
Breathless (Godard, France, 1960) – 7.9
Eyes Without a Face (Franju, France, 1960) – 7.7
Accatone (Pasolini, Italy, 1960) – 7.6
L’aventura (Antonioni, Italy, 1960) – 7.4
The Housemaid (Kim, S. Korea, 1960) – 7.1
Chronicle of a Summer (Rouch/Morin, France, 1960) – 6.9
Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, France, 1961) – 6.8
Viridiana (Bunuel, Spain, 1961) – 5.8
The Ladies Man (Lewis, USA, 1962) – 8.3
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, USA, 1962) – 8.3
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda, France, 1962) – 7.4
Vivre sa Vie (Godard, France, 1962) – 7.2
Le Doulos (Melville, France, 1962) – 7.1
Jules and Jim (Truffaut, France, 1962) – 5.5
Shock Corridor (Fuller, USA, 1963) – 8.4
The Nutty Professor (Lewis, USA, 1963) – 8.4
The Executioner (Berlanga, Spain, 1963) – 8.1
Contempt (Godard, France, 1963) – 8.0
Black Sabbath (Bava, Italy, 1963) – 7.1
8 1/2 (Fellini, Italy, 1963) – 6.5
Onibaba (Shindo, Japan, 1964) – 8.0
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy, France, 1964) – 7.8
Band of Outsiders (Godard, France, 1964) – 7.4
Dry Summer (Erksan, Turkey, 1964) – 7.4
Pierrot le Fou (Godard, France, 1965) – 8.3
Repulsion (Polanski, UK, 1965) – 7.4
Mickey One (Penn, USA, 1965) – 7.1
Alphaville (Godard, France, 1965) – 6.0
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, Italy, 1966) – 8.8
Daisies (Chytilova, Czechoslovakia, 1966) – 7.2
Point Blank (Boorman, USA, 1966) – 7.0
The Pornographers (Imamura, Japan, 1966) – 6.9
Persona (Bergman, Sweden, 1966) – 6.4
The Graduate (Nichols, USA, 1967) – 8.8
The Young Girls of Rochefort (Demy, France, 1967) – 8.6
Play Time (Tati, France, 1967) – 8.2
The Firemen’s Ball (Forman, Czechoslovakia, 1967) – 8.0
Le Samourai (Melville, France, 1967) – 8.0
Branded to Kill (Suzuki, Japan, 1967) – 7.8
Don’t Look Back (Pennebaker, USA, 1967) – 7.4
David Holzman’s Diary (McBride, USA, 1967) – 6.7
Dragon Inn (Hu, Taiwan, 1967) – 6.5
Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, USA, 1968) – 8.3
High School (Wiseman, USA, 1968) – 7.7
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, USA, 1968) – 7.6
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Straub/Huillet, Germany, 1968) – 5.3
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, USA, 1969) – 8.1
My Night at Maud’s (Rohmer, France, 1969) – 7.8
Medium Cool (Wexler, USA, 1969) – 7.2
Inquiring Nuns (Quinn, USA, 1969) – 7.2
Antonio das Mortes (Rocha, Brazil, 1969) – 5.2
The Red Circle (Melville, France, 1970) – 8.4
Le Boucher (Chabrol, France, 1970) – 7.5
The Emigrants (Troell, Sweden, 1971) – 8.8
A New Leaf (May, USA, 1971) – 8.2
Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, USA, 1971) – 7.7
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, USA, 1971) – 6.9
Minnie and Moskowitz (Cassavetes, USA, 1971) – 5.2
The New Land (Troell, Sweden, 1972) – 8.8
Love in the Afternoon (Rohmer, France, 1972) – 8.3
Solaris (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1972) – 6.3
The Exorcist (Friedkin, USA, 1973) – 8.1
The Long Goodbye (Altman, USA, 1973) – 7.9
The Sting (Hill, USA, 1973) – 7.9
Badlands (Malick, USA, 1973) – 7.6
The Mother and the Whore (Eustache, France, 1973) – 7.4
The Spirit of the Beehive (Erice, Spain, 1973) – 7.4
Touki Bouki (Mambety, Senegal, 1973) – 6.8
Blazing Saddles (Brooks, USA, 1974) – 8.4
Chinatown (Polanski, USA, 1974) – 8.2
Black Christmas (Clark, Canada, 1974) – 8.2
Young Frankenstein (Brooks, USA, 1974) – 7.6
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, Germany, 1974) – 7.2
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, France, 1974) – 6.8
The Irony of Fate: Or Enjoy Your Bath (Ryazanov, Russia, 1975) – 8.5
Cooley High (Schultz, USA, 1975) – 8.3
Night Moves (Penn, USA, 1975) – 8.1
Grey Gardens (Maysles/Maysles, USA, 1975) – 4.2
Taxi Driver (Scorsese, USA, 1976) – 7.8
In the Realm of the Senses (Oshima, Japan, 1976) – 6.9
Mikey and Nicky (May, USA, 1976) – 6.4
Annie Hall (Allen, USA, 1977) – 6.6
House (Obayashi, Japan, 1977) – 6.4
One Way Boogie Woogie (Benning, USA, 1977) – 5.1
A Wedding (Altman, USA, 1978) – 8.4
Halloween (Carpenter, USA, 1978) – 8.3
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Lau, Hong Kong, 1978) – 8.3
Dawn of the Dead (Romero, USA, 1978) – 7.8
Days of Heaven (Malick, USA, 1978) – 7.8
Killer of Sheep (Burnett, USA, 1979) – 7.8
The Blues Brothers (Landis, USA, 1980) – 9.4
Raging Bull (Scorsese, USA, 1980) – 8.3
The Shining (Kubrick, USA, 1980) – 8.2
Melvin and Howard (Demme, USA, 1980) – 7.0
Popeye (Altman, USA, 1980) – 5.2
Thief (Mann, USA, 1981) – 8.5
An American Werewolf in London (Landis, USA, 1981) – 8.3
Possession (Zulawski, France/Germany, 1981) – 7.9
The Road Warrior (Miller, Australia, 1981) – 7.4
Trances (El Maanouni, Morocco, 1981) – 6.2
The Thing (Carpenter, USA, 1982) – 8.3
Blade Runner (Scott, USA, 1982) – 7.6
The Slumber Party Massacre (Jones, USA, 1982) – 6.8
Rock in Reykjavik (Fridriksson, Iceland, 1982) – 6.3
A Nos Amours (Pialat, France, 1983) – 8.5
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Oshima, Japan, 1983) – 8.0
Sans Soleil (Marker, France, 1983) – 6.2
Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch, USA, 1984) – 8.0
Vagabond (Varda, France, 1985) – 7.4
After Hours (Scorsese, USA, 1985) – 6.7
The Fly (Cronenberg, USA/Canda, 1986) – 8.0
Bad Blood (Carax, France, 1986) – 7.1
The Green Ray (Rohmer, France, 1986) – 6.1
The Dead (Huston, USA/UK, 1987) – 7.8
The Thin Blue Line (Morris, USA, 1988) – 7.9
A Short Film About Love (Kieslowski, Poland, 1988) – 7.9
Time of the Gypsies (Kusturica, Yugoslavia, 1988) – 7.0
A Short Film About Killing (Kieslowski, Poland, 1988) – 6.9
Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant, USA, 1989) – 8.2
Do the Right Thing (Lee, USA, 1989) – 7.6
Goodfellas (Scorsese, USA, 1990) – 9.0
King of New York (Ferrara, USA, 1990) – 8.9
House Party (Hudlin, USA, 1990) – 6.7
Defending Your Life (Brooks, USA, 1991) – 8.5
To Sleep with Anger (Burnett, USA, 1991) – 8.5
The Lovers on the Bridge (Carax, France, 1991) – 8.0
Close-Up (Kiarostami, Iran, 1991) – 7.6
Slacker (Linklater, USA, 1991) – 7.0
Basic Instinct (Verhoeven, USA, 1992) – 9.0
Unforgiven (Eastwood, USA, 1992) – 8.6
Deep Cover (Duke, USA, 1992) – 8.5
The Player (Altman, USA, 1992) – 8.2
The Long Day Closes (Davies, UK, 1992) – 4.7
The Piano (Campion, New Zealand, 1993) – 8.4
Groundhog Day (Raimis, USA, 1993) – 8.4
Sonatine (Kitano, Japan, 1993) – 8.3
Matinee (Dante, USA, 1993) – 8.2
Dazed and Confused (Linklater, USA, 1993) – 8.2
Menace II Society (Hughes/Hughes, USA, 1993) – 8.0
Naked (Leigh, UK, 1993) – 6.3
The Bride with White Hair (Yu, Hong Kong, 1993) – 5.1
Hoop Dreams (James, USA, 1994) – 8.0
Chungking Express (Wong, Hong Kong, 1994) – 8.0
The Last Seduction (Dahl, USA, 1994) – 7.1
Wild Reeds (Techine, France, 1994) – 7.1
Ed Wood (Burton, USA, 1994) – 6.8
Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin, USA, 1995 – 8.5
The Bridges of Madison County (Eastwood, USA, 1995) – 8.2
Dead Man (Jarmusch, USA, 1995) – 8.1
Irma Vep (Assayas, France, 1996) – 7.2
A Moment of Innocence (Makhmalbaf, Iran, 1996) – 5.8
Jackie Brown (Tarantino, USA, 1997) – 9.2
L.A. Confidential (Hanson, USA, 1997) – 8.8
Cure (Kurosawa, Japan, 1997) – 8.2
Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, Iran, 1997) – 7.2
The Mirror (Panahi, Iran, 1997) – 5.1
The Big Lebowski (Coen/Coen, 1998) – 8.8
The Last Days of Disco (Stillman, USA, 1998) – 8.4
The Bird People in China (Miike, Japan/China, 1998) – 6.6
Office Space (Judge, USA, 1999) – 8.5
Peppermint Candy (Lee, S. Korea, 1999) – 8.2
Ravenous (Bird, UK/USA, 1999) – 8.0
Nowhere to Hide (Lee, S. Korea, 1999) – 7.6
Audition (Miike, Japan, 1999) – 7.5
Beau Travail (Denis, France, 1999) – 7.0
JSA: Joint Security Area (Park S. Korea, 2000) – 8.6
High Fidelity (Frears, USA, 2000) – 8.5
Yi Yi (Yang, Taiwan, 2000) – 8.4
Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, Sweden/Denmark, 2000) – 8.1
La Captive (Akerman, France, 2000) – 8.0
The Day I Became a Woman (Meskini, Iran, 2000) – 7.6
In the Mood for Love (Wong, Hong Kong, 2000) – 7.4
Needing You (To/Wai, Hong Kong, 2000) – 7.1
Sexy Beast (Glazer, UK, 2000) – 6.9
Italian for Beginners (Scherfig, Denmark, 2000) – 6.4
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (Gowariker, 2001) – 9.3
The Devil’s Backbone (Del Toro, Spain/Mexico, 2001) – 8.6
Mulholland Drive (Lynch, USA, 2001) – 8.1
Failan (Song, S. Korea, 2001) – 8.1
Avalon (Oshii, Japan/Poland, 2001) – 7.8
What Time Is It There? (Tsai, Taiwan, 2001) – 6.6
Fat Girl (Breillat, France, 2001) – 6.5
The Tracker (De Heer, Australia, 2002) – 7.9
Infernal Affairs (Lau/Mak, Hong Kong, 2002) – 7.8
Far From Heaven (Haynes, USA, 2002) – 7.6
Bollywood/Hollywood (Mehta, Canada, 2002) – 7.6
Distant (Ceylan, Turkey, 2002) – 5.0
Memories of Murder (Bong, S. Korea, 2003) – 8.8
Oldboy (Park, S. Korea, 2003) – 8.6
A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim, S. Korea, 2003) – 7.8
Save the Green Planet (Jang, S. Korea, 2003) – 6.9
Before Sunset (Linklater, USA, 2004) – 9.0
3-Iron (Kim, S. Korea, 2004) – 8.8
Moolade (Sembene, Senegal, 2004) – 8.2
The Island of Black Mor (Laguionie, France, 2004) – 8.1
The Holy Girl (Martel, Argentina, 2004) – 6.9
Dumplings (Chan, Hong Kong, 2004) – 6.4
A History of Violence (Cronenberg, Canada/USA, 2005) – 8.3
Grizzly Man (Herzog, USA, 2005) – 8.1
The Proposition (Hillcoat, Australia, 2005) – 8.1
Three Times (Hou, Taiwan, 2005) – 7.5
Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, Spain, 2006) – 9.3
The Host (Bong, S. Korea, 2006) – 8.9
Once (Carney, UK, 2006) – 8.8
Shaun of the Dead (Wright, UK, 2006) – 8.5
Black Book (Verhoeven, Holland, 2006) – 8.4
Offside (Panahi, Iran, 2006) – 8.2
A Scanner Darkly (Linklater, USA, 2006) – 8.0
Woman on the Beach (Hong, S. Korea, 2006) – 7.1
12:08 East of Bucharest (Poromboiu, Romania, 2006) – 5.7
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (Dominik, USA, 2007) – 9.6
Zodiac (Fincher, USA, 2007) – 9.1
Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, Canada/UK, 2007) – 8.7
My Winnipeg (Maddin, Canada, 2007) – 6.3
Let the Right One In (Alfredson, Sweden, 2008) – 8.7
Me and Orson Welles (Linklater, USA, 2008) – 7.9
The Headless Woman (Martel, Argentina, 2008) – 6.1
The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, USA, 2008) – 9.4
The House of the Devil (West, USA, 2009) – 8.1
Change Nothing (Costa, France/Portugal, 2009) – 6.0
Shutter Island (Scorsese, USA, 2010) – 9.5
The Social Network (Fincher, USA, 2010) – 8.5
Certified Copy (Kiarostami, Italy/France, 2010) – 8.5
Another Year (Leigh, UK, 2010) – 8.1
The Ghost Writer (Polanski, Germany/France, 2010) – 8.0
The Hunter (Pitts, Iran, 2010) – 6.8
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2010) – 6.6
Audrey the Trainwreck (Ross, USA, 2010) – 6.4
Bernie (Linklater, USA, 2011) – 8.9
The Skin I Live In (Almodovar, Spain, 2011) – 8.6
Drive (Refn, USA, 2011) – 8.1
Life Without Principle (To, Hong Kong, 2011) – 7.9
Midnight in Paris (Allen, USA/France, 2011) – 7.7
Le Havre (Kaurismaki, France/Finland, 2011) – 7.6
Mildred Pierce (Haynes, USA, 2011) – 7.5
This Is Not a Film (Panahi, Iran, 2011) – 7.1
Sleeping Sickness (Kohler, Germany, 2011) – 6.6
Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, USA, 2012) – 8.9
Frances Ha (Baumbach, USA, 2012) – 8.7
Silver Linings Playbook (Russell, USA, 2012) – 8.4
Holy Motors (Carax, France, 2012) – 8.3
Spring Breakers (Korine, USA, 2012) – 8.3
Dormant Beauty (Bellochio, Italy, 2012) – 8.1
Barbara (Petzold, Germany, 2012) – 8.0
Empire Builder (Swanberg, USA, 2012) – 7.7
The Master (Anderson, USA, 2012) – 7.6
Cosmopolis (Cronenberg, Canada/Germany, 2012) – 7.0
The Unspeakable Act (Sallit, USA, 2012) – 6.9
A F**load of Scotch Tape (Grant, USA, 2012) – 6.8
Shoals (Bass, USA, 2012) – 5.7
Snowpiercer (Bong, S. Korea, 2013) – 9.4
Stoker (Park, USA, 2013) – 8.9
Nymphomaniac (Von Trier, Denmark/Germany, 2013) – 8.5
The Grandmaster (Wong, Hong Kong/China, 2013) – 8.2
Top of the Lake (Campion/Davis, New Zealand, 2013) – 8.1
Upstream Color (Carruth, USA, 2013) – 8.1
Before Midnight (Linklater, USA, 2013) – 8.0
A Touch of Sin (Jia, China, 2013) – 7.9
The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, Japan, 2013) – 7.8
Jimmy P. (Desplechin, France/USA, 2013) – 7.7
Contracted (England, USA, 2013) – 7.6
Under the Skin (Glazer, UK, 2013) – 7.3
Black Box (Cone, USA, 2013) – 7.2
Gloria (Lelio, Chile, 2013) – 7.2
Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (Klinger, USA, 2013) – 6.8
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, USA, 2013) – 6.3
The Girls on Liberty Street (Rangel, USA, 2013) – 5.5
Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014) – 9.5
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, USA, 2014) – 8.9
Actress (Greene, USA, 2014) – 8.3
Inherent Vice (Anderson, USA, 2014) – 8.3
The Babadook (Kent, Australia, 2014) – 8.1
Li’l Quinquin (Dumont, France, 2014) – 7.9
Goodbye to Language (Godard, Switzerland/France, 2014) – 7.6
Buzzard (Potrykus, USA, 2014) – 6.7
Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong, S. Korea, 2015) – 8.5
Thao’s Library (Van Meter, USA, 2015) – 8.5
Timbuktu (Sissako, Mauritania/Mali, 2015) – 7.6
Bloomin Mud Shuffle (Ross, USA, 2015) – 7.5
Toni Erdmann (Ade, Germany, 2016) – 9.0
Malaria (Shahbazi, Iran, 2016) – 8.8
Donald Cried (Avedisian, USA, 2016) – 8.5

The 10 Highest-Rated Films:
10. The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, USA, 1955) – 9.1
9. Jackie Brown (Tarantino, USA, 1997) – 9.2
8. Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, Spain/Mexico, 2006) – 9.3
7. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (Gowariker, India, 2000) – 9.3
6. The Blues Brothers (Landis, USA, 1980) – 9.4
5. The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, USA, 2008) – 9.4
4. Snowpiercer (Bong, S. Korea, 2013) – 9.4
3. Shutter Island (Scorsese, USA, 2010) – 9.5
2. Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014) – 9.5
1. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (Dominik, USA, 2007) – 9.6

 

 

 

 

 

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My Student Tomato-Meter: 2016 Edition

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The Fall semester just began, which means it’s that time of year when I post my updated “student tomato-meter” showing the aggregated results of the ratings — on a scale from one-to-10 — that my students have given to every movie I’ve shown in my film studies classes dating back to the Spring 2009 semester. I’ve now taught 84 classes and shown a total of 394 unique movies. Below is a list of all the films I’ve screened to date, presented in chronological order by release date, along with the average ratings given by my students. Below that I’ve also included a list of the top 10 highest-rated films. My goal as a teacher is to show at least one movie by every great director who ever lived. Please scan the list below and feel free tell me in the comments section who you think I might be missing!

Sherlock Holmes (Berthelet, USA, 1915) – 4.1
Les Vampires (Feuillade, France, 1915-1916) – 7.0
Broken Blossoms (Griffith, USA, 1919) – 5.9
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, Germany, 1920) – 6.8
The Golem (Wegener/Boese, Germany, 1920) – 6
The Phantom Carriage (Sjostrom, Sweden, 1921) – 7.3
Nosferatu (Murnau, Germany, 1922) – 6.5
Our Hospitality (Keaton, USA, 1923) – 8.4
Coeur Fidele (Epstein, France, 1923) – 5.2
Greed (Von Stroheim, USA, 1923) – 6.9
Sherlock Jr. (Keaton, USA, 1924) – 8.0
The Hands of Orlac (Wiene, Germany, 1924) – 6.2
Waxworks (Leni, Germany, 1924) – 5.1
The Freshman (Newmeyer/Taylor, USA, 1925) – 8.3
Seven Chances (Keaton, USA, 1925) – 8.2
The Navigator (Keaton, USA, 1925) – 8.1
The Gold Rush (Chaplin, USA, 1925) – 8.0
The Last Laugh (Murnau, Germany, 1925) – 6.5
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, Soviet Union, 1925) – 5.1
The General (Keaton, USA, 1926) – 8.4
Secrets of a Soul (Pabst, Germany, 1926) – 6.6
Faust (Murnau, Germany, 1926) – 6.9
Sunrise (Murnau, USA, 1927) – 6.9
Metropolis (Lang, Germany, 1927) – 6.6
Hindle Wakes (Elvey, UK, 1927) – 6.6
The End of St. Petersburg (Pudovkin, Soviet Union, 1927) – 5.0
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (Shub, Soviet Union, 1927) – 4.0
The Docks of New York (Von Sternberg, USA, 1928) – 8.4
The Crowd (Vidor, USA, 1928) – 7.4
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, France, 1928) – 7.2
Lonesome (Fejos, USA, 1928) – 6.7
A Cottage on Dartmoor (Asquith, UK, 1929) – 8.3
Lucky Star (Borzage, USA, 1929) – 8.1
Asphalt (May, Germany, 1929) – 6.8
Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov, Soviet Union, 1929) – 6.2
City Girl (Murnau, USA, 1930) – 6.7
L’age D’or (Bunuel, France, 1930) – 6.6
Earth (Dovzhenko, Soviet Union, 1930) – 3.6
City Lights (Chaplin, USA, 1931) – 8.5
M (Lang, Germany, 1931) – 8.1
Madchen in Uniform (Sagan/Froelich, Germany, 1931) – 7.1
Freaks (Browning, USA, 1932) – 7.1
Vampyr (Dreyer, Denmark/Germany, 1932) – 6.9
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Lang, Germany, 1933) – 7.6
Duck Soup (McCarey, USA, 1933) – 6.8
It Happened One Night (Capra, USA, 1934) – 8.5
L’atalante (Vigo, France, 1934) – 7.0
Top Hat (Sandrich, USA, 1935) – 8.6
My Man Godfrey (La Cava, USA, 1936) – 8.5
Modern Times (Chaplin, USA, 1936) – 8.0
Redes (Muriel/Zinneman, Mexico, 1936) – 6.9
The Awful Truth (McCarey, USA, 1937) – 8.5
Grand Illusion (Renoir, France, 1937) – 7.0
Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, USA, 1938) – 8.3
Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein, Soviet Union, 1938) – 5.0
Midnight (Liesen, USA, 1939) – 8.7
Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, USA, 1939) – 8.2
The Roaring Twenties (Walsh, USA, 1939) – 8.2
Stagecoach (Ford, USA, 1939) – 7.7
The Rules of the Game (Renoir, France, 1939) – 7.1
The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, USA, 1940) – 7.9
The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, USA, 1940) – 7.4
The Lady Eve (Sturges, USA, 1941) – 8.2
Citizen Kane (Welles, USA, 1941) – 8.2
How Green Was My Valley (Ford, USA, 1941) – 7.8
The Strawberry Blonde (Walsh, USA, 1941) – 7.6
The Maltese Falcon (Huston, USA, 1941) – 6.9
Casablanca (Curtiz, USA, 1942) – 8.3
The Palm Beach Story (Sturges, USA, 1942) – 7.5
Aniki Bobo (De Oliveira, Portugal, 1942) – 7.2
Cat People (Tourneur, USA, 1942) – 5.6
The More the Merrier (Stevens, USA, 1943) – 8.2
I Walked with a Zombie (Tourneur, USA, 1943) – 6
Ossessione (Visconti, Italy, 1943) – 5.2
Double Indemnity (Wilder, USA, 1944) – 8.1
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Sturges, USA, 1944) – 8.0
To Have and Have Not (Hawks, USA, 1944) – 7.5
Brief Encounter (Lean, UK, 1945) – 8.0
Detour (Ulmer, USA, 1945) – 7.3
Rome, Open City (Rossellini, Italy, 1945) – 7.2
Notorious (Hitchcock, USA, 1946) – 8.5
The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, USA, 1946) – 8.4
My Darling Clementine (Ford, USA, 1946) – 7.5
The Big Sleep (Hawks, USA, 1946) – 6.0
Dead Reckoning (Cromwell, USA, 1947) – 8.2
The Lady from Shanghai (Welles, USA, 1947) – 7.9
Out of the Past (Tourneur, USA, 1947) – 7.7
Body and Soul (Rossen, USA, 1947) – 7.6
Pursued (Walsh, USA, 1947) – 7.1
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, USA, 1948) – 8.8
Rope (Hitchcock, USA, 1948) – 8.7
The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, UK, 1948) – 8.3
Bicycle Thieves (de Sica, Italy 1948) – 8.0
Call Northside 777 (Hathaway, USA, 1948) – 7.7
Germany Year Zero (Rossellini, Italy/Germany, 1948) – 7.6
Fort Apache (Ford, USA, 1948) – 7.5
Spring in a Small Town (Fei, China, 1948) – 6.7
Jour de Fete (Tati, France, 1949) – 8.7
A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz, USA, 1949) – 8.4
White Heat (Walsh, USA, 1949) – 8.3
The Third Man (Reed, UK, 1949) – 8.0
Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, USA, 1950) – 8.8
Los Olvidados (Bunuel, Mexico, 1950) – 7.5
Devil’s Doorway (Mann, USA, 1950) – 7.3
Union Station (Mate, USA, 1950) – 7.3
The African Queen (Huston, USA, 1951) – 8.3
Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, USA, 1952) – 9.0
Umberto D. (De Sica, Italy, 1952) – 6.8
The Big Heat (Lang, USA, 1953) – 8.5
Pickup on South Street (Fuller, USA, 1953) – 8.2
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks, USA, 1953) – 8.2
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Tati, France, 1953) – 8.1
The Band Wagon (Minnelli, USA, 1953) – 7.9
Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, USA, 1953) – 7.8
The Hitch-Hiker (Lupino, USA, 1953) – 7.7
City That Never Sleeps (Auer, USA, 1953) – 7.5
The Naked Spur (Mann, USA, 1953) – 7.0
Tokyo Story (Ozu, Japan, 1953) – 6.7
Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953) – 6.7
Rear Window (Hitchcock, USA, 1954) – 8.9
Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, Japan, 1954) – 8.3
French Cancan (Renoir, France, 1954) – 8.2
Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1954) – 7.0
All That Heaven Allows (Sirk, USA, 1955) – 8.0
Artists and Models (Tashlin, USA, 1955) – 7.8
Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, USA, 1955) – 7.2
The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955) – 9.1
Pather Panchali (Ray, India, 1955) – 6.4
A Man Escaped (Bresson, France, 1956) – 8.2
The Searchers (John Ford, USA, 1956) – 7.4
Bigger Than Life (N. Ray, USA, 1956) – 6.8
Aparajito (Ray, India, 1956) – 6.6
An Affair to Remember (McCarey, USA, 1957) – 8.1
Vertigo (Hitchcock, USA, 1958) – 8.8
Some Came Running (Minnelli, USA, 1958) – 7.9
Touch of Evil (Welles, USA, 1958) – 7.6
Big Deal on Madonna Street (Monicelli, Italy, 1958) – 7.5
Cairo Station (Chahine, Egypt, 1958) – 7.0
Throne of Blood (Kurosawa, Japan, 1958) – 5.9
Some Like It Hot (Wilder, USA, 1959) – 9.2
Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, USA, 1959) – 8.9
The 400 Blows (Truffaut, France, 1959) – 8.8
North By Northwest (Hitchcock, USA, 1959) – 8.6
Rio Bravo (Hawks, USA, 1959) – 8.0
Pickpocket (Bresson, France, 1959) – 7.3
Hiroshima Mon Amour (Resnais, France, 1959) – 6.8
Psycho (Hitchcock, USA, 1960) – 8.7
Eyes Without a Face (Franju, France, 1960) – 8.4
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Naruse, Japan, 1960) – 8.1
Les Bonnes Femmes (Chabrol, France, 1960) – 8.0
Breathless (Godard, France, 1960) – 7.8
Accatone (Pasolini, Italy, 1960) – 7.6
L’avventura (Antonioni, Italy, 1960) – 7.4
The Housemaid (Kim, S. Korea, 1960) – 7.1
Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, France, 1961) – 6.8
Viridiana (Bunuel, Spain, 1961) – 5.8
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, USA, 1962) – 8.3
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda, France, 1962) – 7.4
Vivre sa Vie (Godard, France, 1962) – 7.2
Le Doulos (Melville, France, 1962) – 7.1
Jules and Jim (Truffaut, France 1962) – 5.5
Contempt (Godard, France, 1963) – 8.5
Shock Corridor (Fuller, USA, 1963) – 8.4
The Nutty Professor (Lewis, USA, 1963) – 8.4
Black Sabbath (Bava, Italy, 1963) – 7.1
8 1/2 (Fellini, Italy, 1963) – 6.5
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy, France, 1964) – 8.2
Onibaba (Shindo, Japan, 1964) – 8.0
Band of Outsiders (Godard, France, 1964) – 7.4
Dry Summer (Erksan, Turkey, 1964) – 7.4
Pierrot le Fou (Godard, France, 1965) – 8.3
Alphaville (Godard, France, 1965) – 6.0
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, Italy, 1966) – 8.8
Daisies (Chytilova, Czechoslovakia, 1966) – 7.2
Point Blank (Boorman, USA, 1966) – 7.0
The Pornographers (Imamura, Japan, 1966) – 6.9
Persona (Bergman, Sweden, 1966) – 6.4
The Graduate (Nichols, USA, 1967) – 8.8
The Young Girls of Rochefort (Demy, France, 1967) – 8.6
Play Time (Tati, France, 1967) – 8.2
Le Samourai (Melville, France, 1967) – 8.0
Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, USA, 1967) – 7.5
Don’t Look Back (Pennebaker, USA, 1967) – 7.4
David Holzman’s Diary (McBride, USA, 1967) – 6.9
Dragon Inn (Hu, Taiwan, 1967) – 6.5
Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, USA, 1968) – 8.3
High School (Wiseman, USA, 1968) – 7.7
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, USA, 1968) – 7.6
Inquiring Nuns (Quinn, USA, 1968) – 6.9
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, USA, 1969) – 8.1
My Night at Maud’s (Rohmer, France, 1969) – 7.8
Medium Cool (Wexler, USA, 1969) – 7.2
The Red Circle (Melville, France, 1970) – 9.1
Le Boucher (Chabrol, France, 1970) – 7.5
A New Leaf (May, USA, 1971) – 8.0
Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, USA, 1971) – 7.7
The Emigrants (Troell, Sweden, 1971) – 8.8
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, USA, 1971) – 6.9
Minnie and Moskowitz (Cassavetes, USA, 1971) – 5.2
Love in the Afternoon (Rohmer, France, 1972) – 8.6
The New Land (Troell, France, 1972) – 8.8
Solaris (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1972) – 6.9
The Exorcist (Friedkin, USA, 1973) – 8.1
The Long Goodbye (Altman, USA, 1973) – 7.9
Badlands (Malick, USA, 1973) – 7.6
The Mother and the Whore (Eustache, France, 1973) – 7.4
The Spirit of the Beehive (Erice, Spain, 1973) – 7.4
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, Germany, 1973) – 7.2
Touki Bouki (Mambety, Senegal, 1973) – 6.9
Blazing Saddles (Brooks, USA, 1974) – 8.4
Chinatown (Polanski, USA, 1974) – 8.2
Black Christmas (Clark, Canada, 1974) – 8.2
Young Frankenstein (Brooks, USA, 1974) – 7.6
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Rivette, France, 1974) – 6.8
The Irony of Fate: Or Enjoy Your Bath! (Ryazanov, Russia, 1975) – 8.5
Cooley High (Schultz, USA, 1975) – 8.3
Night Moves (Penn, USA, 1975) – 8.1
Grey Gardens (Maysles/Maysles, USA, 1975) – 4.2
Taxi Driver (Scorsese, USA, 1976) – 8.6
Mikey and Nicky (May, USA, 1976) – 6.4
Annie Hall (Allen, USA, 1977) – 6.6
House (Obayashi, Japan, 1977) – 6.4
One Way Boogie Woogie (Benning, USA, 1977) – 5.1
Halloween (Carpenter, USA, 1978) – 8.3
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (Lau, Hong Kong, 1978) – 8.3
Days of Heaven (Malick, USA, 1978) – 7.4
Killer of Sheep (Burnett, USA, 1979) – 7.8
Raging Bull (Scorsese, USA, 1980) – 8.3
The Shining (Kubrick, USA, 1980) – 8.2
Popeye (Altman, USA, 1980) – 5.2
An American Werewolf in London (Landis, USA/UK, 1981) – 7.9
The Road Warrior (Miller, Australia, 1981) – 7.4
Trances (El Maanouni, Morocco, 1981) – 6.2
The Thing (Carpenter, USA, 1982) – 8.3
Blade Runner (Scott, USA, 1982) – 7.6
The Slumber Party Massacre (Jones, USA, 1982) – 6.8
Rock in Reykjavik (Fridriksson, Iceland, 1982) – 6.3
A Nos Amours (Pialat, France, 1983) – 8.5
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Oshima, Japan, 1983) – 8.0
Sans Soleil (Marker, France, 1983) – 6.2
Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch, USA, 1984) – 6.2
Vagabond (Varda, France, 1985) – 7.6
After Hours (Scorsese, USA, 1985) – 6.7
The Fly (Cronenberg, Canada/USA, 1986) – 8.0
Bad Blood (Carax, France, 1986) – 7.1
The Green Ray (Rohmer, France, 1986) – 6.1
The Dead (Huston, USA/UK, 1987) – 7.8
A Short Film About Love (Kieslowski, Poland, 1988) – 8.4
The Thin Blue Line (Morris, USA, 1988) – 7.9
Time of the Gypsies (Kusturica, Yugoslavia, 1988) – 7.0
A Short Film About Killing (Kieslowski, Poland, 1988) – 6.9
Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant, USA, 1989) – 8.2
Do the Right Thing (Lee, USA, 1989) – 7.6
Goodfellas (Scorsese, USA, 1990) – 9.0
King of New York (Ferrara, USA, 1990) – 8.9
House Party (Hudlin, USA, 1990) – 6.7
The Lovers on the Bridge (Carax, France, 1991) – 8.0
Defending Your Life (Brooks, USA, 1991) – 8.5
Close-Up (Kiarostami, Iran, 1991) – 7.6
Slacker (Linklater, USA, 1991) – 7.0
Basic Instinct (Verhoeven, USA, 1992) – 9.0
Unforgiven (Eastwood, USA, 1992) – 8.6
Deep Cover (Duke, USA, 1992) – 8.5
The Player (Altman, USA, 1992) – 8.2
The Piano (Campion, New Zealand, 1993) – 8.4
Groundhog Day (Ramis, USA, 1993) – 8.4
Sonatine (Kitano, Japan, 1993) – 8.3
Matinee (Dante, USA, 1993) – 8.2
Dazed and Confused (Linklater, USA, 1993) – 8.2
Menace II Society (Hughes/Hughes, USA, 1993) – 8.0
Naked (Leigh, UK, 1993) – 6.3
The Bride With White Hair (Yu, Hong Kong, 1993) – 5.1
Chungking Express (Wong, Hong Kong, 1994) – 8.0
Hoop Dreams (James, USA, 1994) – 7.4
The Last Seduction (Dahl, USA, 1994) – 7.2
Ed Wood (Burton, USA, 1994) – 6.8
Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin, USA, 1995) – 8.5
The Bridges of Madison County (Eastwood, USA, 1995) – 8.2
Dead Man (Jarmsuch, USA, 1995) – 8.1
Irma Vep (Assayas, France, 1996) – 7.2
A Moment of Innocence (Makhmalbaf, Iran, 1996) – 5.8
Jackie Brown (Tarantino, USA, 1997) – 9.2
L.A. Confidential (Hanson, USA, 1997) – 8.8
Cure (Kurosawa, Japan, 1997) – 8.2
Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, Iran, 1997) – 7.2
The Mirror (Panahi, Iran, 1997) – 5.1
The Big Lebowski (Coen/Coen, USA, 1998) – 8.8
The Bird People in China (Miike, Japan, 1998) – 6.6
Office Space (Judge, USA, 1999) – 8.4
Peppermint Candy (Lee, S. Korea, 1999) – 8.2
Ravenous (Bird, UK/USA, 1999) – 8.0
Nowhere to Hide (Lee, S. Korea, 1999) – 7.6
Audition (Miike, Japan, 1999) – 7.5
Beau Travail (Denis, France/Djibouti, 1999) – 5.4
JSA: Joint Security Area (Park, S. Korea, 2000) – 8.6
Yi Yi (Yang, Taiwan, 2000) – 8.4
Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, Denmark/Sweden, 2000) – 8.0
Failan (Song, S. Korea, 2000) – 8.0
La Captive (Akerman, France, 2000) – 8.0
The Day I Became a Woman (Meshkini, Iran, 2000) – 7.6
In the Mood for Love (Wong, Hong Kong, 2000) – 7.4
Needing You (To/Wai, Hong Kong, 2000) – 7.1
Sexy Beast (Glazer, UK, 2000) – 6.9
Italian for Beginners (Scherfig, Denmark, 2000) – 6.4
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (Gowariker, India, 2000) – 9.3
The Devil’s Backbone (Del Toro, Spain/Mexico, 2001) – 8.6
Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, USA, 2001) – 8.1
Avalon (Oshii, Japan/Poland, 2001) – 7.8
What Time Is It There? (Tsai, Taiwan, 2001) – 6.6
The Tracker (De Heer, Australia, 2002) – 7.9
Infernal Affairs (Lau/Mak, Hong Kong, 2002) – 7.8
Bollywood/Hollywood (Mehta, Canada/India, 2002) – 7.6
Far From Heaven (Haynes, USA, 2002) – 7.5
Memories of Murder (Bong, S. Korea, 2003) – 8.8
Oldboy (Park, S. Korea, 2003) – 8.6
A Tale of Two Sisters (Kim, S. Korea, 2003) – 7.8
Save the Green Planet (Jang, S. Korea, 2003) – 6.9
Before Sunset (Linklater, USA/France, 2004) – 9.0
3-Iron (Kim, S. Korea, 2004) – 8.8
Moolade (Sembene, Senegal, 2004) – 8.2
The Island of Black Mor (Laguionie, France, 2004) – 8.1
The Holy Girl (Martel, Argentina, 2004) – 6.9
Dumplings (Chan, Hong Kong, 2004) – 6.4
A History of Violence (Cronenberg, Canada/USA, 2005) – 8.3
Grizzly Man (Herzog, USA, 2005) – 8.1
The Proposition (Hillcoat, Australia, 2005) – 8.1
Three Times (Hou, Taiwan, 2005) – 7.5
Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, Spain, 2006) – 9.3
The Host (Bong, S. Korea, 2006) – 8.9
Once (Carney, UK, 2006) – 8.8
Shaun of the Dead (Wright, UK, 2006) – 8.5
Black Book (Verhoeven, Denmark, 2006) – 8.4
Offside (Panahi, Iran, 2006) – 8.1
A Scanner Darkly (Linklater, USA, 2006) – 8.0
Woman on the Beach (Hong, S. Korea, 2006) – 7.1
Zodiac (Fincher, USA, 2007) – 9.1
My Winnipeg (Maddin, Canada, 2007) – 6.3
Let the Right One In (Alfredson, Sweden, 2008) – 8.7
Me and Orson Welles (Linklater, USA, 2008) – 7.9
The Headless Woman (Martel, Argentina, 2008) – 6.1
The House of the Devil (West, USA, 2009) – 8.1
Shutter Island (Scorsese, USA, 2010) – 9.5
The Social Network (Fincher, USA, 2010) – 8.5
Certified Copy (Kiarostami, Italy/France, 2010) – 8.5
The Ghost Writer (Polanski, Germany/France, 2010) – 8.0
The Hunter (Pitts, Iran, 2010) – 6.8
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2010) 6.6
Another Year (Leigh, UK, 2010) – 8.1
Le Havre (Kaurismaki, France/Finland, 2011) – 7.6
Bernie (Linklater, USA, 2011) – 8.9
The Skin I Live In (Amodovar, Spain, 2011) – 8.6
Drive (Refn, USA, 2011) – 8.1
Life Without Principle (To, Hong Kong, 2011) – 7.9
Sleeping Sickness (Kohler, Germany, 2011) – 6.6
This Is Not a Film (Panahi, Iran, 2011) – 7.1
Midnight in Paris (Allen, USA/France, 2011) – 7.7
Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, USA, 2012) – 8.9
Frances Ha (Baumbach, USA, 2012) – 8.7
Holy Motors (Carax, France, 2012) – 8.4
Silver Linings Playbook (Russell, USA, 2012) – 8.4
Spring Breakers (Korine, USA, 2012) – 8.3
Empire Builder (Swanberg, USA, 2012) – 7.7
The Master (Anderson, USA, 2012) – 7.6
Cosmopolis (Cronenberg, Canada/Germany, 2012) – 7.0
The Unspeakable Act (Sallit, USA, 2012) – 6.9
Shoals (Bass, USA, 2012) – 5.7
Dormant Beauty (Bellocchio, Italy, 2012) – 8.1
Barbara (Petzold, Germany, 2012) – 8.0
Nymphomaniac (Von Trier, Denmark/Germany, 2013) – 8.5
The Grandmaster (Wong, Hong Kong/China, 2013) – 8.2
Upstream Color (Carruth, USA, 2013) – 8.1
A Touch of Sin (Jia, China, 2013) – 7.9
Before Midnight (Linklater, USA, 2013) – 8.0
The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, Japan, 2013) – 7.8
Jimmy P. (Desplechin, France/USA, 2013) – 7.7
Under the Skin (Glazer, UK, 2013) – 7.3
Black Box (Cone, USA, 2013) – 7.2
Gloria (Lelio, Chile, 2013) – 7.2
Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (Klinger, USA, 2013) 6.8
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, USA, 2013) – 6.3
The Girls on Liberty Street (Rangel, USA, 2013) – 5.5
Snowpiercer (Bong, S. Korea, 2013) – 9.4
Stoker (Park, USA, 2013) – 8.9
Top of the Lake (Campion/Davis, 2013) – 8.1
Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014) – 9.5
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, USA, 2014) – 8.9
Actress (Greene, USA, 2014) – 8.3
Inherent Vice (Anderson, USA, 2014) – 8.3
The Babadook (Kent, Australia, 2014) – 8.1
Li’l Quinquin (Dumont, France, 2014) – 7.9
Goodbye to Language (Godard, France, 2014) – 7.6
Malaria (Shahbazi, Iran, 2016) – 8.8

The 10 Highest Rated Films:

1. Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014) – 9.5
2. Shutter Island (Scorsese, USA, 2010) – 9.5
3. Snowpiercer (Bong, S. Korea, 2013) – 9.4
4. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (Gowariker, India, 2000) – 9.3
5. Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, Spain/Mexico, 2006) – 9.2
6. Jackie Brown (Tarantino, USA, 1997) – 9.2
7. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, USA, 1959) – 9.2
8. The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, USA, 1955) – 9.1
9. Zodiac (Fincher, USA, 2007) – 9.1
10. The Red Circle (Melville, France, 1970) – 9.1


The Best Films of 2015: A Midyear Report

As I did last year, I’m offering a list of “the best films of the year so far” now that we’ve reached the midway point of 2015. This list includes only movies that received their Chicago theatrical premieres between January 1 and June 30. This means I’m disqualifying films that received their first theatrical runs this year but which I caught at Chicago festival screenings last year (e.g., Timbuktu, The Clouds of Sils Maria, etc.). I’m including excerpts from — and links to — my original reviews where applicable.

20. Slow West (MacLean, UK/New Zealand) – Music Box.

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Slow West is dark, violent, claustrophobic, and pessimistic but these qualities are also thankfully leavened by MacLean’s singular gift for humorous sight gags.” http://cine-file.info/list-archive/2015/MAY-15-4.html

19. Unexpected (K. Swanberg, USA) – Music Box / Chicago Critics Film Festival.

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“A low-key but bracingly female-centric film about emotionally forthright characters, Unexpected is an unexpected gem.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2015/05/01/cobie-smulders-double-feature-at-the-music-box-cool-apocalypse-in-the-press/

18. Gemma Bovery (Fontaine, France) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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“Veteran director Ann Fontaine hilariously satirizes both the notion of the ‘male gaze’ and the idea that one can love a work of art to the point that it becomes the primary lens through which he views the world.”
http://www.timeout.com/chicago/blog/what-to-see-in-the-first-week-of-the-siskel-centers-european-union-film-festival

17. Actress (Greene, USA) – Siskel Center.

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Actress is a film of uncommon emotional power: Brandy’s late revelation about falling out of love with Tim over his indifference to installing a diaper-changing station in his restaurant bathroom feels more intimate — and electrifying — than any scripted scene from any film I saw last year.” http://cine-file.info/list-archive/2015/MAR-15-1.html

16. Welcome to New York (Ferrara, France/USA) – Siskel Center.

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“If you can make it past the chaos of the opening 30-minute bacchanal, which not only avoids titillation but feels awkward and depressing by design (courtesy of Ken Kelsch’s cool and distanced camerawork), the film then fascinatingly shifts registers for its second and third acts.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2014/09/29/odds-and-ends-welcome-to-new-york-and-bird-people/

15. Operation Zanahoria (Buchichio, Uruguay) – AMC River East / Chicago Latino Film Festival.

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“Buchichio has performed an important act of political reckoning, even as (or perhaps especially because) his film’s surprising finale offers an eerie reminder of how the truth so often ends up buried in the sands of time.” http://www.timeout.com/chicago/blog/what-to-see-in-the-chicago-latino-film-festivals-second-week

14. Amour Fou (Hausner, Austria) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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“Ancient political debates among aristocratic characters (about taxation for all, and the dangerous influence of French-style democracy on Germany) in the most meticulously art-directed interiors imaginable make this portrait of a vanished way of life feel both compelling as social commentary as well as wonderfully, aesthetically strange.” http://cine-file.info/list-archive/2015/MAR-15-2.html

13. Leviathan (Zvyagintsev, Russia) – Music Box.

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12. Life of Riley (Resnais, France) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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“The last shot, depicting a young woman placing a postcard (bearing a message the viewer cannot read) on top of a coffin, is a fitting self-epitaph to an extraordinary career.” http://cine-file.info/list-archive/2015/MAR-15-3.html

11. Results (Bujalski, USA, 2015) – Music Box.

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“I can’t recall seeing a recent American movie capture the spirit of classic screwball comedy as well as this. Results is Preston Sturges–level great.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2015/05/01/cobie-smulders-double-feature-at-the-music-box-cool-apocalypse-in-the-press/

10. La Sapienza (Green Italy/France) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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“Green’s rigorous approach to style creates a fascinating tension that is only relieved in the transcendental final scene, where the clichéd image of a kiss is re-infused with an awesome sense of mystery, romance and power.” http://www.timeout.com/chicago/blog/what-to-see-in-the-second-week-of-the-siskel-centers-european-union-film-festival

9. Inside Out (Docter/Del Carmen, USA) – Wide release.

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8. Magical Girl (Vermut, Spain, 2014) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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Don’t go into the scorpion room! http://www.timeout.com/chicago/blog/dont-miss-magical-girl-at-the-european-union-film-festival

7. Hard to Be a God (German, Russia, 2014) – Siskel Center.

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“The ‘silence of God’ has been a popular theme of serious artists working in different mediums for centuries but Russian filmmaker Aleksey German, adapting a sci-fi novel by the Strugatskiy Brothers, apparently found a completely original way to explore this concept in his final film.” http://cine-file.info/list-archive/2015/JUN-15-2.html

6. Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, Australia/USA, 2015) – Wide release.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is flat-out amazing from beginning to end, one of the leanest and purest pieces of action cinema I’ve ever seen.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2015/05/10/mad-max-fury-road-e-a-duponts-variete/

5. Horse Money (Costa, Portugal, 2014) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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“Pedro Costa reaffirms his position as one of contemporary cinema’s finest filmmakers with his first fiction feature in eight years, a hypnotic masterpiece that examines the African immigrant experience in the director’s native Portugal.” http://cine-file.info/list-archive/2015/MAR-15-4.html

4. Phoenix (Petzold, Germany, 2014) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival.

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3. Inherent Vice (Anderson, USA, 2014) Wide release / Exclusive 35mm engagement at Siskel Center.

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“What’s remarkable about Inherent Vice is the way that Anderson has been able to remain extremely faithful to the book while also creating something that feels as deeply personal as his other work. He achieves this by making subtle but crucial changes to the novel.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2015/01/20/top-100-films-of-the-decade-pt-4-25-1-a-contest/

2. Li’l Quinquin (Dumont, France, 2014) – Siskel Center / European Union Film Festival

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“If we are living in a ‘golden age’ of television, as countless cultural commentators believe, Li’l Quinquin is proof positive that this golden age is not restricted to America alone.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2015/01/20/top-100-films-of-the-decade-pt-4-25-1-a-contest/

1. Goodbye to Language (Godard, Switzerland/France, 2014) – Siskel Center.

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“Godard’s poetic use of 3-D in Goodbye to Language, the best such use of the technology in any movie I’ve seen, puts this groundbreaking work in the class of his (and the cinema’s) great achievements.” https://whitecitycinema.com/2015/01/20/top-100-films-of-the-decade-pt-4-25-1-a-contest/


The 40 Best Films of 1975 (on the Occasion of My 40th Birthday)

100_2797Sipping “Monty Python’s Holy Ale” while watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail

A couple of years ago, my wife and I bought a DVD box set of the first season of Saturday Night Live on a whim when we found it used for a ridiculously low price at Chicago’s Reckless Records. Aside from the greatness of its contents (the classic comedy sketches, the genius of two-time musical guest Leon Redbone, etc.) I became fascinated with the set simply because I knew the whole thing was filmed and broadcast live in 1975, the year of my birth. A wave of something like nostalgia for a time I can’t quite remember came over me: this is what the world had looked and sounded like when I entered it. I was immediately filled with the desire to watch as many films as I could from that year in order to better understand the culture into which I was born. The result of that years-long quest is this blog post, two days in advance of my 40th birthday, in which I have compiled a list of my 40 favorite movies of 1975 (each accompanied by a still and a two-sentence review). As you can see, it was a staggeringly great year for movies, one of the best ever. In fact, it’s almost comical how many excellent directors, spanning all six filmmaking continents, made landmark films in 1975.

Let’s start with Europe: in Germany, Fassbinder alone made four movies, and there were also important works from the filmmaking teams of Jean-Marie Straub/Danielle Huillet and Margharethe Von Trotta/Volker Schlondorff; in France, Jean-Luc Godard directed his best film of the decade, and he was joined by his New Wave compatriots Claude Chabrol, who made two superior genre movies, and Francois Truffaut (whose neo-“Tradition of Quality” epic The Story of Adele H. is not listed below); also from France, Marguerite Duras helmed her most acclaimed feature, an avant-garde feminist masterpiece that was mirrored by Chantal Akerman working in Belgium (is it a coincidence that both movies feature the same lead actress?); Russia is represented on the list by Andrei Tarkovsky and Eldar Ryazanov, whose efforts can be seen as representing the twin poles of Russian cinema (i.e., austere arthouse and commercial entertainment), respectively, and they’re joined by interloper Akira Kurosawa whose sojourn to the USSR earned him a Best Foreign Film Oscar. In Italy, Roberto Rossellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini directed their final films (both amazing) while Antonioni made his last masterpiece as an international co-production; and England is, happily, represented by Monty Python’s supreme comedy creation. Meanwhile, over in Africa, the great Ousmane Sembene directed one of his most lauded works. In Australia, Peter Weir made what many consider to be the best Australian movie of all time. South America is represented by the underrated Argentinian director Leopodo Torre Nilsson, as well as Raul Ruiz, who directed his first post-Chilean effort in France with a group of fellow exiles. Asia is represented by King Hu, Li Han-Hsiang and Kaneto Shindo, all working in different countries (in addition to the aforementioned Kurosawa), as well as a certain “curry western” from India that many would call the pinnacle of Bollywood. And in the U.S., the Maysles brothers made a controversial landmark documentary while the “New Hollywood” saw instant-classics from the likes of Arthur Penn, Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet and Milos Forman. And this is to say nothing of important films from Angelopoulos, Bergman, Cukor, Kubrick, Wajda, etc.

I hope you enjoy my tour through the cinematic landscape of 1975, and I highly recommend conducting a similar cinematic excursion through the year of your own birth.

40. Like a Bird on the Wire (Fassbinder, Germany)

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This T.V. movie is essentially a filmed stage play of Fassinbder-favorite Brigitte Mira performing an autobiographical one-woman show. Fassbinder devotees really need to track this down just to see “Emmy” from Ali: Fear Eats the Soul singing a spirited rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

39. Farewell, My Lovely (Richards, USA)

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Raymond Chandler’s classic detective novel adapted with greater faithfulness than Edward Dmytryk had done in 1944. While Dick Richards may not be a great director this movie had to happen even if it was decades late: Robert Mitchum and Philip Marlowe were an actor/character match made in tough-guy movie heaven.

38. The Magic Flute (Bergman, Sweden)

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Ingmar Bergman does Mozart for Swedish T.V. My favorite scene is the opening: a montage where close-ups of audience members’ faces, including those of Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann, are brilliantly intercut to the rhythm of the overture.

37. The Travelling Players (Angelopoulos, Greece)

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An itinerant theatrical troupe travels through Greece, literally, and through 20th-century history, symbolically, in Theo Angelopoulos’ four-hour magnum opus. While Angelopoulos’ epic long takes are extremely impressive as cinema, this is also, I must confess, a bit “white elephant arty” for my taste.

36. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, USA)

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Milos Forman was one of the guiding lights of the Czech New Wave before finding even greater fame in the New Hollywood of the ’70s with this celebrated adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel about the inhabitants of a mental hospital. I don’t think this deserved the bonanza of Oscars it received (the one-dimensional Nurse Ratched has always been problematic) but it’s hard to deny that Jack Nicholson was born to play the charismatic and rebellious R.P. McMurphy.

35. The Promised Land (Wajda, Poland)

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The most important Polish director to never leave Poland, Andrzej Wajda, created one of his most famous works with this anti-capitalist parable about three friends opening a textile mill in late-19th century Lodz. Although the insights into the corrupting power of money afforded by plot and characterization are familiar, this is brimming with fascinating social and historical detail from beginning to end.

34. Innocents with Dirty Hands (Chabrol, France)

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Yet another Claude Chabrol film about a murderous love triangle — this time with Romy Schneider as a beautiful housewife who enlists her young lover to help murder her abusive, drunken lout of a husband (Rod Steiger). Not Chabrol at his sharpest but still a delicious thriller that’s loaded with even more plot twists than usual.

33. Dialogues of the Exiled (Ruiz, Chile/France)

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Modeled on Brecht’s Conversations in Exile, this wry piece of political cinema was the first film made in exile by the great Chilean director Raul Ruiz following the CIA-backed military coup of Augusto Pinochet. It’s a modest, no-budget comedy consisting almost entirely of interior dialogue scenes of Chilean expatriates attempting to assimilate to their new existence as political refugees but it’s also a crucial document of the Chilean diaspora and essential viewing for Ruiz fans.

32. Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, USA)

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A crime drama based on a true story about a first-time robber (Al Pacino) attempting to hold up a bank in order to pay for his lover’s sex-change operation, Dog Day Afternoon contains so much of what is great about the American cinema of the 1970s: there’s location shooting in New York City, great performances by Method actors and, thanks to director Sidney Lumet, an emphasis on real human behavior above genre considerations.

31. Diary of the War of Pigs (Nilsson, Argentina)

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Leopoldo Torre Nilsson’s penultimate film is a fascinating quasi-sci-fi parable about growing old. The unsettling premise is that Argentina’s youth have formed marauding gangs who exterminate the country’s elderly after having become fed up with senior citizens who seem to be of no use and are merely living off of social security.

30. Fear of Fear (Fassbinder, Germany)

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Fassbinder heads into John Cassavetes territory with this study of a woman (Margit Carstenson) who, while suffering the pressures of being a housewife and mother, starts to come apart at the seams. This made-for-T.V. melodrama is beautifully written, directed and acted and features a handful of Leonard Cohen songs on the soundtrack to boot.

29. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pasolini, Italy)

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The great Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film is this controversial adaptation of a Marquis de Sade novel about hedonistic aristocrats taking a group of children to a castle and sexually abusing, torturing and killing them over a span of several months. Totally disgusting but necessarily so — as Salo arguably shows how fascism works better than any other single movie.

28. Pleasure Party (Chabrol, France)

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A man (screenwriter Paul Gegauff) in a long-term marriage insists to his wife that they be allowed to see other people but is then hypocritically consumed by jealousy when she follows his suggestion. The most disturbing film that Claude Chabrol ever made is also one of the most brutally honest critiques of the male ego ever committed to celluloid.

27. Cooley High (Schultz, USA)

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This terrific high school comedy — made in Chicago in 1975 but taking place in 1964 — is often referred to as the “black American Graffiti.” It’s so good that I wish American Graffiti were referred to as the “white Cooley High.”

26. Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director (Shindo, Japan)

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Kenji Mizoguchi was, in my opinion, the greatest of all Japanese directors and here he gets a fitting tribute from another master, his compatriot Kaneto Shindo (Onibaba). One of the best documentaries about a film director, this is two-and-a-half hours long and chock-full of insightful interviews with many of Mizo’s closest collaborators.

25. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (Von Trotta/Schlondorff, Germany)

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Margarethe Von Trotta and Volker Schlondorff (who were married at the time) co-wrote and co-directed this adaptation of Heinrich Boll’s novel, which ambitiously captures the turbulent political climate in Germany in the early-1970s. The titular character is a young woman (the excellent Angela Winkler) whose life becomes a living hell after she unknowingly has a one-night stand with a terrorist.

24. The Romantic Englishwoman (Losey, UK/France)

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Michael Caine is a blocked writer who practically throws his wife (Glenda Jackson) into the arms of another man in order to have something to write about. Director Joseph Losey, who gets my vote for the most underrated major filmmaker, keeps the notion of what is real and what is fiction tantalizingly in flux throughout.

23. Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, USA/UK)

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Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 19th-century novel about an Irish social climber in 18th-century England is full of wonderful cinematic conceits and almost surely looks more interesting today than when it first came out. On the other hand, it’s hard to overlook the miscasting of Ryan O’Neal in the lead role.

22. Dersu Uzala (Kurosawa, Russia/Japan)

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The Russian government sends a surveyor on a mission into the wilds of Siberia where his survival ends up depending on his relationship with the title character, a local hunter of Asian descent. I’m not a strong “Kurosawa man” but it’s hard to deny that this film about humanity, friendship and changing times doesn’t touch on things deep and true.

21. Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (Fassbinder, Germany)

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Incisive social critique from Fassbinder about a working-class woman (the great Brigitte Mira) being exploited by both the Communist party and the media in the wake of her husband’s tragic suicide. Part drama, part satire, 100% offbeat Fassbinderian awesomeness.

20. The Man Who Would Be King (Huston, USA/UK)

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John Huston made one of his very best films with this adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling story about two British Army officers who establish themselves as deities in the Middle Eastern country of “Kafiristan” (where caucasians had previously been unknown). Michael Caine and Sean Connery are perfectly cast as the leads in an action-adventure buddy comedy with an unforgettable final scene that mines unexpectedly deep emotions.

19. The Empress Dowager (Li, Hong Kong)

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The Shaw Brothers are most famous in the West for the hundreds of martial arts films they cranked out between the late 1960s and the early 1980s but they made excellent films across all genres as this drama about intrigue in the imperial court at the end of the Qing Dynasty proves. Li Han-Hsiang directs an all-star cast that includes the brilliant Lisa Lu as the scheming title character, Ti Lung as her nephew to whom she has promised the throne, Ivy Ling Po as his wife and David Chiang as a eunuch.

18. Love Among the Ruins (Cukor, USA)

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Laurence Olivier said that working with Katharine Hepburn in this made-for-T.V. movie, the only time they acted together, was his “happiest professional experience.” Small wonder as both actors excel in a touching story about ex-lovers reunited after 40 years, which is beautifully staged by veteran director George Cukor as if nobody told him it was no longer 1940.

17. Sholay (Sippy, India)

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As a Bollywood agnostic, I was overawed by this legendary “curry western” about an ex-cop who hires two notorious but good-hearted thieves to hunt down the vicious bandit who massacred his family. Director Ramesh Shippy liberally borrows from Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and Seven Samurai (or is it The Magnificent Seven?) in crafting an outrageous action/revenge epic with a uniquely Indian flavor.

16. Moses and Aaron (Straub/Huillet, Germany)

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Arnold Schoenberg’s notoriously difficult twelve-tone opera finds its ideal cinematic interpreters in Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet. The use of real, sparse desert locations lend a documentary-quality to the proceedings, and the simple but exquisitely calibrated camera pans provide the perfect minimalist visual correlative to Schoenberg’s austere score.

15. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Gilliam/Jones, UK)

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The celebrated British comedy troupe Monty Python hit a career high with this ridiculous low-budget comedy about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their pursuit of the Holy Grail. Among the many silly but uproariously funny gags, I am inordinately fond of the killer rabbit.

14. Xala (Sembene, Senegal)

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The father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene, adapts his own novel about a Senegalese businessman who is stricken with impotence on the eve of his marriage to his third wife. Sembene is one of the all-time greats and this satirical portrait of chauvinism in corrupt, post-independent Senegal is one of his finest hours.

13. Grey Gardens (Maysles/Maysles, USA)

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David and Albert Maysles directed this landmark documentary portrait of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, an upper-class but eccentric mother/daughter duo (who also happen to be relatives of Jackie Kennedy) living in squalor in a rundown mansion in East Hampton, New York. Some critics accused the Maysles of “exploitation” due to the “grotesque” nature of their subjects but time has been very kind to this beautiful film, which, in the best verite fashion, allows two incredible characters to tell their story in their own words.

12. India Song (Duras, France)

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Novelist Marguerite Duras proved her directing chops with this avant-garde masterpiece about the wife of a French diplomat in India (Delphine Seyrig) drifting through a series of affairs. Featuring a provocative mixture of dialogue in voice-over with tableaux-like compositions, this has been accurately described as “so boring it’s sublime” (I’m also fond of pointing out that the climax is strangely reminiscent of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes — minus the singing and dancing).

11. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir, Australia)

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Picnic at Hanging Rock is a haunting, enigmatic film — often erroneously referred to as being based on actual events — about the disappearance of three female college students and a middle-aged teacher during a Valentine’s Day picnic in the year 1900. Like Antonioni in L’avventura, director Peter Weir refuses to provide a concrete explanation for the disappearance while simultaneously hinting at several possible interpretations (including a supernatural one).

10. Nashville (Altman, USA)

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I’m not one of the many who consider Nashville Robert Altman’s best film (it’s not for me at the level of McCabe and Mrs. Miller or The Long Goodbye) but there’s no denying its incredible filmmaking virtuosity as the great director freely crosscuts between dozens of characters and storylines over a few days in the title city. It’s a grand statement about America and Keith Carradine performs his killer self-penned tune “I’m Easy.”

9. Fox and His Friends (Fassbinder, Germany)

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The fourth(!) and final Fassbinder film on this list is a cynical, darkly comical tale of a gay working-class man who finds himself victimized by his new “friends” after winning the lottery. Fassbinder plays the lead role himself in this highly personal film, which deftly demonstrates the director’s profound understanding of human nature.

8. The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (Ryazanov, Russia)

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This feel-good, sentimental rom-com is paradoxically both Russian-to-the-bone and universal in its broad appeal: the screwball premise is that a shy doctor, soon to be engaged, goes binge-drinking with friends on New Year’s Eve and ends up passing out in an apartment in Leningrad that he mistakenly believes is his own Moscow apartment (it looks the same and even has the same street name and number). What starts off quite farcical (who knew that the uniformity of Brezhnev-era architecture could yield such comic gold?) slowly, almost imperceptibly, turns into a moving romantic drama.

7. The Messiah (Rossellini, Italy)

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The greatest of all Italian directors, Roberto Rossellini, fittingly ended his late didactic/”historical” phase (and indeed his entire career) with this Jesus biopic, the best such film after only Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew. This is as de-dramatized as anything in Bresson but Rossellini does go buck wild with the zoom lens (as was his wont at the time) in his final masterpiece.

6. Numero Deux (Godard, France)

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This cinematic essay about a contemporary French family, shot on both video and film, is Jean-Luc Godard’s finest work from his least-accessible period. The title can be seen as referring to shit, the status of women as second-class citizens in France, and the fact that Godard received financing for the film by sneakily telling his producer he was making a sequel to Breathless.

5. Night Moves (Penn, USA)

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Arthur Penn’s neo-noir, one of the best American films of the 1970s, stars Gene Hackman as Harry Moseby, an L.A. detective hired to find a runaway teenage girl (Melanie Griffith) in Florida. Nothing is what it seems in this pessimistic, European art-film influenced tale that positively reeks of its era in the best possible sense and which also gets better with every viewing.

4. The Valiant Ones (Hu, Taiwan/Hong Kong)

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During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor of China appoints a group of soldiers (and even a couple bandits) to defend the coast against invading Japanese pirates. King Hu is, for my money, the best Chinese director who ever lived and The Valiant Ones is the wuxia genre at its finest — as impressive for its brilliant cinematography and editing as for its fight choreography.

3. The Mirror (Tarkovsky, Russia)

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This daringly non-linear film shows Andrei Tarkovsky at his most abstract and autobiographical. Scenes based on his childhood memories are freely intercut with fantasy sequences and newsreels then overlaid with narration written by the director’s father to create a visual tone poem of the highest order.

2. The Passenger (Antonioni, Italy/Spain/France)

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Jack Nicholson is a journalist on assignment in war-torn Africa who decides to exchange identities with a dead man. Everything about Michelangelo Antonioni’s globe-hopping movie, the last truly great one he would make, is ambiguous, mysterious and haunting — qualities that reach an apex in the transcendental final tracking shot.

1. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, Belgium)

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Chantal Akerman created the ultimate feminist film with this intimate epic, a formally exact and deliberately repetitive masterwork, about three days in the life of a single Belgian mother and part-time prostitute. I could watch Delphine Seyrig chop potatoes all day long.


The Best of Leonard Cohen in the Movies

Yesterday marked the 80th birthday of Leonard Cohen (AKA the second greatest living songwriter in the English language). Since I have been in the habit of composing an annual Bob Dylan birthday post for the past four years, I thought I’d commemorate this occasion by listing my favorite instances of Cohen’s music in the movies. Enjoy.

“The Stranger Song,” “Sisters of Mercy” and “Winter Lady” in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)

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Robert Altman’s anti-capitalist/anti-western masterpiece stars Warren Beatty and Julie Christie — both de-glammed to the point of being almost unrecognizable — as an odd couple who attempt an ill-fated get rich quick scheme of establishing a brothel in the middle of nowhere. The film is essentially a mood piece about the central location, a fledgling mining town named “Presbyterian Church,” rendered by Altman and D.P. Vilmos Zsigmond as a brown, hazy, membranous world of earthy/murky sights and sounds. The glue holding everything together is a suite of Leonard Cohen’s finest songs, all taken from his first album, each of which is associated with a particular character or group of characters: “The Stranger Song” is the theme of Beatty’s McCabe, “Winter Lady” is the theme of Christie’s Mrs. Miller, and “Sisters of Mercy” is associated with the prostitutes. The lyrics of the songs are so fitting, in fact, that it’s almost difficult to believe that they weren’t written expressly for this film, which feels in more ways than one like a precursor to Altman’s cult-classic musical Popeye. For setting tone, there is nothing quite like the opening credits here — with Beatty entering town on horseback while the titles slowly drift across the screen from right to left and Cohen’s monotone baritone intones, “It’s true that all the men you knew were dealers who said they were through with dealing every time you gave them shelter . . .”

“Chelsea Hotel #2” in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)

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Rainer Werner Fassbinder was obsessed with Leonard Cohen. The invaluable Leonard Cohen Files website shows that the great German director featured the Canadian songwriter’s work in no less than six of his movies. I’ll pick the use of “Chelsea Hotel #2” in the final episode of Berlin Alexanderplatz as my favorite simply because that epic miniseries is my favorite of all Fassbinder’s achievements. The song’s presence is, of course, anachronistic because Fassbinder’s adaptation of Alfred Doblin’s novel takes place entirely in the pre-Nazi Weimar era. Nonetheless, Fassbinder’s bugfuck “epilogue,” the final hour of what is essentially a 15-and-a-half-hour movie, is basically the director’s daring, fever-dream meditation on Doblin’s plot, characters and themes (where the story’s psychosexual subtext is more explicitly spelled out — amidst the symbolic images of a boxing match, frolicking angels and nuclear explosions). As a bonus, this episode features Kraftwerk too!

“Avalanche” in Olivier Assayas’s Cold Water (1994)

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Maverick French director Olivier Assayas’s filmography can be broken fairly neatly into two categories: daring but not-always-successful genre mash-ups (e.g., Irma Vep, Boarding Gate, Demonlover, etc.) and more conventional, autobiographical character studies (e.g., Cold Water, Summer Hours, Something in the Air, etc.). One of the things that binds all of these disparate films together is Assayas’s always-deft use of pop music (especially from his own formative years of the 60s and early 70s). My favorite Assayas film is 1994’s Cold Water, an unsentimental re-imagining of the director’s own troubled teenaged years centering on his alter-ego “Gilles” (who would return in 2012’s Something in the Air) and his relationship with his girlfriend Christine. The highlight of Cold Water is a climactic party scene in which the protagonists smoke hash and dance around a bonfire to a stellar playlist of tunes including Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Around the Bend,” Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Avalanche,” the haunting track that kicks off Leonard Cohen’s great Songs of Love and Hate album.

“I’m Your Man” in Steve James’s Life Itself (2014)

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Although I wasn’t as enamored of Steve James’s adaptation of Roger Ebert’s memoir as a lot of critics, I can find no fault with his almost unbearably poignant use of “I’m Your Man,” the title track of Cohen’s remarkable 1988 comeback album. Ebert explains that the song literally saved his life when he and his wife Chaz lingered for a while in his hospital room to listen to it instead of leaving the hospital following jaw surgery. A blood vessel burst under Ebert’s chin mid-song and, because the Eberts were still in close proximity to doctors (and not, say, in a cab on the way home), the doctors were able to save his life. The fact that the song plays during a scene where Roger and Chaz tell the story allows the lyrics to have a parallel function as a testament to their love for each other: “If you want a boxer,” Cohen sings, “I’ll step into the ring for you / And if you want a doctor, I’ll examine every inch of you / If you want a driver, climb inside / Or if you want to take me for a ride / You know you can / I’m your man.”

“Take This Waltz” in Jean-Luc Godard’s Letter in Motion to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux (2014)

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Like Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard has used the music of Leonard Cohen in multiple projects: the short Puissance de la parole, the mammoth video series Histoire(s) du Cinema and his most recent project Letter in Motion to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux, the “video letter” he sent to the Cannes Film Festival to explain why he could not be present in person to present his new movie Goodbye to Language. In the manner of much recent Godard, this cryptic short film features clips from the director’s own previous work (notably King Lear, which had scandalized the festival in 1987) intercut with punning title cards and clips of Godard speaking in the present day. The nearly nine-minute film ends with Godard saying: “So, I’m going where the wind blows me, just like autumn leaves as they blow away. Last year for example, I took the tramway, which is a metaphor, the metaphor and . . . to return, to return to pay my dues from 1968 at the Havana Bar . . . and now, I believe that the possibility of explaining things is the only excuse to fight with language . . . as always, I believe it’s not possible . . . this May 21st . . . this is no longer a film but a simple waltz, my president, to find the true balance with one’s near destiny.” Immediately upon saying “a simple waltz, my president,” Cohen’s sublime “Take This Waltz” (also from the I’m Your Man album) can be heard. This is then followed by a clip of Bob Dylan singing, “How long must I listen to the lies of prejudice?” from “When He Returns.” Poetry on top of poetry on top of poetry, folks.

Leonard Cohen’s new album, Popular Problems, drops on September 23rd. You can check out the video for his superb new song “Almost Like the Blues” via YouTube below:


My Student Tomato-Meter: 2014 Edition

Longtime readers of this blog know that every year around this time I post an updated “student tomato-meter” showing the aggregated results of the ratings — on a scale from one-to-10 — that my students have given to every movie I’ve shown in my film studies classes. I’ve now taught 58 classes and shown a total of 237 unique movies over the past five-and-a-half years. Incredibly, I recently realized that I’ve shown at least one movie that was originally released during every single calendar year from 1920 through the present (boo-yah!). Below is a list of all the films I have screened to date, presented in chronological order by release date, along with the average ratings given by my students. Below that I’ve also included a list of the top 10 highest rated films. Enjoy!

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The list in chronological order:

The Golem (Wegener/Boese, Germany, 1920) – 6.0
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, Germany, 1920) – 6.5
The Phantom Carriage (Sjostrom, Sweden, 1921) – 7.3
Nosferatu (Murnau, Germany, 1922) – 6.5
Our Hospitality (Keaton, USA, 1923) – 8.3
Waxworks (Leni, Germany, 1924) – 5.1
The Hands of Orlac (Wiene, Germany, 1924) – 6.2
Sherlock Jr. (Keaton, USA, 1924) – 7.9
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, Soviet Union, 1925) – 5.1
The Last Laugh (Murnau, Germany, 1925) – 7.3
The Gold Rush (Chaplin, USA, 1925) – 8.0
The Navigator (Keaton, 1925) – 8.1
Seven Chances (Keaton, USA, 1925) – 8.2
The Freshman (Newmeyer/Taylor, USA, 1925) – 8.3
Faust (Murnau, Germany, 1926) – 7.0
The General (Keaton, USA, 1926) – 8.5
The End of St. Petersburg (Pudovkin, Soviet Union, 1927) – 5.0
Metropolis (Lang, Germany, 1927) – 6.6
Sunrise (Murnau, USA, 1927) – 7.0
Lonesome (Fejos, USA, 1928) – 6.7
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, France, 1928) – 7.3
Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov, Soviet Union, 1929) – 6.0
A Cottage on Dartmoor (Asquith, UK, 1929) – 8.3
Earth (Dovzhenko, Soviet Union, 1930) – 3.6
City Girl (Murnau, USA, 1930) – 6.5
L’age D’or (Bunuel, France, 1930) – 6.6
M (Lang, Germany, 1931) – 8.1
City Lights (Chaplin, USA, 1931) – 8.4
Vampyr (Dreyer, Denmark/Germany, 1932) – 6.9
Duck Soup (McCarey, USA, 1933) – 6.8
L’atalante (Vigo, France, 1934) – 6.7
Top Hat (Sandrich, USA, 1935) – 8.6
My Man Godfrey (La Cava, USA, 1936) – 8.5
Grand Illusion (Renoir, France, 1937) – 7.0
The Awful Truth (McCarey, USA, 1937) – 8.5
Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, USA, 1937) – 9.4
Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein, Soviet Union, 1938) – 5.0
Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, USA, 1938) – 8.3
The Rules of the Game (Renoir, France, 1939) – 7.1
Stagecoach (Ford, USA, 1939) – 7.7
The Roaring Twenties (Walsh, USA, 1939) – 8.4
The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, USA, 1940) – 7.4
How Green Was My Valley (Ford, USA, 1941) – 6.8
The Lady Eve (Sturges, USA, 1941) – 8.3
Citizen Kane (Welles, USA, 1941) – 8.3
Cat People (Tourneur, USA, 1942) – 5.0
The Palm Beach Story (Sturges, USA, 1942) – 7.5
Casablanca (Curtiz, USA, 1942) – 7.6
Ossessione (Visconti, Italy, 1943) – 5.2
The More the Merrier (Stevens, USA, 1943) – 8.5
To Have and Have Not (Hawks, USA, 1944) – 7.5
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Sturges, USA, 1944) – 8.0
Double Indemnity (Wilder, USA, 1944) – 8.1
Detour (Ulmer, USA, 1945) – 7.2
Rome, Open City (Rossellini, Italy, 1945) – 7.2
Brief Encounter (Lean, England, 1945) – 8.3
The Big Sleep (Hawks, USA, 1946) – 6.0
My Darling Clementine (Ford, USA, 1946) – 7.3
The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, USA, 1946) – 8.4
Pursued (Walsh, USA, 1947) – 7.1
Out of the Past (Tourneur, USA, 1947) – 7.6
Body and Soul (Rossen, USA, 1947) – 7.6
The Lady from Shanghai (Welles, USA, 1947) – 7.9
Dead Reckoning (Cromwell, USA, 1947) – 8.2
Germany Year Zero (Rossellini, Italy/Germany, 1948) – 7.4
Fort Apache (Ford, USA, 1948) – 7.5
Bicycle Thieves (de Sica, Italy 1948) – 8.0
The Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, UK, 1948) – 8.3
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, USA, 1948) – 8.8
The Third Man (Reed, UK, 1949) – 8.0
White Heat (Walsh, USA, 1949) – 8.3
A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz, USA, 1949) – 8.4
Devil’s Doorway (Mann, USA, 1950) – 7.3
Los Olvidados (Bunuel, Mexico, 1950) – 7.5
The African Queen (Huston, 1951) – 8.3
Umberto D. (De Sica, Italy, 1952) – 6.8
Singin’ in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, USA, 1952) – 8.8
Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953) – 6.7
Tokyo Story (Ozu, Japan, 1953) – 6.7
The Naked Spur (Mann, USA, 1953) – 7.0
Strangers on a Train (Strangers on a Train, USA, 1953) – 7.8
The Band Wagon (Minnelli, USA, 1953) – 8.0
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (Tati, France, 1953) – 8.1
Pickup on South Street (Fuller, USA, 1953) – 8.2
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks, USA, 1953) – 8.3
Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi, Japan, 1954) – 7.0
Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, Japan, 1954) – 8.3
Rear Window (Hitchcock, USA, 1954) – 8.9
All That Heaven Allows (Sirk, USA, 1955) – 8.1
Pather Panchali (Ray, India, 1955) – 6.4
Aparajito (Ray, India, 1956) – 6.6
Bigger Than Life (N. Ray, USA, 1956) – 6.8
The Searchers (John Ford, USA, 1956) – 7.4
A Man Escaped (Bresson, France, 1956) – 8.0
An Affair to Remember (McCarey, USA, 1957) – 8.7
Touch of Evil (Welles, USA, 1958) – 7.7
Some Came Running (Minnelli, USA, 1958) – 7.7
Vertigo (Hitchcock, USA, 1958) – 8.9
Hiroshima Mon Amour (Resnais, France, 1959) – 6.8
Pickpocket (Bresson, France, 1959) – 7.3
Rio Bravo (Hawks, USA, 1959) – 8.0
North By Northwest (Hitchcock, USA, 1959) – 8.6
The 400 Blows (Truffaut, France, 1959) – 8.8
Some Like It Hot (Wilder, USA, 1959) – 9.2
L’avventura (Antonioni, Italy, 1960) – 7.4
Breathless (Godard, France, 1960) – 7.8
Les Bonnes Femmes (Chabrol, France, 1960) – 8.0
Psycho (Hitchcock, USA, 1960) – 8.8
Viridiana (Bunuel, Spain, 1961) – 5.8
Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, France, 1961) – 6.8
Le Doulos (Melville, France, 1962) – 7.1
Vivre sa Vie (Godard, France, 1962) – 7.2
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda, France, 1962) – 7.4
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, USA, 1962) – 8.3
8 1/2 (Fellini, Italy, 1963) – 6.5
Black Sabbath (Bava, Italy, 1963) – 7.1
Contempt (Godard, France, 1963) – 8.3
Shock Corridor (Fuller, USA, 1963) – 8.4
Onibaba (Shindo, Japan, 1964) – 8.0
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Demy, France, 1964) – 8.2
Alphaville (Godard, France, 1965) – 6.0
Pierrot le Fou (Godard, France, 1965) – 8.3
The Pornographers (Imamura, Japan, 1966) – 6.9
Point Blank (Boorman, USA, 1966) – 7.0
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Leone, Italy, 1966) – 8.8
David Holzman’s Diary (McBride, USA, 1967) – 6.9
Le Samourai (Melville, France, 1967) – 8.0
Play Time (Tati, France, 1967) – 8.2
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, USA, 1968) – 7.6
My Night at Maud’s (Rohmer, France, 1969) – 7.8
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, USA, 1969) – 8.1
Le Boucher (Chabrol, France, 1970) – 7.5
Minnie and Moskowitz (Cassavetes, USA, 1971) – 5.2
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, USA, 1971) – 7.0
Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, USA, 1971) – 7.7
A New Leaf (May, USA, 1971) – 8.0
Solaris (Tarkovsky, Russia, 1972) – 6.9
Love in the Afternoon (Rohmer, France, 1972) – 8.6
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder, Germany, 1973) – 7.1
The Mother and the Whore (Eustache, France, 1973) – 7.4
Badlands (Malick, 1973) – 7.6
The Long Goodbye (Altman, USA, 1973) – 7.8
Young Frankenstein (Brooks, USA, 1974) – 7.6
Black Christmas (Clark, Canada, 1974) – 8.2
Chinatown (Polanski, USA, 1974) – 8.2
Blazing Saddles (Brooks, USA, 1974) – 8.4
Night Moves (Penn, USA, 1975) – 8.1
The Irony of Fate: Or Enjoy Your Bath! (Ryazanov, Russia, 1975) – 8.5
Mikey and Nicky (May, USA, 1976) – 6.4
Taxi Driver (Scorsese, USA, 1976) – 8.8
One Way Boogie Woogie (Benning, USA, 1977) – 3.4
Annie Hall (Allen, USA, 1977) – 6.6
Days of Heaven (Malick, USA, 1978) – 7.3
Killer of Sheep (Burnett, USA, 1979) – 7.8
Popeye (Altman, USA, 1980) – 5.2
Raging Bull (Scorsese, USA, 1980) – 8.3
The Road Warrior (Miller, Australia, 1981) – 7.4
Rock in Reykjavik (Fridriksson, Iceland, 1982) – 6.3
The Slumber Party Massacre (Jones, USA, 1982) – 6.8
Blade Runner (Scott, USA, 1982) – 7.6
The Thing (Carpenter, USA, 1982) – 8.3
Sans Soleil (Marker, France, 1983) – 6.2
Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch, USA, 1984) – 6.2
After Hours (Scorsese, USA, 1985) – 6.7
Bad Blood (Carax, France, 1986) – 7.1
The Dead (Huston, USA/UK, 1987) – 7.8
The Thin Blue Line (Morris, USA, 1988) – 7.8
A Short Film About Love (Kieslowski, Poland, 1988) – 8.4
Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant, USA, 1989) – 8.2
Goodfellas (Scorsese, USA, 1990) – 9.2
Close-Up (Kiarostami, Iran, 1991) – 7.6
The Lovers on the Bridge (Carax, France, 1991) – 8.0
The Player (Altman, USA, 1992) – 8.1
Unforgiven (Eastwood, USA, 1992) – 8.6
Deep Cover (Duke, USA, 1992) – 8.9
The Bride With White Hair (Yu, Hong Kong, 1993) – 5.1
Naked (Leigh, UK, 1993) – 6.3
Groundhog Day (Ramis, USA, 1993) – 8.1
Dazed and Confused (Linklater, USA, 1993) – 8.2
Menace II Society (Hughes/Hughes, USA, 1993) – 8.2
The Piano (Campion, New Zealand, 1993) – 8.6
Ed Wood (Burton, USA, 1994) – 6.8
Chungking Express (Wong, Hong Kong, 1994) – 7.9
Dead Man (Jarmsuch, USA, 1995) – 8.1
A Moment of Innocence (Makhmalbaf, Iran, 1996) – 5.8
The Mirror (Panahi, Iran, 1997) – 5.1
The Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, Iran, 1997) – 7.2
L.A. Confidential (Hanson, USA, 1997) – 9.0
The Bird People in China (Miike, Japan, 1998) – 6.6
Beau Travail (Denis, France/Djibouti, 1999) – 5.4
Nowhere to Hide (Lee, S. Korea, 1999) – 7.5
Audition (Miike, Japan, 1999) – 7.6
Ravenous (Bird, UK/USA, 1999) – 8.0
Needing You (To/Wai, Hong Kong, 2000) – 7.1
In the Mood for Love (Wong, Hong Kong, 2000) – 7.4
The Day I Became a Woman (Meshkini, Iran, 2000) – 7.5
Failan (Song, S. Korea, 2000) – 8.0
Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, Denmark/Sweden, 2000) – 8.1
Yi Yi (Yang, Taiwan, 2000) – 8.4
JSA: Joint Security Area (Park, S. Korea, 2000) – 8.4
Avalon (Oshii, Japan/Poland, 2001) 7 .8
Mulholland Drive (Lynch, USA, 2001) – 8.3
The Devil’s Backbone (Del Toro, Spain/Mexico, 2001) – 8.6
Far From Heaven (Haynes, USA, 2002) – 7.6
Infernal Affairs (Lau/Mak, Hong Kong, 2002) – 7.8
The Tracker (De Heer, Australia, 2002) – 7.9
Save the Green Planet (Jang, S. Korea, 2003) – 7.0
Oldboy (Park, S. Korea, 2003) – 8.6
Memories of Murder (Bong, S. Korea, 2003) – 8.8
Dumplings (Chan, Hong Kong, 2004) – 6.4
The Island of Black Mor (Laguionie, France, 2004) – 8.1
Moolade (Sembene, Senegal, 2004) – 8.2
3-Iron (Kim, S. Korea, 2004) – 8.8
Before Sunset (Linklater, USA/France, 2004) – 9.1
The Proposition (Hillcoat, Australia, 2005) – 8.1
Grizzly Man (Herzog, USA, 2005) – 8.1
A History of Violence (Cronenberg, Canada/USA, 2005) – 9.1
A Scanner Darkly (Linklater, USA, 2006) – 8.0
Offside (Panahi, Iran, 2006) – 8.1
Once (Carney, UK, 2006) – 8.8
The Host (Bong, S. Korea, 2006) 8.9
Zodiac (Fincher, USA, 2007) – 9.1
The Headless Woman (Martel, Argentina, 2008) – 6.1
Me and Orson Welles (Linklater, USA, 2008) – 7.9
The House of the Devil (West, USA, 2009) – 8.1
The Hunter (Pitts, Iran, 2010) – 6.8
The Social Network (Fincher, USA, 2010) – 8.5
Sleeping Sickness (Kohler, Germany, 2011) – 6.6
Drive (Refn, USA, 2011) – 8.1
Holy Motors (Carax, France, 2012) – 8.6
Spring Breakers (Korine, USA, 2012) – 9.4
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, USA, 2013) – 6.3
Jimmy P. (Desplechin, France/USA, 2013) – 7.7
Before Midnight (Linklater, USA, 2013) – 7.8
Nymphomaniac (Von Trier, Denmark/Germany, 2013) – 9.2
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, USA, 2014) – 8.9
Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014) – 9.8

A countdown of the top 10 highest ranked films:

10. L.A. Confidential (Hanson, USA, 1997) – 9.0
9. Zodiac (Fincher, USA, 2007) – 9.1
8. Before Sunset (Linklater, USA/France, 2004) – 9.1
7. A History of Violence (Cronenberg, Canada/USA, 2005) – 9.1
6. Nymphomaniac (Von Trier, Denmark/Germany, 2013) – 9.2
5. Goodfellas (Scorsese, USA, 1990) – 9.2
4. Some Like It Hot (Wilder, USA, 1959) – 9.2
3. Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, USA, 1937) – 9.4
2. Spring Breakers (Korine, USA, 2012) – 9.4
1. Boyhood (Linklater, USA, 2014) – 9.8

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CIFF 2014: 12 Most Wanted

Here are a dozen of the titles I’d most like to see turn up at the 50th(!) Chicago International Film Festival in October. Even if you don’t know or care anything about the Chicago International Film Festival, consider this a handy guide to a bunch of exciting-looking-and-sounding movies that should hopefully be turning up soon at a theater near you. All but the Alain Resnais and the Pedro Costa films played this past May at Cannes, which struck me as having an unusually strong lineup, or at least an unusually strong lineup of movies by directors I admire.

Bird People (Pascale Ferran, France)

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One of my favorite French films of the 21st century is the adaptation of the second (and more obscure) version of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley made by Pascale Ferran, a female director about whom I know virtually nothing. Her latest, Bird People, got high marks from critics when it screened in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes. It’s an intriguing-sounding comedy about an American businessman (The Good Wife’s Josh Charles) on a 24-hour layover in Paris. The entire film apparently takes place in Charles de Gaulle airport and a nearby Hilton Hotel. This is not a prequel to Takashi Miike’s excellent Bird People in China.

Charlie’s Country (Rolf De Heer, Australia)

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This is the third part of a trilogy of films by Dutch-born Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer. The first two parts include a folkloric meditation on Aboriginal characters in Australia’s pre-colonial past (Twelve Canoes) and a powerful study of the conflict between European settlers and Aboriginal characters in the outback during the early 20th century (The Tracker). Charlie’s Country, like its predecessors, also stars David Gulpilil (who co-wrote the script and won the best actor award in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes), but tackles issues of racism and the legacy of colonialism from the vantage point of the present.

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, France/USA)

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An aging actress (Juliette Binoche) performs in a play that made her a star 20 years previously — only in a part supporting that of the main character who is now incarnated by an up-and-coming actress (Chloe Grace Moretz) reminiscent of her younger self. This sounds an awful lot like All About Eve to me but early critical notices have compared this to meta films like Persona. Writer/director Olivier Assayas has always been good with actors and in addition to the exciting prospect of seeing him reteam with Binoche (after the sublime Summer Hours), this also promises to be something of a breakthrough for Kristen Stewart, who plays a personal assistant to Binoche’s character.

Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/France)

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The single movie I most want to see play at CIFF is Jean-Luc Godard’s latest (and, some have whispered, last) feature — a 3-D essay that has something to do with a talking dog and the conflict between a married couple. Goodbye to Language was given a rock-star’s welcome at Cannes — in spite of the fact that the 83-year-old director didn’t attend — and generated more positive reviews than usual (many of which marveled at Godard’s use of 3-D technology) for one of the world’s most divisive filmmakers. Still, in spite of the praise, in spite of the Cannes Jury Prize, in spite of the fact that 20th Century friggin’ Fox picked up distribution rights, the question arises: will Chicagoans ever have the chance to see this in 3-D, the way it was intended to be seen? None of the Chicago venues that have screened Godard’s latest works in the past 20 years (Facets, the Music Box, the Siskel Center, etc.) are equipped to show movies in 3-D. If CIFF doesn’t scoop this up, it will be a tragedy for local cinephiles.

Horse Money (Pedro Costa, Portugal)

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The great Portuguese director Pedro Costa returns to narrative filmmaking (or at least docu-fiction) for the first time in nearly a decade with this continuation of his celebrated Fontainhas trilogy (are you ready to upgrade that box-set, Criterion — preferably to Blu-ray?). This film, which recently snagged Costa the Best Director prize at the Locarno Film Festival, has something to do with Ventura, the elderly Cape Verdean-immigrant protagonist of Costa’s Colossal Youth from 2006, wandering around a hospital and the ruins of the former slum where he used to live (the destruction of which was documented in 2000’s superb In Vanda’s Room). In Colossal Youth, Ventura was a non-actor essentially playing himself but part of what made that film so fascinating was Costa’s insistence on lighting and framing his physiognomy so that he resembled Woody Strode in John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge. I can’t wait to see what Costa does with actor and character here. Intriguingly, Variety said this was “less overtly difficult” and even more “striking” than Costa’s other Fontainhas missives.

Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina)

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Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso burst onto the international scene with his formidable 2004 experimental/narrative hybrid film Los Muertos. His penchant for long takes, minimal dialogue and narrative ambiguity made his work destined for the condescending “slow cinema” tag. Yet the fact that his latest stars Viggo Mortensen (a fine actor and a bona fide movie star) also caused some speculation that the result might be some sort of sell-out. Fortunately, advance word from Cannes has pegged this movie — about a father and daughter journeying to an “unknown desert that exists in a realm beyond the confines of civilization” as nothing other than a typically spellbinding Lisandro Alonso film.

Life of Riley (Alain Resnais, France)

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Alain Resnais’s final film, another in a series of Alan Ayckbourn adaptations, racked up accolades and a couple of prizes when it premiered in Berlin in February. Less than a month later, its creator — one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers — had passed away at the age of 91. Since this theater-set tale is centered on a protagonist who only has a few months left to live, it will be hard not to view it as something like a last testament, although one should remember that this would have been true of many of Resnais’s films (including such death-haunted masterworks as Love Unto Death and You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet). This stars the inevitable Sabine Azema, Resnais’s frizzy-haired wife and muse, who has been his regular leading lady for decades.

Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, Canada/USA)

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Like all “late Cronenberg,” Maps to the Stars has typically divided critics, but it has its share of ardent supporters, and the premise (a dark satire of a stereotypical Hollywood family that also marks the first time the director ever set down a tripod on U.S. soil) is irresistible. The impressive cast includes Robert Pattinson, Carrie Fisher, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams and Julianne Moore, the last of whom nabbed the Best Actress trophy at Cannes for playing an unhinged actress. If this turns up at CIFF, it will likely only be as a “special gala presentation.”

Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh, UK)

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Mike Leigh is England’s greatest living filmmaker and Mr. Turner, his first film since 2010’s superb Another Year, sounds like another winner. A dream project of Leigh’s for many years, this biopic of 19th English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner (Timothy Spall) supposedly investigates the artistic process against a richly detailed historical backdrop in a manner similar to Topsy-Turvy, one of the director’s masterpieces. Spall won Best Actor at Cannes for what has been described as a towering performance. He’s always been a superb character actor and I look forward to seeing what he can do in a leading role.

Mommy (Xavier Dolan, Canada)

mommy

A lot of commentators thought this Canadian melodrama had the Palm d’Or sewn up after it premiered at Cannes but, come awards night, writer/director Xavier Dolan found himself “only” sharing third place with Jean-Luc Godard. That’s probably for the best because, at 25-years-old, Dolan’s best work surely lies ahead of him. Dolan makes stylistically and emotionally brash films that have earned him comparisons to everyone from Godard to Pedro Almodovar to Wong Kar-Wai. Many feel that this character study, which focuses on a single mother, her delinquent teenage son and a mousy neighbor, is Dolan’s most assured work to date. As an admirer of the director’s first three films, that makes me eager to check this out.

Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mali)

timbuktu

Bamako, Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako’s previous film, was a complex, heady, experimental, and all-around disturbing indictment of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This belated follow-up, about jihadists taking over a rural town in norther Mali, didn’t win any awards when it debuted at Cannes but was considered by some to be the very best film in the Official Competition. The Variety review called it “a stunningly shot condemnation of intolerance and its annihilation of diversity, told in a way that clearly denounces without resorting to cardboard perpetrators.” Given the singular brand of political filmmaking on display in Bamako, this sounds, at the very least, like a provocative ride.

Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)

winter

As someone who admired each of Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s four previous features but felt that he really made a quantum leap with the last one (2011’s masterful Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), I couldn’t be more excited about this three-hour-plus, Palm d’Or-snatching follow-up. The plot concerns an actor-turned-hotel owner and his tempestuous relationships with his young wife and recently divorced sister. Expect a slow pace, impeccable cinematography (a former photographer, Ceylan has arguably the best compositional eye in contemporary cinema) and lots and lots of psychodrama.


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