At The Movies

Victor Gischler posted a list on his blog of 25 movies that have most influence his writing… and my brother Tod quickly followed up with a list of his own. I would have a much easier time listing the TV shows that have influenced me but, off the top of my head, here’s my list, in no order whatsoever, with lots of films left out that I will regret that I forgot to include:

  1. Jaws
  2. About  Schmidt
  3. Harper
  4. Get   Shorty
  5. Fiddler on the Roof
  6. Terms of Endearment
  7. Lost  in America (actually, any Albert Brooks movie except Defending Your Life)
  8. Alien
  9. Tao of Steve
  10. The  Terminator
  11. Goldfinger   (all the Bond films, even the bad ones)
  12. Return  of the Pink Panther (all the Pink Panther movies, even the bad ones)
  13. La  Femme Nikita
  14. Funny Girl
  15. Cider  House Rules
  16. Wizard of Oz
  17. Broadcast News (particularly one line in one scene)
  18. Fistful of Dollars (the whole Man with No Name Trilogy)
  19. Dirty Harry (all the Dirty Harry movies, even the bad ones)
  20. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  21. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  22. Chinatown
  23. The Incredibles
  24. Patton
  25. Jackie Brown

Gee, looking at that list, you can really get a keen sense of  my astonishing lack of depth. Now imagine what my writing must be like…

9 thoughts on “At The Movies”

  1. Lee,
    Hell. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Chinatown. Those are great nominations, and I forgot them for my list. Damn. Well done. Actually, you list a lot of good ones I left out. I should have had a list of 50 instead of 25.

  2. Have been thinking about my favorite movies ever since reading Victor’s list, and was very happy to see that he too went through a heavy David Lean phase.
    Totally agree about Butch and Sundance, and would add The Sting, Heathers, Black Orpheus, Life of Brian, The Long Kiss Goodnight, A Thousand Clowns, Live and Let Die, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Judgment at Nuremberg, King of Hearts, Easy Rider, Three Kings, Thunderball, The Great Gatsby (’70s version), Young Frankenstein, and Apocalypse Now. Also have a strange weakness for The World of Suzy Wong, which I have never satisfactorily explained to myself.

  3. Dear Lee,
    I know you were not being too worried about your “astonishing lack of depth” … Still, I think your last comment merits a comment: In my opinion there’s a *lot* of ‘depth’ in many of the movies you mentioned. (The Dirty Harry-movies, for example, are actually very imaginative and entertaining criticisms of trends within US society, film and law in the 70s – still IMHO!). The only ‘problem’ is that they are also within the ‘mainstream’ and as such don’t recognised very much by elite film critics, smug auteur-theorists and their like. Heck, they probably wouldn’t even want to watch some of the movies on the list, having made up their minds in advance.
    I imagine that in your job one of the key skills is to be able to capture, excite and entertain an audience and do it quickly and in a ‘clear’ form. Thematic substance can always be added, if one wants to. And in the latter case the style and form of a 7 hour long Japanese experimental melodrama might not be the best choice might not be the best way to reach a broad audience. Not that some people care about this anyway. But I don’t subscribe to ‘art for art’s sake’ as the only ‘real’ way of doing films, books, etc.
    Okay, I know I’m being totally B&W here, but it is really one of my pet-peeves: that pop-culture can’t have ‘depth’ or that it, in fact, isn’t the best means to promote discussion of values, social or political themes, and whatnot …
    Oh, and I also happen to think that “Me, Smith and Wesson … ” is one of the coolest lines in movie history. I doubt Scorsese could have done it any better! 🙂

  4. On the contrary, smug auteur theorists love Don Siegel, so Dirty Harry is right up there in the pantheon, as a Vietnam-era indictment of fascist law enforcement and Nixonian repression.
    I just like the big guy he carries…

  5. With no disrepect to CR, I have to say I’m completely baffled by his (her?) rant about critics and pop culture. We live in a world where all that matters is pop culture, where neophyte scholars pound out PhD theses on the collected works of Eminem and Britney Spears in hopes of becoming the next Camille Paglia. Where all substantive criticism has been replaced by box office charts.
    I guess it’s still amusing to make fun of people who might want to watch a “7 hour long experimental Japanses melodrama,” but who exactly are you mocking? There was once a time when difficult foreign films could become “must-sees” and dominate educated discourse, when people not only saw and talked about Bergman and Fellini and Antonioni movies, but actually discussed the ideas in them. Now we have Sideways, a perfectly nice little movie that has been treated as if it is full of significance and importance, while it’s only real distinguishing characteristic is that it doesn’t suck.
    I work in the field of pop culture, and it’s nice that people think it’s a worthwhile pursuit. But now, pop culture is the only culture we have in this country, and it’s considered unspeakably rude to suggest that while Michael Connelly’s early novels were quite good, the works of Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, and Leo Tolstoy were objectively better. That there is not only room but a desperate need for art that seeks higher goals than that of pop culture.

  6. Thank you, William, for sharing a valid point that I find myself (almost) agreeing with. I suppose my ‘true position’ merits some further explanation then:
    First of all, I’d like to note that I did make explicit in the post that I knew I was being Black & White about my comments. But I deliberately chose to be polemic in order to make the point that (IMHO) pop culture’s qualities are still *widely* (albeit not totally) misunderstood and unappreciated.
    I know perfectly well that pop-culture is also worshipped in many (academic) circles. Some call this trend one of the most worrying expressions of postmodernism – i.e. that ‘form matters more than substance’ – and even in academia! (As a matter of fact, one of my supervisors at university has written several scholarly articles about the qualities of Dynasty!)
    But one can still find the ‘cultural elitism’ I talk about aplenty – be it in academic circles or elsewhere. If not in the US then most certainly here in Europe. It’s not just the other way around, so that popculture is now “the only culture” we have. Again, I was being deliberately polemic in order to make a point, (like I think you were, too). I wasn’t trying to share a well-founded conclusion about the present ‘elitists-to-popculturists’ ratio. But I apologise, if that did not come across clearly enough.
    Secondly, I was making fun – but definitely not “mocking” – ‘people who love Japanese melo-dramas’. If the latter came across as the intention, I am sorry. No, as a matter of fact, I (also) love much of the ‘less accessible’ cultural products. Here I was just trying to make the point that some artists do not see it as necessary to make ‘high art’ more accessible, but that accessibility is the alpha and omega if one wants to share something one thinks is important with as much of the rest of the world, as possible.
    Bottom line for me: Pop-culture can have ‘depth’ and it *can* be a very good means of promoting discussion of values, social or political themes, etc. It *can* seek “higher goals”. It can do all of those things and still be pop-culture. Of course, if one sees pop-culture as something that by definition is ‘without substance’ then it can never do so. But I see pop-culture as a form of expression more than anything else, which means that it can have as much ‘substance’ as Hemingway or Woolf. It may never be able to match the superiority of their form (writing style, ability to express themselves, etc.), nor get across all the *subtleties* of existential, social or political themes, but that is another matter. I would agree completely, though, that popculture indeed does not have much substance *in general*. But that doesn’t mean that it never has had, nor that it couldn’t have on more occassions in the future.
    Of course, the discussion is already ‘muddled’, for what do I mean exactly by ‘form’, ‘substance’, etc., etc.? But I’ll spare poor Lee’s blog for more now.
    I hope I came across a little clearer this time, though.


Leave a Comment