kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Name:
Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Movie Time

Okay, I start teaching Monday, the 25th. Two classes, oddly complementary—the Philosophy of Music, and the Philosophy of Film.

I'm pretty sure I don't think there is a "Philosophy of Film," but I'm open-minded. In any case, this summer we will be trying to figure out what makes a film a "great" film. In the past, I've done an extended look at a particular genre (I've done Romantic Comedies of the 30s and 40s, Film Noir, and the Western); that approach has worked nicely, although I'd like a better book about noir. I was tempted to do that approach again, but I had a feeling I might have a revolt on my hands after the 6th or 7th Ozu film (some of us like watching people sit on tatami and talk; some don't); my lovely bride suggested Blaxploitation films, which was very tempting, but I was afraid it would make me look stupid(er). Maybe next summer.

So this time around, I've compiled a list of films that constitute, more or less, a critics' consensus of the greatest films ever made (I've added a couple of my own, and deleted a couple of consensus choices, such as "2001: A Space Odyssey"—hey, it's my course!) All we have to do is watch great films, read a book (Bordwell and Thompson, Film Art), and figure out what makes these films great, what on our list shouldn't be there, what not on our list should be, and why making such lists is silly. Yes, Wittgenstein will be involved.

I'd love to hear what my reader thinks; feel free to offer up alternative lists, alterations, suggested additions, deletions, etc.. Remember, this isn't (for the most part) my list, but a consensus of critics from Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinema, the American Film Institute, and whatever other lists I could find.

So, with a drumroll:

1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. Tokyo Story (Ozu)
3. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
4. The Godfather/The Godfather Part II (Coppola)
5. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
6. Sunrise (Murnau)
7. Bicycle Thief (De Sica)
8. Raging Bull (Scorcese)
9. Rules of the Game (Renoir)
10. Au hasard Balthazar (Bresson)
11. The Searchers (Ford)
12. City Lights (Chaplin)
13. The Passenger (Antonioni)
14. Out of the Past (Tourneur)



The best kind of "Top Ten" lists, of course, have 14 members.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raging Bull??
I know I'm not in the course, but I had to question this one. I've never understood why Jake LaMotta's life was worthy of a film.... I'll try to remain open..

3:05 PM  
Blogger kmosser said...

I guess I would say that there's a difference between a film, and how well it is done, and the quality of the human being the film is about.

If you flipped it, wouldn't that mean the best films should be about Jesus, or Dr. King, or Gandhi, or Ozzie Smith, or something?

The film itself--the cinematography, editing, performances, etc.--is, to my mind, amazing, although it lacks some of the creative madness of Taxi Driver and Mean Streets. Joe Pesci blew me away the first time I saw Raging Bull.

Anyway, as I said, it's not my list, but I think I can defend most of the members of it.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

I finally watched Citizen Kane because I heard it was this great film. I saw it and said, "Not bad, but great?" Then I watched it again with commentary by Ebert. He pointed out all these little things I never noticed, like where the characters are in the shot, how they sometimes form triangles or wedges, or how the witness always occupied the same part of the screen (lower right I believe). The opening sequence where you see the estate, the little light in the window is in the same spot on the screen in every shot of that sequence too. And he talks a lot about how before that film no one got those wide shots all in focus before. So a lot of what makes a film 'great' seems to be what was around before it and how films changed after it.
I wouldn't know a great movie if it kicked me in the shins, so I can't say much. I've always been a big fan of Airplane! (my favorite movie) and those sorts of films (Naked Gun series, Kentucky Fried Movie, etc.). Some films make you think or just put you in a different mood and those are nice sometimes too (Being John Malkovich, The Royal Tenenbaums, Donnie Darko, Full Metal Jacket for example). But I'll usually choose comedy and satire over "great" films. Oh! I got one I really like: Dr. Strangelove. I catch something new in it everytime I watch it; and I've got The Life and Death of Peter Sellers out on rent right now too. I've been told it's good but I doubt it's great.
Best of luck with the class.

9:34 AM  
Blogger MyUtopia said...

Great list! I can't seem to stay awake during Citizen Cane. : ) I loved the Searchers, John Wayne was a freakin rockstar!

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Frodo said...

Very good list. Eclectic and yet earthy with a woody flavor.

Now that I can collect DVD's it is interesting the different venues I wander into. Sometimes I just get copies because it is a great movie, like the original Mel Brooks Producers. I actually found a VHS copy of Greasers Palace, it is starting to age. Which then leads to Dark Star. Its hard to pick a top 20. I always want to add more comedy or create a list of just comedy, or sci-fi,…drama, May I have the envelope please

Recently I got one of those little mp3 players with 2 gig worth of music. So I can only put about 40 or 50 of my favorite albums(not CDs). Interesting when you are forced to limit yourself how the cream rises to the top. Sort of forces you to answer the age old question if you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring 50 albums. I always ask if I can swap all the albums for a boat. Which leads me to my next blog request for a top 50 list of greatest albums ever. Or top 50 artist, cause you did top 20 albums. Rolling Stones web site listed top 500 artist with their best album to justify.

So now when I wander out to the lake to drift aimlessly, every so often I can list to Tears from PPL.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Akrasia said...

I strongly oppose your decision not to include 2001. Bad call.

7:24 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Which film should I omit to make room for 2001?

11:44 AM  
Blogger Akrasia said...

As much as I love both films, I should think that one 'Godfather' would suffice.

7:51 AM  
Blogger STACY PEREZ said...

I agree with you that the greatest films ever are not necessarily about the greatest people ever or vice versa. A film is much more than just putting out a story, there are many technicalities involved.

5:35 AM  
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