Tuesday, January 06, 2009

When you post the list, you get the complaints...

At the NY Times, Stanley Fish has listed the 10 best American movies ever. The purpose of such a list is, of course, to generate hits and discussion from people who disagree with some or all of the names on that list. I'm going to comment on it anyway.

Fish's List:

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Shane (1953)
Red River (1948)
Raging Bull (1980)
Vertigo (1958)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)


To start with, I'm not going to comment on the inclusion of The Best Years of Our Lives, Sunset Blvd. or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because I have not seen any of them. I have seen all of the rest, and, to varying degrees, liked most of them. (I say "most" here because I think Raging Bull is one of the most overrated films ever made.)

I won't criticize the inclusion of Groundhog Day because, while I don't necessarily think I'd include it on a list of the 10 best American movies, I'm not sure that I wouldn't - it's a great film and I love it. The other four, however, wouldn't be anywhere near a top 10 list that I was making, and I enjoyed all of them. But Shane and Red River aren't as good as The Outlaw Josey Wales or Unforgiven. You'll never hear a word of complaint from me about Meet Me in St. Louis, a wonderful movie, but if you're going to include one movie with Judy Garland, doesn't it really have to be The Wizard of Oz? If you're only including one American musical, doesn't it have to be Singin' in the Rain? Double Indemnity is classic noir, but it's not as good as The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon. And Vertigo, despite its love from the critics, pales next to another film from the same director with the same star, Rear Window.

And I have not yet mentioned Gone With the Wind. Or Casablanca. Or The Godfather. Or Schindler's List. Each of which is superior to everything on Fish's list.

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