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If I do what you tell me, will you love me?: The AFI Top 100, Part III.

Here are the next five in chronological order. You can read the original posts here and here.

Also, the “featured image” for this post on my menu is courtesy of Jason Munn. Check out more of his often minimal and geometric work at his website. Great stuff!

My Favorite 20 of AFI’s Top 100+

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High Noon (1952)
Like Stagecoach, this film was another immersive experience for me. I guess what I mean by this is largely the shut-off of the intellectual valve and a willingness to invest in the world onscreen more viscerally. It’s the pure joy that cinema can bring sometimes. The film experiments with “real time” leading up to a showdown at….well, you get it. Evidently presidents are quite fond of this one. Supposedly Bill Clinton screened it a record number of times at The White House. Reagan and Eisenhower both considered it a favorite.


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Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Students often ask me about music. What kind of music do you like?, they’ll ask. Almost everything, I’ll say. Ask me about a type of music. A common response is that a student will say, Me, too. I like everything, but rap and country. I’ll say, well, I like rap and country, too. I can’t imagine music without Public Enemy and Hank Williams. Musicals seem to inhabit that land of “rap and country.” This movie is not just a great musical, but great cinema. I’ve mentioned before that one of the benefits of lists is that they introduce me to work that I may have ignored left to my own devices. This is one of those cases. The “Make ‘Em Laugh” section is not too far from classic Jackie Chan. Grace. Athleticism. Goofiness.


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On the Waterfront (1954)
Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando give two spectacular performances. It’s worth watching for that alone.


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Vertigo (1958)
Before the age of ten and for years after, if asked, I would have said that Hitchcock was my favorite director. The Harryhausen films had introduced me to Bernard Herrmann’s music, but, honestly, if you dig into his filmography, even the amazing scores he did for Hitchcock are just scratching the surface. His film scoring career begins with both Citizen Kane and The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) and ends with Taxi Driver (1976). What!? I am curious to delve into his pre-film radio career, if any of it is available.

Saul Bass’s poster design is incredible. Lots of iconic imagery from this one, and interestingly, reactions to this film and Hitchcock in general seem to go in cycles of appreciation, elevation, and devaluation. Ultimately, that’s probably a good thing.

When I was younger, I was always excited to see a Hitchcock movie because I knew I would see something, usually technical, that I had never seen before, some sort of new camera movement or lighting technique. It was the same way I approached Dario Argento’s work. Maybe that’s why it took me years to notice his bizarre form of storytelling. I was too busy looking at the wallpaper that a set designer (or Argento, you never know with that guy) chose.


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The Last Picture Show (1972)
A bildungsroman that showcases mood and atmosphere as much as character and story. It evokes the experience of growing up in small town America and discovering oneself, while also feeling stuck or stalled. The ending is like a long, pained exhalation. I mean that in a good way.


The list so far:

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
City Lights (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
King Kong (1933)
Stagecoach (1939)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Fantasia (1940)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
High Noon (1952)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Vertigo  (1958)
The Last Picture Show (1972)

Categories: Inspiration Lists Movies

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Stephen McClurg

I like red peppers and Jan Švankmajer movies.

1. Current Listening: Lots of soul from Muscle Shoals

2. Current Viewing: A Hard Day's Night (1964).

3. Current Reading: H.G. Wells: In the Days of the Comet

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