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I guess I just like liking things

A friend of mine was telling me yesterday that I have no appreciation for the classics. He’s not completely wrong – my pop culture history starts in the mid-70s. That doesn’t mean I don’t like anything before that, I’m just not as versed in that.  He challenged me to do a “black & white” list so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Couple of notes on the list:

  • I’ve broken it down between comedies and not-comedies, as it would be weird to not do that
  • These are not all of the black & white movies I’ve seen, but these are the most notable
  • You will soon see that I have abided by the letter of the law (black & white) but not the spirit (year released)


7. Clerks – This film’s not even supposed to be here today.  It’s only on the list because I’ve seen it and it’s notable. I’m not much of a Kevin Smith fan and I know I’ve let you down.

6. Manhattan – I like Woody Allen movies in general, but I honestly don’t remember this one that much, even though it generally gets listed as #1 or #2 on most “Best of Woody Allen” lists.

5. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – I can’t imagine a movie like this ever getting made today.

4. Duck Soup – Is there a modern day equivalent to this kind of movie?  The plot serves as a place to hang one-liners, mostly. Very funny, most definitely.

3. Arsenic and Old Lace – Cary Grant at the height of his powers (even though he made better movies, certainly). I will admit to attaching a bit more love to this movie because of nostalgia, but it’s a great movie even without that.

2. Young Frankenstein – I’m not a huge Mel Brooks fan, either, but this is my favorite of his – yes, I like this better than Spaceballs, even though I’m more of a sci-fi fan than an early horror fan.

1. A Hard Day’s Night – Mostly known for its great music, but this film is supremely silly and fun. It’s hard to imagine these are the same guys who went on to become the ever-so-serious-yes-I’m-yelling-it ARTISTS that they (mostly) became.

Not shown: Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, and The Three Stooges.  It isn’t that there aren’t some great ones, it’s that I don’t think of them in terms of separated movies. I think of “Laurel & Hardy movies” as a block rather than distinct entries.

Not Comedies

16. The Blair Witch Project – I don’t think I understand the appeal of this movie. Sure, it was creepy, but it was more annoying than scary.

15. Ed Wood – We’ve already talked about how I don’t remember this movie much.

14. Pi – I remember the feel of this movie more than I remember the actual movie.  This movie sticks out in my memory, though, because it was the first real departure for me. What I mean by that is that this movie has a gritty, indie look and feel, and I hadn’t really seen anything like it up to that point. I remember renting the tape from the SuperAmerica gas station and kind of being blown away by it. I don’t know that the movie was that great or anything, but it opened my eyes to a different sort of movie experience, and that’s what I remember most about it.

13. High Noon – There should probably be a lot of Westerns on this list, but this one will stand in for all of them, even though it’s an atypical example. I saw many a Gene Autry, Tom Mix, and Roy Rogers film when I was a kid, but I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one of them, nor differentiate any plot points.

12. The Man Who Wasn’t There – Not my favorite Coen Brothers movie (ooh, hey, future list idea), but a very cool movie nonetheless.

11. The Artist – I’m not sure this deserved all the awards it got, but I understand why it go them. It’s a celebration of that very specific point in history where silent film was dying and the talkies were taking over, and it’s an enjoyable experience overall.

10. M. – This is one of the creepiest, most unsettling films I’ve ever seen.

9. Sin City – This movie is kind of an amazing bit of storytelling, but I felt like I needed three showers after seeing it.

8. It’s a Wonderful Life – The whiplash between the previous entry and this one is not my fault, so no suing, please. This movie sits comfortably on my “Great Movies That I Don’t Need To See Again” list. It’s hard not to like this one.

7. King Kong – Sure, special effects have come a long way since 1933, but there’s something great about the way Kong moves, and there was certainly something groundbreaking about making people feel for the giant monster.

6. Nosferatu – A local theater hosted a showing of this several years ago, complete with an organist playing along with it like it would have been shown back in the day. If you ever get the opportunity to watch it that way, do so. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen in a theater.  Also: the vampire in this movie is superawesomecreepy.

5. Citizen Kane – Sure, the “Rosebud” logic falls apart on even passing inspection, but it really is a great film. Watching it these days doesn’t seem like such a big deal because you’ve seen all its tricks before, but when you realize this was the movie that invented most of those tricks it becomes something more.

4. Casablanca – I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. I went into it knowing it was a classic and yada yada yada, but it’s really, really good. Like, it’s so good that in all of the words written about it over the past 70 years, “it’s really, really good” is maybe the most ridiculous thing that has ever been said, even if all the other stuff written about it boils down to that anyway.

3. Psycho – There should be a lot more Hitchcock on this list, so let this one stand in representation. He made better movies, sure, but this is in many ways THE Hitchcock movie. Plus, I grew up in Wisconsin and this story is loosely-based on a real-life Wisconsin serial killer’s, so there’s that connection, too, but that’s weird so just forget that.

2. Schindler’s List – Another on the “Great Movies That I Don’t Need To See Again” list. Masterfully done and powerful.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Maybe the best book-to-movie movie ever made, but I haven’t seen all of them, so I don’t know that I can make that claim stick.  It helps that I love the book, certainly, but Gregory Peck’s performance here is one of the all-time great performances.


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