Over at his weblog, Thorsten suggested a new topic for a Top 5: Movies I’ve never seen. I thought a lot about how I wanted to approach this. The lazy thing to do would be to head over to IMDb’s Top 250 and list the first five titles I haven’t seen. [In that case my Top 5 would look like this: #1 “Shichinin no samurai” (“Seven Samurai,” Kurosawa, 1954), #2 “Goodfellas“* (Scorsese, 1990), #3 “Cidade de Deus“* (“City of God,” Meirelles, 2002), #4 “It’s a Wonderful Life“* (Capra, 1946) and #5 “Sunset Blvd.“* (Wilder, 1950).] In the end, only one of those titles made my actual list. And not because I assume the others aren’t great films – I do hope to catch them all sooner rather than later – but there are others I haven’t seen that feel like greater “misses” to me.
Another rule I set for myself was that the film had to be older than five years. Give me some time to catch up, will ya? From all I’ve read last year’s “Weekend“* (Andrew Haigh) and “Margaret“* (Kenneth Londergan) are close to (if not right out) masterpieces, but there is no way I can see either of them right now. And while I could pop in the “There Will Be Blood“* (Paul Thomas Anderson) blu-ray any time, and I swear I will before too long, I feel there are films with a few years/decades more on them that would be more deserving of my attention.
One title Thorsten probably had in mind for me when he suggested this Top 5 was Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart,” but it, too, didn’t make it onto my list and, to be honest, not even into consideration. Yes, it won a few Oscars, including Best Picture, but, I don’t know, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything not having seen it.
But enough about what’s not on my list. Here are what I consider to be the five greatest omissions of my personal filmography, along with a handful of honorable mentions. And be sure to check out Thorsten’s Top 5, as well.
“La nuit américaine” (“Day for Night”)
(François Truffaut, 1973)
I’ve seen “Jules et Jim” and “Le dernier métro,” yet I know I’m missing not only a lot of great stuff from Truffaut, but a lot of great stuff from the Nouvelle Vague, in general. “La nuit américaine” stands out to me, though. It’s a film about film-making – I usually love those – Truffaut plays a director (himself?), and the movie won Best Foreign Language Film in 1974 and was nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Valentina Cortese) and Original Screenplay in 1975.
“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans“*
(F.W. Murnau, 1927)
Another title that is basically a stand-in for a whole genre of film. “Metropolis” (and, if you count it, “The Artist“) are the only silent films I’ve seen. (Maybe not entirely true; I do recall watching some Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd movies on TV when I was a child, but I don’t really remember anything about them, so I don’t think they count.) “Sunrise” (Best Picture, among others, 1929) is one that came up a few times in what I read and listen to over the last few years, and while there may be more obvious choices (Murnau’s “Nosferatu“* and “Faust,” for example, are both on YouTube), I feel like I’m really missing out on something great when it comes to “A Song of Two Humans.”
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
(Mike Nichols, 1966)
I first knew I had to see “Virginia Woolf” when it was discussed and featured at length in the great documentary “Visions of Light – The Art of Cinematography.” Haskell Wexler’s camera work won the film one of its five Academy Awards – Elizabeth Taylor also won. But I’m most interested in the film because I love the few movies of Mike Nichols I’ve seen so far (“The Graduate” and “Closer” are two of my all-time favorites) and I’m eager to finally catch up with his much acclaimed debut.
(Billy Wilder, 1950)
Another film about film-making (and one that, along with “La nuit américaine” made Filmspotting‘s Top 5 Movies About Movies). I adore Wilder’s “The Apartment” (1960), but that and “Some Like It Hot” are the only films of his I’ve seen, I’m afraid. Not “Double Indemnity,” not “Ace in the Hole,”* not “One, Two, Three.”* (I did see “Sabrina” and “The Seven Year Itch,” but, again, it was so long ago that it doesn’t count.) “Sunset Boulevard” is (almost) at the top of my list, though. It’s the highest rated of Wilder’s films on IMDb, it won three Oscars and was nominated for 8 more in 1951, and I genuinely feel like I’m missing out on film and film conversations not having seen it.
(George Lucas, 1977)
I’m not sure how I never got around to it – I did see the prequels! – but… I’m kidding! Here’s my real #1:
(Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)
Not only do I regret not having seen the original “King Kong,” I regret not having seen it in a theater. And it bums me out that maybe I never will. But I’m waiting at least until I can get my hand on a high-def copy of the film. (The BD is Region A only, so far, and import is a wee bit too expensive.) I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake in the cinema and bits and pieces of the 1976 film on TV (to quote Al Jean: “It is amazing how a version made forty years after the original is so much worse and less believable.”), and of course pop culture has taught me well, so I don’t expect many surprises from the elusive (to me) 1933 film. But from all I’ve read and heard it’s an astonishing piece of film-making that holds up very well and laid the groundwork for many creature/effects movies that followed in its footsteps. I should have seen it. I haven’t.
Okay, so those are my five. But believe me, I could’ve just as easily done a Top 10, or maybe even 20. I’m netflixing as fast as I can, but there are only so many hours in a day, you know?
Here are a few other films I know I should have seen, but haven’t.
Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory“* (1957) was on the list for most of its pre-final existence. Kubrick is one of my all-time favorite directors, I’ve seen all of his films from “Spartacus” onward at least once (and a few of them five times or more), but his early years are still something of a dark horse for me.
Others: Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” (1973). (Just today I listened to an episode of Filmspotting that specifically mentioned (and praised) Malick’s first feature.) Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil“* (1958). David Lean’s “Brief Encounter” (1945). Mike Nichol’s “Carnal Knowledge” (1971). Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey” (1999). Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon“* (1975). James Foley’s “Glengarry Glen Ross“* (1992).
And many, many more.
I’m working on it.
*) I’ve seen this movie since writing this post.