Sunday, 4 December 2011

Blind Spot Series 2012

A common game many film bloggers like to play is "Who has the biggest hole in their film viewing?" In other words, what is the film that you have not seen that any "self-respecting" film buff really should have seen.

It's a silly game (especially when you're with a group and each revelation is greeted with feigned shock followed by taunting jeers), but it goes to show a couple of things: 1) we film geeks sure know how to party! and 2) we all have this immense desire (as misguided as it may be) to see "everything". In reality, none of us actually believes they can do this nor do we really want to. There are many "classic" films we all know about that simply (for whatever reason) don't have any major pull. The thought of watching them is similar to the feeling you might have had while putting off doing a particularly dull essay assignment in school. If watching a film feels like homework, then it may not be the best use of your time...

However, there are far more of the important films that are on all of our lists that have somehow simply eluded us over the years. Like many other folks, I have a list of movies I want to see, but it's so big now that I subdivide it up into the ones I REALLY want to see along with those that I not only want to see, but feel I NEED to see. From this latter list, I've chosen 12 that I will commit to viewing during 2012 and about which I will hopefully write. I expect to cross even more than just these 12 off my list next year, but let's start with a one a month commitment.

There are two distinct driving forces behind doing this...The first being Edgar Wright's recent request to his blog followers to help him pick his next screening series - a set of movies he's never seen and is quite "embarrassed" that he hasn't. Though his initial post occurred months ago, the screening series at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is now primed and ready to go (Dennis Cozzalio has all the scoop on it here). However, it was during his initial open request that I started seriously compiling my own list of top "I can't believe I haven't seen these yet" films.

Fast Forward a month or so and my good friend James McNally of Toronto Screen Shots challenges several of his local film blogging friends to join him in the Blind Spot Series - a commitment to view and write about 12 films over the course of next year that we feel are classics that we've never seen before. Fellow Toronto blogger (and inspiration for the #ryaniswrong hashtag) Ryan McNeil at The Matinee has already posted his own set of 12 (beating James to the punch even), so I throw my own hat into the ring with the following list:

  • *Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)
  • *Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
  • City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
  • Day Of Wrath (Carl Theodore Dreyer, 1943)
  • Kramer vs Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979)
  • *La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
  • *Our Hospitality (Buster Keaton, 1923)
  • Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
  • Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
  • The Tin Drum (Volker Schlondorff, 1979)
  • *White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)
  • *Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

Whether I'll have anything interesting to say about movies that have been dissected a thousand times is yet to be seen. I expect I'll simply stick to personal reactions and avoid any in depth "analysis". By the way, films with an asterisk have been in my possession (ie. owned) for years. Yes, I meant to make "years" plural.


James McNally said...

Great list, Bob! I've only seen three of these (La Dolce Vita, City Lights and Pather Panchali) but they were all great. I feel embarrassed to say that I've never seen Amadeus which was such a big film in its day.

I've yet to watch a Dreyer film and am pretty patchy with Chaplin. I recently bought Keaton's The General on Blu-ray but as of this minute, haven't seen a single Buster Keaton film yet.

This should be fun!

dave_or_did said...

That's a great idea. I've already made my own 'films I really should have seen list' which is far too long, but I like the idea of committing to watch 12 of them over the year. I might have to do the same.

Ed Howard said...

Very good idea. Barry Lyndon, La Dolce Vita, Day of Wrath and Stagecoach are undoubtedly great choices, I love all four. The Tin Drum is exceptionally interesting and well worth seeing, even if like me you wind up being ambivalent about it as a whole. Amadeus and Yankee Doodle Dandy I haven't seen for a long time but I don't remember being very impressed by either; but I guess they're definitely classics that anyone should see. The rest I'm with you in not having seen yet.

I like that you starred the films you own and still haven't watched. I have so many movies, including White Heat and City Lights incidentally, that I own on DVD and really intend to watch and just haven't gotten to yet. It's definitely a cinephile disease.

Bob Turnbull said...

It's nice that we all understand each other...B-)

Dave and Ed, if you decide to "play along", please let James know by commenting on his post at torontoscreenshots (I linked to it in my post).

City Lights is one of the few remaining Chaplins (of his known features anyway) that I haven't seen. We'll see if it nudges Modern Times or The Great Dictator out of top spot. I am much more of a Buster Keaton fan though, so I'm looking froward to knocking off yet another of his features. James, do your self a big fat favour and dive into The General - it's not his funniest, but it's absolutely wonderful.

I think both james and Dennis starred their films from their lists that they actually owned, so I felt I needed to do the same. I've had Amadeus so long I hope the damn thing still plays...

Pather Panchali has been one I'm dying to see. I was eager to see the Region 1 Apu trilogy when it came out many years ago, but the word on the street was that the transfer wasn't very good at all. So I had been waiting for Criterion or someone to jump all over it (particularly with the recent release of The Music Room - which is fantastic) and have recently thought that I should just get a Region 2 version of it. That's likely what I'll do unless Criterion announces something really soon...

The Tin Drum is probably the one I'm most "worried" about...Not sure why, but there's a feeling that it will fall outside my zone. having said that, I still remember Siskel & Ebert reviewing it many moons ago on TV, so I need to finally sew that one up.

I'm actually getting psyched to start...James, I may not even wait until 2012! B-)

Peter Nellhaus said...

I can't even remember if I saw Pather Panchali. There was a retrospective of Ray films from Sony Classics back around 1996, and all I recall is that I saw some of the films.

Definitely see Stagecoach and La Dolce Vita for the iconic shots of John Wayne and Anita Ekberg respectively.

Bob Turnbull said...

I've only seen The Music Room by Ray and it really is beautiful (visually and musically).

I've seen that scene of Ekberg numerous times, so I'm actually looking forward to seeing it in some sort of context...B-)

Chip Lary said...

You haven't seen City Lights? Oh my God! (just kidding)

"we film geeks sure know how to party!" - I got a good laugh out of this.

Of the films on your list, I have not seen Day of Wrath, Pather Panchali, The Tin Drum, and White Heat. Pather Panchali is the only one, that when I read it's title, I always remind myself that I need to see it. I'd watch The Tin Drum just to see if I consider it to be controversial, which isn't really the greatest reason to watch a movie.

Of the ones I have seen, Our Hospitality is sheer fun, Yankee Doodle Dandy is right there with it, and City Lights is very bittersweet. Barry Lyndon is probably the one I would say was not that great.

Chip Lary said...

Sorry, I forgot to confess my own "sins".

I still haven't seen four of the Academy Award Best Picture winners - Cavalcade, The Great Ziegfeld, How Green Was My Valley, and Hamlet - despite having owned all four for a few years. (I collect all the winners.)

Unknown said...

Nice list, Bob! I've only seen about half of those myself. (And of course there are many more that you've seen that I haven't!) I have a running List of Shame on my blog that I try to work on cutting down, but maybe I'll join up with you guys and work on it more explicitly. I need to redo it for next year anyway, since I cut my existing "most shameful" list down by nearly half this year.

Davey V said...

You can count my hat in the ring too...I already commented on James's post...Only 12 huh... This should be interesting

Davey V said...

You can count my hat in the ring too...I already commented on James's post...Only 12 huh... This should be interesting

Bob Turnbull said...

Ha! You made me laugh out loud with that comment Chip - I've been waiting for someone to sound mock horrified! "City Lights" will be taken care of very shortly - I actually have it in hand.

As for Academy Award winners - yikes, there are a ton I haven't seen. I admit that some don't quite scream out to me to see them, but I should get a round to a few more at some point.

Jandy, yeah so far everyone who has commented has seen a good chunk of the ones I haven't and I've noticed that I've seen a good chunk of what they haven't (except Chip's 4 - haven't seen any).

Pony up those 12 Dave! B-)

Chip Lary said...

Bob - not that you need more movies to watch, but if you are a fan of Keaton, and you have watched most of Chaplin's best films, then you "need" to see some Harold Lloyd films, too. He was one of the big three, with Chaplin and Keaton, in the 20s. He was actually more popular than the other two at the time. His best films are Safety Last! (with the iconic hanging-off-of-the-clock scene) and The Freshman.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Chip...I actually saw both "The Freshman" and "The Kid Brother" earlier this year and enjoyed them both - not quite as chock full of physical comedy as Keaton or Chaplin, but both were quite entertaining. I haven't caught up with "Safety Last" yet, but it's right up there on my list. Haven't seen any of his shorts though...

And of course I need more movies to see! My current list will keep me going for years, but I still need more! More!!

dave_or_did said...

OK, I've got my 12 now and posted it on my site. Here's mine (don't laugh):

1. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
2. Bicycle Thieves
3. Black Narcissus
4. Breathless (A Bout de Souffle) (1960)
5. City Lights
6. Distant Voices, Still Lives
7. Jules et Jim
8. Nosferatu (1922)
9. Persona
10. Rio Bravo
11. Seven Samurai
12. Short Cuts

These are all films I own or are legally available to watch for free online so there are probably some other titles that I really should have watched that aren't there.

Bob Turnbull said...

I will not make fun of Dave...I will not make fun of Dave...I will not make fun of Dave...

Of course I wouldn't Laugh Dave! B-)

The one thing I will say is that you have one helluva great schedule coming up! "Black Narcissus", "Persona", "Rio Bravo" and "Short Cuts" are all high up on my favourites list. If "Seven Samurai" doesn't make it into even my top 3 Kurosawa films, it doesn't mean it still isn't fantastic (it just means that "Ran", "Red Beard" and "Rashomon" are super-fantastic). "Nosferatu" will leave some glorious images in your head...I only got around to "Jules et Jim" a few years ago and Jeanne Moreau was oh-so-very Jeanne Moreau (that's a good thing). "Breathless" (not to mention Godard) doesn't do much for me, but what a burst of energy that film must have been at the time (particularly the beginning). "Bicycle Thieves is wonderful and deeply moving by its end. Having just seen "City Lights" (yep, I've already started working on my list!), I can easily see why people love it - it's not my top Chaplin overall (story wise), but has some of his best sight gags and small throwaway physical comedy bits.

haven't seen wither "All Quiet" or "Distant Voices". Maybe next list...

Courtney Small said...

Oddly enough I saw Stagecoach for the first time this year. It was one of those random Friday night "what the hell I will check it out" Netflix picks.

I am still trying to decide what my twelve films will be. La Dolce Vita will be one of them for sure. The rest will be selected from my "The Must See List" series (e.g. Black Narcissus, etc). Lazy I know, but why start a brand new list when I am still working through my current one?

Bob Turnbull said...

Makes sense to me Courtney - in my lengthy spreadsheet of movies I want to see, I have comment fields where I will mark certain films as "core", so I just picked my 12 from there. I have plenty more to choose from for further rounds of this...

Let me know when you have your list ready (though I suppose I'll see the post pop up in your feed).

Vulnavia Morbius said...

If you'll permit me a small disagreement, for my money Harold Lloyd's best film is Girl Shy. But by all means, see as many of them as you can. Lloyd was a treasure.

I don't know what I'd list as holes. Some possibilities: Brief Encounter, Death in Venice, From Here to Eternity, The Story of Oharu (though I generally don't like Mizoguchi), L'Eclisse, a few others. Part of the problem with holes is that I don't necessarily know about them.

Anyway...Happy new year.

Dave Enkosky said...

Good list. Of these, I still haven't seen Day of Wrath and Pather Panchali. I actually haven't seen much of Indian cinema in general. A pretty big blind spot for me. I'll have to work on that.

Bob Turnbull said...

And a Happy New Year to you too Vulnavia...I'll be in a good position to judge "Girl Shy" vs "Safety Last" pretty soon - I just rented the first volume of a Harold Lloyd set and it has both films on it. I'm hoping to get to them early this week.

As for holes, yeah it really is one of those "don't know what I don't know" kind of things...I still have enough "know what I don't know" items on my list that I can at least plug some of those holes...B-)

Dave, I have very little knowledge of Indian cinema too. I've seen one Ray film, a few Bollywood titles and that's about it...I have a short list to start from and there's nowhere better to start than the Apu trilogy (we actually played some of the soundtrack to Pather Panchali at our wedding reception - and I still haven't seen the film!).