So I was reading our special section last week on this year’s "20 Under 40," and thinking what a fine, upstanding groups of youngsters this was, when I got sidetracked — I started checking out what they listed as their "favorite movie," and suddenly the popular-culture snob in me came out for a romp, and I started looking only at that criterion, and began to judge them much more harshly.
Note that I realize full well that what this illustrates is shallowness and misplaced priorities on my part, rather than reflecting negatively upon our 20 honorees. Obviously, these folks spend their time and energy on more serious matters. This is why they are on a "20 Under 40" list, and I never was.
But indulge me here (which, come to think of it, is something you do every time you waste valuable time reading this blog). I mean, don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed "Red Dawn." I’m not one of those left-wingers who dismiss it as mere right-wing Cold War paranoid propaganda. (Of course, it was right-wing Cold War paranoid propaganda, but that was part of its charm; it wasn’t afraid to be what it was.) But favorite movie of all time? I don’t think so. Still, this young gentleman should get points for taking a risk with his pick (something I utterly fail to do with my own list below, I’ll admit), and that’s worth something. But risky choices need to be defensible.
Far more impressive was Mary Pat Baldauf‘s esoteric selection of "A Face in the Crowd." Now there’s a film buff. I mean, even though I’ve heard great things about it, I haven’t even seen it myself (although I just got it from Netflix and hope to watch it this weekend), but it’s got great snob appeal. Think about it — Andy Griffith, before he was famous, shining in a serious, dark role. And don’t forget it’s got Patricia Neal in it. So way to go there, Ms. Baldauf. And please note, she dared to list "old movies (especially from the 1950s and 1960s)" as a personal passion, which raised the bar on the discriminating reader’s expectations. So this was quite a high-wire act, and she pulled it off beautifully.
I would applaud Cynthia Blair‘s choice of "The Usual Suspects" (although, being more obvious, it’s not as cool as Ms. Baldauf’s), but it’s listed as "last movie," rather than "favorite," which just doesn’t count for as much.
So where am I headed with this? Well, as an ardent admirer of Nick Hornby‘s masterful High Fidelity — and as one who also thoroughly enjoyed the film adaptation (in spite of their having moved the setting from London to Chicago, it was rescued by a stellar cast, with Jack Black turning in a mind-blowing performance as Barry) — I have been tempted for some time to start a "top five" category on this blog.
What’s stopped me? Well, fear, I suppose — fear of being savaged by the real pop culture snobs, because I know my own tastes are fairly pedestrian, truth be told. There are an awful lot of Barrys out there ready to tear into my picks the way the original Barry dissed Rob’s and Dick’s. But ultimately, as a reader-participation exercise, this could be fun. So let’s do it.
I had wanted to start this with something less obvious, such as "top five movie endings," or "top five cover songs that feature the original artist singing backup," or some such. But since I just got on the under-40 crowd about favorite movies, let’s start with that very vanilla sort of list:
1. "It’s a Wonderful Life."
2. "The Godfather."
4. "The Graduate."
5. "High Noon."
Or maybe number four or five should have been "Saving Private Ryan" or …
Yes, I know. I’m stretching the concept of "vanilla" until it screams. Barry would call that list "very …". Well, never mind what Barry would call it, since this is a family blog. But hey — the best movies of all time are obvious, if they’re really the best. I could have thrown in "Life is Beautiful" or "36 Hours" or "Office Space" or something that had a little individuality to it. But I had to be honest.
I promise to do something a little more intriguing the next time I visit this category.
Meanwhile, I’m anxious to know what y’all think — not only your own "top five movies," which I’m sure will put mine to shame. I’d also like your suggestions for future lists.
Assuming, of course, that you dare…