Sight and Sound over the years...

The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1952
Critics' Poll
1. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
2. City Lights (Chaplin)
2. The Gold Rush (Chaplin)
4. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
5. Intolerance (Griffith)
5. Louisiana Story (Flaherty)
7. Greed (von Stroheim)
7. Le Jour se lève (Carné)
7. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
10. Brief Encounter (Lean)
10. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)

The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1962
Critics' Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. L'avventura (Antonioni)
3. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
4. Greed (von Stroheim)
4. Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)
6. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
7. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
7. Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein)
9. La terra trema (Visconti)
10. L'Atalante (Vigo)

The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1972
Critics' Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
3. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
4. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
5. L'avventura (Antonioni)
5. Persona (Bergman)
7. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
8. The General (Keaton)
8. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
10. Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)
10. Wild Strawberries (Bergman)

The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1982
Critics' Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
3. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
3. Singin' in the Rain (Kelly, Donen)
5. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
6. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
7. L'avventura (Antonioni)
7. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
7. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
10. The General (Keaton)
10. The Searchers (Ford)

The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1992
Critics' Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. La Regle du Jeu (Renoir)
3. Tokyo Story (Ozu)
4. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
5. The Searchers (Ford)
6. L'Atalante (Vigo)
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
6. Pather Panchali (Ray)
6. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)

It seems that Renoir's Rules of the Game and Welles's Citizen Kane are the most consistent amongst critics.

Sight and Sound top 10 as chosen by directors.

Directors' Top Ten Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it.

2. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola)
Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

3. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
Wonderfully freefloating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8 1/2 provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors.

4. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
Filmed in the desert in lavish widescreen and rich colours, Lawrence of Arabia is David Lean at his most epic and expansive. You can almost feel the waves of heat glowing from the cinema screen

5. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick)
A black comedy about impending nuclear annihilation that was made at the height of the cold war, Dr. Strangelove is perhaps Kubrick's most audacious movie and certainly his funniest. Peter Sellers has never been better, and provides good value playing three roles.

6. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
Mixing melodrama, documentary and social commentary, De Sica follows an impoverished father and son treading the streets of post-war Rome, desperately seeking their stolen bicycle. Deeply compassionate, this poignant film is one of the outstanding examples of Italian neorealism.

6. Raging Bull (Scorsese)
An unblinkingly honest biopic of Jake La Motta - a great prizefighter but a deeply flawed human being - this catches Scorsese in fighting fit form. The boxing sequence are both brutal and beautiful, and De Niro, who famously put on weight to play the middle-aged La Motta, gives one of the performances of modern cinema.

6. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance.

9. Rashomon (Kurosawa)
Offering four differing accounts of a rape and murder, all told in flashbacks, Kurosawa's 1951 film is a complex meditation on the distortive nature of memory and a gripping study of human behaviour at its most base. Mifune Toshiro is magnetic as the bandit Tajomaru.

9. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party.

9. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
The blueprint for The Magnificent Seven was Kurosawa's magnificent swordplay epic of self-sacrifice about a band of hired samurai who come together to protect a helpless village from a rapacious gang of 40 thieves who descend every year to steal the harvest and kidnap women. The final sequence of the fight in the mud and rain has never been bettered.

Sight and Sound - top 10 based on critics (2002 - done every 10 years)

Critics' Top Ten Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it.

2. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance.

3. La Règle du jeu (Rules of the Game) (Renoir)
Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party.

4. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola)
Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

5. Tokyo Story (Ozu)
A poignant story of family relations and loss, Ozu's subtle mood piece portrays the trip an elderly couple make to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children. The shooting style is elegantly minimal and formally reticent, and the film's devastating emotional impact is drawn as much from what is unsaid and unshown as from what is revealed.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
One of the most ambitious Hollywood movies ever made, 2001 crams into its two-hour plus running time a story that spans the prehistoric age to the beginning of the third millennium, and features some of the most hypnotically beautiful special effects work ever committed to film. After seeing this, you can never listen to Strauss' Blue Danube without thinking space crafts waltzing against starry backdrops.

7. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Eisenstein's recreation of a mutiny by sailors of the battleship Potemkin in 1905 works as daring formal experiment - which pushed the expressive potential of film editing to its limit - and rousing propaganda for the masses. The Odessa Steps sequence remains one of the most memorable set-pieces in cinema.

7. Sunrise (Murnau)
Having left his native Germany for the US, F.W. Murnau had all the resources of a major Hollywood studio at his disposal for this, his American debut. What he produced was a visually stunning film romance that ranks as one of the last hurrahs of the silent period.

9. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
Wonderfully freefloating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8 1/2 provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors.

10. Singin' In the Rain (Kelly, Donen)
Impossible to watch without a smile on your face, this affectionate tribute to the glory days of Hollywood in the 1920s is pleasure distilled into 102 minutes. With Gene Kelly dance sequences that take your breath away and a great score by Brown and Freed, this is the film musical at its best.

Another Poll! The Imdb Poll... (numbers represent votes)

1. 9.1 The Godfather (1972) 227,086
2. 9.1 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 269,346
3. 8.9 The Godfather: Part II (1974) 129,387
4. 8.8 Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966) 69,609
5. 8.8 Pulp Fiction (1994) 231,389
6. 8.8 Schindler's List (1993) 158,087
7. 8.8 Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 168,540
8. 8.8 Casablanca (1942) 105,123
9. 8.8 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 116,215
10. 8.8 Shichinin no samurai (1954) 58,021
11. 8.8 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 207,903
12. 8.7 Star Wars (1977) 206,927
13. 8.7 Rear Window (1954) 68,016
14. 8.7 12 Angry Men (1957) 52,902
15. 8.7 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 144,270
16. 8.7 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 244,856
17. 8.7 Cidade de Deus (2002) 72,915
18. 8.7 Goodfellas (1990) 123,179
19. 8.6 The Usual Suspects (1995) 163,826
20. 8.6 C'era una volta il West (1968) 35,898
21. 8.6 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 99,449
22. 8.6 Psycho (1960) 84,291
23. 8.6 Citizen Kane (1941) 91,171
24. 8.6 North by Northwest (1959) 56,349
25. 8.6 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 198,477
26. 8.6 The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 144,297
27. 8.6 Memento (2000) 153,439
28. 8.5 Fight Club (1999) 203,232
29. 8.5 Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 49,417
30. 8.5 Sunset Blvd. (1950) 29,263
31. 8.5 It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 63,063
32. 8.5 The Matrix (1999) 226,715
33. 8.5 Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001) 105,148
34. 8.5 American Beauty (1999) 174,958
35. 8.5 Taxi Driver (1976) 83,826
36. 8.5 Vertigo (1958) 53,944
37. 8.5 The Departed (2006) 112,501
38. 8.5 Apocalypse Now (1979) 104,903
39. 8.5 Se7en (1995) 152,220
40. 8.5 Léon (1994) 100,604
41. 8.4 American History X (1998) 114,238
42. 8.4 Paths of Glory (1957) 24,706
43. 8.4 Laberinto del fauno, El (2006) 60,083
44. 8.4 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 114,059
45. 8.4 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 49,803
46. 8.4 Chinatown (1974) 43,684
47. 8.4 M (1931) 21,885
48. 8.4 The Third Man (1949) 30,334
49. 8.4 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) 17,882
50. 8.4 A Clockwork Orange (1971) 109,624
51. 8.4 The Pianist (2002) 64,591
52. 8.4 Alien (1979) 102,342
53. 8.4 Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) 98,565
54. 8.4 Ratatouille (2007) 19,684
55. 8.4 Untergang, Der (2004) 37,978
56. 8.4 Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001) 52,239
57. 8.4 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 35,484
58. 8.4 L.A. Confidential (1997) 105,259
59. 8.4 The Shining (1980) 92,037
60. 8.4 Double Indemnity (1944) 19,994
61. 8.4 Boot, Das (1981) 44,904
62. 8.4 The Maltese Falcon (1941) 31,320
63. 8.3 Requiem for a Dream (2000) 95,901
64. 8.3 Reservoir Dogs (1992) 119,701
65. 8.3 Saving Private Ryan (1998) 160,678
66. 8.3 Metropolis (1927) 21,467
67. 8.3 Hotel Rwanda (2004) 43,113
68. 8.3 Raging Bull (1980) 49,306
69. 8.3 Aliens (1986) 100,224
70. 8.3 Rashômon (1950) 21,376
71. 8.3 Sin City (2005) 129,916
72. 8.3 Forrest Gump (1994) 157,922
73. 8.3 Singin' in the Rain (1952) 32,884
74. 8.3 Leben der Anderen, Das (2006) 16,919
75. 8.3 Modern Times (1936) 18,402
76. 8.3 Rebecca (1940) 19,613
77. 8.3 The Great Escape (1963) 34,514
78. 8.3 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 98,087
79. 8.3 All About Eve (1950) 20,863
80. 8.3 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 126,532
81. 8.3 Some Like It Hot (1959) 40,198
82. 8.3 Amadeus (1984) 58,223
83. 8.3 Touch of Evil (1958) 18,847
84. 8.3 Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957) 18,209
85. 8.3 Vita è bella, La (1997) 61,266
86. 8.3 The Manchurian Candidate (1962) 22,268
87. 8.2 The Prestige (2006) 72,575
88. 8.2 Jaws (1975) 79,614
89. 8.2 On the Waterfront (1954) 22,930
90. 8.2 The Sting (1973) 38,503
91. 8.2 Strangers on a Train (1951) 18,528
92. 8.2 The Elephant Man (1980) 29,841
93. 8.2 The Simpsons Movie (2007) 3,778
94. 8.2 Full Metal Jacket (1987) 81,745
95. 8.2 City Lights (1931) 13,576
96. 8.2 Grindhouse (2007) 35,419
97. 8.2 Batman Begins (2005) 127,353
98. 8.2 Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1988) 24,659
99. 8.2 Braveheart (1995) 146,328
100. 8.2 The Apartment (1960) 19,013

Now see what happens when you take a poll... 1999 Empire Magazine Poll

1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
2. Jaws (1975)
3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
5. Goodfellas (1990)
6. Pulp Fiction (1994)
7. The Godfather (1972)
8. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
9. Schindler's List (1993)
10. Titanic (1997)
11. The Usual Suspects (1995)
12. Citizen Kane (1941)
13. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
14. Aliens (1986)
15. Blade Runner (1982)
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
17. Casablanca (1942)
18. Gone With the Wind (1939)
19. The Sound of Music (1965)
20. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
21. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
22. Apocalypse Now (1979)
23. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
24. L.A. Confidential (1997)
25. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
26. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
27. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
28. Leon (1994)
29. Braveheart (1995)
30. Se7en (1995)
31. Die Hard (1988)
32. North by Northwest (1959)
33. The Truman Show (1998)
34. Taxi Driver (1976)
35. Jurassic Park (1993)
36. Alien (1979)
37. Psycho (1960)
38. Raging Bull (1980)
39. Some Like It Hot (1959)
40. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
41. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
42. Rear Window (1954)
43. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
44. The Deer Hunter (1978)
45. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
46. The Terminator (1984)
47. Fargo (1996)
48. The Great Escape (1963)
49. Face/Off (1997)
50. Speed (1994)
51. The Matrix (1999)
52. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
53. The Exorcist (1973)
54. Ben-Hur (1959)
55. Trainspotting (1996)
56. Forrest Gump (1994)
57. Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
58. Zulu (1964)
59. Vertigo (1958)
60. The Wild Bunch (1969)
61. Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
62. The Italian Job (1969)
63. The Shining (1980)
64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
65. The English Patient (1996)
66. Heat (1995)
67. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
68. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
69. Grease (1978)
70. Platoon (1986)
71. Stand By Me (1986)
72. Back to the Future (1985)
73. Withnail and I (1987)
74. JFK (1991)
75. The Seven Samurai (1954)
76. Get Carter (1971)
77. The Third Man (1949)
78. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
79. Armaggedon (1998)
80. Chinatown (1974)
81. Goldfinger (1964)
82. The Untouchables (1987)
83. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
84. True Romance (1993)
85. Unforgiven (1992)
86. Scarface (1983)
87. The Blues Brothers (1980)
88. The Graduate (1967)
89. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
90. Dances With Wolves (1990)
91. Spartacus (1960)
92. Toy Story (1995)
93. Cinema Paradiso (1989)
93. Life is Beautiful (1997)
95. Grosse Point Blank (1997)
96. Annie Hall (1977)
97. Dead Poets Society (1989)
98. Good Will Hunting (1997)
99. 12 Angry Men (1957)
100. Easy Rider (1969)


AFI's top 100


1. "Citizen Kane" (1941)
2. "The Godfather" (1972)
3. "Casablanca" (1942)
4. "Raging Bull" (1980)
5. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
6. "Gone With the Wind" (1939)
7. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
8. "Schindler's List" (1993)
9. "Vertigo" (1958)
10. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
11. "City Lights" (1931)
12. "The Searchers" (1956)
13. "Star Wars" (1977)
14. "Psycho" (1960)
15. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
16. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950)
17. "The Graduate" (1967)
18. "The General" (1927)
19. "On the Waterfront" (1954)
20. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
21. "Chinatown" (1974)
22. "Some Like It Hot" (1959)
23. "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)
24. "E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)
25. "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)
26. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)
27. "High Noon" (1952)
28. "All About Eve" (1950)
29. "Double Indemnity" (1944)
30. "Apocalypse Now" (1979)
31. "The Maltese Falcon" (1941)
32. "The Godfather, Part II" (1974)
33. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975)
34. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)
35. "Annie Hall" (1977)
36. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957)
37. "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946)
38. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)
39. "Dr. Strangelove" (1964)
40. "The Sound of Music" (1965)
41. "King Kong" (1933)
42. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)
43. "Midnight Cowboy" (1969)
44. "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)
45. "Shane" (1953)
46. "It Happened One Night" (1934)
47. "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)
48. "Rear Window" (1954)
49. "Intolerance" (1916)
50. "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001)
51. "West Side Story" (1961)
52. "Taxi Driver" (1976)
53. "The Deer Hunter" (1978)
54. "MASH" (1970)
55. "North by Northwest" (1959)
56. "Jaws" (1975)
57. "Rocky" (1976)
58. "The Gold Rush" (1925)
59. "Nashville" (1975)
60. "Duck Soup" (1933)
61. "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)
62. "American Graffiti" (1973)
63. "Cabaret" (1972)
64. "Network" (1976)
65. "The African Queen" (1951)
66. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
67. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966)
68. "Unforgiven" (1992)
69. "Tootsie" (1982)
70. "A Clockwork Orange" (1971)
71. "Saving Private Ryan" (1998)
72. "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)
73. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969)
74. "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)
75. "In the Heat of the Night" (1967)
76. "Forrest Gump" (1994)
77. "All the President's Men" (1976)
78. "Modern Times" (1936)
79. "The Wild Bunch" (1969)
80. "The Apartment" (1960)
81. "Spartacus" (1960)
82. "Sunrise" (1927)
83. "Titanic" (1997)
84. "Easy Rider" (1969)
85. "A Night at the Opera" (1935)
86. "Platoon" (1986)
87. "12 Angry Men" (1957)
88. "Bringing Up Baby" (1938)
89. "The Sixth Sense" (1999)
90. "Swing Time" (1936)
91. "Sophie's Choice" (1982)
92. "Goodfellas" (1990)
93. "The French Connection" (1971)
94. "Pulp Fiction" (1994)
95. "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
96. "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
97. "Blade Runner" (1982)
98. "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942)
99. "Toy Story" (1995)
100. "Ben-Hur" (1959)



Rob and I have been having an interesting and fun conversation all day starting off from the Best Movies Never Made.

Rob has been a mentor of mine and a terrific friend. I've been accused of knowing a lot about film but I humbly admit that I am a freshman in the company of Mr. Mills. I've learned a lot about film, life, art and free spirit from Rob and his wonderful wife Karen. They are compassionate, talented and loving people and I am pleased to share some of our conversation here.

Feel free to chime in.


Cameron is making Avatar now and is doing it in 3D (for some reason filmmakers and studios think 3d is going to save the movies).

I wrote about Welles' 'Heart of Darkness' when I did a little bit on 'The Lady in the Lake'. After seeing it I felt that doing a film in the first person was ultimately a flawed idea. It doesn't give you a window into how the main character is feeling as we never get to see them react to anything. Imagine a Bogart film without ever getting to see Bogart!

I would add AI to the list... damn you Spielberg! Another example of Stevie's lack of depth.

I think Oliver Stone was trying to make Napoleon as well... At least we have Abel Gance.


Yeah - you always know when Hollywood is hurting: they pull out 3D and Sensurround (remember that?) and William Castle's "Tingler" electro-shock effect and, of course, Smell-O-Vision which I think Mike Todd (of all people) originated and then John Waters did his variation of Odorama scratch 'n' sniff cards for Polyester.

The whole "first person" thing in cinema never really works, does it? Mind you, allowing Robert Montgomery to play Marlowe (let alone direct) was a big mistake from the get go. It would be interesting to do a comparison between those films that tried and the current entertainment of first person shooter games, which only work because the viewer/user actually drives the action/plot forward.

Rouben Mamoulian's version of Dr. Jekyll had an interesting first person transformation scene with Frederic March but, thankfully, they didn't attempt to carry that device throughout the entire film. Artistic gimmickry ALWAYS seems to pop up in the industry, and not just when the industry feels nobody's giving them their undivided attention. Usually it's when a director has enough clout to get away with anything. Hitchcock's faux "one shot" in Rope comes to mind, as does Mike Figgis' Timecode. Gance's Napoleon, now that you mention it, with his wide screen triptych is another.

And ... I'm on a roll here, can you tell? ... wasn't there an HBO series that had an episode directed by Robert Zemeckis where they used old footage of Bogart and he died and it was all done first person? Or was I just so fucked up and drunk that I imagined that? Zemeckis is a primo "gimmick" director, seemingly basing entire projects around his desire to play with the latest technology; not always doing the best work with it but at least having fun and being able to say: "Nyah nyah! I did it first." I guess making scads of cash at the box office is what allows him to continue playing like that. Lucky bastard.

Have you ever read "Harrow Alley"? It was published in Scenario magazine quite a while back, whilst they were still in business, and I have a copy if you'd like to borrow it. The story of the life of that script is a compelling tale all on its own. I started transcribing it a couple of years ago into proper script format (it always pissed me off how they fucked with the format for that magazine but it was the only way they could reasonably produce a quarterly publication with 4 screenplays and interviews) and found the experience pretty cool since it forces you to physically work through the writing of a piece; but I never finished doing it - I wanted to post it so everyone else could nab a copy. Hmm, maybe I'll get back on that. It's in my hard drive somewhere.


Zemeckis is a lot like Speilberg or Ron Howard where they can do great popcorn movies but lack the confidence or depth to pull off real drama. When I think of films like Contact, Castaway or Gump, they ask nothing of the audience. You leave the theatre as you came in. Sometimes, like with Gump, you think you might have seen something profound only to see it again to realize that it was empty. He is a terrific craftsman but lacks either courage or depth. A great filmmaker should have the courage to bore the audience a bit. It doesn't have to be all razzle dazzle if, in the end, you take the audience somewhere interesting, profound or real.

I haven't read 'Harrow Alley'. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it. I know what you mean about Scenario Magazine - my friend Jim leant me the issue with the Conversation script and it too was reformatted. In the issue they did a bit on 'Enemy of the State' and 'The Conversation'. I thought it was a ripe topic to compare hollywood shtick to more personal art films but the issue was never even raised. It would be comical to put those two films in a DVD package together!
There is a tv show from britain called 'Peep Show'. They pull off the first person very well. Comedic of course.


There was a British comedy series that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of that always had a spot where they'd do a first person scene. I never saw it here, I only ever caught it when I was working in the UK. The best one they did was at a funeral where everyone was getting drunk and hitting on the widow.

You're right about Zemeckis. He made a film called Used Cars which wasn't half bad but didn't do all that well at the box office. I figure he very quickly found himself in the place Coppola and Scorcese found themselves in much further down their roads where they realized the day of the auteur was done and if they wanted to keep making movies they had better belly up to the same trough as everyone else and churn out popcorn pap for the masses. The closest Spielberg has ever gone to true drama was Schindler's List and he even managed to fuck that up. Maybe they should start pairing directors together, combining their strengths, although anything done by committee sucks big steamy turds. At the very least it would make for some great fractious behind the scenes stories.

Harrow Alley was written by Walter Newman who was, in his time, regarded as one of the best screenwriters - ever. He's uncredited on a lot of pictures because he was also an irrascible bastard who would get fumingly fed up with the studio bullshit and pull his name off projects despite being eligible under Writer's Guild rules for full credit. The Great Escape is the most outstanding example. He wrote Harrow Alley on spec and found that while it was highly regarded by all who read it, it was at the same time deemed to be completely unproduceable. Why? It's about the Black Plague. Not a good date flick or a feel good film of any sort. Yet it IS. The ending is superb and ties all the tangled threads together wonderfully. It passed through many hands over the years. Most notably George C. Scott owned it up to the time of his death and originally had hopes of starring in it and then towards the end was trying to get it made with Mel Gibson in the lead. I don't know if the rights remained with his estate after his passing, which might mean Campbell Scott could possibly control it now. It is a dark and bleak and nasty story simply because of the melieu. It's a difficult tale because most of the people you come to know and like in it die horribly and tragically ... it is the plague after all. I would like to think that in this day and age of films like Saw and Hostel ... and all the other crap the Americans are trying so desperately to scare themselves with, either in an unwitting exhibition of their own tortured (pun intended) zeitgeist or a desperate attempt to distract themselves from an oppressive reality that is far more terrible than any of their fearful imaginings (just as they did with the horror and SF films of the McCarthy era) ... that such a story could indeed find an audience. Now, actually, would be a good time for it. We need a compelling tale of life's continuance in the face of unrelenting suffering and death.

Best Movies Never Made

This link was sent to me by Rob Mills (

Best Movies Never Made by lukeprog
1. Stanley Kubrick's 'Napoleon' - No explanation necessary. Link

2. Orson Welles' 'Heart of Darkness' - Also no explanation necessary. Link

3. James Cameron's 'Avatar' - I just LOVE the idea of doing an epic alien love/war story entirely set on another planet. One day when I'm 'in,' I'm going to write a similar script that can be made on a smaller budget. Link

4. Alfred Hitchcock's 'Kaleidoscope' - Concerning a serial rapist and killer, this could have been Hitch's darkest movie. He also wanted to shoot the whole movie from the killer's POV. Great stuff, but of course it was too ugly and dark for its time, and studio brass turned it down. Link

5. 'Don Quixote' - A literary classic that is the curse of every director that tries to bring it to life. Orson Welles tried it, and failed. Gilliam tried it decades later - the resulting failure produced the documentary 'Lost in La Mancha'. It's a movie that defies its directors to be made. Link

6. Terry Gilliam's... Everything - Gilliam is an exciting and imaginative filmmaker. He's also been involved in more projects that failed to get the final green light than anyone I can think of. See the long list of really great projects that never quite made it: Link.

7. Carl Dreyer's 'Jesus' - I still hold that a decent & reasonably accurate account of one of the best stories ever told (whether you believe it's true or not) has not been filmed. But if anyone could've made an excellent and challenging spiritual drama, it would've been Dreyer. Link.

8. David Lean's 'Nostromo' - He was developing Joseph Conrad's epic Nostromo when he died in 1991. Could've been another Bridge on the River Kwai or Doctor Zhivago. Link.

9. Andrzej Munk's 'Passenger' - Andrzej Munk died during filming from a car crash. What survives of Munk's work is brilliant, what was 'filled in' to copmlete the film by Witold Lesiewicz is, well, not Munk's movie. Link

10. Lem Dobbs' 'Edward Ford' - A really, really great script. I can understand while certain other projects on this list didn't make it, but this one dumfounds me. Certainly this would have at least as big an audience as his other projects, like Kafka, Dark City, and The Limey? There's hope for this one yet. I have a copy of the script if you want to read it. Link

11. 'The Catcher in the Rye' - Several directors have been interested in developing an adaptation of this classic novel, but the author isn't too keen on the idea. Link

12. David Lynch's 'Ronny Rocket' - David Lynch's script for a followup to Eraserhead has floated around Hollywood for 20 years and never quite gotten the green light. Link

13. Ray Bradbury's 'The Dreamers' - A terrific novel and a terrific script for this promising supernatural thriller couldn't attract any Hollywood talent in 1958. Link

14. 'I am Legend' - Plenty of big-name actors have jumped on board with this kickass-sounding project, but the budget has always been the problem that sunk it. There's still hope for this one. Link

15. Disney's 'A Princess of Mars' - This would have been the first animated feature, before Snow White, had it not been scrapped. And back then, Disney was making really good movies. Link

16. Benjamin Christensen's 'The Saints and The Spirits' - Christensen intended, and began to shoot a trilogy of spiritual investigation films that began with the amazing Haxan, but the two followups were never realized due to a financial crisis.

17. Sergei Eisenstein's 'Que Viva Mexico' - The maker of the superb The Battleship Potemkin wanted to make a social history of Mexico, but couldn't get funding. Some footage was actually shot, and revealed the film's innovative approach, but his full vision was never realized. Link

18. James Cameron's 'Spider-Man' - Despite True Lies, I have faith that James Cameron's Spider-Man would have been far superior to what Raimi has given us. Link

19. 'Manhattan Ghost Story' - A really cool novel that was ripped off by the wildly popular The Sixth Sense. But, now, The Others was made, so why can't this one succeed, too? Link

20. Honorable Mention: Orson Welles' Batman - Orson Welles' vision of Batman was a dark, serious psycho-drama. Had it made it past the silly little casting disagreement that sunk it, it might have single-handedly brought a public popularity and respect for comics that has never existed, at a time when comic books were in their infancy. Link - This is a hoax!

Maybe we can add Megalopolis to this list. Rob would have added Walter Newman's 'Harrow Alley'.

As far as I know James Cameron is working on Avatar right now and will be out in 3D in 2009.


I'm with Rob

I was watching youtube today and thought how wonderful these little bits of media have survived.

A public repository of culture/humour/film/video/television is healthy.

Does the McDlt still exist? I find myself with a little craving...


Spielberg Part 2 - Saving Private Ryan

There have been a couple of instances where emotional manipulation has worked against Steven Spielberg. In particular, the case against 'Saving Private Ryan', Spielbergs visceral World War II picture. It's a pretty good film but has a few lapses in story logic, the worst one comes after you've seen the film and realize the manipulation that has gone on. It's dishonest and blatantly manipulative.

Take these images. In terms of reading the film and film grammar, the combination of these images tell me this: Old guy goes to war cemetary and is clearly broken up, remembering the horrors of his past. Cut to flash back, Omaha Beach, we set the scene - an attack from the water. Close up on shaking hands drawing the canteen to the lips and come down to a close up of Tom Hanks. The close up matches very close to the last image of the old man, so we assume that he is this character.

Now all of this is fine in the moment and for most of the picture until Tom Hanks is killed in action and we find out our old guy is Private Ryan. All of this is working on an emotional level but suddenly my brain goes - hey! Ryan was never at Omaha... Why did he go to Omaha? Maybe to see his brothers graves? I suppose that could be it. It brings me back to the beginning of the film and I start to realize the manipulation that has gone on to dupe me. It's a nice idea to start the film but ultimately reveals the wizard behind the curtain (Mr. Spielberg) and weakens the film.

Sometimes logic does need to trump emotion.

William Goldman wrote about 'Saving Private Ryan' in his book 'Which Lie Did I Tell': "Saving Private Ryan, with its justly famous twenty-four minute early battle sequence, its fine Homer-like Odyssey hour where Ryan is sought, becomes, once he is found, a disgrace. False in every conceivable way possible, including giving the lie to its great twenty-four minutes. That sequence told us war is hell, too. The last hour tells us that war can be a neat learning experience for little Matt Damon.
In other words, Hollywood horseshit."

Goldman seems to take the side of Mordecai Richlers issues with 'Schindler's List'. Goldman also has a big problem with another key logic issue (in a seperate essay). It has to do with Ryan's not wanting to leave when they find him. What human being wouldn't take the get out of jail free card? Especially when men have risked their lives for you, your brothers are all dead and your poor mother is at home with her soul crushed. The logic problem would have been easy to address and the film could have gone on the same way. Ryan agrees to go, they head out and spot the incoming German army who is blocking their avenue for retreat. They go back and tell the boys and fight it out.

The other question Goldman is asking is, what kind of War picture would you make? He uses Ingmar Bergman's 'Shame' as his personal benchmark. Coppola made 'Apocalypse Now', Terrence Malick made 'The Thin Red Line', Wolfgang Peterson made 'Das Boot'. These are very different kinds of War pictures. 'Saving Private Ryan' seems to be somewhere between the old time war pictures that showed men of valour and quiet heroes and the new kind of films where the gloves come off and the amp is turned up to eleven. Regardless, I don't hate the last hour of 'Saving Private Ryan' like Goldman as it is an interesting film to reflect on.


Steven Spielberg

I was watching Jaws last night and got to thinking about some of the things that have made Spielberg so successful. I am a firm believer that film is an emotional medium. It works its best magic when it is trying to make you feel something. This isn't to say that the collision of images doesn't create ideas and tickle the cerebral, however first and foremost it makes you feel something - anger, laughter, sadness, terror, melancholy, excitement, fear etc. There are few filmmakers that have a better knack for this than Steven Spielberg.

Critics accuse him of being sentimental and manipulative and I think there is something to be said for that. His dramas are most often in the realm of fantasy. He isn't Sidney Lumet or Igmar Bergman whose films are gentle, honest and made in the style of realism. And it certainly isn't the verite style of Vittorio De Sica and 'The Bicycle Thief'. Moredcai Richler once wrote an article called 'Why I Hated Schindler's List'. In the article he calls Spielberg a comic book maker and states that he lacked the dramatic depth needed for such delicate material. A rather harsh criticism but again, not without merit. His films often feature archetypes who are either good or evil. The brilliant exceptions that come to mind are John Malkovich's character in 'Empire of the Sun' (one of my favourite Spielberg films) and Ralph Fienne's character in 'Schindler's List'. Who knows how much this had to do with writing, directing or performing but rarely does a character in a Spielberg film have such depths. Does this make him a bad filmmaker? Hardly.

Spielberg works on a gut level and is a master manipulator when it comes to sound, light, composition and performance. His focus is razor sharp and he knows exactly how to pull at the audiences heart strings. These images I've pulled from E.T. are a great example of how well crafted and how confident he is at telling his stories. There are all sorts of logic issues in this sequence. First of all, what is the source of all these lights? Why do the 'bad' guys walk over a hill pushing the plastic tent? Why don't they have a truck and how long have they been pushing that thing? Why are they in space suits?

All of these questions of logic can pull the audience right out of the story but Spielberg has such terrific instincts for this material. He is totally fearless and pulls it off. Every piece that I described above isn't meant for your brain, it's meant for your gut. And this is where film has its power, the brain is overpowered by emotion (manipulated or truthful).

E.T. is a great film. Yes it's manipulative, yes it's sappy, and yes it works. Spielberg juggles the feelings of dread, joy and melancholy and plays the heart strings like a world class violinist. It's also optimistic, unlike his rendition of 'War of the Worlds'. Like 'Close Encounters', E.T. looks up at the sky with wonder, amazement and hope that not everything in the universe is hell bent on murder.

**Notice the terrific compositions, particularly the Wellesian angle of the towering man in the space suit. This low angle shot is all about the feeling of intimidation and fear. Hitchock was a master at these kinds of compositions as well. Images tell stories and just as important, they make us feel.

The Wind Chill Factor

In David Mamets 'Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama' Mamet puts forward the notion that drama is an inherent part of the human condition. It is what he calls 'the wind chill factor'. Even though the temperature in winter might only be
-10 degrees we dramatize it with the sinister wind chill factor creating an unbelievable -25 degree day. It is our nature, Mamet contests, to crave drama even where there is none. Yesterday in Toronto the temperature hit 34 degrees celcius but it wasn't dramatic enough so the weather was reported as 44 degrees with the 'humidex'. I guess we need the counterpart to the wind chill. It made me laugh - we are a melodramatic lot.

There are some who defy this intrinsic nature. You know the one - he corners you at a party and has stories without purpose or point - anecdotes without anecdotes.


Speaking of Coppola

I caught a bit of 'Patton' this morning on AMC. Coppola won his first Oscar in 1970 as one of the writers of 'Patton'. I found this interview excerpt:

What do you think are the most important characteristics for success in your field?

Francis Ford Coppola: Courage, I think, because I don't think there's any artist of any value who doesn't doubt what they're doing. That's what I would say in looking back at my life, at the things that I got in the most trouble for, or that I was fired for.

I wrote the script of Patton. And the script was very controversial when I wrote it, because they thought it was so stylized. It was supposed to be like, sort of, you know, The Longest Day. And my script of Patton was -- I was sort of interested in the reincarnation. And I had this very bizarre opening where he stands up in front of an American flag and gives this speech. Ultimately, I wasn't fired, but I was fired, meaning that when the script was done, they said, "Okay, thank you very much," and they went and hired another writer and that script was forgotten. And I remember very vividly this long, kind of being raked over the coals for this opening scene. My point is that what I've learned is that the stuff that I got in trouble for, the casting for The Godfather or the flag scene in Patton, was the stuff that was remembered, and was considered really the good work.

I took the above picture at the Coppola Winery in Napa California. Coppola once said that he was lucky to have won Oscars when he was young because he knew some filmmakers who, late in their careers, had become obessessed with winning one before they retired or expired. Of course the cynics would say that they are giving them away these days. But that's just the cynics.


For all you Coppola fans... well, Jim anyway.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of Francis Coppola (even with the Ford in the middle). It's very exciting to see that he has stepped out to make another personal film and to see that he has once again teamed up with the great editor and sound guru Walter Murch. Although Coppola has been unfairly trashed for his work in the 1980's and 90's, no one can deny the spectacular run he had in the 1970's with 'The Godfather', 'The Conversation', 'The Godfather Part II' and 'Apocalypse Now'. Most filmmakers would love to have any one of those films on their resume...

I quote Steven Spielberg:

"I've never made a movie anywhere near as good as The Godfather and I don't have ambition to, either. If it happens, it happens."

It's also of some interest to note that he shot this new film in High Definition Video. Coppola has always been on the cutting edge of technology so it will be interesting to see what he does with the relavitively new format.

Coppola's Latest, "Youth Without Youth," Lands at Sony Classics

by Eugene Hernandez
Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American rights to "Youth Without Youth," the first film in a decade by Francis Ford Coppola. The company is planning a late Fall release this year. Adapted from a novella by Romanian author Mircea Eliade, Coppola wrote, directed and produced the new film, which stars Tim Roth. The actor plays Dominic Matei, described as, "an elderly professor whose mysterious rejuvenation heightens his intelligence and whose apparent immortality makes him a target for the Nazis in this World War II-era parable."

In a statement from his company, American Zoetrope, Coppola described the movie as, "A love story wrapped in a mystery." And he added, "This film was conceived and completed independently. It was made with a small team that worked intensively in Romania for a year and a half. The story revolves around the key themes that I most hope to understand better: time, consciousness, and the dream-like basis of reality."

Continuing he praised Sony Classics as, "the pre-eminent distributor of fine filmmaking," and he explained in the statement, "Following in a tradition begun at the side of Arthur Krim, through the excellence of UA and Orion Classics, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard remain for me the ultimate authority of what I consider true cinema -- ambitious and satisfying personal films that take their place alongside traditions of literature and art."

"I consider myself fortunate to be working with such a company and proud that 'Youth Without Youth' will be under their care," Coppola continued, "I am lucky that my number one wish for the distributor of 'Youth Without Youth' has come true."

Executive produced by Anahid Nazarian and Fred Roos, the film was shot by Mihai Malaimare Jr. Walter Murch joined Coppola to edit the film in Romania, where it was shot, with music by Osvaldo Golijov. It was a Euro-treaty co-production of SRG Atelier, Pricel, and BIM Distribuzione, and is presented by American Zoetrope. It also stars Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz, Andre M. Hennicke, Marcel Iures, and Alexandra Pirici.

'Youth Without Youth' is what we call a full meal, satisfying in all departments," said Sony Classics' Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. "It is personal, sweeping, and entertaining. It is unlike anything we've seen before. It is the kind of innovative movie we've come to appreciate from new successful independent filmmakers while at the same time possessing a mastery of story, sound, and visuals that you can only get from a Francis Coppola movie. The title says it all."

"We are thrilled to bring such a film to the American audience," Barker and Bernard said, "May Sony Pictures Classics bring the same fresh energy to the release of 'Youth Without Youth' as Francis has in its creation."