Jeff's Favorite Movies
As of today, I've watched and rated 2,319 movies, assigning each a numerical rating 1 (a waste of life) and 10 (loved it). Of course, this rating took place over many many years and I can't claim that my ratings have been consistent over the long haul; I'm sure that my tastes have changed during this journey. But although I'd like to, I can't watch all 2,319 movies over again to try and be more consistent, so for what it's worth, here is the list of the 60-or-so movies I've rated 9 or 10, followed by the 300-or-so-next-best films I've rated as 8.
I generally favor movies that are heavy in the plot department; there are many movies which are highly regarded on the Internet Movie Database or by critics which I don't like at all. Breathless is one such example. To me, it felt like nothing happened, and I rated it a 4 (I've since re-rated it as 7, because I now better appreciate it's allure, but it's still not a favorite). Even the highly-regarded Citizen Kane falls into that category; I rated it a 7 since although it might have introduced lots of new film techniques and had many interesting perspectives, the plot itself was totally boring to me. I didn't ever really care what "Rosebud" meant, so the rest of the film's goodness was lost on me. So those are two movies that don't quite make it onto my list of favorite movies. If you strongly disagree with both of these non-recommendations, you might as well stop reading here because my tastes don't align with yours. But if you tentatively agree, keep reading.
To rate a movie highly (that is, rate it as if I'd really enjoy watching it again, which is what my rating of 8 means), it has to have at least one of the following: a great plot, gorgeous photography, be a musical, contain beautiful music such as the way Kubrick used music, be a great science-fiction movie, or include anything about Italy, or especially Rome, for which I'm a total slut. I'm not at all adverse to non-American films; many of my 300-or-so-next-best films are black-and-white subtitled films. So if you're still reading and these things also tickle your fancy, here are my favorite 300-or-so movies out of the 2,319 I've watched.
I welcome you to send me an email with any comments on my choices.
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My Favorite 60 or so Movies, listed alphabetically
- (subtitled) The Hidden Fortress: Peasants, general, princess and lots of gold travel across borders, similar plot to Star Wars (R2D2 and C3P0 help Solo and Skywalker get Princess Leah to safety). Superb comedy, superb direction, love the scene where the generals fight with spears.
- The Naked Island: A masterfully crafted cinematic poem about a peasant family of four who are the only inhabitants of a small Japanese island where they terrace-farm the land. Their daily workload is tremendous, rowing to the mainland, collecting water, bringing it back and hauling it up the terraces to water their plants individually. Their story is told without any dialog (!), but instead has gorgeous musical accompaniment, and features beautiful black-and-white photography in which many individual frames of the movie could be cut out, printed and hung on a wall as artwork. Be prepared for a very unusual experience when you sit down to watch this movie. It is excruciatingly slow and you must clear your mind and enjoy the photography, the music, the slowly-exposed story of these people and their environment. After watching, be sure to watch again with the original soundtrack (not audio track 2), but with subtitle track 2, which is an English translation of the Japanese director’s and music composer’s commentary track.
- (subtitled) Rashomon: Conflicting testimony of crimes of rape, murder and robbery are told by the three participants in these actions. Then they are recalled during a pounding rainstorm by three people taking refuge under the Rashomon Gate in 12th-century Kyoto, Japan. They seek to figure out the truth, but are frustrated in this effort. Perhaps each testimony is the truth that each witness would have been proud of? This 1950 Japanese movie, directed by Akira Kurosawa and featuring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura is a true classic, along with The Seven Samurai. So influential worldwide that the term 'the Rashomon Effect' has come to mean what occurs when an event is given contradictory interpretations by the individuals involved.
- (subtitled) The Seven Samurai: This is another superb Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa and featuring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, as is Rashomon. In this one, seven unemployed samurai soldiers are hired in 1587 by a small peasant farming village to defend the village from impending attack by bandits. It took me a few viewings (and listening to the DVD commentary tracks) to understand the Japanese culture and history in this movie, but once I did so the movie advanced from a really fun action movie into a masterpiece. It's been imitated many times, but never bettered.
In case you agree with my list of favorite movies, here are my 300-or-so-next-best films that you might also enjoy, again listed alphabetically
(The best 34 in this bunch are in bold font)
- (subtitled) Floating Weeds: Well-made movie about the leader of a troupe of travelling actors who returns to the city where his illegitimate son and one-time-girlfriend live. The troupe returns there occasionally, where he sees his son, masquerading as an uncle. The son is now grown and falls in love with a girl in the troup. This is Ozu’s remake of his own 1934 silent film ‘A Story of Floating Weeds’ (Floating Weeds means Drifters). This version of the film features superb photographic compositions in every scene, with splashes of color (especially red) in most compositions, especially in the lower-right corner.
- (subtitled) High and Low: An employee’s son is kidnapped, and the rich executive boss has to decide whether to pay to have the son recovered. Then the 2nd half of the film deals with the attempt by the police to find the kidnapper and bring him to justice.
- (subtitled) Ikiru: A worker in the bureaucracy of the post- WW II Tokyo city hall with terminal cancer decides to make a contribution to society that will outlast him.
- (subtitled) Stray Dog: Excellent Kurosawa detective thriller with a superb view into life in postwar Japan.
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And finally, a few TV series which I've especially enjoyed, again in alphabetical order
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