Jeff's Favorite Movies

As of today, I've watched and rated 2,800 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 2,800 movies over again to try and be more consistent, so for what it's worth, here is the list of the 70-or-so movies I've rated 9 or 10, followed by the 320-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 email with any comments on my choices.

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My Favorite 60 or so Movies, listed alphabetically

  1. (subtitled) Last Year at Marienbad: A movie with polarized reviews. Many people hate it, thinking it's the epitome of pretentious French cinema. I happen to really like the film as a beautifully-photographed black-and-white masterpiece that is a real brain-twister. Sit back, enjoy the photography, the sounds, the mirrors, the talking, the circles that don't quite return to their starting point. For me, this one's a blast! Past, Present and Future are mashed together seemingly randomly. Mantras of the narrator are repeated over and over, sometimes with slight variations. A man tries to convince a woman who claims she doesn't know him that they met here last year and had an intense relationship. My first time watching resulted in sheer confusion. During my next few viewings, I tried to piece together a coherent story, reading articles on the internet (like these) for ideas. But there is no coherent story - each potential explanation makes sense for 80% of the movie, then fails miserably for the other 20%. Eventually, I found I enjoy the film best if I just sit back and enjoy the photography, the narration, the bits of story, and accept that this is abstract cinema at its finest.
  2. (subtitled) The Piano Teacher: A young student falls in love with his much older sadistic and masochistic piano teacher.
  3. (subtitled) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: A musical (actually an OPERA, since all words in this movie are sung, none spoken) about idyllic young love interrupted by separation due to war, and the long-term impact of that separation on it’s young lovers.
  4. (subtitled) The Young Girls of Rochefort: Superb lighter-than-air pastel-colored musical about 3 couples searching for love in care-free Rochefort, France, during the construction and the weekend of a carnival. Lots of singing and dancing, humor, likable characters, a forward-moving plot, and really enjoyable music are to be found in this totally over-the-top fantasy.

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)

  1. (subtitled) Alphaville: Fantastic mix of sci-fi, film-noir, comedy, over-the-top music, and the superb voice of the Alpha-60 computer. A secret agent posing as a reporter travels to Alphaville, a futuristic city in another galaxy, to destroy an evil scientist named Von Braun who has created the Alpha-60 machine which outlaws love and self-expression.
  2. (subtitled) The Battle of Algiers: The story of Algerian resistance fighters during their 1950s fight for independence from the French government.
  3. (subtitled) Carmen: Bizet's opera Carmen features great music and a story involving a soldier who falls into unrequited love.
  4. (subtitled) Cleo from 5 to 7: Two hours in the life of a gorgeous woman singer in Paris who is awaiting the results of a biopsy, fearful of a cancer diagnosis.
  5. (subtitled) Daguerreotypes: The lives of the shopkeepers along the Rue Daguerre, in Paris, where the filmmaker, Agnes Varda, lived
  6. (subtitled) Les Diaboliques: The wife of a brutish schoolmaster and a teacher who was his former lover, join forces to drown him in a bathtub then dump him in the school’s swimming pool. But when the pool is drained, he is not there. A police inspector keeps hounding them for clues to the man’s death.
  7. (subtitled) Jacquot de Nantes: The story of Jacque Demy (Varda’s husband) as a child, including events during his childhood that went on to appear in each of his movies, written and filmed while he was dying of AIDS.
  8. (subtitled) Jean de Florette: A greedy landowner and his backward nephew conspire to block the only water source for an adjoining property in order to bankrupt the hunchback owner and force him to sell his farm to them so they can unblock the spring and grow carnations on the property. Beautiful music and cinematography. The sequel is Manon of the Spring.
  9. (subtitled) La Jetee: The precursor to Twelve Monkeys. An experimental film made with narration over still photos (except one video clip of the woman waking up) about experiments in the aftermath of WWIII to travel to the future to obtain what’s necessary for humanity to survive.
  10. (subtitled) Lola: Jacque Demy tells, in French New Wave style, a really good story of the intersecting lives of several characters in France during the 50s in his first full-length film. Lola is a dancer/entertainer/prostitute with an American sailor who lovers her, an old flame who reappears in her life, and her ex / father of her child who has reappears after 7 years overseas. This is a brief film that moves right along and therefore keeps one’s interest, and one with beautiful scenery, for example the super-picturesque shopping arcade named Passage Pommeraye in the city of Nantes, France. Many of the characters love each other, Frankie, Roland, and Michel love Lola, Lola maybe loves Roland and Michel, Madame Desnoyers loves Roland, her daughter Cecile loves both Roland and Frankie. Not only are they connected with encounters, but with history. For example, Madame Desnoyers used to be a dancer like Lola is, and Celine wants to be one. All of them exhibit some innocence in that even when they lie to each other, they go back and correct those lies later. And, by the way, beautiful actress playing Lola will be Marcello’s lover Maddelena in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, and Guido’s wife in Fellini’s 8 1-2.
  11. (subtitled) Love Me If You Dare: Childhood friends taunt each other through life. The final 15 minutes will leave you reeling.
  12. (subtitled) Manon of the Spring: This is the sequel to Jean de Florette, in which the now-grown daughter of the hunchback is a shepherdess who learns of Cesar and Ugolin's deceipt of her father and extracts revenge on those men who caused her father's death years earlier.
  13. (subtitled) Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog): Half-hour sobering holocaust documentary about the Nazi death camps, told by narration over high impact photos and videos of the actual camps
  14. (subtitled) Orpheus: A poet in love with the grim reaperess goes to the afterlife to recover the life of his wife. Great special effects for the time, great story, beautifully made with tremendous post-WWII scenery.
  15. (subtitled) Our Body: Follows doctors and patients at a gynecology ward in France as they deal with abortion, gender transition, help with pregnancy, IVF, natural childbirth, cesarian birth of twins, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, menopause.
  16. (subtitled) Purple Noon: The original French version of "The Talented Mr Ripley", interesting to see the differences in interpretation of the story. I like both, but probably the American version better.
  17. (subtitled) Rififi: The perfect heist.
  18. (subtitled) Le Samourai: A hitman evades capture despite the police suspecting his alabis are faked
  19. (subtitled) The Soft Skin: Married middle-aged author meets single young stewardess and they have an affair. They spend more and more time together and this takes a toll on his marriage and also their relationship.
  20. (subtitled) A Very Long Engagement: The story of a young woman’s relentless search for her fiancee, who disappeared from the trenches of World War I, presumed dead since he was convicted of treason and punished by being pushed into the No Man’s Land.
  21. (subtitled) The Wages of Fear: Four men are hired to drive two trucks carrying a half-ton of explosive nitro-glycerine over terrible dirt roads in South America without the necessary safety equipment. Slow start but very intense second half.

And finally, a few TV series which I've especially enjoyed, again in alphabetical order

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