My Number 2 pick is going to come as a surprise to Ponty, at the very least; it’s certainly a bit of a surprise to me. It’s not because I don’t love this film—indeed, it may be my favorite film of all time—but because it’s not firmly at Number 1.
My original intent was to place John Carpenter‘s lightning-in-a-bottle classic Big Trouble in Little China(1996) in the top spot, but I realized there is a film that is objectively better (probably many such films exist, but the one I have in mind is, perhaps, the greatest film ever made, and not just because a chubby Internet personality says so).
I’m also thankful that we’ll be both be posting “Hono[u]rable Mention” (HM) pieces before we reveal our Number 1s. I am realizing that I missed quite a few classics—Ghostbusters (1984) and Blade Runner(1982), for example—and I am increasingly regretting placing Krull (1983) on the list, even at Number 7. I think it’s a great movie, but in hindsight, it should have been an HM pick.
But enough whinging. There’ll be plenty of time for that on the HM post. What about the second greatest film of all time?
My sincerest apologies again to readers: I am extremely delayed with this review (as readers will note, this Monday review is going up on a Thursday—d’oh!). Like a good little port, I re-watched 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Lifetwo or three weeks ago, when Audre, Ponty, and I agreed to review it and the 1951 Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol earlier in December. I was writing and editing like the wind to get most everything done before departing for a pre-Christmas trip to Arizona (more on that in a separate post), but didn’t quite manage to get it all done.
As I’ll detail in another post, I spent the first quarter of Christmas Day driving from western Kentucky down through Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Augusta, before finally reaching my parents’ home in western South Carolina. I’d managed to get posts done through Christmas, thanks to a delayed connecting flight in Minneapolis, but was unable to get much more writing done beyond that. Christmas Eve saw me convoying to Kentucky from my older brother’s home in Indianapolis; I spent a frosty Christmas Eve with his in-laws on their farm, before setting out early Christmas morn along the route delineated above.
That’s all to say that, despite my chubbiest efforts, I was not able to get everything done. Facing the prospect of writing this review late on Christmas night, I put it off, hoping I’d knock it out Monday evening—to no avail.
But I digress—enough excuses. What about the film?
Ponty’s list of flicks has been full of pleasant surprises, and his #6 pick is no exception. I wasn’t expecting a dark comedy from 1944—a “farce,” as Ponty calls it.
Like his review—surprisingly succinct coming from our loquacious Ponty—I don’t have much to add. Let’s just say I’ve always wanted to see this film, and thanks to Ponty, I can finally do that—he includes a link to the full flick on YouTube. You can, too, and I encourage you to do so.
It also gets bonus points in my book because Boris Karloff was in the stage version, and would have been in the film if the producers hadn’t been worried about stripping the stage production of its entire leading cast. Sorry, Boris—you deserved better!
After taking last week off from movie reviews to celebrate Halloween, I’m back with my #6 pick for the best movies of all time.
Unfortunately, I’m struggling with some manner of fever-cum-sinus infection (probably not The Virus, but who even knows anymore), and after an unusual week, I fell behind on my rigorous pre-scheduling of posts. As such, this review of a truly fantastic film may be a tad shorter than usual. I doubt it will reach Pontian lengths, to say the least.
That said, I’m excited to write about this flick, even as I’m over here hacking up a lung. It’s a movie that combines two of my favorite topics—mid-twentieth-century social history and gangsters—into one thrilling package.
I’m referring, of course, to Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas.
If readers thought my placement of 1983’s sci-fi/fantasy/swashbuckler Krull at #7 was shocking, this week’s #7 pick from Ponty will truly blow your staggered minds. From the man who just wrote about Halloween(1978), I’d never expect a splashy musical.
I remember seeing this flick back in 2016 on a date, and remember enjoying it (not just due to the excellent execution and story, but probably thanks to Emma Stone—shew!). Suddenly, my students wanted to play “City of Stars” all the time, and jazz piano enjoyed an all-too-brief resurgence.
Ponty gives it a very thorough review, as you’ll see, that really brings out some of the sparkling details of the film without spoiling anything. It probably also holds the distinction of being the only review of a film musical to reference Grand Theft Auto 5, so that should be worth something.
With that, here is Ponty’s review of 2016’s La La Land:
While we’re still outside of the Top Five—where the rubber really hits the road, and the picks have to correspond to actual, objective quality, and not just the passing whims of two amateur film reviewers—I’ve got to squeeze in another personal favorite. To say this week’s pick is one of the “best” films is, perhaps, a stretch.
Really, no “perhaps” about it—it was a box office bomb and, while it has attained a certain cult status, it has not risen to the heights of many films with that dubious distinction. Many “cult classics” are viewed overly fondly, as if to counteract the overly negative reviews at the time of the film’s release. My #7 pick has enjoyed a bit of an improved reputation since its release, but its reviews are still mixed.
But for me, it’s a great film—a bit of swashbuckling, sci-fi/fantasy fun that bends and blends genres like a wet noodle in a food processor: somehow, the finished product comes out tasting pretty good, even if it doesn’t make any sense.
Should 1983’s adventure Krull go on my honorable mentions post? Probably. Am I placing it higher on my list than the (objectively better) films behind it? You bet.
I particularly love how Ponty opens his review discussing the impact of music in film. Horror soundtracks now seem to be riddled with clichés, like sustained dissonant chords and screechy violin glissandos. But John Carpenter and others were composing actual music that sounded creepy without resorting to silly gimmicks. What kid doesn’t sit down at the piano this time of year and try to pick out that theme?
Well, I won’t give much more away; it’s an excellent, lovingly-crafted review.
With that, here is Ponty’s review of 1978’s Halloween:
Ponty has been plugging away at this Top Ten Best Films, and as I predicted, he’s suffering from an embarrassment of riches. Doing the bad films was difficult in some ways, but if you call a “bad” film wrong, it’s no big deal—no one would watch it, anyway.
Good films, while rarer, are still abundant enough to make the selection process difficult. Just when you think you have a sense for your list, you’re reminded of some classic that you managed to forget in the depths of your memory hole.
That was my experience when reading Ponty’s #9 pick. I love this film (which came out when I was in college), but somehow it had slipped my mind for consideration in my own list. What a fool I was! As Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote (to paraphrase, since I don’t feel like looking up the exact quotation): “We don’t need to be taught so much as we need to be reminded.” So true!
Well, Ponty did an excellent job reminding me in this impressive review.