Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick Pick Their 10 Favorite Films

From Open Culture, here are two "top ten" lists from two of America's most important filmmakers of the last 50 years. First up is Stanley Kubrick, who made his list in 1963. It would be interesting to see how that might have changed if he had done it in the last decade of his life.

The other list comes from one of my favorite directors, Martin Scorsese, who made his list earlier this year. Scorsese includes Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on his list - I wonder if Kubrick in his later years would have included Taxi Driver or Raging Bull or Mean Streets?

Stanley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Created)

July 30th, 2013

When, over the past weekend, I noticed the words “Stanley Kubrick” had risen into Twitter’s trending-topics list, I got excited. I figured someone had discovered, in the back of a long-neglected studio vault, the last extant print of a Kubrick masterpiece we’d somehow all forgotten. No suck luck, of course; Kubrick scholars, given how much they still talk about even the auteur’s never-realized projects like Napoleon, surely wouldn’t let an entire movie slip into obscurity. The burst of tweets actually came in honor of Kubrick’s 85th birthday, and hey, any chance to celebrate a director whose filmography includes the likes of Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ll seize. The British Film Institute marked the occasion by posting a little-seen list of Kubrick’s top ten films.

“The first and only (as far as we know) Top 10 list Kubrick submitted to anyone was in 1963 to a fledgling American magazine named Cinema (which had been founded the previous year and ceased publication in 1976),” writes the BFI’s Nick Wrigley. It runs as follows:

1. I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953)
2. Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957)
3. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948)
5. City Lights (Chaplin, 1931)
6. Henry V (Olivier, 1944)
7. La notte (Antonioni, 1961)
8. The Bank Dick (Fields, 1940—above)
9. Roxie Hart (Wellman, 1942)
10. Hell’s Angels (Hughes, 1930)

But seeing as Kubrick still had 36 years to live and watch movies after making the list, it naturally provides something less than the final word on his preferences. Wrigley quotes Kubrick confidant Jan Harlan as saying that “Stanley would have seriously revised this 1963 list in later years, though Wild Strawberries, Citizen Kane and City Lights would remain, but he liked Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V much better than the old and old-fashioned Olivier version.” He also quotes Kubrick himself as calling Max Ophuls the “highest of all” and “possessed of every possible quality,” calling Elia Kazan “without question the best director we have in America,” and praising heartily David Lean, Vittorio de Sica, and François Truffaut. This all comes in handy for true cinephiles, who can never find satisfaction watching only the filmmakers they admire; they must also watch the filmmakers the filmmakers they admire admire.

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Martin Scorsese Reveals His 10 Favorite Movies (and Writes a New Essay on Film Preservation)

July 31st, 2013

Cinema as we’ve almost always known it — “Edison, the Lumière brothers, Méliès, Porter, all the way through Griffith and on to Kubrick” — has “really almost gone.” So writes Martin Scorsese in his recent essay for the New York Review of Books, “The Persisting Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema.” He argues that traditional film forms have “been overwhelmed by moving images coming at us all the time and absolutely everywhere, even faster than the visions coming at the astronaut” in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “We have no choice but to treat all these moving images coming at us as a language. We need to be able to understand what we’re seeing and find the tools to sort it all out.” Only natural that Scorsese, as one of the best-known, highest-profile auteurs alive, would reference Kubrick, his generational predecessor in the untiring furtherance of cinematic vision and craft.

We just yesterday featured a post about Kubrick’s 1963 list of ten favorite films. Scorsese, for his part, has impressed many as one of the most enthusiastically cinephilic directors working in America today: his essays about and appearances on the DVDs of his favorite movies stand as evidence for the surprising breadth of his appreciation. Today, why not have a look at Scorsese’s list, which he put together for Sight and Sound magazine, and which begins with the Kubrick selection you might expect:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick
(1963) – Federico Fellini
Ashes and Diamonds (1958) – Andrzej Wajda
Citizen Kane (1941) – Orson Welles
The Leopard (1963) – Luchino Visconti
Paisan (1946) – Roberto Rossellini
The Red Shoes (1948) – Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger
The River (1951) – Jean Renoir
Salvatore Giuliano (1962) – Francesco Rosi
The Searchers (1956) – John Ford
Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) – Mizoguchi Kenji
Vertigo (1958) – Alfred Hitchcock

In “The Persisting Vision,” he champions comprehensive film preservation, citing the case of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the final entry on his list, now named the greatest film of all time by Sight and Sound‘s critics poll. “When the film came out some people liked it, some didn’t, and then it just went away.” When, after decades of obscurity, Vertigo came back into circulation, the color was completely wrong,” and “the elements — the original picture and sound negatives — needed serious attention.” A restoration of the “decaying and severely damaged” film eventually happened, and “more and more people saw Vertigo and came to appreciate its hypnotic beauty and very strange, obsessive focus.” I, personally, couldn’t imagine the world of cinema without it — nor without any of the other pictures Scorsese calls his favorites.

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~ Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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