A veteran critic offers a decade-by-decade list of the films that have been like “friends who’ve enriched my life.”
Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Morning Edition film critic Turan (Now in Theaters Everywhere: A Celebration of a Certain Kind of Blockbuster, 2006, etc.) confesses his discomfort with his own project: so many films. He was so uncomfortable, in fact, that at the end, he suggests two others for slot 55, then appends yet another list of 54 that he’s loved. Film lovers will eagerly swoop in to see if their favorites are present, and there are certainly some surprises. Turan does not mention either Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd. Citizen Kane does not make the first cut—though it does appear as a recommendation at the end of his discussion of Sweet Smell of Success; it also appears in the appended list (as do two other Welles films). Turan’s tastes are eclectic: documentaries (Stranded), Westerns (The Unforgiven), an animated feature (Spirited Away), crime films (Kiss Me Deadly), musicals (Singin’ in the Rain), films based on classic novels (Great Expectations), films everyone’s heard of (Casablanca) and films that few beside the cognoscenti know (The Best of Youth). In each case, the author introduces each decade and discusses the directors and performers; in many instances, he summarizes the plots and/or gives some back story about the making of the films. Principally, however, he explores how each film affected him and how the filmmaker managed to do what he did (male filmmakers dominate here). Among the principal factors are cinematography, music, individual performances, the power of the plot, the settings, the ambiance, the effect of surprise and the styles of the directors. Although Turan discusses many Hollywood studio films, he also includes films from Japan, Italy, Denmark, Israel and elsewhere.
Like most other “my-favorites” projects, this one will surely ignite debate, disdain and delight.