Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cool Off With The Classics Blog-a-Thon

The second of Go-See-Talk's Winter Blog-a-Thon's is essentially a Top 10 Classics which became the hardest decision making process I've experienced since I started blogging.

The rules: Must be black & white, must be pre-1960's. That's it.

It's just cruel to set such a wide selection criteria. Bad Marc! Being a fan of noir my instincts were to include more from that canon that I have but in the interests of, well, interest I've abandoned that track and tried to select a mere ten of my all time favourite movies that I would happily watch again and again.

In chronological order I submit my selection for the Cool Off With The Classics Blog-a-Thon:

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

I know it can be considered a bit camp and a bit soft compared to the source material but I just love watching Bogie and Lorre and Greenstreet, I could watch this movie once a week with no hesitation.

Brief Encounter (1945)

Quite often I think that this is my favourite movie ever made. I love the absolute Britishness of it all. The stylised speech patterns and the repressed passions. Andre Bazin himself lavished praise on it for it's apparent realist approach towards painting a portrait of British society and manners. Although he did later recant his praise when he realised he's been had by David Lean's fabulous melodrama.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

What isn't incredible about this movie? I don't know. Nothing. It's a special piece of film making from one of the masters of the art, Billy Wilder.

Rashomon (1950)

There's something so simple and appealing about this movie. Possibly the Kurosawa I enjoy the most and one of the earliest films to offer this kind of narrative structure. I haven't come across any before 1950 anyway.

Tokyo Story (1953)

Beautifully shot, haunting portrayal of the loss of traditional family values in Japanese society of the 1950's. It's easy to say but this is my favourite film from Ozu.

The Killing (1956)

Possibly the only Kubrick film that I have fully enjoyed. I know, blasphemy. Another movie I could just watch and watch and watch. Among other things there's the clown masks being used by Nolan for The Dark Knight and the ending, wow, the ending will stay with me forever I think.

Touch of Evil (1958)

It seemed only right that I would feature the first and last films from the classic film noir period. This one is definitely may favourite from Welles if only for the excellent opening sequence.

Some Like It Hot (1959)

I know. It's another obvious choice. But I actually got so carried away writing a list of noir movies that I forgot that this film qualified. A late addition but oh so good indeed. Another Wilder movie but with an entirely different mood, this is a jolly good time all round.

Our Man in Havana (1959)

A film that seems to have been forgotten about and my attempt to have at least one unexpected pick. Based on the superb spy farce from Graham Greene, the film comes close to matching the novel for it's pace, intrigue and absurdity but doesn't quite reach the same stellar heights. Starring a young Old Ben Kenobi.

A Bout de Souffle (1960)

The ultimate in cinematic cool non? Barely scraping in as a classic with a release year of 1960 but Godard's New Wave figurehead features the infinitely cool Belmondo and the irresistible Jean Seberg in an enjoyable take on the film noir style.

I'm looking forward to seeing what others have done with this, I feel like I've been way too obvious. Any arguments over my selections? Any replacements you care to suggest? You know where the blahs are kept.


  1. This is a great list, I might do one of my own. Pre-1960 and in black and white? Fucking hell I could list 100 movies with that criteria. But I'll give it a shot.

    Nice to see A bout de Souffle on here, need to watch that one again.

  2. Brilliant addition to the blogathon. I have seen only a couple, mainly the big ones that would be on BBC2 on a Sunday arvo. But I really must look more into the history of cinema....but loook it is an exploding robot!!!

    Great job as ever Toby

  3. What ho, Pongo? Pip pip, cheerio.

  4. Great list, I really wanted to join but TBH I'm not a classical buff. I've seen very few, and very sparsely (is that a word haha). So I couldn't really make a confident top 10 out of them ..

    Brief Encounter is one of my favourite movies of all time though, so nice to see that included!

  5. tyler - i thought about a sub-theme to help make it easier/more interesting but it was too late, it only occurred to me whilst i was putting the final touches to it. i could've made 25 selections without hesitation. it hurt to leave some out.

    SL - the only one i could guess you've seen on a sunday afternoon is SOME LIKE IT HOT. what's the others? MALTESE FALCON? BRIEF ENCOUNTER? i hope you;ve seen BRIEF ENCOUNTER, it's a truly wonderful piece of cinema.

    Leah - stop bringing the school of comedy to my blog.

    anna - thank you for the kind words. BRIEF ENCOUNTER really is a special piece of cinema to the right kind of viewer, it's nice to meet someone else who appreciates it.

  6. The main thing I have enjoyed the most about taking part in this blogathon is reading others lists and realising how many films I still must watch! Brilliant list and inspired me to add a lot of them to my LOVEFiLM queue!

  7. hi caz - it's certainly been an eyeopener hasnt it. and no citizen kane on any list so far? incredible considering it tops that sight and sound list every year.

    if you haven't seen BRIEF ENCOUNTER i hope that's one of the ones added to your lovefilm queue.

  8. Touch of Evil's opening scene is certainly worth making the cut here. Good call.

    And The Maltese Falcon is my all-time favorite. It's so good, and I love the campy bits more and more each time I watch it. I could also watch this one every week.

  9. As others have said, the list could be much much longer than 10. Off the top of my head - Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Modern Times, Safety last!, All the King's Men, Seven Samurai, Ikuru, M, and All Quiet on the Western Front.

  10. You and I have at least one this time around Toby, but I have Roshomon and The Killing on my Hulu queue. Should get around to them in the next week or two. Good list!

  11. brian - it wasn't until after i finished watching the film that the TOUCH OF EVIL opening really started poking me in the brain, the problem being that it's virtually common place on tv shows to water the concept down these days.

    chip - i admit to considering some of the ones you mentioned but knowing nothing of some others. for me watching a chaplin is closer to watching an artefact than a movie however.

  12. alan - i hope you enjoy the two in your queue, you're for a real treat if you haven't seen them before.

  13. I totally forgot about Brief Encounter and Sunset Boulevard for my blog-a-thon entry. Both of those films are spectacular. I love that your list included some foreign films because most of my foreign film repetoire is from 1960 and later. I've seen Rashomon and A bout de Souffle but not Tokoyo Story. I will have to check that one out.

  14. I feel so cool. I've seen seven of your ten. Like you, I could watch Maltese Falcon every week. I think it was either this, or Some Like It Hot which was my first dvd purchase. I've got to try the same type of list. Hope you don't mind. If it's OK with you, I'll cite your blog and try not to repeat any that are on your list- even though I agree with most of your choices.

  15. Sherry - thank you for coming by. i am so happy about the amount of love BRIEF ENCOUNTER is getting. TOKYO STORY is often called the best movie ever made. i may have just made that up. but i don't think so. i hope you enjoy it.

    pd1248 - you clearly are cool for having seen 70% of this list. but you are 30% uncool however. whats letting you down?

    as for joining in the fun, i'll look forward to reading but credit should really go to Marc at for the idea for he is the glue that binds this blogathon together. however any link you send my way is much appreciated.

  16. Have seen quite a lot of them and truly some great choices. Some Like it Hot really had me laughing out loud and that doesn't happen often with the comedies I see.

    Have seen A Bout de Souffle last month and don't understand why people love it so much, not much happens and wasn't really won over by it (gave it a 6/10). Was I missing something?

  17. nostra - thank you, much appreciated. there's something very special about SOME LIKE IT HOT isn't there. you could say they dont make them like that anymore but i think perhaps they didnt really make them like that then.

    BOUT DE SOUFFLE appeal is probably based on when you see it, age, maturity, stage of life and stage of movie viewing life, that kind of thing. I saw it at the time when my approach towards movies was most impressionable i think and thats why i found it so very cool. TARANTINO also loved this movie when he was younger but has since criticised GODARD's work as he matured as a film maker. i actually find that quite strange.

  18. Nice list, man. Brief Encounter has been in my Netflix queue for seemingly forever. I really need to check it out.

    Glad to see The Killing show up on so many lists, too. Such a great film.

  19. Great list. I was going to include Brief Encounter on mine, but then... I don't know, I didn't. Not sure why, as that film is beautiful. Also, I can't believe I didn't include any Billy Wilder, what is wrong with me?

    But anyway, kudos to you sir.

  20. eric - thank you. i think you really should see it soon, bump it up your netflix queue!

    i too was pleasantly surprised to see THE KILLING on a lot of lists but then it has been blogged about quite a bit recently so perhaps its just that its fresh in peoples minds?

    kyle - it's virtually impossible to not think of a great BILLY WILDER movie isn't it?

  21. Very true, being the guy who made DOUBLE INDEMNITY has its perks.

  22. kyle - i know i know, i think it couldve been possible to only have WILDER movies in this list.

  23. I love a lot of these films. I finally watched 'Tokyo Story' over the summer and I aspired yet again. I love the way that captured that film and would love to do something similar.

    I really want to see 'The Killing' and I think I won't wait for a sale for that Blu-ray

  24. max - the simple beauty of OZU has that effect doesn't it, you see these incredibly wonderful films and just wonder how great it would feel to create something that sublime.

    it's incredible how much love THE KILLING gets. the guy who introduced me to it a few years ago told me it was a forgotten masterpiece and i assumed as such that hardly anyone would have seen it. it seems that my assumption was wrong.

  25. Impossible to beat a bit of Sunset Boulevard - tremendous film. Also great to see one of the best comedies of all time - Some Like It Hot - I can watch that film over and over again. It does not get old.

  26. dan - glad we're in agreement on that one, i might have had to ban your BBBG membership otherwise :p

  27. I love this list Toby; you've reminded me of several films I haven't actually seen (shamefully I've not seen A Bout de Souffle, of course I will now) and Our Man in Havana I haven't seen since I was tiny... Digging on Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, if the list had been longer they would have been on mine too - damn this was hard wasn't it?

    p.s. Very curious about Bazin being 'had'.Do explain, I seem to have no idea what you're talking about! :)

  28. hels - do you remember much of OUR MAN IN HAVANA? having only seen it recently im interested in others opinions. don't fret about seeing BOUT DE SOUFFLE you may end up wondering what all the fuss was about now you've left it this long.

    the BAZIN thing: he gushed over BRIEF ENCOUNTER at first, talking about it's ontology, the story grounded in realism (making comparisons to ROME, OPEN CITY!) but a few years later realised that it was infact MELODRAMA of the purest form and owed nothing to the GRIERSON mode of documentary making.

  29. Neat, The Killing and Rashamon making the rounds here it seems (though I don't dig Rashamon like everyone else does). But Some Like It Hot is never a bad choice...just love that one:) Gonna check out Our Man in Havana for sure. Also I started Touch of Evil but got interrupted, thanks for the reminder to get back to it. Thanks for being part of this!

  30. marc - thanks for organising once more. i was surprised that more of my choices werent on everyones lists. i felt that unimaginitive. alec guinnes certainly appeared quite a bit too.