Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

My Favorite Films - #1

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 11, 2011 at 2:05 PM

(9/27/13 - #s 61-62)
(7/23/14 - addition at #59)

63. Billy Elliot, Daldry, 2000
62. Viridiana, Buñuel, 1961
61. Thumbsucker, Mills, 2005
60. Cinema Paradiso, Tornatore, 1989
59. The Long Day Closes, Davies, 1992
58. Mamma Roma, Pasolini, 1962
57. The English Patient, Minghella, 1996
56. A Serious Man, Coens, 2009
55. The Hours, Daldry, 2002
54. Empire of the Sun, Spielberg, 1987
53. To Be or Not to Be, Lubitsch, 1942
52. The Tree of Life, Malick, 2011
51. Oliver Twist, Lean, 1948
50. La Jetée, Marker, 1962
49. Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, Murnau, 1931
48. Howards End, Ivory, 1992
47. Forbidden Games, Clément, 1952
46. Schindler's List, Spielberg, 1993
45. The Right Stuff, Kaufman, 1983
44. Lost in Translation, Coppola, 2003
43. The Black Stallion, Ballard, 1979
42. Hour of the Wolf, Bergman, 1968
41. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Akerman, 1975
40. The Last Picture Show, Bogdanovich, 1971
39. Vertigo, Hitchcock, 1958
38. Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen, 1989
37. Pelle the Conqueror, August, 1988
36. Double Indemnity, Wilder, 1944
35. It Happened One Night, Capra, 1934
34. Network, Lumet, 1976
33. Taxi Driver, Scorsese, 1976
32. Il Posto, Olmi, 1961
31. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Dominik, 2007
30. Ran, Kurosawa, 1985
29. Metropolis, Lang, 1927
28. Ugetsu, Mizoguchi, 1953
27. Late Spring, Ozu, 1949
26. Hud, Ritt, 1963
25. On the Waterfront, Kazan, 1954
24. The Conversation, Coppola, 1974
23. Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone, 1968
22. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg, 1982
21. Amadeus, Forman, 1984
20. The Graduate, Nichols, 1967
19. City Lights, Chaplin, 1931
18. Chinatown, Polanski, 1974
17. The Silence, Bergman, 1963
16. Sunset Boulevard, Wilder, 1950
15. Au Revoir les Enfants, Malle, 1987
14. Cries and Whispers, Bergman, 1973
13. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Murnau, 1927
12. 8 1/2, Fellini, 1963
11. The Godfather: Parts I and II, Coppola, 1972/1974


10. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick, 1968
09. The Passion of Joan of Arc, Dreyer, 1928
08. M, Lang, 1931
07. The Bicycle Thief, De Sica, 1948
06. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Schrader, 1985
05. Apocalypse Now, Coppola, 1979
04. The 400 Blows, Truffaut, 1959
03. Nights of Cabiria, Fellini, 1957
02. Persona, Bergman, 1966

Here it is. My #1 film(s) of all time. It took years of painstaking deliberation, hours and hours on end in front of the computer maddeningly shifting and adjusting a Top 10 list that was ever-changing in my mind.

Just kidding. Making the list was rather easy, and deciding what film(s) would be #1 didn't even take a moment of further thought or a second of hesitation. What was difficult, however, was leaving films near and dear to my heart off the list. But such is the nature of the beast, and with a measly 10 spots to fill, it really needed to contain the best of the best, the films that have helped shape my cinematic identity, create my eager passion for the true Art that only the movies could deliver.

This Top 10 isn't definitive, I don't think. Things change, attitudes change, and perspectives on a single piece of art certainly change. For now, though, this Top 10 - and my utlimate #1 - are the best representitives of what I cherish and desire in the best of film.

#1    -     The Lord of the Rings Trilogy    PETER JACKSON, 2001-2003


   “What?! Jonathan’s #1 movie of all time isn’t a foreign film from the 1960s?”

   Well, Persona came very, very close.

   “But, but… The Lord of the Rings? One of the biggest, most mainstream film franchises ever? A blockbuster series from the 21st century? What has happened to the arty Jonathan?”

   For that, I can say only this: when something hits you a certain way, stirs your heart and mind and all that jazz, it’s hard to deny its place. And not only did the three Lord of the Rings films touch me and inspire my passion for cinema, but it kind of started the whole thing. It helps that the films aren’t just some childhood nostalgia trip for me, but bona fide masterpieces, all three. I include the entire trilogy here as one entry because let’s face it, this is really one long, epic film spread across 9+ wondrous hours.

   A little context here. The Fellowship of the Ring opened in 2001. I was 10, and at that point, as you can imagine, I hardly put much importance on movies outside of their surface entertainment value. But sitting in that dark theater that particularly magical winter (lest we forget, the Harry Potter franchise also launched that year), I was struck by the enormous grandeur and fantasy of this unique adventure. The little hobbits. The elegant elves. The idyllic Shire with its grassy grooves and sun-kissed hills. The action; the mythology; the sweeping vistas and larger-than-life heroes. It was a fantasy come to life for a young boy, and I sucked up every last second of it in awe.

   It wasn’t just a one time thing. The following year came The Two Towers, which impressed me even more with its ramped-up battle scenes and the introduction of the gruesome, slimy Gollum, a visual effect I may have not even noticed was a visual effect at the time, for its ability to convince was one to nothing. The month of December became a sparkling, enchanting gift, as each successive one promised to bring a continuation of this beautiful and absorbing story. In 2003, of course, it ended. The Return of the King was a glorious close, such a grandiose conclusion that it could very well stand on its own without the other two parts as a single fulfilling, monumental achievement. It was duly rewarded the Oscar, 11 of them to be exact.

   So here, 10 years after the trilogy began, my love for cinema has grown and grown, and I at least partially attribute that love to the odyssey I was taken on through those amazing three years with The Lord of the Rings. The ethereal lands, the characters, the creatures, the story, the journey. This wasn’t your ordinary franchise. This was Peter Jackson, who through the project proved himself nothing short of a master filmmaker, commanding a set of films based on beloved novels and delivering on every single front with each one. “Epic” seems to be a word that has lost quite a bit of its power these days, but no word better applies to Jackson’s trilogy. Technically, thematically, and certainly emotionally, these films have all the elements of the perfect cinematic showcase. I should be so thankful I have a work of art I can connect with so indelibly and timelessly, the sweet, rousing notes of Howard Shore’s soundtrack reminding me of the moments and the wonder that can be given and received through the magic of the movies, from one generation to the next.

Categories: My Favorite Films

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