Forming a film vocabulary

Saw this over at Kottke: a list compiled by film critic Jim Emerson entitled “102 Movies You Must See Before You Die”. Emerson’s criteria for the list is that these are “the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies.”

I was thinking about this idea recently when I was searching on Wenders’ name (see my previous post) and came across an online review of a photo book which happened to have an essay by Wenders in it. While dismissing the essay (no sin there), the reviewer then added a parenthetical question along the lines of “who is this Wenders guy anyway?” Now, name recognition is obviously relative but I was a bit taken aback by this.

This is not a pissing contest but I was also surprised that Kottke himself had only seen 40 of these films, especially considering that he likes reviewing films on his site. I come in a bit better than that (see the list below), but then again I’m a bit older that Kottke, and I did study film for a while in university (although in actuality, I didn’t see very many of the films on this list in film classes).

There are some embarrassing admissions below, like not having seen Gone With the Wind (frankly I’ve never been interested in seeing it) or The Night of the Hunter (which I do want to see), or neither of the two Fellini films on the list (in my defense, I have seen several other Fellini films), but on the whole I’m surprised (and rather pleased, I must admit) I’ve seen as many on this list as I have. This is even more surprising to me when you consider that since moving to Japan four years ago (and particularly after my son Kaika was born three years ago), I’ve hardly watched any films. (I actually watched King Solomon’s Mines yesterday on DVD; before that, I hadn’t watched a film DVD since last November.) It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that in four years of being in Japan, I’ve only seen one movie in the theater (an eminently forgettable Jennifer Lopez thriller that I won free tickets to!).

At any rate, here’s Emerson’s list with asterisks next to those films I’ve seen.

* 2001: A Space Odyssey
* The 400 Blows
8 1/2
* Aguirre, the Wrath of God
* Alien
All About Eve
* Annie Hall
* Apocalypse Now
* Bambi
* The Battleship Potemkin
* The Best Years of Our Lives
The Big Red One
The Bicycle Thief
* The Big Sleep
* Blade Runner
* Blowup
* Blue Velvet
* Bonnie and Clyde
* Breathless
Bringing Up Baby
* Carrie
* Casablanca
* Un Chien Andalou
* Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis
* Chinatown
* Citizen Kane
* A Clockwork Orange
* The Crying Game
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Days of Heaven
* Dirty Harry
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
* Do the Right Thing
La Dolce Vita
* Double Indemnity
* Dr. Strangelove
Duck Soup
* E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial
* Easy Rider
* The Empire Strikes Back
* The Exorcist
* Fargo
* Fight Club
* Frankenstein
* The General
* The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II
Gone With the Wind
* GoodFellas
* The Graduate
* Halloween
* A Hard Day’s Night
* Intolerance
It’s a Gift
* It’s a Wonderful Life
* Jaws
The Lady Eve
* Lawrence of Arabia
* Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior
* The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
* Metropolis
Modern Times
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail
* Nashville
The Night of the Hunter
* Night of the Living Dead
* North by Northwest
* Nosferatu
* On the Waterfront
* Once Upon a Time in the West
* Out of the Past
* Persona
Pink Flamingos
* Psycho
* Pulp Fiction
* Rashomon
* Rear Window
* Rebel Without a Cause
* Red River
* Repulsion
* The Rules of the Game
* Scarface
* The Scarlet Empress
Schindler’s List
* The Searchers
The Seven Samurai
* Singin’ in the Rain
Some Like It Hot
A Star Is Born
* A Streetcar Named Desire
* Sunset Boulevard
* Taxi Driver
* The Third Man
* Tokyo Story
* Touch of Evil
* The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
* Vertigo
* West Side Story
* The Wild Bunch
* The Wizard of Oz