Ah, and with this post I come to the end of my haphazardly put together look at my favorite film of every decade since the 1930s. What better place to finish than with my favorite film of all time? Nowhere, that’s where. Maybe I should just reproduce the 15 page senior thesis paper I wrote on this film when I was in college? Nah, that wouldn’t make particularly good reading to the non-academic reader. Then again, this might not either…

If I were to tell you my favorite film was a Wes Anderson film, what film would you guess it was? Presumably Royal Tenenbaums, perhaps Rushmore. However, it is neither. My favorite film of the 2000s, and of all time, is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. A lot of people, inexplicably in my opinion, consider this a lesser Anderson film. Hogwash, I say! This film has everything you expect from an Anderson film, and it is done to near perfection.

There are few film makers as idiosyncratic as Anderson, I’ll give you that. As such, if you aren’t in tune with his style, you aren’t going to like his films all too much. Still, I find it hard to see what about Anderson people don’t like. His cinematography, particularly his meticulously crafted mise-en-scene, is fantastic. His use of music is rivaled only by the likes of Martin Scorcese and perhaps a couple of others. He knows how to write a great script, both in terms of have excellent dialogue and how the story plays out. He also has fantastic characters, and he gives them all a lot of depth to boot. It’s almost enough to make a man want to see his latest work, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. If only the animation wasn’t so fucking creepy looking from time to time.

The Life Aquatic tells the story of Steve Zissou, played by Bill Murray. He’s a Jaques Cousteau like figure, only he’s at the end of his career, he’s no longer popular, and he’s a drunken lout. He’s just lost his best friend, Esteban, and his latest excursion is to find the shark that killed his friend and kill it in kind. Before he shoves off, however, he meets Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who may or may not be his son. Also joining them is Jame Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), a pregnant reporter doing a story on Zissou. The shark becomes a McGuffin, and the story mostly focuses on Zissou’s relationship with Ned, Jane, his wife (Anjelica Huston) and also the adventures the crew has at sea.

This movie didn’t have much trouble getting to back it simply by having Murray and Blanchett in it. Murray may be my favorite actor of all time, and Blanchett my favorite actress. As for Wilson, if only he would have just stuck alongside his dear old friend Wes. His bigger movies, your Shanghai Noons, your Wedding Crashers, have the tendency to be, well, terrible. More to the point, Wilson gets typecasted, and then derided, as being very aloof and lazy. However, in my book he’ll always have a pass because of Wes Anderson’s films. I mean, he co-wrote Bottle Rockets, Rushmore, and Royal Tenenbaums! He’s good in this movie as Ned, and he does a fine job in every Anderson film. He just gets misused by Hollywood.

This movie is a bit of an idiosyncrasy fest, actually, as both Jeff Goldblum and Harold and Maude’s Bud Cort make appearances. Willem Dafoe is also in the movie. I wish Goldblum would do more things, and more better things. Oh well, as long as he keeps making appearances on the Colbert Report…

So, you’ve got a well put together story with a ton of amusing moments and, as with all Anderson films, some genuine pathos. If any director makes dramedies or tragicomedies or whatever you like to call these kinds of films, it’s Anderson. The cinematography is beautiful and lush. It’s a great movie to see, let alone watch if you follow me. The characters are for the most part great, the dialogue is fantastic, and the music can’t go unmentioned. Well it could, but I don’t want to do that. Again, Anderson throws in a quirk by having Seu Jorge perform David Bowie songs in Portuguese throughout the movie. However, there are some other songs that are quite good and used perfectly, The Zombies “The Way I Feel Inside” comes to mind.

This is a movie I feel far too few people have seen. It is a triumph of filmmaking. Even if you don’t like Anderson’s films, give it a shot. C’mon, it has Bill Murray in it! Everybody loves Bill Murray. That was the entire rationale behind him being chosen to voice Garfield, I assume. There are also pirates. They are still (inexplicably) popular right? I strongly encourage you to see this movie. It’s my favorite film of all time, and I hope you perhaps can enjoy it as well.


Naming my top film of the 90s was easy. In fact, it was the genesis of this entire project. With all apologies to Goodfellas, one of my favorite films ever, The Big Lebowski is the best film of the 90s. More than that, it is a phenomenon. It has inspired the Lebowskifest. Other Coen Brothers films have more prestige, have won more awards, but The Big Lebowski is so fantastic.

For starters, it is absolutely hilarious. It is one of the funniest movies of all time, and it is eminently quotable. In my younger days, I used to have conversations with my friends that consisted almost entirely of Big Lebowski quotes. I can’t say that about any other pop cultural entity other than The Simpsons. I tried to have a conversation consisting of Pavement lyrics, but people just assumed I was on LSD. Watch the Big Lebowski and try to not adopt phrases from it into your life. Try not to say, “Phone’s ringin, dude” or “In the parlance of our times” or, perhaps the most commonly used phrase in the movie, “Fuck it.”

However, The Big Lebowski is more than just an eminently quotable comedy. If that was the case, it’d just be Anchorman or Wayne’s World. This is a Coen Brothers film, though, so it has so much depth and is a genuine film, rather than just a comedy movie, if you gather what I am saying.

The characters are great, from Knox Harrington all the way up to Walter and The Dude. In fact, I’d have to say Walter and The Dude are two of the best characters in cinematic history. Additionally, John Goodman and Jeff Bridges do a great job acting in this movie. Again, you may not notice it since it is such a funny movie (and bright, cinematographically speaking), but Bridges is so understated as The Dude, but he nails the non-chalance needed for the role.

The Dude is such a surreptitiously deep character as well. He may be a lazy stoner bowling enthusiast, but he’s smart. At first, he’s just trying to get his rug back, but he does eventually genuinely start trying to solve the mystery.

Which brings me to the plot. Once I told a friend of mine to watch this movie ad nauseum, and the first thing he said when he finally saw it was “It had a much more elaborate plot than I imagined.” That’s probably true to the outsider. If you haven’t seen this film and are just expecting a silly comedy, you’d be wrong. There is sort of a mystery going on here. In fact, the title The Big Lebowski comes from Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. You aren’t just getting a bunch of jokes. You are getting a plot and a mystery. Which is what makes The Dude even more awesome. Imagine taking Sam Spade out of The Maltese Falcon and replacing him with a stoner who goes shopping in a robe. That’s The Big Lebowski.

Plus, you get better music and cinematography to boot. This movie is beautifully shot. Part of the reason bowling is involved in this film is because the Coen Bros. thought it was going to come across well on the screen. Does it ever. While as I said earlier the film is quite bright occasionally to the point of being distracting, you don’t see cinematography like this in your typical comedy. Judd Apatow can’t pull this shit off. As for the music, not only do they choose a lot of good songs, but they use them well. It was like the Coen Brothers were channeling Scorsese for a film.

There’s so much more to enjoy about this film. Steve Buscemi is in it. So is Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a small, understated role. It is just so eminently enjoyable almost all the way through. Many have posited what this film is “about.” Some have declared it a referendum on the cultural wasteland of the 90s (the film takes place around the Gulf War). Others have posited that it is about the philosophy of Albert Camus. Me? Well I once wrote a paper about it being a film that turns film noir on its head. We all know the Coen Brothers love film noir. They just decided to take the classic film noir and make it as bright and shiny as possible, and replace the bitter, hard boiled detective and replace him with a pacifist stoner who just wants to replace his rug. It real tied the room together.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There is a very good chance you’ll be sucked into the cult of Lebowski. It’s not a bad life, however. You’ll find yourself with tons of new quotes to use and find yourself going back to the movie again and again. So grab some In-N-Out Burger, pop in some Creedence, and enjoy The Big Lebowski.

Oh, the 80s. Not a good time for anything culture wise. People sometimes call the 90s a cultural wasteland, but they have nothing on the 80s. The music that was popular during the 80s? Terrible, most of it only around to be appreciated ironically. People don’t actually enjoy Separate Ways, Steve Perry, they are just laughing at your over the top video. Television? Better, but not by much. The Simpsons debuted in the 80s, but not until 1989. Also I’m not 100% up on my SNL history, but I don’t remember the 80s being a good period for the show.

Then, there are the movies. There’s not a single Best Picture Winner from the 80s I’ve seen and liked. I can’t comment on Out of Africa, Gandhi, or Amadeus, but otherwise blah. Yes, that includes Rain Man. I couldn’t even make it through that movie.

As such, I had a hard time thinking of a favorite movie of the 1980s. Eventually I did come up with one, but after I did I thought to myself, “Is that really my favorite film of the 1980s?” I mean, Raging Bull is really good, but it’s not my favorite Scorsese film, and maybe not top three. Also, considering that I heard he was one of a handful of directors to protest the arrest of Roman Polanski, Scorsese can fuck himself long and hard right now.

I finally came to name my favorite movie of the 1980s thanks to it being on AMC about 800 times in the course of a couple of weeks. The movie in question? Ghostbusters.

Yes, that’s right. Ghostbusters. It is a fantastic movie. It’s really funny, but it has a bit more substance than your Step Brother’s or your Caddyshack’s or those kind of comedies. The storyline is more fleshed out, the acting is better, and it is just as funny. Also, the characters are awesome. I love Egon Spengler, I love Ray Stanz, I love Louis Tully (Rick Moranis was so awesome. I yearn for his return to the silver screen. Come back to us, Dark Helmet!). However, most of all I love Peter Venkman.

Bill Murray just might be my favorite actor of all time. I know I am not alone in this. Sure, he plays a similar character in every film. Lots of actors do. They are still awesome. Besides, nobody plays the snarky asshole better than Murray. Plus, his late career turn to movies such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and Lost in Translation showed his acting chops that go with the comedy.

However, in Ghostbusters he’s all snark all the time and it is wonderful. He’s a genius, but he couldn’t be more aloof or self serving. While Egon and Ray are geeked on catching ghosts, Venkman just wants the money, and he wants to bed Sigourney Weaver.

We’ve all seen Ghostbusters right? Or at the very least we all know the story? Dudes start a company that catch and contain ghosts, shit starts to go crazy, the government tries to shut them down, and then shit goes crazier. A gigantic marshmallow man in involved. It’s silly, sure, but it’s done so damn well.

The characters in the movie are a pleasure to watch. The dialogue is great. The story works. Originally, Dan Aykroyd in all his batshit insanity (have you seen him hocking Crystal Skull Vodka?) wanted this movie to start with them well established and also he wanted them to go to Hell. It was a bit much. As I said in my piece on The Godfather, it’s always funner to watch a transformation happen, and origin stories are usually better. Watching these three guys (Ernie Hudson joins later as Winston Zeddemore) get kicked out of their college jobs and struggling to make it at first is way more enjoyable. That’s part of the reason Ghostbusters II isn’t as good. Well, that and the fact evil pink slime is prominently involved.

The only downside of this movie is the special effects have gotten really dated. However, that just provides you a whole different kind of laugh. If you are at all a fan of Bill Murray and you somehow haven’t seen this movie (perhaps you spent the 80s in a cave on Mars with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears) it is a must watch. If you loved Rick Moranis, peep this shit right now. If you are just a fan of well done comedy with a bit of depth to it, again this is the movie for you. Sure, it’s not a classic drama or a Best Picture winner or some such thing. It’s not a masterclass in acting or a movie with amazing cinematography. It’s just a great comedy. I love great comedy. That’s why Ghostbusters is my favorite movie of the 1980s.

Naming my favorite film of the 1970s was fairly simple. It came down to two films: The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Both are Coppola films. Both feature fabulous cinematography. Both feature Marlon Brando, though he’s only really good in one. Both also feature the underrated Robert Duvall, who gave one of my favorite supporting performances ever as Kilgore. However, in the end I went with The Godfather. Why? Well, the story is fantastically done for one. But secondly, the acting talent in this movie is amazing. So many great actors at their finest. How could you not love it?

First, the secondary players. James Caan is great as Sonny, capturing his raw emotions and intensity perfectly. Talia Shire is good as Connie, though I am not a particularly big fan of the character. I didn’t even realize until right now that Captain McCluskey is played by Sterling Hayden, but he’s great in his small role. John Cazale got a lot more to do in Part II, but in this movie he’s still good. Such an understated actor, but he did it perfectly.

Then, let’s take it to the next level. I mentioned loving Robert Duvall in this movie, and I do. He’s excellent as Tom Hagen. Hagen might get lost in this busy film, but when Duvall is in the film, you notice him. Then, there is Brando, who starts the film as The Godfather of the Corleone crime empire. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this blog before, but I think Brando is an overrated actor. I’ve never seen him do a great job. A good job? Yes, dozens of time. But I’ve never been wowed by his performance. In this film, he’s probably at his best, but he still doesn’t blow me away or anything like that. Only one person does. We’ll get to him last.

There is also Diane Keaton as Kay, Michael Corleone’s wife. It’s funny to think Annie Hall and Kay Corleone were played by the same person. Too completely different styles, but she nailed both of them. Ms. Keaton doesn’t get a fair shake when discussing the best actresses.

However, everybody pales in comparison to Al Pacino as Michael. It is one of the best performances I have ever seen. The fact he lost out to Brando for this same film is a damn shame. Worse yet, it led to the makeup Oscar for Scent of a Woman. By then, Pacino was already a yelling punchline. Unfortunately, I think this is the only great Pacino performance. Perhaps Part II as well, but that’s it. I never liked the yelling, “Ho-hah”ing Pacino. However, in this movie he’s so understated, so raw. It’s fantastic.

He also has quite the journey to go on. At the beginning of the movie, he’s Michael Corleone, war hero. He wants nothing to do with the family business. At the end of the film he’s Michael Corleone, Godfather. He’s done brutal things. He’s not the man Kay loved. He’s not the man we knew. Yet the change is done so well, so subtly, it doesn’t feel jarring. It also helps that it’s a fucking long movie. However, some movies can get away with being this long. The story does not drag for one second. There’s so much going on. Oh, there are scenes that go on for too long. The wedding scene is about five or ten minutes too long, and when Michael is in Italy drags on as well. However, other than that, it’s a fine movie.

There are so many characters and so much is happening, yet you never have trouble keeping up. Plus, the story is damn interesting. I always prefer origin stories. Part II suffers from the fact Michael is The Godfather the whole film. He’s in power, he’s yelling and screaming, killing people, etc. It’s the same reason The Matrix is a great movie but the sequels suck. What is interesting is watching Neo learn what The Matrix is and getting his shit together and becoming The One. Once he’s already The One and he can fly and shit who cares? He’s already the super powerful guy. Now what? The Godfather is about Michael becoming The One. That’s what makes it so great.

There’s so many classic scenes and classic lines, some get overlooked. Like, for example, when Michael goes to visit his father at the hospital and finds there are no bodyguards. That scene is so intense. If you’ve never seen this film and you are wondering what all the fuss is about Al Pacino, check this movie out. You’ll realize he was once a great actor and not a caricature. It’s one of the best plots you’ll ever find, it’s a well shot movie, and the acting cannot be oversold. Pretty much everybody brings the goods, except maybe Luca Brasi, but that guy wasn’t even an actor. The Godfather blows pretty much every film of the 70s, and of all time quite frankly, out of the water. If only Coppola had stopped before Part III…

Finding my favorite film of the 1960s was the most difficult decade. So many films stuck out to me, but none quite enough to scream out to me “That’s the one!” The Apartment is great, and I am of course a huge Jack Lemmon fan, but it lacks something, though I am not sure what. Maybe it’s the jarring emotional directions the film takes. Lawrence of Arabia is beautifully shot, but it is a bit too long and nothing else about it is worth noting to me. Bonnie and Clyde? Solid, but no. The Graduate? It is like a sandwich made with delicious bread but in the middle you’ve got (insert own personal least favorite sandwich filling here). West Side Story? I love a movie with fake Puerto Ricans as much as the next man, but I’ll pass. The 60s, incidentally, were overrun with Oscar winning musicals. Ugh.

Then, as I searched through the annals, and by annals I mean wikipedia, I came across the film that finally made me say “Ah yes, that’s the one.” That movie is Dr. Strangelove: Or how I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

At the time it was made, the movie’s satire must have been all the sweeter. Even with the world in a perpetual state of shittiness and political unrest, nothing could have matched Cold War Paranoia back in the day. This movie both makes you laugh at the macho head games of the US and the USSR at the time, but it also might have made you a little afraid. After all, one mad general fearing for his precious bodily fluids could have been all it took to end the lives of a shit ton of people.

Dr. Strangelove is a movie about just that. General Jack D. Ripper, fearing fluoridation is robbing Americans of their precious bodily fluids. He calls for some of the nuclear weapon carrying bombers at his disposal to fly over Russia and start bombing. This would be bad, because the Russians have a doomsday device that will go off if even one bomb hits their soil. What is President Murkin Muffley to do? Can Colonel Mandrake help save the day? And what of the odd, eponymous Dr. Strangelove?

Not only is this film filled with great characters, the acting is tremendous. You’ve got Sterling Hayden as Ripper, and that’s merely the jumping off point. Playing General Buck Turgidson? The awesome George C. Scott. Scott makes every film he’s in better. And his over the top Turgidson would be his finest work if he were most actors. However, even he can’t compete with Peter Sellers in this film. Sellers plays Muffley, Mandrake, and Dr. Strangelove. Three completely different roles, an American, a Brit, and a German who we can be fairly certain used to be a Nazi. Also, he doesn’t have control of one of his hands.

The plot is also fabulous and so well crafted, and it would be difficult to recount it in its entirety here, plus it would ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it. If you have not seen it, what are you waiting for? You are missing out on a classic.

I wouldn’t consider myself a Stanley Kubrick fan, but this movie is tremendous. As far as war satires go, they don’t get any better than this one. It still feels poignant, it still resonates, and most importantly it’s still funny. Sellers was a genius, as was Scott. The only real question is which Sellers character is your favorite? I’m quite partial to Mandrake personally, though I reckon most would go with Strangelove, and with good reason. However, Mandrake’s line about how the Japanese make such bloody good cameras is probably my favorite line in the movie. Although, my favorite part of the movie might be when Turgidson trips, but keeps on walking and talking. I do believe I read somewhere that was an accident, but Scott and Kubrick just went with it. Smart move.

The Cold War might be over, but political mind games never end. As such, Dr. Strangelove will never lose it’s place in our world. It also teaches us many things, like how we cannot allow a mineshaft gap. It’s not just the best war satire ever, it’s my favorite film of the 1960s, even if it took me some time to realize that.

When it came to my top film of the 1950s, one film came immediately to mind. While Bridge Over the River Kwai received fleeting consideration, in the end it had to be one film; Some Like it Hot. Jack Lemmon. Tony Curtis. Marilyn Monroe. Cross dressing. Bad Cary Grant impressions. This film has it all, including a ton of funny moments.

Lemmon and Curtis play Jerry and Joe, musicians who witness what is ostensibly the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Spotted, they have to flee and their only way out of town with a job is to pose as female musicians. Daphne and Josephine are born, and wackiness ensues. The two men try and maintain their guises while also trying to ball Monroe’s “Sugar” Kane. Mafia types abound. As is common with Billy Wilder films, though this film is a comedy the plot is intricate and tight.

The film, as I said, is quite funny. A few times, I saw things that were amusing, but made me say, “Well, I’ve seen that before several times.” Then, I of course realized this movie was made in 1959, long before these other films had been made. While some of the ideas were probably not original even then, a lot of them were or at the very least they were original enough and they were still pretty funny, and at times hi-larious.

Good performances all around in this film as well. I love Jack Lemmon. He is one of my favorite actors of all time. As such, you likely won’t be surprised that I enjoyed his work as Daphne. In particular his relationship with Osgood, an oddball billionaire who thinks he’s a woman.

Curtis, I’m less of a fan of, but more as a person than an actor. At times, he can seem incredibly earnest and humble and you want to like him. But mostly, he comes across as arrogant and vain. Still, this was probably the best I have seen him, and I’ve got no complaints other than the fact he doesn’t do a good Cary Grant. Not that he needed to for the role, I’m just saying is all.

Monroe I have always had mixed feelings about. She certainly suffered from the rampant objectification of women in society, but she also did plenty on her own to play into that. The thing is, she was talented. She could genuinely act, and she could bring the emotion when needed. She is at times quite down in this film, and she makes you feel sympathy and sadness toward her character. Then, she’s back to old fashioned Monroe. Sashaying and what have you. Being all breathy. Filled with self loathing inside. That doesn’t come across in the film really, however. That’s another thing about Monroe, it’s hard not to feel bad for her knowing what kind of issues she had. Has that whole tragic figure thing going on. You know, the figure that people like Lindsay Lohan inexplicably and repulsively ape? Not that I’ve ever seen it, I’m basing this on Amelie Gillette’s The Hater.

The film isn’t perfect, and at one point Curtis’ character hoodwinks Monroe’s character into some hanky panky that I didn’t find funny. However, the film is fun for the most part, funny often, keeps your attention with it’s plot and pacing, and has a fabulous happy ending with a great last line. I shant spoil it for you, but it is good and fairly iconic.

If you are at all a fan of Lemmon, Curtis, Monroe, or Wilder, you definitely should see this film if you haven’t. If you simply want to see Jack Lemmon in drag or are an aficionado of bad Cary Grant impressions, than you will also enjoy this film. If you enjoy film, you will likely enjoy this film. So see it. You won’t find a better film from the 1950s.

It is time for part two of my opus regarding my favorite film of every decade from the 1930s on… into the future, where I will proclaim my love for the films of the 2020s. Those were (or will be, rather) good times, before technology runs amok and films kill us all in the 2040s. Films or climate change. Whatevs.

The 1940s to me came down to two films I love: His Girl Friday and Casablanca. Friday has Cary Grant and snappy dialogue going for it, and to be honest I think Rosalind Russell maybe even outshines Grant in that film. Then, there is Casablanca, considered by some to be the best film of all time. Bogart at his best, Ingrid Bergman at her best, other people at high levels, Sydney Greenstreet. To me, the best part of The Maltese Falcon is Greenstreet, a movie I saw before Casablanca, so when I saw him in this film, even in his short stints, it was always enjoyable. However, in Raul Julia’s Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, the fat guy mimicking Greenstreet is terrible, and sounds and looks nothing like him.

In the end, I think Casablanca is just a bit better. It’s hard to beat it on story. Guy loses girl and moves to Morocco to forget his troubles. Girl gets involved in trying to fight the Nazis. Guy and girl meet again at his night club. A black guy plays the piano. What more can you want from a film? Also, I hope my comment about the black piano player didn’t come across as racist. I’m just saying I don’t remember any other black characters with speaking roles, and it is the sort of role black people got pigeonholed into in the 30s and 40s. He does a good job though, and plays some fine piano.

Anyway, now that I’ve cleansed myself of my white man’s guilt I can get back to the film. Rick Blaine is one of the best movie characters ever. Bogart often played similar roles, but nothing beat this one. Rick is cynical, bitter, and callous. However, at his core he is a good person. There are two moments in this film that bring me close to tears, and neither of them in the ending. One is when the people sing La Marseillaise to drown out the Nazi dicks singing whatever fucking song their singing. It is as glorious and beautiful a moment as you find in film. The other is when Rick rigs the roulette wheel so the girl and the guy get the money they need to get out of Morocco, saving the girl from the (then) evil clutches of Renault. It is a selfless act that lets us know that deep down Rick is a good guy. The ending, of course, only solidifies that fact. Also, I know the end Louie helps Rick and they start  a beautiful friendship, but fuck that guy. He’s way too much of an asshole earlier in the film for me to change my opinion on him. He just becomes an asshole who did a nice thing.

At times, I think they spend a little too much time on the romantic stuff between Rick and Ilsa, though saying that is just nitpicking. I have no qualms about this movie other than the fact Peter Lorre just creeps me out in general. However, his time in the film is mercifully short. This film runs the full gamut of what anybody could want from a film. Drama, romance, pathos, excitement, humor, other stuff. Oh, the other stuff in this film! I’m not being purposefully and snarkily vague! And my exclamation points are not excessive!

Casablanca is one of the most wonderful films even made. It holds up tremendously, and it is as fine a showing of acting and storytelling as you will ever see. The 40s were a great decade for film. I mentioned the Maltese Falcon earlier, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Citizen Kane. Still, while Kane is an at times uneven movie mostly due to Orson Welles being too in love with the process of making films, Casablanca does not have any moments where it genuinely lulls. I cannot recommend Casablanca highly enough.

I haven’t had a chance to write anything recently, I’ve been too busy bringing the noise and, occasionally, the funk. However, a few days ago I was struck with an idea whilst watching one of my favorite movies of all time. An idea that will begin to manifest itself with this post.

For you see, I was watching The Big Lebowski in spurts on Versus the other night, a humorous occurrence. Not just that Lebowski was on Versus, which is a sports channel, despite having only the most tenuous connection to sport, but also because that movie has quite a few “swear words” in it, as the kids say. It’s a hilarious movie as is, but watching Walter smash a call while informing me “This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps” puts a whole new comedic facade on it.

Anyway, despite having seen the movie at least 10 times (it is one of only two movies I have seen more than thrice willingly and explicably) I was still enjoying it and still laughing. I then came to the realization of the fact that it is my favorite movie of the 90s. After recently pondering my favorite movie of the this shortly ending decade as well, I think decided to find my favorite movie of every decade going back to the 1930s. I don’t find any film from before the 30s enjoyable enough to really consider naming a favorite. Sorry, silent films.

Two decades were particularly difficult for me; the 30s and the 60s. For the rest of the decades, two, maybe three, films jumped right out to me as my favorite and it was just a matter of parsing between those select films, which was mostly easy. The 60s were more difficult because about five or six films that I love, but not to the extent of films from other decades, immediately sprung to mind but none of them stood out with any intensity. The 30s, meanwhile, could provide a single film I loved. It was kind of hard to find films I really liked. I settled on two films I really like but certainly don’t love. Now, in real time, I shall decide between the two. The competitors? Duck Soup and Bringing Up Baby.

Duck Soup, for those of you who aren’t hip to films of the 30s, is a Marx Brothers film. I watched it simply for the experience of having seen a Marx Brothers film. I figured as a fan of comedy it was important. It is a short film, with a very loose plot, and a lot of set pieces. It is also quite uneven. I came to a quick conclusion while watching the film; I love Groucho, Harpo is hit or miss, and Chico can jump in a lake.

The Marx Brother are always championed for their “anarchistic” style and that is certainly on display here. All in all, they fuck shit up for everybody, even occasionally themselves. However, Groucho with his brilliant one liners is far and away the funniest of the bros. He consistently made me laugh, where the other two (Zeppo is also around, but doesn’t do much) were not particularly funny. Also, Harpo makes a lot of really weird faces. Like, unsettling weird. It is a bad thing.

Anyway, Duck Soup is a really funny movie, but not one of much substance, and only really achieves any kind of success due to the talents of Groucho.

Bringing Up Baby, meanwhile, is considered by many to be the quintessential slapstick comedy. It certainly is one of the most famous, but not the best I’ve seen. I love Cary Grant, which helps this film quite a bit. That, and the fact he does an excellent job in this film. He is paired up with Katherine Hepburn, who plays her character well, but it is not exactly the most enjoyable of characters. He’s a straightlaced paleontologist (I think), she’s a flighty, flaky heiress, I think. Are you familiar with the film concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl? I don’t know if Hepburn could be considered a pixie, or a dream girl, but she definitely personifies that character type in this film.

The dialogue isn’t particularly good, nor is the slapstick, and there is a fucking annoying dog in the movie. The ending is also quite ridiculous, and the one thing that makes this a competition. You’ve seen romantic comedies dear abstract concept of a reader, you know what happens. While nothing is particularly stand out, everything is all in all good, and Cary Grant is in his usual excellent form. I enjoy this movie, it is a nice lighthearted romp, but it doesn’t stick out to me in any particular way.

Neither of these movies is a cinematic masterpiece. Basically, this comes down to which movie I liked more, and between these two particular movies, which one was funnier. While it may have been shorter, severely uneven, and quite silly, I think that movie is Duck Soup. The wit of Groucho Marx overcomes the charms of both Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Once again, the Marx Brothers has upset the establishment. Good times!

As the legend goes, when P.T. Anderson was making There Will be Blood he watched The Treasure of the Sierra Madre every night. Since I thought There Will be Blood was a great film, and because I am generally a fan of the works of both Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, I decided that Sierra Madre was a must see. I was not disappointed when I watched it.

Much like Blood, Sierra Madre is about greed, paranoia, and the kind of men who are driven by such things. Bogart plays Fred Dobbs, a down on his luck American living in Mexico. Dobbs, from the beginning, is clearly a scuzzy guy and a man lacking much in the way of ethics or morals. He is exactly the kind of guy who would head into the mountains to look for gold, and then be changed for the worse when he finds it. Dobbs and Curtin, played by Tim Holt, team up with Howard, played by Huston, an old timey prospector type. When you see parodies of prospectors, I reckon most of them are based on Huston’s character. Huston won Best Supporting Actor for this role, and it seems reasonable enough to me. He exhibits the characteristics of the kind of guy who would have spent his entire life looking for gold, and the ways in which such a thing can change a man. He is nutty, but he’s still smart and he’s damn good at what he does.

I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to say that the three men do indeed find gold. That’s not the point of the picture, however. It is about what happens once the men find the gold. Paranoia sets in, especially with Dobbs. He becomes violent and dangerous, and Bogart does a good job of portraying that. However, I think his beard does a lot of the heavy lifting as well. Sierra Madre is an interesting character study with a hint of adventure thrown in, which is a winning combination.

There’s more than just paranoia to worry about, however. There are also bandits! After all, this is 1920s Mexico. One of the bandits, known in the film only as Gold Hat, is the man behind the “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” line that is often imitated, and generally misquoted. Most notably, as far as I am concerned, it is parodied in Weird Al’s UHF, as a man is in no need of badgers. Truer words were never spoken. Fuck badgers.

The ending of the movie is also interesting and well done. Let’s just say things don’t work out for the three men, although one of them is dead before we even get to the conclusion. The movie isn’t perfect, there is an odd, fairly dull subplot involving a Native American village that drags on a bit much. It does serve a purpose in the plot, but it isn’t done all too well. Additionally, Holt isn’t anything to write home about, and he is overshadowed by Bogart and Huston.

If you liked There Will be Blood, then you’ll like this movie. If you didn’t, you might still like this movie. If you are an anachronistic old-timey prospector, you’ll love this movie, but you also probably aren’t reading this blog. Although, that might be an unfair stereotype. Final Verdict: 8/10

In a class I took on 1950s films, one of the student’s gave a report on Nicholas Ray which included showing a clip from Johnny Guitar. I found the seen very interesting in every way possible, acting, dialogue, cinematography, et al. Then, I found out the film wasn’t on DVD, which made it seem more intriguing in a sense. Gave it a rare quality if you will. So, when I saw it was on TCM, I jumped at chance to watch it.

While Sterling Hayden plays the titular character, the person who got first billing was Joan Crawford, as much for her staggering ego as for her part in the film, although she is one of the main characters. Also along for the ride are Ernest Borgnine as a member of a gang and Mercedes McCambridge as the antagonist. You may know McCambridge as the woman who carried Giant until James Dean took over. I hope that some day some enterprising person edits a version of Giant in which every scene either features Dean’s Jett Rink or he is being talked about. It’d cut about an hour out of a bloated film, give it a much better ending, and be batshit awesome. Speaking of Dean, he also starred in Ray’s biggest film, Rebel Without a Cause. As you can see, there is a lot to look forward to here.

Also, the film happens to be a western, but not at all a traditional western. It is a very odd, very unique film. Crawford plays Vienna, a very masculine, gun toting saloon keeper. She has a short haircut and wears mans clothes a lot of the time. Vienna is an interesting character. I’ve never seen any of Crawford films besides this one, but all oddness aside, she does a good acting job in this film. At times she vamps and chews the scenery, and the lips and the eyebrows are staggering, but she’s fine, and at times excellent. In an early scene when the Emma (McCambridge) led lynch mob shows up for the first time she does a great job seeing formidable and perhaps even dangerous if pushed. She has the whole mob scared to act.

To set the scene for the film, here’s some background. Vienna is running a saloon and helping to bring the railroad through the sleepy old timey town she lives near. Her ex-lover Johnny Guitar, who was once a feared gunslinger named Johnny Logan but has (tried) to give up guns shows up at her behest. Alas, there is another man in town, the Dancing Kid. He leads a gang of three other men and happens to be in love with Vienna himself. Then there is Emma, who is very attracted to the Kid, but as a woman to tries to position herself as prim and a leader in the community, she of course can’t admit it. That doesn’t keep her from being jealous of Vienna and trying to get her forced out of town, if not hanged.

The relationships of all these people play out throughout the film. Banks are robbed, multiple mobs are formed, it is all pretty interesting. At times, the film can fall into schlock and feels awkward and poorly made. Some of the actors aren’t quite up to snuff, but they are mostly kept to the wayside.

Aside from the plot and the acting, the film has a very unique look to it. The Venture Bros like to proclaim that it is shot in “glorious extra color!” or something along those lines. I feel like this film could say that as well. It is a bright film. I wouldn’t say it is necessarily a beautifully shot film, and it isn’t quite up to par with Rebel, but it is a interesting viewing experience just based on the cinematography at the very least.

I can’t consider this a great film. It is too uneven, the dialogue, while solid, is rarely spectacular, and Crawford can’t help but overpower the film from time to time and her eyebrows can’t help but overpower her. All in all, Johnny Guitar is a film with few, if any, comparisons I can think of off the top of my head. Since you can’t get it on DVD, your chances of seeing it are pretty limited and you might just have to wait until the next time it shows up on TCM. If you get the chance to see it, however, I would recommend going for it. Final Verdict: 8/10