Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 10 Best Movies I've Never Seen

A few weeks ago, Joe Holleman of the St. Louis Post–Dispatch admitted in print that he had never seen "E.T."

That isn't a good thing for an entertainment writer to admit, but it seemed ironic to me because I was reminiscing recently about how I wasn't able to see the last 20 or 30 minutes of "E.T." Why? Because the girl with whom I was seeing the movie got sick and we had to leave the theater.

(I've heard about the ending, of course, but I've never seen it. I suppose I could see it — just never felt inclined to sit through the first 90 minutes again just to get up to speed enough on the story to watch the last 25.)

Anyway, Holleman wrote that "I knew I would hear from readers" when he acknowledged that — and that inspired him to put together a list of the 10 best films he has never seen. He encouraged readers to participate in a poll to choose the film he should see. He promised to watch the one that was recommended.

That started me thinking about the 10 best films that I have never seen.

I'm not going to ask readers to suggest which one I should see (for some reason, the comments have never worked on this blog, anyway). I'm just going to post a list of the 10 best films that I haven't seen but should see.

This is for your entertainment, not my guidance. Eventually, I would like to see all of these movies.

To make my list comparable to Holleman's, I decided to follow his rules — but not entirely.
  • Holleman said the films on the list had to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. Fine. I'll go along with that.

  • Holleman said they had to be released after he graduated from high school. He graduated in 1976 so that covers the last 35 years. I graduated a few years after Holleman did.

    I'm going to be more expansive than that. (Here's where my standards will differ a bit from Holleman's.) I'll say they had to be released since 1961 (in the last half century, in other words).

  • Cartoons were excluded. That's fine with me. I haven't been a fan of cartoons since I was a kid.
Kind of a movie viewing to–do list, you might say.

Holleman tried to pinpoint the reasons why he didn't see the movies. I've sort of tried to do that, too.

But Holleman put his list in chronological order. I haven't bothered to do that. It's only 10 movies, after all.

Even though I added more than 15 years' worth of nominees to choose from, it wasn't an easy list for me to compile. I didn't realize just how many Best Picture nominees from the 1960s and 1970s I had actually seen.

But I have narrowed it down to these choices:
  1. Cabaret (1972) — I've wanted to see this movie for a long time.

    I don't know why I haven't seen it. I like Bob Fosse's work. But I never saw it, either at the theater or on television.

    Maybe it's a reaction to the fact that it is a musical. I've never really cared for musicals — although I did enjoy Fosse's "All That Jazz," which was kind of a musical.

    For that matter, I've never really cared for Liza Minelli, either. I liked her mother, thought she was great in "The Wizard of Oz."

    But the American Film Institute considers it one of the top 100 movies of the last century.

  2. In the Heat of the Night (1967) — I've had some opportunities to see this movie, but I have never taken advantage of them. Maybe that is because I used to watch the TV series that was inspired by it, and maybe that made me feel as if I already knew what was in it.

    That may or may not be true.

    But I have always been critical of people who rejected a movie or a book or anything else based only on what they had heard from others. I don't want to be guilty of that.

  3. Frost/Nixon (2008) — I'm a history buff so it is natural, I suppose, for me to be drawn to an historical re–creation like this.

    Many times, I have seen movies about historic events that happened long before I was born — and, unless I have specific knowledge of the event, I usually have no way of knowing if the movie is telling the whole truth.

    It helps if I can remember what is being re–created — and I vividly remember the Frost/Nixon interviews.

    Besides, I like Ron Howard. I liked his work in front of the camera, and — for the most part — I have liked his work behind it.

  4. True Grit (2010) — I saw the original with John Wayne, and I really would like to see the remake with Jeff Bridges.

    My friends have told me that this version is much closer in spirit to the book than the John Wayne version was. If that is true (and I have no reason to think it is not), then I would like to see it.

    I have nothing against film adaptations, in which the director takes certain liberties with the characters and the plot, but my personal preference has always been for productions that were as faithful to the original story as possible.

  5. Goodfellas (1990) — I intended to see this when it was at the theaters, but I was in graduate school at the time, pressed for time and money.

    I like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. I tend to like gangster movies. I meant to go to the theater. Just didn't get around to it.

  6. The King's Speech (2010) — OK, let me set the record straight.

    I am not and never have been one of those obsessive Royal Family watchers.

    I was as shocked and saddened by Princess Diana's death as anyone else, and I remember hearing my parents and grandparents speak of Edward VIII's abdication to marry an American divorcee in the 1930s, but until this movie came out, I didn't realize that Edward's successor, his brother George, had a stammering problem that he sought to overcome through speech therapy before delivering an address to the British people at the start of World War II.

    I've heard there are some historical inaccuracies in the movie — which probably wouldn't be noticeable to me, considering that I know fairly little about the Royal Family as it is. That wasn't what kept me from seeing the movie at the theaters.

  7. A Thousand Clowns (1965) — I have always liked Jason Robards.

    And I have heard quite a bit about his performance in "A Thousand Clowns," but I have never seen it.

    I've seen the movies for which Robards was honored with an Oscar, and I've seen the movie for which he was nominated but did not win. And I've seen many of his performances that I thought were good, they just weren't nominated for Oscars. I'd like to add this one to my list.

  8. The Conversation (1974) — Between "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II," Francis Ford Coppola made "The Conversation" with Gene Hackman and Cindy Williams, who was on the verge of becoming a TV star as Shirley on Laverne & Shirley.

    I don't really remember hearing anything about it when it was in the theaters, but I've heard a lot about it in the years since. My memory is that it was profitable but nowhere near as successful as the first two "Godfather" movies. Perhaps it got a bit lost in the shuffle.

  9. The Queen (2006) — As I mentioned earlier, I'm a history buff.

    And I've never been a Royal Family watcher.

    But, like just about everyone else, I was riveted by the TV coverage of Princess Diana's fatal car crash in August 1997.

    And, even though I understand the movie is a fictionalized account of the conflicting views within the Royal household of how Diana's death should be handled, I'd still like to see it. I'm not sure why I missed it five years ago.

  10. Capote (2005) — When I was in college, I read "In Cold Blood," Truman Capote's account of the Clutter family killings in Kansas in late 1959.

    I've heard that the movie follows the period when Capote was writing about the murders and the trial that resulted in the convictions of the killers. His companion, childhood friend Harper Lee, was writing "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the time, and I have heard that it is mentioned a number of times in the movie.

    Beyond that, Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Capote, and I have admired his work in other films.