My 33rd to 35th Favorite Motion Pictures

35 – Babe (1995)
Talking animals generally don’t equal a great time at the theater, but Babe somehow manages to rise above the genre and become a memorable, one-of-a-kind film that runs a lot deeper than one would first suspect. It’s poiniant, positive, beautiful and original. And it’s spliced up into bite-sized chapters with mice coming along to narrate. James Cromwell is the lead (human) actor and, as his first name implies he is very good as what he does. One more great reason to see this film: It was banned in Malaysia.
Why not rank this higher? That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with the fact that it’s a bit slow in places and the story, while certainly very well-crafted and likable, is a simple one. Man, maybe I should rank this higher.

34 – Mary Poppins (1964)
The best-selling film of 1964 was the final film Walt Disney himself produced (and it shows – before 1964: Disney = good; after 1964: Disney = lousy). So many elements combine to make this a success that it’s impossible to single out one reason why I love it, but I think I can name three: Great songs, great human-animation segment and a very anti-capitalism message.
Why not rank this higher? Because it’s just a fun movie. Well-made, and fun, but nothing more.

33 – Citizen Kane (1941)
Citizen Kane is a masterpiece. Nearly every critic loves this film, and many place it on the top of their lists of all-time best films. And it is awesome. It’s brilliant. Thre’s so much to love about the cinematography: the opening gothic scenes of Kane’s fog-enshrouded mansion, the bizarre filming of Kane’s death, the news-report reel that explains his life and death, the scene that takes us through a neon sign, the deep-focuses, the over-lapping dialogue, the oblique angles (in one scene, we witness the action from below the floor), the montage of Kane’s failing marriage depicted by an ever-growing distance at the breakfast table. And the story itself is gripping, too: the title character dies in the first five minutes, the mystery of his final words, and on and on and on.
Why not rank this higher? Like other films from that era (such as Gone With the Wind), Citizen Kane suffers on the small screen. I’ve viewed it twice on TV and once in the theater and the difference was stunning. Also, much of the love given to Citizen Kane is due to its not being sentimental (a rarity at the time) and its innovative filming techniques. These are noteworthy things, to be sure, but here, in 2007, they don’t make a film stand out as much as they did back then.

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3 Responses to My 33rd to 35th Favorite Motion Pictures

  1. Mike says:

    Hi James, Glad to see you are back at it again. My son, Ryan, who has actually had training in film and theatre also thinks very highly of Citizen Kane. A few years ago he loaned the VHS tape to me, but I just could not get into it. I can’t even remember much of the plot. I guess I am just a movie dolt.

  2. James says:

    Before asigning yourself the title of “movie dolt”, consider this:
    A person needs to get into a certain genre or era of films to accurately be able to judge them. Some people I know just instantly say they hate science fiction, even though there are huge differences in quality and theme among them. Other people refuse to watch anything older than they are. When I was a teenager, I made it a point to watch a silent film, just to say that I did. When it was over, I wasn’t exactly blown away, but I was more impressed with it than I thought I was. After seeing dozens of silent films, I came to like and or dislike each one based on its own merits rather than on the fact that it was silent. One day, I rented the film “The General”. I was blown away! I loved it! It ws so much better than any other silent film I had ever seen and I even contemplated putting it on this list. The point is, if I had just rented that film one day without having seen any other silents, I probably would have just thought it was decent. But once I was able to compare it with others, I was really impressed. So, I have to say that, when it comes to films from the 1930s-1950s, there are only a handful that I feel are more entertaining than “Kane”.
    One other thing: The size of the screen really makes a difference. Again using sci fi as an example, the big screen clearly favors big battles and special effects. Likewise, a film with awesome camera angles and tricks is enhanced greatly on the big screen. I first watched “Gone with the Wind” on TV and couldn’t understand what the big deal was, but then my wife took me to see it at the theater and I came to like it much better (although it’s still not on this list). I could say the same about “The Wizard of Oz” and “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”, both of which I didn’t fully appreciate until I saw them on the big screen. When I first saw “Kane” on a 21-inch TV, I thought it was okay. But then my wife and I saw it on big screen and I thought “Oh, now I get it”.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I saw Citizen Kane on the big screen. I didn’t really think it was that great. I mean, it was good, but it was no Gone With The Wind or anything.

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