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Admittedly, it is an obsessive trait that tends to pigeon-hole disparate entertainments in categories, but lordy it is also so much fun. Orderly — or sometimes quirky– groupings provide intellectual satisfaction.
Change the criteria and your lists have to pivot too. The syllabus varies depending on your P.O.V. If we slide our filmography through the filter of genre, our lists get longer and harder to contain. Try it, and you might see why I’ve said I can’t stop making lists.
Fish or fowl?
The decision to place a film in one group as opposed to another is arbitrary. I rely on subject matter. Sort of…. From one point of view, Chinatown finds itself mapped with Casablanca. For instance, look at it one way and The Maltese Falcon nests with The Birds; On The Road To pictures take Bing and Bob along for a trip with Easy Rider; Jaws pairs withMoby Dick; and Stormy Weather clears to Blue Skies.
The list becomes kind of a free association therapy.
Among my favorites are mafia films that are really comedies or satires. There is nothing intrinsically funny about the mob, so I make a “mafia” category under the comedy rubric, to wit:
While Goodfellas is my top #10, here are some for consideration; note not making you a unrefusable offer–
1. The Family, in which Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer shine, is witty and smart. This is a satire, but with enough violence and extortion to stay in full mob genre. Tommy Lee Jones does some heavy-lifting as the family’s handler.
2. Married to the Mob, as I recall, was a wives’ lark, prescient of any Jersey reality show that cropped up since.
3. Gigli, a rotten tomato mash, with Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez, in their dating heyday, is actually quite entertaining.
4. Mafia, a spoof on movies about the mob.
5. Donnie Broscoe: the dark side of mob life; you almost feel sorry for these soldiers of the cosa nostra.
Another kind of Wise Guy
Woody Allen’s heroes are always flawed. His Irrational Man, takes the flaw to a level of indulgance that simply reorganizes reality . Joachim Phoenix makes an arresting leading man in this 2015 addition to the Allen oeuvre.
The Coen brothers also look to the darker side of our natures in their comedies. A Serious Man is about the desperation of a man, a professor like the one in Irrational Man, whose life is falling apart. And yes, it is a comedy, or perhaps a dramedy.
A Beautiful Mind is about a genius at work in which Russell Crowe plays Nobel Laureate, John Nash. Economic theory and the workings of the intellect are as tense and dramatic as any action picture Crowe has made.
Eddie Redmayne is physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, another genius bio-pic.
And so forth….
Money money money, honey!
The financial sector gets the treatment in which greed is front and center. Many of these are truly great, and some are truly iconic, movies:
” ” reprised in 2010
Wolf of Wall Street
The Boiler Room
Demolition (probably the oddest entry in this category)
In other corporate news
- Patterns: from the ’50s, if you have not seen it, do so.
- The Intern: a charmer
- Up in the air
- Michael Clayton
- Chaplin’s Modern Times
- The Desk Set
- 9 to 5
- Horrible Bosses
- Office Space
Don’t play with your food
Foodies like going to the movies, too. There can be a lot of drama when tempered steel blades meet temperament. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the cineplex.
Catherine Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhardt, and Abigail Breslin in No Reservations
Bradley Cooper (Yes, chef) in Burnt
Journey of 100 Steps with Helen Mirren
Juliette Binoche’s Chocolat
For the kiddies, there’s Ratatouille
It behooves me to admit that not only are each of my listings incomplete, and without appropriate notation or explanation, but also that there are many many categories I should have covered.
There are cop stories, crime stories, and buddy pictures with the subgenre of the female buddy pix like Thelma and Louise and … Thelma and Louise.
A couple of styles of cinema are particular favorites in our house– the romantic comedy and the sport genre film. When covering sports, film has been very generous and that list could go on and on and would include William Bendix and John Goodman portraying the Babe; keeping the setting in Boston, Fever Pitch. Giving equal time to their New York rivals, there is the fantastic The Pride of the Yankees. Combining business with sports and covering the business of sports, there’s Money Ball; Million Dollar Arm. makes the cross cultural travail between cricket and baseball…
After baseball, where Bull Durham would be on first, and winning the home run derby every year, there is also basketball, and especially football. We would also have to look at all those terrific boxing films from Somebody Up There Likes Me, Raging Bull to The Great White Hope, Million Dollar Baby, and Rumble in the Jungle and so on. Golf also makes an appearance with Tin Cup and The Legend of Bagger Vance, as well as Caddyshack. Ping Pong Summer may be a feisty little stand alone.
In pairing films, we recently took the apostrophe as far as we thought it could go in overlapping For Pete’s Sake, What’s Up Doc? (both with Barbra Streisand) and She’s Funny That Way.
The latter two films are by Peter Bogdanovic, pointing towards another route for list-making: by auteur. The films of Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovic, Joel and Ethan Coen, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Frances Ford Coppola and so on would be put through their paces, for instance. Of course, the idea of listing films by their star-power is so basic it hardly makes my list.
Or maybe we could just look at movies that have “moon” or Shampoo in the title or as a subject? Then one’s with the word “red” aka The Red Shoes, Reds… So many things to organize I wonder where to begin.
Trick or tweak
There is more forgotten than included on these lists, and lists of lists. It’s inevitable, really, given filmmaking’s hundred plus year history.
Russell Crowe’s boxing picture, Cinderella Man , for instance, deserves a place on any lisy. Eastwood’s Sergio Leone résumé and his Dirty Harry pictures has not been mentioned. The Lethal Weapon franchise has spaiwned not only a network TV series but also allows us to full circle back to Crowe in Nice Guys.
I will tweak no more!