Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Seven

#7 — The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940) I stand by my longtime belief that John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is the tome most deserving of the well-worn honorific The Great American Novel. The appeal of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the default choice, is completely understandable given the way it weighs the toxicity of craving upper mobility along with the hollowness of wealth itself, but I find the gut-punch grimness of Steinbeck’s story to hold greater, more resonant truths. Gatsby has added layers, which tickles the inner intellect of literature aesthetes. The Grapes of Wrath gets … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Seven

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Thirty

#30 — She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1949) One of the pleasures of examining the long swath of Hollywood film history is considering the ways in which the long-lasting masters of the form adapted to the technological changes that came their way. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was not John Ford’s first film in color, but it virtually quivers from the great director’s efforts to construct his film visually with all the possibilities that Technicolor had to offer as the nineteen-forties were drawing to a close. Like few of his contemporaries, Ford used the screen the way a master … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Thirty

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Forty-Five

#45 — My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946) I have an abiding fascination with and appreciation for those directors who have an uncommon mastery of the language of film narrative. Much as I might ply my modest critical acumen against certain films, willingly and unapologetically lamenting muddy storytelling or other shortcomings in the vital business of presenting a coherent, compelling beginning, middle, and end, I recognize that the task of adhering to established grammar of traditional Hollywood cinematic narrative is extremely challenging. Even coming close can be reasonably termed a feat of craftsmanship. Given that, I am even more agog … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Forty-Five

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Forty-Eight

#48 — 3 Godfathers (John Ford, 1948) A common and entirely apt complaint about modern Hollywood filmmaking is the evident pronounced disinterest in the pursuit of originality in favor of figuring out ways to cram familiar brands into the CGI-shaped contours of self-perpetuating (and, increasingly, interlocking) blockbuster franchises. It’s not unreasonable to wish for more invention and less anxious opportunism in the creative choices of modern crafters of cinema, and yet any misty-eyed pining for more golden eras necessarily require a certain amount of willful amnesia. Back in the time before older movies hung around like atrophied specters on late … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Forty-Eight

Ford, Hancock, Huston, McDonagh, Robespierre

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948). Huston’s famed exploration of greed tainting a slapdash partnership of aspiration gold miners in the Mexican mountains is so deviously ingenious that the director booming cackle virtually echoes through the most feverish scenes. The best Tim Holt can do as the most upstanding, straightforward member of the trio is stay upright against the buffeting winds of Humphrey Bogart, all sweaty paranoia and flash fire intensity, and Walter Huston, delivering a just Oscar-awarded turn as the weather-beaten old-timer whose the one member of the party who’s not a neophyte. The film is … Continue reading Ford, Hancock, Huston, McDonagh, Robespierre

Abrahamson, Ford, Lang, Moodysson, Saulnier

While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang, 1956). This noirish drama from director Fritz Lang takes aim at the seediness of the newspapers and the cutthroat competitiveness of those in the media, tiltimng at both with equal vigor. When the newspaper owner’s son (Vincent Price) takes control upon his father’s death, he uses the recent emergence of a serial murdered dubbed “the lipstick killer” to pitch his various reporters and editors against each other in an effort to preserve their jobs or even claim one of the plum new positions available. Lang’s curiosity about the darker instincts that drive people gives … Continue reading Abrahamson, Ford, Lang, Moodysson, Saulnier

Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number Twenty-Five

#25 — The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962) There are a plenty of genres and styles that once prospered in American cinema that have fallen out of favor or been modified to the point of being unrecognizable, but none of them inspired observers to see elegiacal profundity in the offerings from their twilight quite like the western. In part, that’s because westerns, no matter how sprightly and charmed, always seemed to carry a tint of the forlorn to them. By the times films were conveying tales of the Wild West, it was already a bygone era being … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number Twenty-Five