November 21, 2008

Mon Meme Alphabette

Doing this without being tagged--do we have an antisocial rep? Probably--or tagging others (then it becomes too reminiscent of a chain letter, if you ask me), in large part as a weekend stopgap. I first heard about this "meme" over at THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR; apparently it originated at BLOG CABINS. Everyone here is welcome to counter with his or her own list, link to a favourite, or trash mine.

Rather than choose my favourite film from each letter of the alphabet, as the rules dictated, I decided to be a rebel and pick some also-rans that in a few cases haven't gotten much play around here. (Besides which, this seems to have rapidly become an Obscure-off in which no one is being truly honest with themselves.) I suspect, as Nick Davis said of his friend, um, Goatdog, that some of my choices will take even close friends by surprise. Sometimes a title just never comes up in conversation.

Also, I cheated on the letter "x."
Alice in the Cities (Wenders)
The Baby (Post)
California Split (Altman)

Danger: Diabolik (Bava)
Explorers (Dante)
F for Fake (Welles)
The Girl Can't Help It (Tashlin)

Hamlet (Branagh)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (Arnold)
The Jerk (Reiner)
Kurt & Courtney (Broomfield)

Lisa (Sherman)
Modern Romance (Brooks)

The Nutty Professor (Lewis)
Onegin (Fiennes)
The Public Enemy (Wellman)
Quest for Fire (Annaud)
Return of the Dragon (Lee)

The Sterile Cuckoo (Pakula)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Lynch)
Under the Volcano (Huston)
Videodrome (Cronenberg)
The Wrong Man (Hitchcock)

Pola X (Carax)
Young Frankenstein (Brooks)
Zoolander (Stiller)


jacksommersby said...

Bill, I totally agree on "Videodrome". "California Split" is a very interesting pick -- so, of course, is "Explorers". Would do "Murphy's Romance" over "Modern Problems", but it's still a fine pick. If it were a movie and not a TV pilot, I'd do "Twin Peaks"; and though I don't much care for "Fire Walk With Me", the underrated Sheryl Lee deserved a best-actress Oscar for her galvanizing performance.

Here's my 2 cents:

Alien (Scott)
Blue Velvet (Lynch)
Creepshow (Romero)
Die Hard (McTiernan)
Endangered Species (Rudolph)
Flesh and Bone (Kloves)
Groundhog Day (Ramis)
Hopscotch (Neame)
The Invisible Man (Whale)
Jaws (Spielberg)
Kingpin (Farrelly Bros.)
L.A. Confidential (Hanson)
Mike's Murder (Bridges)
Nobody's Fool (Benton)
Once Upon a Time in America (Leone)
Patti Rocks (Morris)
Q & A (Lumet)
Red Rock West (Dahl)
Se7en (Fincher)
The Terminator (Cameron)
Up the Academy (Downey)
Videodrome (Cronenberg)
White Hunter, Black Heart (Eastwood)
Xtro (Davenport)
Year of the Dragon (Cimino)
Z (Costa-Gavras)

Dan said...

Limiting myself to the ease of browsing my own shelves while trying not to duplicate too many titles already listed above, here's my ABC - for what it's worth (cheated on the X too...):

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Herzog)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Meyer)
The Court Jester (Frank & Panama)
Days of Heaven (Malick)
Ed Wood (Burton)
The Fly (Cronenberg)
Gimme Shelter (Maysles Brothers)
Hamlet (Almereyda)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel)
Jackie Brown (Tarantino)
Keane (Kerrigan)
The Lost Weekend (Wilder)
The Man Who Wasn't There (Coen Brothers)
Nashville (Altman)
The Old Dark House (Whale)
Psycho (Hitchcock)
Quiz Show (Redford)
Rio Bravo (Hawks)
The Straight Story (Lynch)
Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch)
Ugetsu (Mizoguchi)
The Verdict (Lumet)
Wise Blood (Huston)
The Ox-Bow Incident (Wellman)
Yojimbo (Kurosawa)
Zelig (Allen)

Bill C said...

You own a copy of WISE BLOOD, Dan? I'm extremely envious.

Jack & Dan: Many titles from you both that were on my list as well at one point. Truth is, the final product is a crapshoot, a decent but by no means definitive personal litmus test.

Dan said...

Actually, Wise Blood is the one title on my list that I coughed up by association rather than actual presence on my shelf, after reading an article about it just recently. The rumor is that a Criterion edition is in the works...

Vikram said...

Bill, I thought for sure that Miller's Crossing would be your M

Alex Jackson said...

I think Explorers is one of Dante's worst. Really rubs me the wrong way, there's something very ugly about it. Have never been on the Videodrome.

Totally totally totally on board with Alice in the Cities, F for Fake, Quest for Fire, and even the very difficult, very messy, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me. All would be first choices if I were to run an Overlooked Film Festival.

I did the exact opposite as Dan and just chose films that I don't have on DVD yet, but are, as the best of my knowledge, readilly available. For the most part, this list was taken from my Four Star List. With the letters Q, U, V, and Y; I went to my alternate. Very slim pickings there, I've only seen three great Q movies: Quills, Quest for Fire, and Quiz Show. The last two were mentioned already, but Quest for Fire is the only one of the three that I do not own. I own all three of my U titles. Only great V movie I've seen is, embarassingly, The Virgin Suicides. Only great Y movie I've seen is Y Tu Mama Tambien. Didn't even bother with the X.

Alphaville (1965, Godard)
Broken Blossoms (1919, Griffith)
Crumb (1995, Zwigoff)
Duck Soup (1933, McCarey)
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982, Spielberg)
Funny Games (1997, Haneke)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Takahata)
Hamlet (1948, Olivier)*
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Kaufman)
Jackass Number Two (2006, Tremaine)
Killer's Kiss (1955, Kubrick)
The Last Laugh (1924, Murnau)
Mr. Arkadin (1955, Welles)
Nixon (1995, Stone)
Onibaba (1965, Shindo)
A Perfect Candidate (1996, Cutler and Van Taylor)
The Quick and the Dead (1995, Raimi)
Repulsion (1965, Polanski)
Saraband (2005, Bergman)
Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, Huston)
Uncle Buck (1989, Hughes)
Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (1992, McCarthy, Glassman, and Samuels)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962, Aldrich)
Yasukuni (2008, Ling)
Zodiac (2007, Fincher)

Bill C said...

I think I sorta like that ugliness you describe. EXPLORERS is a deeply cynical film. Another guy who despises it is Dante himself, but i think that's 'cause Paramount released the movie in an unfinished state. For what it's worth, my original "e" was EYE OF GOD.

I find NIXON pretty agonizing, but your list is hot stuff. Interesting how Huston titles keep cropping up.

Vikram: I figured it was time to give an "m" flick its due besides that and THE MUPPET MOVIE.

jacksommersby said...

Hmmm, Alex, are you sure John Hughes-loving Bill didn't take over your soul briefly when you listed "Uncle Buck"? Truth be told, it's got hands down the funniest bummer of a car in the history of film ("You know how reamed out an engine has to be to do that!?"). "Quick and the Dead" -- the best of the post-"Unforgiven" westerns. But, strangely, I've rewatched "The Black Dahlia" again, which I originally panned, and actually find it superior to the similarly-themed "Zodiac".

Overall, terrific list and a good DVD guide next time I go to the library. Especially am interested in the unseen "The Perfect Candidate" being the political junkie that I am.

jacksommersby said...

Oh, one more thing, Alex -- you can watch "Quest For Fire" for free at that sports a good letterboxed image.

theoldboy said...

I posted this list over at the House. It bears reposting.

Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)
The Conversation (1974, F.F. Coppola)
Dawn of the Dead (1978, George Romero)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Stanley Kubrick)
The 400 Blows (1959, Francois Truffaut)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1967, Sergio Leone)
A History Of Violence (2005, David Cronenberg)
Ichi the Killer (2001, Takashi Miike)
JFK (1991, Oliver Stone)
Kundun (1997, Martin Scorsese)
El Laberinto Del Fauno (2006, Guillermo Del Toro)
Manhunter (1984, Michael Mann)
Nashville (1975, Robert Altman)
Oldboy (2003, Park Chan-wook)
Punch-drunk Love (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson)
QT's Rolling Thunder Pictures Presents Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-Wai)
Rushmore (1998, Wes Anderson)
Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)
Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood)
Vertigo (1957, Alfred Hitchcock)
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Bela Tarr)
die Xue jie tou (1990, John Woo)
Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa)
Z (1969, Costa-Gavras)

I think I did this under the rule that I wouldn't have multiple films by the same director. A few of these are very sneaky cheats (I must admit that Die xue jie tou (Bullet In The Head) is probably only my 3rd favorite John Woo movie), and I'm not terribly passionate about Unforgiven, though it's been a very long while since I've seen it.

Anonymous said...

A few repeats, but there we are. I also used Oldboy's cheat on "Q" (and, technically, "P") because it turns out that half the films I love start with the letter "D." Still, I think an "auteur letter" is fair game. "O" is actually a pleasant surprise should you come across it.

Annie Hall (1978, Allen)
Broken Flowers (2005, Jarmusch)
Crank (2006, Neveldine/Taylor)
Darkman (1990, Raimi)
Enter the Dragon (1973, Clouse)
From Russia with Love (1963, Young)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, Foley)
A Hard Day's Night (1964, Lester)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Kaufman)
John Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981, Carpenter)
The King of Comedy (1983, Scorsese)
Lucky Number Slevin (2006, McGuigan)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962, Frakenheimer)
North by Northwest (1959, Hitchcock)
Open Season (2006, Allers/Culton)
Profondo Rosso (1975, Argento)
Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (2007, Tarantino)
Re-Animator (1985, Gordon)
Silent Movie (1976, Brooks)
There Will Be Blood (2007, Anderson)
The Untouchables (1987, De Palma)
Videodrome (1983, Cronenberg)
Wild at Heart (1990, Lynch)
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006, Brett "Wheels of Steel" Ratner--just making sure you're paying attention. Couldn't even cheat here.)
Yellow Submarine (1968, Dunning)
Zoo (2007, Devor)

O'JohnLandis said...

Cranky John is back. (Did he ever leave?)

Whatever minor pleasures this kind of exercise offers (mainly the inclusion of fewer "important" films on a list) are totally thrown away if you cheat a letter. See, the point of the list is you have to make choices--is it Death Proof or Darkman, Chungking Express or The Conversation (or something else, ick)? In that respect, Alex's decision to skip "X" is a better way to handle the problem. And Oldboy ought to decide whether he's using English titles.

The only rule I'll use is "one film per director." The Coens and Tarantino--and, as it turns out, Arthur Hiller--can't win everything.

(Edit: OK, so while doing it, I've decided also to highlight movies I love that I rarely talk about.)

The Abyss (1989, Cameron)
The Bad News Bears (1976, Ritchie)
Cradle Will Rock (1999, Robbins)
Demolition Man (1993, Brambilla)
Eddie Izzard: Dress To Kill (1999)
The First Nudie Musical (1976, Haggard/Kimmel)
The Good Thief (2002, Jordan)
The Hospital (1971, Hiller)
I Married a Strange Person (1997, Plympton)
Josie and the Pussycats (2001, Elfont/Kaplan)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003, Tarantino)
The Last Broadcast (1998, Avalos/Weiler)
The Manhattan Project (1986, Brickman)
Night of the Comet (1984, Eberhardt)
Oleanna (1994, Mamet)
The Prestige (2006, Nolan)
The Quiet American (2002, Noyce)
The Ref (1994, Demme)
1776 (1972, Hunt)
Two Girls and a Guy (1997, Toback)
Undercover Brother (2002, Lee)
V for Vendetta (2005, McTeigue)
Walking and Talking (1996, Holofcener)
X-Men (2000, Singer)
You Can Count On Me (2000, Lonergan)
Zathura (2005, Favreau)

jacksommersby said...

Bravo for citing "Demolition Man", Ian. It placed 2nd on my top-10 films of 1993 list.

jacksommersby said...

(Whoops -- I meant OJL for the "Demolition Man" pick.)

Dan said...

You Can Count On Me (2000, Lonergan)

Thanks for listing my original 'Y' choice, O'John. I replaced it at the last second because I couldn't abide the idea of not having a single Kurosawa title in my ABC. But I ended up regretting that 'canonical' choice over Lonergan's infitely rewarding (and too frequently overlooked) masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Seeing "ET" next to "Funny Games" just made a lightbulb go on in my brain.


Jefferson said...

When will you start posting your challenges at the blog itself, O'John? I miss those.

Stephen Reese said...

Some letters were bloody difficult (A, D, R, S); for others there was barely any choice. As follows:

Blade Runner
Christmas Story, A
Dead Calm
Ed Wood
Flirting With Disaster
Groundhog Day
Ice Storm, The
Kill Bill, Volume 1
Last Starfighter, The
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Never Cry Wolf
Outlaw Josey Wales, The
Passion Fish
Quick and the Dead, The
Tale of Two Sisters, A
Uncle Buck
Vanishing, The (Spoorloos)
Waking The Dead
X-Men 3: The Last Stand (haha)
You've Got Mail (ditto)

Alex Jackson said...

Bill: Been a while since I saw it, but I felt vindicated by the number of Nixon essays on House Next Door.

Jack: You would love A Perfect Candidate. It's about how incumbant Chuck Robb, a soulless automatron programmed to spout palatable soundbites, faces off against Oliver North. Tends to lend itself to discussion of virtually any American election funnily enough.

John: Really feel that strongly about X-men and You Can Count on Me? I stand by my decision to not put anything instead of an X-men movie. And I like You Can Count on Me, but I dunno, I guess it's just not heavy enough for me. I don't think that it belongs in the same company as Young Frankenstein and I can understand why it's underdiscussed. I can't understand how it could be considered a masterpiece. Man, 2000 was a really weak year.

Brendan- I was somewhat conscious about the juxtaposition of certain titles, mostly because I wanted a certain amount of variety. I imagined somebody watching these in alphabetical order and I didn't want things to get too monotonous. Still, you pointing that out did get me thinking. The self-reflectiveness that characterizes Funny Games is present in E.T. in the shot where he hides with the stuffed animals or when Dee Wallace reads Peter Pan to her daughter. And you know, this is E.T. I think this is the reason that Funny Games fails somewhat. Popular audiences are more sophisticated than Haneke thinks. We're used to being winked at.

Anonymous said...

Will no one stand up for Xanadu??

Anonymous said...

of course You Can Count On Me is a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Hang on, Stephen... did I see The Last Starfighter in there? Yes, it's a childhood favourite of mine, and I especially love all the sequences in space, but I reckon you have to dock marks off it for being a blatant Star Wars rip-off.

Also, Bill, I'm all for including The Muppet Movie in any list. I actually watched The Muppets Take Manhattan (another childhood fave) again recently; if it weren't Jim Henson's last Muppet film I don't think I'd look back on it so fondly. It is very patchy indeed (and as your review pointed out, you do have to buy a huge contrivance for the final scene to work).

Groundhog Day definitely earns its place here too. I must have seen it, I don't know, about seven times at least, and I'm still staggered at how well it works.

Stephen Reese said...

Si, I take serious issue with your slagging The Last Starfighter for being a Star Wars ripoff. Why, exactly? 'Cause a boy goes to space?

Where's Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada in Lucasland? Where's the beta-unit bounty hunter and kickass co-pilot/surrogate father-figure Grig? Where's freaking *Robert Preston*, for cripesakes, as the interplanetary snake-oil salesman?


Or what is perhaps the greatest wet-dream wish-fulfillment finale of all time, where our boy ditches earthspace in his own ship with a willing/winsome hottie as cargo?

Like, seriously.

Star Wars clone? Only in that there are stars present, and a war.

Me? I've never seen any other movie where you win the honor of fighting alien invaders on a galactic scale by getting good at a video game.

Alas: in a new version of my list over at I swapped out Starfighter for Leaving Las Vegas.

But the stellar You've Got Mail still holds its own at letter Y. ;)


Anonymous said...

The Star Wars similarities?'ve got the dogfights in space, you've got the kid who is at first uncertain about going to the stars but then decides to when he realises there's nothing left for him at home (Luke had a dull life on Tatooine, too), you've got the old man who leads him to his new life (although, in fairness, Robert Preston and Obi-Wan couldn't be further apart... that said, Preston DOES come back to life, doesn't he?), and the villain is related to one of the good guys. (Xur is Enduran's son.)

But I like the film a lot in SPITE of all of this. Critics like Richard Scheib (see his review at the SF, Horror and Fantasy site) came down hard on the film for taking after Lucasland like it did, but I couldn't do that. I'll never forget the thrill of repeatedly watching it as a 6-7 year old - and your points about the characters are great ones. I liked Beta, Grig and Robert Preston. Not to mention Death Blossom and Maggie. Or even Otis.

Come to think of it, what's your favourite line? Preston had most of the best ones, but Otis's "You'll get your chance..." and Beta's "You owe me one, Alex..." are especially resonant.

jer fairall said...

Tried to stick with things on my own Four Star List, highlighting films that I feel are kinda underrated or unlikely to go represented. In some cases, they are simply the ones I watched the most recently and thus feel a particularly fresh affection for.

Didn't have any Four Star pics yet that start with O, X or Z, so had to reach a little bit. Had to reach A LOT with Q.

Went with popular choices with A, J and R, simply because it would hurt to chose anything other than those three movies in those cases. Plus I like how my A and Z picks bring my list full circle.

My favorite movie letter? L, it seems--Lost In Translation, Let The Right One In, Lady From Shanghai, Last Picture Show, La Dolce Vita, Leaving Las Vegas and Lost in America all in addition to my actual choice (one I feel particularly passionate about, I must add).

Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)
Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975)
Carnal Knowledge (Nichols, 1971)
Die Hard With a Vengeance (McTiernan, 1995)
End of the Century (Fields & Gramaglia, 2004)
Fanny & Alexander (Bergman, 1983)
Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)
Heavy Traffic (Bakshi, 1973)
Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (Spielberg, 1989)
Jules and Jim (Truffaut, 1962)
King Kong (Jackson, 2005)
L.A. Story (Jackson, 1991)
The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (Lucas, 2005)
Nurse Betty (LaBute, 2000)
Opening Night (Cassavetes, 1977)
The Power of Nightmares (Curtis, 2004)
"Queer" (Sednaoui, 1995)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001)
Six Degrees of Separation (Schepisi, 1993)
The Trial (Welles, 1962)
Unbreakable (Shymalan, 2000)
V For Vendetta (McTeigue, 2006)
Without You, I'm Nothing (Boskovich, 1990)
X Men (Singer, 2000)
You Can Count On Me (Lonnergan, 2000)
Zelig (Allen, 1983)

Anonymous said...

Alex: Can you please state your stance against X-Men and X-2 (That Last Stand bullshit needs no explanation)

Walter_Chaw said...

This is awesome!

Aguirre: The Wrath of God
Back to the Future
Conversation, The
Days of Being Wild
Elephant Man, The
Fireworks (“Hana-bi”)
Groundhog Day
Incredible Shrinking Man, The
Lady from Shanghai, The
Mulholland Drive
No Country for Old Men
Once Upon a Time in the West
Playtime (1971)
Q & A
Royal Tenenbaums, The
Shadow of a Doubt
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The
Woman in the Dunes
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
Y Tu Mamá Tambien
Zero Effect

jacksommersby said...

Bravo, Walter, for seconding "Q & A". I tell ya, I didn't even like it the first time I saw it on opening weekend, with the main reason being that the theatrical trailer built it up as some kind of crime thriller, so I was expecting it to play out with a much edgier rhythm and thus thought the film unnecessarily "dragged". Upon the second viewing at a discount theatre, I was amazed at the difference at how it confidentally and incisively played itself out. Definitely Lumet's career-capper.

jacksommersby said...

And just for the heck of it, an A-Z list of the worst films:

Always (1989, Spielberg)
Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)
Crackers (1984, Malle)
Deal of the Century (1983, Friedkin)
Evil Toons (1992, Ray)
Freebie and the Bean (1974, Rush)
Girls Nite Out (1984, Deubel)
Heaven's Gate (1980, Cimino)
Inseminoid (1981, Warren)
Jake Speed (1986, Lane)
The Keep (1983, Mann)
Loose Cannons (1989, Clark)
Man Bites Dog (1992, Belvaux)
Natural Born Killers (1994, Stone)
The Osterman Weekend (1983, Peckinpah)
Prophecy (1979, Frankenheimer)
Quigley Down Under (1990, Wincer)
Ready to Wear (1994, Altman)
Second Sight (1989, Zwick)
Tai-Pan (1986, Duke)
The Unseen (1981, Steinmann)
Visiting Hours (1982, Lord)
Wild at Heart (1990, Lynch)
Xanadu (1980, Greenwald)
Your Friends And Neighbors (1998, LaBute)
A Zed And Two Noughts (1985, Greenaway)