Friday, December 31, 2010

How Great Movies Made My Year Greater (and which ones were the very best)

I just finished watching Days of Wine and Roses, a 1962 film starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick and directed by Blake Edwards, who passed away earlier this month.

It is a movie about alcoholism, and while it started out a bit slow, it wound up riveting and absolutely worthwhile.

It was, barring any errors in my recordkeeping, the 281st movie I watched in 2010. And presumably the last, unless the friends I will be visiting tonight have a video on the agenda. So I guess some might say that I am a movieholic.

But while denial is usually part of the proof, I don't think watching so many movies has been detrimental in any way. In fact, I think it has been an invigorating, uplifting and enriching exercise during a year in which, like far too many Americans, I've been "stuck on the sofa" in terms of my career.

I won't argue with anyone who suggests that the hours I devoted to watching movies might have been better spent; maybe so. And in fact, in 2011, I'm hoping to cut back a bit in the name of writing a movie of my own and doing a good bit more reading. But not only did I also devote a tremendous amount of time and effort to seeking new employment--including applying to jobs, putting together resumes, cover letters & promo pieces and attending networking events and the occasional interview--I also did a number of other fulfilling things throughout the year.

I attended over 100 live events, including concerts, plays, musicals, operas and ballgames. Including this piece, I wrote 195 blog articles here (plus 26 for another blog), and have seen traffic escalate from under 100 visits per month to averaging over 1,300. I went to a number of museums, read 11 books--hence one of my resolutions--and saw every episode of at least 10 TV shows. And at a time when friendships are becoming increasingly virtual, I am proud that I got together specifically (and/or had at least one 1-hour phone conversation) with over 40 different friends, including some new ones.

So I defy anyone, including myself, who thinks all I did was "watch movies."

And far beyond all that I've gained and learned from the movies themselves, including a greater sense of culture, artistry, commentary and worldwide perspective--as I elaborated on here and here, my eyes were opened by more than 100 films from foreign lands, as well as those from a vast array of eras, genres and directors--my affinity for movies introduced me to several new friends, prompted dozens of great conversations and even brought more readers to this blog. (My piece about Citizen Kane vs. Casablanca, was the most read of all my articles, with over 1,200 unique pageviews.)

Anyway, I don't know why this needed to be a rant, or a defense of sorts, but I really feel tremendously gratified to have seen so many films of so many different types in 2010. Over the last few days, I've been posting my picks for the Best Movies of 2010, including Documentaries, Foreign Films and English-language Feature Films. Below is simply a list of my picks for the Best Movies I Saw, of any era, vintage, country of origin, etc.

I realize the silliness of this, as it feels weird to compare such vastly different movies, especially as it's quite likely I underappreciated some of the "better ones" from days of yore or more adventurous directors. Also, as this list may seem like a "Best Movies Ever" sort of thing, the fact that pictures like The Godfather (and II), On the Waterfront, Gone With the Wind and others are excluded, simply because I didn't watch them in the past 365 days, feels a bit arbitrary.

But as I always say, "take it for what it's worth," and these and almost all the other movies I watched in 2010--and the residual benefits--were worth a whole lot to me.

The 25 Best Movies I Saw in 2010 (of any ilk, age, genre, etc.)

1. Citizen Kane
2. La Dolce Vita
3. Casablanca
4. The Seven Samurai 
5. Once Upon A Time in the West
6. Paths of Glory
7. The Maltese Falcon
8. 12 Angry Men
9. Sunset Blvd.
10. Pulp Fiction
11. The Burmese Harp
12. Dr. Strangelove
13. Breathless
14. Short Cuts
15. Once Upon a Time in America
16. Memento
17. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
18. Ballad of A Soldier
19. A Hard Day's Night
20. Rififi
21. Pan's Labryrinth
22. It's A Wonderful Life
23. The Son (Le Fils)
24. Sin Nombre
25. Yesterday

50 More Great Ones (also see my 2010 lists)

Bridge on the River Kwai
Chop Shop
Goodbye Solo
The Hurt Locker
The Big Sleep
Fight Club
The Host
The Music Man
Reservoir Dogs
The Seventh Seal
The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
The Damned United
Splendor in the Grass
The Kite Runner
To Live
The Lady From Shanghai
La Strada
The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Out of the Past
The Killers (1946)
A Clockwork Orange
Children of Heaven
Requiem for a Dream
Song for Sparrows
The Counterfeiters
The 400 Blows
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Throne of Blood
Days of Wine and Roses
Wendy & Lucy
The Third Man
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeousie
Born Yesterday
Mean Streets
Shoot the Piano Player
The Asphalt Jungle
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Maria Full of Grace
Central Station
The Blues Brothers
Young @ Heart

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