By Andrew Harwood
As much as I hate to accept it, the time has come for me to wrap up this series for the semester. Born out of a sole interest and passion for cinema, I began “Cinephilia” last September, and oh how it has deepened my infatuation over this past year.
Given that this is my last entry for some time, I wanted to do something a bit different. Instead of looking at one genre, I wanted to give my audience 10 movies that I consider to be must-sees but haven’t been discussed in “Cinephilia.” As you can see, I’m not coining these as my “10 favorite films,” and that’s because they aren’t. I find it impossible to narrow it down, so instead, here are 10 I think everyone should watch. Hopefully, this list heightens your curiosity.
10. “Sherlock Jr.” (1924)
Buster Keaton’s bumbling tall-tale of a wannabe investigator was unprecedented in its use of montage, eyeline direction, stunts and physical humor. A touching story, “Sherlock Jr.” was the film that introduced me to Keaton and I cannot be more thankful for that. He’s funny, charming, bitter, upset, but above all, passionate. It’s a film about the love for story, specifically a down-on-his-luck man with an imagination. I sat in complete awe in the final five minutes of this film as Keaton was framed with his betrothed in the projection box of a theater.
9. “Russian Ark” (2002)
I love foreign cinema. No — I lust for it. Every time I experience another foreign film I’m introduced to a new realm of filmmaking, and Aleksandr Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” is no exception. Filmed in a single, 99-minute continuous shot, “Russian Ark” follows an unnamed ghost travelling through time in the corridors of the Russian Heritage Museum. While the film doesn’t really have a plot, its greatness certainly compensates. Considering we never see the protagonist, one cannot connect with him; yet at the same time, the historical figures we witness instead become the film’s focus. We float through each room unaware of where we are headed, unaware of our state. Filmed with natural lighting, little music and meticulous camerawork, “Russian Ark” is a statement of art.
8. “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)
Wes Anderson’s fourth feature film can only be described in one word: fantastic. A perfect blend of score, color, action and, of course, whip-pans, “The Royal Tenenbaums” serves as a depiction of a dysfunctional family’s last-minute reunion in the wake of their father’s terminal illness. Maybe it’s the punchy script, Owen Wilson’s cowboy hat, use of slow-motion or just my obsession with Anderson’s work, but “The Royal Tenenbaums” is a rich and poignant example of intricate storytelling and a perfectly scored film.
7. “Ivan’s Childhood” (1962)
Andrei Tarkovsky was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Characterized by his slow, rhythmic motion and visually stunning production, Tarkovsky’s films were a breath of fresh air, and no better than his trademark film, “Ivan’s Childhood.” A tale about an orphaned boy’s journey through the Soviet front during WWII, “Ivan’s Childhood” is beautiful. It’s heart-warming, heart-wrenching, majestic, tragic and marvelous all at once. Stunning cinematography, dialogue and an ever-so infamous kiss amongst birch trees complete this 1962 drama.
6. “Amelie” (2001)
I stumbled upon this film after cancelled Friday night plans, and I am so thankful for having a flaky friend. But a disclaimer for anyone who watches this film: it is bizarre. Jean-Pierre Jeunet is known for fractured narratives, jump cuts and such, but boy, can he make a film. “Amélie” is a romance about a timid and quirky cafe waitress who helps others while searching for love in Paris. A love story unlike any other, “Amelie” utilizes color, set design, cinematography and an incredible original score to depict a truly heart-warming and emotive story.
5. “Throne of Blood” (1957)
I had to watch this film for a philosophy course and I really don’t know what to say besides “wow.” A retelling of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” set during feudal Japan, “Throne of Blood” tells the story of a soldier’s rise and fall through his own misdeeds. Told through breathless black and white, “Throne of Blood” delves into the tragedy of greed; a painting of triumph, a cascade of regret, it is literally impossible to be bored by this film. And, if I’m being honest, it’s better than “Seven Samurai.” There, I said it. Tragic, spiritual and jaw-dropping, “Throne of Blood” is unlike any other Shakespeare adaptation.
4. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992)
The film that made me so besotted with cinema is Quentin Tarantino’s best (yes, I think this is better than “Pulp Fiction”). Setting aside Tarantino’s trademark dialogue and bloodshed, “Reservoir Dogs” shines as a heist film which depicts the chaotic and frantic aftermath of a botched plan. Relying on a fractured narrative, “Reservoir Dogs” is a gruesome narrative of betrayal and crime in classic Tarantino fashion. Add its ensemble cast, infamous quotes, blood upon blood and a classic Mexican standoff, “Reservoir Dogs” is the ultimate crime thriller.
3. “Annie Hall” (1977)
I’m a Woody Allen enthusiast due to his pessimist and deadpan humor. But, out of all things that embody his films, they’re perfectly written. If I had to pick one of Allen’s films as a must-see, then “Annie Hall” it is. Unprecedented, unconventional and of course hilarious, this film is a masterpiece. A cleverly twisted story of a failed romance set against the backdrop of Manhattan, “Annie Hall” is complete with fourth-wall breaking, comedic monologues and (I can’t stress this enough) probably the greatest screenplay ever written. This movie is a priceless gem.
2. “Hot Fuzz” (2007)
“Hot Fuzz” is the perfect comedy. If you haven’t indulged in any of Edgar Wright’s films, I strongly urge you to do so. “Hot Fuzz,” the story of a high-achieving London cop relocated to the country due to his excellent record, is as smart as it is fun. An ensemble of Britain’s finest spraying bullets, innuendos, pints and, of course, hilariously ingenious insults, “Hot Fuzz” is a perfectly written and masterfully crafted comedy.
1. “Citizen Kane” (1941)
I don’t care if I’m the millionth wannabe-film-critic to talk about “Citizen Kane” or to place it on a “Top 10” list. Fight me. At 25 years old, Orson Welles co-wrote, co-produced, starred and directed “Citizen Kane,” his debut feature film. A 159-minute masterclass on filmmaking, “Citizen Kane” paved the way for unconventional cinematic techniques and fractured narratives. Complete with a brilliant performance by Welles, stunning black and white imagery, immersive language and unparalleled framing, “Citizen Kane” is, in my opinion, the most important film of all time and one of my close favorites.
It’s been a pleasure everyone. In the words of Peggy Dow in “Harvey,” “Goodbye, good luck and good riddance!”