Defining Moments in Movies/Rosenbaum's 1000
Defining Moments in Movies, edited by Chris Fujiwara, is an 800-page, 4-pound bag of potato chips. You can’t just read one entry and stop; instead, you dive in at random and go snacking all over the place. The entries are brief, half a page each, comprising a couple of paragraphs.
The writers include several familiar figures from our corner of the film blogosphere, including Adrian, Dan, Noel, Matt Zoller Seitz, Michael Sicinski and Miguel Marías. To whet your appetite and recommend it as a most worthwhile stocking stuffer, let me offer up, as previews, some titles of pieces by these writers. The entries are devoted to key scenes, films, or events, and the book walks chronologically through the decades.
Adrian: “The blow job” in The Wayward Cloud; “This time tomorrow” in Regular Lovers; “The dance” in La Vie Nouvelle; “The narrator coughs” in Dogtown and Z-Boys; “Hole in the head” in The Quick and the Dead; “Charlene warns Chris away” in Heat; “Get with the program!” in Bad Lieutenant; “Art gallery impressionism” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; “Embrace in a taxi” in Love Streams; “The lift” in Dressed to Kill; “The on-screen guide falls asleep” in The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting; “The Frankenstein screening” in The Spirit of the Beehive; Bulle Ogier as Gigi la Folle in Marc’O’s Les Idoles; “Nita’s song” in The Cloud-Capped Star.
Dan: “I will break your fall” in Trust; “Suzanne’s missing dimple” in A nos amours; “Making dinner while listening to the radio” in Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger is Dead; “Andrew Sarris’s The American Cinema” (1968); “Helicopters rule the earth” in Losey’s The Damned; “Beginning to tunnel” in Le Trou; “Dead body on the lawn” in Phil Karlson’s The Phenix City Story; “Publication of Bazin’s “The Ontology of the Photographic Image”” (1945); “Two gunshots interrupt the lake party” in von Sternberg’s An American Tragedy.
Noel: “Nena teaching Jose how to dance” in Mario O’Hara’s Demons; “Noel shut out of his in-laws’ house” in Mike de Leon’s In the Blink of an Eye; “Leper and church tower” in Gerardo de Leon’s Touch Me Not.
Matt: “The birth of the blockbuster” (1975); “Dolby noise reduction used on the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange”; “Sam the Lion’s monologue by the fishing hole” in The Last Picture Show; “The parting of the Red Sea” in The Ten Commandments; “The bathtub” in Diabolique; “The cutting of Greed” (1924).
Michael: “The testimony song” in Bamako; “Jackie reads her children’s book to Michael” in Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was…; “A kulak claims the land as his” in Earth; “Freder catches his father with the false Maria” in Metropolis.
Miguel: “The mysterious little buzzing box” in Belle Toujours; “Americans take photographs of the Chaplin-like emperor” in The Sun; “The blind Korean masseuse and Trebor’s scar” in The Intruder; “Stopover embrace” in The Brown Bunny; “The shooting of a costume ball to a Them song” in Garrel’s Wild Innocence; “Bath and shower” in The Captive; “The girl carrying her boyfriend on her back” in Guerin’s Work in Progress; “Two painters singing” in Dream of Light; “Thornton sitting in the dust, rising to join old Sykes” in The Wild Bunch; “The horseback tournament” in Lilith.
Also featured extensively in Defining Moments is Jonathan Rosenbaum. His book, Essential Cinema (2004), contains a canon of 1000 personal favorites that is available on-line, thanks to Harry Tuttle. Combing the list, I find that I’ve seen almost exactly half the films on it. The films I haven’t seen are split evenly (about 250 each) into those available on DVD/video and those that are not.
For 2007, I resolved to watch a film a day on average, which worked out well. In 2008, I’d like to keep up the pace but include at least 100 films from the Rosenbaum list; I’ve meant to catch up with these titles for ages now and this resolution will give me a good incentive to.
Looking over the Rosenbaum 1000, I’m impelled to disclose some dirty little secrets—films I should’ve seen long ago but still haven’t. There was an issue of Cinema Scope a few years ago that had a special section devoted to just such films, called “guilty omissions.”
Here are 10 of my horribly guilty omissions: Andrei Rublev, Dumbo, Barry Lyndon, Limelight, Ivan the Terrible parts 1 and 2, Spartacus, Greed, East of Eden, The Barefoot Contessa, A Star is Born (any version). Your guilty omissions from the list, if you have any?
A few links:
-- Dave Kehr on "Ford at Fox" at his blog, and in the NYT.
-- Two posts featuring James Benning, by David Bordwell and Alexis Tioseco.
-- Dan on cinema sound.
-- Thierry Jousse looks back on the film highlights of 2007 in the new issue of Frieze.
-- Dave Hickey is interviewed at The Believer.
-- Ignatius Vishnevetsky on Max Ophuls.
Drawing: The cover of the Defining Moments book features The Silence of the Lambs.