The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Wednesday, January 02, 2008
THE BEST OF 1957: So far we've looked at my favorite movies of
1997, 1987, 1977, and 1967. Before we go back another decade, I ought to pause to stress how provisional these lists are. My take on 1967 might look different when I finally watch Playtime. My perspective on 1987 could change if I ever get around to seeing Housekeeping. And so on.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1957, it gave its Best Picture award to a David Lean epic called The Bridge on the River Kwai. That's a fine film, and you'll find it on my list -- but not at the top:

1. What's Opera, Doc?
Directed by Chuck Jones
Written by Michael Maltese

With American efficiency, the Ring Cycle is gagged up and slimmed down to seven minutes of film.

2. Paths of Glory
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson, from a novel by Humphrey Cobb

Possibly the most unsentimental antiwar movie ever made.

3. Sweet Smell of Success
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Written by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Ordets, from a novelette by Lehman

Does for Walter Winchell what Citizen Kane did for William Randolph Hearst.

4. Wild Strawberries
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

"Me and my wife are dependent on each other. It is out of selfish reasons we haven't beaten each other to death a long time ago."

5. Throne of Blood
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuzo Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni, from a play by William Shakespeare

The best of the celluloid Macbeths.

6. The Bridge on the River Kwai
Directed by David Lean
Written by Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman, from a novel by Pierre Boulle

Boulle also wrote Planet of the Apes, and from an evolutionary perspective that seems entirely appropriate.

7. Witness for the Prosecution
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder, Harry Kurtz, and Larry Marcus, from a play by Agatha Christie

I won't claim this as a libertarian movie, but libertarians should enjoy anything that allows the great Charles Laughton both to disobey doctor's orders and to battle the prosecutorial state.

8. The Bachelor Party
Directed by Delbert Mann
Written by Paddy Chayefsky

No, the Tom Hanks movie isn't a remake of this one. Really, you should be ashamed for even asking that.

9. The Curse of Frankenstein
Directed by Terence Fisher
Written by Jimmy Sangster, from a novel by Mary Shelley

There were two great series of Frankenstein films: the moody black-and-white pictures released by Universal from 1931 to 1948, and the violent, gory, richly colored flicks released by Hammer from 1957 to 1974. This stylish, ambiguous thriller launched the second set of movies. Christopher Lee's monster, unlike Boris Karloff's, is an unsympathetic killing machine; Fisher records his crimes with a raw, primal power.

10. Rhythm
Directed by Len Lye

Part abstract experiment, part car commercial.

posted by Jesse 12:57 PM
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