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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
FORTY-NINERS: Having named my favorite films of
1999, 1989, 1979, 1969, and 1959, we turn our attention to...well, you know.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1949, it gave its Best Picture award to All the King's Men, a thinly veiled account of the career of Huey Long. It's one of those "serious" Hollywood movies that doesn't live up to its pretentions, but I still couldn't help enjoying it -- I think Long is, hands down, the most interesting political figure in American history, and it's fascinating to watch Hollywood react to him when he was still a relatively fresh memory. Still, I don't respect it enough to give it a spot on the list.

1. Orpheus
Written and directed by Jean Cocteau

Dreams, death, mirrors, mysterious radio transmissions, and the underworld.

2. The Third Man
Directed by Carol Reed
Written by Graham Greene

"Death's at the bottom of everything, Martins. Leave death to the professionals."

3. Stray Dog
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

Not just a riveting film noir, but a meditation on how much responsibility the ordinary Japanese citizen bears for the crimes of the militarist government. It has relevance beyond Japan.

4. White Heat
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Written by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, from a story by Virginia Kellogg

I never understood the Cagney cult until I saw this movie.

5. They Live By Night
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Ray and Charles Schnee, from a novel by Edward Anderson

This planted the seed for virtually every other film about a couple on the lam, from Bonnie and Clyde to True Romance. It's based on the same novel that spawned Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us, and the two adaptations would make an interesting double feature.

6. Little Rural Riding Hood
Directed by Tex Avery
Written by Rich Hogan and Jack Cosgriff

The high point of Avery's Riding Hood cycle.

7. Kind Hearts and Coronets
Directed by Robert Hamer
Written by Hamer and John Dighton, from a novel by Roy Horniman

A dark comedy from Ealing Studios, which specialized in this sort of small, understatedly funny film.

8. Les Enfants Terribles
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by Melville and Jean Cocteau, from a novel by Cocteau

More of a Cocteau movie than a Melville movie.

9. Passport to Pimlico
Directed by Henry Cornelius
Written by T.E.B. Clarke

Another Ealing effort. This one may be the most Chestertonian comedy I've ever seen. "We've always been English and we'll always be English; and it's precisely because we are English that we're sticking up for our right to be Burgundians."

10. Thieves' Highway
Directed by Jules Dassin

Truck-driving noir.

Honorable mentions:

11. The Set-Up (Robert Wise)
12. Bad Luck Blackie (Tex Avery)
13. Long-Haired Hare (Chuck Jones)
14. I Was a Male War Bride (Howard Hawks)
15. Blood of the Beasts (Georges Franju)
16. Señor Droopy (Tex Avery)
17. Twelve O'Clock High (Henry King)
18. Flamingo Road (Michael Curtiz)
19. The Heiress (William Wyler)
20. Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart)

Of the films of 1949 that I haven't seen, the ones that interest me the most are Max Ophuls' The Reckless Moment, Thorold Dickinson's The Queen of Spades, Jacques Tati's Jour de Fête, and Alexander Mackendrick's Whisky Galore!

posted by Jesse 10:29 PM
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