When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1953, it gave its Best Picture award to From Here to Eternity. I like that one, but I like these better:
1. Glen or Glenda
Written and directed by Ed Wood
It draws heavily on found footage, espouses radical sexual politics, and refuses to obey any genre constraints. It jumps merrily from B-movie drama to mock educational film to surreal dream imagery. Unlike all those "socially conscious" liberal studio movies of the '50s, it actually challenges the consensus of its day, sometimes with arguments that adopt the era's assumptions and sometimes in ways far removed from the mainstream. And it casts the guy who played Dracula as God. Isn't it time we recognized this picture as a landmark underground film, as daring and unconventional as anything by Brakhage, Deren, or Conner?
2. Duck Amuck
Directed by Chuck Jones
Written by Michael Maltese
Bugs and Daffy never had much use for the fourth wall to begin with, but in this short they pretty much destroy it.
3. The Naked Spur
Written and directed by Anthony Mann
There's an intense psychological thriller lurking beneath this movie's cowboys-and-Indians setting, with James Stewart in one of his most complex and morally ambiguous roles.
4. Tokyo Story
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Written by Ozu and Kôgo Noda
Self-absorbed adults grow emotionally estranged from their parents. Quiet but devastating.
5. Eaux d'Artifice
Written and directed by Kenneth Anger
Not much happens in this film—there's a woman walking in a garden, and there's water, and there's the color blue, and there's a burst of a different color. As far as I'm concerned, it's Anger's masterpiece.
6. Ugetsu Monogatari
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Written by Matsutarô Kawaguchi and Yoshikata Yoda, from stories by Akinari Ueda
A samurai movie about potters, not a potted movie about samurais.
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza, from a novel by Mercedes Pinto
Sometimes I think Buñuel was at his best when he was helming Mexican potboilers. He certainly had a knack for transforming them into something strange.
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Written by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard L. Breen
A Hitchcockian nightmare about death and marriage.
9. Stalag 17
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder and Edwin Blum, from a play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski
I could do without some of the supporting cast, but it's still the funniest movie ever set in a wartime prison camp.
10. Summer with Monika
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Bergman, from a novel by Per Anders Fogelström
The film returns the stare.
11. The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
12. The Big Heat (Fritz Lang)
13. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller)
14. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli)
15. Little Fugitive (Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin)
16. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks)
17. Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati)
18. Daybreak Express (D.A. Pennebaker)
19. The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee)
20. I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini)
Great unsung performance: Richard Boone in Vicki.
Of the films of 1953 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Anatahan, The Beggar's Opera, and Under the Brooklyn Bridge.