Daft Favorites

I frequently get asked my favorite film(s); I then wonder what the point of “favorites” are in the face of the vacuousness of the Internet and seals of freshness franken-barfed up by Rotten Tomatoes and the ilk. Shortly after, I remember that I have a long overdue post about a new ‘reviewing method’. It is an arcane method, that along its way addresses things like fresh.com aggregators, but it’s also a more human system and thus better than all the others in the known universe. This much I can attest to.

Until I publish ‘that’, what proceeds is my list of films for the year 2020 that I feel everyone should watch or rewatch in said year. The selection is from an introduction to film studies class I taught, and it was guided by Kanopy, which the school has a subscription too, meaning students could watch the films at no additional cost. It also means that if your local library has access to Kanopy, you can watch these films as well. The one exception is Akira, which can be streamed on Hulu, even for free if one just signs up for the 7 day trial.

While there are different reasons for positioning some of the films where they fall, the ordering is primarily by formal topic.

I keep thinking I’ll start a new site at some point and post stuff like this on it rather than Protozoic. I haven’t made that site yet, so here you go. If you are trapped at home for the holidays, now you have my list of films to watch that I genuinely recommend beyond a point of favorites — because let’s face it, favorites are daft.

  • Silent Comedy – Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916), Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle, One A.M. (1916), Charlie Chaplin, One Week (1920), Buster Keaton; (intro)
  • Rashomon (1950), Akira Kurosawa; (narrative)
  • Pather Panchali (1955), Satyajit Ray; (mise-en-scène)
  • Daughters of the Dust (1991), Julie Dash; (cinematography)
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), Taika Waititi;(editing)
  • Suspiria (1977), Dario Argento; (Halloween)
  • Playtime (1967), Jacques Tati; (sound)
  • The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Ida Lupino; (all formal categories)
  • Akira (1988), Katsuhiro Ôtomo; (all formal categories)
  • The Lure (2015), Agnieszka Smoczynska; (all formal categories)

4 thoughts on “Daft Favorites

  1. Been thinking about this post for a while. Coming up with a current list of my favorite movies would be very hard. I could definitely give you at least 5, ranked, back in my early 20s, to include Fight Club, The Bourne Identity, and Princess Mononoke. Perfect for the Anime-obsessed, angsty incel that I was.

    In terms of art appreciation, I think I defined my childhood persona in part by the video games I liked, my teenage persona by the bands I liked, my college age persona by movies, my late 20s-to-early-30s by bands again, and I feel like I’ve come back to video games in my current stage.

  2. Yes, it’s tough; I think about it a lot. To complicate matters, I genuinely like to read “best of” lists and reviews, even though apparently I have an issue with most of them.

    This isn’t really a reply to what you’ve written, just a continuation of various thoughts I’ve had. One thing that is apparent to me though – now that you mention music – is that I could list a favorite band list far quicker than I could a movie list.

    In alphabetical order:

    • Beach House
    • Beta Band
    • Blue Öyster Cult
    • Blur
    • Bo Hansson
    • Bruce Springsteen
    • New Order
    • Oasis
    • Police
    • They Might Be Giants
    • Velvets / Lou Reed

    Apparently, I never really made it too far beyond the B’s. Though recently I’ve probably only listened to Beach House off that list (I’ve been listening to Thom Yorke, Lana Del Rey, Fats Domino, and who knows just why, but far too much Supertramp), my favorite bands have not really changed too much over the years.

    Addendum: Apple Music actually shows I've listened to Oasis, The Police, and the Velvet Underground in the past couple months.

    Krissy pointed out to me that I like certain things about different films. I think that’s very true. I had a teacher in college, who broke my mind, because he loved experimental cinema (like Spon.Com. exp.film), and he told me one day he’d just seen Starship Troopers in the theatre, and he really liked it. This was still in the phase where people didn’t quite get that film, or understand that it was more of a critique. Anyway, when I learned that, I remember looking at everything differently, because here was someone with really complicated viewership, who could watch someone film a dirt road for an hour, and then watch Starship Troopers, taking something from both.

    I could tell people my favorite films were Star Wars, Holy Grail, The Thing, maybe The Wicker Man, and no one would probably bat an eyelash. Those were formative viewing experiences for me, but if I list those as my favorites, it also posits (problematically) I don’t evolve or change. I realize that listing my favorite bands so quickly throws a wrench in all this, but when I write that list I am not prescribing anything. If I was prescribing a certain listenership, I think I’d feel differently.

    I teach Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and sometimes alongside it Blade Runner. I first saw Blade Runner when I was a kid, and hated it, largely because I thought it was going to be Indiana Jones in space. When talking about standard narrative conceits, I still don’t think it has a particurlay gripping story, and in terms of its philosophy, it is pretty lite when stacked up against the book, the latter of which has so many ideas it leaves me personally reeling with wonder. However, because I’ve had to sit through the film so many times now, I don’t even track the story of Blade Runner. I watch and listen to other things in it, and those things have seared themselves into my mind in a different way. The sets and sound design are immaculate. Even Harrison Ford’s performance works, he’s a prop, part of the wallpaper, while Rutger Hauer is hypnotic, chewing the drapes as he sweats, yowls, and howls. In a way, (and circling back to music here) it is like listening to an album I know inside out. For better or worse this suggests the film has become a ‘type’ of formative experience, and yet I don’t know that I’d add it to a best of list, in spite of the fact it frequently shows up on other’s “best ofs”.

    All this is to say – is again – that I think about it a lot too.

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