It’s time for another Blog-A-Thon from Marc over at Go, See, Talk. The challenge this time is to make a top ten list of classic (1930′s through 50′s-ish) black and white films (he was pretty specific about the black and white, otherwise this list would almost definitely include Singin’ in the Rain or On The Town or both). My list is not exactly a “top ten” list per se, it’s more of a sequence, in that these movies are not ranked by quality or my affection for them, they should, instead, be viewed in the order that they are laid out. Essentially I’ve planned a ten-movie marathon for you. Enjoy.
12 Angry Men – Well, you can’t just jump right into the cold water, can you? Ok, you can, but for my purposes, you can’t. You gotta wade in. And you start by watching Henry Fonda and company navigate the perils of personal prejudices and a sweltering jury room on their quest for justice. You’ll feel their relief as they reach a verdict and step out into the cool evening air.
The Big Heat – I swear I’m not messing with you. I know a movie called The Big Heat does not sound conducive to “cooling off,” but the fact is, this movie is so tightly-plotted and fast-paced, that I’m surprised there’s not a breeze coming off of it as it as it goes by. Also, let’s see you complain about being warm as Gloria Grahame gets a faceful of hot coffee.
The Lady Vanishes – After the brutal violence and bleak world view of The Big Heat, you’ll need a bit of a palate cleanser. Enter Hitchcock’s masterful comedy-mystery. As far as Hitch films go, The Lady Vanishes is a bit of a trifle, but it’s also hilarious and one of my favorites. The perfect distraction from the heat.
It’s A Wonderful Life – This one’s a bit of a cheat, since it’s basically a Christmas movie, and I would refuse to watch it right now. Don’t get me wrong, It’s A Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time, and I can totally see it working at any time of the year, I just can’t watch it without my family adding our extra soundtrack (don’t ask). But if you feel so inclined, Capra’s masterpiece should easily keep your mind off the weather. And if it doesn’t, that’s fine, just politely never speak to me again.
Diabolique – After It’s A Wonderful Life‘s beautifully optimistic ending (“Atta boy, Clarence”), I’m going to be kind of a jerk and yank you in the complete opposite direction. But I’m doing it for a reason, that reason being that Clouzot’s Diabolique is one the most awesome movies EVARRR, you guys! Seriously though, it’s an expert psychological horror film, with an ending that will send chills down your spine. (Get it? Like, with the “Cooling Down” thing? Right? Ok, you got it.)
His Girl Friday – After the spine-chills, you’re gonna need another cleansing of the palate, and this time I offer up Howard Hawks’ brilliant His Girl Friday. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell comprise roughly the greatest comedy duo of all time (don’t argue with me, I’ll win). The dialogue snaps when it isn’t being piled on top of other dialogue in the beautifully orchestrated finale, making for one of the greatest moments in Screwball history. What heat?
The Big Sleep – You know what? Let’s stick with Howard Hawks for a little while longer. Because this list essentially boils down to films that suck you in so you forget about everything else. And few people were better at making those kinds of films than Howard Hawks. Throw in Bogie and Bacall and a story courtesy of Raymond Chandler, and you wind up with one of the quintessential film noirs (I would say it’s the film noir, but Double Indemnity exists).
City Lights – Essentially the cinematic equivalent of a cool breeze. I don’t know if you’ve delved into the works of the great Charlie Chaplin, but if you haven’t, you absolutely should. And City Lights is a heck of a place to start. Chaplin crafts a stunningly beautiful story of a tramp trying to help the blind girl he loves, and he does it without words. A remarkable film.
The Shop Around The Corner – This one’s sort of a Christmas movie as well, but only in the sense that part of it takes place around Christmas. Really though, I’m just a sucker for Ernst Lubitsch, and you should be, too. The famed “Lubitsch Touch” is on display as James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are pen pals and don’t realize it, primarily because they don’t get along in real life (yes, it’s You’ve Got Mail, but don’t hold that against it). It’s a delightful film that will make you forget all about the temperature outside.
The Thing From Another World – Because it takes place in the Arctic. Duh! Oh, and also because it’s ludicrously entertaining. In keeping with a trend for this post, there’s a reason nobody believes that Howard Hawks didn’t direct this; the dialogue comes at a breakneck pace, the characters avoid generic archetype status by being so gosh darn believable, and the monster is shown as little as possible to make the viewers’ imaginations do most of the work. Hokey title aside, The Thing From Another World perfectly captures a sense of escapism and combines it with a downright chilly atmosphere that makes it perfect for escaping the heat.
Posted under Kyle's Adventures in Pop Culture
This post was written by Kyle on August 27, 2011