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Citizen Kane (#110 of 26)

Summer of ‘89: Batman

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Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>
Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>

Returning to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman in light of Christopher Nolan’s recent, remarkably successful Batman trilogy turns out to be quite a fascinating experience—though, surprisingly, as much for their convergences in vision as for their divergences. Certainly, the stylistic differences are almost blindingly obvious: Burton the playfully macabre merry prankster, Nolan the deeply serious philosopher. And yet, both visions unmistakably flow from the same unsettling bedrocks: a world drowning in moral rot, one in which a self-appointed hero who takes the form of a human bat is, at heart, as deeply disturbed as the more overtly screwed-up villains he takes it upon himself to defeat. It’s just that these two artists view these characters and this physical and emotional world through different lenses.

The contrast is immediately apparent in the music. In stark contrast to James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s loudly generic bombast for the Nolan films, Burton opens his Batman with the operatic strains of Danny Elfman’s full-orchestra heroism, slyly suggesting the unabashedly heroic way Batman sees himself. After its opening-credit sequence, during which Roger Pratt’s camera roams around what is eventually revealed to be a metal Bat-Signal, Burton establishes his vision of Gotham City: an unabashedly surreal environment that owes more to the dystopian sci-fi visions of Metropolis and Blade Runner than to any of the notions of noir-ish realism that underpins Nolan’s films. Then there are the differing acting styles, with Burton’s actors generally eschewing the internal brooding that Nolan’s performers exhibit in favor of archetypal broadness. This style doesn’t just extend to Jack Nicholson’s galvanizing hamminess as the Joker, but also trickles down to its supporting players (William Hootkins’s wearily deep-voiced Lt. Eckhardt, Robert Wuhl’s enthusiastically pushy journalist, and so on).

Fonda Drive-In Flicks Dirty Mary Crazy Larry & Race with the Devil

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Fonda Drive-In Flicks: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil
Fonda Drive-In Flicks: Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil

Back in its heyday, the drive-in circuit had its own self-sustaining infrastructure fed by production and distribution companies that specialized in churning out exploitation fare tailor-made for the easily distracted attention spans of audiences otherwise occupied with their own backseat antics. But the proliferation of home-video technologies over the last 30 years has put the kibosh on the entire ecosystem, with the few remaining stragglers often reduced to peddling second-run mainstream pabulum. Nowadays audiences are more likely to binge on the modern-day equivalent of drive-in fodder at late-night, booze-fueled congregations around somebody’s home-theater setup. The drive-in, in other words, has been effectively domesticated.

But the movies remain as rough-and-tumble and unpredictable as ever. Witness Shout! Factory’s “action-packed” twofer Dirty Mary Crazy Larry and Race with the Devil, where “double your Fonda, double your fun” proves to be the organizing principle. Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is one of the quintessential ’70s car-chase flicks, arguably on par with the more existentially rarefied likes of Vanishing Point and Two-Lane Blacktop, a raucous and anarchic rollick that’s filled with enough laid rubber, vehicular dust-ups, and last-second hairpin turns to satiate even the most ravenous fanboy.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

For many years, I maintained a Top 10 list. It was changing all the time, but by the mid-1980s, I had pretty well nailed it down. Only by then was it a Top 12, not a Top 10, and anyone who asked me my Top 10 films got an unexpected bonus. And that was how it was until a couple of years ago, when I allowed myself the latitude of increasing my all-time favorites to a list of 15. But as a devoted game player, I respect rules and try to play by them, so for this personal Top 10 list project, I’ve forced myself to pick just 10. These are not necessarily the same 10 I would pick if my criteria were cinematic greatness, beauty, and far-reaching influence—though they easily could be. No, these are favorite films, the films that mean the most to me, the ones that give me the most and best chills. There are lots more where these came from, but for now, these are the ones. I present them in chronological order to avoid any suggestion of preference.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Tom Stempel’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tom Stempel’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tom Stempel’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

If you read my “Understanding Screenwriting” column at The House, you may be aware that I generally do not do Top 10 lists (“Top 10 Scripts of the Year,” “Top 10 Scripts Most Likely to be Nominated,” “Top 10 Scripts That Should Have Been Nominated,” etc.), because I try to keep the column an Oscar-hype-free zone. But the idea of going up against the legendary Sight & Sound lists was just too delicious to pass up. Of course, there are more than 10 great films, and any list is bound to change, so this is my list on the days the I wrote this: June 19 and 20, 2012. If I made up a list a month or a year later, some, if not most, of the list would change. Since I have tried to pick films from a range of time periods, the films are listed in chronological order.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Ali Arikan’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Ali Arikan’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Ali Arikan’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

Preferential classification in the arts, based on arbitrary choice or empirical study, has a tendency to beget among the chattering classes some sort of mass hysteria. Cinephiles are no exception: Just look at the almost two-month-long back-and-forth fostered by year-end lists. But the pandemonium that starts every December doesn’t even compare with the brouhaha surrounding a “best films of all time” poll. Since the Sight & Sound list is the most venerable one of them all, I expect the conversation to be exceptionally bombastic.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Rob Humanick’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Rob Humanick’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Rob Humanick’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

To choose only 10 films for this list was a task at once simple and impossible. Had I been given enough time to watch every film ever made, then allowed several decades to narrow down my choices, I would have still bemoaned this challenge. By the time this is published, I’ll have changed my mind. Held at gunpoint, however, the results would probably look something like this, and for my purposes here, know that the difference between “best” and “favorite” is immaterial. Every one of these represents not only a peak of the art form, but an experience I wonder whether I could truly live without. With apologies to Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Steven Spielberg, F.W. Murnau, Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang, Abel Gance, Werner Herzog, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Roman Polanski, Terrence Malick, Chuck Jones, Ridley Scott, George A. Romero, and the 1930s, among others.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

When The House Next Door invited its writers to submit their Top 10 films of all time, I was faced with the usual conundrum: What does “Top 10” signify – best or favorite? After much consideration, I’m happy to say that the list I came up with could easily represent either. These are definitely personal favorites, but, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are also unassailable in their perfection, and could easily fall at the top of any all-time best list arrived at by consensus.