Archives For The justAtad Essentials

In compiling my list of my 20 “Essential” films, I have really had to consider the meaning of the word. Some have criticized me for using the word at all, as it seems to imply an objectivity about the worth of the films I’ve chosen As though it is some kind of fact that South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is one of the select few films which are essential for every film fan to watch and love. Maybe it was a poor title choice. Maybe the implication really is there. But I think what’s important here is not that these films are “essential” so much as they are essential to me.

The films in this series are those which I consider an essential part of my make-up. This is true from the perspective of what I enjoy, but as a lover of film, it goes much deeper than that. By listing these films I hope to give an insight into what makes me the person I am. It’s about what I love, and what I enjoy, and what I think, and what I respond to. When I say that South Park is one of my essential films, I mean that it is essential to me, as a person. It speaks to my sense of humour, my sense of truth, and even my political sensibilities.

When you read this series, that’s what I hope you take away. Not a list of films I consider great, but a list of films I consider a part of myself. I hope I’m providing some insight into myself beyond the simplicity of taste. If I really want, I could give you a list of 100 films I think are great. I could even make it a ranked list. But without context, all you’d be able to say is, “Corey likes this, and likes that even more.” My aim for my “Essentials” is to transcend such simplicity and the easy dismissiveness that follows. To bring a complexity to your understanding of the films and my very personal relationship with them.

This entry is the last in my “Top 20″, but the series is not over yet. After these five films, I will begin my “category” entries. Each one will look at a specific genre, or sub-genre, or “type” of film, and the films within those categories that I consider essential. My hope is that aside from getting to hear about my favourite examples of a given genre, you’ll also get a glimpse into how I approach film in general.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, on with the list! Click to see the list!

If you’ve been following along with my Essentials series, you may have noticed that my choices tend to skew toward the new. The majority of my picks come post-1977. I figured it was time to clear something up. Though I titled this series “Essentials”, I don’t carry any illusions of deciding what films have actually been essential to the form. These are my essentials. The films that I consider an essential part of my taste and personality and life. It is within that scope that I have selected these films, and though some would consider me uncultured for my choices, I cannot deny that my greater exposure to newer films has made them a more integral part of me.

I love old films, don’t get me wrong. You’ll see that in this entry with one of the choices. I wouldn’t even say that it’s an issue of preference. I have no specific bias against older films; I love many of them dearly and I’m always looking to watch more that I haven’t seen. Do I really think South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is better than Sunset Blvd., or that it’s at all more worth my time? Maybe not. Probably not. But the simple truth is that when I consider the films that contribute to my make-up, one of those is a rightful classic, while the other is a film that I hold truly dear.

Lest I sound like I’m apologizing for my choices, I must stand firm. I think there is an unavoidable bias in critical circles against new films. I simply do not buy into the premise that the films today are somehow less worthy of consideration than those of the 40s or 50s. The great films of today are as good as at any period in film history. Take, for example, the Coens’ remake of True Grit. Upon release, many critics praised it for its craftsmanship, but somewhat casually dismissed it as a lesser work because it does little more than entertain. I propose that had the film been released exactly as is, but in the year 1959, it would today be considered one of the greatest examples of the genre.

When we think about older films, there is a tendency to hold them up on a pedestal. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. All I know is that I have no such pedestal. A classic can be released in 2011 just as it could in 1938. I just happened to have connected more with films released in a more modern era. I can also assure you that when we get past this initial list of 20 and into the categories, there will be plenty of older classics for you all to chew on.

Anyway, on with the list! Click to Read the List.

When we get into a discussion of our favourite films, it’s very easy for certain films to get lost in the shuffle. Depending on how we approach films we might tend to give higher consideration to more established classics, or newer films that are more fresh in our minds, or even more eclectic choices that will distinguish our lists from all the others out there. And then there’s the fact that we film nuts have just watched way too much; we’re bound to forget some films.

In putting together this Top 20 Essentials list I could have easily put in ten Pixar films and another ten Disney animated films. Over and done with. But that would defeat the purpose of such a list in my eyes. You see, I’m not merely offering up the 20 best films I’ve seen, I’m presenting a list with variety. When you look through my offerings you should be able to get a good idea of my taste for film.

In my last entry I had Apocalypse Now sitting next to Back to the Future and Vertigo. That alone is a pretty good representation of my taste, but all my choices were firmly entrenched in the “canon”. They are films that might not appear on every list, but they are all very common. Of those five films, only Close Encounters of the Third Kind seems to have become more commonly ignored in favour of other Spielberg films like E.T., Schindler’s List, Jaws, Raiders, Jurassic Park and even Saving Private Ryan. Still, it’s pretty established.

So in my #6-10 I am going to give you five films that, while not necessarily eclectic on their own, are definitely very personal and not very common in the lists I’ve seen.

Without further ado, the list! Click to see the list

Because you can’t do a blog that focuses mostly on movies without having some sort of “Best Films of All Time” list.

Except, I have a love-hate relationship with those types of lists. I find there’s something terribly artificial and arbitrary about them. I love reading them, and disagreeing with them, or find out about new films from them, but I hate writing them, and ultimately I don’t value them as true representations of how anybody actually feels about the films they watch.

I think in the last year alone I’ve mentioned over 100 films as being in my “Top 100″, and this is despite never in my live having compiled any such list. I have attempted to compile a Top 20, but beyond the first ten it’s usually a wash, and even the rankings within that first ten are all over the map.

And then there’s another problem entirely, which is the Best vs. Favourite dilemma. In my mind there are two ways of considering a film’s quality. They definitely overlap, and they can be nigh impossible to separate, but I still find that I have to make a distinction. For example, there is no doubt in my mind that my favourite movie of all time is Back to the Future. I love it to death and I have watched it more times than anybody should probably watch any movie. But is it the best movie I’ve ever seen? Can such a distinction be made? I have held for many years that the best movie ever made is Apocalypse Now (and I’m one of those crazy people who prefers the Redux).

What does that mean? Would it be more correct to say that I think Back to the Future is the best movie ever made simply because it’s my favourite film to watch? Should I call Apocalypse Now my favourite film simply because I think it reaches heights of artistic expression not equalled by any other film I’ve seen? I’d say that the distinction must be made, but cannot be properly defined. This only makes the process of creating a ranked Top 100 even more frustrating and more arbitrary, which renders the actual rankings inherently meaningless.

All this is to say that I have decided to completely forgo a Top 100 list in favour of something very different. I’m calling it ‘The justAtad Essentials’.

The justAtad Essentials will be an ongoing collection of films that I consider essential viewing. These are the films that, if I had a Top 100 or 200 or 300, would likely make the chart. The way I’ll be breaking the list up is quite simple. The first entries will form a list of twenty films that I would generally consider my “Top of All Time”. These will be a mixture of that “favourite” and “best” that I was talking about, and they will be left unranked.

Following those initial entries, I will continue to post unranked lists, but instead of simply throwing them up on the blog under the ‘Essentials’ title I will place them into categories. The categories will be thought up as they come to me, but examples might include ‘Essential Westerns’, ‘Essential Adventure Films’ and ‘Essential Romantic Comedies’. The categories will likely get more specific and esoteric as I go along, but don’t get too invested in them. I’m not using the categories to necessarily delineate the very best films of a particular genre. I’m simply using these categories to create lists of films I consider essential viewing while also connecting them by recognizable themes or features.

Alright? Everything settled? Let’s get started then! Click to see the list.