The justAtad Essentials: Intro and #1-5

August 29, 2011 — 16 Comments

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!

The justAtad Essentials #1-5

(click each image to read about my choices)


16 responses to The justAtad Essentials: Intro and #1-5


    I’m just as clueless as you about how to make a fair top 100 list but I just went for it anyway, trying not to take it so seriously. I even sneaked in movies such as “Can’t buy me love” there. Is it a Great Movie? Probably not. But it’s charming and I love it and after seeing it several times I could easily watch it a few times more. That surely should count for something too?

    This said: I love the alternative approach you’re taking in this series of essentials. It’s very ambtious! I wrote a few lines about why my number one was my number one, and even that was hard.It’s not as if I watched it yesterday and you have to rely on memory, on emotions and states of mind lingering… and your mind can be betray you about those things I believe.

    But you’re way younger than I am, so I guess you don’t have the same problem with movie that you remember that you saw and loved 10 years ago, but haven’t watched ever since.

    I enjoyed reading about your first chioices and I’m looking forward to the continuation.



      I guess what makes it easier for these five films is that I’ve watched them all within the last 10 months or so. It will definitely be harder for the films I haven’t seen for a few years. Then again, that might inspire me to watch those films again to relive them.


    I prefer the Redux version too. In fact, I’m starting to create my own favorite films essay after writing a 10th anniversary essay on “Ghost World” this past July. I’m trying to figure out which one I want to do next though I’m leaning towards “Breaking the Waves” probably in the fall with “Secretary” set for January. It’s among the myriad of projects that I’m doing.


    You make a compelling argument for Apocalypse Now. My list, the top 100 list, is a random selection of ‘favourites and ‘bests. The top 20 is comprised of favourites, a selection of movies I personally respond to with tremendous enthusiasm, probably emotionally more than anything else. Some might be in a ‘top 20 of all time’ list, but others certainly wouldn’t.

    The lower one goes down the list, the more movies there are which I confidently believe to be among the best, which I also respond to favourably (otherwise they’d be nowhere near my list), but not as enthusiastically as those knee-jerk ‘god I looooooove this movie’ reactions I have with films higher on said list. There are still a few low slots that always go to some favourites just because I love them but not as much as that top 20.

    So there you have. Rules and rule bending all in one. It’s the only way to get through these damn list things the way I see it.


      It really is a tricky enterprise. What I will say is that in the case of Apocalypse Now and all of the films in my “Top 20” it is some combination of both.

      For example, in recent years, one of my very favourite movies has been JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. I find the film endlessly fun, and I almost cannot stop watching it. And though I would argue that it is extremely well-made, and that this is why it resonates with me on that perfect entertainment level, there is still something slightly missing. It lacks something a bit more transcendent that I believe films like Back to the Future have.

      I don’t know if I can properly define what that transcendent element is, but you do sort of know it when you feel it. Nobody would ever claim that Back to the Future is “important” from the perspective of artistic expression, but the film still has a feeling to it that screams importance. Essentialness, as it were.

      Star Trek might make my list somewhere. Pirates of the Caribbean likely will as well, but they don’t quite reach the heights of the films in my Top 20. That being said, the Top 20 itself is fairly maleable as well. The Searchers won’t be in the Top 20, but quite frankly, that’s a somewhat arbitrary decision. Does it really resonate with me less than Once Upon a Time in the West, another film that will surely be in the top tier? Probably not, or if it does resonate less it isn’t by much, and it certainly isn’t something properly quantifiable. My love of Raiders is not the same as my love of Schindler’s List, but I cannot truly say I love one more than another.

      And in the end, that’s kind of the point of this series in general. I don’t want to sit here and tell somebody that I think one amazing favourite film of mine is necessarily better than another amazing favourite film or that I prefer one over the other. These are all films that define my love of cinema, and they are films I want to shine a spotlight on as being the best I’ve seen on a variety of levels and for a variety of reasons.


    Therein lies one of the many problems of listmaking: the love one holds for a given set of films. Schlinder’s List/Raiders comparison is apt. Two films that could not be further removed from each other, but each deserving of some love. The love is different for both, but love it still is. How to place them a list? I don’t know. I have been compiling my list over the past couple of days for Filmspotting and am going ‘by the gut’ Everything on there I love, but what just feels right to have in 10th place and what feels right to have in 99th place is arbitrary.


      I can’t wait to read your list. I really do love lists. They are so fun to read, and I find so much value in them. For me it’s just the fact that its all arbitrary makes me hate putting such lists together. It feel like I’m not doing it right, like I’m forgetting films. Like I’m getting it all wrong. I’m sure most people go through this when compiling their lists, but at least I’m not exposed to that frustration. I just get the fun of reading the result.


    the apartment (and vertigo), high five!


    There is absolutely no distinction between best and favorite. If there was, that would mean there’s some kind of rubric to judge art. Completely false.

    However, there’s a difference between important and favorite. Citizen Kane is probably the most important film of all time, but it’s not my favorite.


      I don’t think I’m suggesting there’s a rubric to judge art. I’m still speaking very much within the subjective experience. As much as I think Schindler’s List is a perfect, incredible film, and probably one of the best ever made, I can’t quite elevate it to one of my very favourite films. It may sound arbitrary, but it’s just this gut feeling.


    You mean I don’t have to pay for expert advice like this an?meroy!

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