Archives For Casablanca

“They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.”

That’s the thought that was running through my head after I saw War Horse for the first time. It took a few minutes before I realized the irony of that notion. War Horse is a brand new film, yet it feels so old-fashioned that my immediate reaction was to think of it alongside old John Ford and Frank Borzage movies. I’m not the only one to have picked up on this. It’s been mentioned in almost every review of the film out there. What I found more curious was the reaction of people to the sentimental and melodramatic aspects of the film.

The most common complaints about War Horse relate to its sap and sentimentality. What’s weird to me is that many of these complaints seem to take for granted the idea that sentimentality is a bad quality in a film. How did this become the case? Why is it a bad thing to be sentimental, or sweeping, or even sappy? The way many critics and film lovers talk, you’d think that for sentimentality to be acceptable it has to be couched in raw reality or ambiguity or even an ironic wit and cynicism. It doesn’t make sense to me that films like Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life can be called masterpieces, but War Horse can be taken to task for its sweep and romance. Click to read more

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!