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CounterPunch’s Favorite Films

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

Originally published in August 2002.

Last week Sight and Sound released its list of “the top 10 films of all time.” The titles were terribly predictable, stuffy and boring. So we asked a few our friends to come up with a list of their own 10 favorite films. We pleaded with the contributors to refrain from excessive research and instead insisted that they just jot down the ten movies they’d like to spend a Sunday afternoon watching. We think you’ll agree that it’s a compelling and at times bizarre inventory. Don’t ask us what it reveals us about the psychology of the writers. — AC / JSC

Alexander Cockburn
coeditor CounterPunch
(with apologies to Kim Novak and Tuesday Weld.)

1. The Girl Can’t Help It, 1956, written and directed by Frank Tashlin. (Also author of the incomparable Bear That Wasn’t, very influential on my childhood)

2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers,1956, based on a story by Jack Finney, screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring, maybe with input from Sam Peckinpah; director Don Siegel. [Communists, homosexuals. They’re here, there, everywhere!]

3. Sweet Smell of Success, 1957, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman; directed by Alexander Mackendrick. [Best thing ever done on the press.]

4. Some Like It Hot, 1959, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond; directed by Billy Wilder. [The perfect movie.]

5. La Dolce Vita, 1960, written by Fellini and Flaiano, directed by Federico Fellini. [I know, I know. What about all the other Italians, but this one did have Antia Ekberg dancing in the fountain.]

6. Jason and the Argonauts, 1963, written by Beverley Cross & Jan Read; directed by Don Chaffey. [Peplums are my great love.]

7. Pierrot Le Fou, 1965, written & directed by Jean-Luc Godard, with Anna Karina. [Sums up the sixties for me.]

8. The Fantastic Voyage, 1966, adapted by David Duncan from an Otto Klement-Jay Lewis Bixby story; directed by Richard Fleischer. [With Raquel Welch and a terrific scene of Donald Pleasance being eaten by white antobodies. I think it sort of prefigures the AIDS epidemic.]

9. Life of Brian, 1979, writers, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin; director, Terry Jones. [World’s greatest political movie. About the sectarian left, made when the awful Trot Gerry Healy was wooing the Redgrave family.]

10. Eating Raoul,1982, written and directed by Paul Bartel. [Perfect Happy Enders film.]

[Haven’t seen too many movies since then, though I watched a funny parody of teengirl films the other day in a motel in Los Angeles. Back in the 60s when I first began to look up movies in What’s On-type guides in London, no one bothered to list directors. So I’ve included writers here as a souvenir of the old days, when they had some standing. I loved Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, watched without headphones on a plane between NYC and LAX and wept when the Golden Retriever came over the hill at the end. The tough A&R chick in the window seat stared at my tear-stained cheeks, revolted. It came as a big shock when they told me there was voice-over. As can be seen, movies aren’t a big thing in my life. I’d like to have included Bergman’s Smiles on a Summer’s Night, (another from that amazing cultural year of 1955) if only because I took Judith Oakley to the Headington Classic in Oxford to watch it in 1962 and held the door open for her. She slammed it on my fingers as a reproof to my male chauvinist profession of “manners”, which was my introduction to the Women’s Movement.–AC]

Jeffrey St. Clair
coeditor CounterPunch

[In the blissful 1970s, before the demands of parenthood and career (if that’s what this is), I raced out to see nearly 10 movies a week, and liked something about most of them. Mind you, these weren’t necessarily new movies, except to me. In those days, there were actually independently-owned theaters that ran old and foreign films, even in the outback of Indianapolis. I fell in love with actresses two or three times my age (even dead ones): Gene Tierney in Whirlpool, Gloria Graham in Human Desire, Paulette Goddard in Modern Times, Simone Simon in Cat People, Anna Karina in anything, Natalie Delon in Le Samourai, the icy Monica Vitti in L’Avventura and, towering above them all, the Tunisian goddess, Claudia Cardinale, who, in a long career, graced only two good films, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther, but made dozens of others worth watching, if only for a few fleeting moments. And the men–Bogart, Connery, Belmondo, Montand, Mifune, Roundtree–gave a sheltered Hoosier boy covert lessons in the art of cool.

Like rock’n’roll, movies, the good ones, are all about sex and attitude. These days I go out to see maybe 10 movies a year, dragged kicking and grumbling, and like almost nothing about any of them. When it comes to today’s films, I feel like the pre-Viagra Bob Dole on a long, humid cab ride with that Texas harridan, Kay Bailey Hutchison. But I haven’t given up hope that prospects will improve. And it’s nice to see that both Anna Amezcua and Bill & Kathy Christison like so many recent films–and not the same ones! There’s something about movies that appeals to the necrophiliac lurking in us all. Perhaps that’s part of what Godard was getting at in the final frame of Week-End: “the End…of Cinema”. Of course, he kept making films and we kept watching: sort of. The movies may be kaput. They may be quite dead. But that doesn’t mean the remains still can’t be picked over and enjoyed.–JSC]

1. Week-End, 1969, written & directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
[The French Revolution, road rage, woodland orgies, cannibalism…there’s something more to life?]

2. The Big Sleep, 1946, written by Willliam Faulkner, et al; directed by Howard Hawks [Faulkner couldn’t make heads or tails out of Raymond Chandler’s novel, so he just re-wrote Sanctuary for film and set it in LA. It didn’t matter. The story isn’t the point. If there is a point.]

3. Rome: Open City, 1945, written by Sergio Amedie, Frederico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini; directed by Rossellini. [Filmed for less money than Spielberg spends in a day, every frame displaying images that Spielberg will never equal with all his technical hocus pocus.]

4. Belle de Jour , 1968, written and directed by Luis Bu?uel.
[Deneuve meets de Sade. Enough said.]

5. Richard Pryor Live in Concert, 1979, written by Richard Pryor; directed by Jeff Margolis. [Pryor is so funny it hurts…and it’s meant to hurt.]

6. The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins, 1969, written & directed by Les Blank. [The great Lightnin’ Hopkins greets Les Blank at the door with a shotgun stuffed down his pant leg and Texas BBQ smoldering in the backyard. Then Hopkins breaks out his guitar and plays it like his pants are on fire.]

7. In a Lonely Place, 1950, from a novel by Dorothy Hughes, adapted by Edmund North and Andrew Solt; directed by Nicholas Ray. [Bogart, writer’s block and how life in LA can really get on your nerves.]

8. High and Low, 1963, based on a novel by Ed McBain, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. [Forget the swordplay and costume pagentry of the samurai flicks. This is Kurosawa at his most lethal: corporate takeovers, kidnapping, rebellious youth and class warfare played out on the streets of Tokyo. Toshiro Mifune’s greatest role?]

9. Hail, the Conquering Hero, 1944, written and directed by Preston Sturges. [Knee-jerk patriotism vs. screwball anarchy. Sound familiar?…Guess which prevails.]

10. Chinatown, 1973, written by Robert Towne and directed by Roman Polanski. [Incest, greed and environmental villainy; AKA, the making of Southern California.]

Anna Amezcua
CounterPumch Business Staff

1. Y Tu Mama Tambien, 2002, Alfonso Cuaron

2. Gadjo Dilo: the Crazy Stranger, 1999, Tony Gatlif

3, Jesus’ Son, 1999, Alison Maclean

4. Happiness, 1999, Todd Solondz

5. Am?lie, 2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

6. Annie Hall, 1977, Woody Allen

7. Five Easy Pieces, 1970, Bob Rafelson

8. Badlands, 1973, Terence Malick

9. Legally Blonde, 2001, Robert Luketic

10. Heathers, 1989, Michael Lehmann

Bill and Kathleen Christison
CounterPunch writers and former CIA analysts

1. The English Patient, 1996, Anthony Minghella

2. Sunshine, 2000, Istv?n Szab?

3. As Good As It Gets, 1997, James L. Brooks

4. The Lover, 1992, Jean-Jacques Annuad

5. Burnt By The Sun, 1995, Nikita Mikhalkov

6. The Hairdresser’s Husband, 1990, Patrice Leconte

7. Cider House Rules, 1999, Lasse Hallstr?m

Susan Davis
author of Spectacular Nature and CounterPunch writer.

1. Rat Race, 2001, Jerry Zucker

2. Orange County, 2001, Jake Kasdan

3. Children of Heaven, 1999, Majid Majidi

4. Yol, 1982, Serif Goren

5. Dr Strangelove, 1964, Stanley Kubrick

6. Harlan County USA, 1976, Barbara Kopple

7. Always for Pleasure, 1978, Les Blank / Chris Strachwitz

8. Chulas Fronteras, 1976, Les Blank / Chris Strachwitz

9. A Face in The Crowd, 1957, Elia Kazan

10. Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946, Tay Garnett

Michael Donnelly
Green Party organizer, forest activist, CounterPunch writer

1. Dr Strangelove, 1964, Stanley Kubrick

2. Godfather I and II, 1972/4 , Francis Ford Coppola

3. Max Havelaar, 1976, Fons Rademakers

4. Blazing Saddles, 1974, Mel Brooks

5. The Outlaw Josie Wales, 1976, Clint Eastwood

6. The Shootist, 1976, Don Siegel

7. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962, Robert Mulligan

8. Apocalypse Now, 1979, Francis Ford Coppola

9. Who’ll Stop the Rain, 1978, Karl Reisz

10. Cutter’s Way, 1991, Ivan Passer

Christine Karatnytsky
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; Open City Collective

1. Amarcord, 1974, Fredrico Fellini

2. Ball of Fire, 1941, Howard Hawks

3. Beauty and the Beast, 1947, Jean Cocteau

4. Celine and Julie Go Boating, 1974, Jacques Rivette

5. Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979, Francesco Rosi

6. The Exterminating Angel, 1962, Luis Bu?uel

7. The Piano, 1993, Jane Campion

8. Prospero’s Books, 1991, Peter Greenaway

9. Rock ‘n Roll High School, 1979, Joe Dante / Jerry Zucker

10. The Third Man, 1950, Carol Reed

Gavin Keeney
author of On the Nature of Things and CounterPunch writer.

1. Mirror, 1975, Andrei Tarkovsky

2. Andrei Rublev, 1966, Andrei Tarkovsky

3. The Sacrifice, 1986, Andrei Tarkovsky

4. Closely Watched Trains, 1966, Jiri Menzel

5. Derzu Uzula, 1975, Akira Kurosawa

6. JLG / JLG, 1992, Jean-Luc Godard

7. Caravaggio, 1991, Derek Jarman

8. Dead Man, 1996, Jim Jarmusch

9. Eternity & A Day, 1999, Theo Angelopoulos

10. King Lear, 1971, Peter Brook

Dave Marsh
author of The Heart of Rock and Soul and CounterPunch writer.

1. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, 1944. Preston Sturges

2. City Lights, 1931, Charlie Chaplin

3. Once Upon a Time in the West, 1968, Sergio Leone

4. Double Indemnity, 1944, Billy Wilder

5. The Wild Bunch, 1969, Sam Peckinpah

6. The Sorrow and the Pity, 1972, Marcel Ophuls

7. Bringing Up Baby, 1938, Howard Hawks

8. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962, John Ford

9. The General, 1927, Buster Keaton

10. Moonrise, 1948, Frank Borzage

David Orr
environmental organizer and CounterPunch writer.

1. Wizard of Oz, 1939, Victor Fleming

2. Where the Green Ants Dream, 1984, Werner Herzog

3. Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1979, Peter Weir

4. On the Waterfront, 1954, Elia Kazan

5. Apocalypse Now, 1979, Francis Ford Coppola

6. Debbie Does Dallas, 1974, Jim Clark

7. Atomic Cafe, 1982, Pierce Rafferty & Jayne Loader

8. Return of Navajo Boy, 2000, Jeff Spitz

9. Streetcar Named Desire, 1951, Elia Kazan

10. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948, John Huston

Steve Perry
CounterPunch writer.

1. The Singing Detective, 1987, Dennis Potter

2. The Big Sleep, 1946, Howard Hawks

3. Bringing Up Baby, 1938, Howard Hawks

4. Bulworth, 1998, Warren Beatty

5. The Cable Guy, 1996, Ben Stiller

6. Ikiru, 1960, Akira Kurosawa

7. It’s a Wonderful Life, 1947, Frank Capra

8. Last Picture Show, 1971, Peter Bogdanovich

9. Once Around, 1991, Lasse Hallestrom

10. Rio Bravo, 1959, Howard Hawks

Max B. Sawicky
economist at the Economic Policy Institute and Tsar of the MaxSpeak site.

[I’m sorry but you’re all wrong. These are the ten greatest films of all time.]

1. The Producers, 1968, Mel Brooks
(“Your honor, we find these men incredibly guilty.”)

2. Blazing Saddles, 1974, Mel Brooks
(“‘Scuse me while I whip this out.”)

3. Young Frankenstein, 1974, Mel Brooks
(“What hump?”)

4. Robin Hood: Men In Tights, 1993, Mel Brooks

5. Dracula: Dead and Loving It, 1995, Mel Brooks
(“Wrong me! Wrong me!”)

6. High Anxiety, 1977, Mel Brooks
(“What a dramatic airport!”)

7. Spaceballs, 1987, Mel Brooks
(“Check please.”)

8. History of the World Part I, 1987, Mel Brooks
(“The Inquisition”)

9. To Be or Not To Be, 1983, Mel Brooks / Alan Johnson

10. Silent Movie, 1976, Mel Brooks

Jonathan Shainan
works for The New Press & is co-editor of The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent

1. Au Hasard, Balthazar, Robert Bresson, 1967

2. Strike!, Sergei Eisenstein, 1924

3. Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick, 1978

4. Goodbye South, Goodbye, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1996

5. Side/Walk/Shuttle, Ernie Gehr, 1991

6. My Darling Clementine, John Ford, 1946

7. Artists and Models, Frank Tashlin, 1955

8. Sans Soleil, Chris Marker, 1982

9. Two-lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman, 1971

10. The Chelsea Girls, Andy Warhol, 1966

Ben Sonnenberg
CounterPunch counselor and author of Lost Property: confessions of a Bad Boy

1. Fox and His Friends, 1975, Rainer Maria Fassbinder

2. The Man With the Movie Camera, 1929, Dziga Vertov

3. Mon Oncle, 1958, Jacques Tati

4. Latcho Drom, 1994, Tony Gatlif

5. The Ladykillers, 1955, Alexander MacKendrick

6. It’s a Gift, 1934, W.C. Fields and Norman Z. McLeod

7. Steamboat Bill, Jr, 1928, Buster Keaton

8. The Last Command, 1928, Josef von Sternberg

9. Day for Night, 1973, Fran?ois Trufaut

10. Lamerica, 1994, Gianni Amelio

11. Grand Illusion, 1938, Jean Renoir

Christine TenBarge
teaches social work and Native American studies at the University of Utah, and CounterPunch writer.

1. Thelma and Louise, 1991, Ridley Scott

2. Dangerous Liaisons, 1989, Stephen Frears

3. Maltese Falcon, 1941, John Huston

4. Big Trouble in Little China, 1986, John Carpenter

5. Reds, 1981, Warren Beatty

6. Seven Samurai, 1956, Akira Kurosawa

7. A Fish Called Wanda, 1988, John Cleese

8. Casablanca, 194 , Michael Curtiz

9. Gandhi, 1982 , Richard Attenborough

10 Modern Times, 1936, Charlie Chaplin.

Douglas Valentine
author of The Phoenix Program and CounterPunch writer.

1. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, 1963, Stanley Kramer

2. Some Like It Hot, 1959, Billy Wilder.

3. Maltese Falcon, 1941, John Huston

4. Pulp Fiction, 1994, Quentin Tarrantino

5. The Pink Panther, 1964 , Blake Edwards

6. Rumble Fish, 1984, Francis Ford Coppola

7. Breaker Morant, 1980, Bruce Beresford

8. Last of the Mohicans, 1992, Michael Mann

9 A Touch Of Evil, 1958 , Orson Welles

David Vest
blues musician and CounterPunch writer.

1. Death in Venice, 1971, Luciano Visconti

2. The Train, 1965, John Frankenheimer

3. The Portrait of a Lady, 1996, Jane Campion

4. The Ballad of Narayama, 1984, Shohie Inamura

5. Damage, 1993, Louis Malle

6. Wilde, 1998, Brian Gilbert

7. Howard’s End, 1992, James Ivory

8. Buchanan Rides Alone, 1958 , Budd Boetticher

9. The Night Porter, 1974, Liliana Cavani

10. The Dresser, 1983, Peter Yates

Jesse Walker
an associate editor at Reason Magazine and author of Rebels on the Air: an alternative history of radio in America. [Walker is fiercely anti-authoritarian and refuses to rank.]

* The Apartment, 1960, Billy Wilder
[Everything you ever wanted to know about hierarchy — and it’s funny, too.]

* Duck Soup, 1933, Leo McCarey
[A premature documentary.]

* The Exterminating Angel, 1962, Luis Bunuel
[I especially like all those sheep.

* Glen or Glenda, 1953, Ed Wood
If “outsider art” means anything, then this film belongs on the list.

* Orpheus, 1949, Jean Cocteau
The best thing I can say about this movie is that I can’t reduce it to a pithy description line.

* Repo Man, 1984, Alex Cox
Sergio Leone meets Philip K. Dick, plus the Circle Jerks.

* Seven Beauties, 1976, Lina Wertmuller
The best movie ever made about fascism.

* Shadow of a Doubt, 1943, Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock’s sensibility collides with Thornton Wilder’s, with
wonderfully weird results.

* Touch of Evil, 1958, Orson Welles
Much better than Citizen Kane. (And so is *F for Fake*.)

* The Wizard of Oz, 1939, Victor Fleming
“I can’t give you a brain, but I can give you a diploma.”

Kimberly Willson-St. Clair
Millar Library, Portland State University

1. Citizen Kane, 1941, Orson Welles

2. Un Partie de Campagne, 1937, Jean Renoir

3. A Clockwork Orange — Stanley Kubrick

4. Unforgiven, 1992, Clint Eastwood

5. Bringing Up Baby, 1938, Howard Hawks

6. Three Women, 1977, Robert Altman

7. Bonnie and Clyde, 1967, Arthur Penn

8. Lost Highway, 1997, David Lynch

9. The Piano, 1993, Jane Campion

10. Le Samourai, 1967, Jean-Pierre Melville

Daniel Wolff
author The Memphis Blues Again and CounterPunch writer.

1. The Last Wave, 1977, Peter Weir

2. Jonah Who Will Be 21 In The Year 2000, 1976, Alan Tanner

3. Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser, 1989, Charlotte Zwerin

4. Viva Zapata, 1952, Elia Kazan

5. Grapes of Wrath, 1940, John Ford

6. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962, John Frankenheimer

7. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 1988, Robert Zemeckis

8. The Night of the Hunter, 1955, Charles Laughton

9. Elvis ’68: Comeback Special, 1968,

10. The Agronomist, which is a documentary I’m helping to produce about Haitian activist Jean Dominique and is going to be great.

JoAnn Wypijewski
CounterPunch columnist.

1. Burn!, 1970, Gillo Pontecorvo

2. The Battle of Algiers, 1966, Gillo Pontecorvo

3. Last Tango in Paris, 1972, Bernardo Bertolucci

4. Life of Brian, 1979, Terry Jones

5. Funny Girl, 1968, William Wyler

6. The Naked Gun, 1988, David Zucker

7. It Happened One Night, 1934, Frank Capra

8. Vertigo, 1958, Alfred Hitchcock

9. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962, John Frankenheimer

10. Shaft, 1971, Gordon Parks

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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