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Here’s a secret: I watch new movies. I even like some new movies. But truthfully it’s becoming more and more difficult to care about any new releases.
With all the recent Top 10 lists of the films of 2009 and indeed the decade, it was interesting to see how dull a lot of the choices were. Of course there were some great movies over the past 10 years, but I was surprised how many of the choices were movies I didn’t like. There also seemed to be a desperation to pin down the ‘important’ films of the last ten years, but I can’t help feeling that it’s all been done before.
I can’t help thinking that you’d have a far better time watching an old film.
So as an antidote to those lists, here’s my Top 10 of 1939, 70 years prior. It’s almost too easy a selection in this case, as many have commented on how this was perhaps the ‘golden’ year of classical Hollywood.
Could any movie from 2009 beat any of these?
My favourite performer, Jimmy Stewart, in his first western. Dietrich characteristically appears out of place, but wait in particular for the moving ending.
The best kind of epic: spectacular and passionate, yet with a tight focus on its central character. It features both one of the greatest performances and one of the greatest characters of the era, Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara, a character surely based on Becky Sharp.
I find this movie pretty serious, but it’s atmospheric and exciting, and Cary Grant makes a great adventure hero.
A funny, delicate and complex ensemble drama directed by and featuring Jean Renoir. Worth seeing a few times.
The definitive film about prohibition and the rise of the gangster with Cagney continuing to mark his territory as the performer who revolutionised film acting in the sound era.
The movie that defined James Stewart’s star persona as the naive outsider who brings about law, order and decency. It’s funny and light-hearted in places, but also as political as you want it to be.
The film that galvanised the western genre and created John Wayne’s mighty star image.
This famous Japanese drama directed by Kenji Mizoguchi is vivid, delicate and moving, with long takes that give it a naturalistic and gentle pace. See this one on the big screen if possible as it’s not currently available on disc.
The film that sums up the Hollywood film experience with its escapist theme and Technicolor technology. See the new Blu Ray transfer if you can, it’s so detailed that it’s practically a new film.
Surely I haven’t missed any?
The Ultimate Film Archive is a hand-picked chronology of films from each decade (starting with the 1940s), all of which I highly recommend you seeking out. Not an exhaustive list but it’s a start as further films are added.
How many of these have you seen? Either leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have I missed any out? Any further suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
1940 The Grapes Of Wrath (USA, John Ford)
1940 Fantasia (USA, Walt Disney Productions)
1940 The Great Dictator (USA, Charlie Chaplin) … See all here…