Gentleman’s Agreement

Gentleman’s Agreement

Directed by Elia Kazan

1947

Gentleman’s Agreement, based on Laura Z. Hobson’s novel of the same name, is a drama about a non-Jewish journalist who poses as a Jew to research on exposé on antisemitism. The goal of the movie is to convince the viewer that discrimination against Jews in polite society is wrong. The film’s conceptions of politics, religion, and humanity, though, are all shallow and weak. Gentleman’s Agreement means well.

Would not see.

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Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

1954

Seven Samurai is a Japanese samurai film. Seven Samurai is about as great a samurai movie as has been made. Its endlessly entertaining. Almost every seen is simply cool. Seven Samurai is 207 minutes long, but it feels like a short film.

Must see.

 

 

 

Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story

Directed by Yasujirō Ozu

1953

Tokyo Story is a drama about intergenerational conflict. There is little plot to speak of. The camera moves only once. The runtime is 136 minutes, but it feels longer. Still, Tokyo Story is one of the best movies ever made. Tokyo Story has an unsurpassed attention to detail, character, and emotion. It is a profound film.

Must see.

 

The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer

Directed by Alan Crosland

1927

The Jazz Singer is a musical starring Al Jolson.  His character, Jack Robin (born Jakie Rabinowitz), is a Jazz singer and the son of a disapproving cantor. The plot is melodramatic and inane. The dialogue and music fail to impress. The social commentary is insipid pablum. The blackface scenes are racist. The film says a lot about Jewish Americans and American society in the 1920s. And The Jazz Singer is the first full-length movie with a synchronized music score and lip-synchronous singing and speech in a few scenes. These are the only two reasons to watch this film.

Would not see.

Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves

Directed by Vittorio De Sica

1948

Bicycle Thieves is an Italian drama about a father and his son. Casually tragic and artfully shot, the scenes and people feel almost more than real; Bicycle Thieves is a masterpiece is a masterpiece of Italian neorealism.

Would see.

The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator

Directed by Charlie Chaplin

1940

The Great Dictator is a political satire about Nazism. Charlie Chaplin wrote the music and the script; produced and directed the film; and starred as both the primary protagonist, a Jewish barber, and the primary antagonist, Adenoid Hynkel (Adolf Hitler). The Great Dictator‘s politics are naïve but sincere — Chaplin does not comprehend the vastness of the tragedy he’s satirizing, but he’s clearly offended by the transparent hate of Nazism. Some scenes drag and some tonal shifts are too abrupt, but the movie, overall, is entertaining and funny.

Would see.

Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin

Directed by Sergei Eisenstein

1925

Battleship Potemkin is a silent Soviet propaganda film. Many silent films, some propaganda films, and most films that are important in the history of movies are entertaining; Battleship Potemkin is not. The only reasons to watch Battleship Potemkin are its historical importance and its technical achievements.

Would not see.

Duck Soup

Duck Soup

Directed by Leo McCarey

1933

Duck Soup is a Marx Brothers comedy. It is the last film to feature Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo Marx. Duck Soup is a hilarious, brilliant, and (perhaps unintentionally) trenchant satire of politics and war.

Would see.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Directed by Robert Weine

1920

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a German Expressionist silent horror film about a nefarious hypnotist and a somnambulist under his control. The film’s visual design is striking even almost a hundred years later, though the painted canvas scenery is often far better than what’s happening in front of it. The story, by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, is simple but incisive — or would be — if it weren’t almost completely ruined by a terrible ending not of Janowitz and Mayer’s writing.

Would see.

M

M

Directed by Fritz Lang

1931

M is a German movie about a serial killer. Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M is expertly plotted with near-flawless acting, music, and cinematography. M is a technical masterpiece and an insightful comment on the 1930s German environment that Lang would leave in few years’ time.

Would see.