The Essentials

March 12, 2007 at 10:43 pm (celebrities, movies)

It looks like Carrie Fisher has joined “The Essentials” on Turner Classic Movies. I think she’s an excellent choice—she’s been in the biz from a young age (as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher) and entered our lives as cultural capital with cinnamon buns stuck to the side of her head.

As co-host (with Robert Osborne) Fisher gets to pick the films—and this got me thinking about a few films I’d like to declare “essential” to film study, and my own personal enjoyment. This is in no way a complete list, so feel free to add—someday soon I hope to also create a “non-essential” list…as Fisher jokes about many of her own films. Warning: there may be mild spoilers ahead…

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Infamously, John Huston directed his father to an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in this film, (as he would also do later for his daughter Angelica in Prizzi’s Honor) and it’s easy to see why—this film is an essential story of greed, madness, morality and fate. Three men (including a fantastic Humphrey Bogart) go up a mountain in search of gold…how many men come down the mountain is another story.

Vertigo (1958)

What I would consider to be Alfred Hitchcock’s best film—the ultimate combination of his themes of obsession, the perfect icy blond, and the MacGuffin. James Stewart’s Scottie follows Kim Novak’s Madeleine, a woman seemingly possessed by her past. When he is unable to save her because of his crippling vertigo, he breaks down…until he finds Judy, a perfect twin of Madeleine. Hitchcock draws us in to Scottie’s obsession with transforming Judy into Madeleine—making us irresistibly identify with his misogynistic desires.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

This is the musical for people who hate musicals. You can’t help but laugh at cleverness with which this film mocks the Hollywood star system at the shift from silent film to “talkies”—and if that still doesn’t convince you, the dancing will—Gene Kelly is mesmerizing, and for you fellas, there is Cyd Charisse…and her legs go all the way to the floor…

Double Indemnity (1944)

Evil is Barbara Stanwyck in this perfect film noir. As a bored and greedy housewife, she quickly entices Insurance salesman Fred MacMurray into a plot to take her husband out of the picture. Stanwick often gives perfectly nuanced performances, but none so garnered her the praise of this film. To simply watch her face as the ‘deed’ is done is a remarkable experience. Also worth mentioning is Edward G. Robinson as MacMurray’s fast-talking and sweetly sentimental boss.

That’s all I can muster today…stay tuned for my other essentials:

The Searchers

Raise the Red Lantern

Rear Window

Star Wars: TESB

The Godfather: I and II

The Third Man






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