I was saddened by the passing of Turner Classic Movies' host Robert Osborne last week. TCM is my default station (even before I check the news on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox), and the TG had noticed that he hadn't been on the air in quite a while. So when the announcement of his death at the age of 84 came, it wasn't a big surprise.
Osborne was a real movie lover, and I think that's why he was held in such high esteem by his audience, myself included. We all love old movies – maybe now more so than ever, in this messed-up time we're living through – and I go back to my favorites regularly.
I've watched my favorite movies many times over the years. I saw them in revival houses such as the Thalia and the Elgin and in Mr. Park's Film Studies class at Sarah Lawrence. I had them on VHS tape, and now I have them on DVD, often with "special features." I can watch a favorite movie repeatedly, just as I can listen to a favorite record or view a favorite painting many times over. With a really good movie, repetition only increases my enjoyment. And if I can see something new in a movie that I've seen many times previously, I know I'm dealing with a real Work of Art.
The TG often quotes Theodore Roosevelt, saying, "COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY." And there is some truth in that, but it conflicts with man's enduring compulsion to Make Lists – especially lists of the Top Ten of things.
So, in memory of Robert Osborne, here are my Top Ten movies:
MY TOP TEN MOVIES
1. Citizen Kane (1941, dir. Welles) – The only movie that stays 100% fresh, every time you see it. A miracle of structure, a treasure-trove of character acting. A while ago, the TG and I watched it with Roger Ebert's and Peter Bogdanovich's commentaries. Very illuminating, especially Ebert's.
2. The Godfather (1972, dir. Coppola) – And not just because it was the first date that the TG went on. Great storytelling and a banquet of wonderful acting. But it's not flawless: the mother's role – Morgana King as Carmela Corleone – should have been MUCH bigger and more significant.
3. The Godfather II (1974, dir. Coppola) – And not just because the TG worked on it in her very early days at Paramount. It's deeper and more intricately structured than the first, and as satisfying.
4. Casablanca (1943, dir. Curtiz) – A model of artistic concision. Filled with nothing but highlights ... and lots of music ... and unforgettable dialogue.
5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, dir. Lean) – No movie "takes me away" like this one. Every time it comes on, I get sucked in.
6. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, dir. Wyler) – The most human of epics. Filled with truthful, unafraid moments.
7. My Darling Clementine (1946, dir. Ford) – My favorite Western (Roger Ebert's, too) by my favorite director.
8. La Grande Illusion (1937, dir. Renoir) – Both a "movie-movie" and a great human statement.
9. Double Indemnity (1944, dir. Wilder) – No one has the versatility of Wilder. Some of the best dialogue ever written – by Wilder and Raymond Chandler – and one of the worst wigs (on Barbara Stanwyck.)
10. Seven Samurai (1954, dir. Kurosawa) – Another movie to get lost in. With wide scope and simple human detail.