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with George

Category: 1960s

The Best 10 Films of the 1960s (That I Have Seen)

Today, we continue the Best of the Decades feature. Four down, five to go. This week, I graciously present my picks for the ten best films from the 1960s, and you graciously tell me I mention Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock too much. But don’t worry, this will, sadly, be the last week I’ll have them on my lists. Enjoy and feel free to comment with your own picks.

10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

When we talk about large or small movies today, it’s usually a clear-cut no-fuss discussion. Battle of Los Angeles: big. The Kids Are All Right: small. But it wasn’t always this way. Take, for your consideration, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This film was both broad (in the good, non-Whitney way) and detail-oriented. Oh, and that soundtrack. It gets me every time. Runner-ups: Charade, The Pink Panther, Playtime, and That Darn Cat!.

9. The Birds

And the madness begins. Long ago, on a now-defunct feature called “Required Viewing,” I called The Birds “truly terrifying” and I said that all Hitchcock’s best films rely on a “degree of coincidence.” I don’t usually like coincidence, but I never seemed to mind it when Hitch did it. Just look at North by Northwest, a film that even I think is as flimsy as a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson. Somehow, though, that film works. And while the birds the movie was named after might not be as real as the character Jessica Tandy lays down here, the coincidence factor and the film itself both work too.

8. A Shot in the Dark

A Shot in the Dark is the best (and probably my favorite) Clouseau/Pink Panther film. You’ve got “sex” scenes with bombs in them, nudist colonies with too few guitars, and hilarious murders galore in this 1964 comedy classic. When and if I ever make a top comedies list, A Shot in the Dark will be high on it.

7. Planet of the Apes

An oldie but an iconic goodie. 1968’s Planet and 2011’s Rise are two very different films in tone, but suspiciously follow basically the same plot arc.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

An interesting comparison for 2001: A Space Odyssey is The Tree of Life. I wasn’t sure what was going on 100% of the time in either movie, but I’m so very glad I sat and watched them all the way through. What happened to Keir Dullea, though? Did he not ever have a career?

5. The Manchurian Candidate

Speaking of interesting comparisons, I think The Manchurian Candidate makes an incredible companion piece with one of the following picks. If you’ve seen both the films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

4. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A classic. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the best western of all-time (no, Meek’s Cutoff is not an appropriate selection). I have never seen it all the way through until last year, despite having seen certain parts more than 10 times each. Clint Eastwood does more with silence than anyone, and his silences are on display here.

3. The Apartment

The second best final line in a Wilder film

Yes, another Billy Wilder. The Apartment is one of his best two films, and it goes from wildly satirical to beautifully dark in an instant, then switches back and forth as it pleases. Baxter’s “friends” at work are great, but the neighbors are the best.

2. Psycho

"I'm so glad Community is back."

Psycho was my favorite film before I discovered Some Like it Hot, and I still really love it. But, I must admit, there is one sixties film that is better. And that film is…

1. A Hard Day’s Night

If we’re comparing these films to the film of the last calendar year, which I have already done to 2001: A Space Odyssey (with The Tree of Life), then why not just say that A Hard Day’s Night was the 60s’ The Artist? It’s black-and-white; it’s old school, but still manages to be fresh and somewhat innovative; it allows its characters to breathe and come to life on screen; and I love and will defend them both.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

****

This movie is magical. I want to see it again. I think, easily, it would be in my Top 3 (of all-time). By the way, if you haven’t ever heard of The Beatles, then you should stop reading, and go fix that.

On this blog, I’ve focused quite a bit on “different” movies. From The Tree of Life, to Dogtooth… even one I didn’t like, Being John Malkovich. These movies are all strange: The Tree of Life has no plot, Dogtooth is like being murdered by an Austro-Chinese transgender prostitute while you’re shopping at Wal-Mart (in the sense that you’re not quite sure… um…), and Being John Malkovich is just so weird that it’s off-putting. A Hard Day’s Night, while better than all three, but not as eccentric, wild, or just plain crazy as some other films, is unique. I’ve never seen anything like it. (That is rapidly going to become a cliche with me.)

It stars (who else) John, Paul, Ringo, and George, and the whole movie is just them doing exactly what they want. There is no plot, per se, but rather the film is kind of a “two days in the life” experiment. And it works incredibly well. There are little moments, usually of humor, some dark, some light. Paul repeatedly repeating the phrase “we’re just good friends,” the girl in minute 84 who pitifully mouths the name “George,” and the sweater. And then there are big moments, such as the field scene, filled with joy and the feeling that there are only four other people in the world other than you, and they all have funny haircuts.

I hate musicals. But thankfully, A Hard Day’s Night isn’t a musical. The music, miraculously, is inserted naturally, and the movie ends with a concert that I enjoyed very much… more than I should have, considering that I hate watching people sing and dance in movies.

The dialogue was sharp. The characters cared for each other. Those two things really won me over. I could list a few quotes, but that wouldn’t really do them justice. We all know The Beatles split up, after 27 number one hits in the US and UK combined, none-the-less. But I can’t actually believe that they did, after watching this film. They pick on each other, but it’s funny and heart-warming. Damn it, Yoko, why did you do it?!?!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the grandfather.

(A Hard Day’s Night is available now on Netflix Instant, and if you see it and enjoy it, you’ll probably enjoy some of their music. Their compilation album “1” is a good place to start.)

Required Viewing | The Birds

(1963)

This movie is truly terrifying. It manages suspense so well. It scares you not by showing you the title creatures, but by hiding them from you.

Take for example the scene late in the movie which starts with what could be described as a tone of “calm after the storm”. Everyone is fine; the big thing has passed (for now). Melanie (played by Tippi Hedren) hears a noise upstairs. She knows she shouldn’t go up there, and so do we. But, of course, she does. Every step she takes just increases the “suspense factor”.

The Birds benefits from some great performances and some great, likable characters. Hedren doesn’t take those steps upstairs alone, because we are with her. We are with all of these people. We are as invested in their fates as they are.

Like many Hitchcock pictures, this one teases you. Birds are seen early in the film. Hedren’s character is hit by one. The chickens won’t settle down. Then, one normal morning, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), Rock Hudson‘s mother, discovers something wholly gruesome. And it just gets worse from there.

Alfred Hitchcock is probably my favorite director, and almost all of his (best) films are about normal people doing normal things turning into weird people, doing weird things, or having weird things happen to them. Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Notorious… their plots all stem from a degree of coincidence. The same goes for The Birds.

What if Hudson and Hedren never meet? What if Hedren never goes to Bodega Bay? What if Hitchcock never made this movie? I can only answer one of those (the last, of course). And the answer is sadness, on my part.