|Preface: Found my Notes of Film studies at Cornell
with Prof. Gordon Beck (1965) & at Stanford (2006)|
with Prof. Scott Bukatman & Prof. Pavle Levi (2007). They have provided much insights on appreciating great cinema auteurs and film masterpieces. I've seen 252 films (1964-1968) and hundreds at Stanford Theatre (1985-2019). Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries" (1957), was seen at Cornell (11-15-1966)
and Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961) was seen 7-7-1966. I've ranked them #8 and #2 back
in 1968. However, I don't remember their contents any more, so they are not listed in "My Favorite Films".
My Favorite Musical Movies are listed separately. Below are a list of my 28 favorite films with web links
to directors and actors. Rotten Tomatoes reviews from critics and audience are also included.
|My Favorite Films: meetings with old friends|
|Samurai Trilogy (1954-1956) This film trilogy was directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starred Toshiro Mifune as Musashi Miyamoto and Koji Tsuruta as Kojiro Sasaki. Films based on Eiji Yoshikawa's novel, on famous duelist & author of Book of Five Rings. Three films are: Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954), Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955), Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956). Trilogy follows character growth of Musashi from brash yet strong young soldier to thoughtful & introspective samurai, culminating in Musashi's duel with greatest opponent he would ever face. Samurai I won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Saw Trilogy films with Cornell friend on New Year's Day 1971 in NYC. Loved Ikuma Dan's music and taped it during the films. Film Reviews: Audience: 85%|
|Children of Paradise (1945) This 1945 French epic romantic drama film Les Enfants du Paradis was directed by Marcel Carné. Made during World War II when Germany occupied France. Set against Parisian theatre scene of the 1820s & 1830s, it tells the story of a beautiful courtesan, Garance, and four men who love her in their own ways: a mime artist, an actor, a criminal and an aristocrat. Leading French New Wave director François Truffaut once said: "I would give up all my films to have directed Children of Paradise. Voted "Best Film Ever" in a poll of 600 French critics in 1995. Loved acting of mime-artist Jean Louis Barrault (Baptiste) who mentored later Marcel Marceau. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 97%, Audience: 95%|
|Sunrise (1927) This 1927 American silent romantic comedy-drama was directed by German director F. W. Murnau, starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston. It won Oscar for Unique & Artistic Picture at 1st Academy Awards (1929). Janet Gaynor won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in the film. British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll named it the fifth-best film in the history of motion pictures. David Woodley Packard, who runs Stanford Theatre got up on the stage when this film was shown, and told the audience not to make noise with candy wrappers or chew popcorns too loudly, so we could savor this great silent film. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 98%, Audience: 92%|
|7th Heaven (1927) This 1927 American silent romantic drama was directed by Frank Borzage, starring Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell. The 1927 Oscars were given to Gaynor (Best Actress), Borzage (Best Director), & Glazer (Best Screenplay). NY Times critic Mordaunt Hall (5-26-1927) said the film "grips your interest from the very beginning and even though the end is melodramatic you are glad that the sympathetic but self-satisfied Chico is brought back to his heart-broken Diane." Favorite scene: Diane summons courage to walk across wooden plank to neighboring building, 7 stories high. She tells Chico his favorite phrase "I'm a remarkable fellow." Met Sally, after this film, who said "I'm not going ballroom dancing tonight. Just go home to relish the love in this film." Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 84%|
|North by Northwest (1953) This 1959 American thriller film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason. Story is about mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the U.S. by agents of a mysterious organization trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle out microfilm containing government secrets. Favorite scenes: (1) Cary Grant escaping goons at Auction House by ridiculous bidding, they called the police to evict him. (2) Plane chasing & shooting at him while he hides in corn fields. (3) Chased down slopes at Mt. Rushmore as Eva loses her footing. Lubitsch Touch: Cary Grant escapes his locked room and enters a woman's room via her window. She yells "STOP!" while turning on her light. After seeing him, she whispers "stop". Audience bursts out in laughter. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 99%, Audience: 94%|
|Roman Holiday (1953) This American romantic comedy film was directed by William Wyler. A young princess (Audrey Hepburn) on a European goodwill tour, escapes her guardians for 24 hours of freedom in Rome. Because of a sedative, she falls asleep on a public bench, and American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) brings her to his apartment. When he realized that she's the royal princess, he bets his newspaper editor $500 that he'll get exclusive interview with her. His photographer buddy Irving (Eddie Albert) comes to take surreptitious photos of her. Hepburn won Academy Award for Best Actress in her first Hollywood performance; screenplay & costume design also won. Favorite scenes: Film Trailer; Bed Flip; Mouth of Truth; Motorcycle Romp; Barge Fight. Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 98%, Audience: 93%|
|Casablanca (1942) This 1942 American romantic drama film was directed by Michael Curtiz. starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, & Paul Henreid. Set during World War II, it focuses on an American expatriate who must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her husband, a Czech Resistance leader, escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. Casablanca was nominated for 8 Academy Awards in 1943, and won three for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. AFI's 100 Years.. 100 Passions ranked it #1 ahead of Gone with the Wind. Favorite scenes: (1) Round up the usual suspects; (2) Of all the gin joints; (3) "Marseillasie". Reviews: Critics: 97%, Audience: 95%|
8 1/2 (1956) This 1963 Italian surrealist comedy-drama film was directed by
Stars Marcello Mastroianni
as Guido Anselmi, a famous film director who suffers from stifled creativity
as he attempts to direct an epic science fiction film. Film features a soundtrack by
Nino Rota with costume
& set designs by Piero Gherardi. Won 1963 Academy Awards for
Best Foreign Film
& Best Costume Design. Now considered as one of the greatest films of all time.
Film was confusing to me, until reading an essay
that 8 1/2 is about a dream inside a dream.
Favorite scenes: (1) Trapped inside
(2) "Ride of the Valkyries";
(4) Harem Scene. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 98%, Audience: 92%
comprises three Bengali films directed by Satyajit Ray
with music by Ravi Shankar:
"Pather Panchali" (1955),
"World of Apu" (1959).
They are frequently listed among the greatest films of all time. I saw two of the
films at Cornell (1968), and all three at Stanford Theatre (10-12-2003) and
(1-13-2019). David Woodley Packard writes in January 2019 Ray's brochure
"Satyajit Ray uses language of cinema with a mastery and natural instinct
that reminds one of Mozart."|
I agree Ray is a cinema auteur. (Oscar Award; Ray's camera angles & movement).
Pather Panchali Reviews: Critics: 98, Audience: 94% (Trailer, Storm, Train scene)
Aparajito Reviews: Critics: 94%, Audience: 93% (Trailer, Hide & Seek, Ritual)
World of Apu Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 94% (Trailer, Flute, Father & Son)
|Vertigo (1958) This is a 1958 American film noir psychological thriller directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Story based on 1954 novel D'entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac. It stars James Stewart as former police detective "Scottie" Ferguson. Forced into early retirement due to an incident in line of duty, he developed acrophobia (fear of heights) & vertigo. Hired by acquaintance, Gavin Elster, as a private investigator to follow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), who is behaving strangely. Film was shot on location in San Francisco. Vertigo replaced Citizen Kane (1941) as the greatest film ever made in the 2012 British Film Institute's Sight & Sound critics' poll. 50th Anniversary of Vertigo"; Haikus; Poem; Mythology; Melencolia. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 96%, Audience: 93%|
|Ikiru (1952) This is a 1952 Japanese drama film directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Takashi Shimura. It examines struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat & his final quest for meaning. Screenplay was inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1886 novella Death of Ivan Ilyich. After learning he has stomach cancer, Watanabe meets novelist who takes him to nightclubs watching strippers. Finding pleasure-seeking activities unsatisfying, he meets Toyo, a young female co-worker. They chuckle at nicknames she has for their office employees "You're the Mummy." Watanabe built children's playground (Faustian theme) despite bureaucratic hurdles. Policeman saw him on the swing at the park he built, simging "Gondola no Uta". At his wake, co-workers realized his dedication. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 97%|
|2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) This epic science fiction film was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Screenplay written by Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke. Plot is trip to Jupiter with sentient computer HAL after discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution, deals with themes of existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, & extraterrestrial life. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. Soundtrack of classical music, Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss & Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II. Ending of "Baby in Bubble" reminds me of painting "Kuan Yin & Baby", suggests reincarnation. Film Trailer; Ending. Reviews: Critics 93%, Audience: 89%|
|Seven Samurai (1954) This Japanese epic samurai drama film was directed by Akira Kurosawa. Story from 1586 during Sengoku Period of Japanese history. It tells of farmers that hire seven ronin (masterless samurai) to combat bandits who will return after harvest to steal their crops. Takashi Shimura who was bureaucrat in Ikiru (1952), was the leader Kambei recruiting 6 more samurai. Katsushiro, young warrior asks to be his disciple; Gorobei, skilled archer; Shichiroji, former lieutenant; Kuuzo, skilled swordsman; Heohachi. cheerful fighter; Kikuchiyo, temperamental character. The bandits final attack during rainstorm, but were defeated, with the death of four samurai. Film Trailer; No Contest Duel. Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 97%|
|The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) A science fiction film directed by Robert Wise (who did The Sound of Music in 1965). Washington, D.C. is thrown into a panic when an ET spacecraft lands near the White House. Out steps an interplanetary traveler, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), whose "bodyguard" is Gort, a huge robot who spews forth laser-like death rays when danger threatens. Klaattu takes refuge in a boarding house, where he poses as "John Carpenter". There the alien gains the confidence of a widow (Patricia Neal) & her son, Bobby (Billy Gray). Klaatu wants all the world's leaders to hear his message. At precisely 12 o'clock, Klaatu arranges for the world to "stand still" shutting down all electrical power in the world. Film Trailer; "Klaatu Barada Nikto". Reviews: Critics 94%, Audience: 87%|
|Forbidden Games (1951) A French war drama film directed by René Clément and based on François Boyer's novel Jeux Interdits. One of the first films to see the horrors of war through eyes of children, Forbidden Games was a critical smash, winning prizes from NY Film Critics, British Academy, & Venice Film Festival. Story focuses on Paulette (Brigitte Fossey), a 5-year-old refugee from Paris taken in by a peasant family after her parents are killed during a German aerial bombardment. She quickly becomes attached to the family's 10-year-old Michel. They secretly build a small cemetery, where they bury her dog and other animals. Authorities locate Paulette and placed her in an orphanage for legal adoption. At the end of the movie Paulette is seen running away into a crowd of people in the Red Cross camp, crying "Michel, Michel." Film Trailer; Music. Reviews: Critics 100%, Audience: 92%|
|Tabu (1964) This is a 1931 silent film directed by F. W. Murnau. It starred Matahi as the boy, Anne Chevalier (Reri) as the girl, and Hitu as Old Warrior. It is split into two chapters. The first, called "Paradise", depicts lives of two lovers on a South Seas island until they are forced to escape when the girl is chosen as a holy maid to the gods by Hitu. Second chapter, "Paradise Lost", depicts couple's life on a colonized island & how they adapt to and are exploited by Western civilisation. Film was directed solely by Murnau. He died in the hospital after an automobile accident on March 11, 1931, a week before the film's premiere in New York City. Floyd Crosby was awarded the 1931 Oscar for Best Cinematography. Favorite scene: Lovers Dancing; Full film. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 91%, Audience: 79%|
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) This is a 1947 American Christmas
comedy-drama film written & directed by
George Seaton. It stars
Natalie Wood &
(Best Supporting Actor).
Story takes place in
NYC between Thanksgiving Day & Christmas.
It focuses on the effect of
a Macy's Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa. Film has become a perennial Christmas favorite
When Susie tells Santa that her classmates won't let her play "Zoo"
because she says "I'm not an animal. I'm a real girl". Santa tells Suzie
"There's the British nation, French nation, and the Imagine nation." He
shows her to imitate a monkey, and wins her over.
I'm Kris Kringle.
Santa brought Suzie
a new house, but
have blessed me with a new home.
Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 96%, Audience: 86%
Star Wars (1977) Film was later retitled Star Wars:
Episode IV A New Hope.|
This American epic space opera film written & directed by George Lucas. It is the first film in the original Star Wars trilogy & beginning of the Star Wars franchise.
It starred Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, and David Prowse. Film focuses on the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Fisher), & its attempt to destroy the Galactic Empire's space station, the Death Star. While folk dancing at MIT (1977), Theresa had a button "May the Force Be With You".
I thought she was a physics student, but she told me it's from Star Wars. Loved the dueling fights with light sabres. Paul Brunton told me his first mentor, Allan Bennett, created a rod that could destroy the world. Favorite scenes: Opening music by John Williams; Force Be With You. Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 93%, Audience: 96%
|Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) This is an American drama romance film directed by Max Ophüls. It stars Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians & Marcel Journet. Plot revolves around Lisa (Joan Fontaine), a teenager living in a Vienna apartment. A new tenant, concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan) moves in, and she is obsessed with his playing, sneaking into his apartment, admiring his belongings. They met & go on a long, romantic date, ending with them making love. She had his child, married an older man Johann (Marcel Journet), but still loves Stefan. When she went to his apartment, he doesn't recognize her. She leaves, and after her son dies of typhus, she becomes gravely ill. In the hospital she writes a letter to Stefan explaining her love for him, letter that narrates the whole film. Favorites: Train sequence, Swing scene, Trailer. Film Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 86%|
|Alexander Nevsky (1938) Saw this Russian historical film at Cornell (1-16-1966). Directed by Sergei Eisenstein, it depicts the invasion of Novgorod in 13th century by Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire & their defeat by Prince Alexander Nevsky (1220-1263). Eisenstein made this film at a time (1938) of strained relations between Russia & Nazi Germany, with obvious allegory in the film. Film portrays Alexander as a folk hero, defeating the enemy. Film climaxes in the half-hour Battle of the Ice, propelled by Prokofiev's ominous, rousing, triumphant musical narrative. Eisenstein reversed the symbol of white with purity & goodness, dark with evil, depicting Teutonic Knights as white, after reading Moby Dick, the White Whale. Film Trailer; Battle on Ice. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 94%, Audience: 84%|
|Son of the Sheik (1926) Saw this film at Stanford Theatre (6-25-2008). This American silent adventure/drama film was directed by George Fitzmaurice and starred Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Bánky. After seeing this film, realized why Valentino was so charismatic playing "the Great Lover" that mesmerized everyone. Unfortunately, the film was released nearly two weeks after Valentino's death from peritonitis (8-23-1926). His premature death at age 31 caused mass hysteria among his female fans and further propelled him to iconic status. Some 100,000 people lined the streets of Manhattan to pay their respects at his funeral. Suicides of despondent fans were reported. Windows were smashed as fans tried to get in and an all-day riot erupted on Aug. 24. Over 100 mounted officers & NYPD's Police Reserve deployed to restore order. Trailer; Love Scene. Film Reviews: Critics: 75%, Audience: 62%|
Shop Around the Corner (1940)
This American romantic comedy was directed by
Ernst Lubitsch, starring
James Stewart &
Film is about two employees at a Budapest shop (c. 1937) who can barely
stand each other, not realizing they are falling in love as anonymous correspondents through their letters.
Klara (Sullavan) gets job after selling a music box. Boss Matuschek fires Alfred
(Stewart), guessing he's having an affair with his wife. Detective found out|
it's another employee Vadas. Delivery boy Pepi came to shop just in time to prevent Matuschek from committing suicide. He apologises to Alfred and gives him a raise. "Lubitsch Touch" bringing laughter in the audience "You got the wallet". Favorite scenes: First Date; Music Box; Highlights. Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 91%
The Blood of a Poet (1930)
This avant-garde film was directed by
starring Chilean actor Enrique Riveros.
Photographer Lee Miller made her only film
appearance in this movie, featuring an appearance by the famed aerialist
It's the first part of the Orphic Trilogy, continued in
Orpheus (1950) and concludes
with Testament of Orpheus (1960).
Saw this film at Cornell (11-2-1965) & enjoyed
many symbolisms and quotations in the film. Special effects in trick shots of pool-mirror and
wall-ceiling substitutions. Camera agility in the card table sequence. Favorite scenes: Snowball fight in Section 3,
Ace of Hearts & Black Angel in Section 4.|
Trailer; Statue & Mirrors. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 94%, Audience: 85%
|Way Down East (1920) Saw this film at Cornell (8-1-1967) & at Stanford Theatre (8-3-2012). D.W. Griffith transformed an archaic melodrama about a wronged woman into a transcendent love story of redemption. Lillian Gish plays an innocent New Englander seduced by an urbane charmer (Lowell Sherman), who arranges a mock marriage & then abandons her when she's pregnant. When baby dies from illness, Gish leaves city & changes her identity. She finds herself reborn in a pastoral farm, catching adoring eye of a young idealist (Richard Barthelmess), only to have the past come back to haunt her. Film is a triumph of humanity over cruelty. Famous climax on floating river of ice is amazing especially since it uses no special effects. Preview; Ice Finale. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews: Critics: 94%, Audience: 69%|
|Citizen Kane (1941) American mystery drama film by Orson Welles, its producer, co-screenwriter, director and star. Considered by many critics, filmmakers, and fans to be the greatest film ever made. Topped the AFI's "100 Years...100 Movies" list in 1998, and its 2007 update. The film is praised for Orson Welles' directing, Gregg Toland's cinematography, Bernard Hermann's music, and Robert Wise's exceptional editing. Film examines life & legacy of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, a character based in part upon American newspaper magnates William Randolph Hearst. Narrated principally through flashbacks, story is told through research of a newsreel reporter seeking to solve the mystery of Kane's dying word: "Rosebud". Film Trailer; Breakfast Montage; Ending. Reviews: Critics: 100%, Audience: 90%|
|Zobra the Greek (1964) Saw this comedy-drama film (5-3-1968) at Cornell. It was directed by Michael Cacoyannis & starred Anthony Quinn. Based on 1946 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, the film's cast includes Alan Bates, Lila Kedrova, & Irene Papas. The scene is isle of Crete, where English writer Bates arrives in hopes of realigning his own values and outlook on life. He is "adopted" by the flamboyant Zorba, who determines to educate Bates in ways of his world. Bates makes love to widow Irene Papas, who is accused of adultery. There's romance between Zorba and venerable courtesan Lila Kedrova. Disasters follow, but Zorba convinces Bates that failure is an inescapable part of life, and that only by constantly tasting defeat can one truly enjoy life's victories. Film Trailer; Syrtaki Dance. Reviews: Critics 88%, Audience: 87%|
|City Girl (1930) This American silent film was directed by F.W. Murnau, starring Charles Farrell & Mary Duncan. In the great depression, Lem Tustine is sent to the city by his father to sell the family farm's wheat crop. He meets Kate, a waitress who is sick of the city's bustle & dreams of living in the countryside. Commodity prices of wheat drops, and Lem sells the crop for far less than the price his father gave him. Lem falls in love with Kate and marries her. When they return to the farm, the father blames Kate for the disastrous wheat sale, subjects Kate to hostility & physical abuse. A farm worker Mac tries to woo Kate away and stages a strike during a hurricane to sabotage the harvest. Lem realizes the tragedy, and rallies the workers to finish the harvest. Return to Farm; Full Film. Reviews: Critics 80%, Audience: 81%|
|Miss Julie (1951) This Swedish drama film directed by Alf Sjöberg, starred Anita Björk & Ulf Palme, based on August Strindberg's 1888 play. The film deals with class, sex and power as the title character, daughter of a Count in 19th century Sweden, begins a relationship with one of the estate's servants. Film won Grand Prix du Festival International du Film at 1951 Cannes Film Festival. It's Midsummer Eve, and a debauch starts with the erection of a tall Maypole, continuing till sunrise. Miss Julie is alone at her estate with her troop of servants. She is seeking an erotic outlet, and seduces her coachmanm, Jean, a good-loking servant. They make love in Jean's bedroom, and plans to elope. He kills her pet bird, and she cuts her throat with the razor Jean has handed her. Film Trailer; Full Film. Reviews: Audience: 66%|
| © Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039