Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rant/Rave: Perfect Movies (by Dave Machado)

Analyzing movies is nearly impossible to do on an objective level. Everyone has different opinions of what makes a movie great and even your own mood can easily impact how you view a film. Try watching a comedy on a day where you are feeling a bit grumpy and you may end up spending most of your time rolling your eyes instead of  actually laughing. I've only been causally reviewing movies for a few months now and already I've noticed that my initial reactions to movies may have been more related to how I felt at the time of writing compared to the movie itself.

I typically try very hard to go into a movie with positive expectations. I use a very optimistic approach when viewing a film in that I would rather focus on the one great moment in a movie (no matter how small that may be) than simply consider it a failure. I still feel like it's good to point out a film's faults as constructive criticism but typically as long as there is one good memory I have of that film, then I consider it worth seeing. Movies have so many outside variables stacked against them that it's a rare occurrence for me to finish a film and not be able to think of one thing that could have made the experience any better. These so-called "Perfect Movies" come around only once in a great while. In fact, my initial thought was to showcase these perfect movies as an on going series until I realized I couldn't even think of enough to make the series last more than half a dozen entries.

The idea of perfect movies came from the fact that as a relatively new film lover, I've been catching up on all the classic films that people consider to be the best of all time. I would go through movies on the A.F.I. Top 100 or in Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" series and while I usually loved the movies I saw, I couldn't consider them "perfect." While I typically enjoyed all of them, there were always a few key things that caused the movie to lose just a little bit of steam. I'm not saying these movies are not deserved of such high praise, but I think my initial reaction was that I would be continuously blown away by how perfect these movies are. I don't think perfection is the true goal of cinema but I became intrigued and began to think about what films I would actually consider to have reached that level of perfection.

So the first thing I did was set-up the criteria for what I would consider a perfect movie. It's pretty simple actually. It's a movie where no scene is wasted and there is nothing included in the film that drags it down or causes it to grind to a halt, even for just one scene. It's a movie that is all hits and no misses, no matter how small the miss actually is. A movie may be ground breaking and/or world famous, and can easily be considered a 5 star classic, but that doesn't make it perfect. I'm not saying all movies should be held to this standard, I simply think it's interesting to discuss which movies fall into this category. I say discuss and not list because as I already stated, trying to analyze movies is not an objective exercise. You may not agree and in fact some of you may even hate the movies that I consider perfect. You are wrong of course, but at least you have the ability to feel that way.*

I can already feel the tension in the air as I write this (though I may be confusing that with the constant state of fear I live in) so let's get to the fun part, which is what I consider to be some examples of perfect movies. For now, I am just going to give a short list as their inclusion alone perfectly sums up my thoughts. Depending on the feedback I get, I may do an in depth analysis of them at a later date. But just know that I consider everything about these movies, from start to finish, to be essential and interesting:
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • Children of Men
  • Airplane!
  • Back to the Future
Those are 5 examples of what I consider to be perfect movies. There may be more, but not many. So now I turn it over to you. What are some examples of your perfect movies? Share your list and if I haven't seen it, I promise to give it a try and do a write up on it. I don't think we should go into every movie expecting perfection, but when we happen to find it, it's really one of the best discoveries you can have as a film lover.

You're Welcome,

*Just kidding.**

**No I'm Not!


  1. Interesting post Dave. When I was younger I used to think there were a few movies that were beyond criticism including "Citizen Kane," "2001," "Dr. Strangelove" etc. After reading some negative reviews of those same films by critics I respect, I realized that even great films has flaws. Thus I'm not sure I've ever seen a perfect film but here's a few that come close.

    1. Nashville (1975) dir. Robert Altman
    2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) dir. Robert Altman
    3. The Godfather (1972) dir. Francis Ford Coppola
    4. The Godfather Part II (1974) dir. Francis Ford Coppola
    5. The Graduate (1967) dir. Mike Nichols
    6. Barry Lyndon (1975) dir. Stanley Kubrick
    7. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) dir. Werner Herzog
    8. Crumb (1996) dir. Terry Zwigoff
    9. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) dir. John Frankenheimer
    10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) dir. David Hand
    11. Taxi Driver (1976) dir. Martin Scorsese
    12. Raging Bull (1980) dir. Martin Scorsese
    13. Trouble in Paradise (1932) dir. Ernst Lubitsch
    14. Woodstock (1970) dir. Michael Wadleigh
    15. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) dir. Woody Allen

  2. But those flaws, were they things you only bought into because the critics said so or because you always sort of agreed but cast those aside because you enjoyed the movie too much? I think the idea of perfect movies is actually critic proof because it's what you personally consider to be perfect.

    As to your list, I now have a good amount of movies to catch up on. I've yet to see 10 of these.

  3. I guess in the case of 2001 for example I had never seen a bad review so I just assumed it was unanimous that it was a masterpiece. I don't think to say a movie is perfect is critic proof if we accept your definition that its a film where no scene is wasted. It's pretty hard to think of a movie where every scene works. Usually there's at least a few cases where the movie drags.