November 2012


The original Modern Library cover of Kafka’s The Trial.

The Trial  (Der Prozess)

  • Rank:  #6
  • Author:  Franz Kafka  (1883  –  1924)
  • Published:  1925
  • Publisher:  Verlag Die Schmiede
  • Pages:  341  (Vintage Definitive Edition)
  • First Line:  “Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.”
  • Last Line:  ” ‘Like a dog!’ he said; it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.”
  • Acclaim:  Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century
  • ML Version:  #318  (2 dust jackets – 1961, 1969)
  • Film:  1962  (*** – dir. Orson Welles); 1993
  • First Read:  Spring, 1995

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Kathryn Bigelow was the first female director to win the Oscar, though she is not the highest ranked female director on the list. We’ll see what happens after Zero Dark Thirty.

Now here be the fourth group of those directors designated as “Academy Award nominees,” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  These are the ones who rank between #150 and #126.  And again, the points system is all explained here.

We’re starting to pick up a group of directors that I would classify as “Studio Era Directors Who Were Over-rated by the Academy”.  We have your Clarence Brown (6 Oscar noms), your Gregory La Cava (2 Oscar noms), your Henry King (2 Oscar noms) and your Sam Wood (3 Oscar noms).  Those four directors combine for 13 Oscar nominations but they combine for only one Nighthawk nomination.

We also might have on this list the first example of “a director who is so low that people will claim this discredits my entire list because this particular director is revered by a certain portion of serious films fans.”  No, it’s not Godard (thank god), because he was never nominated for an Oscar.  But I’ll let you figure out who this one is (let the hyperbolic griping begin!).

Another reminder, like before.  The Sarris quotes (and categories) come from The American Cinema, which was published in 1968, so it has no directors after that.  The Thomson quotes come from the 2002 edition of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, unless I specifically mention the 5th edition, which was published in 2010.

And again we have an example of the flexibility of these lists.  When I originally started this post, John Madden was at #143.  But, as I was about to publish it, I realized that I had The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from Netflix and hadn’t watched it yet.  And because Madden has 1 – not directed a lot of films, 2 – had several films that were complete duds, and 3 – made a very good film, he jumps up 9 spots with just one film.  That does indeed happen.  And for the picture on the right, I went with Kathryn Bigelow.  If I take out The Hurt Locker, she (well she wouldn’t make the list because she wouldn’t be an Oscar nominee) would rank down at #207.  But that one film, partially because it is great, partially because she won the Oscar, partially because she had only made 7 films before it, raised her 108 points to #135.  But here I am ranking her when Zero Dark Thirty is about to come out.  What could that do?  If Zero Dark Thirty is on a par with The Hurt Locker (but without the Oscar win), it could in theory raise her another 87 points and she would come in at #97.  But I can’t really wait until I get a chance to see it before I do this more detailed post.  But, that’s what the end list is for, to add in all of these changes when all is said and done.  And of course, as people continue to make films, they continue to fluctuate.  And I can keep writing these posts until I die.

One last little trivia question, prompted by a rhetorical question that I ask down below.  What do the following films have in common: Lost Horizon, The Wizard of Oz, The Little Foxes, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Double Indemnity, Henry V, Father of the Bride, The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming, The Conversation, Tootsie, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Mystic River and The Aviator have in common?  And what do Mrs. Miniver and The Bridge in the River Kwai have in common along the same theme?  Answer at the end. (more…)

Veronica has a plan!

The picture pretty much says it all.  Except for the fact that this is all for only four people.

Thomas as Dr. Seuss for his school project.

Also, Thomas recently did a biography project at school.  He did his on Dr. Seuss and for the “Wax Museum” part of it, he dressed up (see picture on right).

And in addition, for a Thanksgiving field trip at school they went to Plimouth Plantation and Veronica went along.  And thankfully when they went back to the bus and it wouldn’t start to bring them home one of the parents was able to fix it and get them going before too long.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The gold Modern Library edition of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

  • Rank:  #7
  • Author:  James Joyce  (1882 – 1941)
  • Published:  1914-15 (serial), 1916 (U.S.)
  • Publisher:  The Egoist (serial), B. W. Huebsch (U.S.)
  • Pages:  247 (Signet Classic)
  • First Line:  “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.”
  • Last Line:  “Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.”
  • Acclaim:  Modern Library Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century #3
  • ML Version:  #145  (4 dust jackets – 1928, 1931, 1941, 1954); gold hardcover (1996)
  • Film:  1977  (**.5 – dir. Joseph Strick)
  • First Read:  Fall, 1991

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The perfect ending.

The 81st annual Academy Awards, for the film year 2008.  The nominations were announced on 22 January 2009 and the awards were held on 22 February 2009.

Best Picture:  Slumdog Millionaire

  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Most Surprising Omission:  The Dark Knight

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  The Dark Knight

Rank (out of 84) Among Best Picture Years:  #45

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A brilliant and perfect ending to the best film of the year.

My Top 20:

  1. Slumdog Millionaire
  2. Milk
  3. The Dark Knight
  4. Wall-E
  5. Revolutionary Road
  6. Rachel Getting Married
  7. The Visitor
  8. I’ve Loved You So Long
  9. Happy-Go-Lucky
  10. Let the Right One In
  11. In Bruges
  12. Iron Man
  13. Burn After Reading
  14. A Christmas Tale
  15. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  16. Australia
  17. The Wrestler
  18. Gran Torino
  19. Changeling
  20. The Reader

note:  Nothing like the year before.  The **** films end with #8.  Zodiac – the #25 of 2007, would be the #9 film here. (more…)