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David Thomson and '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die'


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The other day this book was in the monthly e-mail I receive from A Common Reader, a book catalog which is almost as fun to read as the books they recommend:

> From: A Common Reader

>

> Dear Reader,

>

> After I lost the moviegoing habit, whole years of new films passed me

> right by, while older masterpieces I'd sworn to see remained unviewed.

> Subsequently, when VHS tapes became widespread, I thought I'd catch up,

> but somehow I just never took to the boxy things -- can't really say

> why. Here, though, is the good news: in the past six months I've grown

> to like DVDs so much that movies are becoming a part of my life again.

> Which movies? Well, I frankly wouldn't have known where to start, had I

> not chanced on "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die." Despite its

> over-dramatic title, this huge, lavishly illustrated guide to world

> cinema through 2002 is easily the smartest, best written sourcebook of

> its kind that I know. As I browse, the stills -- there are a gazillion

> -- catch my eye, I read the accompanying mini-essays, and instantly

> several more not-to-be-missed flicks have made my list. Which is why I'm

> calling this one the must-read for must-sees.

>

> "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

> http://www.commonreader.com/pr013725/0406BW

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Oh come on!? I've seen many of the Sight & Sound 100. I'm really behind on the Promontory 323 (so far). Now 1001?

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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If it's any comfort, probably many of the 1001 are the same as those you've already seen?

But I'm afraid to read the book myself! smile.gif

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Doug Cummings posted his thoughts on this book over at his site, and he had some nice things to say about it.

I'll have to track it down.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Thanks for the plug, Christian. It is a very good book, both for its scope and writing, and would make an excellent viewing guide to take to the video store. I have no desire to count the number of films I've seen (particularly since the index alphabetizes original titles and their english equivalents), but flipping through, I'd wager I've seen all but about 25 of them. Now I can die a happy man. wink.gif

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  • 1 month later...

Just picked up a copy of this from the library (I was first in the "hold" queue), but it feels futile already to try to get through the tome in 3 weeks. I was a little discouraged to stumble over two typos in the introduction, but that won't stop me.

I'm not sure how I'll tackle it. I guess the lesson learned is: Don't check it out of the library; buy it instead.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I just went through the New Yourk Times 1000 and I have seen 184 of them.

I'd only seen 179 of them....these lists make me feel so inadequate. So many movies, so little time! Maybe if I could get them to stop making new movies for about 3 years, I could catch up on all the old ones I need to see. smile.gif

I wanted to get lost and love the questions there

Beauty and the truth I could breathe like air

--Sam Phillips

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  • 4 years later...

This may be worth a new thread, but The Washington Monthly has a fun post linking to a site (that I can't pull up; may be related to some weather issues affecting my connection) covering Movies To AVOID Watching Before You Die.

The comments feature some worthy titles, and several spirited defenses of Starship Troopers.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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This may be worth a new thread, but The Washington Monthly has a fun post linking to a site (that I can't pull up; may be related to some weather issues affecting my connection) covering Movies To AVOID Watching Before You Die.

The comments feature some worthy titles, and several spirited defenses of Starship Troopers.

I hope they included Lady in the Water...

"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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  • 1 month later...

I just picked up a "revised edition" of the hardback, which I saw at the library. But I think it's the same book that came out a few years ago.

In looking at Amazon, I see that a fully updated version is scheduled to be released:

Among their new additions are The Queen, The Lives of Others, Brokeback Mountain, and several more recent movies that have attracted worldwide attention.

So did they eliminate other titles to make room for the newbies? The capsule description doesn't say.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 2 months later...

David Thomson has released Have You Seen?, his essays on a 1,000 "must-see films," according to the description at the linked page. I wonder how many of Thomson's 1,000 films match the 1,001 "must see" films in the book under discussion in this thread.

I'm going to add this one to my birthday/Christmas list, although that horribly ugly Thomson book cover gives me some pause. :) I greatly enjoy Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, which I'm very surprised to find we don't have a discussion of here. Could've sworn we did.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 4 weeks later...
David Thomson has released Have You Seen?, his essays on a 1,000 "must-see films," according to the description at the linked page. I wonder how many of Thomson's 1,000 films match the 1,001 "must see" films in the book under discussion in this thread.

I'm going to add this one to my birthday/Christmas list, although that horribly ugly Thomson book cover gives me some pause. :) I greatly enjoy Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, which I'm very surprised to find we don't have a discussion of here. Could've sworn we did.

One more Thomson digression: His new tome is reviewed at The Atlantic (HT: Ross Douthat):

Thomson has never been backward-looking

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 2 weeks later...

Got it! 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, that is -- not the David Thomson book. Not yet.

The titles added since the first edition are good ones, with that glaring exception of Apocalypto, but I yield to the critical debate over that title and recognize that at least some critics find it a must-see. There was one title among the newbies I'd never heard of, so that's ... something. Something good, I think. Oh, and the dust jacket references two film titles that are nowhere to be found among the additions. I'm wondering if the jacket used European titles, and the actual entries used the U.S. titles. As is, it looks like a glaring error.

I don't have the volume in front of me, so I can't comment further at this time.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 4 weeks later...

Tag-teaming back once more to Thomson's book, here's the New York Times review:(HT: MCN)

Thomson likes a good argument, and makes one well, but in this book, at least, he

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 1 year later...

Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted the second dozen of his 72 reviews for 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 4 weeks later...

<i>The New Biographical Dictionary of Film</i></a>, which I'm very surprised to find we don't have a discussion of here.

Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film has been selected by 51 film critics as the best book about film. Take a look at the top 5 choices: Thomson, Bresson, Sarris, Truffaut/Hitchcock, Bazin. What a list!

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 4 weeks later...

First, I've changed the topic title of this thread to capture the Thomson discussion, which I'll now add to by revealing what I discovered last night at Borders:

Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film is now out in a fifth edition! In the introduction, Thomson says this might be the final edition of the book, owing to changes in how movies are distributed, or something like that. I had thought he might cite his age, or maybe his health, but he didn't, which leads me to believe he's still spry and planning to publish more books of some kind in the future.

Also, returning from the bookstore, I thought the new edition of Thomson's book might spur a new post in my neglected blog. I'd draw from the fourth edition, which I own, and maybe point to the few distinguishing features I knew about in the new edition. But then I read the Slant piece and thought, What could I possibly add? And that explains why I blog so infrequently. Others say it much better, well before I can digest and process my own thoughts on whatever blog-worthy subject I might come up with.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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My review of it is in the new issue of Books and Culture.

Let us know if B&C posts a link sometime in the future.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted the second dozen of his 72 reviews for 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

He's up to his fifth dozen entries now.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I didn't know the answers to the first 20 questions in Thomson's book-related quiz, so I didn't bother reading the rest of the questions.

An autographed copy of the book does sound pretty cool, though.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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