As I throttle down for Thanksgiving week and a much-anticipated break from this busy semester (which I regret has allowed so little time for blogging), viruses are much on my mind: I await with some nervousness the onset of one of those academic-calendar colds that conveniently hold off until I’m done teaching. But other kinds of replicative infection are creeping into my life, today in the form of the Alphabet Meme, passed on to me by Chris Cagle of Category D, who caught it from Thom at Film of the Year. (I never realized how similar blogging and sex are: evidently when you link to someone, you link to everyone he or she has linked to.) Anyway, the goal of the exercise is a 26-item list of “Best Films,” corresponding to the letters of the alphabet. I’ll be forthright in acknowledging that my list has nothing to do with “bestness” and everything to do with love — simply put, the movies that mean the most to me. I’m a little too conscious of and skeptical about canonicity to nominate best-ofs; what is canon, anyway, but a kind of ubervirus, replicating within our taste hierarchies and the IPOs of cultural capital? The primary difference between irrational, irreducible favoritism and the stolid edifice of “the best that has been thought and said” (or in this case, filmed) is, it seems to me, one of authorship: the former is idiosyncratic, individual, owned, while the latter circulates unmoored in a kind of terrible immanence, its promiscuous power deriving precisely from its anonymity.
Or maybe I’m just feeling defensive. The list below, larded with science fiction and pop pleasures, nakedly exposes me as a cinematic philistine, a clear case of arrested development. How I reconcile this with my own day job of reproducing the canon (teaching Citizen Kane and Il Conformista semester after semester), I don’t know. But with turkey and stuffing on the horizon, I choose to leave the soul-searching to another day.
Before sharing my list, I believe I’m supposed to spread the meme to five other victims, er, friends. Let’s see: how about valued contributors Michael Duffy and MDR; Dan North at Spectacular Attractions; Nina Busse of Ephemeral Traces; and Tim Burke of Easily Distracted?
Battle Beyond the Stars
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Harold and Maude
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
King Kong (1933)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Parallax View
The Quiet Earth
Run Lola Run
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Wizard of Oz
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes