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My Favorite Flicks
Earlier this year the American Film Institute made headlines with a list of the 100 best American films. We asked regular reviewers Roy Anker and Peter Chattaway to give us a modest counterpart: their 10 favorite films. Herewith their lists:
Favorite doesn't necessarily mean best (though most here are), for these choices depend as much on personal history as cinematic merit. Kafka wrote that art is the "ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us," and so all these, showing both dark and bright, shook this soul.
- The Godfather Saga (dir. Francis Coppola, 1972-90). This wrenching fugue on moral decay has the "blackness of darkness" (Melville on Hawthorne, with whom Coppola belongs). At once inescapable and self-chosen, an appalling evil devours mob son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). By part 3, aging and soul sick, Michael reaches for Christian redemption but chooses ill yet again, arriving at a final unfathomable devastation.
- Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974). Again gorgeous, grim stuff, a blanched noir tale of a jaded streetwise PI (Jack Nicholson) who runs into moral horror beyond imagining, and that in the best of places. And surprise! cruelest malice wears a smiling face.
- Superman (Richard Donner, 1978). Well, why not, at least the first half: superhero as seriocomic Christ (Christopher Reeve) tells more about the glad core of the Incarnation than whole theologies. Indeed, the film tutors the heart, especially with the help of John Williams's exultant score.
- Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980). With painterly precision, Redford explores the "mess" tragedy brings to a well-to-do Chicago family. The wonder is that any recover enough to find relish in living, which is also grace. The movie made Pachelbel famous for the good reason that in context the Canon in D wonderfully suggests the exquisite splendor of being alive.
- American Gigolo (Paul Schrader, 1980). A stark Calvinist parable about the nature of evil and the persistence of grace, even for upscale gigolos (Richard Gere). Best of all is the film's moving portrait of the central human yearning for intimacy and "home."