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Desert Island Films


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If you were stranded forever on a desert island what 10 films would you bring with you?

You’re probably thinking, “If I’m stuck on a desert island, and I had the technology to watch movies, I’d probably get rescued.” And that’s probably true. But let’s just assume for the time being that we’re stuck on this lush island with a film projector, screen, electricity, and an everlasting pitcher of mojitos (Or in my friend Miles’ case, bourbon).

What films would you bring? This is a tough one. Some movies are great, i.e. Schindler’s List, but I wouldn’t want to spend eternity watching them. I’d want some classics, as well as a small arsenal of what I call Zig Zag films. You think the plot is Zigging and then bam, it Zags — didn’t see that coming.

So for this week anyway, here are my Top 10 Desert Island Films:

10. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The first John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart film, where Wayne famously calls Jimmy “Pilgrim.” It has one of my favorite male movie villains, Lee Marvin, in the title role.

9. West Side Story. Gotta have music on that island, so I choose West Side Story. Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, and a great Bernstein/Sondheim/Robbins collaboration.

Oh look it’s a tie.

9. Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews + Richard Sherman’s Music + Great Animation = Fun, Fun, and more Fun.

A three-way tie no less.

9. The Wizard of Oz. I always cry when Judy sings Over the Rainbow.

8. Big Night. My alternative title is “Waiting for Louis Prima.” Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub are idealistic brothers with a problem. The final scene when they make eggs is a small joy. And someday, I will make that Timpano for dinner!

7. Babette’s Feast. This lovely Danish film truly reflects how I feel about art —  the creative process in and of itself is the reward. It’s that simple.

6. Bubba Ho-Tep. A sci-fi comedy/drama thingie. Bruce Campbell’s masterwork. He’s Elvis. Yes, that Elvis. The great Ossie Davis plays “JFK.” Together they make one helluva team. This is a very low budget film. I suspect Mr. Davis was drinking at a bar and lost a bet and bam, he was cast in Bubba Ho-Tep! His loss maybe, but our gain definitely.

5. Happy New Year (La Bonne Année). There is an American version of this film but avoid it like the plague. This charming French caper by Claude Lelouch has beautiful scenes of France that would forever keep me entranced on that deserted island.

4. The Godfather. ‘Nuff said.

3. Fight Club. Talk about a film that caught me off guard with its Zigging and Zagging. Well played Fight Club, well played.

2. Casablanca. Super cool Bogart, luminous Ingrid Bergman, Rains, Lorre, Greenstreet. Great social message. Perfection. Best movie line ever: “Round up the usual suspects.”

Wow, another tie.

2. The Sting. Talk about a film that has it ALL. Newman, Redford, a funny caper, gangsters, awesome music – Hamlisch’s score, Scott Joplin’s ragtime. Zig/Zag, oh yeah!

1. The Third Man. Every time I watch this film (and that’s been a LOT of times) I find something new to love! Great story, and yes it has the Zig/Zag thing going on. Amazing entrance of a main character. Music so bold it becomes a character in and of itself.You have Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, and a small, fun appearance by Wilfrid Hyde-White. The director’s amazing choices: Sewers, a ferris wheel, a moon-faced little boy, a friggin’ fur collar, a cat, and actress Alida Valli’s last, silent scene. I could go on and on. I have lovingly dissected every moment of this film, and to me it is simply pure genius by a pure genius — Sir Carol Reed.

With these films in tow, bring on that desert island. And the mojitos.

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5 thoughts on “Desert Island Films

  1. what other film has EVER had a ,,,,zither???

    • Ahh yes, the music in The Third Man. The only other “zither” music I recall was on an episode of The Twilight Zone TV show in which Mr. Bevis (Orson Bean) played the zither. The zither in The Third Man was played by Anton Karas. According to wikipedia, the exposure made Karas an international star, and the trailer for the film stated that “the famous musical score by Anton Karas” would have the audience “in a dither with his zither.”

  2. So… no phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury… except a film projector.
    As you have taken some of the A-Game films, this ain’t bad to have as a second list.
    Musicals… NO “Whiskers on Kittens” stuff for me, although I could live with West Side Story.
    10c. The Blues Brothers: Great music and it ends with Minnie The Moocher! Hi-de-hi-de-ho!
    10b. American Graffiti: More great music. Harrison Ford just starting up, a young Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams, and Wolfman Jack!
    10a. A Cabin in the Sky: The great Ethel Waters, a very young and delicious Lena Horne and Louis Armstrong. Plus Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Introduces the standard “Taking a Chance on Love.” Vincente Minnelli director. What a treat for the ears, and ah hem, eyes.
    9. Goldfinger: Great Song, great action, great Bond. “I expect you to die, Mr. Bond.”
    8. My western, like yours features John Wayne – Stagecoach. Oh, it’s tied with A with Two Mules for Sister Sara. Fun to watch and has that twist at the end. “Sister, if you weren’t a nun…”
    7. My war film – Patton. (Yes, in spite of it being Nixon’s favorite.)
    6. For drama, it would be Giant. The Landscapes, the racial inequities (still going on today) plus Rock Hudson, Liz and that rascal, James Dean. Who can look at Thanksgiving Turkey the same again?
    5. Ya gotta have some laughs on this Island! The Producers and Young Frankenstein. Mel Brooks at his finest.
    4b. Double Indemnity: Fred MacMurray acting not so nice and Edward G. Robinson as the good guy! Be careful what your spouse has you sign!
    4a. Anatomy of a Murder: Jimmy Stewart, Eve Arden and Author O’Connell acting as the legal team long before Ton Cruise did it in “A Few Good Men” (& better too!). Toss in a very sexy Lee Remick, a great George C. Scott, plus Duke Ellington up close & personal (uncredited)…and discussions about…Gasp, “Panties,” plus a judge (Joseph Welch) who upstages everything long before Fred Gwynne did in My Cousin Vinny. Even has Orson Bean, although sans zither, I am afraid to say.
    Film Break – I’m adding in Toshiro Mifune in any of his Samurai warrior films (Seven Samurai). And this then covers all the Eastwood spaghetti westerns (Yogimbo) at the same time. (Brace Up! Brace Up!) With a nod to Belushi and SNL.
    3. The Treasure of Sierra Madré: My Bogart choice, as Casablanca has been taken. Although The Maltese Falcon and African Queen are at the ready if the film breaks.
    2. A Big Hand for the Little Lady: A lightweight to be sure but really fun to watch. And has that twist at the end.
    1. And finally, a film that really should have made your A list. Witness for the Prosecution. Marlene Dietrich at her best. Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and that twist at the end! “I suspected something… but never this!”

  3. Pingback: The Third Man, the musical? | Expect the Unexpected

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