Must-sees and Must-reads

Yesterday I read a movie blog entry by Jim Emerson (which can be found on Roger Ebert’s review site) called “101 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” Emerson says they are not necessarily the “best” movies, or even his favorites, but “the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies.”

It was a very interesting (and very debatable!) list. I think I’ve seen less than half of them. Some of them are favorites of mine (Bringing Up Baby, The Seven Samurai, Wizard of Oz), some I haven’t seen at all but always kinda mean to (The 400 Blows–which sounds oddly like something from Ellora’s Cave–as well as Aguirre The Wrath of God, Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu, etc), and some are pretty obvious (Godfather I and II, Persona, Rebel Without a Cause). Now, I enjoy movies very much, but since I haven’t seen so many of these does this mean I should never attempt to discuss them? Does it mean I’m less “worthy” as a movie-goer than someone whose favorite movie is, say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (as it was with an ex-boyfriend of mine)? And what does it say about me that I am a sucker for these “countdown” lists???

Megan’s post about To Kill a Mockingbird also reminded me of all this. One of my favorite books is War and Peace. For one thing, I’m a sucker for long, sad, navel-gazing Russian novels (I definitely DON’T want to know what that says about me!!!). For another, it shows “our” period from a different viewpoint and culture, which I love. But do I think this is a must-read for everyone, and anyone who hasn’t read it is an incomplete person who should never discuss literature? Well–no. Otherwise, the fact that I have never been able to read Moby-Dick would disqualify me.

All this rambling is just meant to ask–what are your personal “must-see” movies, “must-read” books? How did they affect you, or change your life? I think I need to add to my “must-see before I die” list. ๐Ÿ™‚

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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7 Responses to Must-sees and Must-reads

  1. Suisan says:

    The Draughtsman’s Contract, although I haven’t seen it for years, was definitely a memorable movie experience. I got sucked in by the costumes and the house, and then the mystery and the hints haunted me for quite some time. I think I still dream about wandering around in the house trying to pull laundry in through the windows.

    And Rosie, by Anne Lamott, was “transformative”, I suppose, because I can remember feeling empathy for Rosie’s mother. She was a drunk, and was, I think, not meant to be a sympathetic character, especially when she forgot to pick up her daughter or locked her out of the house. But somehow Lamott made her excuses to herself seem valid somehow, so I could identify with her bad decisions. The expereince of reading it was a little troubling, but very memorable.

  2. Cara King says:

    By “must-see”, Amanda, I take it you mean things we’ve seen, that we think are great and (if possible) everyone should see? (Or read, as the case may be?)

    Hmm… So many!

    Books that I really loved when I first read them, probably had an affect on my character or my life, and I probably highly recommend (and might consider must-reads, though I tend not to order anyone to read or see things, with the exception of Todd — oh, and maybe my one brother, and I would with my other brother but he never does what I say, and… what was I saying?):

    Little Women (Alcott)
    Treasure Seekers (E. Nesbit)
    Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)
    Drowned Ammet (Diane Wynne Jones)
    Half Magic (Edward Eager)
    A Little Princess (Burnett)
    The Changeling (Zilpha Keatley Snyder)
    The President’s Daughter (Ellen Emerson White)
    The Princess Diaries (Meg Cabot)
    Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
    Pride and Prejudice (you know who)
    Persuasion (ditto)
    Jane Eyre (Bronte)
    Sweet and Twenty (Joan Smith)
    Imprudent Lady (ditto)
    Venetia, Black Sheep, These Old Shades, Faro’s Daughter, Unknown Ajax, Convenient Marriage, Friday’s Child, and Cotillion (Heyer)
    Stranger in a Strange Land (Heinlein)
    Citizen of the Galaxy (Heinlein)
    Neutron Star (Niven)
    Caves of Steel (Asimov)
    Foundation (Asimov)
    Earthsea books (LeGuin)
    Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)
    Welcome to Temptation (Jennifer Crusie)
    The Devil in Vienna (Doris Orgel)
    Ballet Shoes (Streatfeild)

    Okay, this is getting out of hand — I’m just listing books I really love or at one time really loved and, hey, I’m a constant reader, and a writer, so of course that list is way too long! I’ll stop now and spare you all.

    Movies (hah! you thought I was done!):

    Singin’ in the Rain
    West Side Story
    The Sound of Music
    His Girl Friday
    Moulin Rouge
    Shakespeare in Love
    Grosse Pointe Blank
    Office Space
    Monty Python & the Holy Grail
    Die Hard
    While you Were Sleeping
    Henry V (Branagh)
    Much Ado About Nothing
    An Ideal Husband
    Gold Diggers of 1933
    The Fellowship of the Ring

    Okay, I could go on forever, but that’s a beginning.

    Hmmm…. Have I revealed the fact that artistically I’m a populist??? No James Joyce or Renoir on those lists! ๐Ÿ™‚

    (who realizes that Amanda is probably sorry she ever asked the question!)

  3. Amanda:

    Can you tell I love questions like this? I found the Emerson list:

    And I’ve seen 61 of the movies, but for me would add Lion In Winter, Moonstruck, The Warriors, Maltese Falcon, Brokeback Mountain (I know it’s not a brand-new list, so the omission there is understandable), Elephant Man, Dial M For Murder…probably more, but I’ve only had one cup of coffee. Oh, and definitely like Cara says, His Girl Friday.

    As for books? All of Dashiell Hammett, Cockfighter by Charles Willeford, House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Color Purple by Alice Walker and, of course, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.

  4. Amanda,
    The minute you asked me to name names, my mind went blank.

    Must see movies?

    Phantom of the Opera!
    Seriously, this was as close as most of the movie-going, tv-watching public are going to get to opera-and at the same time you see that amazing, layered, emotional performance by Gerard Butler. It also sparked a fan-phenomenon unlike any other I’ve ever heard about!

    Another movie must see?

    Zulu –
    an old movie with an ensemble cast, including a young Michael Caine, who would make a great model for a Regency soldier, even though this is later in the 1800s.

    Persuasion –
    In my mind the best of the Regency movies, even better than Pride & Prejudice, which I loved and could very easily add to the list.

    Must reads?

    All of Austen
    All of Heyer’s Regencies
    Empire of the Sun by JG Ballard, a semi-autobiographical story of a boy’s capture and internment by the Japanese in China.

    Mind goes blank on the rest. Except I look at everyone else’s lists and say, “yeah, yeah”


  5. Amanda says:

    I love questions like this because it’s always interesting to see what other people have on their lists—guess it’s a variation on I’ll show you mine if you show me yours;)

    All the President’s Men
    The Philadelphia Story
    The Wings of the Dove
    The Thin Man
    Now Voyager
    Witness for the Prosecution

    Waterland by Graham Swift
    Possession by A.S. Byatt
    Still Life by A.S. Byatt
    Regeneration by Pat Barker
    Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    Howard’s End by E.M. Forster

  6. I also love seeing everyone’s answers to questions like this! It’s amazing to me how similar people’s tastes are who read Regency romances, because as I looked at these lists I kept thinking “Oh, yes, that one, too!” ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Elena Greene says:

    Ack, I am so behind maybe I will never die!

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