best film:  Seven Samurai beats out rear window which is no small feat. Seven Samurai is a master auteur at the height of his powers. It has a brilliant epic formal construction, quite possibly invents the slow-motion sequence, is a medication on heroism, and has countless still-frame photographic wall-art quality showcases of skill. Those are abound from the opening to the glorious final image.

most underrated: Diabolique is very underrated.  The consensus has the film at #764. And I’m probably 500 slots better. Gothic in style? Noir? Horror? Hitchcockian? Sure, on all fronts. This film is a magnificent ride with a grand payoff.

most overrated:. Journey to Italy at #71 is overrated. It’s subtle, muted, and restrained and very well done by all principals involved (by rossellni, bergman and sanders) but those things, even in the greatest of execution, won’t get you to the #71 slot of all-time on my list.

gem I want to spotlight: johnny guitar is Nicholas Ray’s best film. Unlike the Rossellini film we just mentioned here, johnny guitar is wondrously overwhelming in its stylistic choices. The costume, color palate, and genre-bending characters and performances (Crawford and mccambridge in particular) riffs on the western genre. It adds as much variety and depth to the western genre as any eastwood revisionist work or leone poetic treatment.

trends and notables:  1954 is a landmark year because of the quality of the films. I’m not in total agreement with the TSPDT consensus of course but we have top 100 all-time films from the likes of mizoguchi and Rossellini as the #7 and 8 films here. Amongst other high water marks, the year gives us the best films to date for Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Fellini and Nicholas Ray. The year doesn’t have as great a depth as many other years but that top 9 is very solid. In that vein, it’s a breakthrough for the old veteran Cukor. After more than 20 years directing the advent of cinemascope in 1953 really set him loose here to create a gorgeous world of widescreen technicolor (which he’d do again a decade later in my fair lady). 1954 also gives us the Hollywood breakthrough for Douglas Sirk which would be the start of an important work in cinema history culminating with written on the wind in 1956.. 1954 is also the first archiveable film for polish auteur Andrzej Wajda as well as Robert Aldrich

best performance male:  The year is absolutely loaded with genius-level performances. Due to brando’s towering achievement in waterfront (which is my ultimate choice here), i’m frustrated I can’t go with mifune in seven samurai. I’m rationalizing, in my head at least by saying that I had to split the internal “vote” with Takashi Shimura’s performance in Kurosawa’s film which is nearly as strong as mifune’s and certainly worthy of a mention here. Along with those three performances we have Anthony Quinn giving the performance of his career in la strada and Jimmy Stewart giving yet another mammoth performance in rear window

best performance female: We’re loaded here as well. I do feel very confident that Giulietta Masina gives the best performance of the year here so I’m comfortable there. She’s Chaplin in a film directed by a better director than chaplin ever had (fellini), with a better co-star than chaplin ever had (Anthony Quinn) set to music done by a composter better than any composter chaplin ever had (nino rota). Judy Garland is also superb in a star is born. Audrey Hepburn continues her steak in Sabrina. Joan Crawford gives the performance of her career in johnny guitar and Grace Kelly puts both her elegant beauty and supreme acting chops on display opposite Stewart in rear window.

 

top 10

  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Rear Window
  3. La Strada
  4. Johnny Guitar
  5. Diabolique
  6. On the Waterfront
  7. Journey to Italy
  8. Sansho the Baliff
  9. A Star is Born
  10. Magnificent Obsession

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea R
A Generation- Wajda R
A Star Is Born- Cukor MS
Broken Lance R
Carmen Jones- Preminger R
Crucified Lovers- Mitzoguchi
Diabolique- Clouzot MS
Dial M For Murder- Hitchcock R
Executive Suite- Wise R
Fear- Rossellini R
French Can-Can- Renoir R
Hobson’s Choice- Lean R
Human Desire- Lang R
Johnny Guitar- N. Ray MP
La Strada- Fellini MP
Magnificent Obsession- Sirk HR
Naked Jungle
On the Waterfront- Kazan MP/MS
Rear Window- Hitchcock MP
Riot in Cell Block 11- Siegel R
River of No Return- Preminger, R
Sabrina- Wilder HR
Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto R
Sansho the Baliff- Mizoguchi MS
Senso- Visconti
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers- Donen R
Suddenly R
The Barefoot Contessa- Mankzewitz HR
The Caine Mutiny-Dmytryk R
The Country Girl R
The Glenn Miller Story R
The Gold of Naples- De Sica R
The High and the Mighty- Wellman
The Seven Samurai- Kurosawa MP
The Sleeping Tiger- Losey
Them R
Touchez Pas au Grisbi HR
Track of the Cat- Wellman R
Vera Cruz- Aldrich R
Journey to Italy- Rosellini MS
White Christmas- Curtiz R

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives