best film: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the handful of films that can legitimately lay claim to being called the greatest film of all-time. The visual achievement here has no peer and surely the ambition here has rarely, if ever, been matched. It’s the definition of a capital “M” Masterpiece.
most underrated: Bullitt not being in the TSPDT top 1000 is a travesty. It’s one of the best action films from the era, wonderfully restrained and understated with flourishes of cinematic brilliance like the famous chase sequence (oscar winner for best editing). Car chases have become part of film legend and cinephile discussions and debates and this one is deserving of the praise. Whether it’s recent in baby driver, the brilliance of the French connection, or something like james gray’s we own the night, the chase through san fransicso (which with its elevation changes is its own set piece) ranks amongst the best. It may also be the best McQueen performance.
most overrated: the night of the living dead is a little overrated at #250 of all-time. It’s a great film but it is generally given credit for some things (great film on low budget, beginning of zombie horror, great statement on race relations) that I don’t rank as high as some other cinematic achievements. Also, I can’t get behind the blake edwards and peter sellers film the party all the way down at #634. It wouldn’t find itself near my top 1000.
gem I want to spotlight: I adore and admire the shit out of both leone’s once upon a time in the west and polanski’s rosemary’s baby but I don’t know if I can give them a proper due in a few sentences here. So instead, I’ll take a minute to single out the acting bravado on display in a lion in winter. Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn (surrounded by a great supporting cast which includes a very young Anthony Hopkins) pull no punches in this free-swinging, acidic language laden, acting showcase. It’s a triumph of acting skill.
trends and notables: 1968 doesn’t have quite the luster of 1967 but certainly any year that produces 2001: A Space odyssey is an important cinematic year. Ford’s last archiveable film was 1966, Hawks’ was 1967, and with 1968 we have William Wyler’s last archiveable film so the old guard is moving on. He wasn’t exactly “American new wave” in any respect, but we do have Peter Bogdanovich’s first archiveable film here with targets. Bogdanovich was more interested in looking back and his cinematic influences are apparent (this one stars bela legosi (from a hawks’ film, he’d later make one ford film (last picture show) and one hawks film (what’s up, doc? Which was a remake of bringing up baby)). Speaking of what’s up, doc? 1968 would be the breakout star-making year for Barbara Streisand for her work (and oscar win- a tie with Hepburn) in funny girl. I actually think Mia Farrow is not only the better archiveable debut/performance, but unquestionably the greater actor historically. 1968 would give us not only the best film from Kubrick (arguably the best filmmaker overall- he’s my #2) but the second best film from masters Leone and Polanski. It doesn’t register as a major year but Ingmar Bergman keeps trucking with two films- one of them below at #7 and shame would be my #11. We also have the archiveable acting debut for a young Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins would become a star in the 1990’s with silence of the lambs but he’d do very little from here until then strangely enough. Lastly, I don’t always have to talk about the Oscars, but it’s still hard for me to fathom that freaking oliver! won best picture in a year with 2001. That’s still staggering to me.
best performance male: Henry Fonda’s “Frank” in once upon a time in the west is not only one of the best villains in screen history but one of, if not the greatest, performance by the storied actor. It’s certainly his best film and the only Fonda film of his 29 archiveable films to be in the top 100 of all-time. Leone gets amazing non-verbal performances from all his actors (and I’d listen to those that would argue that Van Cleef from the good the bad and the ugly is the superior villain/performance) but Fonda carries the sadistic characters’ weight in his celebrity and vast experience. It’s a chilling performance. Behind him I also need to recognize Jason Robards and his work in the same film. Steve McQueen is at his best as the title character in bullitt and as I’ve mentioned above in the “gem” section. Peter O’Toole completely goes for it in lions in winter and for my last performance mention here, it’s definitely worth recognizing the performance of a young Seymour Cassel in Cassavetes’ faces. Cassavetes always gets great performances from his actors and Cassel was in that great stable which includes Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands.
best performance female: Two actresses tied for the best actress academy award in 1968 (and both are mentioned below) but neither gave the best performance of the year. The best performance of the year, far and away, goes to Mia Farrow in rosemary’s baby. The performance has everything and it ranks amongst the best of the decade. Streisand and Katharine Hepburn would tie for the oscar and their work in funny girl and the lion in winter should be recognized, Claudia Cardinale gives arguably her best performance in once upon a time in the west and ruth Gordon, despite being alongside farrow, steals ever scene she’s in and is worthy of recognition in rosemary’s baby. Lastly, I need to highlight Jeanne Moreau yet again in the bride wore black. She’s concluding a 10 year stretch that would rank amongst the greatest actresses in any area.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Once Upon a Time in the West
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Night of the Living Dead
- Hour of the Wolf
- Planet of the Apes
- Funny Girl
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|2001: A Space Odyssey- Kubrick||MP|
|Chitty Chitty Bang Bang||R|
|Funny Girl- Wyler||HR|
|Hour of the Wolf- Bermgan||HR|
|If… – L. Anderson||HR|
|L’Amour Fou- Rivette|
|Night of the Living Dead- Romero||HR|
|Once Upon a Time in the West- Leone||MP|
|Planet of the Apes- Schaffner||HR|
|Romeo and Juliet||R|
|Rosemary’s Baby- Polanski||MP|
|Signs of Life- Herzog|
|Stolen Kisses- Truffaut||R|
|The Boston Strangler||R|
|The Bride Wore Black- Truffaut||R|
|The Great Silence||R|
|The Lion in Winter||HR|
|The Odd Couple||R|
|The Party- B. Edwards||R|
|The Profound Desire of Gods- Imamura|
|The Thomas Crown Affair- Jewison||R|
|The Unfaithful Wife- Charbol|
*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