100 Significant English Language Films on Kanopy

Rains Jeyl Hyde

The Kanopy deal with the New York Public Library is pretty damn awesome, allowing anyone with a New York public library card access to their streaming video collection for free. Reviews emphasize their library of Criterion collection films—which is an impressive selection of 420 films—but there is plenty of other stuff from Kino Lorber, Shout Factory, Flicker Alley, and other imprints. I thought of doing a Top 100, although there’s more than enough material to do two different lists: 100 notable English language films, and and 100 notable foreign language/ silent films.

Horror/ Science Fiction/ Fantasy

There are some decent choices for anyone who likes genre movies. Kino Lorber EDU provides the 1931 pre-code Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde that won Claude Rains an Oscar for Best Actor.  Notable directors with films available for streaming include David Cronenberg (The Brood), Mario Bava (Black Sunday), Brian De Palma (Sisters), George Romero (Day of the Dead) and David Lynch (Eraserhead.) Other classics include 1940’s The Devil Bat with Bela Lugosi, The Corridors of Blood with Boris Karloff (from Criterion’s Monsters and Madmen box-set, all four of which are available), The Blob with Steve McQueen, Deathwatch with Harvey Keitel, Dreamscape and Criterion’s cut of Carnival of Souls. There are quite a few notable genre films in the silent and foreign language categories as well.

Classic Comedy

Classic comedies include Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (we’ll hear more from him in the Silents entry), the Veronica Lake vehicle I married a Witch, the classic Alex Guinness troubled artist comedy The Horse’s Mouth, the Charles Laughton vehicle Hobson’s Choice, and the pop culture satires of the Kentucky Fried Movie, a collaboration by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker before they went on to do AirplaneEating Raoul is a black comedy with an unconventional source of restaurant funding. The Marx Brothers pop up with A Night In Casablanca.

I-Am-Not-Your-Negro-poster

Documentary

The collection includes a lot of documentaries for all sorts. You have classics like Grey Gardens, about delusional relatives of Jackie Kennedy,  God’s Country by Louis Malle, and Salesman, showing the day to day life of a travelling bible salesman in the 1960s. Political documentaries include The War Room, about the Bill Clinton campaign, and The Times of Harvey Milk. Musical documentaries include Gimme Shelter: The Rolling Stones 1969 tour, and Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back, essentials for their fans, as well as The Decline of Western Civilization, about the Los Angeles punk scene. Hoop Dreams explores the lives of two African American teenagers and was one of Roger Ebert’s favorite films of the 1990s. Burden of Dreams explores one of the most chaotic movie shoots ever (Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.) Burroughs: The Movie was the result of years of interview with the Beat writer. For All Mankind features impressive footage from NASA’s space expeditions.

Recent documentaries include the Anita Hill spotlight Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, and 56 Up, the latest entry in the 7 Up series, as the filmmakers return to their subjects return to their subjects every seven years. James Baldwin is spotlighted in the Oscar nominated I Am Not Your Negro, as well as PBS’s The Price of a TicketCan We Take a Joke? explores political correctness and comedy. Super Size Me tackles the obesity crisis in the film that made Morgan Spurlock one of today’s most noted documentary filmmakers. Who is Dayani Cristal? explores the plight of undocumented immigrants, through an exploration of the life of a man whose body was found in the Arizona desert. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child takes on the difficulties of an African-American LGBT painter. For the Bible Tells Me So has 98% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and explores the bible’s view on homosexuality. Tower looks at one of America’s first mass school shootings, while Stonewall Uprising covers the events leading to clashes between the police and gay citizens. The Red Pill – A Feminist’s Journey Into the Men’s Rights Movement is rather self-explanatory.

Unforgivable Blackness, Ken Burns’ spotlight on the heavyweight champion Jack Johnson won him several of his many Emmies. There is a lot of Ken Burns’ work in the library, as well as Mark Cousins’ 15 episode series The Story of Film.

British Film

Fans of British music might check out the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and the Who’s Quadrophrenia. Other highlights for Anglophiles would be the animated fantasy adventure Watership Down, Peter Brooks’ The Lord of the Flies (courtesy of the Criterion collection) and The Spy in Black, which appears to be the only Michael Powell film available. Le Weekend stars Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a long-married couple visiting Paris to rejuvenate their relationship.

American Film

Notable American classics include two John Ford/ John Wayne collaborations Stagecoach, and the lesser-known The Long Voyage Home, as well as the 1934 adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, the 1946 adaptation of The Corsican Brothers, and the Paul Robeson vehicle The Emperor Jones. The mystery The Death Kiss reunited the cast of Universal’s DraculaThe Devil and Daniel Webster adapts the famous short story with Walter Huston as Satan.  Foreign Correspondent is the most notable Hitchcock film available. The Naked City is an influential noir, while Frank Borzage’s History is Made at Night provides a late 1930s love triangle.  Fear and Desire is the rarely seen first movie by Stanley Kubrick. Orson Welles is represented with The Stranger, Mr. Arkadin and The Trial. More recent entries include 1999’s Boondock Saints, and Casino Jack, with Kevin Spacey as lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

WOman Under Influence

Independent (11)

John Cassavettes is represented with Faces, Shadows, and A Woman Under the Influence. Samuel Fuller films include Shock Corridor, and the Baron of Arizona (with Vincent Price.) Other independent highlights include David Gordon Green’s George Washington, and John Huston’s Flannery O’Connor adaptation Wise Blood. Jim Jaramush gets a few films, including Mystery Train, courtesy of the Criterion adaptation. There are quite a few recent indie films thanks to the Samuel Goldwyn collection. 2 Days in Paris, East Side Sushi, the biographical crime drama Whistleblower and the coming of age drama I Capture the Castle are highlights from that supplier.

Experimental

Some innovative films include Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, Andre Gregory and Wallace Shaun’s film-long conversations My Dinner With Andre, Orson Welles’ treatise on art and counterfeiting F For Fake, Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth’s cinematic duel Five Obstructions, and William Greave’s Symbiopsychotaxiplasm.

Theatrical Adaptations

The 1939 Pygmalion that got George Bernard Shaw his screenwriting Oscar is available, as is David Lean’s adaptation of Shaw’s Major Barbara. Thanks to Kino Lorber’s collection, we have the highlights of the American Film Theater series, including John Frankenheimer’s version of The Iceman Cometh,  and Peter Hall’s Homecoming. Something else that seems interesting in the 1985 TV adaptation of Death of a Salesman with John Malkovich and Dustin Hoffman that got a ton of Emmies. Another notable adaptation is the film adaptation of The Browning Version with Michael Redgrave as the lead.

Notable Shakespeare adaptations include Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III, Orson Welles’ The Chimes at Midnight (which adapts several plays to turn Falstaff into the lead), and the recent David Tennant Hamlet.

Great Performances

The Trip to Bountiful netted Geraldine Page an Academy Award, while The Private Life of Henry VIII gave Charles Laughton his an Oscar. Carol Kane was nominated for Best Actress for Hester Street. The Stunt Man and The Ruling Class feature Academy Award nominated performances by Peter O’Toole. Summertime featured a nominated performance from Katherine Hepburn.

Etc.

Walkabout is one of the most notable Australian films. Jane Campion’s debut Sweetie is also available.

Journey to Italy is an English-language film produced in Italy and Spain starring Ingrid Bergman, considered one of Roberto Rossellini’s best.

Animated films and comedies seem to be a bit underrepresented, but considering the cost of this service is free for the individual, that’s not a big deal. There are quite a few notable films that I haven’t covered, and further exploration will likely reveal some hidden gems. The selections come from various collections, so it’s interesting to see what’s featured and what’s not. Some actors are well-represented (Charles Laughton/ Orson Welles/ Norman Reedus) due to their work in material likely to be included in particular film libraries. Other top talents aren’t covered to the same extent (you’re not going to find much work from Jack Nicholson, or Cary Grant.)

 

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Throwback Thursday: On considering race and gender for political appointments

Trump Pence

In his piece about the advantages African-American candidates have in presidential primaries, Ben Smith suggested that “the Romney/ Ryan debacle did probably guarantee one thing: That the Republican Party will never again present a ticket with two white men on it.” That statement ended up being untrue.

Roger Clegg of the National Review was opposed to the emphasis on race, responding to criticisms of the lack of diversity with Obama’s top cabinet posts.

Obama is, for once, being virtuous in insisting on hiring the best-qualified candidates, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex (they are not the people I’d choose, but that’s a different story).

What this episode shows is that no one really believes that you can select people with an eye on their color while also trying to pick the best people. It’s a good thing that the administration has unwittingly acknowledged that.

Years ago, I came up with a short list of potential Republican Vice-Presidential candidates for 2012, under the assumption that a white guy wouldn’t be appreciated on the ticket. In the end, Romney picked Paul Ryan. And it seemed two of his finalists were former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, as well as Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

2016 was slightly different. Senators who were in their second year in statewide office in 2012 were finishing their first terms. The Governors elected in 2010 were reelected. So any diversity picks would have more experience, including New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. A few more were elected to Statewide office, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, and Senator Tim Scott will probably be in his fourth year in the Senate.

It may seem inherently unfair to consider race and gender as qualifications. But it’s no less arbitrary than considering swing states or age. One of the benefits of Paul Ryan was that he was a young guy who came from Wisconsin. Rob Portman was from Ohio. Tim Pawlenty was from Minnesota, and could have been able to help in the Midwestern swing states.

The winning 2016 ticket was two white guys, albeit from different backgrounds. Trump was a millionaire’s billionaire son and had never served in public office. Pence had made two runs for Congress before he was thirty, and later combined legislative and executive experience, a Midwestern Governor who has risen to #4 in the US House. He was a guy who knew Washington but was outside of it, and that’s what mattered most.

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Thursday Throwback: Reagan and Electability

C16319-11

At one of the 2012 Republican primary debates, Newt Gingrich responded to the suggestion that he may be unelectable by noting that the same thing was said about Ronald Reagan 32 years ago. Al Checchi made a similar point writing for the Huffington Post.

There are a few problems with the comparison. Ronald Reagan was elected Governor in a competitive big state, defeating an incumbent. Anyone who accomplishes that is a credible Presidential candidate. If the head of the ACLU becomes the Governor of Florida, it would be ridiculous for Republicans to underestimate him.

Reagan’s such a powerful example that people forget the other potential comparisons: all the politicians who ran for office and lost the primary.

Presidential elections are a small set of data points, but there have been plenty of gubernatorial and senate elections in that time, where the conservative Republican lost.

I can’t say that Gingrich would have had no shot, but I wouldn’t say that Reagan sets a good precedent.

Conservative activist Wendy Long, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate, suggested that Reagan proves she can be strong in New York.

Ms. Long is largely unknown to the public, but has generated considerable excitement among party regulars. She is articulate and charismatic, and seen as someone who could foil Ms. Gillibrand.

She is also a strong social conservative who has spoken out against same-sex marriage, saying it could open the door for humans to marry animals. Ms. Long has been linked to a student newspaper at Dartmouth, her alma mater, that mocked gays, blacks and Jews. Her supporters cheered the loudest during the voting process, but some Republicans worried about her electability.

“I’m a 1980s Ronald Reagan conservative, and Ronald Reagan won this state two times,” Ms. Long said. “I don’t think that those conservative values are out of step with New York at all.”

Ms. Long described Ms. Gillibrand as “someone who just rubber-stamps the Obama agenda or checks with Chuck Schumer and says, ‘Me too.’ ”

She ended up losing by 46 points. She later got the nomination against Schumer, and lost by 43 points.

A dumb argument many conservatives make is that electability shouldn’ty be a concern because someone once said that Ronald Reagan was unelectable. Here’s an example.

The most insulting thing to conservatives about this argument is that it says that conservatism and electability are mutually exclusive. History says otherwise. Ronald Reagan, the standard bearer of modern conservatism, was unelectable. He was too conservative, a reactionary, and a deluded old fool who would bring about a nuclear war.

Of course he won two back-to-back landslides (44 and 49 states, respectively), and he did it, not by being a moderate, or seizing the center. No, on the contrary, Reagan did what Mark Steyn best describes. As Steyn points out, Reagan did not win by moving to the center. Rather, he moved the center towards him. That, Steyn says, is why Reagan was great. He knew how to speak to independents and centrists without losing his principles in the mix. He was a conservative who could move the center.

It’s a straw man argument. Because people in the past were wrong against Reagan, it doesn’t mean experts are wrong now.

This is an interesting thing to consider in the age of Trump, although his political positions aren’t exactly conservative, and a stronger Republican would have likely won the popular vote.

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Why Stories Favor the Fish Out of Water

harry potter and dobby in chamber of secrets

Another bias in fiction is what I would call the “fish out of water” bias, which simply means that a story is more likely to be told from an outsider’s perspective than an insider’s.

There are a few advantages to this. It’s easier for the audience to relate to a protagonist who has not been raised as part of a strange culture. The exposition is also simpler if the character learns stuff at the same time as the audience.

There are a lot of examples of this. Harry Potter grew up in the ordinary world before he went to Hogwarts. The guy who defeated the great evil threatening a society was an outsider, not because that’s the way it usually goes, but because it made for a more accessible story.

In The Godfather, Michael Corleone came back to the family after several years serving in Europe during World War 2.

This can be mythic. Joseph Campbell touches on this when he writes about the monomyth, and how there trends to be a period in the middle of the story where the hero is in a new world, eventually returning with new tools (We call that Act 3.)

One problem with this is that many consequential people grow up in closed and exclusive societies. Think of the Kennedys or the Trumps. And some of those people spend their entire lives in insular circles, never interacting with the fish out of water. So emphasis on one version of the story can result in neglecting other stories, that are truer to how the world really works.

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Lincoln on Heritage

lincoln

This is just a great portion from a July 10, 1858 Chicago speech by Abraham Lincoln, a former one-term congressman about to lose his campaign for the Senate. It’s on the heritage of Americans, be they descendants of men who took great risks, or immigrants.

We are now a mighty nation; we are thirty, or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years, and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country, with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men; we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men; they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity which we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time, of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves, we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age and race and country in which we live, for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it . We have—besides these, men descended by blood from our ancestors—among us, perhaps half our people, who are not descendants at all of these men; they are men who have come from Europe,—German, Irish, French, and Scandinavian,—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us; but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal;” and then they feel that that moral sentiment, taught in that day, evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.

It’s kinda weird to imagine how Lincoln’s earlier speeches and writings gained prominence because of his presidency. If his top post was some patronage job, would they linger in obscurity? Could it have been discovered later? Is there material of equivalent greatness buried elsewhere?

Or did the quality of his writing make it inevitable that he would achieve the highest office?

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Things Roger Ebert Liked

monsters ball

A while back, I picked up Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. One section, which I had wrote about, included his favorite films to come out each year he was reviewing films. And there were some things I noticed about his preferences.

He liked films with strong female protagonists. One thing I’ve noticed about recent Oscar-winners is the lack of strong lead female performances. Since 2000, one Best Picture winner featured a winner for Best Actress: Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. One more featured a nominee in the category: Renee Zelwegger in Chicago. In that period, Ebert’s favorite films included Monster’s Ball (which got an Oscar for Halle Berry), Monster (which got an Oscar for Charlize Theron), Million Dollar Baby, Juno (which got a nomination for Ellen Page), Pan’s Labrynith and A Separation. He’s done better in this category than the Oscars, and he’s been dead for four years.

He liked films which explored racial issues. His favorite films of the year included The Color Purple, Mississippi Burning, Do The Right Thing, Monster’s Ball and Crash.

He made some unconventional choices, opting for David Mamet’s House of Cards in 1987, in addition to the science fiction noirs Dark City in 1998, and Minority Report in 2002.

He wasn’t a comedy guy. Juno and Being John Malkovich are among the few comedies to be rated his favorite films.

It is one person’s preferences, but it’s an interesting comparison to other measures of success, be it the Academy Awards or box office.

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The next presidential landslide

nixon landslide

It’s been a while since we’ve had a true landslide presidential election. The general definition has been 55% of the popular vote. Clinton’s 1996 reelection comes close, as he did beat Dole by 8.5%, even if he didn’t get a majority of the vote, thanks to Ross Perot’s 8.4%.

When a party has held the White House for two terms, it seems that a close election is likelier than a landslide. See 1960, 1968, 1976, 2000 and 2016.

But 1988 shows that the party in power can win in a landslide if people like the direction the country’s going in, and the other party nominates someone who doesn’t appeal to swing voters. George Bush’s 53.4% isn’t a true landslide, but the closest anyone has gotten in my lifetime. This means, Hillary arguably had the potential for a landslide win last time.

2008 shows the party in power can lose in a landslide if people don’t like the direction the country’s going in. Obama’s 52.9% wasn’t a landslide either, but I would imagine that 2008 would have been worse for Republicans with a Rick Santorum on the top of the ticket, so it could have gone that way.

The other landslides have occurred when a party that’s held the White House for one term gets reelected. See 1964, 1972, 1984 and 1996. This is a possibility for Republicans now, although Trump’s current approval rating isn’t helping.

 

 

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