Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order. One a day, you have my word.
#81 – Being There
Why is it here:
A simple man raised by the TV is forced into the real world but instead of it crushing him he’s made into a prophet of sorts. It’s a hard premise to immediately get but thanks to the great Hal Ashby, the great Melvyn Douglas, and the much MUCH greater Peter Sellers this is a film everyone must see and everyone must love. Sellers has never been better, which is scary considering his body of work. The simpleton as a misunderstood scion was done to great success in Forrest Gump but this movie buries it, and is much funnier. And sweeter. And better in every way. It’s just one of those sneaky classics that may have really gone unnoticed had it not been that Sellers (and not too long after, Douglas) died shortly after the film was finished. A bona fide classic.
Moments to savor:
Peter Sellers, smarter than all of us put together, playing dumb so many times but in a way that is so cunning. The movie is rife with these little examples of just how special a talent the guy was.
Every five to ten years is enough, but the charm is unmistakable and in the wake of the sort of similar-themed Forrest Gump it takes on new significance.
This film can be remade today and lose no sincerity. There are more people today who live completely inside their TV, phones, or computers with no actual real-world social skills. except the subtlety and grace shown here wouldn’t work because today it’s about louder and more controversial. And that’s not charming at all.