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.
#21 – Schindler’s List
Why is it here:
Note: Remember that the first 80 are in no particular order.
There is a certain truth to the fact that this was Steven Spielberg’s big push for awards and recognition as a Filmmaker with a capital F. Funny thing was: He’s always been one. But regardless this movie is everything as advertised and then some. There’s no bullshit bookend sequence like the one that made Saving Private Ryan imperfect and there’s never a moment where the film is telling you to feel. It’s bare and raw and filled with horrible truths that speak to the human condition and genuinely wrings emotion from its viewer naturally. It’s a film of great scope and grace but one unflinching in every sense of the word. The Holocaust has certainly had its fair share of celluloid devoted to it but this somehow managed to be a great film and a great historical document. It’s also one of the last films the great director did before his style began to lose a little of its warmth and digital film and new D.P.’s added a synthetic sheen. Munich, another classic, notwithstanding.
Moments to savor:
There’s not a lot of savory stuff here considering the subject matter, but there are so many emotional and acting payoffs that it’s impossible not to look forward to or bask in the wake of some moments. Neeson’s breakdown, Fiennes at any moment, and Kingsley offering warmth and lucid advice all register high as do any moments where they take advantage of the Nazis. There are some amazing visual moments, a personal favorite being the shots of machine gun fire penetrating the calm of a city at night.
Tangential but when I saw Anthony Jeselnik perform life he uncorked this Schindler’s List joke that’s in his prototypical poor taste but no less funny:
“My mom, for most of her life, was a Holocaust denier. And it was terrible for the entire family to have to deal with until, finally, a couple years ago, we had an intervention. And we had a rabbi come into the home, had him walk her through the history of the Jewish people, and then he made her watch “Schindler’s List.” And after that, my mom did a complete 180. Now she can’t believe it only happened once.” – Anthony Jeselnik