I guess I gotta keep posting these so I can overload John with lists to update. Here are my favorite films of 1946:
1. The Big Sleep (Hawks)
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra)
3. Notorious (Hitchcock)
4. A Matter of Life and Death (Powell, Pressburger)
5. Shoeshine (De Sica)
6. My Darling Clementine (Ford)
7. Great Expectations (Lean)
8. Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler)
9. Monsieur Beaucaire (Marshall) & Road to Utopia (Walker)
10. Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau)
HM: The Stranger (Welles)
THE BIG SLEEP - “She tried to sit on my lap while I was standing up.” One of my favorite films of all time. It has one of the funniest and sharpest non-comedy scripts perhaps ever written (Faulkner was a co-writer). It’s confusing, sweltering, atmospheric, tough as nails, and supremely entertaining. I could watch it countless times.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Do I even have to make an argument for it? Another of my all-time favorites. Watch it ever Christmas Eve, and it gets me every time.
NOTORIOUS - More quietly chilling than a lot of Hitchcock’s grander work. It builds heightened suspense with small gestures and limited space and is as elaborate a construction as any he ever managed. Terrifically entertaining as well. Love Carey Grant’s introduction at the party; you gotta be a superstar to make that reveal count.
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (a.k.a. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN in the U.S.) - Probably my favorite of Powell and Pressburger’s many gorgeous technicolor films. Their visual style could always be considered “otherworldly,” a trait that is utilized to perfection here to make this love story (literally about a matter between life and death, earth and “the beyond”) their most creative, lush, and sublime.
SHOESHINE - A horror story about children being caught up in a vicious world they have no business being in. I don’t know exactly why, but I find prison/POW films so utterly compelling, and the fact that it deals with imprisoned children makes it even more engrossing/horrifying. John, I know you don’t like “horse films” but this is an absolute gem of one. Perhaps the best children’s prison/horse film ever made haha. (Available on NWI)
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE - I love John Ford. I am in constant awe of his immaculate cinematic eye. He’s a director I could watch endlessly merely for the compositions alone. But he’s also a great storyteller, and all of his talents are on display with this film that many consider among his very best. Fonda and Mature make a great team, and Ford tackles the Earp/Holliday legend with surprising sweetness.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS - Hands down, the best Dickens adaptation ever made. The paradigm for how you turn a great novel into a great film. David Lean rules.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES - Goes by so quickly despite its nearly three hour run time. All three stories are compelling and woven together seamlessly with great performances all around. Also, gotta give a shoutout for that incredible deep-focus cinematography; it looked gorgeous in HD.
MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE - A horrendously overlooked Bob Hope film that is consistently hilarious and oftentimes brilliant in its comedic execution. Bob basically always played the same role, yet somehow this particular incarnation of his coward/wisecracker hits majestic heights for me.
ROAD TO UTOPIA - Using Bob Hope’s presence in this as well to justify a tie. The best of the ROAD TO... movies because at this point in the series everything had become so completely ridiculous and self-referential that the gags come flying fast and furious and nearly all are hysterical. Best moments: Bob Hope’s constant breaking of the fourth wall and his quip after Bing's singing loses a talent contest: ”Next time I bring Sinatra.” Pure gold, I tells ya.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - It’s probably not hip to pick two Bob Hope comedies over Cocteau’s gorgeous and highly revered film, but I gotta go with what I love more here. Haven’t seen this in a while, but I absolutely remember its ethereal visuals and beautifully ornate set design enough to know that I was quite impressed by it. It’s, of course, an art house classic, and one that I’d like to see again to know how terribly I’m underrating it or not.
It was hard to leave off THE STRANGER, which isn’t one of Welles’ best but is still awesome.