The first time a cave dweller decided to post graffiti on a rock wall, you can bet that someone sitting nearby began thinking about how to do it differently.
In all the arts, but especially in cinema, we’re addicted to the latest flavor of the moment.
So as I approach the end of my list of 100 films you need to see before you die (with all apologies to Spokane Public Radio film critic Bob Glatzer for borrowing the title), I give you numbers 81 through 90.
I call this 10 “The New View.”
“Citizen Kane” (1941): Orson Welles’ masterpiece may seem both overblown and ordinary to a modern audience. But that’s merely because, as with many of the films on this list, Welles’ imaginative biopic (based on the life of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst) has been imitated to death. But remember: Welles, the wonder boy of the New York stage, did it first.
“Pulp Fiction” (1994): Quentin Tarantino’s career hasn’t developed as much as we, his first fans, had hoped. That’s because he’s more into reinvention of existing genres than in original thought. But that’s OK. If he does nothing else, Tarantino will still be known as the man who gave us this, the best, most original in style, most influential film of the 1990s.
“The Wild Bunch” (1969): Sam Peckinpah came from television. But the little tube couldn’t hold him, as his several big-screen efforts prove. He was known for his use of violence, and “The Wild Bunch” is certainly a good example, taking us to bloody extremes previously unexplored. But Peckinpah’s ability to capture the action in a scene rivals the best of his peers.
“Dancer in the Dark” (2000): When all is said and done, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier will be known for one word: Dogma. Though he breaks many of that so-called manifesto’s dictates almost every time out, he still is an original voice. And this stirring, musical look at the death penalty, starring the pop singer Björk, couldn’t be more unique.
“400 Blows” (1959): No one shook things up more than Francois Truffaut and his French Wave buddies. While you could easily substitute this Truffaut film with that of Jean-Luc Goddard’s “Breathless,” I prefer the coming-of-age feel of “400 Blows” with its shattering ending.
“Boogie Nights” (1997): Many film fans have heard of Paul Thomas Anderson, but aside from last year’s “There Will Be Blood” and its Oscar-winning star turn by Daniel Day Lewis, how many have seen his films? “Boogie Nights,” which is set in the porn-movie industry, is really a classic story of struggle, rise, downfall and redemption. Leave it to renegade Anderson to tell such a traditional story from the perspective of an outlaw industry.
“Bowling for Columbine” (2002): I could have listed 1989’s “Roger & Me” instead. But, really, the fact that this gun-control documentary won Michael Moore an Oscar makes it worth putting on the list. Whatever – Moore arguably has changed the perception of documentary films more than anyone else.
“The Matrix” (1999): They may seem fairly pedestrian these days, what with their Tarantinoesque obsession with anime and reimagining crappy television shows (such as “Speed Racer”). But when that had Neo (Keanu Reeves) first choosing between the blue and red pills, no one had seemed quite so tuned into the metaphysics of the new cinema as Andy and Larry Wachowski.
“Nosferatu” (1922): We can’t forget the German expressionists, the best known of whom is F.W. Murnau. His silent vampire film, a takeoff on Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” still plays like the worst black-and-white nightmare you’ve ever had to endure.
“Jaws” (1975): Steven Spielberg may go down as a popular filmmaker whose best films didn’t quite rank with the best work being done by his generation. But few filmmakers have ever had a better sense of where exactly to place a camera. And only he was responsible, with this shark horror classic, of showing that movie fans actually would flock to theaters during the hot summer months.