THE A LIST: The National Society of Film Critics' 100 Essential Films

Jay Carr, Editor . Da Capo $17.50 (351p) ISBN 978-0-306-81096-1

Perhaps it's the relative youth of the medium, but there's something about film that inspires the endless creation of lists. In the latest attempt at canon making, the National Society of Film Critics has compiled 100 of the most essential—not necessarily best—films of all time. Each choice is defended in a brief essay by a prominent critic like Peter Travers, Morris Dickstein or J. Hoberman. The films range from predictable giants—Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bonnie and Clyde, Star Wars, The Godfather—to more idiosyncratic selections like The Exorcist and Schindler's List. The critics convincingly argue that there is something artistically important about each of these pictures. The essays are often personal (with a refreshing absence of grandiloquent commentary), making the choices hard to dispute, even though heated debates are precisely what the book means to inspire. Dave Kehr's piece on Birth of a Nation and Eleanor Ringel's on Gone with the Wind show why these films, as racist as they are, deserve inclusion. Among the personal anecdotes is Roger Ebert's recollection of seeing The Battleship Potemkin, the classic Soviet revolutionary film, outdoors on a summer night in Michigan. While not every film lover will devour it cover to cover, these individual takes on old favorites make this good reading and a handy resource. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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