Tag Archives: Film

It’s the Most Wonderful Time – For Listers

The month of December is high season for listers and those who love lists.  Because December is the time that arts critics in every newspaper, magazine, website, blog, TV or radio station look back over the past year and make lists (usually Top Ten lists, but not always) of the best accomplishments from the past 12 months.  I’ve been collecting these lists – specifically for films, music and books – since 2002, and collating them to find out which items are on the most lists, and then making my own meta-lists.  Why do I do this?  One (somewhat inexplicable) reason is that I enjoy the process.  But a better reason is that I believe it exposes me to the best of these three arts.  Each list becomes a set of recommendations that I trust and that pushes me beyond my comfort zone.  I know that some folks don’t trust critics and reviewers to guide their choices of what to see, what to read and what to listen to, but to me the critics’ lists are the best option available, given that you can’t read/watch/listen to everything and must make choices.

What  are the other options for choosing what movies to see, books to read, music to listen to: (1) recommendations of friends and family; (2) following one particular expert, critic or reviewer; (3) critics’ reviews in newspapers, magazines and websites, or on radio or TV; (4) recommendations of people who sell movies or CDs or books, like Amazon; (5) trailers or other types of ads; (6) crowd-sourced websites like Goodreads or reviews on Amazon or other sites by ‘regular people’; or (7) meta-data sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes that collect critics’ reviews and assign ratings.  I have tried most of these methods myself, and I find that – except for (7), which is very similar to what I do – they all leave me disappointed.  I end up feeling like I have either adopted someone else’s tastes; sold out to The Man; ended up in a solipsistic spiral of stuff I know already, or that I’m just being exposed to the winners of various popularity contests judged by people completely unlike me who can’t spell and seem to base their opinions on completely irrational criteria.  So instead I rely on the critics and reviewers – people who analyze works of art for a living and may know more than I do about their subject.  While I may not agree with the tastes and judgment of each one, there is a pretty good chance that if several of them (or 10, 20 or 30 of them!) agree that a book is worth reading, a film is worth seeing, or an album is worth listening to, they are right.  Plus, when you pool the lists of many critics, you get a much wider variety than under most of the other available methods.  Taking this approach has led me to find masterpieces of artistic expression – from low to highbrow – that I would never have found had I just listened to what my friends’ recommended.  And while the critics’ top ten isn’t always my top ten, I have never regretted a choice I’ve made based on these lists.  (Even in the rare case that I don’t ‘like’ a highly rated book, recording or movie, I can appreciate the artistic qualities that led to its high rating and thus I benefit from it.  I just won’t be watching/reading/listening to it again any time soon.)

Here are the 2013 lists and Happy New Year:

Best Films of 2013
Best Books of 2013
Best Music of 2013

 

Authors and Auteurs: The Individual As Creative Force

There appears to be a human impulse to attribute a work of art to a single creator.  Maybe this is a consequence of the monotheistic religions that so many humans embrace (or perhaps monotheism is a result of the same human impulse).  We honor and celebrate the skill and imagination, the creative power of book authors, playwrights, poets, painters, sculptors, songwriters, musicians, and film directors.  The underlying theory, I suppose, is that it takes the creative vision of a single mind to produce a fully-realized work of art.  The most controversial application of this theory is the auteur theory developed by French film critics in the 1950s and championed in the U.S. by Andrew Sarris.  According to the theory, a film’s director is its author, in the same way that the single person who writes a book is its author.  The trouble with the theory is that movies are also a collaborative art – an enterprise involving the coordinated artistic and technical skills of many individuals in addition to the director, such as the screenwriter, the cinematographer, the editor, the sound crew, the set designer, costumers, as well as the actors.  The auteur critics used their theory to champion lesser-known directors like Samuel Fuller and Douglas Sirk by showing how they used the relative obscurity of genre and “B” movies to put forth a personal artistic vision.  But the theory works less well for many of the films produced by the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s and 1940s, when the director may have been just another cog in the machine.  Gone With the Wind seems more a product of its producer, David O. Selznick’s vision, than than of its director, Victor Fleming.

Music can also be a collaborative art, especially in the ensembles of rock and jazz, where songwriting and performing are often spread among a number of talented individuals, working together but also taking opportunities to “solo” and improvise, temporarily elevating the individual above the ensemble.  Even classical music, in which the composer’s manuscript is usually sacred, conductors and musicians “interpret” the piece, bringing something of their own style and personality to the final performance.

Painting and sculpture, which are now seen as extremely individualistic, were not always so (and, for massive public art projects, are not so even now).  A painter or sculptor in the Renaissance, for example, had many assistants, who often executed some of the work. Painters were even known to charge higher rates depending on the percentage of the work they did themselves.  Furthermore, those clients commissioning paintings and sculptures often had very specific requirements about the content of the work.  The notion of a painter sitting down to a blank canvas and painting whatever he or she pleased is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Are book authors (and poets and playwrights), then, the only true auteurs?  In many cases, the author sits down, writes his or her book alone and then sees it published in substantially the same form.  But in other cases, this image ignores the reality of publishers and editors who influence not just the subject of books but the style.  (Thomas Wolfe is one famous example of a writer who delivered a mass of disorganized writing to his editor, who then whipped it into shape.  Yet the editor is not considered a co-author.)  There are also ‘authors’, like Homer and those to whom many ancient manuscripts are attributed, who are merely symbols for the centuries of oral tradition that led to the Iliad, the Odyssey and other works handed down over time.  And all artists are influenced by other artists – some steal directly, others unconsciously.  Some are rebels; some are reformers, and some wish to return to times gone by.  They are influenced by the market – what will sell, what will not.  The political climate affects them as well as their personal circumstances.

I have raised all these complications as a preface to introducing a number of new lists.  Actually, they are mostly reworkings of older lists (although a few of them dig deeper than the lists I’ve already published).  These new lists all have one thing in common: they are organized by artist (as in performer, author, director).  Some are alphabetical; some are chronological.  The main idea is to see the lists in a different way: through the lens of the individual creator and their body of work.  They are particularly useful in answering the question: “Which one should I try first?” (E.g., Which David Bowie  or Charles Mingus album?  Which Titian painting?  Which Dickens book?  Which Godard film?)  Or, for those who have dabbled already, “Which should I try next?”

Rock, pop, R&B, etc.:  Musicians and Their Best Albums
JazzJazz Artists and their Best Recordings
BooksGreat Authors and their Masterworks, Part 1: 850 BCE – 1870
BooksGreat Authors and their Masterworks, Part 2: 1871-Present
FilmFilm Directors and their Best Films
Visual Arts: Great Artists and Their Masterpieces 

The Best of 2009 & 2010

I have put links for all my meta-lists for the best of 2009 and 2010 in this post – each one is a compilation of numerous best film, best music and best books lists for each year.  Have a look:

BEST BOOKS OF 2009                      BEST BOOKS OF 2010
BEST FILMS OF 2009                        BEST FILMS OF 2010
BEST MUSIC OF 2009                       BEST MUSIC OF 2010

2012 – It Was A Very Good Year

Every December, like clockwork, film, book and music critics (and bloggers) publish their “Best of the Year” lists in newspapers, magazines and websites.  And since 2002, I’ve been collecting those lists and collating them to find out which books, movies and albums made it onto the most lists.  I’m going to publish all these lists eventually, but for now, I’ve put up the most recent ‘best of’ compilations, from 2012.  Take a look:

BEST FILMS OF 2012  
BEST BOOKS OF 2012
BEST MUSIC OF 2012

The Terrifying 2000s

The fall of the Twin Towers.  Al-Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism on the rise.  Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.   Intifada.  Chechnya.  The Janjaweed.  The tsunami.  SARS.  Benazir Bhutto assassinated.  The Great Recession.  The Patriot Act.  Reality TV.  Mel Gibson.  There was plenty to be scared of in the first decade of the 21st Century.  We were so frightened, we even started a war against terror itself.  We started out with Clinton and ended with Obama, but mostly we got the misunderestimations of George Bush.  There were other, less terrifying developments: The Eurozone.  GPS.  Hybrid cars.  Atheism bestsellers.  Martha Stewart went to jail.  Peter Jackson did LOTR fans proud (except for Tom Bombadil fanatics).  Kids got their news from The Daily Show.  Hunter Thompson’s ashes were shot from a cannon.  Vets coming home with PTSD were refused treatment by the government they bravely served.  It was that kind of decade.

Here they are: some of my favorite books, films and music from the 2000s.

Favorite 00s Films

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Mungiu, 2007)
Fat Girl (Breillat, 2001)
American Splendor (Berman, 2003)
Capturing the Friedmans (Jarecki, 2003)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001)
Dogville (von Trier, 2003)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (Moore, 2004)
Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)
Talk to Her (Almodovar, 2002)
Juno (Reitman, 2007)
The Lives of Others (von Donnersmarck, 2006)
Moulin Rouge! (Luhrmann, 2001)
Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
No Country for Old Men (Coen, 2007)
Once (Carney, 2006)
Requiem for a Dream (Aronofsky, 2000)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001)
Slumdog Millionaire (Boyle, 2008)
Tarnation (Caouette, 2004)
Traffic (Soderbergh, 2000)
Downfall (Hirschbiegel, 2004)
Waking Life (Linklater, 2001)
The White Ribbon (Haneke, 2009)
Yi Yi (Yang, 2000)

Favorite 00s Music

PJ Harvey  Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (2000)
Shelby Lynne  I Am Shelby Lynne (2000)
U2  All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)
Mariza  Fado em Mim (2000)
Greg Osby  Invisible Hand (2000)
Pérotin  Perotin (Hilliard Ensemble) (2000)
Johann Sebastian Bach  Mass in B Minor (Gächinger Kantorei & Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Rilling) (2000)
Macy Gray  The Id (2001)
Buddy Guy  Sweet Tea (2001)
Jason Moran  Black Stars (2001)
Wilco  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
Beck  Sea Change (2002)
Sleater-Kinney  One Beat (2002)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs  Fever to Tell (2003)
The New Pornographers  Electric Version (2003)
Arcade Fire  Funeral (2004)
Sufjan Stevens  Illinois (2005)
My Morning Jacket  Z (2005)
Petra Haden  Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (2005)
John Adams  The Dharma at Big Sur (BBC Symphony Orch./Adams) (2006)
The Hold Steady  Boys and Girls in America (2006)
Camera Obscura  Let’s Get Out of This Country (2006)
Arcade Fire  Neon Bible (2007)
The New Pornographers  Challengers (2007)
The Swell Season  Once: Music From the Motion Picture (2007)
PJ Harvey  White Chalk (2007)
Los Campesinos!  Hold On Now, Youngster… (2008)
Tune-Yards  Bird-Brains (2009)
Leonard Bernstein  Mass (Baltimore Symphony Orch./Alsop; Sykes) (2009)

Favorite 00s Books

Dave Eggers  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000)
Ian McEwan  Atonement  (2001)
David McCullough  John Adams (2001)
Leif Enger  Peace Like a River (2001)
Jeffrey Eugenides  Middlesex (2002)
Janet E. Browne  Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2002)
Edward P. Jones  The Known World (2003)
Bill Bryson  A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)
David Maraniss  They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967 (2003)
Steve Coll  Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004)
David Crystal  The Stories of English (2004)
Tim Riley  Fever: How Rock ‘n’ Roll Transformed Gender in America (2004)
Kazuo Ishiguro  Never Let Me Go (2005)
Charles C. Mann  1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005)
Joan Didion  The Year of Magical Thinking (2005)
Duncan Clark  The Rough Guide To Classical Music (2005)
Michael Pollan  The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006)
Julie Phillips  James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon (2006)
Philip Lopate (ed.)  American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now  (2006)
Alex Ross  The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007)
Annette Gordon-Reed  The Hemingses of Monticello (2008)
Mark Harris  Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood  (2008)

The Naughty Nineties

Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, the cigar, and the blue dress that never made it to the dry cleaners.  Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas and the Coke can.  Desert Storm and the Scud Stud.  CNN and the 24-hour news cycle.  The Rwandan Genocide.  The Bosnian Genocide.  Kosovo.    Grunge mashed up heavy metal and punk and draped a torn flannel shirt over it.  Riot grrls took third wave feminism and added electric guitars and explicit lyrics.  And speaking of explicit lyrics, they put warning labels on rap CDs, helping sales under the law of unintended consequences.  The 90s was the era of sex, lies and the Intertubes.  James Cameron was king of the world.  Disney started making animated classics again.  They freed Nelson Mandela.  Alternative music and indie film briefly took over, until the big corporations caught on and cashed in.  A lot of us started thinking it might be worth it to pay more for organic.  Scientists cloned a sheep – hello, Dolly.  Al Gore started talking about something called ‘global warming.’  On TV we had Friends (hairdo: the Rachel), ER (hairdo: the Clooney) and, of course, Steve Urkel.

Here are some of my favorite films, books and music from the 1990s:

Favorite 90s Films

Short Cuts (Altman, 1993)
Before Sunrise (Linklater, 1995)
Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999)
Schindler’s List (Spielberg, 1993)
Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)
Happiness (Solondz, 1998)
Ed Wood (Burton, 1994)
Fargo (Coens, 1996)
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (Morris, 1997)
The Celebration (Vinterberg, 1998)
Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)
Lone Star (Sayles, 1996)
Microcosmos (Nuridsany/Pérennou, 1996)
Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)
Secrets & Lies (Leigh, 1996)
The Sweet Hereafter (Egoyan, 1997)
All About My Mother (Almodóvar, 1999)
Unforgiven (Eastwood, 1992)
Boogie Nights (Anderson, 1997)
The Apostle (Duvall, 1997)
American Beauty (Mendes, 1999)
Election (Payne, 1999)
Boys Don’t Cry (Peirce, 1999)
Brother’s Keeper (Berlinger/Sinofsky, 1992)

Favorite 90s Music

World Party  Goodbye Jumbo (1990)
The Sundays  Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (1990)
They Might Be Giants  Flood (1990)
Sinéad O’Connor  I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)
Rosanne Cash  Interiors (1990)
Franz Liszt  Sonata in B minor (Pollini) (1990)
Erik Satie  Erik Satie (Queffélec) (1990)
R.E.M.  Out of Time (1991)
U2  Achtung Baby (1991)
Throwing Muses  The Real Ramona (1991)
Johann Sebastian Bach  Cello Suites (Rostropovich) (1991)
Elliott Carter  The Four String Quartets (Juilliard Quartet) (1991)
R.E.M.  Automatic for the People (1992)
Josquin Des Prés  Missa “Ave maris stella”; Motets & Chansons (Taverner Consort & Choir/Parrott) (1992)
Aimee Mann  Whatever (1993)
Liz Phair  Exile in Guyville (1993)
Anonymous  Adorate Deum: Gregorian Chant from the Proper of the Mass (Nova Schola Gregoriana/Turco) (1993)
PJ Harvey  To Bring You My Love (1994)
Letters to Cleo  Aurora Gory Alice (1994)
Johnny Cash  American Recordings (1994)
John Dowland  Complete Lute Works, Vol. 1 (O’Dette) (1995)
Alban Berg  Wozzeck (Barenboim; Grundheber; Meier; Baker; Clark) (1994)
Dmitri Shostakovich  String Quartets (Emerson String Quartet) (1994-1999)
Garbage  Garbage (1995)
Alanis Morissette  Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Emmylou Harris  Wrecking Ball (1995)
Aimee Mann  I’m With Stupid (1995)
Beck  Odelay (1996)
Radiohead  OK Computer (1997)
Sarah McLachlan  Surfacing (1997)
The Sundays  Static & Silence (1997)
Bob Dylan  Time Out of Mind (1997)
Yo La Tengo  I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (1997)
Garbage  Version 2.0 (1998)
John Scofield  A Go Go (1998)
Lucinda Williams  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)
Steve Reich  Music for 18 Musicians (1998)
Wilco  Summerteeth (1999)
Tom Waits  Mule Variations (1999)
The Magnetic Fields  69 Love Songs (1999)
Jim Hall & Pat Metheny  Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (1999)

Favorite 90s Books

David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest (1996)
Arundhati Roy  The God of Small Things (1997)
Zadie Smith  White Teeth  (1999)
Daniel C. Dennett  Consciousness Explained (1991)
Richard Fortey  Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth (1997)
Philip Gourevitch  We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (1998)
Janet E. Browne  Charles Darwin: Voyaging  (1995)
Andrea Barrett  Ship Fever: Stories (1996)
John McPhee  Annals of the Former World (1998)
Norman Rush  Mating (1991)
Tony Judt  Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (1999)
Tim Riley  Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary (1992)
David McCullough  Truman  (1992)
Julia Cameron  The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (1992)
Dennis Overbye  Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Story of the Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe (1991)
Aljean Harmetz  Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca–Bogart, Bergman, and World War II  (1992)

The Execrable Eighties

I just need two words to sum up what was wrong with the 80s: Ronald Reagan.  He’s the guy that fired the striking air traffic controllers, thereby sending the message to employers everywhere that the government was on their side, not the side of the workers and their unions.  He’s the guy that made it cool to be conservative, to blame the poor for their poverty, to pretend that racism and sexism were problems of the past and those who didn’t buy this outrageous lie had a “victim mentality.”  They made ‘tax and spend’ liberal a four-letter word, while raising government spending to record highs.  What was that stuff trickling down, anyway?  It wasn’t water and it smelled kinda funny.

And what did our culture give us as the backdrop for this class war?  MTV: Paula Abdul dancing with cartoons.  Boy bands.  Boy George. Big hair for women (and hair metal bands); buzz cuts for men.  Speaking of hair, A Flock of Seagulls.  And in the theaters:  Porky’s.  Flashdance.  Iran-Contra.  Wait, that last one was real, wasn’t it?

I can’t complain too much, though.  On a personal level, the 80s brought me together with my life partner and true love (you know who you are) – but I can promise you that Reagan had nothing to do with it.

Here are my favorite books, films and music of the 1980s:

Favorite 80s Films

Stardust Memories (Allen, 1980)
Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)
The King of Comedy (Scorcese, 1982)
The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989)
Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
Raging Bull (Scorcese, 1980)
Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)
Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)
Say Anything… (Crowe, 1989)
My Dinner With Andre (Malle, 1981)
sex, lies, and videotape (Soderbergh, 1989)
The Thin Blue Line (Morris, 1988)
Raising Arizona (Coens, 1987)
Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen, 1986)
This Is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
Baby It’s You (Sayles, 1983)
Local Hero (Forsyth, 1983)
Atlantic City (Malle, 1980)
Return of the Secaucus Seven (Sayles, 1980)
The Vanishing (Sluizer, 1988)
Sans Soleil (Marker, 1983)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Richter, 1984)
Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (Ophüls, 1988)

Favorite 80s Books 

Salman Rushdie  Midnight’s Children (1981)
D.M. Thomas  The White Hotel (1981)
Gerald Mast  A Short History of the Movies (1986)
Raymond Carver  Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories (1988)
Randy Shilts  And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1987)
Howard Zinn  A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (1980)
John Gardner  The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers (1984)
Anthony J. Lukas  Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (1985)
Don DeLillo  White Noise (1985)
T.C. Boyle  World’s End (1987)
Art Spiegelman  Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History (1986)
Tom Robbins  Still Life with Woodpecker (1980)
James M. McPherson  Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)
Taylor Branch  Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (1988)
Ernst Mayr  The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance (1982)
A.J. Ayer  Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1982)
Robert Middlekauff  The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (1982)
John Diekelmann  Natural Landscaping: Designing with Native Plant Communities (1982)
Martin Amis  Money (1984)
Joseph Campbell  The Power of Myth (1988)
Tim Riley  Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album By Album, Song By Song, The Sixties And After  (1988)
Jack Connor  The Complete Birder: A Guide to Better Birding (1988)
Kenneth O. Morgan  The Oxford History of Britain (1988)
R.F. Foster  Modern Ireland: 1600-1972 (1989)
John Kobal  John Kobal Presents the Top 100 Movies (1988)

Favorite 80s Music

Talking Heads  Remain in Light (1980)
Dire Straits  Making Movies (1980)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  Le Nozze di Figaro (London Philharmonic Orch./Solti; Te Kanawa; Popp; von Stade; Ramey) (1982)
Elvis Costello  Imperial Bedroom (1982)
The Roches  Keep On Doing (1982)
Paul Simon  Hearts and Bones (1982)
Tom Waits  Rain Dogs (1985)
Domenico Scarlatti  Best Sonatas (Ross) (rec. 1984-1985, rel. 1991)
Elvis Costello  King of America (1986)
Peter Gabriel  So (1986)
Paul Simon  Graceland (1986)
U2  The Joshua Tree (1987)
Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir   Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares          (1975, rel. in US, 1987)
Alison Krauss  Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection (1987-1994)
Béla Bartók  6 String Quartets (Emerson String Quartet) (1988)
k.d. lang  Shadowland (1988)
Johann Sebastian Bach  The Well-Tempered Piano, Part 1 (Jaccottet) (1989)
Henry Purcell  Dido and Aeneas (The English Concert and Choir/Pinnock) (1989)

 

The So-So Seventies

It wasn’t the best of times, but it wasn’t the worst of times either.  Not so much the Me Decade, as the meh decade.  Soft rock – the oxymoronic soundtrack to the 70s, that and disco, and the Grateful Dead.  I’m OK, You’re OK.  Transcendental meditation.  I watched Watergate, the Bicentennial, and Son of Sam on TV.  The Vietnam War ended and Saturday Night Live began.  Nixon, Ford and Carter occupied the White House.  We waited in line for gas, first in ’74, then again in ’79.  I saw Godspell – twice.

Here are some of my favorite films, books and music from the 1970s.

Favorite 60s Books

Thomas Pynchon  Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn  The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 (1973)
Kurt Vonnegut  Breakfast of Champions (1973)
Richard Dawkins  The Selfish Gene (1976)
E.E. Cummings  Complete Poems 1913-1962 (1972)
Toni Morrison  Song of Solomon (1977)
John Rawls  A Theory of Justice (1971)
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward  All the President’s Men (1974)
Robert M. Pirsig  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (1974)
Frances Moore Lappé  Diet for a Small Planet (1971)
Alice S. Rossi (ed.)  The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir (1973)
E.L. Doctorow  Ragtime (1975)
Tom Robbins  Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976)
John Cheever  The Stories of John Cheever (1978)
Augustus Napier & Carl Whitaker  The Family Crucible (1978)
Leon Edel  Henry James: A Life (1953-1972)
E.O. Wilson  On Human Nature (1978)
Steve Martin  Cruel Shoes (1979)

Favorite 70s Music

The Velvet Underground  Loaded (1970)
Van Morrison  Moondance (1970)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young  Déjà vu (1970)
Derek and The Dominos   Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)
John Lennon  John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)
Al Green  Compact Command Performances: 14 Greatest Hits (1970-1974)
Hound Dog Taylor  Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers (1971)
Carole King  Tapestry (1971)
Joni Mitchell  Blue (1971)
The Who  Who’s Next (1971)
T. Rex   Electric Warrior (1971)
Neil Young  Harvest (1972)
Randy Newman  Sail Away (1972)
Yes  Close to the Edge (1972)
The Modern Lovers  The Modern Lovers (rec. 1972, rel. 1976)
Bob Marley  Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers (1972-1983)
Dave Holland  Conference of the Birds (1973)
Pink Floyd  The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
Paul Simon  There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973)
The Who  Quadrophenia (1973)
Yes  Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)
Joe Pass  Virtuoso (1974)
Bob Dylan  Blood on the Tracks (1975)
Bruce Springsteen  Born to Run (1975)
Pink Floyd  Wish You Were Here (1975)
Patti Smith  Horses (1975)
Early Music Consort of London  Music of the Gothic Era (1976)
Renaissance  Live at Carnegie Hall (1976)
Albert Collins  Ice Pickin’ (1978)
Giuseppe Verdi  Otello (Domingo; Scotto; Levine) (1978)
Elvis Costello  This Year’s Model (1978)
The Roches  The Roches (1979)
Talking Heads  Fear of Music (1979)

Favorite 70s Films

Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
The Godfather: Part II (Coppola, 1974)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975)
Taxi Driver (Scorcese, 1976)
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Herzog, 1974)
Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)
3 Women (Altman, 1977)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Buñuel, 1972)
Badlands (Malick, 1973)
Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci, 1972)
Cries and Whispers (Bergman, 1972)
A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, 1974)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Herzog, 1972)
Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson, 1970)
The Last Picture Show (Bogdanovich, 1971)
A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971)
MASH (Altman, 1970)
Harold and Maude (Ashby, 1971)
The Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1975)
Nashville (Altman, 1975)
Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977)
The Marriage of Maria Braun (Fassbinder, 1979)

The Seismic Sixties

All my earliest memories come from this decade.  My first books and first movies.  Bambi at the drive-in.  Mary Poppins.  The mysteries of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  The Bounty Trilogy.  Jules Verne.  First explorations of nature in my backyard.  First day of school.  My first library card.  Reading books in the ‘back back’ of the light blue station wagon.  My first fishing pole – catching sunnies and, once, a snapping turtle, in the Saddle Brook.  My first trip on an airplane – visiting the pilot in the cockpit.    Watching the Apollo astronauts on TV.  The shooting of Bobby Kennedy.  The Vietnam War on the evening news.  Hippies making out in Glen Rock Park.

So in the spirit of that immense decade, here are my top films, books and music of the 1960s.  To see the complete lists, check out the menu at the top of the page.

Favorite 60s Films

 (Fellini, 1963)
Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux [My Life to Live] (Godard, 1962)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
La dolce vita (Fellini, 1960)
À bout de souffle [Breathless] (Godard, 1960)
Repulsion (Polanski, 1965)
Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)
L’avventura [The Adventure] (Antonioni, 1960)
El ángel exterminador [The Exterminating Angel] (Buñuel, 1962)
Jules et Jim [Jules and Jim] (Truffaut, 1962)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964)
La jetée [The Pier] (Marker, 1962)
Nóż w wodzie [Knife in the Water] (Polanski, 1962)
The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 1962)
Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962)
Le procès [The Trial] (Welles, 1962)
The Servant (Losey, 1963)
Bande à part [Band of Outsiders] (Godard, 1964)
Faces (Cassavetes, 1968)
Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969)

Favorite 60s Books

Thomas Pynchon  V. (1963)
Gabriel García Márquez  One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
Tom Wolfe  The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)
Kurt Vonnegut  Cat’s Cradle (1963)
James Watson  The Double Helix (1968)
J.D. Salinger  Franny and Zooey (1961)
Jorge Luis Borges  Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings (1962)
William Hinton  Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (1966)
Doris Lessing  The Golden Notebook (1962)
John Barth  Giles Goat-Boy (1966)
William L. Shirer  The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (1960)
Anthony Burgess  A Clockwork Orange (1962)
Richard Taylor  Metaphysics (1963)
Frank Rhodes  Fossils (1962)

Favorite 60s Music

Patsy Cline  12 Greatest Hits (1957-1963)
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles   The Ultimate Collection (1959-1972)
Wes Montgomery  The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (1960)
Freddie King   Hide Away: The Best of Freddy King (1960-1966)
Etta James   The Sweetest Peaches: The Chess Years, Part 1 (1960-1966)
Bill Evans  Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961)
Johann Sebastian Bach  St. Matthew Passion (Klemperer) (1961)
Dexter Gordon  Go (1962)
Lee Morgan  The Sidewinder (1964)
Gustav Mahler  Das Lied von der Erde (Ludwig/Klemperer) (1964-1966)
Joe Henderson  Inner Urge (1965)
Wayne Shorter  Speak No Evil (1965)
Sun Ra   The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (1965)
John Coltrane   A Love Supreme (1965)
B.B. King   Live at the Regal (1965)
The Beatles   Rubber Soul (1965)
Bob Dylan   Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Various Artists   Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era (1965-1968)
Richard Wagner  Tristan und Isolde (Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele/Böhm; Nilsson; Windgassen; Ludwig) (1966)
Bob Dylan   Blonde on Blonde (1966)
Larry Young  Unity (1966)
Various Artists   Chicago/The Blues/Today! (1966)
The Beatles  Revolver (1966)
Albert King   King of the Blues Guitar (1966-1968)
Jefferson Airplane  The Worst of Jefferson Airplane (1966-1969)
Janis Joplin  Greatest Hits (1966-1970)
The Velvet Underground  The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
The Beatles  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Aretha Franklin  The Very Best of Aretha Franklin: The ’60s (1967-1970)
Van Morrison  Astral Weeks (1968)
The Beatles  The Beatles [White Album] (1968)
Claudio Monteverdi   Orfeo (Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne/Corboz) (1968)
Various Artists   Tropicália: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound (1968-1970)
Dusty Springfield  Dusty in Memphis (1969)
The Who  Tommy (1969)
Crosby, Stills & Nash   Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
The Band  The Band (1969)
The Beatles  Abbey Road (1969)