My Darling Clementine (1946) Among the greatest westerns, and among John Ford’s greatest works – despite being significantly altered from Ford’s vision by Darryl F. Zanuck, who recut the film and had Lloyd Bacon reshoot several scenes. The result is a rare example of studio interference resulting in a masterpiece. This deceptively simple take on the Wyatt Earp/Tombstone legend (albeit a radically fictionalized take, but I’m not complaining) is rich in emotion, character quirk, and visual wonder, with Ford once again making the most out of Monument Valley. The core of the film is not the gunfight at the OK Corral (although the shoot-out is spectacular, and Walter Brennan as Pa Clanton is one of the all-time great villains), but the love quadrangle that drives a wedge between Earp and Doc Holliday. Victor Mature plays Holliday as a heartbroken drama queen, which sounds ridiculous but surprisingly works – he’s crippled not by his lungs but by his heart, which is far more fascinating an angle. Henry Fonda, meanwhile, is dead-on perfect as Earp, the quiet hero who just wants a shave.
Bikini Beach (1964) Everybody loves the Potato Bug! The full write-up’s here.
Jurassic Park (1993) Yes, the 3D re-release. I know, I know. But it turns out it didn’t matter. Sure, the 3D conversion is decently handled, but it’s wholly unnecessary; the film plays like gangbusters with or without the visual gimmick that’s been dumped upon it, and after a few minutes, I was so wrapped up in the story, I barely noticed the 3D – and barely cared when I did. What I did care about was a whiz-bang adventure crafted so expertly, I was once again overwhelmed with wonder at its construction. Twenty years later, Jurassic Park remains tense and funny and thrilling in exactly the right ways in exactly the right places. It’s even better than I remember, and I remember it being pretty damn great. And it’s so smartly directed, it’d be the best movie on any other director’s resumé. That it’s not even Spielberg’s best movie of its year speaks loudly to his ranking as the best filmmaker to ever sit in a director’s chair.
Casablanca (1942) My favorite movie, watched this time with Roger Ebert’s commentary track. A personal celebration of the man, and a personal reminder that the man may be gone, but he’ll be with us forever.