The ritual of list making in our entertainment media has yielded few definitive surveys, but The A List
is the genuine article. Written with conviction, authority, and a refreshing diversity of styles by 41 members of the esteemed National Society of Film Critics, this compilation of 100 mini-essays endeavors to explain why these 107 films (accounting for a few appropriate couplings and trilogies) are required viewing for anyone to be "film literate." Debate is inevitable (Enter the Dragon
and Jailhouse Rock
created Bruce Lee and Elvis as icons--does that make them "essential" films?), but the inclusions are eloquently justified through personal anecdote, engaging analysis, and astute reassessment. International scope (the rise of Iranian cinema) and historical breadth (from Birth of a Nation
to L.A. Confidential
) prevent esoteric favoritism, but this enlightening collection remains idiosyncratic and, yes, essential. Reading these essays before and after seeing each film is encouraged; having them around for future reference is nothing less than a privilege. --Jeff Shannon
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.