Friday, July 28, 2006

Note #2. I just noticed that 99 novels is actually 100 novels. So much for following the rules, but then again, how could I ignore my friend Max.
An explanatory note. I thought it was quite obvious, but apparently I was wrong. The three lists posted below are “best of” lists, in the tradition of Anthony Burgess’ “99 Novels”. My lists are 99 movies, 99 novels and 99 albums. There are a few rules. Only one movie, novel or album per director, writer or artist is allowed, and yes, Chad the order means something. #1 is my favorite. #99 is my 99th favorite, etc. The novels are all in English and published in the 20th century. Other favorite books will be found in some future list(s), no doubt. With the music, I tried to pick actual vinyl long players when possible, but for a few artists from the pre-album era, CD’s seemed the better option. Likewise, I tried to avoid “best-of” collections and live L.P.’s, but some artists who specialized in great singles seemed to demand the greatest hits type collection. Once again those artists whose greatest work was prior to the era of the long-playing 33rpm-L.P. (Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington jumped to the front of the line, as they so often do) demanded a different approach. I hope this answers a few questions, for anybody who is listening.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

1. Alfred Hitchcock: Rear Window (1954)
2. Orson Welles: Citizen Kane (1941)
3. Kenji Mizoguchi: Ugetsu (1953)
4. Robert Bresson: Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
5. Luis Bunuel: Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
6. Carl Dreyer: Day of Wrath (1943)
7. F.W. Murnau: The Last Laugh (1924)
8. Abe Polanski: Force of Evil (1948)
9. Jacque Rivette: Celine & Julie Go Boating (1974)
10. Charles Chaplin: Modern Times (1936)
11. Nicolas Ray: In a Lonely Place (1950)
12. Alain Resnais: Muriel (1963)
13. Stanley Kubrick: Dr. Strangelove (1963)
14. Jean Renoir: Rules of the Game (1939)
15. Preston Sturges: The Lady Eve (1941)
16. Howard Hawks: The Big Sleep (1946)
17. Robert Altman: 3 Women (1977)
18. Anthony Mann: The Man From Laramie (1955)
19. Peter Bogdonavich: The Last Picture Show (1971)
20. John Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
21. Martin Scorsese: Goodfellas (1990)
22. Fritz Lang: You Only Live Once (1937)
23. Jean-Luc Godard: Alphaville (1965)
24. Brian DePalma: Carlitto’s Way (1993)
25. Michelangelo Antonioni: L’Avventura (1960)
26. Sergio Leone: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966)
27. Nicolas Roeg: Walkabout (1971)
28. Sam Peckinpah: The Getaway (1972)
29. David Lynch: Eraserhead (1977)
30. Peter Weir: Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975)
31. Woody Allen: Manhattan (1979)
32. Joel & Ethan Coen: Miller’s Crossing (1990)
33. Ernst Lubitsch: Ninotchka (1939)
34. Joseph Von Sternberg: Morocco (1930)
35. Gillo Pontecorvo: Battle of Algiers (1966)
36. Frank Capra: Meet John Doe (1941)
37. Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction (1994)
38. Henri-Georges Clouzot: Le Corbeau (1943)
39. John Houston: Maltese Falcon (1941)
40. Spike Lee: Do the Right Thing (1989)
41. Claube Chabrol: Cry of the Owl (1987)
42. Roman Polanski: Knife in the Water (1962)
43. Robert Aldrich: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
44. Jacque Tourneur: Out of the Past (1947)
45. Max Ophuls: Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948)
46. Donald Siegal: The Killers (1964)
47. Robert Siodmak: The Killers (1946)
48. Joseph Lewis: Gun Crazy (1949)
49. Buster Keaton: Sherlock Jr. (1924)
50. Sergie Eisenstein: October (1927)
51. Francois Truffaut: Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
52. Arthur Penn: Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
53. Edgar Ulmer: Detour (1946)
54. Stanley Donen: On the Town (1949)
55. Budd Boetticher: The Bullfighter & the Lady (1951)
56. Raoul Walsh: They Drive By Night (1940)
57. David Mamet: The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
58. Otto Preminger: Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)
59. Vincente Minnelli: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
60. Leo McCarey: Duck Soup ((1933)
61. Richard Lester: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
62. William Wyler: The Collector (1965)
63. George Cukor: The Women (1939)
64. Frank Borzage: Moonrise (1948)
65. George Axelrod: Lord Love a Duck (1966)
66. John Boorman: Point Blank (1967)
67. Steven Spielberg: Saving Private Ryan (1998)
68. David Fincher: Seven (1997)
69. Carol Reed: The Third Man (1949)
70. Clint Eastwood: The Unforgiven (1993)
71. Eric Rohmer: Clair’s Knee (1970)
72. George Romero: Dawn of the Dead (1979)
73. Jules Dassin: Night and the City (1950)
74. Michael Curtiz: Casablanca (1943)
75. John Carpenter: The Thing (1982)
76. David Cronenberg: Spider (2000)
77. Billy Wilder: Double Indemnity (1944)
78. David Miller: Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
79. Mike Nichols: The Graduate (1968)
80. Charles Laughton: Night of the Hunter (1955)
81. Gene Kelly: Singin’ In the Rain (1952)
82. Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather (1972)
83. Robert Wise: The Set-Up (1949)
84. J. Lee Thompson: Cape Fear (1961)
85. Sidney Lumet: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
86. John Frankenheimer: Manchurian Candidate (1962)
87. Wachowski Brothers: The Matrix (1999)
88. Ridley Scott: Alien (1979)
89. Richard Brooks: In Cold Blood (1967)
90. James Whale: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
91. Elia Kazen: On the Waterfront (1943)
92. Tay Garnett: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
93. Abel Ferrara: Bad Lieutenant (1992)
94. Terrance Malick: Badlands (1973)
95. Sam Raimi: A Simple Plan (1998)
96. Terry Gillam: Twelve Monkeys (1995)
97. Hughes Brothers: Menace 2 Society (1993)
98. Joss Whedon: Serenity (2005)
99. Sam Mendes: American Beauty (1999)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

“Killing Time” by Dave Lindorff; “Inadmissible Evidence” by Evelyn A. Williams. Here are two terrific books describing the legal machinations involved behind the state’s persecution (prosecution) of two well-known radical, African-American activists: Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shukur. “Killing Time” is an investigative-journalist style account of the painful to read events that lead to the arrest of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the trial and various appeals that followed. It is perhaps the more controversial of the two books because it does not assume or conclude that Mumia is innocent. I understand that some among the Free Mumia movement have criticized the book, and Lindorff has been called “Mumia Pimp” by the always-colorful MOVE organization. Nevertheless, for someone like myself who is new to the details of this case, “Killing Time” seems the perfect place to begin. Lindorff is consistently fair and impartial and describes the many, many times Mumia’s rights were violated and just how unjust the so-called justice system can so often be. His conclusion is “I am convinced beyond not just a reasonable doubt but beyond any doubt whatsoever, that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not receive even the approximation of a fair trial.” When asked as he says he always is “did he actually shoot” the police officer Mumia was accused of having killed… “the answer has to be maybe.” My own conclusion would be that Mumia should be free regardless of what he originally did or did not do. He has spent as much or more time in prison as many a white man accused of similar charges, and he is such an important and vital member of our community able to accomplish so much from behind bars. Imagine all the good he could do for society, if this peace loving man was not isolated within the confines of the horrendous U.S. penal system. “Inadmissible Evidence” is written in the form of a memoir, by the aunt and attorney of legendary Black Panther and Black Liberation Army, activist Assata Shukur. Williams describes important events of her own life before and after Assata’s trial, but the majority of the book describes the endless efforts of the state to incarcerate her beloved niece, and their ultimate fabulous failure to keep her in prison. “Inadmissible Evidence” is an excellent account of one woman’s struggle to fight the endless oppression of African-Americans, of battles won and battles lost. At times there are annoying holes in the narrative, that leave this reader anxious to know more details of what happened and why. Sometimes these holes remain unfilled. For instance, Williams describes an attempted murder of herself by a guard outside a courtroom in New York. The result of the attack was that Williams was arrested. The 200 plus pound guard received no charges. Williams does not follow-up this account with further details of why this happened. Perhaps it is obvious, and I am just being dense. Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time to middle aged African-American lawyers within the halls of American Justice. Perhaps, the details are simply not there to give. Williams was also involved in numerous other crucial efforts to bring true justice to poor and oppressed people, before and after Assata’s legal battles. Early in her career she helped place the two sons of Julus and Ethel Rosenberg with their surviving family members. Late in her career she tried to represent Solomon Brown who was arrested along with David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin in the October 20, 1981 Brinks armored car robbery. Brown was tortured by the police and FBI until broken and became a witness for the prosecution. Though sympathetic to his situation, Williams was forced to sever her relationship with her client once he began working with the FBI. According to Williams: “once a person collaborates with the FBI, for whatever reason – whether inducement, fear, or the hope of assistance – that person can never again be trusted”. Again and again Williams and her amazing family are in places where important events in the history of the movement to resist the evils of racism and imperialism unfold. She tells the story with compassion, passion and intelligence seldom found in something so dry as a “legal memoir”.