The hit of the year, a laff riot, box office boffo, is about to begin. Wait, first comes an ad to buy Cokes and popcorn at the lobby concession booth for the price of a barrel of oil. Then I see a preview for a certain Two Thumbs Up, then another preview, and another. All these snippets of films coming to a theater near you seem to contain nothing but car chases, explosions and gun fights, all with deafening audio, and last forever. A few years ago some member of Congress introduced a bill that would make movie theaters list the actual time the main feature begins. At least this particular bill wouldn’t cost us any money. We all love the movies, and while the convenience of renting a flick or catching one on TV in our own trailer home is comfortable, it’s hard to beat watching “Rambo XVI” in a theater with Whiz-Bang Surround Sound and Yao Ming sitting in front of you. Seen any good movies lately? This brings us to today’s question: What’s the best movie ever made? Or more probable, what’s the best movie you ever saw? And what was the worst? We shall start with the worst. “Parrish” is a contender. Made in 1961, it forced poor Dean Jagger to say to Connie Stevens something like, “You went away a girl and came back a woman.” It gets worse: he tells a returning sailor, Troy Donahue, “You went away a boy and came back a man. Where’d it happen, son?” Donahue answers, “Under the North Pole,” which certainly raises more questions than it answers. Recently I read that Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics and apparently a native Dallasite, lists “Brewster McCloud” as his favorite film. Wrong answer. “Brewster McCloud” was one of the worst movies ever made. It was Robert Altman’s first film after the smash “M*A*S*H” and was set in Houston. The main character lived in the Astrodome, so that stadium seemed the proper place for the film’s much-anticipated debut. Opening night I had a terrible head cold, but was determined to attend. What a turkey. We now turn to the best films ever made, but during intermission, let’s check your movie knowledge. What was the last movie played in the theater in “The Last Picture Show?” It was “Red River.” Which Hollywood film won the very first Oscar for best picture? Trick question. The first winner was “Wings” (1927) and it was not filmed in Hollywood but in – no kidding – San Antonio. Best movie? The American Film Institute has updated the 100 greatest American movies ever made, (also separated into “10 Greatest Films in 10 Classic Genres”) as selected by a blue-ribbon panel of leaders from across the film industry – 1,500 actors, directors, producers, people who have spent their adult lives making films. The envelope, please. Voted the number one movie in the all-around category was “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles’ 1941 classic, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in at the age of 25. The remaining top 10, in order, are: “Casablanca,” “The Godfather, “Gone With the Wind,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Graduate,” “On the Waterfront,” “Schindler’s List,” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” Hollywood neatly ignored “Foreign Correspondent,” Alfred’ Hitchcock’s thriller. That scene in the windmill is all-time tense. Getting into specific genre, “The Searchers” was rightly voted the best Western ever made, even though those Hollywood elites didn’t like John Wayne. But as Bosley Crowther, long-time film critic for The New York Times, wrote, “John Wayne’s acting is only skin deep. But then, John Wayne has very thick skin.” The AFI members voted “Some Like It Hot” as best comedy. I thought “A Shot in the Dark” was funnier. Best sports movie went to “Raging Bull” but another Bull – “Bull Durham” – was better. Twenty seven movies were bumped off the list including “Giant” and “Patton.” Some of the newcomers were: “The Last Picture Show,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “All the President’s Men,” “Titanic” and, if you can believe this, “The Sixth Sense.” Wrong! The most glaring error was ignoring “Pimpernel Smith,” an update of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” It’s about a mild-mannered professor of archeology who takes on the growing might of pre-war Nazi Germany by sneaking out refugees and generally out-smarting the Nazis in a seemingly bumbling, absent-minded way. Professor Smith was obviously the inspiration for Lucas and Spielberg to come up with another “Where-am-I?” professor of archeology out-witting the Nazis, Indiana Jones. And to think, “Pimpernel Smith” came out in 1941. Besides being a great film, here is why it is particularly interesting. In 1942, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg attended a private screening with his sister Nina. “On the way home,” his sister recalled, “he told me this was the kind of thing he would like to do.” As we all know now, Wallenberg became Pimpernel Smith in Budapest, rescuing up to 15,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazi gas chambers by whisking them out of the country. Not many movies save lives. Now another interesting part, which I shall quote from other people’s research. “Pimpernel Smith” starred British actor Leslie Howard, who also directed and produced it with the money he had earned playing Ashley Wilkes in “Gone With The Wind.” Because of this and other movies Howard made, plus broadcasts on the BBC, Joseph Goebbels, who had been ridiculed in one of the actor’s films, believed him to be “the most dangerous propagandist in the British service.” On June 1, 1943, German fighters jumped his plane over neutral airspace in the Bay of Biscayne and shot down Flight 777, the civilian airliner in which they knew Howard was a passenger, killing all aboard. Even ignoring the background, it’s still a good movie. Now, I wonder what are people watching these days? This past week the top-drawing movies included “Hellboy2,” “Space Chimps” and “Kung Fu Panda.” Think they’ll make the top 100?    Ashby stars at This email address is being protected from spambots. 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Thanks for this list. I often watch one of the top 100 movies or something like that. Also, I recently found an online anime site - https://fearlyanime.com/ and now I constantly watch at least 2-3 episodes a day

Ben
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