Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The One with the List-making

Here are three books I've been reading lately:

I've been going over the Greatest Films of All Time list from Blockbuster (the video rental store). In its second edition, released in 1991, it enumerates more than 800 titles Blockbuster considers most important. It indicates Oscar honorees, and covers movies produced up to 1989.

Another is Scorsese by Ebert (University of Chicago Press, 2008), in which the reviewer reconsiders movies by the director such as New York, New York, The King of Comedy, and Kundun. The book covers movies dating back to I Call First up to The Departed and Shine a Light. He lists five of Scorsese's movies which he considers his best, and re-reviews them. I absolutely agree with the inclusion of The Age of Innocence.

Scorsese himself writes the foreword, and in his introduction, Ebert notes his affinities with Scorsese. There is a lengthy interview as well conducted in Wexner Center, and we get a feel of the rhythms of a Scorsese talk. 

Another is The Reel List (Delta, 1995) by Lynne Arany, Tom Dyja, and Gary Goldsmith. It identifies some of the more popular subjects explored by the movies, including animals, sports, and holidays, and professionals such as teachers, butlers, and taxi drivers. It has literary adaptations and ways to kill your spouse (Double Indemnity, for one).  

Andrew Sarris writes an illuminating foreword in which he enlightens us on the rationale for lists. (Interestingly, the section on auteurs includes cinematographers and composers, and Sarris thinks the book is more Kaelian than Sarrisian.) He recounts an encounter with Pauline Kael in which she asks, "Why are you such a list queen?" He did not have a riposte at the time, but now notes that Kael was the only major reviewer he knew who did not draw up end-of-year lists of bests.

Essentially, Sarris contends that list-making is an endeavor engendered by differences in gender. List-making simply comes naturally to guys.

This, on the same year as the Friends episode "The One with the List." That's episode eight of the second season, aired November 16, 1995. Ross's dilemma here is who to choose between Rachel and Julie. Joey and Chandler try to help him out by making a list of what each girl is good for, and not. Rachel finds out about the list, so she becomes angry with Ross. 

Ross defends himself by saying that while there are many con's against Rachel, the one against Julie is "She is not Rachel." Rachel ends the episode by saying, "See, if that were me, there wouldn't be a list." 

Of course, the writers are on Rachel's side, but if Ross's crime was so unpardonable, they would not have permitted Ross to do that. They would not have allowed him do something so unforgivable that he would not be worth Rachel's time anymore.

It's just a matter of gender differences. 

So there. A list of books I've been reading lately.