Lost in the Movies: A Century of Wonders

A Century of Wonders

This post is a tribute to Allan Fish, who has just concluded his ambitious, erudite, and stimulating countdown of every era in film history (a top 100 for the first 35 years of cinema, a top 25 for the 1930s, a top 50 for the ensuing decades of the 20th century, and another top 100 for the decade just past). The project was launched on the popular website Wonders in the Dark in the autumn of 2008. A poll was attached to the end of each countdown, so that the readers could voice their own opinions. Not that they needed the excuse - if anything defined the excitement around Allan's exercises, it was the fantastic discussion which sprouted from many of his choices, sometimes voyaging far abroad from the starting point, spanning hundreds of comments and dozens of topics. Many of these were among the best conversations I've had on the internet - or anywhere else for that matter.

There were numerous contributors to the buzzing atmosphere, not least of whom was Sam Juliano, the irrepressible administrator of Wonders in the Dark, who drummed up enthusiasm and participation in Allan's countdown with the exuberant discipline of a Falstaffian ringleader. And then, of course, there's Allan himself. A thirtysomething Brit who has seen just about every major film known to man, he also harbors a no-bullshit attitude and a brooding sensibility. Though bruising at times, he was the perfect yin to Sam's yang - and their odd couple routine defined the site's bright but unpretentious tone from the get-go. More important, his virtually peerless immersion in film history provided a wealth of choices for the countdown and he drew on them with gusto. Many times his #1 (not to mention lower-ranked picks) took us by surprise and sent us scurrying to the margins of filmdom to polish off his proclaimed masterpieces.

In several paragraphs, Allan would summon up the world of the movie effortlessly, giving a bit of history and story, but focusing on the film's mood, its connections to other movies (and books and TV shows and plays...), and whatever it is that drew him in the first place. These short, succinct, yet highly evocative pieces were intended to evoke curiosity and excitement, and in this they were assisted by an often bold and original image - a screen capture in almost all cases, snapping a picture in the midst of merry movement, making us want to see more. The remainder of this tribute focuses on these pictures. Rather than lay these images out in the order of his ranking, I'll fuse them into a seamless portrait of movie history, a voyage into the silver screen's past, starting with the most recent and ending with the earliest glimpses of the medium's potential.

Click on the picture and you will be taken to the review in question. (And if you click on the picture topping this post - an arresting, sultry frame from the French miniseries "Mesrine" - you will arrive at a list of all Allan's countdowns in numerical order.) Enjoy…


Additional comments on Wonders in the Dark


Sam Juliano said...

Allan, Joel Bocko has afforded you the ultimate honor today at his THE DANCING IMAGE site, where he rightly toasts you for what is surely the best tribute ever for your incomparable two year countdown, which frankly is unmatched in the blogosphere in thought and deed. His CINEMA PARADISIO-like screen cap presentation is the end all for film lovers, and his appreciation for your work is a sterling example of the level you have touched people during this peerless endeavor. As he rightly points out, it was “personality” that fueled this erstwhile project, and the contentiousness and “synchophancy” were as much a part of the intensive survey of cinematic history as the reviews themselves, which were frankly showcased the FINEST WRITING the net has had to offer from any quarters. Am I saying you are the best writer I’ve read at this site and elsewhere?

You bet. I’ve seen your longer pieces, and they have amply demonstrated your ability to branch out when time has allowed you to. But in scope, word economy, the ability to conjur up the precise words, adages and cinematic comparisons, your ability sits alone. You could be a son of a bitch and irrepressibly cynical, and you are as opinionated as anyone I’ve ever met, but dogonnet, if you haven’t developed into the best friend I have in this world, living thousands of miles away, then there is no truth anywhere.

You can’t possibly be praised enough for what you have done, and Movie Man has seen the staggering aspect of your accomplishment for the longest time, and well knows the true success of this site for two years has revolved around this addictive countdown, and the presence of the person who has made his life’s mission to examine every nook and cranny within the parameters of the cinematic landscape.

As a writer and as a film expert, you sit alone, my dear friend, and you should now stand wherever you are right this second, and take a bow.

I urge all to head over now to The Dancing Image and join in the celebration for Allan, and to thank Joel for his affectionate and dead-on testimonial.


Allan Fish said...

Joel, there's a fellow we both know whose favourite hyperbole is 'overwhelmed'. He goes into cardiac arrest if he doesn't use it once a day. He's one of the best friends I have, a part of an extended family, and I miss him immensely being so far away.

However, as I have told him, sometimes to compliment less means that it's more heartfelt and I can only say, coming from this curmudgeon, that I am seriously, thrice overwhelmed by this tribute. I know I don't deserve it, but the films in question do deserve anyt such tribute, so on behald of the films I thank you. For me, I am deeply moved and it does kind of make me feel it's been worthwhile.

I will comment more back at Wonders.

Just Another Film Buff said...

MM, Tell me how long did this take. At least, it takes me two eternities for the images to load.

Remarkable effort here, for a man who deserves as much.

P.S: Allan's thirty-something? I think the movies he's seen, put together, run for more than those many years.


Sam Juliano said...

And talk about brilliant writing, Joel, this piece is utterly incredible.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, everyone, especially Allan - both you and the movies deserved it! JAFB, the process was not as hard as you might think as it was spread out over several months - except that in the last couple weeks and went back and revised all the pics so they could be bigger! So yeah, it did take a while, ha ha. Sorry to hear about the loading time. Hopefully it's worth the wait!

I was about to agree with your hyperbole about the length of Allan's films, in all sincerity, until I realized that you were kidding, as it would be literally impossible (unless he started prenatal). Still, I agree with the sentiment!

Joel Bocko said...

And as I said over at Wonders, while I'm proud of my own tribute to Allan (as I've said before, he's been a good influence on my writing, encouraging me to be more succinct and suggestive) you've given him a superb send-off here, Sam. Not that he's going anywhere of course!

John said...

Joel, this is quite a tribute to Allan, a well deserved one to be sure. I have not commented much on the 2000 poll only because I have not seen many of the films Allan mentioned but as we know that is part of Allan's plan, to introduced and stimulate us into action.

I am also impressed by the quality of knowledge by many of the contributors and commenter's and this obviously includes yourself. Kudos to Allan and hopefully we still will be hearing from him.

Daniel said...

Hats off to all, notably Allan and of course Sam, on this once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

And this post here? One could simply gaze at it for hours. Thank you.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks John - I haven't submitted a list yet for the poll for a similar reason (next to the 80s, the 2000s was probably my weakest decade - I just don't seek out contemporary films much anymore). I might go ahead and bite the bullet anyway, though. We'll see.

That's the idea!

STinG said...

So, just a note, I've been reading them all one by one... You have a picture of Tokyo Twilight (1957) that actually leads instead to the review for Tokyo Story (1953). Both Ozu films with the word Tokyo in their names, but just thought I'd point it out to be fixed.

Really wonderful tribute, man.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll fix as soon as I'm able. Glad I've led you to Allan's pieces, his countdowns were some of my greatest discoveries on the web. Not sure if you know it already, but every week Wonders does an 'alternate Oscars' poll of what should have won in a given year (right now we're up to '75). Lots of fun, but come armed, it can get intense lol. I've volunteered to add the shorts to the ballot each week, which has been a great exploration for me as well.

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