Combustible Celluloid

The Top 100 Movies, by John Kobal

Review by Jeffrey M. Anderson

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When I was getting started as a film buff -- I mean really started, exploring the history of film, and not just the early films of Scorsese and Kubrick -- the John Kobal book was indispensable to me. It was a poll conducted by Mr. Kobal of critics, writers, and artists all over the world, including cinematographer Nestor Almendros, critic Andrew Sarris, writer Susan Sontag, and Chaplin biographer David Robinson. All the personal lists are included in the back of the book. (Incidentally, if you tally the lists yourself, you will discover that Mr. Kobal was not very accurate.) Most of the films are foreign films and some are hard to find. In the eleven years since first reading the book, I've managed to see only 69 of the 100. The book was published before 1990, which marked the first time Martin Scorsese was really seen as a master (his Raging Bull had been voted the best film of the 1980's, and his GoodFellas was unanimously voted the best film of 1990). Hence there is no Scorsese on the list. Nor is The Godfather, another seemingly obvious choice. But, to its credit, the Kobal list is less conventional and gets the reader thinking about films other than the obvious choices.

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