Movies For the Ages

As a follow up to our earlier “Desert Island Disc” staff project, Northshire staffers recently put together a list of their all time favorite movies. For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, as much as I enjoyed the prior project and love music without equal, there was something even more magical about watching this list of cinematic favorites come together.

Why was it so enjoyable for me to witness my coworkers' movie lists coming together? First and foremost, I'd have to say it had very much to do with the sheer volume of the enthusiastic participation that was so heartwarming this time; thirty five staffers across our two stores participated. The “grid of fame” (kind of like a Hall of Fame, see, but it's a grid) was expanded this time to allow for 10 picks per person. As with the CD challenge, it is rather interesting watching people squirm and gnash their teeth about the challenge of limiting themselves to the allowed number of picks. A common prefacing remark to many people's lists is the ever popular “In no particular order” because, for so many of us, it's hard enough making the choices at all let alone actually ranking them in some sort of order! For me, on the contrary, these “favorite” exercises are something I've been fond of since my teenage years, possibly as a result of an early passion for music countdowns and Best Ever lists.

A significant element of the Movie project that was so heartwarming was the vast range of tastes, genres and eras represented across the board. Choices ranged from Bringing Up Baby, All About Eve and The Magnificent Ambersons to the super-modern: Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Some may scoff at the long term cinematic weight or value of the modern blockbusters but it was great to see coworkers embracing their own personal truths as well as the cultural and historical significance of some of these milestone movies. Mostly what was discovered was the unique value of what we call “personal taste. What we see as we read through commentary (of those who offered it) is just how personal these movies are to the viewer. Each person's choices incorporate such a complexity of personal preference and visceral memory. While there is typically an adhesion to the standards of artistic merit, the circumstances in which we first experienced a movie, in so many cases, so compellingly shape our perception of it and how we've come to treasure it. For example, my first pick was Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, my comments: “The first "grown up" movie I ever saw! And my love of it never faded.”

The choices made were too widespread and varied to quantify and list entirely but here are the top picks.

*Star Wars- 6 votes for “Episode IV” (the first one). A movie milestone!

*Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory- 5; a colorful treatment of a classic kid's book! “There's no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going.”

*The Shining- 5 (based on a book but King wasn't happy with Kubrick's version, rumor is).

Psycho, It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Harry Potter followed with 3 votes each.

The most significant thing to come out of this survey, I truly hope though, is the exposing of our coworkers to our most treasured cinematic moments and an openness on their part to sampling some of each other's personal favorites. I've already seen Amelie and Roman Holiday as a result of this project and they are both treasures that I'd previously missed. I can only hope that the over 30 other Northshire staffers who took part in this project will do the same - open themselves up to a movie they had previously missed or never considered watching. Given that that is what we do here at the Bookstore, turn people on to our favorite books, it would certainly be ironic if we did not have the same intellectual and artistic curiosity about each other's favorite motion pictures!

- Jonathan Fine