More of the best

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Bradley R. Gitz Free­lance colum­nist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, re­ceived his Ph.D. in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois.

Iwrote a col­umn about a year ago filled with lists of the “best” of this or that, as in the best NFL run­ning backs, the best World War II nov­els and so on.

It re­ceived a huge re­sponse; per­haps be­cause we all have lists like that float­ing around in our heads and like com­par­ing ours to oth­ers.

As such, more of the “best” things: ● Best Al­fred Hitch­cock movies. When I was in col­lege, I signed up for a course on Hitch­cock just so I could catch free (sort of) screen­ings of his films. Writ­ing the pa­pers and tak­ing the ex­ams was a small price to pay for that plea­sure. And these are my fa­vorites: (1) Rear Win­dow (1954, as close to per­fect as a movie gets); (2) Ver­tigo (1958, maybe not, per the folks at Sight & Sound, the great­est ever, but supremely un­set­tling and evoca­tive); (3) North By North­west (1959); (4) Psy­cho (1960); (5) The Birds (1963, the scene where Tippi He­dren’s char­ac­ter is smok­ing a cig­a­rette on the school play­ground and the birds be­gan to slowly gather be­hind her, which we see but she doesn’t, might be Hitch­cock’s most bril­liant); (6)

No­to­ri­ous (1946, if there’s such a thing as an even slightly sym­pa­thetic Nazi, it’s Claude Rains); (7) Shadow of a Doubt (1943); (8) To Catch a Thief (1955, the French Riviera, Cary Grant, Grace Kel­ley and a witty script); (9) Frenzy (1972); and (10) Strangers on a Train (1951).

More: Sus­pi­cion (1941); Dial M for Mur­der (1954); Re­becca (1940); The 39 Steps (1935) and the un­justly ma­ligned Spell­bound (1945).

● Best “ob­scure” Bea­tles songs: Ac­tu­ally, there are no “ob­scure” Bea­tles songs, but these are the best that you might not have heard a zil­lion times: (1) “And Your Bird Can Sing” (best track on per­haps their best al­bum, Re­volver); (2) “You’re Go­ing to Lose that Girl”; (3) “Tell Me Why”; (4) “Two of Us”; (5) “Sexy Sadie”; (6) “Rain” (b-side of “Paper­back Writer”); (7) “Hey Bull­dog” (over­looked be­cause it’s on the oth­er­wise triv­ial Yel­low Sub­ma­rine); (8) “Cry Baby Cry” (more White Al­bum); (9) “I Call Your Name”; and (10) “Baby You’re a Rich Man” (b-side of “All You Need Is Love”).

Oth­ers (hard to re­sist): “I’m a Loser”; “I’ve Just Seen a Face”; “Think for Your­self”; “When I Get Home”; and “Old Brown Shoe” (b-side of “The Bal­lad of John and Yoko”).

● Best alien in­va­sion/en­counter movies: Hu­man be­ings are ap­pro­pri­ately fas­ci­nated with “what’s out there” and these are the best Hol­ly­wood de­pic­tions of ex­trater­res­trial life: (1) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, even if it’s now 2017 and noth­ing like it has hap­pened yet); (2) Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind (1977); (3) In­va­sion of the Body Snatch­ers (1956, al­though the 1978 re­make is equally claus­tro­pho­bic); (4) The War of the Worlds (1953; Steven Spiel­berg’s ver­sion doesn’t have alien space­ships that make that cool phaser sound); (5)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, a bit preachy but…); (6) The Thing From An­other World (1951, James Ar­ness as the car­rot man); (7) Aliens (1986, bet­ter than Alien); (8) Signs (2002, back when M. Night Shya­malan films were events); (9) Ar­rival (2016, a sort of tone poem Close En­coun­ters); and (10) The An­dromeda Strain (1971, be­cause mi­crobes can be aliens too).

Also: Preda­tor (1987, the fu­ture gov­er­nors of Cal­i­for­nia and Min­nesota take on the ugli­est alien of them all); Steve McQueen play­ing a teenager in The Blob (1958); John Car­pen­ter’s un­der­rated Star­man (1984), and of course Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988). Sig­nif­i­cant omis­sion: In­de­pen­dence Day (1996; no, pres­i­dents are not al­lowed to fly fighter jets into bat­tle against aliens).

● Best nov­els about Amer­i­can pol­i­tics: In my in­tro Amer­i­can pol­i­tics course, I some­times ran­domly as­sign each stu­dent a novel deal­ing with some as­pect of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics or his­tory and have them write a re­view/ cri­tique of it, sort of as an ad­di­tional in­duce­ment to join the read­ing life. Here are some of those that I might in­clude next time around: (1) Ed­win O’Con­nor’s The Last Hur­rah (1956, ur­ban ma­chine pol­i­tics, precinct by precinct); (2) Robert Penn War­ren’s All the King’s Men (1946, the pop­ulist dem­a­gogue and the cor­rupt­ing ef­fects of power); (3) Allen Drury’s Ad­vise and Con­sent (1959); (4) Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bai­ley’s Seven Days in May (1962, a trea­tise on civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions dis­guised as a thriller); (5) Gore Vi­dal’s Burr (1973; how did such a vile crea­ture pro­duce such good his­tor­i­cal fic­tion? See also his Lin­coln); (6) Philip Roth’s The Plot Against Amer­ica (2004, if you want fas­cism comes to Amer­ica, this is much bet­ter than Sin­clair Lewis’ clunky It Couldn’t Hap­pen Here); (7) Thomas Mal­lon’s Dewey De­feats Tru­man (1997, a whim­si­cal love story set against the back­drop of the great­est up­set in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, at least un­til last Novem­ber); 8) Charles McCarry’s Shel­ley’s Heart (1995, a thriller about a stolen Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion … hmmm); (9) Christo­pher Buck­ley’s Supreme Courtship (2008, ac­tu­ally just about any­thing by Christo­pher Buck­ley); and (10) Joe Klein’s Pri­mary Col­ors (1996; I’m al­ways cu­ri­ous to see how long it takes for them to fig­ure out who Jack Stan­ton re­ally is).

Omis­sion: Richard Con­don’s The Manchurian Can­di­date (1959), only be­cause it was on last year’s list of best Cold War thrillers.

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