Killer of Sheep is tied with Bringing Up Baby as my favorite film. I don’t see that ever changing with these two movies. I became enamored with Killer of Sheep when I was researching for my thesis two summers ago and I have only become more intrigued by this film.
To me, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, which is a series of vignettes set in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, is the greatest American film ever made. The vignettes, the music, the performances, everything works together to form an expose on American life that hasn’t been seen in American cinema before or since. (I wrote a longer essay on Killer of Sheep, which you can read here.)
With this, I am done with the 30 Day Film Challenge and thank goodness. I was terribly bored with it these last few days. How do you think I did?
This is a new feature on the blog. (And hopefully one I keep up with.) In an attempt to keep busy, focused, and actual records of what I watch, I’m going to write blurbs about the movies I see every week. I would say that I am doing this to share with my many (hah) readers the vast number of films I watch but that’s a lie. I really just want to stop watching shows about the Kardashians and serial killers. I’m worried that this combination will have a detrimental impact on my psyche fairly soon.
It is rare when a movie that is recommended to you so frequently actually has a deeply profound impact on how you see every film the came before and after it.
I first heard about Killer of Sheep as I imagine many college kids do — in a film history course as one of the suggested outside of class viewings you should see “as soon as you can.” My professor was especially enthusiastic about Killer of Sheep. It was 2007 and the film has just been released on DVD for the first time since 1977. Director Charles Burnett was going to be present at a special screening of the film at the Amherst Cinema. We were strongly encouraged to attend.
I didn’t go. At the time, a film like Killer of Sheep could barely make a dent on my radar because I was blindly infatuated by my love for classic cinema. (Not that this is a bad thing, but I have come to realize how limiting watching only classic Hollywood cinema can be.) Two years later, I found myself finally watching the restored version of this film and I was absolutely mesmerized. If there is any film that cements the notions that the cinema is the powerful artistic medium, that films should offer a nuanced social commentary, and the necessity for film restoration, it is Killer of Sheep.
In the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders) works at the local slaughterhouse. His job is gruesome, strenuous and dangerous. It affects his home life with his wife and two children; he becomes increasingly detached from his surroundings. In a series of vignettes, we watch Stan go through various experiences – at home, with his friends, in the community – that don’t lead to any real plot or character development. This way the film emphasizes the daily monotony of life and even the unintentional humor that comes from it.
Since it is October 10, 2010, I feel inspired to write some sort of top ten list. About what though, I’m wasn’t quite sure at first. I could, as my friend Kim, write about the top ten worst sequels. But that would require me to have seen certain sequels. I even considered writing about movies that have something to do with numbers. Of course, that means I would have to include A Beautiful Mind, a film I detest so that list just was not happening.
Then it dawned on me. This past week, I began going through my first blog posts and editing them. I’ve noticed, among other things, that my writing skills were horrible, my proofreading skills were lacking, and every movie was one of my favorites. I had a severe inability to dislike or critique anything. Today things are different. At least I hope four years of college and a Film Studies degree have noticeably improved the quality of this blog.
In the over five years since I have been a blogger, I have never written a definitive top ten list of my favorite movies. I’ve posted and commented on plenty of other movie lists but never my own. I have my reasons. “Joanna, what are your ten favorite movies?” is a question I hate to answer because it puts me on the spot to think of something creative and insightful. On top of that, my cinematic interests and thus my list is are always changing. What I loved years ago, I could rewatch and hate today. With all of this in mind, here it is. My top ten favorite movies and why I love them. Continue reading “A Binary Day Top 10”