Lists: The Sign of a Tidy Mind

I like movies and music.

A lot.

And I also like lists of movies and music.

A whole lot.

Even before I worked as a critic and actually got paid to compare things to other things, I tended to experience new things through my old thing filter, wresting with whether the new thing was better or worse than the old thing. It wasn’t good enough to decide that it was different. Order was important. Hierarchy equally so. Still is. I’ve even imparted this to my daughter: whenever we see a movie or hear a new record, she’ll generally ask “What did you like best?” And by the time she does, I’ve generally already figured out the answer.

Movies are a great thing to rate and list. Netflix tells me that I have rated 1,422 movies since I became a member a year or so ago. I’m pretty stingy with my five-star (highest) reviews: they have to be movies that move me profoundly, and I have to be willing to watch them more than once, which is rare for me. I’ve only got 20 of them: 1.4% of the ones I have an opinion about. Here’s the ones I’ve accorded such acclaim to date:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

Blade Runner (1982)

Brazil (1985)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover (1989)

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Dead Man (1995)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Eraserhead (1977)

The Fountain (2006)

The Great Dictator (1940)

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Network (1976)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

The Piano Teacher (2002)

Seconds (1966)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

When We Were Kings (1996)

I also regularly tweak my list of all time favorite albums. As of its last iteration, the top 20 looked like this:

1. Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

2. Jethro Tull, A Passion Play (1973)

3. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Tarkus (1971)

4. Steely Dan, Aja (1977)

5. Butthole Surfers, Hairway to Steven (1988)

6. Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)

7. The Birthday Party, Junkyard (1982)

8. Bauhaus, The Sky’s Gone Out (1982)

9. Dogbowl, Flan (1992)

10. Pere Ubu, Terminal Tower (1985)

11. Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

12. Coil, Love’s Secret Domain (1991)

13. Marty Robbins, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (1959)

14. The Fall, The Unutterable (2000)

15. Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

16. Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill (1991)

17. Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, Element of Light (1986)

18. Warren Zevon, Life’ll Kill Ya (2000)

19. Human Sexual Response, In a Roman Mood (1981)

20. Max Eider, The Best Kisser in the World (1987)

See how tidy everything gets when you list it all out for clarity?

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