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Poets' Favorite Movies

David Mason

I might well come up with a different list on another day. I notice that most of these films are riven with delicious moral ambiguities.

1. The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1986). French-Canadian director Denys Arcand appears to be making a comedy about the sexual revolution until a blurted confession changes the tenor of the film, making it a near-tragic vision of marriage and friendship.

2. The Barbarian Invasions (2003) Arcand’s sequel to the film above picks up some of the same characters with profoundly moving results. An indictment of modern healthcare mores, but also a beautiful drama of reconciliation and love.

3. Badlands (1973). I love Terrence Malick’s films, and this is the best of them, a stark and troubling portrait of a serial killer and the teenage girl who follows him.

4. DreamChild (1985). With a script by the late great Dennis Potter, this film about Lewis Carroll raises all sorts of questions about the nature of love. Most of the critics didn’t get it.

5. Vertigo (1958). Hitchcock’s great film about male obsession scares me more than any horror flick.

6. Dead Man Walking (1995). Not in the least an anti-death-penalty tract, but a grave and moving drama. Tim Robbins has never made a better film.

7. Sherlock, Jr. (1924). Perhaps Buster Keaton’s most inspired film. ‘Nuff said.

8. Talk to Her (2002) Pedro Almodóvar at his best. Like DreamChild and Lolita this film plays with taboos and questions the nature of love.

9. Local Hero (1983). A wonderful, low-key comedy from Scotland’s Bill Forsyth. 

10. The Fog of War (2003). Errol Morris’s methodical documentary makes us ask what kind of monster Robert McNamara really was.


David Mason's books include The Buried Houses, The Country I Remember, Arrivals, and a verse novel called Ludlow, just out from Red Hen Press. He is the author of a book of essays, The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry, and the co-editor of several anthologies. More of his work appears in Harper's, TLS, The New Republic, The Nation, Poetry, and other magazines. He teaches at The Colorado College and lives in the mountains outside Colorado Springs.

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Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach