(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
(#3) North by Northwest
Action/Adventure • dir. Alfred Hitchcock • 1959 • USA
Unless, like me, you’re a die-hard cricket fan (it’s ok, we’re all friends here), you probably won’t know why 99.94 is one of the great numbers in all of sport. It’s the career batting average of the legendary Australian cricketer Don Bradman, who played his last game in 1948. And if you’re still none-the-wiser, let me add this: 99.94 is a country mile better than the batting average of everyone else in the entire, 137-year history of international cricket. A good batsman will average around 40. A great one just north of 50. After Bradman, the next best average – belonging to Graeme Pollock, the South African great of the late 1960s – is 60.97. Even if you don’t know a cricket bat from a croquet hoop, you’ll see what I’m driving at: as far being the best in the business goes, Bradman didn’t come out on top of a hard fight, he simply wasn’t in one. He is Everest – only, instead of looking down at other Himalayan peeks, he’s surrounded by the highlands of Scotland.
From where I’m sitting (no popcorn, thanks, I’ve already eaten), I’ll gladly make the claim that Alfred Hitchcock is the Don Bradman of filmmakers. He is the greatest storyteller cinema has ever known, and whomever is number two ain’t even close. You want quantity? Hitchcock was nigh on untouchable for ages – from ’39 to ’63 especially. You want quality? North by Northwest is my favorite, but how about Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho and at least a dozen other cast-iron classics? And, hey, you want a rip-roaring story? A thrill a minute? Mystery? Suspense? Beautiful movie stars in peril, and running for their lives, and falling in love, and hurtling into one adventure after another? You want, in short, to care what happens while having one hell of a good time finding out? It has to be Hitchcock. No one in film offers more heaping portions of pleasure, or does so more skillfully. If you seek a quick hit, he’s your man. If you want something cerebral and immersive, he’s still your man. (AND, for good measure, you also get Cary Grant being chased by a plane.)