Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan has been a movie fan since his days as a kid in Brooklyn, when he had to sneak into the theater to avoid the wrath of his father. In his new book, "Not to Be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film," he shares the backstage stories about how they were made and why he likes them so much.
Turan talked about the book and how he winnowed the list down to 54 in a conversation this week. You can watch the discussion in the video above.
"One of the things I discovered about my own taste in putting this list together was that I'm really a classicist," Turan said. "I like story, I like character, I like plot. I like the traditional virtues of film."
The discussion covers popular favorites such as "Singin' in the Rain" — which was what the studio called a "catalog film" — and lesser-known features including the 1937 tear-jerker "Make Way for Tomorrow" and the 1956 western "Seven Men From Now." That film, starring Randolph Scott and Lee Marvin, may have been what the studio called a B picture, but to Turan it had all the elements of classic filmmaking, including great acting and sublime storytelling.
During the chat, Turan also explains his love for French filmmaking and reveals his No. 1 all-time favorite, 1945's "Children of Paradise."
Turan's list includes more films from the 1950s than any other decade (12) and only three from the 1990s, a decade when film budgets were soaring and technology was making it possible for directors to do almost anything they wanted. But as Turan explains in the interview, he is a traditionalist, and some films were left out because they had been included in his previous book, "Never Coming to a Theater Near You."