Top 6 Words: Is

Posted in Top 6 Words at 5:00 am by Sam

This week is a hard one. For today’s entry in the Top 6 Words series, the word is “Is.” Like the word “that,” which was featured a few weeks ago, this is a tough one, because as common a word as “is” is, it’s not so common in movie titles. And when it shows up, it doesn’t exactly jump out at you.

I’m sure I missed some good candidates for this list, so by all means, post a comment with your own favorites. My list after the jump.

I thought of three likely candidates for this list that I haven’t yet seen: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, and the 1937 and 1954 versions of A Star Is Born. All three are severe enough omissions that I considered seeking them out before posting this. But I did manage to come up with six worthy titles, so I might as well use them.

6. The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The first time through the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, I figured the best was either Tomorrow Never Dies or Die Another Day. The former felt like the best integration of action and story; the latter, a gleefully over-the-top celebration with surprising grit between set pieces. But after watching them over again a couple of years ago, The World Is Not Enough was the one that bubbled to the top, perhaps because it does the most to explore Bond’s character. The best part of the film is Sophie Marceau, a wonderful actress playing a genuinely interesting woman with an intriguing story arc.

5. Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Italian comedian Roberto Benigni made this amazingly touching fable about a Jewish father and his young son, sent to a concentration camp during World War II. It is a fable and not a meditation of the horrors of the holocaust. It’s about how everyone has gifts, no matter how seemingly useless, that others can learn from and benefit from. Benigni plays a character whose gift is one of comedy. But how could that help him teach his son how to survive and cope with the horrors of Nazi oppression?

This is one of the most bittersweet films I have ever seen. Benigni’s use of his comic gifts are creative and often funny, but we know well the truth of things and what terrible distress he keeps inside.

4. A Murder Is Announced (1985)

This is the Joan Hickson version of the Agatha Christie story. Of all the Miss Marples of the screen, Hickson was the closest to the original character. Most movie adaptations felt they had to spice Miss Marple up a bit by making her remarkable in some way. But the whole point, and the key to her effectiveness as a character, was that she wasn’t remarkable, except perhaps for possessing an unusual understanding of human nature.

A Murder Is Announced is one of the best of the twelve Miss Marple films Hickson made between 1984 and 1992, though also the hardest to follow. If you stay on top of the complicated tangle of interrelationships, this should be highly rewarding to whodunnit fans.

3. Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)

We talk a lot about creative ancestry on All Movie Talk. Here is one for those of you who enjoy the “disappearing person” thriller, most recently seen in Flightplan (2005) and, with an unusual supernatural twist, The Forgotten (2004). The progenitor was probably The Lady Vanishes (1938), and another good one is Dangerous Crossing (1953).

Bunny Lake Is Missing is Otto Preminger’s take on the story. Unlike most of these others, which sets the action in an isolated location, this takes place in London. Okay, so a little girl can disappear in a big city any number of ways, but how can the desperate mother account for all the people who swear they never saw her? Preminger, who even directed straight dramas with all the energy of suspense thrillers, is in his element here. This film is creepy, haunting, and a whole lot of fun.

2. The Devil Is a Woman (1935)

Director Josef Von Sternberg made eight films with Marlene Dietrich, many of which are regarded as masterpieces of cinema. This, their last collaboration, isn’t quite there, but it’s a great film nonetheless. Like the others, it’s great at capturing the confusion and conflict of the human heart and how strong and fragile it can be at the same time. The story is about the obsession two men have with a woman who probably lacks the ability to love them back. The older man advises the younger against her, but this is one of those things that can’t be learned except by experience.

1. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Rob Reiner’s cult-favorite mockumentary of a fictional rock group (who went on to tour as a real rock group, so how fictional are they really?) was such a smash that star and co-writer Christopher Guest went on to build a career out of making his own. Spinal Tap, lovingly lambasting the whole hair band movement, remains the best of the mockumentary genre.

It’s also quite fitting that it should appear in a Top 6 list, as its “goes to eleven” sequence is why we do Top 6 lists instead of Top 5 lists in the first place.


  1. Nyperold (116) said,

    April 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Breaking out the IMDb Advanced Title Search…

    Great titles (in alphabetical order):
    Ben Gets a Duck and Is Ducked - Apparently, it’s a 1909 film about a man who decides to try to get a duck out of a public fountain so he can eat it (the duck, not the fountain), and hilarity quite possibly ensues.

    Elvis Is Alive! I Swear I Saw Him Eating Ding Dongs Outside the Piggly Wiggly’s - A 1998 comedy. No description, but it’s earned itself a respectable 3.2/10 on the IMDb.

    Is - Two movies: one a 1978 TV movie with no information in the search result box other than the director, and a 1995 film with the same level of info. But hey. A linking verb as your title? Gotta be great, yeah?

    Is This Any Way to Fix a Tire? - a 1972 film.

    Life Is Cheap… But Toilet Paper Is Expensive - An X-rated 1989 comedy. The truncated description (I’m going to be lazy and not dig deeper) seems to be about a guy who’s hired to escort a briefcase from America to Hong Kong by men he believes to be gangsters. Based on how it’s worded, I’m guessing no.

    Incidentally, there’s a 1934 film called Life Is Worth Living. Flash forward four years to a film called Is Life Worth Living?. Another film by that name had been made in 1921.

    And my list proper:
    Life is Beautiful - “Buon giorno, principesa!” It made your #5 slot, I see. (Incidentally, there’s a 2009 TV movie by the same name.)

    I… don’t appear to have seen any others.

    One I predict will be on somebody’s list: Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.

  2. joem18b (231) said,

    April 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    This was the easiest and hardest for me so far. Easiest because I thought of more than ten of the titles below right off the bat, before even cudgeling my brain. Hardest because there are so many movies I like amongst the titles.

    I was too young the first time that I saw “A Star is Born” (1954). It annoyed me then and it still annoys me.

    Haven’t seen yet: “This Film is not Yet Rated” (2006); Tigerstreifenbaby wartet auf Tarzan” (Tigerstripe Baby Is Waiting for Tarzan) (1998)

    My six:

    6. Everything Is Illuminated (2005) - Elijah Wood goes to the Ukraine in a quirky movie.

    5. My Gun is Quick (1957) - If there is a Mickey Spillane title available for use, I will always put it on my list.

    4. Valdez is Coming (1971) - One of my favorite westerns. I watched part of it again the other night. Strong on that elegiac quality that westerns do so well. Great score. Based on an Elmore Leonard book. Burt Lancaster runs out a Spanish accent all his own. Susan Clark, beautiful but gone so wrong. Valdez just beats out “Il mio nome è Nessuno” (My Name is Nobody) (1973), my favorite non-Leone spaghetti western, with Terrence Hill and Henry Fonda. Another western would be “Tell Them Willie Boy is Here,” (1969), but I’ve never been a fan of Redford in westerns.

    3. Hell is for Heroes (1962) - Good Don Siegel war flick. Beats out “This Land is Mine” (1943), Jean Renoir; not “Grand Illusion” or “Rules of the Game,” but still pretty good. Also beats out “Paris brûle-t-il?” (Is Paris Burning?) (1966), a movie I liked. Kirk Douglas as George Patton. Spoiler: the Eiffel Tower doesn’t get blown up.

    2. La guerre est finie (The War is Over) (1966) - Alain Resnais. Includes one of my all-time female-crush stars, Genevieve Bujold.

    1. Life is Sweet (1990)- Life isn’t so beautiful, but it is sweet. Mike Leigh at his best.

    Some others that I considered:

    Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955) - One of my early screen introductions to love. Jennifer Jones made it seem like a good thing. She was also in “Tender is the Night” (1962), speaking of “is” movies.

    The Corn is Green (1945) - Bette Davis teaches.

    This is England (2006) - If this is England, I don’t want to go there.

    This Property Is Condemned (1966) - Sidney Pollack doing Tennessee Williams. Robert Redford and Natalie Wood in a Williams play? A curiosity worth watching.

    Paris is Burning (1990) - Documentary about one small, exotic New York group at the end of the 80s.

  3. ThePhan (128) said,

    April 26, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Once again, I’ve only seen a couple, and they’re both on your list. I’m sure if I had seen more than 6 movies, they’d still be on my list - Life Is Beautiful (brilliant and haunting) and This Is Spinal Tap (one of the funniest movies ever made).

    By the way, one of my favorite moments from Spinal Tap is actually a deleted scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_LAS16AEvw

    I’ve seen portions of the 1954 A Star Is Born, but not really enough to count for anything. I eventually should go back and see it, despite my not-love for Judy Garland.

  4. ThePhan (128) said,

    April 26, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Figured I’d also mention to the couple in my Netflix queue: Whose Life Is It Anyway (which I don’t remember adding, but it’s based on a play, so that’s probably why) and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (not sure why I added this one either, but I’ll trust I had a good reason).

    I have a tendency to add things to my Netflix queue and then forget why I did or even that I did. Then one day I suddenly get a movie I’ve never heard of in the mail. Keeps things exciting, I guess.

  5. joem18b (231) said,

    April 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I posted a review of “The Heart is Deceitful…” a couple of years ago. The movie retains a warm place in my heart because I watched the whole thing thinking that Asia Argento was a man in drag.

    From my review: “A mother (prostitute, substance-abuser, stripper, so forth) regains custody of her 7-year-old son, wrenching him from the arms of his loving foster parents. Road trip ensues, with predictable results: boy sleeps in bathtub; boy doesn’t eat nourishing meals; boy does drugs; boy sees mom on the pot, on the couch in undignified poses, doing it in bed with various johns; boy is molested; made to dress in girl’s clothing and then re-molested; runs away; is brought back; sees low-budget dream visions, as Argento appears to be carrying some heavy Mediterranean Catholic baggage; interacts with name actors in bit parts; shows some acting chops; so forth.

  6. Nyperold (116) said,

    April 26, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Prediction retracted. That was an editorial. Although as of last year, there is an animated special called “Yes, Virginia”. Certain readers will be interested to learn (if they don’t already know) that NPH is in one of the roles.

  7. ThePhan (128) said,

    April 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    joem18b: Yeah, rereading the synopsis and related reviews, it really doesn’t sound like anything I’d want to watch all that much. So it’s down at the bottom of my queue. I’ll get to it when I’ve already watched everything else I want to watch. Which will probably be never.

    Nyperold: I’m assuming I’m one of those certain readers, heh. I did not know this, I’ll have to look it up.

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