Scarecrow Academy: 1959 – The Greatest Year in Film History

Join us on Saturday, March 23rd at 1pm for the next Scarecrow Academy presentation – a screening and discussion of Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain. This WWII film depicts the existential madness of war seen from the Japanese side, vividly captured in Ichikawa’s startling widescreen compositions.

These presentations are free and open to all, but please RSVP here if you’re planning to attend.


April 13: Ride Lonesome – Part of the cycle of Westerns from Budd Boetticher and craggy star Randolph Scott, Ride Lonesome may be the best of the lot, a beautifully lean examination of moral choices and CinemaScope landscapes. (RSVP here)

April 27: Hiroshima, Mon Amour – In one of the most talked-about films of its era (written by Marguerite Duras), a love affair between a French woman and a Japanese man sparks painful memories of the war. (RSVP here)

May 11: A Bucket of Blood and Pull My Daisy – The Beat movement comes to life: Daisy is a whimsical doodle about beatnik friends hanging out, written by Jack Kerouac and starring Allen Ginsburg; Bucket is a low-budget horror-comedy that parodies the Beats yet captures their spirit better than big Hollywood attempts at the subject. (RSVP here)


by Robert Horton

So here’s a little project for the next twelve months: The inaugural installment of something we’re calling “Scarecrow Academy.” It’s a screening-discussion series, guided by yours truly, the subject of which is my contention that the greatest year in film history was 1959.

For each session, we’ll examine a title from 1959 in depth. We’ll convene on Saturday afternoons (beginning Jan. 26) at 1 p.m. in the Scarecrow Screening Room. That’s plotted out through May 11, when we’ll step back a few weeks to avoid the large footprint of the Seattle International Film Festival and the coming of summer. (However, we have a notion to throw on a few summer meetings, too.) Then we’ll properly recommence in September.

I know what you’re saying. “But Bob,” you’re saying, “how is it that 1959 is the greatest of film years? What sort of proof can you offer?” Of course, you have to come to Scarecrow Academy to find out. There are a few hints in my blogpost for my Year-by-Year Ten Best rankings, which can be found here.

But there are a bunch of other key films that aren’t listed there. And they run the gamut from the sublime to the even more sublime.

Attendance is free, and there isn’t any homework. (But you can RSVP to let us know you’re coming.) We may prove the case, we may not, but we’ll talk a lot about how films live and breathe, and why the movie moment of 1959 is a pivotal one. See you there?

Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

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