Canon of Film

September 6, 2017

CANON OF FILM: The Backstory

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Written by: David Baruffi

This being my first post on Age of the Nerd, I feel a slight need to introduce myself before I introduce this hopefully continuous and long-running feature here. I’m David Baruffi, and years ago, I created something called ‘CANON OF FILM‘. Well, “Created” is pushing it, I know I’m not the only or first, or thousandth person who’s ever decided that writing a bunch of short essays about particular movies, but my intention behind the list was far more personal.

This origins of this list started innocently enough, I was simply trying to make a short list of films to recommend to a friend of mine. I was still going to my local Community College at the time, and had not yet decided to become a film major, but was beginning to lean in that direction. Anyway, I made a short list of what were at the time recent films that were highly intellectual, conceptual, good,…- basically a lot of artistic crap people that snobby critics like myself love. ‘Magnolia,’ ‘Mulholland Drive,’ ‘Lost in Translation,’ etc. etc. Yeah, years later in hindsight, I can see how obnoxious and pretentious this makes me sound, not that that personality trait has changed much, but at the time it alluded me. Worst yet though, this was under an assumption that my friend had seen basically most every movie that people needed to see.

The classics, the main essentials, like ‘Casablanca,’ and ‘Gone with the Wind,’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ or even modern-day classics like ‘The Breakfast Club,’ and ‘Goodfellas.’ Alas, my friend hadn’t. This was, for some reason troubling to me, I’m not sure why now, but in my, list-obsessed Aquarius way, I decided to make another list for her. As you can imagine from here, this got out of control, and eventually, I didn’t finish until I had written down every movie that I can remember seeing. (Oh, yeah, I have a list of every films I’m seen too, and before you ask, this was long before Letterboxd existed.)

However, because this goal of needing to educate my friend wasn’t insulting and quixotic enough, I still needed to explain to my friend, why, you know, it was important for everybody to have seen ‘Citizen Kane,’ and other such seminal works of cinema. Especially when you’re not talking to a film person, this is more complicated than it sounds, so I started writing down the reasons, in brief, short passages, thinking one day, I’d just hand them over to my friend, and whenever something came up that I had written on, she’d know to watch ’cause I told her to. Again, as you have probably figured out by now, this was a naïve and ridiculous idea, that frankly never manifested, and thankfully so.

However, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this either. Collecting and writing on films is what many people do anyway. So, whenever I was in writing funk, or felt particularly inspired, I found a great movie to write a page or two about. I’ll admit, this idea is borrowed heavily from Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” collection, which can be found on I called this, the ‘CANON OF FILM‘, and a symbolic way to emphasize the absolute essential films one must see, the same way literature has an essential canon of books that everybody must at least once, read. (Of course, there’s also the biblical context of the word as well, but it’s mostly the “accept into the literary and artistic canon” definition that we’re using here.)

Hopefully, we all know which ones they are, many of them we were forced to read in school. I started this list with two rules, (later three) as to determine what films should be in this list and they are:

  1. I’ve had to have watch the film on at least three separate occasions.
  2. In order for inclusion in the Canon, it must be at least 10 years past the film’s original release date.
  3. Certain documentaries can be excluded from the 10-year rule based on immediacy of content and greatness of film.

These rules started as a good strict guideline as to what should qualify for the Cannon of Film. Eventually though, the only rule that actually got followed was rule #4:

  1. I made the rules, I can change and/or break them at any time.

So that was stupid and useless — let’s just forget those rules ever existed.

Anyway, what started as another project to get my friend to watch more movies, became, another obsessive side project, that hopefully will be appreciated more in this context of Age of the Nerd than they were for my friend. (Who, btw is still my friend despite all this, and I thank her for that.) It may have originally started as something else, but the reason I keep writing them is because I wanted to. On my personal blog, I am the only one who posts these, and many of these will be reposts from there for now, although even in the earliest days, that was never the intention, so I hope at some point, others will offer and contribute to this Canon also. I mean, why should I have the only say on what belongs in the Canon of Film, because once upon a time, I made a list? Or that I have a bunch of them pretty much already-written or at least outlined? Yeah, I don’t think so, although admittedly it doesn’t hurt, and for the immediate future, they’ll almost certainly be entries written by me, but, in the future….

So, with that introduction, I’ll soon have the first of these posted here, and hopefully, this will be paced out well enough to have these added once a week here. ‘Citizen Kane‘ will be up first, and I will hopefully do my best to explain and analyze what makes each of these selection worthy of being in this ever-growing canon of the best of the art form of moving pictures that we all love so much. Hopefully some of you will have your own opinions and thoughts on the selections. Some of you might agree, some might disagree, maybe some may consider the film somewhere in-between, good but not necessarily worthy of such canonicity. I hope with the titles you might not be as familiar with, some of you will be enticed to seek them out and hopefully have a wonderful experience being introduced to something that you may have otherwise never gone out of your way to see.

“You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies—all of life’s riddles are answered in the movie.”—Steve Martin


About the Author

David Baruffi
David Baruffi
David Baruffi has been a successful unemployed screenwriter for, let's be vague and call it "years". He's got a B.A. in Film Studies from UNLV, is a certified script supervisor and has done a little bit of everything in film, but mostly is a writer. Personally on his own blog "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews" which is at,and professionally has written several scripts and stories, for himself, and for others and as a ghostwriter. When he's not doing that he watches his autistic brother most days and he looks like two old puppets.


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