Thursday, October 05, 2006


It's Positively Rank

Oh dear. We seem to be going through a purple patch of 'film lists'. In this venerable and foolish tradition, people attempt to rank films according to whatever criteria they feel like. It always, always, ends up merely making the compiler look a little silly.

The worst offender are the 'Radio Times' (praised in one post, damned the next!) who are forever getting their beleagured critic Andrew Collins to create entirely fatuous lists whenever they run out of other things to say. The last ('25 films you need to see to be considered a film buff') was a few months back, inspiring quite a bit of debate at Fisking Central, all of it divergent except for one unifying theme - you can't be a 'film buff' by watching 25 films, and, even if you could, it wouldn't be those 25 films now would it?

Now, back to the treadmill, and he's had to come up with another 100 'landmark' films, and the BBC News website seems a little bit miffed he has chosen to include 'Deep Throat' on the list. Actually, judging by the other examples they give, 'Deep Throat' is one of the more defensible options.

Other examples abound in blogland. Michael Blowhard offers one of the more interesting ideas, yet it's still flawed. His poll - 'Films You Enjoyed Most From The Last 25 Years, Critics be Damned!' - promised an amusing tour through critically trashed works that are nevertheless enjoyable to watch. His poll has one rule:

'Rule #1: If you can imagine a Serious Critic making a Serious Film-History case for your film, throw it off your list.'

Unfortunately, this is where the trouble begins. It can sometimes seem like film critics dish out praise and condemnation like sheep, each following the instincts of the herd, yet clearly this isn't actually the case. Indeed, if it were, there would only be half a dozen in the world. The result of this rears its head in his initial list. It's too long for me to copy out - though I would encourage you to read it yourself so this next bit makes sense - but it should really be pointed out that most of the films he selects are ineligible under his own criteria. Some are interesting genre pieces ('Basic Instinct', 'Speed', 'Die Hard', 'Galaxy Quest', 'The Fugitive') while some he chooses are actually great ('Bound', 'Citizen Ruth'). I confess to not having seen all of the others, but in reality, there are probably a fair few critics willing to big up at least some of them.

The commenters really get the wrong end of the stick. I'm fascinated to know who these people are who believe that critics universally agree that 'The Shawshank Redemption', 'Pretty Woman' and 'When Harry Met Sally' are just not worthy of discussion.

All of which leads nicely to my point - lists of films judged by any criteria are a failure in their very definition. The massively large, organic beast that is world cinema is far too impossibly complex to be organised into rank. Perhaps it's worth stopping even attempting it.

I only respect the truly subjective lists.
"My favorite movies" is a list I can get behind, because it tells me about the lister, even if there's no need for the list.

My Favorite Movie? Blues Brothers.
SafeTinspector really wanted to add 2000, but figured he would probably embarrass himself.

I did a list a few years ago which was compiled while sitting on the couch watching Saturday night television. It was called Round about 100 Films I Like. Judging them any other way is almost pointless and people who do it in front of my risk a punch in the throat. I struggle to say what a "good" film is, but I have no trouble at all spotting dogs.

Here is the first installment.
It's all subjective. My favourite film is Kurosawa's Yojimbo (no, I am not up my own arse, I just like the film, okay!) but I'm also quite happy to have enjoyed a lot of films generally written off by critics and fans alike... The list would be too long, mind...
i totally agree w/SafeTinspector.

some of mine: the big lebowski, the usual suspects, citizen kane, pi, memento, 12 monkeys, fight club, barfly, robert siodmak's 40s film noir, lots of rank pictures, dead of night, josef von sternberg stuff and on and on.
I think while it is useful to listen to the advice of critic's, you cannot really make your mind up about anything until you have viewed it yourself. i mean i know nothing about films, but i really love Boogie nights and i'm pretty sure that got panned on release?

Channel 4 ar the worst for these kind of useless rundowns...

Next week Jimmy Carr: my 100 best turds.

Or George Michael my 100 best cannibis induced, cottaging/ car crash escapades!
SafeT - That's an interesting idea. I guess it's true that one's favourite movie can say a bit about oneself (although only if it is a little electic, ie. not Star Wars or The Godfather or any other incredibly popular choice), but I always hate it when people pose me the question. My answer really is that I just don't know. It changes all the time.

Tony - I remember thinking when you did those lists that of the films I had seen (and to be fair there were quite a few I hadn't) I agreed with you on about 90% of them. I seem to recall us having a disagreement about Amelie at the time though.

Binty - I have to be honest and admit that, though I have seen a decent amount of Kurosawa, I've never actually seen that one. Another one to add to the list!

Rimone - Fairly hard to disagree with those that I've seen on that list.

Happy - I can't remember whether Boogie Nights was panned. I hope not, because I really like it too, but then again, Mark Wahlberg used to be Marky Mark, so I guess some people have a little difficulty taking him seriously.

Does Jimmy Carr do anything else other than those countdowns?
I've just noticed "yer man" Andrew Collins writes about this, sort of, on his own blog.
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