List, List, Everywhere a List . . .

The Flying Jimmy Head

It is no news at this point that the new “Sight & Sound”, BFI poll of the greatest films of all time was unleashed last week. You’ve got your Ten Best, your Fifty Best, the ten best lists of upwards in the 846 range of the film critics and film-makers who participated in the poll. It’s happened once a decade since 1952, and every poll since 1962 has had Citizen Kane at the top of the list. Fifty years. Well no longer. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo went to Number One and Orson Welles Citizen Kane dropped to Number Two in the 2012 poll. There has been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over not just this, but what else was on the List(s) and what else was NOT on the list, what directors had four films in the top fifty, and what directors had no titles at all in the top fifty.  And what, what does all of this mean?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I am, of course, not the only person to have this idea; but that hasn’t stopped a lot of people writing about it. The internet forums, comment sections and the like are still buzzing around this honeycomb. I don’t know. Is Vertigo better than Citizen Kane? Should La Règle du jeu be the greatest? Where is Max Ophuls? He did not even make the Top Fifty. Is The Searchers just a John Wayne Western? (No. I can at least answer that one.)

It is not science. It’s a poll of 846 critics and film-makers. Each critic/director creates their list of ten films. The amount of times an individual film occurs on an individual list, is the amount of points that film has in the poll. What a critic places at number ten gets the same amount of points as what they may have at number one. All is equal in the positioning.

Here’s the top 10, with the title, director, year of release and number of votes:

1. Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, 1958 (191 votes)

2. Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, 1941 (157 votes)

3. Tokyo Story, Ozu Yasujiro, 1953 (107 votes)

4. La Règle du jeu / The Rules of the Game, Jean Renoir, 1939 (100 votes)

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, FW Murnau, 1927 (93 votes)

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, 1968 (90 votes)

7. The Searchers, John Ford, 1956 (78 votes)

8. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1929 (68 votes)

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Dreyer, 1927 (65 votes)

10. , Federico Fellini, 1963 (64 votes)

Well, at least I’ve heard of all of the Ten and have seen nine of them. I won’t tell you which one I haven’t seen; but it is coming up fairly soon in my Netflix queue. As for the next forty,  there are more than a couple on the list that I haven’t watched and few I have never heard of. I don’t feel qualified to judge what are the GREATEST Films ever made. I can tell what I like and appreciate. Earlier, I decided to create a stream-of-consciousness 100 Favorite Films list. And I did. In pretty quick order, I put together an Excel spreadsheet list of 100 favorite films and arranged them in alphabetical order with the film’s director and date of release. But as soon as I had, I realized that 100 was too many and not enough. I had a several each of Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock and Lang and not one Robert Altman or David Lean. I had only one Scorcese, and I only had that one because I realized that at the end that I hadn’t picked one. So my hundredth pick was a Marty. The Hawks, Ford, Hitchcock, Lang films belonged there, but so did some Altman, and others too. One hundred was too limiting. Maybe a list of 500.  So, instead I am going for a “Rather Arbitrary List of Ten Favorites/Greats.” This list is fluid and can change–depending on mood, temperature and what I’ve watched recently–only rule, one film per director.

So here is my current, as of 7 August 2012, List of Ten Favorite/Great Films (in no particular order):
The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Dreyer, 1927
Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks, 1959
The Third Man, Carol Reed, 1949
Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick, 1964
Touch of Evil, Orson Welles, 1958
The Searchers, John Ford, 1956
8 1/2, Federico Fellini, 1963
Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, 1958
Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, 1954
La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir, 1937

Okay. There you have a list of ten. I am reasonably happy with it, except for what I could put on it. So here are an additional 15 to round it up to 25:

The Lady Eve, Preston Sturges, 1941
Out of the Past, Jacques Tournear, 1947
Duck Soup, Leo McCarey, 1933
Steamboat Bill, Jr., Charles Reisner (& Buster Keaton), 1927
City Lights, Charles Chaplin, 1931
The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah, 1969
The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman, 1973
The Apartment, Billy Wilder, 1960
Chinatown, Roman Polanski, 1974
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, FW Murnau, 1927
Anatomy of a Murder, Otto Preminger, 1959
Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, Fritz Lang, 1922
Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone, 1969
Les enfants du paradis, Marcel Carné, 1945
The Red Shoes, Powell & Pressburger, 1948

Well now, I feel a little better–except for what I left off. No Anthony Mann, no Scorcese, no Ophuls. no Eisenstein, no Huston, Wyler, Wellman, Truffaut, Tati, Lean, Lubitsch, Cukor, Minnelli, Coppola, Kubrick, Ozu, Mizoguchi, Lindsey Anderson, Boetticher, Capra, Arthur Penn, Curtiz–no Michael Curtiz. Oh well, as I stated earlier–all such lists are essentially  meaningless.

Keep watching the screen–or the skies– just keep watching movies.  As someone I used to know always said: “I never saw a movie I didn’t like, even the ones I detested.”

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