Sight & Sound magazine recently published its result for the 50 greatest films of all time with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo winning the 2012 accolade. The poll, organised by the British Film Institute, is held every ten years, the first of which was published in 1952 giving a little known Italian film – Bicycle Thieves (1948) – the top spot fifty years ago. Hitchcock, in my opinion, is the greatest film director to have existed and so Vertigo, after a struggling thirty year climb when it was first introduced in 1982, does earn its stripes. My problem however is how the rest of the 49 movies are compiled.
As every year, the votes were accumulated by critics, programmers, writers, academics and distributors – all of whom have professional accreditations and industry experience to choose the best films which S&S then continue to claim is “widely regarded as the most trusted guide there is to the canon of cinema greats.”
The magazine approached a ‘wider international group of commentators’ this time round, including online mediums due to the vast influence the internet has had on modern cinema. 846 votes were returned (after contacting over 1,000 voters) and mentioned a total of 2,045 different films. Their criteria was very simple – choose the top ten films the voters felt were the most important to film history, represent the aesthetic pinnacles of achievement, or had the biggest impact on cinema in their view.
My query, however, is who are these ‘over 1,000 people’ they’ve approached? People that have never visited the cinema after 1989? In fact the youngest film to appear on the poll is Wong Kar-Wai heart wrenching love story In The Mood For Love which proves the fact they have missed out the likes of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy or Memento. Even the numbering of the films seems hazy with Frances Ford Coppola’s The Godfather rated number 21, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver given spot 31 and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights taken the end credit at 50. Are they mad? Are they saying these ‘film buffs’ prefer to categorise art films like The Passion of Joan of Arc (rated 9) over pure cinema magic like La Dolce Vita (rated 39) – do they not know who Federico Fellini was?
A far more reliable system is IMDB’s top 250 films as rated by you. The audience. The viewer. The group of people films were designed for. All critics and industry insiders have a right to their view but they’re all wrong. Yes, the S&S poll does have some wonderful gems with Citizen Kane rightly holding the top spot since 1962 however if you ignore a masterpiece like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction that breaks so many rules on screenplay dialogue and plot structure then they certainly have no authority to place any kind of vote.
There also very little evidence S&S’s voters consider sci-fi as a genre and yet Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner would arguably compete, and very closely win, against Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (rated 6). I won’t even get started on animation films which have evolved into a whole other industry with the likes of Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award winning Spirited Away and pretty much anything by Pixar – Finding Nemo, Up, Toy Story 3, pick any and they are all wonderful cinematic classics (except Cars!). They’ve also ignored some amazing work by Spielberg before his money making days – Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, The Colour Purple…. ET!!!!. Ignored also are some other fine work by David Fincher, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Michael Mann, Tim Burton, Brian De Palma, Oliver Stone… we won’t even go into billion dollar industry man Mr Nolan. That’s a whole other story. But these are men (and women!) have shaped our pop culture, filled our bedroom walls and perhaps inspired us to achieve greater things. They have made cinema what it is today and as a result are the true canons of cinema. Ignore them at your peril.
So, going back to S&S’s original comment about their poll being “widely regarded as the most trusted guide there is to the canon of cinema greats.” – no, that’s not true at all. Not until these ‘voters’ truly consider or even contemplate the definition of cinema will they continue to get their polls horribly wrong.
So what is my favourite movie of all time? Well it’s a personal favourite but one that has tested the sands of time when it was first released in 1921 – that being Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. While modern movies have classically trained actors, big budget productions and special effects Cecil B DeMille can only dream of, Chaplin’s most iconic character, the Tramp, made the same impact without uttering a single word; born in poverty, Chaplin rose to fame unlike any other film star who came before or after him.
The Kid was Chaplin’s first feature film and probably his most personal mirroring the plot of raising an abandoned child with his own during his workhouse days in South London in the late 1890s but also dealing with the loss of his firstborn infant son. There are moments of sheer comedy as we see young Jackie Coogan acting as the Tramp’s partner in crime but it equally contains tear jerking scenes when the child is taken away by men sent from the orphanage from the clutches of the Tramp’s fingers. Take a look at this clip and tell me this isn’t cinema gold when the tramp kicks the kid away from him as they’re being chased by a police officer.
I personally find films that can epitomise its essence in a single scene to be both compelling and illuminating and nothing, to me, is more beautiful than a hopeless, penniless, vagabond of a man protecting and cherishing something that wasn’t even his in the first place.
There was very little significant film news that plucked my interest this week except for a few gems that crossed my path. This is more Batman news but not the type you may think. 1986 was probably an average year for most – the Chernobyl disaster, FIFA World Cup in Mexico, a certain Usain Bolt was born – but perhaps overshadowing them all was little graphic novel by Frank Miller called The Dark Knight Returns which became the standard to which all Batman, and all DC comics in fact, adhere to in terms of structure, style, tone and originality.
What makes this graphic novel a film related story is that DC Animation, the same studio that brought you Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Year On, will bring this story to life on screen over two parts, with part one being released on DVD and Blu-Ray come September 25th. For all Nolan Dark Knight fans, this is really where it all began with a 55 -year old Bruce Wayne resurrecting Batman after a ten year hiatus. The voice of Batman is none other than Robocop, sorry, I mean Peter Weller. Check out the trailer for this amazing release and pre-order your copy soon.
While you can see him appear in Expendables 2 out later this month, my old favourite action star Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a leading role in drug caper Last Stand where he plays Sheriff Ray Owens, a former LA police officer, who tackles crime on the low end of the scale in a small town near the Mexican border. But a notorious drug kingpin has escaped custody and is headed towards the US border where only Sheriff Owens stands in his way. I don’t know if this kingpin guy has seen Commando, Terminator or even Predator but I’m going to bet he’s in for a good ass kicking. Have a look at how cool Arnie looks in his shades. Damn fine if you ask me. In a none-homosexual way of course. Last Stand will be released in the UK January 2013.
After reporting last week that Peter Jackson was considering to split his Hobbit films from two into a trilogy – the great man himself has now confirmed so on his Facebook page. Jackson writes that the “richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth. So, without further ado […] I’d like to announce that two films will become three.”
The question of whether we’d like to see three movies from such a small book is debatable or indeed what the third movie will be called as it was originally envisioned as a bridging story between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. But that being said, everything we’ve seen so far in terms of official pictures and blog videos have been incredibly tantalising. The first of the trilogy – An Unexpected Journey – will be released December 2012.
And finally – this isn’t strictly film news but a little sporting event started last week. Something called the Olympics. A pesky little British director was given the arduous task of becoming Artist Director for the opening ceremony and well… he did an okay job. I mean having to call up the likes of Rowan Akinson, J. K. Rowling, David Beckham, Paul McCartney, James Bond AND the Queen into a three hour bore-fest was just demanding for the eyes and mind.
I mean even I could’ve dreamt up using the Industrial Revolution to cast up an Olympic ring and a cauldron that rose like a cloud of fire. Talk about going over the top Mr Boyle. What really killed you was using Pink Floyd during the firework display. Jeez. You certainly know how to be cheesy. If you want to see how dire the effort from the man that brought you Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours – check it out on BBC iPlayer. Only if you want to. I mean, it wasn’t even that great…. it was absolutely magnificent!
Written by Vaskar S. Kayastha
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