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The Top Ten Worst Top Tens of All Time Ever

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 The Top Ten Worst Top Tens of All Time Ever Empty The Top Ten Worst Top Tens of All Time Ever

Post by Admin on Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:37 pm

There are no must-see films. No one’s experience of life – or even of cinema – is invalidated by not having seen Citizen Kane or Le Règle du Jeu, monumental and enriching as they are. Even as a film critic, I wouldn’t expect an intelligent person to listen to me if I handed them a list of 100 films they absolutely must see, anymore than I’d feel it necessary to suspend my usual lifestyle and follow the guidance of the authors of a list of ‘The 100 Video Games You Must Play’ or ‘The 100 Theme Parks You Must Visit’. What’s more, the idea that anyone, alone or in committee, could create a definitive list of must-see movies is as absurd as the idea of must-see movies themselves.

And yet the Culture Section of yesterday’s Sunday Times featured not only a list of the ‘Top Ten Must-See Films’ (with the full Top 100 available on its website) but also nine other supposedly ‘ultimate’ top tens. The lists are (fittingly) listed at the end of this article – and they are, in general, both inexplicable and indefensible.

Not even the renowned Sight and Sound poll – which, once a decade, surveys prominent directors and critics to create two lists of the world’s top ten films – is sold to us with the idea that its results constitute a list of must-see movies. The pleasure, and purpose, of it is the indication it gives of the prevailing tastes of the most respected of those who make and assess movies, and the chance it gives us to peruse the specific choices of our favourite, or least favourite, of their number.

No list of the ten best films tells us much about what the ten best films actually are, but all tell us a tremendous amount about the person who compiled them. And, again, that is the joy of them. The Times robs its readers of this: Jonathan Dean aside, the ten Times critics who compiled ‘The Ultimate Film Lists’ are unnamed. (We could probably work out who they are, but that isn’t the point.) Perhaps they didn’t want to be associated with the article. I wouldn’t have.

If the reasons why films are said to be ‘must-see’ (that is, why they absolutely have to be seen, as opposed to just being very good films to see) are clearly defined, and the methods for reaching those reasons clearly laid out, then there are instances in which lists of ‘must-see’ movies can (almost) live up to their name. If a student is researching an essay on the impact of the biggest-grossing films in Hollywood history, then he could put together a list of the top ten must-see films for it, based on what the top ten biggest-grossing films in Hollywood history are.

Less objectively, if a critic wants to list the top ten films her readers must see to appreciate her evolution from film fan to film critic, based upon which films she feels had the most impact upon the development of her critical instincts, then that, too, could reasonably be called a list of must-see movies.

But the Times does not tell us why its chosen movies are must-see. (Must we see them so we can understand the history of cinema? Or understand the potential of cinema? Or be able to make informed dinner party conversation about cinema?) Nor does it really tell us what the methods for choosing those movies were. Instead, in an opt-out rigid with contempt for Times readers, Jonathan Head dismisses our interest in the issue by writing: ‘Following a formula that would flummox even Will Hunting, we have devised a list of the 100 Must-See Films…’

There is one thing I know about the formula for determining must-see movies: The Sunday Times has not found it. The most superficial analysis of its lists exposes their absurdity. More than a third of the inclusions in these ten top tens were made in the last eleven years. The ‘Top Ten Funniest’ films features nothing by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Jacques Tati, Billy Wilder or – oddest of all, considering Annie Hall is in the overall list of ‘Top Ten Must-See Films’ – Woody Allen, but it does feature The 40-Year-Old Virgin and In Bruges. And the list that supposedly collects the films with the greatest battle sequences features Avatar but not Seven Samurai or Ran.

Indeed, it would take longer to enumerate the flaws in the Times article than it would to watch every film it names. So, as an example, let us focus solely on the worst of its lists: that of the ‘ten most boring films’. (The title alone is offensive. Surely only a barren-brained teenager would compile a list of the ten most boring anything.)

The number one choice is 2001: A Space Odyssey; number three is The Shawshank Redemption. Both are contentious selections: the former is a widely acclaimed classic and the latter a widely beloved favourite. But both have stretches that strain some attention spans, and are subsequently disliked by a small but stubborn subset of moviegoers, so their inclusion is – when we allow for the Times critics sacrificing honesty to the chance to be provocative – ultimately unsurprising.

The inclusion of Raging Bull, however, is most certainly surprising. Its selection as the fifth most boring of all films is ridiculous – and the explanation for it is an example of faux-iconoclastic idiocy worthy of Armond White:

‘Beyond the Robert De Niro freakshow – he has muscles, he is fat, he boxes – this is just a tedious tale of an odious thug. “But it’s in black and white!” Zzzzzzz.’

The most boring films are not the classics one finds duller than their mighty reputations suggest one will: they are the forgettable films, the empty films, the non-entities neither sufficiently good nor sufficiently bad to give the mind anything around which to form a thought. They are the films that require one to type vague plot descriptions and half-remembered actor’s names into Google in order to recall their titles.

Some may dislike Raging Bull. Some may even think it is a bad film. But who has found it forgettable? Show me the person who was genuinely bored by Raging Bull and I’ll show you an imbecile.

To be fair to the critics who compiled this particular list, they did fire a devastating shot at the tenth film they chose for it, Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs:

‘After watching two annoying people having it off to a soundtrack of dreary rock for 70 minutes, you quickly remember that sex, and gigs, are better as participation events.’

But even this sentiment is self-defeating. That something so perceptive may be said about the film proves it cannot truly be boring. That there are considered conclusions to be drawn about Winterbottom’s jarring juxtaposition of graphic sex and concert footage within what is, essentially, a rather routine story of romance soured shows that 9 Songs tries something – it just fails to achieve it. A boring film tries nothing, and fails anyway.

The Sunday Times top tens are not boring. They try a great deal – and fail at all of it.

The Sunday Times Top Ten Film Lists

The Top Ten Must-See Films

1. Chinatown
2. Mulholland Drive
3. Apocalypse Now
4. In the Mood for Love
5. The Godfather
6. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
7. Once Upon a Time in the West
8. Annie Hall
9. Tokyo Story
10. Fargo

The full list of the Top 100 Must-See Films can be viewed HERE (Subscription required)

The Top Ten Funniest Films

1. This is Spinal Tap
2. Duck Soup
3. Airplane!
4. Borat
5. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
6. Dr Strangelove
7. The Big Lebowski
8. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
9. In Bruges
10. Withnail & I

The Top Ten Most Boring Films

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Last Year At Marienbad
3. The Shawshank Redemption
4. Sin City
5. Raging Bull
6. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
7. La Dolce Vita
8. Biutiful
9. An Inconvenient Truth
10. 9 Songs

The Top Ten Most Baffling Films

1. Mulholland Drive
2. Donnie Darko
3. Lost Highway
4. Hidden
5. Last Year At Marienbad
6. Inland Empire
7. Enter the Void
8. Jacob’s Ladder
9. 2046
10. A Serious Man

The Top Ten Most Romantic Films

1. In the Mood for Love
2. Before Sunrise
3. When Harry Met Sally
4. Casablanca
5. I Know Where I’m Going!
6. Witness
7. Lost in Translation
8. Romeo and Juliet
9. A Bout de Souffle
10. La Belle et La Bete

The Top Ten Best Weepies

1. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. Tokyo Story
4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
5. Toy Story 3
6. Another Year
7. The English Patient
8. (500) Days of Summer
9. ET
10. The Notebook

The Top Ten Great Beginnings

1. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
2. Saving Private Ryan
4. Once Upon a Time in the West
5. The Matrix
6. The Social Network
7. Goldeneye
8. Amarcord
9. The Godfather
10. Inglourious Basterds

The Top Ten Great Endings

1. The 400 Blows
2. The Usual Suspects
3. The Third Man
4. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
5. Fatal Attraction
6. Arlington Road
7. Some Like It Hot
8. Hidden
9. The Sixth Sense
10. The Blair Witch Project

The Top Ten Best Political Films

1. Waltz With Bashir
2. Shoah
3. The Lives of Others
4. The Battle of Algiers
5. Bowling for Columbine
6. United 93
7. The Killing Fields
8. In the Loop
9. The Death of Mr Lazarescu
10. Sicko

The Top Ten Greatest Battles

1. Saving Private Ryan
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
3. Gangs of New York
4. Avatar
5. Gladiator
6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
7. Alexander Nevsky
8. Tora! Tora! Tora!
9. Come and See
10. Children of Men

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