Friday, 19 October 2012

Films and "Best Ever" Lists

"Best Ever?" (... I'll do you an A to Z)
So yes, there was and continues to be a huge amount of commentary on the Sight and Sound Bestest Film Ever poll, which is now apparently “Vertigo” with "Citizen Kane" apparently magicked down a notch. Such a poll is always going to be interesting and enlightening as much as it is frustrating and redundant, but nevertheless film aficionados do love to get stuck into this stuff. Hell, even I enjoy grading films on my private What I Watch list. But in the end, it was an email from my friend The Intriguing David Gadsdon that summarised what I could not really find energy to articulate. He wrote:
“Been reading that Sight and Sound poll, it's becoming very stale because people are voting for the same films in large numbers. There some interesting inclusions, but never in great enough volume for them to make any dent on the overall poll, so you always get the same stuff at the top. Not that it doesn't deserve to be there, but when it's always there it means that the poll appears to be in a vacuum that seems to stifle debate as to what other films could be considered greatest. If the results never change the list is in danger of becoming irrelevant (if it isn't already).”
Indeed, and I concur.
You see, I adore “Attack the Block” as both a fun monster flick and as social commentary, and I would argue that it achieves and executes its objectives every bit as much as “Vertigo” (hah!), but it’s apples and oranges and I would have a hard time calling it one of the/my best films ever. Who would ever agree with me? but it gives me great joy, many thrills and much mental engagement. 

Where is the room on any Bestest Film Ever list for “An American Werewolf in London”, which is one of the films I have seen many, many times over since I was thirteen and would always, always sit through? And does the fact that I would always watch “American Werewolf” mean it is, by extension, one of my favourites, and does that segue into being considered by me as one of the best?

Same with Leone films... although they are easier to throw in a Best Ever list. Some argue whether “Once Upon a Time in America” or “- In the West” is the greater Leone (I’m an “In America” guy). But Sergio Leone is one I am likely to say is Best Ever on consideration of his whole oeuvre, just like Ingmar Bergman, Takashi Miike, David Cronenberg, Kieslowski... etc...

There are so many other favourites of mine that I couldn’t justify being on a Best Ever or even Best Of list... Joe Dante’s “Matinee”? Or fresh in my mind: “The Raid”? OK, let me stop.
What such lists do achieve is in outlining and conveying the taste of the list-maker and introducing some films that you/I may not have been aware of. So, in that spirit, I wish to throw down a list of some of my favourites. What is hard is to stick true to my taste and not to wrangle the list into a list of what makes me look cool, or what I think should be my top ten. Hah. But these are the films that I know have had profound effect on me, that I enjoyed to the utmost, that changed the way I watched film and all of that jazz. Let’s see... I am going to get around things by doing this A-Z style, with an intention to do lists of favourites by genre or whatever later on. High-brow? Low-brow? Whatever… it’s all good. This should give you some idea of where I am coming from and what I enjoy the most. Because it’s fun. Indeed.

 (by looking at my film collection so far)

The Adjuster
Bad Education
Come and See
Don't Look Now
Fanny and Alexander
Henry: portrait of a serial killer
In a Lonely Place
Joe the King
Kiss Me Deadly
Let the Right One In
No Country For Old Men
Once Upon a Time in America
Quatermass and the Pit (1958 tv series)
The Raid
Santa Sangre
Toto the Hero
Valley of the Bees
Where the Wild Things Are
Young Thugs: innocent blood/Young Thugs: nostalgia

I am aware that some of these come under "best film I have under that letter" as opposed to "Outright Best Ever". Or rather that "Xtro" remains a film that fascinates me and has done since I was an under-age youth illegally hiring out 18 certificate films from the local video shop, and yes its roughness and oddness is all good. No one is going to agree with me that it is one of the best ever films made, or even one of the best ever horrors, but I have a great fondness for. It is the highest graded film I own under "X" and I'll stand by it. Same with Takashi Miike's "Young Thugs" double-bill for "Y". But, yeah, I love all these titles, if some more than others.

Self-evidently, an A-Z will miss out many others. I shall maybe make more... later...

Because it IS fun.

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