Perhaps you are familiar with the Sight and Sound poll of the 10 Greatest Films of All Time. Beginning in 1952, the British film magazine has polled directors and critics (read = phony intellectuals like the guy in the movie theater behind Woody Allen) asking them to list their top ten greatest films of all time. There is no set criteria given to how a voter “should” assess a given film’s viability as a Top Ten candidate. But as Roger Ebert has posted, some voters have political agendas, whether implicit or explicit, and this may try to throw the objectivity of the list awry. Some, no doubt, may be attempting to make a political statement about the impossibility of creating such a list (a valid criticism, but one which becomes a moot point after that same voter agrees to turn in his or her official ballot). Others may actually be retarded. In any event, here is a list of 10 unlikely films that, somehow, received at least one vote on one ballot for the official 2002 Sight and Sound poll. If this list proves anything, it proves that Sight and Sound values the opinions of ten people who may be as stupid as the movies they picked.
This won’t be the first time that porn conspicuously turns up in the Sight & Sound poll (or even on Mr. David’s list). Obviously, this film is a superb demonstration of nuanced acting, sophisticated screenplay, and astonishing mise-en-scene, as demonstrated in this amazing clip. Look, all I’m saying is that if you’re going for the shock appeal by putting porn on your list, at least make it good, classy porn. Like Naughty Girls Like It Big 3 or Honey We Blew Up Your Pussy or any Michael Bay film. Kids these days.
Thelma & Louise (1991) #9 on Yvonne Tasker’s list
Tasker wants us to know she’s a Feminist, Goddammit, and her list includes Jane Campion, Sally Potter, and Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry is her #1 all time, but that film isn’t as easy to make fun of as this one). This woman screams pretentious British floozy. Look, this isn’t exactly a bad film, but any time a film in your top ten list is aired on Lifetime at least separate three times each weekend, you know your taste needs a bit of reevaluation.
Grease (1977) #7 on Michaela Boland’s list
According to Sight and Sound, Boland is from Australia, which may explain her fan-love of Olivia Newton-John and Australian directors in general (My Brilliant Career and The Pillow Book make appearances on her list). She must also apparently be 12 years old. On the upside, there remains the possibility that she could just turn in her teasin’ comb and go back to film school.
The Opposite of Sex (1998) #7 on Andy Medhurst’s list
Here’s a film which wasn’t even all that funny or original, and has a poster that reeks of "direct-to-DVD." Most people saw it in 1998 to see Christina Ricci in a swimsuit (no, it wasn’t the same swimsuit as Mermaids). It came out at a time when people liked seeing pretentious teenage jackasses, like Rushmore and Wes Bentley. And yet Andy Medhurst apparently sees no problems with ranking this film alongside Vertigo and Red River. Just watch the trailer to this movie. If you watch it and still don’t think Andy Medhurst’s membership to Sight and Sound should be revoked, then your brain should be revoked.
Moulin Rouge (2001) #6 on Pam Cook’s list
Love everything about this pick. Love that it is sandwiched between two classic Hitchcock films. Love that it is apparently better than Sunrise and The Red Shoes. Love that it was released one brief year before the 2002 list came out, clearly illustrating how much time and thought went into Ms. Cook’s list. By this logic, her 2012 list will include such eternal titles as Burlesque and Australia. But judging by the fact that her #1 pick is a forgettable western from 1993 that is basically Albert Nobbs heads west, Ms. Cook might not be granted the opportunity to fill out a list this year. Maybe her and Michaela Boland can have a sleepover!
Baby Doll (1956) #3 on Catherine Breillat’s list
Look, I get it. Breillat is a director who loves to push the envelope on taboo issues in young girls’ sexuality (she’s also a best-selling author in France who writes books with covers like these). Love the inclusions of In the Realm of the Senses and Salo and even Lost Highway is forgivable to a certain extent (although it gets worse with Lynch . . . if you don’t believe me, read below). But have you actually seen Baby Doll? It sucks. Easily the worst film of Elia Kazan’s career. Slow-moving, incoherent, not even that shocking for the 1950s (or Tennessee Williams). The film failed not because it was controversial, but because 1956 audiences thought it kinda blew. Bosley Crowther wrote that its main characters were simplistic morons. Breillat, who is a notorious provocateur, cannot quite be called a moron – but I’d put money on her seeing a beat-up VHS copy of it at a video store, being intrigued by it, and putting it on her list because, as Catherine Breillat, she has to.
Dune (1984) #3 on Slavoj Zizek’s list
Zizek is a respected scholar in the area of media studies. Well, he used to be. We can’t entirely discount the intellectual contributions he has made to the discipline as a result of this pick, but for me, it’s sort of like finding out that Bill Simmons is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (he isn’t, but this is hypothetical). In other words, I may not be able to think about Zizek now without thinking about airbourne pimply fat men in space suits. Or without thinking about being lost at sea.
Deep Throat (1972) #3 on Trevor Steele Taylor’s list
I would love to hear this guy’s justification for the inclusion of this film: “The release of Deep Throat led to the greater socio-cultural acceptance of Linda Lovelace and the irregularities in women’s sexual anatomy.” In any event, it fits in so well alongside the likes of Antonioni, Kubrick, and Fellini (*sarcasm). But placing it next to Pasolini is completely absurd!
Heaven’s Gate (1980) #3 on Robin Wood’s list
The funny thing about this is that Robin Wood was a respected film scholar (he died in 2009) who was one of the world’s foremost scholars on great directors such as Hitchcock, Ozu, Bergman, and Ray (if you don’t believe me, check out his selection on Amazon). And yet not one of those director’s films ever surpassed Heaven’s Gate, according to this guy. That’s right, the same movie that bankrupted United Artists, and made producers tremble at the thought of “Western” until Dances With Wolves a decade later (Roger Ebert wrote of the film: “This is the most scandalous cinematic waste I have ever seen and remember, I’ve seen Paint Your Wagon.”) It was nominated for 0 Oscars and 5 Golden Raspberries, and had a net loss of over $110 million. But according to Robin Wood, only two films have ever surpassed it (and they weren’t Ishtar and Leonard Part 6). It doesn’t help that he has enough sense to have Ugetsu and Rules of the Game also on his list – he must have lost a bet after some serious drinking. Amazing.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) #1 on Armond White’s list
How can you put a film on any top ten list of all time when you can think of ten better movies from the same director? Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report. OK, so maybe that’s only eight. But still, you get the picture. A.I. isn’t a bad movie, actually. I even own it. It is grossly misunderstood; Roger Ebert’s recent retrospective review of the film reveals the amazing degree to which the final thirty minutes were interpreted incorrectly leading to subsequent dismissals of the film. But contrary to the claims of Tim Burton and Ryan Leaf, to be great is not to be misunderstood, and the relative conventionality of White’s other picks (L’avventura, Intolerance, Lawrence of Arabia) only underscores A.I.’s place on this list sticking out like a sore thumb. This may also be one of those political picks – you’re telling me Armond White gleefully declares A.I. to be the best film ever made, and doesn’t expect a hoard of rebuttals, controversy, and attention? In fact, giving him this much consideration is only feeding his initial motivation of shock value (don’t think I didn’t notice Masculin feminin at #8). So we should really stop here. Seriously. But . . . come on, A.I., really?
Additionally, I’d like to offer ten films which I’m rather shocked did not receive a single vote by any of the esteemed panel of “experts”:
City Girl (F.W. Murnau, 1930)
A Corner in Wheat (D.W. Griffith, 1909)
Les Diaboliques (Henri-George Clouzot, 1955)
Death by Hanging (Nagisa Oshima, 1968)
Death of a Bureaucrat (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1966)
Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)
The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)
Mother (Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1926)
The Sorrow and the Pity (Marcel Ophüls, 1972)
Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969)
And one film series whose absence is so egregious it deserves a moment of silence:
The Up Series (Michael Apted, 1964-2006)
Come on, you stuffy bastards from the U.K. Grow a pair and cast one measly vote for this staggering achievement of cinema that you couldn’t possibly make yourselves. In fact, it really doesn’t take that much balls. Just see it. I realize two hours over six nights is a major time commitment when you do nothing all day except for thinking about how great Heaven’s Gate and Dune are. But you won’t regret it. And neither will you.