Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Skuriels 2012: The Greatest Films Ever

Following in the tradition of Sight & Sound’s Greatest Films poll and recent announcement of its decennial results, participants in the year-end film polls the Muriels and the Skandies combined forces as the Skuriels to determine what these cinephile communities consider the best movies ever.  The results can be found on the official awards site.

As a voter in the Muriels, I was invited to make twenty unranked selections.  I did not have time to contribute any commentary on the individual films in the group’s top 20 or my picks, so I thought I’d use this space to talk a bit about my methodology.

The task at hand was to name the twenty movies that best represent to me the greatest that cinema has to offer.  It probably goes without saying, but trying to winnow the history of cinema down to a list of twenty feature-length films is a foolhardy assignment.  On top of that, how do I distinguish between greatest films and favorite films?  Should I?  And how much consideration should I give to post-1968 films that have had a hard time making inroads in the S&S Top 10?

Although there’s no shortage of certified masterpieces, I decided that my list should be an accurate representation of my tastes and not merely a rubber stamping of canon.  I could have easily voted for twenty films made before I was born, but how interesting would that be?  (As it turns out, nine of those making the cut have been made in my lifetime.)  I made a conscious effort to put all decades on relatively equal footing.  Ultimately I selected the films that have made the biggest impressions on me and that I couldn’t bear to cut from the list.

I’ll note that, for all intents and purposes, BEFORE SUNSET represents it and its predecessor (BEFORE SUNRISE) and THREE COLORS: RED stands in for the trilogy.  Except for CHUNGKING EXPRESS, which I’ve only seen once, I’ve seen these listed films at least twice and count many of them among my most meaningful moviegoing experiences.  These aren’t merely films I like a lot; these are films that have left marks.  This unranked list isn't comprehensive--how could it be?--but it should provide a snapshot of the movies that matter deeply to me.

-The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) (François Truffaut, 1959)
-2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
-After Life (Wandâfuru raifu) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 1998)
-Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
-Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
-Chungking Express (Chung Hing sam lam) (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
-Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
-Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek s kino-apparatom) (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
-Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
-Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
-Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
-Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
-The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
-Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen, 1952)
-This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
-There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
-Three Colors: Red (Trois couleurs: Rouge) (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)
-The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
-The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les parapluies de Cherbourg) (Jacques Demy, 1964)
-Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)


  1. Annie Hall? This Is Spinal Tap? Tree of Life? There Will be Blood? After Life? Chungking Express?

    Shouldn't they belong more to 'personal favorite' list than 'greatest films' list? Annie Hall is Allen ripping off Godard, Bergman, and Rohmer to run a series of not-very-funny gags.

    If an Allen movie must be included, how about Sleeper or Love and Death(two of his funniest films)? Or Broadway Danny Rose, his most perfect blend of pathos and parody?

  2. I chose to interpret what best represents to me "the greatest that cinema has to offer" through a combination of canon selections and personal favorites, even if plenty from both groups didn't make my final list. (I should have put those words in quotation marks in the article.) Not that it matters, but this method seems to be what most others participating in the poll did. The directors voting in the Sight & Sound poll appeared to vote this way as well. While I'd hardly consider my picks unassailable, I do think it's more defensible than, say, listing The Goonies or Biutiful.

    If going with a different Allen film, I would have been inclined to include Manhattan.

    In ten years' time I expect The Tree of Life and There Will Be Blood won't seem out of place on this kind of list. The S&S crowd preferred In the Mood for Love to Chungking Express, as far as that goes. Sure, This is Spinal Tap is not the epitome of formal design. Perhaps it won't age well, especially considering its milieu, but in my opinion, it ranks among the funniest films I've seen.

    Obviously a list like this will reveal preferences, blind spots, and idiosyncrasies. I'd rather let the personal element in than to rearrange the same handful of agreed upon classics, which the poll's top 10 essentially does.