Thursday, August 02, 2007


Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story didn't make the cut...

As you may have read already, the Online Film Community’s Top 100 list was unveiled earlier this week at Cinema Fusion. Jonathan Burdick, who hatched and developed the project with Andrew Olson, comments on that site: “We did not make this list - which is a collaboration of over 50 movie website writers - to compete with any other list out there; we simply just wanted to do this to create an alternative list created from the opinions of online movie writers who are passionate about films of all kind and spend every day watching, reviewing, breaking down, and discussing them because they love to do it.”

Needless to say, the list was never conceived with any kind of consensus-making in mind, but rather as a reaction to high-profile lists like the recent AFI 100 which seemed to be missing so many vital films. Burdick sees this list as, if not exactly a corrective, then at least a way of shoving other less-lauded films into the spotlight: “There is no such thing as a ‘defining’ list of movies, but lists can be fun, they can be informative, and they can get people to see movies they had either looked over in the past or maybe never even heard of. Personally, because of this whole experience, I have already jotted down a handful of movies on my own ‘must-see’ list, and if this list can do the same thing for others, then it is a success and accomplished what I hoped.”

...However, here's your #16...

And that, I think, is the list’s success, as any list like this is successful—as a catalyst for tripping switches and making connections in the reader’s mind to see one of the films mentioned. Or perhaps a film mentioned might spark a memory or thought or another film not represented on the list at all. Further investigation is the name of the game.

But I have to admit I felt a little distressed that the list itself shows so many indications of a relative lack of familiarity with the landmarks of film history, and that it was so top-loaded with voices from the young male online film community, at the expense of the diversity that might have shaken things up a bit had, say, more female voices been heard from. Speaking as one who included Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy on his own list, I was still a little surprised that the list leaned so heavily on populist favorites at the expense of such not-exactly-inaccessible cornerstones of international cinema as Kurosawa (Seven Samurai manages a #20 ranking, beneath Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Pulp Fiction and, most annoyingly, The Shawshank Redemption) and Hawks (highest ranking-- #95), while Godard and recently posthumous directors Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni went entirely unrepresented.

...And how did this get in here?

I realize that these lists are completely of their moment, and any second gathering of the same balloters might result in a significantly different grouping of titles. But frankly, a list of 100 films that includes The Shawshank Redemption (can anyone explain to me why a lot of intelligent people feel so strongly about this movie?), Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, The Matrix, Back to the Future, Brazil, The Usual Suspects (see comment re Shawshank), The Princess Bride, GoodFellas, Run Lola Run (#46!), Memento, The Silence of the Lambs, Heat, Aliens, Halloween, The Graduate, American History X (!!!), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cinema Paradiso and, for the love of God, Leon, is going to be one that feels far enough away from my own experience with movies that it’s hard to believe I took part in it. But participate I did, and I’m glad I did, if only for the reasons stated above. I never expected this list to look like one I’d create for myself, and I think it’s clear that most of the people who voted are at least 20 years younger than I am. (No Nashville? No Ozu, or Cronenberg, or Sturges, or De Palma, or Mann--Anthony--, or Peckinpah, or Ray, or Boetticher, or the Marx Brothers? Hmm.) I’m just hoping that, like Peter Nellhaus suggests, someone might be inspired to check out Irvin Kershner’s back catalog by seeing his name attached to The Empire Strikes Back.

All that said, I would like to thank Jonathan for inviting me to participate, and for all the hard work he and Andrew Olson did in gathering the lists, compiling the information and getting the final product out there. Even if one has issues with the end result, it must be said that the act of putting such a list together is an immense challenge and a lot of fun on a personal level, and Jonathan and Andrew both did a fine job mounting this project. Thanks, gentlemen.

Here’s the list. The movies that were on my original submitted list of 100 movies are in bold.

The Online Film Community's Top 100
1. Godfather, The (Coppola, 1972)
2. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

3. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964)
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)
5. Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
6. Blade Runner (R. Scott, 1982)
7. Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)
8. Godfather Part II, The (Coppola, 1974)
9. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980)

10. Alien (R. Scott, 1979)
11. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
12. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
13. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Lucas, 1977)
14. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
15. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
16. Shawshank Redemption, The (Darabont, 1994)
17. Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)
18. Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)
19. Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
20. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
21. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
22. It's a Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946)
23. Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996)
24. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962)
25. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
26. Schindler's List (Spielberg, 1993)
27. Wizard of Oz, The (Fleming, 1939)
28. Matrix, The (Wachowski/Wachowski, 1999)
29. Third Man, The (Reed, 1949)
30. Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988)
31. Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985
32. Annie Hall (W. Allen, 1977)
33. Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)
34. Fight Club (Fincher, 1999)
35. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Gilliam/Jones, 1975)
36. Usual Suspects, The (Singer, 1995)
37. Princess Bride, The (Reiner, 1987)
38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Forman, 1975)
39. Once Upon a Time in the West (Leone, 1968)
40. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
41. Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The (Leone, 1966)
42. Searchers, The (Ford, 1956)
43. Singin' in the Rain (Donen/Kelly, 1952)

44. E.T. (Spielberg, 1982)
45. Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990)
46. Run Lola Run (Tykwer, 1998)
47. This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)
48. Sunset Blvd. (Wilder, 1950)
49. Big Lebowski, The (J. Coen, 1998)
50. Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944)
51. Bridge on River Kwai, The (Lean, 1957)
52. Memento (Nolan, 2000)
53. M (Lang, 1931)
54. Shining, The (Kubrick, 1980)
55. 12 Angry Men (Lumet, 1957)
56. L.A. Confidential (Hanson, 1997)
57. Unforgiven (Eastwood, 1992)
58. Passion of Joan of Arc, The (Dreyer, 1928)
59. General, The (Keaton/Bruckman, 1927)
60. Apartment, The (Wilder, 1960)
61. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971)
62. Incredibles, The (Bird, 2004)
63. Silence of the Lambs, The (Demme, 1991)
64. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
65. Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001)
66. Heat (Mann, 1995)
67. Do the Right Thing (S. Lee, 1989)
68. Rules of the Game, The (Renoir, 1939)
69. Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
70. Network (Lumet, 1976)
71. Graduate, The (Nichols, 1967)
72. Bicycle Thief, The (De Sica, 1948)
73. Conversation, The (Coppola, 1974)
74. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)
75. Maltese Falcon, The (Huston, 1941)
76. American History X (Kaye, 1998)
77. Ed Wood (Burton, 1994)
78. Manhattan (Allen, 1979)
79. King Kong (Cooper/Shoedsack, 1933)
80. North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 1959)
81. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1992)
82. Manchurian Candidate, The (Frankenheimer, 1962)
83. To Kill a Mockingbird (Mulligan, 1962)
84. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Capra, 1939)
85. Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)
86. Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)
87. Leon (Besson, 1994)
88. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Herzog, 1972)
89. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
90. Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)
91. 400 Blows, The (Truffaut, 1959)
92. Notorious (Hitchcock, 1946)
93. Toy Story (Lasseter, 1995)
94. Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King (Jackson, 2003)
95. His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940)
96. Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino, 1992)
97. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
98. On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954)
99. Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore, 1988)
100. Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922)


Jonathan Lapper said...


I hope you don't mind but now that you have a specific article on this subject I have copied my comment from your other entry and am putting it here.

I think the list was voted on by too many people who have seen too few films. There are many films on the list I like but would never consider to be great films. For instance, I think Die Hard is a fun little movie but one of the greatest of all time? Not a chance. On this list it is ranked ahead of Notorious, 400 Blows, Rules of the Game, Aguirre, Touch of Evil, The Maltese Falcon and on and on. I mean, seriously come on. What person who appreciates and understands film can honestly sit down and watch any one of those films mentioned above and think that any of them are outdone by Die Hard?

I'm not trying to be a snob here, I'm really not. I just know that when I was younger I thought a lot of films were great that I don't think so now. I remember cutting my teeth for film analysis by arguing for the visceral action film over the meditative drama. Both obviously have their places and both can produce great movies no doubt. But when I watch Wild Strawberries now I get a lot more out of it than when I watched it on video at the age of fifteen. When I watch Die Hard now I likewise get a lot less out of it than when I watched it at 21.

Also, the sheer volume of foreign films and classic films from before 1940 missing from this list also suggest that perhaps too many people participated who had not yet seen enough. Nothing against that, mind you, it still produces an interesting list and interesting debate but perhaps many people's individual submissions will change over time. I know that mine do with each passing day.


Dennis Cozzalio said...

Hey, Jonathan. I just commented under the other post and hoped that you would do just what you did. Thanks!

Adam Ross said...

As soon as I read the final list, I immediately thought of this Simpsons quote:

"Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!"

That seems to be the consensus opinion (mine included), with most voters trying to step away from responsibility. I had "Night of the Hunter" in my top 10, yet it didn't make the list at all, and I don't think "Princess Bride" or "Leon" would make my top 500.

I think it would be fun to have a sort of roundtable discussion among the voters, talking about the end result, although I have no idea how one would go about such a thing.

giles edwards said...

I addressed this on my own modest blog and I'm relieved it's caused a few head scratches at large. I thought I was just being snobby.

The way I was able to characterise it was thus:

Imagine a list of best literature who's zenith was:

1. Gone With The Wind
2. Dracula
3. Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
4. Captain Corelli's Mandolin
5. The Stand
6. Catcher In The Rye
7. The Firm
8. Breakfast At Tiffany's
9. something by Paulo Coelho
10. The Lord Of The Rings

I guess it's film's innate immediacy and gratification that affords a more lenient attitude to -- and less complex personal analysis of -- simple pleasures. Hence "The Matrix", which surprised me the most.

Simple pleasures are grand, there's no denying. It's all about the love, right?

I'm as guilty of putting "Die Hard" and "The Silence Of The Lambs" on my own list, but I like to think I redress the balance with "Come & See", "His Girl Friday", "Sunrise" and "All That Heaven Allows".

I guess what frustrates me is that if thes elists are always so similiar with the 'listus quo' never to bucked, how else are they to evolve as new generations look for great picures to discover from experienced picure lovers?

Jonathan Lapper said...

I wanted to further comment on "surprise ending syndrome" whereby no matter how mediocre the rest of the movie is the twist ending makes the viewer forget everything else that came before. This would apply to The Shawshank Redemption as well as The Usual Suspects. I prefer to take my movies as a whole not just based on a clever ending. I think it is this syndrome that has so many people at the altar of the above two films and hopefully answers your question.

Sports-wise it has always reminded me of Super Bowl XXIII. Many people consistently called it one of the greatest Superbowls ever. Why? Because Joe Montana pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the last minute and produced one of the most astonishing comebacks in sports history. Problem is, up to that point, it was one boooooring game. But nobody remembers that now. Just the ending.

I've asked many people what their favorite part of The Usual Suspects is. Try it yourself. You always get, "The last part when you realize who Kaiser Soze is." What happened in the rest of the film? Who the hell knows. Who cares?

I'm sure as the online film community grows older viewers who return to these films will realize that without the twist ending these films have little to offer.


cinephile said...

But what's the "twist" to Shawshank's ending? Does anyone really doubt that Robbins and Freeman are going to get out (oops, spoiler alert)? I think a real twist would've been if Tim Robbins had actually been guilty of the crime he was accused of-- that might have complicated the film's overwhelming sentimentality and what a teacher of mine once referred to as "texts that teach us what we already know", thus confirming our already-held beliefs (in this case, about human nature, goodness and the evils of prison), but doing so in a way that makes us feel all good and "smart" (and I like the film-- I just don't think it's one of the greatest movies ever made).

Looking over the list, my feelings seem similar to giles'-- it's not a terrible list by any means, but it's a terribly redundant one. If the point was to generate a better response to AFI and others, how is it really any different from those lists, other than in, perhaps, its ordering? It feels less like the cool insights I get from SLIFR or cinebeats or Kim Morgan or Girish (to name only a few superb bloggers), and more like the hipster nerd posturing of Ain't It Cool-- setting oneself up as an "alternative" voice but only regurgitating a slightly different brand of mainstream than what you're supposedly the alternative to (and I say that as someone who really likes action movies). Finally, Dennis is right-- any list that relegates Hawks to 95 and has no Godard is really, really odd (and I'm probably closer in age to many of the "younger" people whose opinions apparently dominated it).

OK, now that my early evening bile is out (:-- speaking of lists, Dennis, when are we going to get another of your superb reviews of films from your OWN "100 movies" list? Your NY, NY review totally whet my appetite!

cinephile said...

BTW-- giles, just clicked to your blog and read your list, and anyone who includes Dark Passage and the sublime Band Wagon on their list is a friend of mine.

Weigard said...

I think the presence of relatively current crowd pleasers is inherent to a list like this. Individuals involved will bring up a lot of outstanding films, including some unusual choices, but as long as the number of lists a film is included on is factored in, those films will end up being low on the list -- it seems unavoidable. I think it might be more interesting to have each of the contributors write down the 10 films on their list that they think the others are least likely to list and explain why they included them -- might make for more fun viewing. :)

Damian said...

While I share your sentiments on the relative redundancy of the list, Dennis, I have to admit that I was one of those poor misguided souls who included The Shawshank Redemption (a film which is not only one of my personal favorites but which I really do honestly and sincerely believe is one of the greatest films ever made) as well as Die Hard, The Matrix, Alien, Back to the Future, Goodfellas, Usual Suspects, Silence of the Lambs and, yes, even Leon on my list. However, I did not include The Princess Bride (cute film but one of the greatest?) or The Big Lewbowski (my pick for the worst Coen brothers film after Ladykillers) or The Shining or Groundhog Day (another cute movie, but come on) or Hallowen or Terminator 2. I certainly did not include Pulp Fiction (don't even get me started on that one) and I most definitely did NOT include 1941 (I know it didn't make the final list, Dennis; I just couldn't resist). ;)

Meanwhile, picks like La Strada, Sunrise, Broken Blossoms, Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Bringing Up Baby, Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Blow-up and Day for Night all got left off. Like you and a few other commenters here I feel like saying "How can any serious student of film NOT appreciate/love this movie or THAT movie or blah, blah, blah, blah," but I guess that's the frustration of different cinephiles with different personalities and different tastes loving different movies and it's not always being a case of "they just haven't watched enough movies" or "they're not intelligent" or "they don't know what they'd talking about" or whatever.

Chris Stangl said...

This just in: THE INCREDIBLES Now More Interesting to People than 8 1/2. Or 400 BLOWS. Or TOUCH OF EVIL, MODERN TIMES, THE BICYCLE THIEF or KING KONG.

Related item: computer savvy honkies with Blockbuster memberships can only think of 29 films they value more than DIE HARD.

I'm curious what the submission guidelines were, because the results read like an Everyman fave-movie list sprinkled with a few Designated Studio Classic and arthouse milestones. Did different contributors approaching the list as a "favorites" roster skew the numbers against "best" / "most important" / "highlights of cinema history"? Or did the inability of participants to agree on a handful of special effects blockbusters and nostalgia-trips and Movie Brat New Klassics for Tough Guys and Kids result in a couple of genres blanketing of the list?

But even as a favorites list, the results are even more tasteless, bland, and depressing than the AFI list.

Jonathan Lapper said...


I guess I should have stuck to the word "surprise" instead of "twist" for Shawshank. I think to the new viewer it is definitely a surprise (SPOILER) to find out that Robbins has spent twenty years tunnelling his way out with a three inch hammer.

My problem with "surprise" or "twist" endings is when they have nothing surrounding them worthwhile. One could say Citizen Kane has a twist ending but if you can watch that film and honestly believe that the identity of Rosebud matters one iota to the story then you're watching a different film than I am. Rosebud could have been a paper dragon he made as a kid for all the story cares. Welles and Mankiewicz often spoke of it as simply a red herring to get the story going and were always amused at the meaning read into it at the end. The whole point was that it was meaningless and while everyone was desparately trying to figure out what it was they unknowingly examined his whole life, not seeing the forest for the trees.

Also, I like Die Hard and did not mean to offend by using it as my example, I just don't think it's one of the greatest of all time.

As for age, I don't think it matters as to what you see but how you see it. By eighteen I had probably already seen every French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realist film available as I consumed films like most people eat peanuts. Looking back though, I'm not sure how much I appreciated them. I know it sounds cliched, but as I get older and have had children of my own I have gained a much closer connection with films that dig deeper and deal with connections between characters and emotional dilemnas. So when I watched certain movies at a young age they had nowhere near the meaning they have for me now. And vice versa with a technically superb exercise that now leaves me cold. Two excellent examples of this for me would be Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons. I think both are masterpieces but I preferred Kane earlier in life and now feel Ambersons is the more mature work, with a much stronger emotional connection to its characters.

I have been busy lately rewatching scores of films I haven't seen since I was a teenager and it's been an eye-opener. Films I thought were overrated I can now fully understand where all the praise is coming from. Others I thought were fantastic I now see and feel underwhelmed. And so on.

And by the way, I agree with your comment about Knowles as "hipster nerd posturing". It's just a different side of the "mainstream" coin.


stennie said...

I'm glad I'm not alone in my utter bewilderment as to what people find so wonderful about Shawshank Redemption. It is no better than mediocre, in my opinion.

The Shamus (formerly TLRHB) said...

Dave Kehr pointed out the numbers recently from the TCM database and they bear repeating:

"Of the 144,366 titles listed in the database, only 5,257 are available on home video."

That is why this list skews so young and doesn't seem to have the broad reach that older cinephiles would prefer. DVD is, in fact, worse than VHS, and many movies that were available in the tape format are no longer available, especially foreign films. DVD is now just an excuse for the studios to repackage Die Hard in 55 configurations, while great, historically rich movies remain crumbling away in the vaults.

As for the Shawshank Redemption's high ranking, I have one word for you, Benjamin: TBS.

cinebeats said...

I've been involved in a sometimes heated discussion about this list over at fellow blogger and indy filmmaker Neil's Bleeding Tree blog and I'll share some of my thoughts which I posted over there.

I do want to stress that my comments are not meant as a personal attack on anyone who contributed because it's a fine idea, but the final results seemed to represent a very small part of the online film community that I happen to know.

The reason I enjoy communicating with other film buffs online is because I meet people from all corners of the globe, from all age groups, of both sexes and of various sexual persuasions with different educations and backgrounds. It's painfully obvious that most of the contributors to this "Online Community List" were probably straight white American males under 30 (maybe under 35?) who've probably never seen an Antonioni or Bergman film. That's not a bad thing at all, but it is what it is.

Just as there were critics of the recent AFI list, I think there is nothing wrong with looking at this "Online Film Community" list with the same critical eye. I believe that a better list could have been compiled if a larger and more diverse selection of people contributed, but I'm sure there would be a lot of work in putting something like that together.

AFI's list is superior to the "Online Community List" in my opinion only because it focused solely on American films, but I still really disliked it.

With that said, I do think film buffs as well as film students are changing. Attention spans are shrinking. Conservative values are increasingly creeping into every aspect of our culture. 10-15 years ago it would have been unheard of for anyone I know to call themselves a "film buff" much less a film student if they hadn't seen a least a few films by directors like Godard, Kurosawa, Ozu, Bergman, Antonioni, etc. but the internet is changing all of that. Anyone with a computer and a Netfix account is suddenly a film critic and film students now seem to hold George Lucas in higher regard than Kurosawa. And for the record, I'm pretty sure Lucas would laugh at that himself.

I also find that the new generation of film buffs, students and critics seem to often delight in trying to tarnish the reputations of the "old guard." Many seem to think any movie made before 1970 is not worth watching and it's become normal for me to come across critics who think it's "daring" or "hip" to call someone like Welles an overrated hack. It's unimaginable to me to think of Welles as anything other than a genius once you understand his contributions to cinema and make time to seriously consider his work, but in 10 years from now I might be in the minority. On the bright side I think it's great that so many younger folks now have access to films that I could never dream of seeing when I was growing up in the video age. Computers and DVDs have given people access to an amazing array of films and our appreciation of foreign films has especially benefited from these changes. As time goes on I think this can only be a good thing and it will broaden the minds of all film buffs, critics and students alike. Sadly the list you posted doesn't reflect these changes which makes me wonder if I've got my head in the clouds...

I will say that I would find it personally impossible to come up with a list of 100 Favorite Films from every decade and every country myself. I might be able to follow in AFI's footsteps and put together a list of 100 Favorite American Films followed by a list of 100 Favorite Foreign Films and I'm debating that idea, but I've seen and love so many damn movies that creating lists of favorites really seems like an impossible task and I could never in a million years rank them. I know that whatever list I make I would be hating it the next day.

As for how The Shawshank Redemption keeps being mentioned on all these lists is totally and utterly beyond me. In my opinion it can't hold a candle to great prison dramas like Grand Illusion, Le Tro, Papillon, The Great Escape, King Rat, etc. I can only assume that anyone who adds The Shawshank Redemption to a list of favorite films hasn't seen any of the other movies I just mentioned.

Neil Sarver said...

As someone who has complained twice about the lack of diversity involved in this grouping... once before the final vote, which seemed to be dismissed as bitterness at not being included, I have to make note of how illustrative this series of comments is...

One person says "Well, I dismiss all of these recent popular movies, but I did/would have included this one." The next says, "Well I did/would have included that one, but certainly not that one...", etc.

I speak here as someone who has Groundhog Day in my Top 12 movies of all time. It is, in fact, the only movie from the last 25 years in my Top 12... probably in my Top 25, although I've frankly never gotten that far.

I also wish to add that I oddly have less problem with Die Hard than with, say, The Shawshank Redemption or The Usual Suspects. Why? Well, I could list movies that do what the latter two were attempting only better for a while, but my list of big Hollywood action movies I think is better all around than Die Hard would be pretty dang short.

Jonathan Lapper said...

I apologize for my serial commenting here but I can't stop myself.


I understand your frustration with the new film buffs but I don't think that appreciating Welles as a genius will be a minority opinion in ten years. When I first starting exploring film at the age of ten I did alot of reading because there was no Netflix, cable or internet and very few classic movies shown on the local station. I wrote about it recently on my site. Reading great critics and ideas and all manner of film books opened me up to all the great films out there. By the time the nineties rolled around I noticed many film students I would argue with had that same disregard for the greats that you speak of. I can't tell you how many nineteen year olds lectured me on how I had been duped by Citizen Kane and in their wisdom they could see that it really wasn't that impressive.

But here's the point. With no exceptions I can think of, not a one of them still feels that way. And now when I argue with a young film buff telling me that Ikiru is a bore and that The Incredibles took strong story telling in a new, cutting edge direction (no, I'm not making this up) I know that in ten years he's going to have a completely different view.

So take heart. The online film community is young by nature. Older film buffs and critics take a little longer to get online but the young community out there will mature just like everyone else. Once they see all the films that the world has to offer their hearts will change and the lists along with them.

Bob Turnbull said...

Not to pick on Giles, but answering this following quote from him kind of addresses most of my issues with the complaints about the list:

"I'm as guilty of putting Die Hard and The Silence Of The Lambs on my own list, but I like to think I redress the balance with Come & See, His Girl Friday, Sunrise and All That Heaven Allows."

The thing is Giles, I bet just about all of the submitters did something similar to you. They put down their action/sci-fi favourites like Die Hard and then redressed that with less obvious choices. But each person's less obvious choices were different and therefore in the total points fell short. So 10 guys put down Die Hard and a Godard film in their lists - but each Godard film is different (one chooses Breathless, another Contempt, still another Alphaville...). So no Godard in the final list, but there's Die Hard. Also, I expect most submitters indeed approached this as a list of their favourite movies, not what should be considered "The Best". If I were to attempt a Best 100 films, I couldn't possibly leave out Citizen Kane (its influence, etc.), but it wouldn't make my Favourite 100 (though I like it a great deal).

It's a factor of the methodology. Granted, cinebeats has a point about the diversity of the audience - it would've been interesting to see a wider slice of bloggers. But if you're going to make a list built on what is most common across a bunch of people's lists, you are going to get some standard results.

I'd love to see all 50 of the initial individual lists released (before they whittled it down to 502 and had people revote). I think the diversity would show up in the parts of the lists that weren't common across everybody else's. Just like in your list Giles (and a nifty one it is too).

By the way, I love the idea weigard had about the listmakers writing about the 10 films in their list least likely to be mentioned by others. That's where you'll find the gems.

Neil Sarver said...

"Once they see all the films that the world has to offer their hearts will change and the lists along with them."

Wow! That's quite a lofty achievement. Hard as I try, I never achieve it. First of all, those bastards keep offering even more movies... admittedly so many change my heart or even move me, but I soldier on.

weepingsam said...

10-15 years ago it would have been unheard of for anyone I know to call themselves a "film buff" much less a film student if they hadn't seen a least a few films by directors like Godard, Kurosawa, Ozu, Bergman, Antonioni, etc. but the internet is changing all of that.

You know, something like this is one of the things I found really strange in this list. 8-10 years ago I was hanging around AOL, mostly with a fairly stable bunch of people - 5-6 of them high school boys, plus 3-4 college kids and 10-12 adults who were split almost 50-50 between men and women, ranging from casual fans to professional critics... I mention this because the high school kids tended to be geeks in the making - they liked the usual stuff (Scorsese and Tarantino and Die Hard), but they were also into art films - Tarkovsky had a vogue; Malick; there were Herzog and Welles and Fellini fans, some of them picked up on Pasolini and Sternberg and Ophuls; some of them were into classic Hollywood....

This list is strange to me because it shows none of the signs of that kind of curiosity or range of interest. Even the AFI list is better: you can see different voting blocs pushing different films. I don't see that here, and I don't know what it means. And more than that, the connection to the past, and to ambitious, adventurous filmmaking - even to really cultish films, giallo or kung fu movies or torture porn or what have you - didn't turn up. It's an amazingly conservative list, by any standards - art films, cult films, any kind of special interest films, besides middle of the road, American action, sf, fantasy, horror, and the anointed classics, are just missing.

Maybe the reason this is so unsettling is that the online film community thinks it's cooler and weirder than the general public - our top 5? we think surely, something like, A Corner in Wheat, Hostel II, Slacker, Satantango and Ishtar. Everybody will be going, what? are they on drugs?... Instead we get Shawshank Redemption... I don't know if this means anything - maybe that the online film community is, these days, pretty much the general public.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Sorry Neil, I guess I should have worded that better. Obviously I was being metaphorical but my wording was poor. I simply meant once they see more of all the world has offered rather than the limited amount they have seen up to now. Although I'll keep trying my damnedest to see everything even if I know it's impossible.

And by the way, off topic, every time I see that poster for Crimson Cult along the sidebar I keep thinking Boris Karloff looks like a dead ringer for Jack Valenti in it.

Bob Turnbull said...

"art films, cult films, any kind of special interest films, besides middle of the road, American action, sf, fantasy, horror, and the anointed classics, are just missing."

If you scan the individual lists before the narrowing of the field to 502 films of the final vote, I would bet you would see solid representation of art, cult, giallo, etc. It's just that it's fractured so much across the vast number of films and genres that you just don't see enough commonality in choices to make that final voting list.

"maybe that the online film community is, these days, pretty much the general public."

I think that's reading far too much into the list which is a simple distillation of favourites. I mean this without a bit of elitism - the online film blogger (from what I've seen and read) is very far from the mainstream movie watchers. It's just that they tend to all have their own fields of preference and expertise.

Bob said...

Cinebeats re: you're now legendary "a few films by directors like Godard, Kurosawa, Ozu, Bergman, Antonioni, etc." comment -- I went to film school in the 1980s, and I'm here to tell you it was the same then, perhaps worse, though we did have the consolation that "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Fight Club" were temporally unavailable for these kind of lists.

It also didn't help that a certain number of the films we were being forcefed in the film studies classes (disliked mostly by the more production or even writing-orient students) actually were somewhat "challenging". I remember one very difficult afternoon with "L'Amour Fou" -- I think I was one of the few kids who stuck it through that one, and I'm still not sure why I did.

Of course, even among this crowd, there was an artsy group and a more populist group. I, being forever the wishy washy liberal, tried to straddle the divide. This is probably why, to this day, I've seen exactly two films each by Ozu and Antonioni -- though I'd have certainly seen more if I'd actually liked any of those four movies. said...

Johnathan -

You're right. Age and experience have a large impact on film viewing habits and interest to some degree, but not all. I think the list reflects the interests of mainstream American film viewers maybe even more than age? Who knows, but it screams "straight white American males under 30" to me.

Bob -

I don't know where you went to college, but I was in college in California during the 80s and we clearly had very different experiences. Since I was interested in film as art rather than film as populist entertainment at the time, I suppose my experiences would reflect that.

I do think I've said all I could possibly say on the topic at this point but it's nice to see that no one is biting anyone's head off... yet.

Piper said...


A great post and you're right about a lot of it.

I am guilty of some of the movies you have listed like Goodfellas and Silence Of The Lambs.

As days have gone by, I have become more and more disappointed with this list and the stigma attached to it. I was able to participate it and was honored to do so, but I am not a Fanboy nor below 30, so I don't appreciate being lumped into that category. I love that you brought up Cronenberg and DePalma. I included both on my original list and it's those films that I thought made things a bit more interesting.

It's funny, your own list doesn't feel very important or official, but when 50 people contribute, it means something more and you expect more out of it and when you see movies like Ghostbusters and American History X on that list, you can't help but be disappointed. And where the hell is All The President's Men?

giles edwards said...

Fair dos, Bob. I think I read the same reasoning this last week elsewhere as well. I guess simple maths is to probably blame than dodgy critical faculties.

What would be interesting would be to see a list complied by the same folk of the best-regardless-of-personal-attachment. A less subjective assessment of cold, hard quality. Sure, 75% of the list would be the extremely similar I guess but, for instance, I couldn't in all good conscience include Anthony Hickox's "Waxwork" in any such assessment, despite finding it one of the most enjoyable pictures this horror nerd has ever seen. then again, would that just lead to pack-mentality picks as well.

Film Communism, maybe that's the only way forward.

Heh, I didn't say I wasn't part of the problem, after all.

Regardless of all this damned healthy logic, it's still astonishing so many people would have had "American History X" on their 100 though. The rest I can kind of understand (any serious film scholar, though noting it's ultimetely quite lightweight spectacle, would be able to see that "The Matrix" must be a cinematic touchstone for the 25-and-under set that something like "The Killer" was for the (my) generation before, or "The Wild Bunch" for a generation or so previous to that). But is "American History X" -- well shot, powerful, but chest-thumpingly manipulative picture though it may be -- that well thought of?

cinephile: thanks, man. Nothing if not idiosyncratic, is what I suppose every list should be. Like I commented to Dennis on his list, I love the ones from which you can see an unabashed love of cinema in all its glorious forms (and some forms -- documentary, Latin-American cinema, queer, silent, short -- are woefully under-represented or ignored on my list).

Peter Nellhaus said...

What may also be interesting about the online film critics list is that while while Dave Kehr's TCM stats show how limited the available films are, there is still greater access with DVD to a huge variety of films from different eras and countries. Unfortunately not everyone is interested in taking advantage of this, so that at least in theory, a committed film scholar can see more films now than I could when I was dependent on the revival theaters of NYC in the 70s.

And thanks for the mention!

Anonymous said...

I said last month I was awaiting the result of this poll with horrified fascination & I think I was justified in saying that. Dennis, bless him, makes a brave stab at defending lists like these on the grounds that they spark memories & bring to the attention otherwise neglected titles. Fair enough except that there's nothing in that list that most film fans will not have discovered for themselves by the time they reach their mid-20's & that brings us back to the 'problem' of an online film community that is overwhelmingly dominated by kids who a) are more taken by style & technique rather than content, b) just haven't seen that many movies, and c) lack the patience, the maturity and most distressingly, the curiosity, to want to explore much that wasn't made in the last 30 years.

Now I'm sure this'll bring the usual furious denials from a few self-proclaimed teenagers & 20-somethings but it really won't alter my opinion since I've seen enough of these sites to gauge where most of these people are coming from.

I also think that although the net is often talked up as a wonderful way of meeting other people & listening to different viewpoints etc, I rather suspect that for many of these younger movie fans that is NOT what is going on. What IS happening is that they cling religiously to a handful of favorite sites - invariably shared with posters of similar age - & thus film discussion becomes an echo chamber in which everybody is talking about the same movies & you can practically set your watch by the fact that the following movies/directors will predominate - Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick, Raging Bull, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Scorsese, Spielberg, Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption. Oh sure, there's a few familiar exceptions - Seven Samurai, Vertigo - those movies/directors the kids have either been forced to watch at college or in film school, or about which they feel comfortable including because everybody else tells them they're great.

I'm not sure what the answer is to this. I wouldn't wish to deny them the right to their opinion so maybe the solution is to create other online film communities comprising older reviewers (those over the age of 40, say) as a corrective. If nothing else the lists provided by the respective camps would certainly make for interesting debate.

What bothers me most though is that I get the impression many of these young male (& whether straight or gay they seem to be mostly male) bloggers don't understand or have much regard for plot, story, theme or character. They regard a flashy style or a dazzling setpiece as more important than the totality of the work as a whole. The idea that the filmmakers job is to make us care about the characters on the screen seems almost, well, irrelevant to them. Almost as if 'Who cares about caring! Just gimme another unbroken 6-minute steadicam shot!' It's that kind of attitude. Classical Hollywood cinema seems boring to them & I must confess that I recognise that because I had something of the same attitude when I was a teenager (it wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I could look at Casablanca & see it for the great movie it truly is).

Anonymous said...

I just want to add one more observation to that final paragraph which is the extent to which younger film fans have completely swallowed the myth - and it IS a myth - that the 70's was The Golden Age of American Cinema. Look, the best decade(s) were the 30's, 40's & 50's (American cinema has been on a gently declining curve ever since then) but I genuinely wonder how many are interested in an era that to them doubtless seems inconceivably old.

Anonymous said...

this list is ample evidence as to why no one will ever take internet-based critics seriously.

Flickhead said...

After nine years of writing about film online, following two decades of publishing film fanzines, I was more than a little hurt when this organization passed me over in assembling the list.

Now that the list is out, I realize my great fortune. The list is the work of children and tourists.

My condolences to you, Dennis, for being linked with these netwits.

lucas mcnelly said...

As someone who submitted an initial list (although, little of it seemed to survive to the round of 502) but didn't get a chance to get a second vote in (out of town), I'll ask the question out-loud that maybe no one wants to:

Could it be that some of the 50 people involved lack the...let's say participate?

Is there maybe something at play where we asked some baseball fans to vote for MVP only to later discover they have no idea what SLG% represents?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

There’s so much to this discussion that I want to comment on, and I appreciate everyone’s contributions to it and the civility demonstrated so far, but I’m at work and I can’t take the time to really dig into it until later.

I would like to say, however, that I’m in agreement with whoever (Jonathan?) said that the movies we see as 20-year-olds will almost always look different to us when we’re 40 or 50, and I think that goes for pure entertainments like Die Hard as well as movies more consciously designed or intuitively expressed as art. Die Hard may retain certain pleasures over the years, but they’re less likely to deepen with age and experience. On the other hand, if Ikiru or Tokyo Story even seem like the same movie to me at 47 as they did when I was 18, then I’d venture to say the fault lies with me, and I probably should be stretching the envelope of my viewing habits.

I will confess unfamiliarity with a lot of the names of those who contributed to this forming of this list, so I can’t really comment on to what degree any or all of the list-makers are either lacking or are conversant with pre-‘70s films. But the end result does, as Lucas suggests, make me suspect that many of those who participated are in the early stages of their love/obsession with film. The difference between upstarts like them and older upstarts like me (us) is that (I) we never had the electronic means of disseminating (my)our thoughts, reviews and rants about the films we were just learning to appreciate, or our attention-seeking condemnations of sacred directorial cows. (Down with Welles! Bergman is a hack! Cimino is God!)* And I will further confess, after having recently unearthed a bunch of stuff from my parents’ attic that I wrote when I was a 19-year-old know-it-all film student, I thank God for having come of age when electric typewriters were king. As much as I yet have to learn and see even now, I’m glad I didn’t have the means to tell the world how little I thought of Aguirre, the Wrath of God or Nights of Cabiria or even Lawrence of Arabia at exactly the time when I was arrogant enough to think I had a far stronger grasp on the world of cinema than I actually did.

Would the list have benefited from the establishment of a stricter criterion? Or perhaps a cutoff date—a ten-year incubation rule that wouldn’t allow any films made after 1997? Who knows? I won’t rank on anyone who contributed to the list as it stands because I’m sure the submissions were made with sincerity, and yes, in some cases probably with more than a dash of the kind of arrogance I spoke of before.

But rather than a real sense of what the “online film community” really ranks as the “top’ or “best” or “favorite” 100 films, the list speaks most loudly to the urgent mission all of us—and, truly, some more than others—should be on to learn more and see more and respect more of the films that make up the history of the medium we all love, movies made before “the golden age of the 1970s.”

The list of movies I personally haven’t yet seen that belong in this category is pretty long, especially for someone of my age who claims some measure of expertise or insight or inordinate enthusiasm about the art of film. It’s why I recently suggested, in an e-mail to some like-minded friends, that I would be willing to submit yet another list: the 25 Movies I Haven’t Yet Seen That I Should Have Seen Already. If the 50 or so participants in the OFC 100 were to privately create such a list (only the most exhibitionistic need worry about publishing it), maybe we’d be heading ourselves in a more positive direction by moving to fill in the holes in our experience.

More later.

*These are exaggerated examples written for effect. I swear, I never said these things!!

Jonathan Lapper said...


You bring up an interesting problem that faces a large number of film buffs: The great films we've not seen. Most film buffs have the stomach to name "guilty pleasures" because everyone has bad movies they like but not as many want to admit to great ones they haven't seen yet. One of the few big names that did have the guts to name one was Jonathan Rosenbaum who admitted in an interview a couple of years ago that he had not yet seen "Fanny and Alexander." At first I thought, "He hasn't seen that yet?" Then I thought of some of the big ones I still haven't seen and it's embarrassing. I've been consuming movies voraciously for decades now and still have many BIG films I haven't seen and being acknowledged since childhood by everyone who knew me as a movie "expert" (whatever the hell that is) I'm too embarrassed to admit to many out loud. A couple though: Until two months ago I had not seen Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom". I finally saw it to make sure I didn't want to give it the top nod for 1960 in my Oscar picks (I did not). I'll name two foreign films I have not yet seen that are prickly in open discussion and I hope everyone here is open-minded enough to be kind and understanding: The Earrings of Madame de and (gulp)(my hands are trembling) Bob le flambeur. There I said it. Or rather, wrote it. I have Bob le flambeur so I'll see it very soon (so maybe that was kind of cheating) but Madame de I can't find anywhere and would love to see it. It's not on DVD as far as I know but I could be wrong.
Anyway, that was fun and kind of cathartic. Thanks Dennis.


giles edwards said...

"Madame De..." is available from Second Sight Films in the UK, Jonathan. Part of a sublime little Ophuls Collection.

I'd love to see that idea come tofruition. Talk about a list that would inspire altruism, fire passions and bridge gaps in viewing for legion.

Imagine the internets doing that!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Jonathan: I'll match your Bob le flambeur and The Earrings of Madame de... and raise you... Pierrot le Fou.

I have no excuse for not having seen the Melville film yet (though Army of Shadows is currently in my possession from the good folks at Netflix), and a friend of mine has said that he may be able to help me with my Ophuls problem. (Not sure how, but I await the news!)

As for Godard, the wait is nearly over. Pierrot le Fou may be coming to a theater near you very soon. The Nuart here in Los Angeles has it next week, just in time for my birthday. There is a tab on the Web site to click for playdates around the country.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks for the info, Giles. Seems our posts crossed in the ether. I meant to say I really enjoyed your post "Another 100 Pictures, Another Bundle of Specious Reasoning". The Empire fanboy syndrome is something that has driven me to distraction for a while now. I wrote about Total Film magazine's contribution a while back.

giles edwards said...

Thanks Dennis. And grand stuff -- it's something I guess the average UK cinephile has to wrestle with alongside Guy Ritchie pictures, a pitiful amount of rep houses and UK£11 theatre seats (I'm in a priviledged position for the latter, but from my relative fiscal comfort I suffer the former duo all the more feverishly).

bill said...

I read an article a couple of years ago that addressed this idea of embarrassing omissions, but regarding books. This was on Slate, I believe, and they asked a bunch of literary critics and writers what novels were they embarrassed to admit they'd never read. "Ulysses" and "Moby-Dick" were mentioned frequently. The article also referenced the source for the idea, which was a novel by David Lodge (can't think of the title) in which a group of similarly inclined individuals do the same thing, only as a kind of party game. The winner is a guy who admits to never having read "Hamlet".

Anyway, I don't know why, but I find this very entertaining to talk about, even though I could probably out-embarrass all of you. For instance, I have never seen (and I say this as someone who has seen at least some films by Rossellini, Mizoguchi, Keaton, etc.) "Metropolis". Or "The 400 Blows". Or "Tokyo Story".

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Giles, I will defer to your assessment about the lack of revival houses in the UK. But I must say that both times my wife and I visited London and the surrounding area (this 13 and 11 years ago) we were impressed by how much revival cinema there was available. The night we arrived in London the second time, we saw The Rules of the Game in a tiny little cinema just off Piccadilly Circus, the first time I'd ever seen it in anything other than 16mm!

Bob said...

Cinebeats --

Oddly enough, I too attended college in California during the 1980s. It was UCLA. I'd say that the real overt cineastes, however, tended to be the film studies grad students, and I was an undergrad. I was more interested in making/writing films than writing about them, but I'd also been an English major and was therefore pretty comfortable with analysis -- though not the type of Marxist-derived quasi-semi-semotics that was then in vogue amongst our critical studies TAs. Most of my friends, however, were out and out hostile to even having to take these classes.

The exceptions to this, interestingly enough, turned out to be among the better known of my classmates.

Jonathan Lapper said...


Concerning "Madame de", thanks very much for the info but Amazon only shows "Non-USA format" PAL region 2 DVD's and netflix doesn't have it at all, at least not here in the states so I guess for now I'm out of luck. Does anyone know if I can still get a "Non-USA format" PAL region 2 to play here through some gerryrigging? If I can I'll go ahead and order it.

Thanks again.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Not at all sure about the gerry-rigging, Jonathan, but DVD Beaver does offer this link to a whole slew of very inexpensive region-free players. It's where I got mine.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Ah yes, a region-free player.

Well I hope no one was competing for the "Duh Moment of the Year" Award because I think I just won it. I'm currently inserting my brain back into my head this very moment.

Thanks Dennis.

lucas mcnelly said...

ah, the region-free player. every time i nearly buy one, i discover that Criterion's about to release the film I've been waiting for. been pretty lucky with that so far

cinephile said...

Over at Jim Emerson's site a few months ago, I thought someone mentioned in a comments section that someone-- criterion?-- was releasing an ophuls box in the US this year, and that it would include Madame de...(which I also have not seen, but very much want to, as I love Letter from an Unknown Woman and Lola Montes). Was this pulled? Delayed? Anyway, I laughed at lucas's comment, because that's the exact reason I haven't gotten a region-free player yet, either (but I probably will sometime soon, because there's just too much good stuff out their in other formats).

As for "films I should have seen"-- I mentioned in dennis's earlier, lovely post about bergman and antonioni that Bergman remains a big blank spot for me-- I just added Wild Strawberries and Fanny and Alexander to my netflix queue. I've never seen Greed, or Monsieur Verdoux. And I've honestly never been able to get through Paris Belongs To Us, a film which always sounds cool in the description, but which I find much less engaging than Celine and Julie Go Boating. Oh, and I somehow missed the boat on Being John Malkovich and Donnie Darko, two films my students like a lot.

But I've seen The Band Wagon six or seven times, so that seems like a pleasant trade-off to me. (:

lucas mcnelly said...


is Paris Belongs to Us now available in the US? I've been looking for that for months

cinephile said...

Aha! Curiosity got the better of me after I posted, so I googled a bit and found this, from the criterion message board:

"Max Ophüls Box Set

Forgive me if this has been mentioned elsewhere but just in case it hasn't:

Kim Hendrickson wrote:
Apologies for the delay in response.
We will be releasing an Ophuls box in late 2007/early 2008. It will contain several films, including The Earring of Madame de... and Le Plaisir.
I hope that helps.
Thanks for your interest in Criterion.

Best regards,
Kim Hendrickson"

Hopefully, that plan hasn't changed! Oh, and please forgive the typo in my previous posting-- "their/there" always gets me late at night. (:

cinephile said...

Just saw your post. I don't know the film's status-- the copy I watched was from a college library, on VHS and kind of scratchy (which might be why it failed to engage me-- a better print almost always helps). I don't know when the school purchased it, or if it's still in print. Sorry I can't be more helpful!

Oh, and criterion also has a double-disc version of Breathless listed for october that looks loaded with all kinds of goodies, and a real upgrade on the fox lorber disc of a few years back.

lucas mcnelly said...

yeah, i just looked again. no such luck as of yet. damn.

Anthony said...

i think it lacks queer voices as well.

Brian said...

Having spent nearly ten years discussing films in various online fora, I had a feeling that a list like this would be the result of this project. Perhaps I shouldn't even jump into the conversation because I declined to participate, but honestly I don't think my entry would have made much of a dent in the results on its own. Any film that could have passed the "3-vote" threshold because of my additional placing of it, would probably not have been widely-seen enough to make the final 100, with such a large group of voters. I'd be curious to learn which of these titles had the fewest nominations in the first round.

In my experience, it's nigh impossible to create a consensus poll in which the results are full of interesting, off-the-beaten-path selections in the final results. Even the Sight and Sound poll, which every ten years combs the globe for the most cinema-literate critics and filmmakers, has for the past few decades had a relatively predictable top ten.

I think Bob Turnbull is right on in attributing this to vote-splitting. I don't blame the submitters of the lists themselves, as much as the mechanism for compiling the results. Perhaps if every voter (or nearly every voter) went into the project thinking of their choices not as the "best" or "favorite" films, but the "most criminally underexposed" films you might get a relatively interesting result. But even that is a pretty subjective criteria; from some perspectives, Heat or Leon could be called "underexposed" (I for one haven't seen them yet, unlike the other 98.)

The Cinema Fusion poll results are in many ways similar to the imdb's top 100 movies or the ymdb top 100. The latter site specifically asks for "favorites" and not "greats" which may explain why even Citizen Kane fails to crack the top 25.

The thing that was interesting about ymdb, especially when it was an active site, was not the big compiled list, but the ability to go in and see who was voting for your favorite obscure films, and see what else they were voting for that you might not have heard of. And perhaps get into conversations. It was fun.

Still, I paid enough attention to the compiled list to want to write a poll asking why users thought it was so dominated by recent films. I can now only find the French version, and I don't know French, but if you use google language tools you can get the basic gist of the question and all the answers except maybe the one with the second-most votes in the poll. Luckily that one was preserved in English in the comments on the side: "Modern people like modern films that express a modern zeitgeist".

Chris Stangl said...

The BFI R2 DVD PARIS NOUS APPARTIENT is very clean and beautiful, and includes a Rivette short. I'd only seen it in 16mm and on goopy-looking library Betamax; the DVD is essential, and frankly, given that they don't cost any more than R1 players, an all-region player is a lifesaver.

A lot of key European art cinema, seems obvious eventual Criterion fodder, but, uh, why wait? ALL those Tartan Bergmans could have been yours years before they ever got American spine numbers! To say nothing of those Russ Meyer discs...

Weigard said...

I'll see your Bob le flambeur and Pierrot le fou (I hope, someday) and raise you -- the online film community's #1 film! (I've never really been into mafia movies -- guess I should rectify that though, huh?).

I don't pretend to have a large background in film, although I feel like I've seen quite a few. But fully a quarter of the OFC's list I have not seen, and that's of a fairly populist list. I've seen a lot of older films, but I suppose like many moderate film nuts, I've never taken a systematic approach to increasing my film repertoire. And pretty much anything that looks a little imposing (odd- or dark-looking foreign films, David Lynch, etc.) I've tended to steer away from. So I've seen no Bergman, or Antonioni, or Besson. Another part of it, I suppose, is that I tend to watch things that my friends want to watch as well. Not that my friends all hate Bergman and such -- but in some cases they've seen them and aren't interested in another viewing, and would prefer to see something new. I guess what I'm trying to say is that even for someone who loves film, it often involves going out of your way to see a lot of older, classic films that aren't on the new releases shelf (or even getting a group of people to go out of their way at the same time).

Ah well, maybe I'll go put on Mulholland Dr. :)

Scream Queen said...

Reading all these comments (and, at least in part, rather snobbish rants), I kind of feel like I ended up on a forum of nostalgic old farts discussing a "100 best albums of all time" list which, to their endless dismay, does not feature "Exile on Main Street", "Pet Sounds" and "Sgt. Pepper" as the top three records ever made, 'cause, as we (over 40) all know, there hasn't been any decent pop music since the hey day of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Stones (which is not only a ridiculous notion but also a proof of utter ignorance). I mean, what did you folks expect from a "100 best" list (which, imho, is a fairly absurd enterprise to begin with)? Just another canonic roster of the usual suspects starting with "Citizen Kane" and "Battleship Potemkin" at the top and working its way down to, say, some rarely-seen Ozu or Bresson effort in the 100 spot? Nothing could be more boring, could it, not least because there already ARE hundreds of such lists out there, so why make another one?

Brian mentioned he would have liked to see a list of "off-the-beaten-path selections". Well, isn't that exactly what you got? Because who in their right mind would place a half-baked piece of kiddie fodder like "Star Wars" - which didn't do much for me when I was 12 and would probably bore me to tears today - in their top 20 (or top 200, for that matter)? Then again, in its own way, it was certainly just as influential as "Citizen Kane", a fact which would at least make it an "important" film by the standards applied around here.

Which brings me to the most crucial problem with an undertaking such as this. What the hell are the criteria? Historical significance? "Intellectual" content? "Deep" characterization? Oustanding achievements in style and technique?

For instance, "Citizen Kane" is, no doubt, a great movie, but it is a) a special effects film relying heavily on technical wizardry, b) directed in an unabashedly show-off style, and c) somewhat short in characterization (which is why I, like one of my predecessors on this board, always found it strangely uninvolving and, as for Welles, prefer "The Magnificent Ambersons" even in its truncated form). Don't all of the above criteria also apply to, say, "The Matrix" - which does raise a few philosophical questions, so it's not ALL style over content?

And why is style held in such disdain? (In literature, btw, it's exactly the other way round.) Why is something like "Die Hard" unworthy of being on a "best 100" list (I wouldn't have included it, mind you, although I do like it a lot)? Because it's an action picture, an exercise in style? Well, it certainly is no "Persona". It doesn't want to be that, either, and I doubt that McTiernan could make anything halfway Bergmanesque at all. Then again, Bergman certainly couldn't have shot a decent action picture (not that he would've wanted to, and I do know that Bergman is a silly example, but what the heck). So how could these two films possibly be compared, and why is one better than the other? After all, both of them are prime examples of their respective genres (now, you might say that Bergman is a genre in itself, but let's forget that for the sake of argument), with both directors in top form.

So what are the criteria? And why have so many „white American males under 30“ who, allegedly, make up the best part of the voting OFC, not seen, or been able to appreciate, all the masterpieces of the past? After all, most of them are readily available on DVD? Because they’re all just too stupid, spoiled by cheap, sugary Hollywood popcorn fare? (My God, you Americans do have an inferiority complex when it comes to art, don’t you? ;)) Couldn’t it be that a lot of so-called classics are hopelessly dated – which doesn’t mean they weren‘t fine at the time, but, quite naturally, haven’t aged that well – and, every so often, an ordeal to sit through? Or that some of the directors who were so „modern“ at the time (a term I came across a lot in Antonioni obits this past week) were merely à la mode in retrospect? Which doesn’t mean they don’t have their merits. Antonioni or, say, Godard have been highly influential and totally deserving of their reputations as forerunners and trail blazers, a lot of their stuff has been and is still being quoted, culled and copied by many a contemporary filmmaker, but does that make their films masterpieces, simply for their „revolutionary“ use of framing, editing techniques and narrative devices? (Geez, each and every run-of-the-mill Michael Bay disaster features some wild editing that would put any experimental filmmaker to shame, but does that make it a great example of cinematic art? I doubt it.) Isn’t a lot of the so-called auteur stuff from the late 50s up until the mid-70s barely watchable today, for all its pretension, ist holy seriousness, its hamfisted political and sociological sloganeering, its intellectual „depth“ which today rings less deep than hollow? In other words, can a work of art actually be seen and evaluated historically? Or aren’t we merely able to see it in its historical context, from a contemporary viewpoint, sometimes giving it a weight measured by its influence rather than ist actual artistic value? In short: shouldn’t a canon – and, let‘s face it, that’s what this is about – and the criteria by which it‘s being put together be reevaluated once in a while? Otherwise, it would be little more than a reactionary manifest to the eternal truth as chiselled in stone ca. 1976. And that can’t possibly be the answer, can it?

Peter Nellhaus said...

If you want to get really depressed, I just saw the new IMDb poll. On the top of the list to name the favorite Ingmar Bergman film at 46 percent is the admission of people that they have never seen a Bergman film.

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Lapper said...


That's not a bad idea. Compile a list of the best English-Language and then compile a separate list of the best non-English-Language and combine the two. That is to say if the number one English language film got 37 votes and the number one foreign language film got 36 votes then on the combined list they are numbers one and two. The Sight and Sound poll compiles a list by critics and a list by directors which I wrote about here:
Personally I think the Sight and Sound poll is still the best combining the popular (Casablanca, Godfather, etc.) with the artistic (Le Mepris, Pather Panchali).

By combining two separate lists the online community would probably produce much broader far reaching results.

Chris Stangl said...

scream queen -

i'm guessing those obits are referring to Antonioni as modernist because they identify his work as part of the modernist movement in art, culture and thought... not because he was "modern", as in "recent".

" Isn’t a lot of the so-called auteur stuff from the late 50s up until the mid-70s barely watchable today, for all its pretension, ist holy seriousness, its hamfisted political and sociological sloganeering, its intellectual „depth“ which today rings less deep than hollow?"

A: No ...? Care to name names? Because from my chair, it sounds like you're describing SHAWSHANK and AMISTAD and CRASH.

If this turns into a game of Snobs versus Slobs, I gladly take the side that cares enough about the subject of film to spend time knee-deep in its history, actually studying, reading, watching and thinking. Being willfully uneducated and refusing to explore and probe the field in which one is claiming some expertise, if that is what has happened with the OFC list, is not a unique perspective, it's not a virtue.

But my guess is that the math screwed / skewed the results.

a/p said...

For a list of this kind, where obviously they ended up with some embarrassing inclusions, one possible solution would have been to give people both positive negative votes. I.e. in the second round or in an added third round voters could chosen 10 or 20 films they *didn't* want to see on the final list.

Alternatively, they could have asked voters to indicate which of the final 502 films they'd actually seen, and instead of raw vote totals use the ratio of votes for each film to the number of voters who'd seen the film.

As a last alternative note that if you just throw out everything after 1990, you lose a couple of good things like Fargo and Pulp Fiction but you also lose almost 100% of the real dreck.

blaaagh said...

Well, Dennis, I must say it's good to see you get so fired up now and then! I, of course, am one of the "old farts," I guess, all things being relative, and I confess to being somewhat snobby about movies, but then I also liked SHAWSHANK when I first saw it quite a lot. I've always found these "Top 100" lists of anything pointless and enervating; years ago I remember refusing to renew a subscription to ROLLING STONE magazine because I was so tired of reading their endless top-100-so-and-sos, even when they begged and practically paid me to re-subscribe.

I seem to remember Pauline Kael saying something (maybe in that lecture I attended at UCLA), when asked about why younger people thought some flashy thing that came out last year was not only brilliant but One of the Greatest Films Ever Made, that they simply hadn't seen as many movies as you or I have. I don't mean to quote or misquote her, but that's the essence of what I remember her saying, and I liked its simple, don't-worry-about-it quality. I know you're talking about people who write about film online, but still...maybe this discussion will encourage some of them to watch more adventurously.

Campaspe said...

I have to admit that I read the list with utter dismay. That it skewed modern I could have dealt with, had it been more adventurous. This was uncomfortably close to the IMDB Top 500, which I cannot read without having to go lie down in a dark room with a cold cloth on my forehead. Then again, I would have enjoyed being asked to help compile it. Oh well. Still, the list is quite aggressively, almost cartoonishly young-man in its composition.

The poster who speculates that each critic listed action and canonical 70s choices, and then added a few quirkier choices, is probably spot on. The DVD dearth also must be a factor. Here's another problem: the death of the late-late show. Yes, yes, it is dreary to see movies bisected by commercials and scanned and panned. No one adores TCM more than I, but a hell of a lot of people don't get the channel. The ability to see a really old movie on your basic or basic-plus cable package is pretty much gone. And that is a shame. Sure, I saw some landmark movies on the Superstation's Academy Award Theatre. And then when I had the chance to see them on a big screen, I grabbed it. Who knows if I would have turned out to be a cinephile without years of discovering film history this way? The TV showings helped form my tastes. It's a damned shame that they don't exist anymore, crappy editing or no.

Holmes said...

Here's my solution: two lists.

One for pre-1970 movies, the other for post-1970 movies.

And I'm sorry but putting DIE HARD on a list of Greatest Films of All Time is a sad joke. It may be a "great action movie" but there are "great lesbian porn movies", too. So what? If you think the standards are vague, then try to imagine what a reasonable standard might be (hint: it won't be how hard it made you while you watched).

Drewbacca said...

Without reading ALL of the comments, I get an idea of the "fallout" mentioned in the title.

As the guy who helped develop the list and tally the votes, etc, I think the flaw in the list lies here:

We did not give any criteria as to what this list is supposed to be. We just said simply to the voters, "whatever you think should be on a Top 100 list, vote for it." That was our mistake; because after reading that sentence, some people put their list in for what they thought are the "best" films of all time (as the snobs on here pointed out, "400 Blows, Bicycle Thief, or even Bonnie and Clyde or McCabe and Mrs Miller) while others put the 100 movies they would want with them if stranded on a desert island. You see the dilemma there.

You have to understand that this was a fun experiment that got rushed through because we were excited about it and we didn't think of all the implications at the time.

If I were to go back and do it all over again, I would tell voters either A) vote for your top 100 FAVORITE films, or vote for the top 100 films you think are the BEST. Obviously those would be two very different lists.

As for not seeing everything. No, I hadn't seen everything on the nominees list of over 500 films and I bet none of the voters (or even anyone who has commented on this blog has either) have either. But I think we took a large enough sampling of people that it was close enough to accurately reflect the overall opinion of the films in question. maybe I'm totally wrong about that, but I thinki enough of us have seen The 400 Blows to make it higher on the list if we had had CRITERIA; but we didn't.

It's 3am and I must sleep now.

~Andrew James (Olson)

Anonymous said...

without reading everything and all comments from above I get the idea that most people do not mind what is being said in the first place but in the second place it really does matter what is being said. you know

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I hope you don't mind but now that you have a specific article on this subject I have copied my comment from your other entry and am putting it here.

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Die Hard is DEFINITELY the greatest movie of all time!