Monday, October 18, 2010

Film Fan Introduction

The thing that bothers me about most “best of” movie lists is that almost none of what most of them consist of actually seems relevant to me, as if I’m just supposed to become familiar with a sort of bible for film fans. There’s just this understanding that all these old films that were popular or critically acclaimed (most of the time, it’s mostly popular, not that the compilers of these lists will admit it, unless they’re being really pretentious and following the even more alienating route of tracking international filmmakers, who mostly only really influence other filmmakers) must still be revered.

The sad truth is that filmmaking today is a lot more sophisticated than it was even as late as two decades ago. The worst hacks making a movie in 2010 are still technically superior to the work that was done even in some of the most acclaimed films on those lists. The acting, for instance, has changed a great deal. When Marlon Brando first appeared, he completely revolutionized his craft, by making it naturalistic, relatable. In the early days, most actors didn’t know there was any other form but what they’d practiced on the stage, which by its very nature cannot feel as intimate as what can be captured on film, which is an audience that sits right in front of the actor, not ten rows back, or in some faraway balcony. When Orson Welles first appeared, he completely revolutionized cinematography. He came from the stage, but he also understood the new possibilities cameras afforded him. I won’t say anything about silent or black and white films, because those remain legitimate artistic choices.

The point is, for some people, it isn’t enough to be told that something is great. If it doesn’t feel great decades after the fact, then to that specific film fan, it cannot and should not still be considered as great. Films aren’t books. This is the only way there’s a real difference. Authors have complete control over their works, and they have since the beginning. Filmmakers faced a steep learning curve, and they didn’t always learn quickly enough. This is not to say all old films really are crap, and that all new films are completely awesome, but to merely soften the blow when what you find in the list of 500 films that will follow, there are more newer than older films. This is to say, it should now be considered completely legitimate to place newer films near the top of such lists instead of older ones, because in some intrinsic sense, they really are being made better these days. Not that they couldn’t make them liked they used to, because there are truly great films in the great old past, but not as many as you were always led to believe. That much, my dear, is called nostalgia.

That being said, this list also admits that it is still very much a subjective one, because it is the work of a single individual working from only his experiences. These are strictly his opinions. While this is in fact the latest (and most extensive) list of its kind, from this single perspective, to date, there are still a great many films that haven’t been seen, whose absence may be attributed as much to disinterest as lack of viewing. The films on the list might be said to represent the best of what this perspective has been aware of in his time, since they are the films that have been viewed, that have warranted attention, at least from this perspective. There are always new films being added to this experience. Since this list only covers films seen through 6/20/2010, already there are plenty of films that have since been viewed but will not appear, simply because they missed the cut-off, even though some would technically surpass many of the films that follow.

In an effort to feature a comprehensive version of the list, attempts have been made to weigh films from different eras, starting from a simple ranking from individual years, and then comparisons based on those that proved themselves superior amongst their own contemporaries. Still, a lot of newer films crowd the early parts of the list, and a lot of older films crowd the later parts of the list. The last hundred has plenty of newer films, however, many from 2008, 2009, and 2010, though two from this year made it to the top hundred as well.

Enough prattling. You want to know what weird ideas I have about the best films ever made…

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