15 August 2012

sight & sound & fury part 1.

Every ten years, beginning in 1952, Sight and Sound magazine has conducted a poll of critics, programmers, academics, and other various pretentious fucks to come up with the best films of all time. The 2012 poll included an unprecedented 846 respondents, many of whom are apparently clinically insane, long-dead, or Jonathan Rosenbaum. To say that the results are infuriating is a little like saying Hitler was a poophead—but that, I suppose, is one of the primary goals of these kinds of lists: to generate fierce (if only occasionally homicidal) debate.

Much of the hullabaloo surrounding the 2012 list concerns the dethroning of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane from the number one slot, a position it had held, uninterrupted, since 1962. Prior to this year, the only other film to sit at the very top of the poll was Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves in 1952.

But now Orson Welles must relinquish his title—perhaps as reluctantly as he eased his grip on that half-empty bottle of Paul Masson during commercial tapings—to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. One fat man eclipsed by another. 


Below you will find the complete results from the Sight and Sound best film poll. I have placed my peevish commentary after the list so that you might entertain your own opinions for a few seconds until you receive the correct ones. 

1. Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock.
2. Citizen Kane (1941), Orson Welles.
3. Tokyo Story (1953), Yasujiro Ozu.
4. The Rules of the Game (1939), Jean Renoir.
5. Sunrise (1927), F.W. Murnau.*
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick.
7. The Searchers (1956), John Ford.
8. Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Dziga Vertov.
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927), Carl Theodor Dreyer.
10. (1963), Federico Fellini.
11. Battleship Potemkin (1925), Sergei Eisenstein.
12. L'Atlante (1934), Jean Vigo.*
13. Breathless (1960), Jean-Luc Godard.
14. Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola.
15. Late Spring (1949), Yasujiro Ozu.
16. Au hasard Balthazar (1966), Robert Bresson.
17. [tie] Seven Samurai (1954), Akira Kurosawa.
17. [tie] Persona (1966), Ingmar Bergman.
19. Mirror (1973), Andrei Tarkovsky.
20. Singin' in the Rain (1951), Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly.
21. [tie] L'avventura (1960), Michelangelo Antonioni.
21. [tie] Contempt (1963), Jean-Luc Godard.
21. [tie] The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola.
24. [tie] Ordet (1955), Carl Theodor Dreyer.
24. [tie] In the Mood for Love (2000), Wong Kar-Wai.
26. [tie] Rashomon (1950), Akira Kurosawa.
26. [tie] Andrei Rublev (1966), Andrei Tarkovsky.
28. Mulholland Dr. (2001), David Lynch.
29. [tie] Stalker (1979), Andrei Tarkovsky.
29. [tie] Shoah (1985), Claude Lanzmann.
31. [tie] The Godfather Part II (1974), Francis Ford Coppola.
31. [tie] Taxi Driver (1976), Martin Scorcese.
33. Bicycle Thieves (1948), Vittorio De Sica.
34. The General (1926), Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman.
35. [tie] Metropolis (1927), Fritz Lang.
35. [tie] Psycho (1960), Alfred Hitchcock.
35. [tie] Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Chantal Akerman.*
35. [tie] Satantango (1994), Bela Tarr.
39. [tie] The 400 Blows (1959), Francois Truffaut.
39. [tie] La Dolce Vita (1960), Federico Fellini.
41. Journey to Italy (1954), Roberto Rossellini.*
42. [tie] Pather Panchali (1955), Satyajit Ray.*
42. [tie] Some Like It Hot (1959), Billy Wilder.
42. [tie] Getrud (1964), Carl Theodor Dreyer.
42. [tie] Pierrot le fou (1965), Jean-Luc Godard.
42. [tie] Playtime (1967), Jacques Tati.
42. [tie] Close-Up (1990), Abbas Kiarostami.
48. [tie] The Battle of Algiers (1966), Gillo Pontecorvo.
48. [tie] Histoire(s) du Cinema (1998), Jean-Luc Godard.*
50. [tie] City Lights (1931), Charlie Chaplin.*
50. [tie] Ugetsu (1953), Mizoguchi Kenji.*
50. [tie] La Jetee (1962), Chris Marker.

The original list and other related bullshit can be found HERE at the British Film Institute website.

I have not seen the films followed by an asterisk (eight in total), so I am not qualified to comment on their validity—although I did watch the first hour (of four-and-a-half hours) of Histoire(s) du Cinema and wasn't exactly champing at the bit to get back to it. (And this is coming from a big Godard fan.) 

Meanwhile, I've never even heard of Pather Panchali—and at the risk of displaying my ethnocentrism, I probably would have been content living in ignorance.

Comments, Observations, and Tirades:

  • THREE TARKOVSKY FILMS? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I MEAN, SERIOUSLY. IS THIS SOME KIND OF PRACTICAL JOKE? WHO FUCKING VOTES FOR THIS BULLSHIT LIST ANYWAY? I'm picturing some wormy-looking fiftysomething guy with a van dyke beard who always wears a tweed sport coat and a clashing bow tie. He probably carries around a beaten-up tan leather satchel in which he keeps antibacterial wipes in case he has to go to the restroom anywhere but in the apartment where he lives with his schizophrenic brother and an appraised collection of Native American art. I especially want to single out the assholes who voted for Mirror. This message is for you: FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKHEADED FUCKERS!
  • I've seen all three Carl Theodor Dreyer films on the list, and—admittedly—The Passion of Joan of Arc is a masterpiece, but I recall absolutely nothing about Ordet and Gertrud other than that I saw them when they came out in the Criterion Collection. I actually remember Funny Farm with Chevy Chase in more detail than I remember these films.
  • There is only one Ingmar Bergman film on this list. Sure, I could be really immature about this and launch into another expletive-filled rant of no rational merit, but really what I want is for these people to look deep into depths of their souls, into that freshly-Windexed mirror called the human conscience. Are you perfectly okay with leaving Cries and Whispers off this list? How about The Seventh Seal? And Fanny and Alexander? If you can get a good night sleep with these sins of omission on your consciences, well, then... I guess you must be PURE EVIL.
  • I'm kind of impressed that the critics didn't cave into political correctness and include Do the Right Thing on the list. (It was number 51, wasn't it?)
  • Why don't people understand how torturously boring Seven Samurai is? Okay. So this town has to hire some samurai to protect it from ne'er-do-wells. I get it. But do we (the audience) have to sit through the plodding details of the recruitment of all seven of them? And then on top of that, we have to sit through a long and surprisingly unsuspenseful battle between the criminals and the samurai? Dude... this move is three-and-a-half hours! And you can pretty much guess everything that will happen in the first half hour. Akira—I love you, man. You made some top shelf films, like Throne of Blood, Ikiru, and Ran, but it's a shame that your career is almost synonymous with this tedious, narratively rote film.
  • I'll admit it. Vertigo is a very good film. I certainly don't harbor any ill-will for it, despite the fact that Jimmy Stewart is its leading man. But Vertigo isn't even my favorite Hitchcock film, let alone my favorite film of all time. 
  • Two Ozu films? I don't get it. Make me understand. I want to understand.
  • I think I've probably spouted off enough about Bela Tarr's Satantango, a seven-and-a-half hour film of epic nothingness, so I won't bore you by repeating my criticisms—that it's self-indulgent, pretentious, and a terminal case of the Emperor's New Clothes (spearheaded by the late Susan Sontag—that reliably naked Empress of High Art herself)—and I'll just leave you with the observation that people are craycray.
Tomorrow I will treat you to my authoritative list of the fifty best films of all-time (that I've seen anyway). Please don't hold your breath until then.


  1. This list is just absurd. I am officially dismissing it in the most contemptuous manner possible. Tokyo Story is good, but not THAT good (#3???) and there is no way it should be ranked higher than Rashomon or Ikiru... which is arguably the best of the three, and doesn't even appear on the list at all?!!

    As far as the non-Japanese entries, I don't see what makes Vertigo so special. It's good and all, but the all-time best movie ever? Not even close.
    Also, what makes Apocalypse Now so great? I just don't see it. Is it that it was relevant in its time? What are the criterion this list is going by? I am a little surprised by some of these other entries... Battleship Potempkin? It's an important event, Eisenstein is an important filmmaker.. but has anybody seen it? I have.. it looks like a bunch of stock footage picked up off the editing room floor and randomly spliced together... a bunch of flickering unsteady shots of people running around. Eisinstein made Alexander Nevsky, for Chrissakes, that film is way better. I guess I know why the respondants are anonymous.

    1. Potemkin is genius, you moron! I hope Eisenstein rises from the grave and throttles you with a length of celluloid.

      Sorry, sorry. I got caught up in David's excitement...

    2. What's genius about it?

    3. OMG! The step scene? Which has influenced filmmakers ever since? (At least according to Wikipedia, where I just looked -- leave me alone! Why do you have to challenge my assertions?) Look here, just imagine Ron Paul as the leader of the mutineers on the ship and you'll get it.

    4. As much as this pains me, I have to agree with Esteban. Battleship Potemkin is a really good film. I mean, I wouldn't put it in my top 50, but I don't fault the asswipes who participated in this poll for including it. I actually think it's kind of... fun. But despite the incredibly hammy acting, Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II are my favorite Eisenstein films.

      I don't even agree that Tokyo Story is good. Whenever I watch an Ozu film, I have this weird feeling that I'm watching a movie directed by a (mildly) retarded person. And I think to myself, 'You go, retard! You direct the hell out of this thing!' But then I realize it's just Ozu—and these are the kind of films Ozu makes.

      I do think that Apocalypse Now is a very good film—but certainly nowhere near 'top 50' level greatness. (Coppola's The Conversation is much better and nowhere on the list.) I do think the Vietnam angle helps a film like that.

    5. The Ivans are fantastic.

      I liked Tokyo Story. I found it touching and reserved and the camera work very, um, competent. As for the rest of Ozu's stuff (that I've seen)? Boring.

  2. Seven Samurai bores me, too.

    I haven't seen most of the films on this list; frankly, a lot of them stink of pretense, at least from where I'm standing (in Bruce Campbellville).

    Where's Jaws? And Dr. Strangelove?

    1. Have no fear. Dr. Strangelove will appear on my (corrective) list of the Top 50 films of all time.

      (Jaws will not.)

  3. I guess I don't understand why Legally Blonde isn't on this list. Such an under-appreciated film it is, and as the origin of the ever dependable "bend and snap" maneuver, I believe it deserves recognition.

    1. I am proud to say I've never seen it.

  4. Dammit, now I'm going to have to make my own list.

    1. Yes! Everyone post their own lists here! I command thee!

    2. Oops. That should be:

      'Everyone post his/her own lists here!'

    3. I can barely remember a movie long enough to recall it for list-making purposes. But if I did have a list (If I do have a list? If I were to have a list? If I had a list?), it would probably be skewed to more modern fare. Because I am an uncultured bohemian.

    4. Go ahead and skew away, Morais. As you can see my list skews more contemporary too. I have three films in my top 10 that have been made since 2000.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Horseshit. Where is Cries and Whispers? What about The Silence?

    1. She has arrived. And she is PISSED!

    2. I was so pissed I deleted my first comment because it didn't make sense.

  7. Meanwhile, I've never even heard of Pather Panchali—and at the risk of displaying my ethnocentrism, I probably would have been content living in ignorance.

    I keep reading this as Panther Patchouli. Never seen it, never heard of it.