Shawshank Redeemed

Yet another Greatest Films of all time reduced to numbers list

I agree that the whole concept is kind of pointless

I was asked recently for my favourite film of the last couple of years as a part of a social networking intiative, so I took a look at IMDB just as a mnemonic. Wow that list was stupid. But understandably stupid in overvaluing recent popular middlebrow hits. A lot if other lists of this kind gravitate to “I am supposed to like it because it’s a classic even if I have not seen it” criteria.

However I think it is somewhat misplaced to criticize some of this outside of the context that most people do not have a ready made list. If you asked me this question today and 3 months from now, my answer would be wildly different just based on top of mind. Even people who you might expect to have somewhat prepared lists could be problematic. It strikes me as reductionist for serious critics to, well reduce film to numbers on a list and while obsessive film nerds certainly do this sort of thing, that doesn’t make it right. (or prevent Buckaroo Banzai from making the list)

On to the list itself. Plenty of quibble room, but probably only 10% real howlers. Many of the choices I would question can be explained if you are accounting for influence or precedence over pure art.

The English language bias is inevitable, particularly when you introduce the cumulative effect of averaging these 187 critics. The temporal context? I don’t know if the dissin’ by omission of post 1980 cinema (no Coen brothers?) is better or worse than the overrepresentation of pre-1935 films.

Anyhow I am sure that I could come up with another 50 films that are equally deserving. And there is always the question of representation. Billy Wilder was infinitely more talented and than Spike Lee and had a body of work that dwarfs Lee’s largely over-hyped pedestrian canon but The Apartment and Some Like it Hot don’t belong on this list and Do The Right Thing probably does.

Actually as a huge Wilder fan I find The Apartment nearly unwatchable but that is due to Shirley Maclaine. It does have a seminal performance by Lemmon as the light comedy everyman role (the Tom Hanks of his day for you kids) that is to me meaningful in the history of film. And about 30% of these choices seem to be about influence or film history or the development of the medium. And if that is the criteria than where is Mann’s Thief and The Matrix by the Wachowskksiwisisskki siblings of indeterminate gender which are almost Blade Runnerlike in their influence on my generation.

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