Anghus Houvouras in the Sight & Sound Top 100, Jeanne Dielman and the internet’s obsession with film rankings…
A few weeks ago, Sight and sound magazine has released its most recent list of top 100 movies. An honor given to cinematographic works once a decade, voted on by 1,169 filmmakers who were asked to rank their favorite films. Like any curated list, this could be a great reference for anyone interested in finding new work they may not have been exposed to and creating dialogue among moviegoers as they discuss great works of art. and filmmakers responsible for their existence.
But it’s the internet, so instead it becomes a huge point of contention and everyone loses their minds over which movies were or weren’t on the list and the associated ratings. Within an hour of release, I saw no less than a hundred different posts on Twitter with movie critics and columnists crying bloody murder over the placement of certain movies. The most striking being that of Chantal Akerman Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels in first place.
Like many of you, it was a movie I had never heard of. Its existence was a mystery until I saw Sight and sound ten-year list. And I think the natural instinct of any movie buff would be the curiosity and the need to explore and engage in an undiscovered work. Unfortunately, the movie lists bring out the worst in so-called cinephiles and things turn into arguments over placement and the hyperbolic demagogy of movie reviewers and fans alike.
The absolute emptiness of the “greatest #film“The lists have never been clearer when Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Moonlight and Get Out make the top 100, but not these. This is pure, shameless ideology, end of story. Disastrous for art.🤡#wake up #movies #filmhttps://t.co/WUBdc2RJpF pic.twitter.com/Xjy3JWWqFE
— japecake (@japecake) December 2, 2022
People who get hyperbolic about “best lists” that don’t include their favorite movie are both very revealing and embarrassing. Outbursts of overgrown kids throwing a tantrum, saying “Why isn’t the movie I like on this list” or “Why isn’t the movie I’m thinking of the top ?”, like this tweet from Head Twit Elon Musk reacting to New York Times critic AO Scott’s “Best of 2022” list:
Top Gun Maverick was great!
NYTimes is “fully awake”.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022
Where does this crippling sense of entitlement come from? Why do people look at a list of subjectively chosen artistic endeavors and get mad that a movie they liked didn’t make it? Is a critic who does not put Top Gun: Maverick on their “Best of” list owe the reader something other than their honest opinion? Of course not.
At some point, movie ratings and listings became less about starting a conversation and more about starting a flame war. This moment probably happened within ten minutes of the first Sight and sound list published in 1952. No doubt when the film community discovered the list by telegram or carrier pigeon, someone ran to their typewriter to pound the keys furiously to evacuate the tragedy of omission carried away by the wind and this classification The day begins above Birth of a nation was an affront that could never be forgiven.
For those obsessed with “Best of” lists; stop trying to make cinema a competitive sport. Forget the numbers next to those movies and explore the ones you haven’t directed yet. Train yourself in the quality cinema recommended by those who have spent their lives studying it as an art. No, you’re not expected to agree with all of the choices and there are definitely some movies you like that might not be included.
Of my ten favorite films of all time, only one made the Sight and sound Top 100 list. That’s not to say that my taste in movies is deficient, nor should my gut reaction be to start wondering why movies I personally like should make a list. It is simply a collection of diverse opinions that might help new people discover great art.
The internet has allowed hyperbolic moviegoers to amplify their anger to large audiences. But the sad reality is that sulking and sulking about any subjective list of artistic achievements will always be sound and fury, meaning nothing.