Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 100 of All Time, Revised



I've been enjoying the heck out of Tim Brayton's gradual roll-out of what he presently considers to be the 115 best films ever made, roughly timed to the 115th anniversary of those French workers exiting a factory before the witnessing eye of the Lumière Brothers' camera, and giving birth to cinema in the process. (That's a highly laundered and hyperbolic version of events for the purposes of ceremonial prose, but it'll do.) Tim's project also reminded me that I traditionally revise my own Best Films list every other New Year's Eve. I follow fewer rules than Tim does. For instance, I'm happy to include things I've seen as recently as the preceding calendar year, or films produced over the previous decade.

I was so distracted by other events and projects this year that I didn't remember to re-jigger my rankings until a week had passed. The same events and projects will remain my priorities for the next several months, but that makes a Top 100 countdown highly apropos as a way to keep the site quasi-lively. This time, following my edict to my own students to practice concision in their reviews, I'll supply 100-word tributes to each of my 100 titles—so, for the first time, those of you wondering how The Green Ray or The Joyless Street or Flesh found its way onto this roll-call will at least be made privy to a short, admiring murmur of context.

Eight films have dropped from the December 2008 version of this Top 100. Once I've reached the highest debut on the new list, I'll fess up about those jettisoned titles. But here's a preview: one of the debuts, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has until now been included in the perpetually stalled Favorites Countdown, the point of which is to provide an alternate list of personal pets that supplements this more "objective" list without overlapping. Happily, one of the drops from the Top 100, Todd Haynes's Velvet Goldmine, will easily swap its way onto the upper reaches of the Favorites list, given that it's such a delirious passion of mine and a heavy-rotation title in my DVD player. Stay tuned for a long time, when we evennnntually get back to that endeavor.

For now, the first two movies I have announced for the new Top 100 are, at #100, Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen's Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) and, at #99, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Feel free to leave comments below; I'm not making any promises about the speed or rhythm at which successive titles will be unveiled, but this will remain the hot spot for debate, suggestions, hosannas, or other comments. Starting today, on 1/11/11—or, as you prefer, 11.1.11—my Twitter feed will serve as the venue for announcing each film as I make my way back up to #1. Happy hundred, everybody!

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19 Comments:

Blogger Colin Low said...

Psyched! I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time last quarter since middle school (when I didn't get its ponderousness at all), and it vaulted straight into my all-time favorite movies. Oddly enough, learning to appreciate spaceships slow-dancing to the Blue Danube Waltz was one of the things that would annoy me about how reluctant Black Swan was to lavish more time on Swan Lake.

And we covered Mulvey briefly last quarter, and saw a short clip of Riddles, so my interest in seeing the whole caboodle is piqued.

12:33 AM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

This. Sounds. Awesome.

I have wondered before about the rationales for your 2008 list, and why such-and-such places so high or another relatively low. This is probably going to sound redundant over the next few weeks, but your first 100-word reviews have probably distilled their respective films (2001: A Space Odyssey being one of my top ten of all time) better than most other lengthy write-ups have accomplished.

The fact that you're planning to include my favorite film of the last ten years on this list is also great news. I can't wait to see where it ends up.

12:34 AM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Plus, what Robert said on Eternal Sunshine, though I figured that your top six from the '00s would muscle into this one when you revised it, as you are now. Still, awaiting all the great write-ups.

12:35 AM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger tim r said...

Psyched too! And as you know, I'm going to be rejigging mine simultaneously. I haven't decided how to roll it out yet, but maybe stills on the blog, like last time. 100 words on each is a great novelty though...

3:06 AM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger James T said...

You doing things like that is "a delirious passion of mine".

6:01 AM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger Tim said...

Oh man, this is going to be fun. I have every intention of lording it over everybody that I'm responsible for making it happen.

The list: I had no idea that Mulvey was actually a director. Must check that out ASAP.

9:41 AM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Colin: This is why I love teaching heterogeneous film courses instead of closely historical or thematically restricted ones - the idea that 2001 would give you a different way of thinking about the (aborted) possibilities of duration in Black Swan, etc. I love when an unexpected movie teaches me something about a seemingly dissimilar movie.

@Robert: As usual, you are way too kind! If I really had time to do my homework, I'd link to my favorite reviews and academic articles about the 100 movies. Maybe that's a goal for later, but for the time being, rest assured that I both appreciate the enthusiasm and am fully aware that these 100-word writeups are a pale, gimmicky stopgap where richer commentary ought to be. Still, it's a fun exercise for me, and weirdly challenging, so as ever, I'm glad to have such an eager audience.

@James: Same thing I said to Robert, really!

@Tim R: So looking forward to your new list. You picked such ace screenshots the last time you did this that I hope they figure in somewhere. Thanks for cuing me to take another look at The Shining!

@Tim B: Lord and lord away. You're setting quite a bar these days! Well, always, but including with this activity. Mulvey made a few interesting experimental narratives and experimental documentaries, mostly with her husband and fellow film-theoretical titan Peter Wollen. Riddles is by far my favorite, but they're all interesting. Did you know that she wrote "Visual Pleasure" here in Evanston, while Wollen was a guest prof at Northwestern, and no one could even find Mulvey a courtesy position? She told a group of us this over wine last year. In Evanston. Amazing.

10:29 AM, January 11, 2011  
Anonymous evanderholy said...

I can't tell you how excited I was to see this post today. I visit your Top 100 page with alarming frequency and have long used it as a "to see" list. I've seen almost all the films from your 2008 edition, however, "Riddles" still remains. That one has proved hard to find.

What's especially exciting is your forthcoming 100 word reviews. I've always wondered why some films I've never heard you talk about (like "Flesh") are among what you consider the best films ever made.

Your "2001" write up articulates almost exactly how I feel about the movie. I just recently re-watched it for the 3rd time and it's finally cracking my personal top 100. The cliché about Kubrick movies improving with repeat viewings has proven true with me.

This will be a really fun thing to look forward to. I'm very curious to see find out the remaining 7 new titles and 7 retired titles. I have my guesses, but we'll see.

1:10 PM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Though you've noted that it'll have to wait, I'd like to just let you know how eager I'd be to see your list of favorite reviews/articles on these movies. Unfortunate that Velvet Goldmine's left the list, but your article on that was the first time I managed to see something richer about that film's flamboyant pageantry. And over winter break, I read Lee Edelman's chapter on Laura, which convinced me of the nuances to Mark's and Laura's dangerous seduction by (and eventual disavowal of) Waldo. And I'm looking forward to reading Jameson's "Class and Allegory in Comtemporary Mass Culture", which you alluded to... Etc., etc., great criticism has taught me how great criticism can be, much as with movies.

4:08 PM, January 11, 2011  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

Just saw your writeup of Nostalghia. I'm almost certain that Andrei Rublev will again be the highest-ranking Tarkovsky on your list, and rightfully so, but are there any other works from him that you would consider "essential?"

2:03 AM, January 12, 2011  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

ingenious and 100 words is quite enough when the writer (i.e. you) is that gifted. So excited to see this fill out -- and to finally see reasonings for some of the ones I've been perplexed or surprised by.

8:34 AM, January 12, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@evanderholy: You're too kind, as usual! Riddles is hard to find. If you're near a university or even a public library with an Interlibrary Loan office, that might be the best way to go. Renting directly from Women Make Movies is prohibitively expensive, although we do love Women Make Movies. Find an institution with $$$, and demand that they pay WMM for a copy, and then watch it. Everybody wins!

@Colin: That Edelman chapter on Laura is a dream. As you'll note, I'm supplying reading recommendations where I can think of them, though that won't often be the case, since I haven't read around on all the movies I love. I'll be happy to take suggestions!

@Robert: I'm actually thrilled Nostalghia was my first, because the opening bit with the fertility statue and the final bit with the candle were so beautiful, they kind of greased the wheels for the other, chillier films; I might hav been scared off if I saw Mirror first, and I still have a hard time getting as excited about that one as I do about Solaris (a favorite) or even Stalker, though that one's a bit patience-testing. Andrei Rublev is in a class by its own, as far as I'm concerned. I've seen it three times, always in a cinema. Very lucky.

@Nathaniel: Mwah! But you know I often can't even write my own name in 100 words, so this is a good challenge for me. I'll be eager to know which films have been the surprises for you, once they come up.

11:52 AM, January 12, 2011  
Blogger badmofo said...

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxiously awaiting the appearance of Blade Runner on your list. I'm not sure I'd rank it higher than 2001 per se, but it's a film I feel was undeservedly snubbed on your last list given its lofty philosophical ambitions and ground-breaking production design. I mean, in all fairness, is it really less worthy than When Harry Met Sally...? If you need to re-examine this one I'd highly recommend watching the (2007?) Final Cut as it's much more streamlined and effective than the myriad other versions released before it. Just sayin'... :-)

10:15 AM, January 13, 2011  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@badmofo: Funny you should mention, given what just went up! I owe Blade Runner another look. I do admire the film a lot, and its degree of influence is obviously tremendous, though I don't get quite the substantive charge out of it that its biggest fans do (or that the filmmakers themselves seem to be getting), and there are some coherence problems that, to me, are only intensified by Scott's endless tinkering with his text. But, I'm not aiming to criticize. It's clearly quite a landmark, just not a personal pick for me.

4:46 PM, January 13, 2011  
Anonymous Boobedyboo said...

Come on Fargo! You can crack the Top 100 yet!

5:51 PM, January 13, 2011  
Blogger badmofo said...

@Nick -- What timing! And I must admit I do love When Harry Met Sally - just trying to make a case is all.

Your reaction to BR is totally understandable. It's not the easiest film to get into and it took me quite a few years before I fell for it but once I did I fell hard. Also, though I had my own reservations about the re-release based on principle alone I've found it does the film a great service (virtually all of the inconsistences are fixed, the characters are given more complexity and key back-stories are left open to interpretation). In other words: Scott's no Lucas.

Regardless of whether or not you come around to it, though, I'm sure your list will remain essential reading as always.

11:35 PM, January 13, 2011  
Blogger Glenn said...

Okay, having just seen Flesh - and instantly wanting to hail it as an all time favourite (so very, very good) - I am fascinated to hear what you've got to say.

11:38 PM, November 27, 2011  
Blogger Paul S said...

Hello Nick.
I came over in anticipation of reading an update to your "Top 100 of All Time" and now I've realised that I'm a year too early.
I really hope that when you do your next revision When Harry Met Sally can maintain a place somewhere. I watched it again over the recent Christmas holidays and I laughed and cried as much as ever.
For me it's a film that grows in stature with every year that passes.

11:40 AM, January 05, 2012  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Paul: I so dismally failed at writing all of these up when I started a year ago, that we're still in the same iteration of the list! When Harry Met Sally...'s not going anywhere. Glad to know it's still got so many other stalwart supporters out there.

2:10 AM, January 06, 2012  

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