Sunday, December 21, 2008

Need A Couple Thousand Films To Fill Your Christmas Break?

The last post reminded me that I wanted to talk more about lists. An exhaustive discussion will have to wait, but I want to mention two lists I really like.

Let me start by saying that most straight-up Top X Films lists are not that interesting to me if they don’t have a specific theme or some added personality. Oft-cited lists like the IMDB 250 and the AFI 100 Greatest American Films are so boring and stultifying that sometimes I fear they do more harm than good. If you’re going to make a list of best films with no modifiers or warnings about how these are personal “favorite,” you need to choose a number so high that you can cut past the obvious. You need a number like… 1000.

The top 1000 list I respect the most is the one compiled by They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, an organization that composites hundreds of other critic lists to try and find an objective (or at least critical consensus) of the best films ever made. The list is updated every December and the latest version was released just a few days ago. It involved a lot of new additions onto the list that give it a more accessible flair (like Toy Story and The Matrix), though not all of them are entirely welcome with me. And of course many masterpieces were bumped off the list and so I must bid fond farewell to El Topo, The Saragossa Manuscript, Blood Simple, The Tingler, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Baby Doll, Riff-Raff, The Remains of the Day, The Red and the White, Pixote and Irma Vep amongst others. Couldn’t we have spared some of the John Ford films instead?

Still, TSPDT is my favorite top 1000, due to its breadth and variety, and I recommend everyone take a look. As a bonus, it comes with a 250 quintessential noirs and a list of the top 250 21st century films. It’s often a bit obscure and stuffy, but it has introduced me to no end of great cinema I’d never have seen otherwise. It’s been my goal to eventually watch everything on the list (I’m at 844 currently), though it’s no easy task. Blogger Kevin Lee is also hard at work on the same agenda and last I knew (before this year’s update) he was at 941. An anonymous film magazine editor is apparently in the lead with 994.

The top 1000s by The Guardian and the authors/critics behind “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” offer more populist takes that are quite interesting and well-worthwhile in their own ways. I’m a little less into the US-centric New York Times 1000 (More than 75% of it is in the English language, which I find a little hard to justify). Halliwell’s provides the most conservative top 1000 and easily my least favorite (don’t expect any surprises or cult gems there). Former highbrow heavyweight Jonathan Rosenbaum also has his own personal 1000 Essential Films, the absolute hardest and most obscure in the bunch, which is a fascinating alternative to the status quo. I maintain my own evolving and fairly eccentric list of 1000 favorites as well, but it’s not ready for a general release quite yet.

The other list I wanted to mention is a bit more specific. It’s the Top 100 Animated Shorts as decided on by about 30 experts in the field at the 2006 Annecy Festival. It’s a remarkable list, far superior to Jerry Beck’s more limited and conventional “The 50 Greatest Cartoons”. If I’d have known about Annecy’s list when I was working on Poor Little Animated Shorts, I could have offered a better overview (I’d only seen 39/100 at the time). Fortunately, you can now torrent almost the complete compilation in one 10 GB batch, much of which is technically legal.


Mad Dog said...

I find it a little staggering that multiple top 1000 lists even exist.

FilmWalrus said...

I think this calls for a list of the top 1000 top 1000 lists! MWAH HA HA HA [is consumed by his own obsession and explodes].

Unknown said...

I am sad to see that list be bumped off (!!!), but will try to maintain happiness that we have seen them, especially those that were brought to our (...your) attention that way.

p.s The Tingler! I forget about this right away and then enjoy remembering it each time.