Sunday, August 05, 2012

Orson Welles' Citizen Kane is No Longer #1

Earlier this week a list was released which has the top 50 films of all time, according to the critics, and other film experts. For 50 years, Citizen Kane was number one, but now it has been replaced by the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, Vertigo. Every 10 years the list is generated by Sight and Sound magazine, starting back in 1952. The magazine also polled over 350 directors, asking them to rank their top 10 films of all time.

The critic's top 10 include:

1. Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock, 1958

2. Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, 1941

3. Tokyo Story, Ozu Yazujiro, 1953

4. La Regle du jeu, Jean Renoir, 1939

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, FW Murnau, 1927

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, 1968

7. The Searchers, John Ford, 1956

8. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1929

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Dreyer, 1927

10. 8 1/2, Federico Fellini, 1963

Some other notable films in the top 50:

14. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola, 1979

20. Singin' in the Rain, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1951

21. The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola, 1972

28. Mulholland Dr, David Lynch, 2001

31. The Godfather Part II, Francis Ford Coppola, 1974

31. (tied) Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese, 1976

35. Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

The list of the top 10 films chosen by directors contains many of the films also in the top 10 of the critic's poll, but I thought it was interesting to see #5 as Taxi Driver, #6 as Apocalypse Now and #7 as The Godfather. Many feel that the 1970s in America was a golden age of film with auteurs such as Scorsese, Kubrick, Woody Allen and Coppola leading the way. I have seen very few movies that were made previous to the late 1960s so my knowledge of the early days of the medium is limited. I have also seen very few foreign films. When I watch a film I like to watch the film for the directing style, the acting nuances and the set design. With foreign films, reading the subtitles makes it hard to do that. My list of top films would include some on the above lists, but also many others would be added. If Hitchcock's Vetigo and Psycho are on the list, why not Rear Window? Scorsese's Taxi Driver is amazing, and one of my top 10 no doubt, but I would also include him for Raging Bull, GoodFellas and Casino. Kubrick's 2001 is an achievement, but I preferred A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. If the Godfather 1 and 2 are on the list, I would include another violent film by another Italian-American filmmaker, Scarface, by Brian DePalma. The absence of Woody Allen films is a mistake in my book, and I would include Annie Hall and Manhattan. Allen's hero, Ingmar Bergman was on the critic's list at #17 for Persona. I was surprised to see David Lynch on the list at #28 for Mulholland Drive since I preferred Blue Velvet. I would have included James Dean's tour de force, Rebel without a Cause, which I feel is too often overlooked as a masterpiece of cinema.

But, alas, with any list there is controversy about what was included and what was omitted. I often wonder if critics feel pressure to like the art house or foreign films, so they can hold onto their credibility. If they do, then that is too bad since many of the more down-to-earth, less cerebral films are also enjoyable. Would a critic feel odd to include The Wizard of Oz or It's a Wonderful Life? They shouldn't, since those are outstanding works of art.

With the lists I notice how few of the entries are films made in the last 20 years. It seems like the film industry has often catered to the lowest common denominator, sticking with sequels, remakes and films based on comic book heroes simply because they attract a wide audience. That is a shame. For that reason, people owe it to themselves to check out independent films and documentaries. These are made due to the love of the media of film and the passion to tell a story, not out of the desire to break box office records. Attend local film festivals and make it a point to seek out these gems. We all "vote" with our wallets for what we want to see.


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