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Top 100 2011: Results and Discussion


Anna J
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I've not said these aren't good films, what I've said is that the list is poorer (dumber) because of their presence on it.

If they're good films, as you say, then why is the list poorer or dumber for their inclusion? Because the films are more populist or accessible?

I must say, Stef, this line of criticism has the air of snobbery and elitism about it. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding you.

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I've not said these aren't good films, what I've said is that the list is poorer (dumber) because of their presence on it.

If they're good films, as you say, then why is the list poorer or dumber for their inclusion? Because the films are more populist or accessible?

No, it is because between two kids in an Advanced Algebra, one can get an A with a 98% and the other can get an A with 100%. The one with the 100% goes to Harvard. The one with the 98% goes to University of Peoria.

I must say, Stef, this line of criticism has the air of snobbery and elitism about it. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding you.

Oh, I doubt that. It must be serious snobbery to actually compare the films to past lists and have an opinion that differs, or to reflect on it further to find it is not a list that one admires. Wow, I'm such an elitist. And all that so far based only on a general feeling of a few of the few films I've noticed. Just wait until I get into specifics!

As far as the general feeling though, even you are elitist enough to admit that The Iron Giant should not be on such a list. To which I would argue that on a list of only a hundred films, one wrong movie is a big deal.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

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No, it is because between two kids in an Advanced Algebra, one can get an A with a 98% and the other can get an A with 100%. The one with the 100% goes to Harvard. The one with the 98% goes to University of Peoria.

The problem with this allusion is that the films in question aren't working on the same "assignments," or are even, necessarily, in the same "course." ;)

Wow, I'm such an elitist. And all that so far based only on a general feeling of a few of the few films I've noticed. Just wait until I get into specifics!

Your past comments have suggested that, somehow, including animation or family fare at all dumbs down the list. Unless you didn't intend those remarks to be taken that way, yes, it does smack of elitism, suggesting that only arthouse, difficult cinema can be considered to be the Worthiest Cinema.

To which I would argue that on a list of only a hundred films, one wrong movie is a big deal.

If the other 99 choices are great, I'd argue it's not.

Besides, it's not like our past lists didn't have some duds. 'Cause they did. And an arthouse dud is just as bad as a populist one. The only difference is that an arthouse dud is perceived to have some more prestige, but that perceived prestige is actually illusory.

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I don't know if I am interested in the discussion of "is animation film" but I would be interested in the discussion of removing it from the Top 100 voting process.

I'm with SDG. Horrible idea. I'm all for allowing short films back into the conversation (I think we made a mistake in excluding them), but I see no legitimate reason to exclude animated film.

I'm with SDG and Ryan.

Animation is a way of making a movie. Stills are a way of making a movie. (See "La Jetee.")

You might as well say electronica should be separate from real music when considering the great albums of the last decade, just because the sounds are made a different way.

And as time goes on, animation and "live-action" are becoming so intertwined that you can't label a film one or the other. (Case in point: Avatar.)

If the application of "animation" to "film" bothers you, try "cinema" or "movies."

All film is animation. It is one picture after another creating an illusion of motion. If we start segregating films by how the images are made, we'll drive ourselves nuts.

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Animation is a way of making a movie. Stills are a way of making a movie. (See "La Jetee.")

Strictly speaking, I could argue just stills is not a movie -- we've even got a good word for it (slideshow).

You might as well say electronica should be separate from real music when considering the great albums of the last decade, just because the sounds are made a different way.

Well, "real music" is a loaded term. But yes, this is what I was getting at in my analogy. An album is a cultural "text", and we can measure an electronica album against an acoustic album fairly. What we couldn't do would be to measure an acoustic performance vs. an electronic--well, whatever you'd call it--synthesized performance, I guess.

And as time goes on, animation and "live-action" are becoming so intertwined that you can't label a film one or the other. (Case in point: Avatar.)

Good point.

That's just how eye roll.

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So, I went to Netflix to see if I could Watch Instantly La Jetee (answer: yes ::w00t::), because I've never seen it and it sounds cool, and what do I see on the member review ranked "Most Helpful":

I first saw this as a high school student, back in the spring of '73. It made an impression on me then. It continues to make an impression on me now. And yes, it was indeed the inspiration for "The Twelve Monkeys". This is not a "movie" in the true sense of the word. I suppose you could call it a slide show. (emphasis added)

That's just how eye roll.

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I first saw this as a high school student, back in the spring of '73. It made an impression on me then. It continues to make an impression on me now. And yes, it was indeed the inspiration for "The Twelve Monkeys". This is not a "movie" in the true sense of the word. I suppose you could call it a slide show. (emphasis added)

:)

However, you can still call it cinema -- and honestly, scrupling at calling it a movie seems silly to me. Shall we scruple at calling Russian Ark a film because it was shot on digital video?

Language is full of anachronisms, and while nearly all movies have movement and it's kind of taken for granted, in calling them movies we don't think specifically of that. Phones don't have dials either, but only wiseacres make a big deal about it.

Andy Warhol made movies that consisted of a single shot with no movement. I'm not convinced that 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence can be a composition, but I'm pretty sure that a canvas that is all a solid color can be a painting, and a presentation that shapes a succession of images in time, or even a single image for a specified duration of time, can be called cinema, or film, or a movie, even if there is no illusion of movement. (I would draw the line at a literal slideshow, or a PowerPoint-lik e presentation where the screen advances when a presenter pushes a button.)

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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See, this is where I think the practical distinction I drew before is helpful, between art forms and cultural texts. IOW, you're absolutely right to draw the line at a literal slideshow, because we all understand that to be a different kind of cultural text. Meanwhile, we all understand La Jetee to be "a thing you watch in a cinema". FWIW, this is why my opinion is up in the air about short movies, because they are border-line a different kind of cultural text than feature-length movies, IMO.

You're right to say that language is full of anachronisms (like calling Toy Story a film, as Stef obliquely pointed out earlier). I don't have a problem with using the word "movie", "film", "cinema", whatever, or with having any of these examples on the Top 100. I'm just digging into my own justifications here. :)

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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Persona wrote:

: Maybe somewhere else you can teach me why animation = film . . .

Wow. Animation is film at its purest: images in motion. How can animation NOT be film?

David Smedberg wrote:

: Strictly speaking, I could argue just stills is not a movie -- we've even got a good word for it (slideshow).

Um, but slideshows don't zoom and pan and stuff.

SDG wrote:

: Shall we scruple at calling Russian Ark a film because it was shot on digital video?

In some contexts, I WOULD scruple at that. But not here, and certainly not in the long term, given that digital techniques are replacing film at every stage of production and distribution.

: Phones don't have dials either, but only wiseacres make a big deal about it.

Um, why would they? "Phone" means "sound", not "dial". And "telephone" means "sound over a long distance". The word still applies, no matter how the connections are made and no matter how the sounds are transmitted.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: Phones don't have dials either, but only wiseacres make a big deal about it.

Um, why would they?

It was a shorthand reference to "dial" language lingering in our vocabulary.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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No, it is because between two kids in an Advanced Algebra, one can get an A with a 98% and the other can get an A with 100%. The one with the 100% goes to Harvard. The one with the 98% goes to University of Peoria.

The problem with this allusion is that the films in question aren't working on the same "assignments," or are even, necessarily, in the same "course." ;)

The "course" is Top 100 Films, the question was why the list was poorer or dumber for certain films' inclusion. "Dumb" in my example might not be the best word... 98% is a pretty good score. But between the two candidates, I think we'd want the one that is the A+ 100% candidate.

Wow, I'm such an elitist. And all that so far based only on a general feeling of a few of the few films I've noticed. Just wait until I get into specifics!

Your past comments have suggested that, somehow, including animation or family fare at all dumbs down the list. Unless you didn't intend those remarks to be taken that way, yes, it does smack of elitism, suggesting that only arthouse, difficult cinema can be considered to be the Worthiest Cinema.

What is all this talk about arthouse? What IS arthouse? I haven't brought that up in this thread, and even if I'm a "film snob," which believe it or not I've been trying to get away from for a number of years, I've made no suggestion that only "arthouse, difficult" cinema belongs on the list. I've been disappointed that I didn't participate more in the nomination process this year, and that I shoulda woulda wanted a film like Citizen Kane, and it pains me after seeing yesterday that it isn't on the list. One COULD consider the fact that its absence from five or six of these lists we've had is "elistist" in its own way. I could see that, in fact I do. "100 Greatest Films? and no Citizen Kane?" It has been on countless lists like this before. Accusations of elitism are relative depending on where you are on the sliding elitist scale.

I did look through the top 100, and of the sixty-one I've seen I found five that I don't think should be on the list. I haven't counted the ones I haven't seen yet. But I think it is The Iron Giant, which I've seen with my kids a few times now, that is really driving the conversation from my end the most.

And I LIKE my kids watching The Iron Giant. Don't take this out of context. I am only thinking that this list is more disappointing with it there, because it is NOT one of the greatest films of all time, whether I'm anti-animation or not.

And as time goes on, animation and "live-action" are becoming so intertwined that you can't label a film one or the other. (Case in point: Avatar.)

That is definitely one that I was thinking of when I said I make certain allowances.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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David Smedberg wrote:

: Strictly speaking, I could argue just stills is not a movie -- we've even got a good word for it (slideshow).

Um, but slideshows don't zoom and pan and stuff.

Hahaha!

Wait, you were serious.:huh:

That's just how eye roll.

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And for the record, one of those five films I mentioned is what might be referred to as "arthouse." it is munyurnagnaboooohhowever you spell it.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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So is this suddenly the top 100 greatest films of all time? Because I thought it was a list of our top 100 favorites....

This was the whole reason I didn't participate in the last a year ago - if it's supposed to be a list of the top 100 greatest films then I am nowhere near qualified or knowledgeable enough to voice an opinion. But if it's our favorites, well, then I know enough to know that Iron Giant is one of the most pleasurable film-watching experiences I've ever had and I was delighted to see that enough of my colleagues here shared that experience to the extent that it ended up on our collective favorite 100 films list.

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The "course" is Top 100 Films, the question was why the list was why the list was poorer or dumber for certain films' inclusion. "Dumb" in my example might not be the best word... 98% is a pretty good score. But between the two candidates, I think we'd want the one that is the A+ 100% candidate.

A list is not a course. We didn't assign the curriculum, and the filmmakers weren't trying to please us. A list is an appreciation: an acknowledgment of merit and (perhaps more importantly) an index of enthusiasm. Relevant standards of merit between one kind of film and another differ so vastly that there is no sense even pretending to a level of mathematical precision or objectivity. How do you even begin to rank My Night at Maud's vs. Koyaanisqatsi? Nosferatu vs. Raiders of the Lost Ark? It's futile and rather silly.

The idea of assigning "grades" to films beyond a rather coarse level of granularity quickly becomes meaningless. Four stars or possibly five, with half stars, is about the limit of meaningfulness in my opinion, at least as an expression of one voter's opinion (a mathematical aggregate of many voters' opinions is of course another matter). No one can meaningfully rank all the films in the world, or even all the films he has seen, from 1 to infinity, nor can anyone meaningfully differentiate between a 98/100 film and a 100/100 film.

I'm thinking the idea of an objective 100 Best Films of All Time is a misleading ideal. Our list was never intended to be that. It started as a list of spiritually significant films because that's what our discussion was fundamentally all about. The list should still be a list that is about us, about our discussion here -- movies that excite us, move us, get us talking enthusiastically. (By "us" I mean that each of us should vote for the great films that excite him, not that he should try to adjust his preferences to the tastes of the rest of the community.)

"100 Greatest Films? and no Citizen Kane?" It has been on countless lists like this before.

Which is precisely why it's not urgent that we put it on our list. Citizen Kane doesn't need our endorsement, and we don't need it as a status symbol. If it's important to you, vote for it. Otherwise don't. Period.

I did look through the top 100, and of the sixty-one I've seen I found five that I don't think should be on the list. I haven't counted the ones I haven't seen yet. But I think it is The Iron Giant, which I've seen with my kids a few times now, that is really driving the conversation from my end the most.

And I LIKE my kids watching The Iron Giant. Don't take this out of context. I am only thinking that this list is more disappointing with it there, because it is NOT one of the greatest films of all time, whether I'm anti-animation or not.

I don't necessarily disagree about The Iron Giant in terms of my actual opinion of it. Many people feel it's one of the best American animated films ever made, and in the context of this board the Christological resonances are an obvious plus. For those who feel that way, its presence on the list is entirely warranted. I think it's good but not great, so I'd be just as happy to see something else in its place, but I'm certainly not upset by its presence. (If I had to give the heave-ho to The Iron Giant or Dogville, Dogville would go down like a blind old lady walking on marbles.)

So is this suddenly the top 100 greatest films of all time? Because I thought it was a list of our top 100 favorites....

Yeah, I think there's something important here that needs to be reemphasized.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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The "spirituality" aspect of the Top 100 is a given for any voter in this community, it has been a part of our history for a number of years and I didn't think I had to state it.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I haven't brought that up in this thread, and even if I'm a "film snob," which believe it or not I've been trying to get away from for a number of years, I've made no suggestion that only "arthouse, difficult" cinema belongs on the list.

Well, you have made suggestions that "family fare" and "animation" doesn't belong on the list, and that last year's list was largely superior for its absence. Given that last year's list was built up, largely, of "arthouse, difficult" cinema, I was making the leap.

But I think it is The Iron Giant, which I've seen with my kids a few times now, that is really driving the conversation from my end the most.

Well, as I've said, I really think that one doesn't belong. But I wouldn't write off all of animated film just because THE IRON GIANT doesn't cut it. SPIRITED AWAY, as I've said, I think does qualify.

But listen, I have more than a few films I'd kick off the list, given the chance: MAGNOLIA, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, THE MIRACLE MAKER, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, BLACK NARCISSUS, THE NEW WORLD, SUMMER HOURS, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, SCHINDLER'S LIST, and THE IRON GIANT. I don't think any of those films are All That. But the list doesn't belong to me, and my pleasure at seeing some remarkably brilliant films on this list--films not represented on other lists of this type--outweighs any sense of dissatisfaction I might have.

Edited by Ryan H.
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The "spirituality" in the Top 100 aspect is a given for any voter in this community, it has been a part of our history for a number of years and I didn't think I had to state it.

But another aspect that may need to be emphasized is, for lack of a better word, subjectivity. Or, if you like, particularity. This is our list. These are the movies that we as a community of individuals have chosen as movies that we are enthusiastic about, whether in terms of art, faith, whatever. It's okay not to include great films -- like Citizen Kane -- if we as voters don't feel strongly that they've been a big part of our individual cinematic journeys. We aren't trying to pick the top 100 most influential films, the top 100 critical consensus films, the top 100 films that everyone else will agree are a good list of films.

By way of clarification, I've argued that diversity or comprehensiveness in our list is a good thing, and that if we see that, say, there's a dearth of films reflecting, say, the black American experience, then that's something we ought to look to rectify. Let me say explicitly that this is not first and foremost for the sake of having a diverse list, or a respectable list, or whatever. It is for our sakes. The list is made for us, not us for the list. The dearth of films about the black American experience is not first and foremost a notable gap in our list; it is a notable gap in my cinematic travels, and one that I want to look at rectifying for my own sake. Then, when the diversity of the list improves, it will be because first of all I have improved.

(If I had to give the heave-ho to The Iron Giant or Dogville, Dogville would go down like a blind old lady walking on marbles.)

What if it was a blind old doll walking on marbles?

Give me some credit for being able to echo the spirit of a classic without resorting to sheer plagiarism.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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But listen, I have more than a few films I'd kick off the list, given the chance: MAGNOLIA, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, THE MIRACLE MAKER, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, BLACK NARCISSUS, THE NEW WORLD, SUMMER HOURS, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, SCHINDLER'S LIST, and THE IRON GIANT.

I agree on some of these, notably Black Narcissus, and I'm willing to listen on others (and there's one, Magnolia, that I've never seen, despite its status as one of the quasi-canonical 34). But A Man For All Seasons, The Miracle Maker, It's a Wonderful Life -- just stab me in the heart now and be done with it!

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Huh. A community of disparate individuals can't completely agree on a list of the one hundred best or most meaningful movies, and as a result there are differing opinions as to the merits of particular films. That's weird, wild stuff, as Carvey-as-Carson would say.

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Huh. A community of disparate individuals can't completely agree on a list of the one hundred best or most meaningful movies, and as a result there are differing opinions as to the merits of particular films. That's weird, wild stuff, as Carvey-as-Carson would say.

Just as long as we're disagreeing on the right question. :)

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Also, please brainstorm with me: What has our list never included, or underrepresented, that we ought to include? (I'm writing another substantial piece on the Top 100, for First Things.) I know we've talked about this before, but help me out and let's recap.

SDG, sorry I missed your post in all the hubbub.

I'm not as familiar with the lists pre-2010, but...

As far as I know we've never included any of the big Hollywood epics, including The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis. I'm sure there are more (El Cid?).

Prior to this year we had never included any Disney -- errrrrr, duhh, correction. Make that never including this year--Fantasia came in at 145 this year.

We've never included any movies made in Latin America or Oceania (somebody correct me if I am wrong).

Edited by David Smedberg

That's just how eye roll.

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