How Do You Pick A Top Ten?
I’ve been reading Sight & Sound since I was eleven years old, when it was still called the BFI Monthly. The academic film magazine has been enthusing/annoying cinemagoers with its mix of pretension and erudition for a very long time, and every ten years it conducts a poll of the world’s critics, programmers, academics and curators to find out the Ten Greatest Films of All Time. This poll has been going since 1952, and has become perhaps the most recognised poll of its kind in the world.
This year, I’ve been invited to take part in the 2012 poll. It’s a poisoned chalice – how on earth do you pick the top ten films of all time? One of my problems, looking back over the polls, is that the list became preserved in aspic for too long, with ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Casablanca’ and ‘Singing In The Rain’ stuck firmly near the top along with ‘L’Atalante’, ‘Tokyo Story’ and ‘Modern Times’. Many great films of the past are stepping stones in the development of cinema, and don’t necessarily deserve to stay in the top ten forever.
So instead of picking films the world considers ‘important’, I’ve picked a top ten that fulfil my main criteria, the first being; do they achieve their aim of being the best in their selected genre? Ie, if it’s a comedy, does it really make you laugh? As the selection hasn’t yet been published I’ll hold off with the full list, but I’d be interested in hearing top ten choices from others…