We Need A Collective Noun For Film Critics
‘An exit of film critics’? ‘A pretence of film critics’? ‘A sneer of film critics’? Judging by the latest poll of the best 100 films of the 21st century according to 177 film critics it should probably be ‘a wankfest of film critics’.
Film polls are notoriously subjective, of course, but dear God in Heaven, what a dismal collection this turns out to be. As someone who has (shamefully) seen every single film on the list but one (No.48 ‘A Goodbye to Language’ – Godard) it’s easy to spot what they all looked for in a film; a sense of alienation, an unbearable lead character, an obscure and glacial narrative, boredom, pointlessness, experimentation (a good thing, that last one).
How else to explain the presence of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, ‘The Tree of Life’, ‘The Master’, ’12 Years A Slave’, ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Boyhood’ (all of which I had to be restrained from walking out of) but no ‘Birdman’, ‘White God’, ‘Hannah Arendt’, ‘Nightcrawler’, ‘We Are What We Are’, ‘Philomela’, ‘The Artist’, ‘Victoria’, ‘In Bruges’, ‘Barbara’, ‘Tangerine’ or ‘The Revenant’? And ‘Inside Out’ over ‘Frozen’?
The list feels as outdated as the Tate Modern’s permanent collection, and includes films that have aged horribly, like ‘Lost In Translation’, with its offensive view of the Japanese.
In the No.1 spot, ‘Mulholland Drive’, a reasonably interesting bad dream of a movie from David Lynch with titillating lesbian scenes and a deliberately disjointed narrative, but hardly the best film of the century so far.
The problem is the homogeneity of critics is every bit as limiting as the consensual taste of, say, architects. The choice of arthouse over populism is to be expected, but to pick endless neorealist cameos over a set of epics as genuinely game-changing as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films is all a bit Corbynist.
If I have seen one alienated teenager standing in a field at sunset I’ve seen a thousand. What I’d never seen was a war between good and evil that melded passion, drama and effects on the scale of LOTR. The list exhibits a real terror of innovation. It’s shockingly safe and boring, constantly choosing naturalism over artifice. Time to forget critics and decide for ourselves. I would pick an alt. top 20 including all the films I mentioned for a start.
How about ‘A timidity of critics’?