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Sight and Sound's 'Greatest Films' poll, 2022

  • 01-12-2022 8:23pm
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,084 CMod ✭✭✭✭

    Yes, it's just poll. Few carry quite the sense of occasion of Sight & Sound's once a decade critics poll though. Ten years ago the big news was that Vertigo dethroned Citizen Kane as the top choice after decades of Kane dominance.

    Neither tops the poll this time. The title has instead, in quite the delightful upset, gone to Chantel Akerman's experimental masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Truly one of the great films.

    The predictable trio follow (Vertigo, Kane, Tokyo Story), but there's some pleasant surprises in the top ten too - a modern film rounding out the top 5 (the transcendent In The Mood For Love), a very high place for Claire Denis' magnificent Beau Travail, and further modern representation with Mullholland Drive. In terms of very recent films, a few '10s (and even '20s, if you count international release dates) films made the top 100 - namely Portrait of a Lady on Fire (30), Moonlight (60), Parasite (90) and Get Out (99).

    It's just one list at the end of the day, but it's a big old undertaking. I remember going out of my way to watch a lot of the films highlighted in 2012 and discovered some of my favourite films in the process (Jeanne Dielman among them).

    Any thoughts on the list? It is obviously a much more arthouse list given the voter base (critics, curators, programmers etc...) but plenty of popular films alongside the more esoteric fare.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,210 ✭✭✭Decuc500

    I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of naming directors or films that are not listed but no Steven Spielberg films in a top 100 of all time? Really?

    It's a very modern version of the best films of all time list, driven by social politics, gender quotas etc so will look very different in ten years time.

    I'm not saying that this is a good or bad thing or that certain films don't deserve to be there but in the current cultural climate where a lot of the time art is valued, not based on its quality, but on what it's about or who created it, it's hard to take these things seriously.

    I much prefer the Directors top 100 list which is more in line with my tastes.

  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 11,011 Mod ✭✭✭✭Fysh

    I've been looking forward to this list for the last few months, as well as the individual voter top-10 lists - all too often they introduce me to films and/or directors I would otherwise not be aware of. (That doesn't mean I'll get around to watching them any time soon, but that's more of a Backlog of Shame issue 😅).

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Would have had Parasite far higher on the list.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,472 ✭✭✭flasher0030

    There is a lot of rubbish in that listing. I have seen a fair few of them, and only one out of the 100 would I rewatch - The Godfather. Films like Apocalypse Now have gained cult hero status. But really it is a bit of a snoozefest. I watched all 3 hours of it some years ago. Seemed like 6 hours.

    Had another scan there to see if anything else interesting on it. I missed Goodfellas from the list the first time. That would be a keeper.

    Must watch Citizen Kane and Vertigo some time. Have never seen them, and they always seem to be up at the top of these polls.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,084 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    In the very unlikely event there was a gender quota it doesn't seem to have been enforced because 11 films out of 100 is a tiny percentage of female-directed films :)

    Think it's fair to say both Akerman and Varda's work has been reappraised and revisited with renewed passion in the wake of their respective deaths in the years since the last poll (Varda did get to see some of that enthusiasm in her lifetime at least, thanks to the warm response to her final few films). Both made extraordinary films so it's very understandable they're only rising in esteem as the years go on. Add to that an expanded voter base and I think it's no surprise to see the ascension of Jeanne Dielman and Cleo... in particular.

    I've no doubt many participants went out of their way to include female-directed films, but with a mere two films in the last top 100 that was a long-overdue correction and I can't dispute the quality of any of those 11 films that did make the cut. Daughters of the Dust is the only one of those I haven't seen in its entirety, but that has benefited immensely from restoration and redistribution in the past ten years too.

    Of the modern films, Get Out is a minor surprise, but also not that much because it's been an enduring critical favourite since release - and it just barely made the top 100 too. The other modern films are all close to universally well-regarded so few surprises there. There's been some grumbling online at the very idea of recent films being represented (regardless of the film). Personally, I'm very in favour of it - what's the point in having a canon if it doesn't expand and change over time? A list can only be a snapshot of a moment in time, but this whole enterprise over the past few decades has been a constantly living, evolving thing. The vast, vast majority of the list is the same old films as 2012, but great to see new voices breaking through or familiar ones rising up the ranks.

    I think I've seen all but four or five films on the list and am keen to get around to the remaining ones over the next few weeks. But while I do of course have my own subjective nitpicks with the list (I'd have picked different Godards, for one!) there's not a film on it I've seen that I don't admire or appreciate in some significant way. The list as a whole, while obviously limited in inescapable ways, is a good entry point for anyone hoping to dive into the vastness of cinema history IMO.

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 35,941 CMod ✭✭✭✭pixelburp

    No Spielberg, or David Lean? Come on.

    I get there's a more international leaning with the poll but the fact Lean can't get a look in is a bit of a nonsense. The lack of Spielberg I'd put down to pure snobbery.

    I don't hate Get Out but ita presence is also an eyebrow curler - at least Parasite sits in the list, but nowhere near high enough.

    Edit: having just watched Night of the Hunter recently, I officially call shenanigans on this list. Totally overrated film to put it in the mid 20s. A curio for sure but not a Best Of.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,453 ✭✭✭SuperBowserWorld

    Saw a HD version of Vertigo on an OLED TV recently and it looked sublime. Also, a great movie. The first time I'd ever seen it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,210 ✭✭✭Decuc500

    I didn't really mean gender quota in the strict sense of having to nominate a certain amount of films based on the gender of the director, more like opening up the voting to include people who weren't part of the conversation in the past and also critics nominating more films directed by women than they have in the past, a popular way of thinking now.

  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 11,011 Mod ✭✭✭✭Fysh

    Personally I think johnny_ultimate's suggestion of treating the list as a sort of pulse-check of the moment is the best way to derive value from lists like this - they'll always have biases of some kind or another, so instead of trying to figure out a way of making them fit some sort of unbiased Objective Truth (a futile quest IMO in any artistic field), why not treat them as a barometer of current tastes?

    You don't have to agree with them by any means, but I would be interested in reading your thoughts on e.g. why you feel that the relatively-increased number of films directed by women in the list is driven by social politics rather than a re-assessment of the work. Are there particular films that made this list which you feel definitely do not deserve to be there on their own merits? (I haven't gone through it in detail yet - I prefer to read the list in print, for whatever reason I find it easier to take in that way...)

    I have found it quite interesting to read articles in Sight & Sound over the last few years describing how the early years of film production invoved a fair amount of contributions from women (similar to the later emergence of computing & cryptography, in that regard) only for them to be later crowded out by men once it became clear that the field had the potential for some careers with lucrative prospects (both financial and social, in terms of recognition at least). So in that regard my personal feeling is that it's not necessarily a bad thing for people to cast a wider net when selecting their top ten - but that's also, at least in part, because this happens to coincide with my biases/tastes in film...

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,084 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    I mean, it's a popular way of thinking for good reason! Opening up voting is surely only a good thing (contrary to some expectations, it ended up resulting in the most experimental poll topper to date). And of course critics are more aware of nominating films directed by women now - there were a mere two films directed by women in the last top 100, which is a wild under-representation even allowing for decades of male industry dominance. Several of the directors who are now featured higher have undergone natural reevaluation over the past decade regardless of wider cultural trends - whether due to death, career resurgence, or high-profile rereleases. But as you indicated yourself in an earlier post, the quality of the female-directed films is pretty uncontested - they're all very well-established critical favourites (other than Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a more recently established critical favourite) or extremely influential films. Again, we're talking a mere ~10% of a 100-film list here so it's hardly like there's been a massive, unbalanced overcorrection or anything.

    As far as I'm concerned expanding and diversifying the traditional cinema 'canon' is only a good thing. Look at the work Martin Scorsese and his team have been doing with the World Cinema Project - restoring and re-releasing scores of amazing films from all around the world, in particular countries whose cinematic output has traditionally been poorly represented on western cinema screens. Lists like the S&S one have faced criticism of being a bit stuffy and old-fashioned in the past - an expanded voting pool elevating a broader range of films is a good way of challenging that old order. And it's not exactly an entirely radical overhaul either - most of the films in the 2012 top 100 are still there. But the spectrum of 'great' films is ever-widening as more people dig into cinema history and more voices are elevating previously underseen works. It's fantastic to see IMO - albeit inevitably making a mere 100 film list a tiny sample size of the sheer variety of great cinema that's out there.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 13,505 ✭✭✭✭Mad_maxx

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,459 ✭✭✭Anesthetize

    Spielberg only really has one good film (Jaws). But still surprising.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,800 ✭✭✭Relikk

    The only issue I have with that list is with Mulholland Dr. at number 8. Just... Nah.

    Nice to see Sansho The Bailiff on there.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,327 ✭✭✭✭Arghus

    One good film? Well that's an edgy opinion.

    Ah heyor...

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,459 ✭✭✭Anesthetize

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,327 ✭✭✭✭Arghus

    I'd say that Raiders of The Lost Ark is unquestionably a great film, as is Schindler's List, as is E.T., as is Minority Report.

    Without going into exhaustive detail. I'll just speak about Raiders briefly. It's about as fine an example of blockbuster entertainment as you'll ever see, transcendently good. In terms of visual storytelling, it's absolutely peerless. It's equally outstanding in how to lay out exposition and in pacing. Its editing, cinematography, music... I could go on.

    And, those are just the ones - including Jaws - that I'd personally rate as masterpieces. Strong arguments can be made for Close Encounters, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Catch Me If You Can, A.I, Duel.

    To say Spielberg has one good film is ludicrous.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    You are confusing Stephen Spielberg with Michael Bay.

  • Registered Users Posts: 539 ✭✭✭cheese sandwich

    I’ve a reasonably wide interest in films beyond the usual multiplex megahits. Used to have a membership to the IFI, subscribe to MUBI etc etc

    I had never heard of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles before seeing the results of this poll 🫤

  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 11,011 Mod ✭✭✭✭Fysh

    I'm in the same boat, and pleased to see that I can give my BFI Player sub a bit of a workout as they are adding it (and some other films from the list).

    In saying that, I like it when a list like this can put me in the day's Lucky 10,000 - anything that has me saying "how have I never even heard of this film that made #1?!" is an opportunity to go and explore a gap in my film knowledge that I didn't even know was there :)