This summer, movie-lovers everywhere were buzzing about the fact that Citizen Kane had been dethroned by Vertigo as “The Greatest Film of All Time,” at least according to The 2012 Greatest Films Poll at Sight & Sound magazine.
Starting in 1952, the publication has contacted the most influential artists and critical voices in film, and polled them, once per decade, for their personal top ten list of movies. This year, I am pleased to report on two critics - one at Middlebury College and one at NER - who were asked to contribute ballots.
Both of these writers discovered novel ways to make their individual lists stand out from the pack with fresh and relevant picks. Middlebury College Professor of Film and Media Culture Christian Keathley submitted his choices, as did writer J.M. Tyree, a member of NER’s Editorial Panel and a Middlebury alum.
Keathley rounded up many of the usual suspects in terms of directors, like Bresson, Renoir, and Hitchcock. However, when it came to specific movies, he zeroed in on some unconventional choices. For instance, he opted for Ford’s little-known They Were Expendable instead of what many consider his magnum opus, The Searchers. Rather than cast a vote for Godard’s Breathless or Contempt, Keathley’s list gave the nod to the director’s arguably more complex and far less bombastic Vivre Sa Vie.
While works of humor were scarce on the collective Sight & Sound top fifty, Keathley paid tribute to a few works with a lighter touch, like Powell and Pressburger’s sparkling romance I Know Where I’m Going! and Sturges’s uproarious The Lady Eve. Fortunately so, because with three Tarkovsky films on the final fifty, I was beginning to wonder if critics can still laugh.
Tyree injected playfulness and variety into his list by limiting himself to one film from each decade from the 1920s to the 2000s, from Flaherty’s landmark Nanook of the North to Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home. His list also puts a firm emphasis on documentary, a genre too often overlooked in these kinds of ranked lists. Tyree also recognized that his movie picks reflect a common theme: “journeys of various kinds that connect the personal and the historical, the national and the global, with an increasing lack of triumphalism.”
Tyree’s balanced list also offers up some of the most poignant films of all time, including David Lean’s splendidly ordinary Brief Encounter and Ozu’s Tokyo Story, while not neglecting a fast-paced comedy-thriller like The Lady Vanishes.
In closing, I’d like to congratulate these respected critics in our midst, not only for the honor of being chosen, but also for submitting fun, stimulating lists! In light of their creative ballots, I will forgive them both for the colossal oversight of Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise. They only had ten slots, after all…
Be sure to read the critics’ full lists at Sight & Sound’s Greatest Films Poll website.
So, what movies are on your list? Leave a Comment with a few must-see titles…