TOP TEN FILMS 2012 POLL


Back in October, I concluded a series of entries on the iconic Sight & Sound Top Ten Films poll, undertaken every decade by the esteemed British film journal. I discussed the changing views of critics over the last sixty years (the first poll was published in 1952). I quibbled about the wrongheaded decision in the 2002 poll to allow The Godfather and The Godfather Part II to be considered a single work (That's just wrong!). I made some tentative predictions (mostly mistaken), and I examined many of the selections over the decades and explored how those choices reflected their times.

Film aficionados mostly were concerned if Citizen Kane, the number one film in 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002, would retain its position by fending off the hard-charging Vertigo, which had nearly toppled Kane from its lofty perch in 2002, or succumb to the Hitchcock classic or some other surprise contender. Well, in early August the news was leaked that Kane had, indeed, been supplanted by Hitchcock's Vertigo, a film that was considered a disappointment upon its release in 1958. I will focus on Vertigo in some future entry, but it suffices to say that the film has withstood all tests of time, seems as fresh and disturbing today as it must have upon release, and confirms to all viewers Hitchcock's position as a profoundly moral artist with extraordinary vision and skill. The Twentieth Century's Dostoevsky.

So, here is the new list. 1. Vertigo (Hitchcock 1958) 191 Votes 2. Citizen Kane (Welles 1941) 157 Votes 3. Tokyo Story (Ozu 1953) 107 Votes 4. Rules of the Game (Renoir 1939) 100 Votes 5. Sunrise (Murnau 1927) 93 Votes 6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick 1968) 90 Votes 7. The Searchers (Ford 1956) 78 Votes 8. Man With A Movie Camera (Vertov 1929) 68 Votes 9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer 1927) 65 Votes 10. 8 1/2 (Fellini 1963) 64 Votes What is extraordinary about this list is the dominance of Vertigo and Citizen Kane. The latter garnered 50 more votes than did Tokyo Story, the third-ranked entry. And Vertigo earned the support of 34 more voters than did Kane! They just blew the competition away. Back in late October I was concerned that there might no longer be a silent film on the list. Well, that was foolish! There are now three! Surprisingly, The Battleship Potemkin, a decades-long stalwart, wasn't one of them. I'm all for Sunrise and Joan of Arc as reasonable choices, but Man With A Movie Camera seems more like a selection about film history by scholars than it does a beloved and respected favorite to screen. My guess is that almost nobody outside of academic film classes has ever seen it, and even in those classes it's not exactly Friday night fare. I hoped that the two Godfathers would be rightly split, but I feared they wouldn't. My hope won, and The Godfather and The Godfather Part II finished at #21(tie) and #31(tie) respectively. Seven films on the 2002 list held their distinction as Top Ten worthy. Only The Battleship Potemkin, the two Godfathers, and Singin' in the Rain fell, the first to # 11 and the last to # 20. I thought Godard's Breathless might make it into the Top Ten this time, but it fell just short at # 13. And I thought it might be about time for a film made after the Seventies to make an appearance. I selected Raging Bull from 1980 because it receives so much critical praise (though it wouldn't be my choice). Instead, with the absence of the Godfathers, there is no longer a film from the Seventies, never mind the Eighties! I predicted that the sleeper film to keep an eye on was Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979). The highest films post 1969 are: 14. Apocalypse Now (Coppola 1979) 19. Mirror (Tarkovsky 1974) 21. The Godfather (Coppola 1972) (tie) 24. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai 2000) (tie) 28. Mulholland Drive (Lynch 2001) 29. Stalker (Tarkovsky 1979) (tie) 29. Shoah (Lanzmann 1985) (tie) 31. The Godfather Part II (Coppola 1974) (tie) 31. Taxi Driver (Scorsese 1976) (tie) 35. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman 1975) I was surprised that Raging Bull didn't make the Top 50 and that the superior Scorsese work Taxi Driver did. That a film from the year 2000 made it was a surprise. That Chinatown still didn't merit Top 50 status was a disappointment. When I get a copy of the issue I'll add more about the voting and the Directors' poll. Go back and read my September and October entries from 2011 for more context.