One of the most popular sports among film buffs is compiling the definitive list of greatest hits, an activity that reveals rather more about a person than they might care to admit. For a critic itâ€™s like being asked how much you are paid. Peopleâ€™s eyes glaze over at your
brilliant and utterly obscure choices. They wince at your passionate case for "Withnail & I." And they are horrified that you havenâ€™t seen "Once Upon a Time in the West." Mostly they wonder how on earth you got the job.
That would be James Christopher in the London Times on "Halliwell’s Top 1000," hitting shelves June 13 (in the UK at least, no word on the US though you can order it online) â€” and that would be top 1000 films of all times, yes. As you may know, we loathe magazine stunt lists, but this hardly falls in that category. Compiled by John Walker, "Halliwell’s" is a smart, obsessive cinephile’s dream, ballsy enough to feel no need to include a movie made in the last twenty-five years in its top ten (unless you count "The Godfather Trilogy"’s final segment, but we don’t). The ten:
1. Tokyo Story
Japan, 1953, Yasujiro Ozu
2. La RÃ¨gle du Jeu
France, 1939, Jean Renoir
3. Lawrence of Arabia
GB, 1962, David Lean
5. The Seven Samurai
Japan, 1954, Akira Kurosawa
6. Citizen Kane
US, 1941, Orson Welles
7. Raging Bull
US, 1980, Martin Scorsese
US, 1958, Alfred Hitchcock
9. Some Like It Hot
US, 1959, Billy Wilder
Italy, 1963, Federico Fellini
Ozu! Ozu! â™¥! And kicking "Citizen Kane" down to sixth place when it’s been the boring, de facto answer for top film for ages. The only inclusion we find fault with is "Some Like It Hot," which we’ve never been that fond of, and which has become the kind of comedy version of "Citizen Kane," occupying undeservingly high spots on top tens and such because it’s a safe comedy title (and comedy is so much more subjective than drama).
As with all lists, "Halliwell’s" is clearly intended to spark debate. What we love is that by picking an undeniably excellent but fairly obscure Japanese film for number one, Walker has ensured the only people who’ll be interested in debating this list are twitchy, passionate film types. Because we wouldn’t want to hear from anyone else.
To confirm this, Walker himself has an article, also in the Times, in which he defends his choices, pointing out that:
Writing about criticsâ€™ reactions to the TV soap-opera "Crossroads," the 1970s epitome of wobbly sets and wobblier acting, an academic researcher claimed that it was wrong to take no account of the feelings of viewers. Apply that to the cinema and the greatest movie would probably be "Star Wars: Episode III â€” Revenge of the Sith," closely followed by "Titanic" and the other five "Star Wars" films (the original trilogy can be found at No 70).
This variance may result from most audiencesâ€™ limited experience of film. They go regularly from their teens, stop in their late twenties and tend to think that cinema begins and ends with their own immediate experience.
This is snobby, but lists are all about being snobby. What infuriates us about the group lists done by magazines are that they pander to ideas about what movies deserve spots on lists (without thinking about why) and also insert controversial choices just to get attention.
The Times has the top 100 according to Halliwell. For the record, the most recent five entries in the top 100 are "Toy Story" (#25), the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (#30), "Breaking the Waves" (#39), "Gosford Park" (#71) and "Fargo" (#88). The oldest in the entire list is 1915’s "Birth of a Nation" (#232).