The Guardian, and the Top 7 Films of All Time (So Far)
To start with, here is a link to download a spreadsheet of The Guardian’s 175 best films (25 in each of seven genres).
Now, The Guardian took the top of each genre and made a Top 7 list. It looks like this:
1) Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
=2) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
=2) Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
4) Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1976)
5) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
6) Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
7) Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
I am appalled by this for many reasons. Having not seen Andrei Rublev or 2001, I can’t really judge, but the order of these is all messed up. Here’s how the remaining five should line up:
- Apocalypse Now
- Brief Encounter
- Annie Hall
How these people could claim that Chinatown is the best film that has ever been made, I do not know. I mean, it is a good film, sure. It does everything that needs to be done, and it does all those things well. What I would say is that it is solid, but I did not fall in love with it, not for a second. It was voted as the best Crime film – I am once again capitalising genre titles for clarity’s sake -above the likes of The Conversation, GoodFellas and Badlands, all of which I would rate as much better films than Chinatown.
It’s not just the order of these, but the films themselves. As representatives of the best of their genres, I feel that they are letting the side down. To begin with, I would barely count Sci-fi and Arthouse as being genres. If anyone can give me a definitive description of what Arthouse is as a genre, they win a prize. As for Sci-fi, I think of it as more of a backdrop against which a story can be told. I will always cite the case of Alien and Aliens as my case in point; these are both “science fiction”, but the former is clearly a horror film, while the latter is an action movie. Point made. I don’t want to go on about it, because I feel that that is all I’ve done this week.
I will go through the ‘genres’ and pick my Top 7 of all time, one from each genre, for two reasons. The first is that I am very self-indulgent, the second is that this is my blog, and I will do what I want.
Starting last Saturday with Romance, The Guardian chose David Lean’s Brief Encounter. This, I cannot argue with. It is one of very few Romance films that has ever gripped me, something that I put down to Noel Coward’s fantastic script, and is one of even fewer that seems believable. For those not in the know, it is a WWII-era forbidden-love story about a married woman and a married man, both happy in their respective nuptial bonds, but who happen to fall in love. It is extremely touching and I recommend it highly. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson are really great in the lead roles, and I put the film’s plausibility down to their superb performances. So, no qualms. On a side note, the list should have included Brokeback Mountain. A shocking exclusion.
Sunday, in The Observer, was Crime day. I can think of so many more worthy Crime films than Chinatown that it makes this list embarrassing. I am actually choosing two films; The Godfather parts I and II. I feel fine choosing both because they were grouped together in the Arthouse genre later on. I can sort of understand why these were put in Arthouse, but when a film concerns a mafioso family and its business interests so closely, I can only call it a Crime movie. And what a movie it is. Based on Mario Puzo’s book, the first film marks the start of an incredible seven years in movie-making for Francis Ford Coppola, as he followed it up with The Conversation, The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. I prefer Part II to Part I, but both are fantastic examples of how to make films. Long but not boring,smart but not too smart and artful with being pretentious, they straddle a fine line. The awesome performances from Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro, among many others, only help.
Comedy on Monday, and with it came Annie Hall‘s nomination was the best film of its kind. I like Annie Hall. I like it a lot. However, comedy films rely on laughs, and I don’t see Annie Hall as a laugh-out-loud movie. For me, there are three contenders; The Ladykillers, This is Spinal Tap and Naked Gun. I think, for its influence, This is Spinal Tap just about deserves it. I love all three movies, but they have problems. Naked Gun was the second of its kind, after Airplane!, and Ealing Studios made so many classic comedies that The Ladykillers struggles to stand out from their repertoire. It just came down to personal preference. This is Spinal Tap it is, then. Hilarious to this day. Perhaps even better acting from Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer than by Pacino, Brando and DeNiro in the two Godfather movies.
Tuesday brought Action to the fore, with which they combined war and western movies, perhaps just to stir the pot even more. As everyone knows, Apocalypse Now is the greatest film of all time anyway, and it topped this group. However, I’m taking it away from this genre, because I don’t really see it as a War movie. Set during and in the Vietnam War, yes, but not about war. It may be something of an obvious choice, but I think Die Hard is the best Action film ever made. Tons of action? Check. Witty one-liners? Check. Alan Rickman? Check. It may have spawned a fairly average franchise, but I can still get excited about the original. One of those films that is impossible to turn off if you happen to come across it on TV, even at 3am. A great movie. It does everything that action should; it’s fun, fast and exciting.
After Action came Arthouse, and this is where I’m putting Apocalypse Now, because it kind of is an Arthouse movie. It’s experimental and wild. It takes a couple of watches to get to know it, and it feels better once you do. I find it really difficult to talk about this film without gushing, because it is literally perfect. What I wills say is that it went massively over-budget, over-schedule and over-awesome, and became the best film in the world. Ever.
Next was Sci-fi. I already said that I don’t believe in Sci-fi as a genre, so this is kind of pointless. I’ll pick Star Wars. It could fit into any of about five different genres, but this one will do. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, then how are you managing to work the internet? This is the cornerstone of wholesome family entertainment, and deserves its place in cinema folklore, even if some snobs out there think it ruined cinema.
The last genre was Horror, for which Psycho was selected. I can get on board with this. I knew it was going to be chosen, so I was well prepared, and to be fair, it probably deserves it. I was slightly upset that Night of the Living Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street weren’t in there, but again, I can understand why not. I’ll stick with Psycho as the no.1. It does deserve it because it pretty much gave birth to modern horror films. It is still pretty scary, and has a wicked twist. If you don’t know the twist, go and watch Psycho now.
Now to arrange these into some sort of Top 7. I’ve never made a Top 7 before. It’s probably like a Top 5, but with two extra ones. Here goes.
- Apocalypse Now – this was an easy choice.
- Psycho – pretty damn good.
- The Godfather Parts I + II – classics.
- Die Hard – it still excites me like it did when I was 12.
- Star Wars – like Die Hard, it makes me feel like a kid again.
- Brief Encounter – one of very few films to get me really emotional.
- This is Spinal Tap – very funny and very influential.
This is very much a personal preference thing, and not a carefully considered, democratic, intellect-led selection like The Guardian’s was. And these really are not my seven favourite movies of all time. I hate lists. Who’s with me?