Sight And Sound’s 2012 list of best films ever is causing a stir. Like all such lists, the tastes of the contributors is subjective, and reactions range from sage nods of agreement to snorting derision. One thing that did strike several observers was the lack of any films beyond the 1960′s in the critics top ten – the latest is 1968′s 2001: A Space odyssey (at least it made it in!). The director’s choices at least included some films from the 1970′s, Hollywood’s second Golden Age.
This got us at Cinetropolis thinking. As new kids on the block in the film blogosphere, why not do our own top tens lists, of modern, unrecognised films? Below are my own personal knee jerk choices, limited to what is generally considered the mainstream, post 1970.
10. Get Carter (1971)
Mike Hodges’ Northern Noir is now as much a part of social history as grim thriller, the dark, satanic mills and mean back streets of its Newcastle and Tyneside locations swept away by the broom of progress. That it is so evocative is in no small part to its D.P, Wolfgang Suschitzky, celebrated in the August issue of Sight And Sound. A Viennese immigrant, then already in his sixties, he turned his photographers eye to a multitude of styles, including this, one of the greatest British films ever made (in my opinion).
9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Whenever a franchise film-maker embarks on that difficult, second entry in their series, they always, always, strive to emulate this, the greatest sequel ever made (sorry, champions of The Godfather PtII). Director Irvin Kershner and his talented writers and performers took George Lucas’ light as a feather premise and brought to it subtle nuance, deeper character interaction, drama and danger. Suddenly, the dark side didn’t seem so “far, far away”.
8. Goodfellas (1990)
The Godfather is more operatic in scope, and civilised. I’ve even seen it considered as an art house film. Goodfellas is mob life from the trenches, an explosive, giddy, dangerous, and, yes, initially glamourous look into the abyss, before the inevitable fall. Arguably Martin Scorsese’s greatest film. Dances With Wolves winning Best film over this? Fuggedaboutit!
7. Back To The Future (1985)
The best time travel concept, ever. And a very funny one, to boot. This film simply doesn’t put a foot wrong. perfectly judged writing, performances, and direction. It is both sizzlingly funny and thrillingly exciting, often at the same time.
6. Jaws (1975)
The birth of the blockbuster began here, so they say. But don’t you dare say this was the beginning of dumbing down cinema. Jaws is a smart, well judged thriller and character piece, made by a modern master on the cusp of a great career, and before a creeping sentimentalism would mar some of his later work.
5. Miller’s Crossing (1990)
The Coen Brothers take on the old Warner Brothers crime dramas of the ’30′s and ’40′s subverts the genre and twists it inside out, revelling in their labyrinthine plot and verbal gymnastics. Gorgeous looking, too.
4. Silent Running (1972)
If I can’t have 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ll have its little brother, please. A lovingly made parable about our fragile eco-system, Bruce Dern’s cracked astro-botanist and his robotic drones strive to keep Earth’s last forest alive in their space ships bio-dome. Made by Stanley Kubrick apprentice, and now cinema legend, Douglas Trumbull – his first feature as director.
3. Annie Hall (1977)
Woody Allen has never trumped this, his greatest film. This reflection on a lost love affair is touching, sublime, and revealing. It’s also incredibly funny, brilliantly breaches the fourth wall several times, and even switches to animation. Steven Spielberg called Lawrence of Arabia a “miracle of a film” – so is this.
2. Blade Runner (1982)
Completely misunderstood by critics on release, this is now considered a bone fide masterpiece. An arthouse treatise on what it means to be human, in a slick, sci-fi dystopian setting, often imitated, never bettered.
1. Memento (2000)
Christopher Nolan is, to me, the man of the hour. Some consider his films, like those of his perceived idol, Stanley Kubrick, to be cold. His style is certainly, at first glance, visually led. Although, as an English Literature graduate, he seeks to emulate “the narrative freedoms enjoyed by writers”. His films are structurally complex, but not complicated. Memento, his tricksy breakthrough, deals with time, perception, and memory, in arguably as complex a manner as Sight and Sounds new king of the hill, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). That publication’s Joseph Bevan states “Nolan’s cinema is driven by a need to entertain the frustrated innocent – the person who first loved movies, comics books and games in their youth – and to help them transcend the limitations of ordinary existence, of adulthood.” You can take that as a patronising pat on the head to Nolan’s champions, or a tacit endorsement of a gifted filmmaker’s ability to trust his audience to keep up.