There’s something inherently and immediately enjoyable about lists. People are more inclined to spend the time to read a list with its easily digestible bites than they are an article with its in-depth eloquence and deliberate structure. While lists of the Top Ten Best This’s or Top Ten Worst That’s may have once been considered novelties or reserved for special occasions on websites in the past, internet lists are so often read that there are now entire websites dedicated to making lists. So, when Tyler asked the MTOL contributors if anyone wanted to tackle a Top Ten list inspired by his and Josh’s current stretch of minisodes, I jumped at the chance. But almost as soon as I agreed to write it, I began to wonder if I was capable of writing a worthwhile list.
Giving me pause was the implication that is carried on any list that boasts “Top” anything. Top implies a comprehensive knowledge of the subject being written about and when it comes to film, a subject so historically, culturally and artistically diverse, the task of writing a Top anything carries an additional implied weight of pretension (I’ve seen enough of a swath to make this claim) and expectation (it’ll probably contain many of the titles already deemed “classic”).
Well, despite having written about film for the past 8 years (the earliest 3 of which are best forgotten), my blind spots in regard to cinema are embarrassingly many. Many of the films you’d expect to see on a Top list I either haven’t seen (Vertigo, Casablanca, Seven Samurai) or haven’t seen recently or frequently enough to be able to write about them intelligently (The Godfather/II, Raging Bull, Chinatown). Likewise, the number of legendary directors whose prolific catalogs I have barely sampled (Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Truffaut, Ford) reads like a phonebook. Do you know what David Lean, John Cassavetes, John Huston, and Yasujiro Ozu all have in common? They all have catalogs of which I am wholly and ashamedly ignorant.
But in thinking more about it, I discovered a way that I could make a list a Top list in a way that was both honest to my experiences and allowed (theoretically) intelligent discourse. The Top Ten list I would make would not be a list of the ten films I consider the best in film history, but my ten favorite films.
“What’s the difference?” you may be asking, especially considering that, for most film critics, there is often a fair amount of overlap between the two. We need look no further than Tyler’s and Josh’s Top Ten Favorite Films list to see many titles that a lot of film critics would consider not only their favorites, but also the best. But while there’s already a fair amount of subjectivity when it comes to determining both the favorites and the best – Armond White considered Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance to be superior to Zero Dark Thirty – favorites take into account personal bias, idiosyncrasies and intangible factors like nostalgia that allows the writer to break free of the implied expectation and consensus that a Top Ten Best list carries and convey why they like what they like as a unique individual.
Yes, my Top Ten Favorite Films list contains some films that many others might consider some of the best for some of the same reasons, but some of them may furrow brows or illicit confused reactions. I love Pulp Fiction and Dog Day Afternoon just as much as the next guy, but on some days, they can feel like homework. Without exception from #10 through #1 each and every film speaks to me profoundly, consistently and, most importantly, personally. It took just as much thought, re-watching and revising to finalize this list as it would any Top Ten Best list and I’m just as confident in the final result as well.
Readers may not hold my favorites in the same esteem as I do – my #1 pick especially – but hopefully the films that I discuss lead to some revisiting, some discussion or some good old vindication. If nothing else, you’ll know a whole lot more about me and what makes me tick by the time the final entry has been written. God help you all.
To show you how eclectic my Top Ten Favorite Films will turn out to be, here is a list of some of the films that didn’t make the final cut:
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Man on Wire
- Last Year at Marienbad
- The Exorcist
- Y Tu Mama Tambien
- Reservoir Dogs