The Lure of Top Ten Lists

Learners and Instructors: a film yet to be made

Learners and Instructors: a film yet to be made

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love top ten lists. Of any sort. Bring up the subject in any group, any surroundings, and everyone has a view and an opinion. I’m sure there are a goodly number of the population all ready and set for Desert Island Discs in their dreams, and it’s interesting that we seem to be just as interested to hear the choices of others as we are to declare our own.

The Sunday Times though this week claims to have produced the ultimate film lists. We’re not just talking here the top ten movies of all time (actually they’ve come up with a top 100 online) or the most romantic or the funniest, but also more intriguingly the most baffling, the most boring, the ten greatest beginnings and the ten greatest endings. Narrowing it down in this way no bad idea; the main problem with the lists game for any genre is that 10 is never enough. So expanding the potential categories and introducing sub-categories is an excellent way to allow in all your favourites for one reason or another.

Of course, as soon as I saw the cover of the Culture magazine supplement, I tore it open to find the article and scan the lists as fast as possible to see what, if anything, I agreed with. The lists however had been devised following a “complex formula that would flummox even Will Hunting”. Accommodating the views of 10 critics on this basis pretty much guaranteed I would find little to agree with, but that didn’t lessen the appeal of the whole exercise for me. Whether I agreed or not, the fascinating questions prompted in my mind by the published selections were adequate recompense.

For example, I was intrigued that the critics had tossed the  work of the greatly admired Alain Resnais into both baffling and boring categories. The same work, actually.  Last Year In Marienbad is thus propelled to the top of my must-see list because I love French New Wave cinema and it would be nice to disagree with such serious critics.

I quite approved though of the Great Endings list. The shock final scenes of Fatal Attraction remain embedded in my mind, which is a shame because I would quite like to see that film again in blissful ignorance. Indeed, most films with superb shock endings are often unviewable second time around, victims of their own success.

I wondered if I was simply emotionally challenged when I read the Weepies list. I hadn’t sobbed watching any of critics’ choices. On the other hand, where was Carousel? And Goodbye, Mr Chips? And even more recently, Marley & Me?

It’s all a fascinating exercise and I’m sure the article will have entertained families and friends across the land over Sunday lunches. But I’d be amazed if a single reader agreed with even half the published lists. No matter. At least now I have a great excuse (as if I needed one) to watch a whole bundle of films I never knew existed.

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One response to The Lure of Top Ten Lists

  1. […] The Lure of Top Ten Lists (via Life and Art) Posted on 9 March, 2011 by Jarle Petterson I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love top ten lists. Of any sort. Bring up the subject in any group, any surroundings, and everyone has a view and an opinion. I’m sure there are a goodly number of the population all ready and set for Desert Island Discs in their dreams, and it’s interesting that we seem to be just as in … Read More […]

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