The Sight and Sound poll was released after ten years of cultural, economic, global and political change and emerged virtually unchanged from the decades preceding it.

When it was finally announced that Vertigo had, at last, squeaked by Citizen Kane to become the most admired film among critics it reminded me of an old couple staring at their salt and pepper shakers for fifty years until finally deciding to move the pepper to the left of the salt.  Then they sat back down and stared at them again.

It is a terrifying thing, to age ten years.   To age and not change is even more terrifying. Great films should not cease being great because you’ve grown out of them. They should not cease being great because YOU’VE changed. Had the 846 critics and film scholars they polled this year picked a new film from the list to supplant Citizen Kane, rather than one that’s been kicking around for decades, it might have been more credible. But it’s hard to look at the top two films on that list and think, yeah, that was a justifiable change, moving Vertigo one place up over Kane.  Most looked at it and thought huh? That’s because if this is the only radical shift you’re talking about in the world of film it is not that radical at all; it is like moving the pepper to the left of the salt.

What really changed were the number of critics taking part in the poll.  A huge increase. The number of voters picking Kane is nearly twice as many as did ten years ago, and yet with the new influx of voters,  people went for Vertigo.  In 2002 Sight & Sound polled 145 film critics, writers and academics, and 108 film directors. This year, they expanded their input enormously, tapping 846 critics and 358 directors to submit their individual Top 10 lists.  It isn’t just the same people. It’s a lot more of them :

1952  #1 Bicycle Thieves (25 mentions) neither Kane nor Vertigo made their top ten.
1962: #1 Citizen Kane (22 mentions) followed closely by L’avventura (20 mentions) – not a landslide, Vertigo didn’t make the top ten.
1972: #1 Citizen Kane (32 mentions), followed by Rules of the Game (28 mentions). L’avventura drops to #5 with 12 mentions, Vertigo still not in their top ten.
1982: #1 Citizen Kane (45), followed again by Rules of the Game (31 mentions). Vertigo finally makes the list at #7, in a tie with L’avventura and The Magnificent Ambersons, each with 12 mentions. 12!
1992: #1 Citizen Kane (42 mentions), followed by Rules of the Game (32). L’avventura gone. Vertigo jumps to #4 with 18 mentions.
2002: #1 Citizen Kane (46 mentions), followed by Vertigo closing tightly in  at #2 with  41 mentions. L’avventura is still gone. Rules of the Game drops to #3 with 30. The Godfather movies – as one movie – take the #4 spot.
2012: #1 Vertigo (with a staggering 191 mentions) at last jumps over Citizen Kane which still gets 157 mentions.

So, to me what this list ultimately tells me looking back on its arbitrary placement of films is that it doesn’t reflect, necessarily, the quality of film. It reflects what is trendy among critics at a given point in time. That is the only possible conclusion one can reach by watching how tastes have gradually shifted over the past seventy years.

To understand the meaning of this list, you have to ask yourself the following questions:

1) Why wasn’t Citizen Kane recognized as the greatest film ever made in 1952? Why was The Bicycle Thieves, the previously top-ranked film, dropped?  At least one observer has suggested that the advent of Cahiers du Cinema created a sea change in critical thinking. To me, it is all about influence. If the critics say it’s so, it must be so.

2) Why did L’avventura drop off the top ten entirely after 1982? It just wasn’t popular enough? Its impact didn’t prove durable as “the shock of the new” wore off? How can opinions shift so dramatically?

3) What, if any, did adding hundreds more critics do to effect the poll? Did Citizen Kane just become too stale of a pick to be sexy anymore as number one? Will Vertigo suffer a backlash itself in ten years time? What causes these opinions to shift?

To answer one question, did Vertigo suddenly “get better” than Citizen Kane? Of course not. The biggest change was the number of critics invited to participate in the voting. Citizen Kane will never, has never gotten a majority of vote; it isn’t that kind of movie or else it would have won the Oscar for Best Picture. It is an acquired taste. Both Vertigo and Citizen Kane are two films many contemporary filmgoers have never seen and its hard to convince those who have seen them how great they really are if “they don’t get it.” Keeping them preserved in amber on a critics poll, as Scott Tobias urges us to do because there is a validity in that, keeps the compass pointing north.

The list should be stodgy, and the list isn’t stodgy in the least. The Sight & Sound Critics Poll isn’t just a poll, it’s the poll. Citizen Kane has been called the greatest film ever made because Sight & Sound said so, whether people knew the poll was being referenced or not. In other words, it is the closest equivalent cinema has to a literary canon. And just as bibliophiles often resist the canon, there’s always going to be some discontent over the scads of worthy titles missing from the list and endless discussions over what should be there instead. (Vertigo’s ascendancy immediately had people shouting out a dozen other Hitchcock films that should have replaced it.) But the stability of the Sight & Sound list is a big part of what gives it value: For film critics and historians—and would-be critics and casual historians—the poll is the compass pointing north, the absolute baseline for an education on the medium. Every critic who submitted a ballot deviated from the Top 10 either partially or wholly—just as any film fanatic heads down their own personal tributaries—but the consensus of the many has given the study of film a useful foundation. A radically altered Sight & Sound list would be weak and destabilizing; breaking into the Top 10 should be slow and carefully considered. For now, just losing Citizen Kane is radical enough, like having to orbit around a different sun.

While I agree that the canon is important for historical perspective, I suspect when people look back on 2012 they will come to the same conclusions we reach today: 1) humans are easily influenced by what other people think of think of what they think.  2) the only remarkable thing about the shift is how remarkably stable it is..

The other glaring trait of the Sight & Sound Top 10, of course, is how male-oriented, how white it ultimately is.. This is something you would never see in a literary canon, for instance. If the only books deemed worthy for inclusion in a Top 10 were by male, mostly white writers, there would be cries from the rooftops.  We have been conditioned to think of these films as great because we’ve been conditioned to a white, male narrative.  Asian filmmaking has also been particularly influential but even among of these new voices, the templates are primarily male-driven.  How can any female or, say, black filmmaker ever crack that list? Like the Academy, we will have to wait another 50 years I suppose and by then I will be dead.

To that end, I am disappointed in these critics who reveal themselves to be, ultimately, no better than Oscar voters.  If it took Citizen Kane (released in 1942, made the list 20 years later) and Vertigo (released in 1958, made the list in 1982, 24 years later) ten years of changing opinions to even make the top ten, you can imagine how hard it is going to be for modern films to get in there. Maybe in ten years we’ll see something show up from twenty years ago.  Perhaps the reason it takes twenty years for a movie to attain  the critical establishment’s seal of approval is because they wait for a film to withstand the test of time. In that sense, the Sight & Sound poll represents the endurance of status, rather than the Oscars which are more about seizing a fleeting peak of PR.  Maybe in twenty years the films we love now, semi-modern films like The Silence of the Lambs or No Country for Old Men might show up.  I ain’t got time for this, though, my friends. I will be aged out.  Sadly. Mortality and all of that.

Because Citizen Kane and Vertigo are my two favorite films. I can’t argue with their placement and it’s a tough call choosing which one is better. I am glad I never had to make that choice — although I suspect, on pure technique alone I’d have to go with Citizen Kane, which has NO flaws whatsoever.  Vertigo, if you had to start picking them, has a clumsy scene or two in it.  Kane is perfection. No one has ever matched it.  And no salt and pepper shaker placement is going to convince me that it still isn’t the best film ever made.

Citizen Kane and Vertigo’s high placement could also have to do with the general notion of the displaced modern male in today’s society. Both films feature male leads who are deluded with their own self-importance, chasing illusions, chasing after blondes who forever elude them. They are both about the death of dreams, the delusions of power, the loss of control, the folly of unreasonable desire, and the price paid for obsession.  And they are both, in the end, about loneliness.

The other things Vertigo and Citizen Kane and probably all of their top 50 have in common is that they are all made by directors who exert absolute control of the frame.  This is why Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers, Spike Lee and Kathryn Bigelow, and Jane Campion should also be on the list.  Perhaps one of you youngsters will be around to write about it when that kind of change takes place.

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  • Tero Heikkinen

    That’s the thing, about age it is. I’m 36 and I admire Citizen Kane to the death, but I can’t place it among the very best. I understand its influence and all, but it’s not the only one.

    Vertigo is my 3rd or 4th favourite Hitchcock film, so its #1 spot kind of escapes me completely.

    I can believe that in 20-30 years something like The Silence of the Lambs might enter the Top Ten here. It sure deserves it, but that’s just me. Well, it’s not only me. It’s a film people have loved and studied for the last two decades. It’s probably the only film that I have nothing to complain about – aka PERFECT FILM. And this came from a director who is normally very average. The second best Jonathan Demme film wouldn’t get to my Top 500 list even. A lucky accident for everybody, even Oscar-wise. A February release that is SO good that Academy had to award it over a year later. Maybe this is the reason why it’s not already on the Top Ten here? That the director just got lucky and they form these lists based on directors, first and foremost?

  • julian the emperor

    Jonathan Demme made Stop Making Sense (the best music documentary ever?) and Rachel Getting Maried (one of the best indies in recent times), though. To me, two excellent films (and VERY different, needless to say, from Silence of the Lambs). I think Demme has demonstrated a versatility of style as well as an uncompromising vision throughout the years (all though, granted, there are a lot of misfires in his oeuvre, especially his more commercial fare). But his fascination with the documentary genre, shows that he is doing whatever fascinates him, that he is costumed by a passion for storytelling rather than just “playing the game”.
    But, yeah, you are right, Tero: securing a spot on the list has a lot to do with the general perception of the director.

    To me, Citizen Kan is indeed a marvel of technical invention, but I don’t necessarily view it is a flawless narrative, neither is Vertigo. I would say that there are hundreds of just as valid choices as best movies ever (which says something about the futility of the whole endeavor). I would probably single out Otto e Mezzo, Persona, Andrei Rublev and Taxi Driver, but hey, it can change depending on mood.

  • Ryan Adams

    In past Sight & Sound surveys, both The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil made the Top 10. Both are films that were badly mistreated, mishandled, chopped and reedited. Nearly lost. The Sight & Sound critics love to take these wounded beauties and hold them up for display in all their damaged dignity — as if to say, “See? they tried to destroy this movie, but we’re here to salvage its reputation for posterity.”

    There are several examples in past decades of rare and undervalued movies finding a place on this poll, almost as if the critics mean to resurrect them from the dustbin of history.

    von Stroheim’s Greed was wrecked and shredded with savage editing, (it was originally 10 hours long!) Similarly, La Regle du Jue was absolutely jeered in Paris when first released. The French Vichy government banned it for being “demoralizing” (!) — because it was seen to be a harsh indictment of the upper class. Renoir was stunned, tried to appease, and edited it down from 2 hours to 90 minutes and then slashed it down to 84 minutes. During WWII the French film archives were bombed, and everybody thought the original negative had been lost forever. Thank God, remnants were found. Painstaking restoration in 1959 put it back together in a version that was 109 minutes long. By then it had become a cause celebre. Literally brought back from the brink of oblivion. When it was reassessed by the boys at Cahiers its importance was finally certified.

    I sometimes get the feeling this is part of the reason for Vertigo’s resurgence too. It was widely reviled when it first came out. It’s meager 2 Oscar nominations (Best Sound and Art Direction) attest to how badly it was disregarded. What we see today as gripping and hypnotic pacing was considered to be sluggish and bogged down in repetition — especially compared of Hitchcock’s more energetic thrillers of the ’50s.

    And then — the same fate as so many of the Sight & Sound masterpieces — Vertigo was nearly “lost” to viewers for a whole decade. Unlike most of his other studio movies that have played in heavy rotation over the years, a handful of his films were owned outright by Hitchcock’s estate — Vertigo among them. For some reason the estate refused to allow Vertigo to be released on home video format. It was pulled from circulation altogether from 1973 to 1983. (I think the rationale was to hold onto 5 of his films as a legacy in hopes of generating film-reel rental revenue for his heirs. Rear Window was another of these.)

    But can you imagine? For 10 years, unless you were a film archivist or could attend an art-house screening, this legendary movie Vertigo could only be experienced by reading about it in books! (and even then, Truffaut barely mentions Vertigo in his famous interviews with Hitchcock). But I wonder if this helped add to its reputation as a hidden treasure. A film with a magical glamour that hardly anybody had seen on screen for years. Again, when it was finally resurrected, the eyes of filmlovers must have popped out of their heads. It got the prestige treatment (rare at the time) of complete restoration in 70mm print in the mid-1990s.

    So over the years, we’ve seen Vertigo steadily rise on the Sight & Sound poll

    1982: Vertigo #7
    1992, Vertigo #4.
    2002, Vertigo #2.
    2012, Vertigo #1

    Many of the movies on the Sight & Sound poll have stories like this. To have been neglected, scorned, abused. Then rescued, restored and reevaluated surely adds to their mystique.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Oh yes, Stop Making Sense RULES! No. It fucking RULES! I just rate documentaries separately. Is that a bad thing to do?

    I want to know what you have to say about Silence, Mads.

  • red_wine

    I agree. Citizen Kane is an extremely credible choice of the greatest film ever made. If the greatest in cinema is to be represented by that film, I would not object. I would object however to people who find it a bit cold and clinical. I did so too on my first 2 viewings, but now I find it extremely moving and poignant.

    Sasha, a magnificent feminist epic, Jeanne Dielman, is represented at 35 and is simultaneously both the greatest film ever made by a woman and the greatest film ever made about women. So that is something. Asian cinema has also found its place.

    I truly believe that this is a magnificent poll and an essential poll. And it truly aspires to single out the greatest achievements of this art form.

  • julian the emperor

    I love Silence. Sure. How can you not? It is the preeminent example of the thriller/horror genre in the 90s. And yes, Demme has never attained that level of perfection ever since. Still think Hopkins should have won for best supporting role, though. But that is an academic discussion;)

  • ‘Perhaps the reason it takes twenty years for a movie to attain the critical establishment’s seal of approval is because they wait for a film to withstand the test of time.’

    What about L’Avventura? It made the list in 1962, two years after its release. But, to follow, I think I can answer one of your questions, Sasha:

    ‘Why did L’avventura drop off the top ten entirely after 1982? It just wasn’t popular enough? Its impact didn’t prove durable as “the shock of the new” wore off? How can opinions shift so dramatically?’

    I think it dropped off because Antonioni’s influence was so strong in American cinema in the ’70s that his style of filmmaking had become to seem somewhat commonplace. Also, the quality of his own output had declined by 1982 – he wasn’t as respectable a choice to include in the top ten any more.

    On another point, I agree with Scott Tobias. And Vertigo replacing Citizen Kane makes sense to me, particularly with the significant influx of new voters. Even had they polled the same 145 critics as they did ten years ago and Vertigo had won out, it would’ve made sense. If one person’s tastes and opinions can change over ten years, and a group like this is comprised of many one persons, surely that group’s tastes and opinions can change.

  • Nate Johnson

    I just googled “top ten greatest novels of all time” and clicked on the first result, a Time article. 9 white men and 1 white woman that had to write as a man.,8599,1578073,00.html

    I feel like the literary canon is far more male and white (and certainly more eurocentric) than the film canon. Probably mostly because the dawn of the literary canon stretches farther back into more bigoted (for lack of a better word) times than film does.
    The thing that literature has going for it that film largely lacks, for now, is canonical supplement or replacement. You go to any university and you can take courses on female literature, black literature, Jewish literature, colonial/post-colonial literature. Even in a general survey course, like American Literature after 1900 for instance, the reading list and curriculum will be set by an individual person, not what 800 critics could agree on. And that person will probably want you to read Native Son or Love Medicine or The Color Purple to go along with Hemingway and Faulkner. If you enroll in the one Film class you can probably take without being in the film school and they’ll make you watch The Searchers.
    The study of film isn’t taken as seriously as the study of paper literature, hopefully one day it will be, or at least seriously enough to have a Female Filmmakers course at every university. Until then, too many people are going to get their ‘list’ of great films to watch or admire from polls of critics like these or from wikipedia’s list of Best Picture Oscars. There aren’t enough credible dissenting voices or at least challenging voices. Voices that say ‘yeah maybe that canon is ok, but how about a little perspective?’
    I actually just gave myself an Idea.
    I have a ton of respect for you, Sasha. Why don’t you design us a curriculum of films as a female supplement to the canon? Show us. Teach us. It has to start somewhere.

  • julian the emperor

    A great comment, Ryan.

  • Nate Johnson

    Ryan, do you think with the increase in voting numbers, the trend of film salvation will lack now?

  • Matt D.

    If, in any casual conversation, one were to say that there hasn’t been a superior film made in the last 50+ years – nor one deserving of a top 50 placement from the last decade – one would probably be told that they are absolutely full of shit.

    These Sight & Sound voters, and indeed most critics in general, are absolutely full of shit.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    “Still think Hopkins should have won for best supporting role, though. But that is an academic discussion;)”

    Says something about the dominating presence when one is in the movie for 18 minutes and wins Best Actor. And Ledger won, The Joker was in the movie for longer than Hopkins and in a longer movie. Same thing, I think. Presence that can be felt even when one is not there.

  • stosh bone

    Bigelow doesn’t have any of theirs body of work. Or the reputation. Alwwways reference her though LOL

  • kasper

    What would have satisfied you or any of us? There is just no way anyone could be satisfied with the GREATEST ever list. Not from the AFI, not from Sight & Sound, not from the 1001 movies you must see before you die books. That’s just impossible. Of course the “objective” quality (whatever that looks like) of a film does not change if left unaltered, but I think the point of the Sight & Sound poll is to track those shifts (or as you put it the lack of shift) in attitudes towards those films as well as pretend to “declare the greatest films ever.” And like you, I do wonder why people aren’t more willing to vote more freely and challenge the already sanctified greatest. But there would be an outcry over that too. I mean, what do you think the reaction would be if the top ten included more contemporary folks like you’d hope for but more in the lines of say late-period Godard, Ryan Trecartin, Isaac Julien, Chantal Ackerman: the outcry would be huge. I think Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Goodbye South Goodbye is a film with NO FLAW whatsoever, but can you imagine if that topped Citizen Kane? I’m not arguing against your points; I think I’m saying that consensuses, more often that not, produce conservative results.

  • julian the emperor

    Nate: It’s simply not true that the literary canon is even more male or white than the film canon. There are a LOT of female writers routinely being mentioned on a par with male writers. Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters etc. And what about more recent writers like Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Bishop, Eudora Welty, Marilynne Robinson, Joan Didion, some of the most well-respected writers within their field. And I have doubtless forgot numerous examples (writing this in a hurry).

    When it comes to the film canon, the picture is very different. Agnes Varda, Leni Riefenstahl (like that was going to happen!) or Jane Campion could have been contenders for this list, but were left out. But, film as a medium has to a large degree been a male medium, maybe something about the technical and practical aspects of filmmaking? When you write a novel you sit alone in a room with your innermost thoughts, when you direct a film there are so many potentially grueling external factors weighing in. I think women have been excluded from expressing themselves through film because of those external factors to a large degree, something that is bound to change eventually. And hopefully the list of 2062 or something will reflect that.
    But for now, the recognition of female writers are vastly superior to that of female filmmakers.

  • julian the emperor

    Very true, Tero. I think Hopkins’ performance is THE prime example of a character presence that is being felt throughout a movie’s duration, even when not on screen. And that surely played a huge part in why voters felt it natural to deem it a leading role. This “psychological” aspect of movie perception (or voters’ perception) is an interesting thing to discern. Could you come up with an even more iconic “strong presence even when not on screen”-performance? (just curious)

  • kasper

    Dang it, I didn’t see the top 50 when I wrote my comment above. I was waiting until my newsstand had the issue. I can’t wait to see the individual lists. Surely they’re not going to publish 840 lists will they? I was 18 when the 2002 issue came out and read through it so many times, bringing it to Kensington Video to help make rental selection. I remember being wowed Armond White (who I didn’t read regularly yet) put A.I. Artificial Intelligence on his list because I thought I was the only one in the world who loved that movie. And then Armond and I had a rocky next ten years. Sometimes I just like the abuse.

  • Nate Johnson

    Julian, for one thing I said white and male, not just male. I was making the race/sex judgment all at once.
    Secondly, I suppose a canon can be as large as one wants it to be, but if you take those names in the context that a canon, not me or you or any individual person, gives them, that within the scope of that canon, those names all but disappear, there are far more women in ‘the literary canon’ but there are also far more writers in general, you have to account for the centuries of literature, even if you only go back to Cervantes or Shakespeare, you’re looking at at least 300 years of almost total minority and female exclusion.
    Thirdly, I agree with you about the merits of Woolf and Austen and so forth, but it doesn’t matter if I agree, individuals don’t make canons, find how many lists voted on by more than 10 people and show me how many have 2 of those women or even one minority. Show me top 100 lists and 9 out of ten won’t have all of the women you listed. Sure you can say the same about film (excluding the Japanese if you want) but film is barely 100 years old, what do you think the canon looked like in 1712?

    Fourthly, that doesn’t change that we get our idea’s of what is better and what is best very differently for film and for books. The system for it in literature is better I think. If our main interaction with what people considered great books was through a yearly popularity contest and a critics poll done every 10 years we would be just as cut off from different voices in literature as we seem to be in film. Like wise if we received credible nudging into canonical tangents in film the way university professors and grad student TAs pointed us down different roads in college (not just us but maybe our parents or uncles or well-read friends) our horizons would be greatly expanded.

  • BlueFox94

    I am still in love with Akira Kurosawa’s “SEVEN SAMURAI” ^_^

  • lazarus

    I love Spike Lee and Jane Campion. Are any of their films on the level of most of the stuff in the Top 50? You could probably make a case for Do The Right Thing, but that’s about it.

    Women have been making films almost since the beginning (see the works of Alice Guy on that eye-opening set from Gaumont), but in very small numbers over the years, until recent decades. How many female directors during the Golden Age of Hollywood? Ida Lupino?

    The only argument here is one of age, and the less “revolutionary” films become in terms of narrative, editing, etc. the less impact they’re going to have. Critics who have a knowledge of film history aren’t going to be as impressed by Avatar as they are with Man With A Movie Camera. How can you blame them?

  • JS

    Matt D. says:

    “If, in any casual conversation, one were to say that there hasn’t been a superior film made in the last 50+ years – nor one deserving of a top 50 placement from the last decade – one would probably be told that they are absolutely full of shit.

    These Sight & Sound voters, and indeed most critics in general, are absolutely full of shit.”

    Wow – strong words, considering that these voters didn’t sit around a table, scheming, to make this list. They simply listed 10 movies they thought were the best, according to their own tastes, and the typical, canonical choices wound up with the most mentions. The list doesn’t say that Vertigo is better than Citizen Kane, nor that any movie in the last 50 years isn’t “superior.”

    You need to realize that over 2000 movies were mentioned in this poll. Over 2000! And it’s quite likely that a huge number of them were from recent years. But considering that Vertigo, the winner, only appeared on 22% of the ballots, the facts should tell you that it’s very difficult to accrue mentions in this poll. Critical opinion on recent cinema hasn’t coalesced around singular titles, either, so it’s much harder for contemporary works to make it. This should be common sense.

  • lazarus

    Also, I think it’s disingenuous for someone like Sasha, who doesn’t exactly seem like a connaisseur of global cinema, to be pointing fingers here. How many of the films in the Top 50 has she actually seen to be able to cry foul at its stagnation or lack of inclusion?

    I’m seeing films made by directors from Iran, China, Japan, India, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Germany, and Hungary.

    Would it be nice to see Africa and South America better represented? Sure. But as it is there are a lot of cultures represented.

  • Matt D.

    JS – I guess it really just boils down to the fact that most critics, especially when making lists like this, are simply dishonest. It’s almost as if they’re afraid to step outside of the canon, and that is simply boring. I also find it alarming that Vertigo showed up in more than 1/5 of the lists of these critics, especially considering the competition to be had even within Hitchcock’s OWN filmography.

    Also, having just over 2,000 films mentioned from a group of over 800 people isn’t exactly a strong case for diversity.

  • steve50

    Because tastes do change over the generations, I think you have to look beyond simple placement on the list and look for consistancy in presence. The only film that has lasted from the first list is Rules of the Game. This tells me more than who is now number 1 or number 2. It was respected as much by the original set of critics as it is by contemporary critics. That is an achievement.

    BTW, I think both L’avventura and L’atalante deserved to remain on the list, but I doubt either is seen much anymore outside of film school (if even there). That’s a shame, because they are both hypnotic in setting and execution.

  • I love “Vertigo”. I’ve always loved “Vertigo.” I do love it more than “Citizen Kane.” I think “Kane” is a very, very good film, but the Best Film of All Time? I never bought into that.

    Always loved and revered Hitchcock above all others.

    And yes, he was dismissive of “Vertigo” with interviewers. He would say “That film didn’t work because the man(James Stewart) was too old.”(!!!)

    I think Hitchcock would be surprised and shocked by this development, but of course deee-lighted. I’m sure his surviving daughter Patricia is ecstatic at this turn of events. I wish there was a quote from HER about this!

    And as far as Demme and docs are concerned, unfortunately, it seems they are the only thing he can get funding for now. They are much cheaper to make than features.

    Wasn’t “Rachel Getting Married” his last feature?

    I wonder what Kim Novak thinks of all this, too. She, who was never taken seriously as an actress…

    Age has the tendency to turn people into monuments. Films, too. And this year when we are looking forward to TWO biopics on Hitchcock. Well, he’s hot again.

    He’s always been “The Master” to me. If I don’t know what to watch, I watch a Hitchcock film again.

  • kasper

    Yeah but I’ve wondered why Vertigo? I love Vertigo with a passion, yes even over Citizen Kane, which of course I love too, but there are better Hitchcocks, right? I think The Birds is his masterpiece, if you could only choose the one.

  • This turn of events has prompted me to look up old Hitchcock interviews on You Tube. And like in the introduction by the late Tom Snyder, it’s a 7 part interview now on You Tube, but nowhere in Snyder’s intro to Hitchcock is “Vertigo” mentioned!

    I think Hitchcock called it “a mistake.”(!!!)

    My gripe with “Kane” has always been that I didn’t care about him THAT much. I was never interested in him or his problems. I found Susan Alexander much more of a compelling character.

    And the mystery that would solve everything “What was Rosebud?” I just thought of as entirely contrived and not interesting. But hey, that’s just me.

  • Reform the Academy

    Didn’t see much discussion of this so I’m presuming it got lost in the pile of comments on the other article. Anyways, as a precursor to the poll that Ryan mentioned, I compiled and sorted all our lists into an Excel spreadsheet and this is what I’ve come up with for our Top 25 so far.

    The Godfather 17
    Citizen Kane 14
    2001: A Space Odyssey 12
    The Godfather Part 2 12
    Casablanca 10
    Taxi Driver 10
    Pulp Fiction 8
    Vertigo 8
    Apocalypse Now 7
    Rear Window 7
    Annie Hall 6
    Chinatown 6
    One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest 6
    Psycho 6
    The Apartment 6
    The Lord of the Rings 6
    All About Eve 5
    Dr Strangelove 5
    Goodfellas 5
    Lawrence of Arabia 5
    Blade Runner 4
    Inception 4
    Singin in the rain 4
    Some Like It Hot 4
    The Dark Knight 4
    The Thin Red Line 4
    There Will Be Blood 4

    Oh btw, 17 of those are in the Top 50 on IMDB, so nice job guys, you conform quite nicely :p

    There’s actually 27 there since quite a few tied with 4 mentions. Also, I was quite surprised by the lack of support for the following…

    12 angry men 2
    Gone with the Wind 2
    Raging Bull 2
    Shawshank Redemption, The 2
    The Philadelphia Story 2
    The Graduate 2
    Dog Day Afternoon 1
    It Happened One Night 1
    Modern Times 1
    The Shining 1
    To Kill A Mockingbird 1
    West Side Story 1

    I’ve seen all but Apocolypse Now, Annie Hall, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Thin Red Line…and can I say that the love for Taxi Driver and Pulp Fiction baffles me?

  • Reform the Academy

    Exactly Stephen…the story of Citizen Kane is incredibly dull and contrived, but the film is flawless on a technical level and a pioneer of sorts so I suspect that’s why it gets all the praise. Here’s my own brief review which might give a better idea what I mean…

    Citizen Kane-

    Its legendary status alone makes one apprehensive. I was just chatting with someone the other day who said he’ll never see it because he’s afraid he’ll be severely disappointed. I almost think disappointment is inevitable given it’s reputation. :shrug: This is what the wiki article says-

    “There is a semi-official consensus in film circles that Citizen Kane is the greatest film ever made, which has led Roger Ebert to quip that: ‘So it’s settled: “Citizen Kane” is the official greatest film of all time.’ It topped both the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list and the 10th Anniversary Update, as well as all of the Sight & Sound polls of the 10 greatest films for nearly half a century.”

    Well, I watched it finally and I’m reluctant to say anything against it but I’m going to attempt an honest review here and not just jump on the bandwagon like many seem to with this film. I’ll start by saying right off the bat this is not my new fav and I don’t agree with the above.

    Ok, here’s the thing. On a technical level…yeah this might be the greatest film- cinematography, editing, sound, etc…it’s all top notch. :tu:

    The acting is also incredible. HOWEVER, Citizen Kane feels like “all style and no substance” Ok, perhaps none is too harsh of a word…little substance. The film is sadly quite a bore, in my opinion. Even “rosebud”…the mystery that was built up so much, felt anti-climactic and in the words of the director himself, “It’s a gimmick, really” :sigh: There is another more amusing possible meaning behind the word though… 😆

    The premise of the story sounds interesting on paper, but on screen it just is not very entertaining, IMO. Although, I was admittedly a bit sleepy when I tried watching it and nearly dozed off quite a few times…so maybe if I watch it again when I’m better rested I’ll be able to appreciate the story more. Hmm, well I realize this rating is going to be significantly higher than actual enjoyment would indicate but…

    Acting- 10
    Script- 6
    Visuals- 10
    Sound- 10
    Editing- 10

    Total Score = 92

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Scott. No-one cares.

    Reason: You still have not seen The Silence of the Lambs and you don’t even look for it, because you are a stubborn prick. Re-post your Top 50 lists all you like, but you MUST see it. To me you are not even a human being… until…

    No-one will EVER take you seriously until this mistake has been fixed!

  • Reform the Academy

    One these days I will revisit it and try to give it a fair shot with my full attention the whole way through…

  • Reform the Academy

    Um Tero, that’s not my list…it’s OUR collective list.

  • Reform the Academy

    However, ok I will watch Silence of the Lambs this weekend :p

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Fucking sad!!!

    What do you mean “revisit”? Meaning you were THERE and then you left? If that’s the case, I have zero respect for you. I have never met a man who started this film and left. What are you on?

    I will not talk to you anymore. Sorry. But all the best.

  • Reform the Academy

    Tero, I was talking about Citizen Kane…

  • Reform the Academy

    And no I didn’t leave…I watched it until the end, but definitely was dozing off throughout the second half.

  • dbsweeney

    Tero Heikkinen, I hope you’re just a wind-up merchant. If not, grow up.

  • Nate Johnson

    I had a humorous thought today:

    New ‘Word and Punctuation’ poll released for 1662 : Hamlet supplants Don Quixote as best literary work ever written.
    After appearing 2nd behind Cervantes masterpeice for the better part of the century, Shakespeare’s tragedy has over taken the top spot, but with much of the top 10 remaining stagnant. Where’s the Milton, I ask? Where’s the Moliere? Perhaps in fifty years one of them will crack the top ten.

    First Comment: Hamlet? Really? There’s at least 3 Shakespeare plays better than Hamlet!

    Comment 2: I surprised Leviathan isn’t on this list, it’s amazing on every level!

    Comment 3: I love Leviathan too, but I always feel that Plays and Novels are separate from Philosophical treatises. I’m really surprised that Milton hasn’t reached the top 10.

    Comment 4: Don Quixote is great don’t get me wrong, but I’m really happy about Hamlet getting the number one spot. I actually like King Lear better, but, to me, Bill Shakespeare is the greatest ever, so I’m happy to see any of his works on top.

    Comment 5: Philosophical Treatise always get the short end of the stick. They’re a really important form of the written word. It’s really a shame people don’t read them as much as fictional texts.

    Comment 6: This list is almost all English and Spanish. If somebody put out this kind of list on painting and it came out all Italians, there would be such an outcry.

    Comment 7: I know it’s almost like people are indoctrinated to think that the best writers are English and Spanish, then these lists just reinforce that. It’s a vicious cycle. I do think Moliere will break the top 10 in the 1682 poll. Vive Le France!

    Comment 8: Tip: the teaser pamphlet for John Locke’s upcoming “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” is out. These teasers come out earlier and earlier, the completed work is slated for an ’86 release but I bet it gets pushed back.

    Comment 9: Commenter 6, that’s ridiculous, if somebody released a poll like this for paintings it would be 9 italian guys and Albrecht Durer.

    Comment 10: Anybody notice these are all men?

    Comment 11: WITCH!!

    Comment 12: WITCH!!


    wow, I’m such a nerd. I promise I’m not making fun of anybody, I just think this is hilarious.

  • DBibby

    That was hilarious, Nate.

  • Question Mark

    Re: Kane’s reputation. It’s weird, I had the opposite feeling when first watching the movie. CK’s huge reputation and BEST MOVIE EVER hype made my 17-year-old self very skeptical going into the screening, and I was almost predisposed to find flaws since the hype was so overwhelming. And yet, I absolutely loved the film and (had I had a Sight & Sound ballot) would’ve ranked it #1. I still find it fascinating and enjoyable even after seeing it a dozen or more times — heck, even talking about Kane so much in the days since the poll came out has made me want to watch it again.

    I think the only similar experience I’ve had with entertainment was in finally watching The Wire, which I finished thinking ‘Wow, that probably WAS the best TV show ever made.’

  • Tero Heikkinen

    “dbsweeney / August 3, 2012

    Tero Heikkinen, I hope you’re just a wind-up merchant. If not, grow up.”

    Your mom needs to grow up.

    You thought I was serious.

  • Mattoc

    ^ I took it as sarcasm, but maybe got lost in translation?

  • Tero Heikkinen

    And add a couple of pints and it gets really hard 🙂

  • Reform the Academy

    So Tero, after returning home from my second viewing of TDKR I put your favorite film to the test. Now being as Silence of the Lambs is one of only 3 films to win the “Big 5” Oscars and I absolutely adore the other 2 films to accomplish that feat, this had high expectations to live up to. Well, it’s a good film but I’m not over the moon about it by any means. For one it’s too disturbing to be enjoyable really. Secondly, at least half the credit for Hopkin’s Oscar win must go to the cinematography (ie the extreme close ups) Aside from that it’s just a creepy blank stare and a monotone voice. Finally, the film feels a bit false in its attempts at suspense (though the scene in the dark is on par with Rear Window, I’ll give it that) and anti-climactic in who Buffalo Bill is. He’s not explored enough and it sure seemed like they were building to a more interesting reveal like it being the father of the first girl…particularly when those half naked pics were found in her bedroom and the dresses in the adjacent room. Hell, the father’s eyes even looked like the killer. Was this an intentional red herring? Anyways, overall I’ll give it a B.

  • steve50

    @Nate Johnson – Great post! Thanks for putting this in perspective.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Well, Scott, glad you didn’t hate it at least. See it again someday, it never suffers from repeat viewings.

    I think the chemistry between Hopkins and Foster is pretty much unbeatable. I can’t think of any other actors for these roles, and there were many known actors up for them. For example, Demme made a deal with the people at Orion that he would hire Foster if the studio let Hopkins do it. Orion didn’t want Hopkins and Demme didn’t want Foster. In fact, the minute the cameras started rolling, Demme still thought that Foster was not the best choice. He didn’t buy her accent, but soon he realised that the accent Foster was doing was quite accent-free. Something that only Lecter would spot, and the line is there, of course.

    All these people turned it down because of its disturbing screenplay and the amount of violence… People like including Gene Hackman (who even wanted to direct it at one point), Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Geena Davis etc etc were up for the roles before they found the pair after months of auditioning. And I see the outcome as a very lucky accident.

    Silence also includes the biggest audience cheat ever. You know, the ending where Starling and the FBI go to different houses. I still can’t believe they pulled that off (it’s also in the book this way), because cinematically that is a very difficult cheat.

    You can say all you like about Academy’s choices, but they sure got it right here. Silence is easily the best film of 1991. Well, actually 1990, but Orion concentrated on Dances With Wolves’ Oscar campaign (which was successful as we know) and threw Silence for next year. Everybody (director, actors, screenwriter etc) were pissed off, but there was nothing they could do. The company was already dying at that time. But… we know what happened over a year later still.

  • These kinds of shifts happen in literary studies all the time, and they have less to do with the quality of the works under discussion and more to do with the difficulty of untangling aesthetic judgments from our cultural contexts. How we perceive a novel, poem, movie, etc., depends a great deal on how it compares to other works: what seems fresh at one time seems less so after its innovation has become common (or badly imitated); similarly, works that seem important at one time can fall out of favor as cultural issues shift, revealing a datedness.

    For example, one academic study showed that literary anthologies of the 20s and 30s had *more* works by women and blacks than did anthologies from the 50s and 60s–probably because of works like American Renaissance, which valorized a group of white men as representing “real” American literature. Suddenly, women and blacks were seen as inferior because they didn’t match trendy academic standards of Americanness.

    Quality is always subjective insofar as the criteria for greatness are culturally constructed. Even on this site, we hope that the inclusion of more women, gays, people of color, non-Westerners, etc. in critics groups & professional organizations will expand the criteria used to measure quality and open up these types of lists to films that have been woefully underappreciated.

  • Friedl

    There’s no such thing as number one. It is an arbitrary change that I find interesting enough but, somehow, Kane sits more comfortably at # 1 than Vertigo, even though Vertigo is a massive personal favourite. There’s so much weight & scrutiny that goes with #1. Kane seems to shoulder it well.

    On a different note, I love Sasha’s comment that it’s us that changes not the movies because 1) it’s true & 2) this –

    2 great movies intersect to echo Sasha’s words (or is it the other way around, or is it a time travel thing?)

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