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I’ve got a little list…
The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan
Every once in a while, or more often than that, a discussion will arise over what are the greatest movies ever made.
You’ve been there, I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. And we weren’t even drunk or high at two in the morning either (well, okay, sometimes, but, you know, not always).
This type of discussion especially comes about every time Cashiers du Cinema and BFI Sight & Sound release their list of the top films of all time.
Though the list isn’t always that controversial, it does raise rankles at times, such as when Vertigo took over the top spot from Citizen Kane in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, which is carried out every ten years.
But for those who don’t agree with the lists (and I know some people who are obsessed with disagreeing with them while claiming that they, for the fiftieth time in a row, don’t care what these lists say), these naysayers often say the same thing: “Well, it’s all subjective anyway”.
It should be noted, first, though, that whenever somebody says, “It’s all subjective”, nine times out of ten what they’re really saying is, “I don’t agree with them because they haven’t chosen my personal favorites”. They don’t actually ponder the list or give it any real thought. They just look at it, don’t see the films they like (what, no Transformers?), and call it subjective.
Which, of course, is a subjective response in itself, but, in its way, as valid as any subjective response.
But the problem I have is with their conclusion: that these lists are, therefore, useless. And this I’m not so convinced of.
I suggest that the issue is far more complicated than that. Yes, any list begins with a large amount of subjectivity. But tempered with other factors, such lists eventually become more and more objective than subjective. In fact, I suggest that objectivity is time plus distance plus number.