A Silly Series of Lists
Last year Entertainment Weekly published a special issue called The 100 All-Time Greatest. The issue was composed of several lists, of “Best” movies, TV shows, music, plays and novels.1 Now to be blunt top 100 lists are basically usually little more than indication of personal taste. And this magazine of lists is little better than that.
Entertainment Weekly is an American magazine but when coming up with a top 100 series of lists one would hope that they would exercise some restraint in being both American and English centric. Sadly we are disappointed almost immediately with the first list.
The movie named the number one film is Citizen Kane. Not much to argue about there; I do not think it is the best film ever but a perfectly reasonable argument can be made for that position. However what is not forgivable is that all 10 of the top ten films are American and all but one in English. The one not in English is The Gold Rush a silent film by Charlie Chaplin rated number 8. Very few silent films are listed Griffith's Intolerance is listed (no. 50) but not his Birth of a Nation and amazingly Metropolis is not on the list at all, Murnau’s Sunrise is no. 30.!
Further It’s a Wonderful Life is listed has number 6?! Well although it is a schmaltzy flick, it is a good film, but it is not the 6th best film ever made by a long shot.
The first non-American or English film and also the first non-English language film in the list is Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (no. 17). That the compilers of this list think that The Searchers (no. 12), Bonnie and Clyde (no. 4), Blue Velvet (no. 15), etc, are better films than Seven Samurai says a lot and it isn’t pretty. Amazingly Seven Samurai is the only Kurosawa film on the list?! I would for one would rate Ran above King Kong, (no.10), to say nothing of Ran being a much better movie than Rushmore (no. 95). I mean really do these people actually think Diner, (no. 97), The Dark Knight, (no. 88), Dirty Harry (no. 85), are better movies than Ran?
Alfred Hitchcock of course gets multiple mentions with his Psycho (no. 5) being the highest rated. Although Hitchcock was an English Director Psycho was directed for an American studio and is an American film. Hitchcock’s Notorious, (no. 23), North by Northwest is rated no. 29, Vertigo is rated no. 38.
Strangely Ingmar Bergman gets just two mentions for his Scenes From a Marriage, (no. 82), and The Seventh Seal (no. 58). Incredibly Ingmar’s Fanny and Alexander and Wild Strawberries are absent! No doubt Jaws, (no. 18), is a better film!?(Snark).
In fact this entire list is embarrassingly American and Anglo centric. It is as if the film industry of the rest of the world has vanished from view. There are only a few foreign films, has in non-English language movies in the list. The film industries of most of the world have vanished. So much for China, Taiwan, India etc. They it appears don’t make films. (Snark) Out of the 100 films made 15 are foreign films, (Not in English). Rather pathetic and culturally very insular. (One of those foreign films is a silent movie. (Sunrise).
Interestingly the compilers of the list Leni Rienfenstahl’s film Olympia, (no. 84), rather than her far more influential and controversial, although a better film Triumph of the Will, but then that film celebrates Adolf Hitler.
Thus the list is both very American-centric and Anglo-centric to a truly ludicrous degree.
Of course there are what can only be described as WTF2 items in the list. For example no. 18 is Jaws? The truly schmaltzy to the point of idiocy The Sound of Music is rated no. 24!? Rosemary’s Baby is rated no. 26. The Road Warrior is rated no. 41. Extraordinarily Frankenstein, (no. 55), and not the better Bride of Frankenstein is on the list. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, no. 62). Titanic, (no. 52) makes the list?! I could go on. Night of the Living Dead in no. 79. I could go on.
The point is that none of the above mentioned films and there are many others on the list, do not belong on any list of the top 100 films ever made, not even arguably.
However the list does have its pleasant surprises and I will give a few of them here. These are films that deserve more recognition and so I give the compilers of this list a clap.
As mentioned above the list lists The Gold Rush as no. 8., The Sorrow and the Pity, (no. 20), possibly the greatest documentary ever made. No. 51 is A Hard Day’s Night. I don’t know if I would put this film in a top 100 list but it is seriously underestimated as a film. The Best Years of Our Lives, (no. 64). Touch of Evil, (no. 75). Orson Welles did do films other than Citizen Kane. I could go on. But I give kudos to the compilers for listing these films.
The listing of the top 100 TV shows is even more American and Anglo-centric than the list of movies. In fact not one of the TV shows listed is not American or English and the overwhelming majority are American. Thus does the TV industry outside of America and England disappear entirely. The chauvinism is so blatant has to be absurd.
Thus the top ten shows are all American. The Wire is rated has number one. I have no particular quarrel with that. However The Simpsons is rated has no. 2. Why? The show has been a stagnant mess for more than a decade. As for Seinfeld (no. 3). This show is one of the most overrated pieces of tripe ever. All in the Family is rated as no. 6. The compilers carefully avoid mentioning that the show was a rip off of the better British show Tell Death do Us Part. And going with the lets rip off better British shows the list lists Sanford and Son as no. 92; ignoring that it is a copy of the British show Steptoe and Son. Stunningly Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is rated as the eighth best show ever created?!
Arrested Development is listed as no. 19, but the show it ripped off quite brazenly - Soap is listed has no. 52. Even more amazingly they rate Star Trek: The Next Generation, (no. 69), as better than the original Star Trek, (no. 91). They of course rate The Cosby Show, a relentlessly toxic mix of trivialities and wholesomeness has no. 16. Of course they forget entirely the vicious and relentlessly but deliberately bad Married With Children. Listing Survivor has no. 50 is pandering to reality TV crap and so is listing American Idol has no. 53. Sadly they also list Beavis and Butt-Head, (no. 71).
Now the shows listed which I wish to thank the listers for mentioning are as follows. At no. 14 the British version of The Office, vastly superior to its American rip off version, which sadly is listed at no. 80. At no. 20 we have The Honeymooners At no. 26 we have the British show Prime Suspect. Then there is their listing of the seriously underrated The Bob Newhart Show at no. 38. Newhart is not listed – good!
Listing Freaks and Geeks, (no. 59), and Absolutely Fabulous has no. 63 is also good. To say nothing of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at no. 93.
However overall the list is embarrassingly Anglo-American centric and is best seen has an indication of cultural chauvinism at a particular time in the early 21st century. In many respects the list is trite, stunningly unrepresentative of the genres of entertainment it provides lists for and of course very limited. Perhaps at a later time I will explore the last three lists in this “very special” issue of Entertainment Weekly.
1. July 5/12 2013 issue.
2. WTF – What the Fuck!