Thursday, 10 February 2011

List Addiction - From Citizen Kane to Kill Bill Vol. 1

For the past four or five years, I've had this little ritual that I perform in the first month of every year. I slaughter a chicken wait, not that ritual, must not talk about that one.

Ever since I ambled across the They Shoot Pictures Don't They? website about five years ago, I have pored over their two regularly updated lists, the Top 1,000 Greatest Films of All Time and the Top 250 Films of the 21st Century, and worked out my own “haven't seen them yet” lists. I'm anally retentive enough to have a document that I regularly amend, listing all the films I haven't seen yet from these lists. Remove the films I've seen, add any new additions from the annual updates, and I'm set for another year.

I'm a sucker for film lists. Yes, they're problematic – they reinforce canons and ignore the unheralded. But I usually forgive a list for its shortcomings if it introduces me to films I'd never heard of previously, or never considered watching in a hurry. The first time I came across the Top 1000 list on TSPDT, there were scores of films that I simply had no idea about - films that I still haven't seen (due to inaccessibility), like Limite, Sugar Cane Alley, Il Sorpasso, The Childhood of Maxim Gorky. Filmmakers I'd barely heard of, like Mark Donskoi and Luis Garcia Berlanga. The list has encouraged me to watch films that have utterly blown me away – Hitler: A Film From Germany, Touki Bouki, Zorn's Lemma. Yes, the lists have also lead me to films that gave me a headache, but hey ho, small price to pay, this is always going to happen in the world of cinephilia. (Example; why is The World According to Garp on the list? This film is a great example of turning a pretty good novel into a messy, incoherent puddle of visual dribble. And Babe has entered this years Top 1000 list as a first time entrant? What the fuggin' what? Thank god I've already put myself through the hell of seeing this execrable film years ago).

And I guess that IS one problem with building a wall of cinephilia based on lists – you get addicted to the idea of conquering the list, watching everything on it, and therefore forcing yourself to watch films you really have no desire to see. Its easy to become obsessed with the lists, and viewing choices are limited only to films from those lists. There are scores of films I have put to one side in favour of watching a list film, saying to myself “I'll watch this some time later, once I've finished with the lists.” Thankfully, I'm far less obsessed than I was a few years ago. I first created a list from the 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die book in September 2005. At that stage I was woefully lacking in my 'classic Hollywood' background, and had always avoided the horror and musical genres. I think my tally of films to watch was around 450 or so. For about 2 to 3 years, almost every film-viewing choice was based on knocking films off the list. When I introduced the TSPDT lists in late 2006, it tripled my obsession. I think it was nigh-on impossible to squeeze in any other film than ones on the 3 lists I had created. I still refer to these lists now, but I've gotten a handle on the obsession and am happy to work on them a little more slowly now, knocking them off bit by bit while enjoying once more the art of browsing for ANY film to watch.

For the record, and perhaps as a note to myself here as much as anyone else, I have the following totals for films yet to be seen on each of the 3 lists:

Source                                                                             Films Remaining
1001 Films You Must See Before You Die                  67
TSPDT Top 1000 of All-Time (Jan. 2011)                   213
TSPDT Top 250 Films 21st Century (Jan. 2011)        53

I'm also anally retentive enough to keep a tally of films that I haven't seen that have dropped off the TSPDT lists each year. The stats are as follows:

TSPDT Top 1000 of All-Time (Jan. 2011)
Last Year in Top 1000           Films To See
2010                                          18
2009                                          26
2008                                          48
2007                                          47
2006                                          13
2005                                          22

TSPDT Top 250 Films 21st Century (Jan. 2011)
Last Year in Top 250             Films To See
2010                                          6
2009                                          15
2008                                          11
2007                                          15
2006                                          16

Bored yet? One more stat, then I'm outta here. Taking into account that some films cross over into other lists, the grand total for all lists combined is 570 films to view. Bugger all, really.

The link to the TSPDT Top 1000 of All-Time is here.

And the link to the TSPDT 21st Century Top 250 is here.

If you haven't seen 'em before, have fun.

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