Sunday, December 23, 2007

How Do Other '80s Movie Lists Compare?

I thought it would be interesting to take look at a couple of other "Ten Best Movies of the '80s" lists and see how ours compared.

First I looked at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They, a website featuring a reasonably well-compiled list of the 1,000 greatest movies ever made, according to various film critic polls (we might call it the "snobby" list). Out of their 1,000 greatest movies list, I extracted the ten highest films from the '80s, which generated the list below:

1. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
2. Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, 1982)
3. Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)
4. Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
5. Decalogue (Kieslowski, 1988)
6. Shoah (Lanzmann, 1985)
7. Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
8. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg, 1982)
9. Close-Up (Kiarostami, 1989)
10. Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)

Then, over on the Internet Movie Database, I did the same with their own "IMDB Top 250," which generated this list (you might term it, by contrast, the "popular" list):

1. The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980)
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981)
3. The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
4. Das Boot (Petersen, 1981)
5. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
6. Raging Bull (Scorsese, 1980)
7. Amadeus (Forman, 1984)
8. The Elephant Man (Lynch, 1980)
9. Full Metal Jacket (Kubrick, 1987)
10. Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore, 1988)

From here we can make several observations:

1. Only two films that appear on the They Shoot Pictures list also appear on either of our lists: Blade Runner and Brazil. Both appear on Yoggoth's list; no films from this list appear on mine.

2. Two of the films on the They Shoot Pictures list are films which neither Yoggoth nor I have ever seen: Decalogue, a ten-hour, ten part meditation on the Ten Commandments by Red, White and Blue trilogy director Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Shoah, a 570 minute documentary on the Holocaust consisting almost exclusively of interviews with Holocaust survivors. Suffice to say, I don't anticipate either of these films being viewed by us any time soon.

3. Only three films that appear on the IMDB list also appear on our list: The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Shining. Only one film, The Empire Strikes Back, appears on both my list and either of these lists. This means that either I am out of touch with the current consensus on '80s cinema, or my opinions are blazingly original.

4. One film on the IMDB list I have never seen: Cinema Paradiso. I am not sure if Yoggoth has ever seen this.

5. The They Shoot Pictures list and the IMDB list, despite their wildly divergent compiling methods, are in truth not all that different. Yes, only one film overlaps between them (Raging Bull), but the IMDB list is actually quite respectable considering how it might have turned out. It swaps one Spielberg blockbuster (E.T.) for another (Raiders), while it swaps one David Lynch cult hit (Blue Velvet) for another (The Elephant Man). Kubrick and Forman films are nothing to frown upon either. In fact, if one continues down the They Shoot Pictures list, one will see many of the IMDB picks waiting in the wings (and vice versa with the They Shoot Pictures picks on the IMDB list).

6. These lists also confirm my opinion of the relative merits of '80s cinema when placed into the context of cinema history as a whole. Raging Bull, the top choice on the They Shoot Pictures list, is the 19th greatest film of all time according to their larger ranking. However, Fanny and Alexander, their second choice, is only the 62nd greatest film of all time. It's almost the same story over at IMDB: The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark come in at 7 and 18, respectively, but The Shining doesn't come in until 57.

And finally, I thought I would provide a brief explanation as to why I did not include each of these films in my own top ten list.

Raging Bull: You'll notice that I managed to include two Scorsese movies in my list, and neither of them happened to be Raging Bull. Critics seem to have a big boner for this movie, but I don't even think it's one of Scorsese's best movies. Sure, it's obviously good by ordinary standards, but it just doesn't seem to have very much to say about life, at least not the way Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and The King of Comedy do. As Yoggoth put it back in January, "I didn't care about the boxer. You get to the end and you say to yourself, 'Yeah that guy was kind of an asshole but he kept on an asshole, aaand so what?'"

Fanny and Alexander: This is the obligatory "movie made by a great master of cinema at the end of his career about his childhood" (see Amarcord). As such, it's very enjoyable, but I guess I didn't find it one of Bergman's more passionate, immediate works.

Blue Velvet: I remember being disappointed with this when I saw it; however, it definitely has stuck in my memory and I will probably watch it again sometime. Honestly, though, I have to say that if this is a movie anyone would want to put on a top ten list, then some people are just batshit crazy.

Ran: Here's a very handsomely made movie that hits all the right notes and yet, for me at least, lacks the oddness and specificity that I look for in my favorite epics. It's exactly the kind of movie that would have seemed really great in the '80s but comes off as just sort of pleasant now.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Sure it's cute but I have very little desire to see this again, and that's got to be a bad sign.

Close-Up: Abbas Kiarostami is the Godard of Iran - heavy on the film theory, light on the story. He singlehandedly owes his career to snooty film critics. That said, this is the only movie of his that I've seen, and I actually liked it. I am not in any rush to see more of his films, however.

Das Boot: Basically a Hollywood-style film that happens to be in German. Nevertheless, it's like a really intelligent, subdued Hollywood-style film. A very, very good movie - that I barely remember watching.

Aliens: Here is the one arguably questionable choice on the IMDB list. Yoggoth always expresses his annoyance that this film receives more attention that Alien, which he feels is really the true masterpiece of the Alien series (and which I've never seen because it gives me the creeps). As for Aliens, I have seen it, but not in years, so I don't remember what I think. I will say that James Cameron is very good at what he does, though.

Amadeus: This is very, very close to a great movie, but somehow by the time it gets to the end I just don't care about Mozart anymore. Still, I reference it all the time and it contains some priceless insights on the nature of the artist (in particular its observations on artistic jealousy).

The Elephant Man: Great atmosphere, interesting story. A little too cold for me to truly love.

Full Metal Jacket: I must confess that I've never actually seen this all the way through in one sitting - but seeing as though it's basically two separate stories spliced together, I've never felt this was much of a problem. And I've always had the sense that its popularity has been inflated by young males who like this movie mostly because the first part is so "hardcore" and the second part has the "me so horny" line.


ninquelote said...

Commenting on this entry would take hours of debate, and probably cause carpal tunnel. However I will make the comment that many of the top movies on the other lists were foreign movies, and I think to include them is a very pretentious move on their part.

Little Earl said...

Well, keep in mind that many of the polls used to compile the They Shoot Pictures list were taken from other countries, so not all of the foreign films are actually "foreign" to all the people doing the voting.

But yes, there are definitely elements of pretention in that list, particularly the larger "1,000 Greatest" list, and I disagree with many of their rankings. For my part, as I already mentioned, I did not include any foreign films in my own '80s list.