Every ten years since 1952, the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine has published a list titled the Critics' Top Ten Poll: the organization's ranking of the ten best movies ever made. And every ten years since 1962, there has been one standing consistency: Citizen Kane has always been BFI's number one pick. Until now.
The 2012 incarnation of the list has been published, and Citizen Kane has fallen to the number two spot. Taking its place: Alfred Hitchcock's classic Vertigo. Check out the full list below: 1) Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
2) Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles
3) Tokyo Story (1953), directed by Yasujiro Ozu
4) La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939), directed by Jean Renoir
5) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau
6) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick
7) The Searchers (1956), directed by John Ford
8) Man with a Movie Camera (1929), directed by Dziga Vertov
9) The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
10) 8½ (1963), directed by Federico FelliniVertigo is a great film, no doubt. Better than Kane? Maybe. But why has this movie, which came out in 1958 (before Citizen Kane's first turn as number one, even) suddenly been recognized as the superior picture?
The 1952 Top Ten list didn't include Citizen Kane at all, even though it had come out eleven years prior. But over time, it grew on people. Quite effectively. Now, over half a century after Vertigo's release, it has inched to the top of the list (the movie first graced the list in '82 at the number seven spot, inching up to number four in '92, and reaching number two in '02).
It took twenty-one years for Citizen Kane to earn the top spot, and fifty-four for Vertigo. Maybe a film's persistence of quality is considered by the critics brought on to devise their choices. As such, Vertigo maintaining its appeal so long after its creation would afford it a few extra points in the minds of contributors to the list. Or maybe there's just a stigma against pictures that have come out too recently. Is a critic deterred from recognizing the power of a movie that came out in his or her lifetime?
Four out of the ten recognized films came out prior to 1940. Even the most recent release on the list, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is forty-four years old. The critical community cherishes the old; and while this can be chalked up to the pioneering of new ideas and artistic methods, there are plenty of movies from 1970 onward that deserve credit for their achievement and influence.
This is reflected in the Directors' Top Ten Poll — a list that Sight & Sound began publishing in 1992. This year's incarnation of the list includes a handful of more recent, and probably more widely familiar, pieces of cinematic art:1) Tokyo Story (1953), directed by Yasujiro Ozu
2) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick
3) Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles
4) 8½ (1963), directed by Federico Fellini
5) Taxi Driver (1976), directed by Martin Scorsese
6) Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
7) The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola
8) Vertigo (1968), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
9) Mirror (1975), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
10) Bicycle Thieves (1948), directed by Vittorio De SicaVertigo, Citizen Kane, and 2001 again find recognition, as do the films Tokyo Story and 8½. But beyond those are a slew of '70s pictures: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, and the Russian film Mirror. But is there any chance that either of BFI's lists can recognize films from the '80s, '90s, even the 2000s, in the near future? And if so, what films would most likely earn highlighted spots? Some other contemporary lists could provide insight:
The American Film Institute recognizes the 1993 film Schindler's List as number nine on its Top 100 Movies list.
The rating results on Rotten Tomatoes event in a Best Movies of All Time list that is largely recent films. Here is the site's top five:1) Man on Wire (2008), directed by James Marsh
2) Toy Story 2 (1999), directed by Josh Lassiter (co-directed by Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich)
3) Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), directed by Alex Gibney
4) The Interrupters (2011), directed by Steve James
5) Toy Story (1995), directed by John Lassiter(It warrants mention that this was not created as a comprehensive list, but resulted automatically from the ratings applied to these movies by the site's active critics. Nevertheless, it's proof that people are still making terrific, important, resonant movies.)
Various outlets will cite some newer pictures as superior products. 1993's Shawshank Redemption is consistently the highest rated film on IMDb. The Google search for "Top Movies of All Time" results in thumbnails including 1982's E.T., 1994's Pulp Fiction, 2008's The Dark Knight, and 1994's Forrest Gump. And if you ask anyone from my high school, the absolute best thing to come out of the realm of cinema is invariably 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious. Seriously, we watched that movie all the time.
So if newer pictures are so prevalent in other venues' recognition of great cinematic art, why does the BFI tread so differently? Why does it feel more "respectable" to love older movies when plenty of newer ones are just as good? Why does it take fifty years to admit, "Okay, we can finally shift this film up to the number one spot"?
We won't know what turns the perspectives of Sight & Sound will take for ten years now. And of course, there's nothing substantially wrong with one organization that seems to religiously prefer old to new — just as long as film continues to be appreciated, and contemporary artists are afforded due credit for pioneering new ideas and new means of storytelling. Because as many ideas there are that have been captured on screen, and as many devices for committing those ideas there are that have been utilized, there are still an endless supply being explored and invented today.
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros., Universal Pictures]
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P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan follows J.M. Barrie's story almost to the letter. A girl on the brink of womanhood Wendy Darling (newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves telling her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) stories of dastardly pirates as they sit in their nursery under the watchful eye of their St. Bernard Nana. Her 19th-century Londoner parents however believe the time has come for the young girl to grow up especially her father. Then a cheeky wild-haired boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies through the nursery window one night with his trusted yet jealousy-prone fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) telling Wendy he can take her to a place full of adventure where no one ever has to grow up. She readily accepts the offer and with a few happy thoughts some fairy dust and her two brothers in tow she flies off to Neverland. (Not the ranch…the real place.) Once there Wendy encounters mermaids Indians and the Lost Boys (who refer to her as "mother") and gets the whole pirate experience in Peter's ongoing feud with arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs). But Wendy soon becomes conflicted because on the one hand she likes hangin' with hottie Peter but on the other she misses her mother. She decides it's probably best to go back and grow up but in her hurry to leave she ends up in Hook's clutches. A rescue ensues. Swords clash ticking crocodiles are fed and fairies are saved as our clever fly boy zooms Wendy and company back to London on a giant pirate ship. But does he stay and grow up himself? Hell no he's a Toys 'R Us kid forever!
All the kid actors in Peter Pan are highly watchable and appealing with angelic faces peaches-and-cream complexions and pouty cherry lips. This is the first time Peter is being played by a real-life boy a fact much hyped by the filmmakers and 12-year-old Sumpter (Frailty) does his best to live up to the expectations. (He's soon to be swoon-worthy material for sure.) He's got a mischievous gleam in his eye and a great sly smile but he really lights up when he's looking into Wendy's adorable face. Hurd-Wood the first-time actress who plays the spirited girl earned her role after a long and involved casting process it's well deserved; she fits the typical English-girl profile perfectly and gets the hang of her craft quickly infusing the character with a natural cheerful energy. It's also refreshing to see the young actors play up Wendy and Peter's feelings of first love which prior films always hinted at but never fully realized. Isaacs in a dual role as the firm-but-loving Mr. Darling and the frightening comical lonely charming needy reprehensible Captain Hook draws on his experience at playing exquisitely awful baddies (The Patriot Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and really sinks his claws into Hook. In a stand out supporting role French actress Sagnier (Swimming Pool) is really fantastic as the vivacious non-speaking Tinkerbell portraying the fairy's conflicted emotions with a silent-film over-the-top technique.
Director/writer P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and his team try to distinguish their film from the other Peter Pans of the world by using all the technical and special effects wizardry at their disposal. Hogan says his Peter Pan is the way its author Barrie intended to be when he wrote it as a play over a 100 years ago--full of fantasy and wonder. In a way he's right and production designer Roger Ford and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar take his vision and run with it giving audiences a very lush Neverland with waterfalls fluffy pink clouds crystal-blue waters and a gorgeous fairy world. But despite the bells and whistles there really isn't anything original and different in this Pan. Even its look at the dark side of Neverland has been done in Steven Spielberg's 1991 semi-sequel Hook which showed the dangers of Neverland. In this version lives really are at stake and the pirates are not cute and fun. Even the mermaids are mysterious and malevolent with scary faces and murderous intentions a far cry from the beautiful if somewhat mean-spirited creatures of the 1953 classic Disney animated adaptation another inescapable influence on the audience. When the crocodile draws near for example tick-tocking away the croc's signature tune from the Disney film comes immediately to mind. People may love those Disney films for those cutesy catchy songs but Peter Pan really is a good story. Heck it's a great story. But it's just been done.
Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) never aspires to become one of the youngest people ever to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List--it just kind of turns out that way. His adventures begin in 1967 when he runs away from home at 16 just as his parents are divorcing. He finds himself alone in the Big Apple unsuccessfully trying to cash fake $20 checks. One day Frank notices how much respect is given to two airline pilots and he decides impersonating a Pan Am co-pilot might be just the ticket so to speak. Thus begins his brilliant three-year run as a master of deception. After infiltrating Pan Am he changes careers--he's a pediatrician then a lawyer--all the while perfecting his forgery skills. Cashing fake checks all over the country Abagnale amasses millions and quite literally becomes a kid in a candy store buying sports cars and fancy suits losing his virginity and pretending he is James Bond. Still the fact remains Frank is just a kid. Even after all these adult experiences his main objective is to get his father Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) a down-on-his-luck store owner hounded by the IRS back together with his now-remarried mother (Nathalie Baye). Frank's nefarious activities eventually catch the authorities' attention and Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) a no-nonsense FBI agent in charge of the bank fraud division is soon hot on Frank's tail. But Frank doesn't mind. Part of him wants to get caught and he baits Hanratty to never give up the chase. Hanratty never does and finally brings his man to justice.
Catch Me's acting ensemble shines. Given the fact DiCaprio is in two high-profile movies this holiday season--this one and Gangs of New York--puts the actor back on the radar after a hiatus (perhaps he was licking his wounds after starring in the disastrous 2001 The Beach). Yet if you were to match the performances DiCaprio's stellar turn as Abagnale definitely stands out as the better of the two (the Golden Globes feel the same recently giving DiCaprio a nod for best actor in a drama). He fits the part like a glove--all at once charismatic childish vulnerable and deadly intelligent. DiCaprio easily shows how Frank isn't necessarily a sociopath but more a needy kid looking for acceptance. Say what you will about DiCaprio's movie star qualities he still has the acting chops to make it work. Walken as Frank Sr. also gives one of the better performances of his career playing a sad man who knows the apple doesn't fall from the tree but who is too proud to admit his mistakes--even to his son. Hanks is superb as well (is there anything this man can't do?) playing the by-the-book Hanratty completely devoid of emotion--but making us laugh anyway every time he comes on the screen. He doesn't mean to of course but to see Hanks play something so obviously straight somehow brings out the humor in the situation even more. Just don't ask Hanratty to tell you a joke. TV's Alias honey Jennifer Garner also makes a nice cameo as a prostitute--watch out folks she's heading for the big screen.
Based on the real-life memoirs of Frank W. Abagnale Jr. Catch Me If You Can is a fascinating study of a brilliant mind which isn't by nature criminal--just slightly misguided (ironically the real Abagnale now in his 50s is a legitimate businessman who also acts as an consultant for the FBI's bank fraud division). Under the skillful hands of director Steven Spielberg Catch Me has a great deal of fun going for a very '60s tongue-in-cheek Pink Panther feel from the opening credits to the ease at which Frank goes about his merry way conning everyone including himself. The motto of the film has to be "never deny." Frank accepts everything and things just fall into his lap. Even when Frank tries to tell the truth to the father (played by Martin Sheen) of a woman he wants to marry it works to his advantage. Yet the meat of the film is Frank's inner turmoil at the breakup of his parents of wanting his family back together again and of his need to come clean. Frank secretly wants to be disciplined told what to do and that's why Hanratty becomes so important almost a fatherly figure to him. The film probably plays about a half hour too long especially in explaining what happens to Abagnale after he gets caught but otherwise it totally engages you.
Loosely based on the (rather lame) 1960 Rat Pack film dashing understated-but-cool thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) orchestrates the most sophisticated elaborate casino heist in history less than 24 hours after being released from jail. In one night Danny's handpicked 11-man crew of specialists--including an ace card sharp (Brad Pitt) a young-but-masterful pickpocket (Matt Damon) and a demolition genius (Don Cheadle)--will attempt to steal over $150 million from three Las Vegas casinos owned by Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) the elegant ruthless entrepreneur who just happens to be dating Danny's ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts). To score the cash Danny will have to risk his life and risk his chance of ever reconciling with Tess. But if all goes according to his intricate nearly impossible plan Danny won't have to choose between his stake in the heist and his high-stakes reunion with Tess. Or will he?
The star wattage in this movie could solve all of California's electricity problems in one fell swoop. George Clooney easily passes himself off as suave mastermind Danny Ocean playing the role with understated class and elegance. Brad Pitt takes a similar arc as Rusty though he's slightly more dispassionate and professional than Clooney's visionary Ocean. Matt Damon is convincing as the inexperienced-but-talented pickpocket who's essential to getting in the vault. And Julia is simply Julia--glamorous and charming a smart cookie who is being wooed by the evil ruthless (and anal-retentive) casino mogul so elegantly portrayed by Andy Garcia. Affecting a Cockney accent and attitude Don Cheadle's portrayal of the demolition expert is a tour de force. Carl Reiner is absolutely hilarious as Saul Bloom an aging old-timer who comes out of retirement to infiltrate the casino as a debonair arms dealer. Elliott Gould Bernie Mac Scott Caan and Casey Affleck round out the cast nicely with inspired performances especially Gould's and Mac's.
Soderbergh cemented his reputation last year as a director of serious weight when both Traffic and Erin Brockovich were nominated for the Best Film Academy Award and garnered him two Best Director nominations---an unprecedented feat. Ocean's Eleven marks Soderbergh's departure from the serious to the seriously fun. This is one of the most stylish most elegantly filmed movies I have ever seen. Not only are all the actors beautiful but so are the locations clothes and shot selections. The speed and pacing of the flick belie the movie's length; Soderbergh clearly had fun making this movie. He shot this film very intimately often allowing the camera to stay close on the actors a tad longer than expected which lets their personas shine through--thus their personalities draw you into the movie as much as the caper itself. It's not often you see a movie where the direction has as much wit and cleverness as the plot itself. Ocean's Eleven makes no pretense to be something other than a jaunty cheeky exhilarating heist movie. So while the plot's not too deep all is forgiven considering the level of acting and direction.