~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, August 3rd 2012
The new Sight & Sound poll, which names "Vertigo" as the greatest film of all time, isn’t “new” in every sense. The top ten list of the greatest films ever made, as voted for by 846 critics, contains no film more contemporary than “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which came out in 1968. There’s one other entry from the 1960s, while the other eight are from the 1920s (three), the 1950s (three), the 1930s and 1940s (one each). The last 43 years aren’t acknowledged at all.
It’s not really surprising. Sight & Sound voters will have seen the vast majority of the films released in recent decades, and that colossal number of potential choices makes it almost impossible for a critical consensus to form around one film. But when voters look back at previous decades, they’re drawn towards those films which are already held in high regard: the ones which have books and lecture series written about them.
We shouldn’t complain, then, that none of our modern favourites has made it into the top ten, nor should we fret that film as an artform is on the slide. We should just accept that it takes time, lots of time, for any film to make it into the critical canon. And we can ask ourselves which new and new-ish releases might eventually make that ascent 43 years from now. Here are ten contenders from the past ten years.
Cineastes love films about film-making (cf, “8 1/2”, “Man With A Movie Camera”), so this mind-bending meta-comedy could be in the frame.
Chinese critics will be an increasing presence in Sight & Sound in the next few decades, so how about this gorgeous—and patriotic—martial-arts epic, directed by Zhang Yimou, the man behind the Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies?
“The Incredibles” (2004)
Pixar’s films are currently more assured of a rave review than those of any other studio, so one of them is bound to be acclaimed as a classic by future generations. Or else one of Studio Ghibli’s cartoons.
Michael Haneke plays funny games with digital video, leaving us unsure if we’re watching a standard establishing shot or a stalker’s surreptitious camerawork. Film buff heaven.
“Children Of Men” (2006)
Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian thriller is rated more and more highly as time goes by—as is Mexican cinema in general.
Is Christopher Nolan today’s Hitchcock? His mastery of popular genres has made him the internet commenters’ idol—and internet commenters are only going to get more influential.
“The Social Network” (2010)
As film itself becomes inextricable from the internet, Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher’s brainy, talky drama may be seen as a seminal text.
How about a documentary? But then, who knows whether “Catfish” is really a documentary or not? Film students will be arguing about it for years.
“This Is Not A Film” (2011)
The cutting edge of what film can do: an Iranian director, under house arrest, videos himself at home, and the results are smuggled out of the country in a cake.
“A Separation” (2011)
The critics’ favourite from last year.
Your turn …
Nicholas Barber is a film critic who writes reviews for the Independent On Sunday and previews for Intelligent Life. His recent posts for the Editors' Blog include The full Banksy experience and Barely titles at all.