Our local video shop, in an effort to boost sales, has provided us a list of the “Top 100 Movies of All Time.”
Like most people, I love lists. They provide a lot of raw material for interesting debates and discussions.
There are, however, two things that I don’t like about lists. The first is when political correctness (or recent demise) is a reason for including someone or something on a Top Something list. I’d give an example, but it would be politically incorrect.
The second is when the list compiler insists on including something just to appear sophisticated or esoteric.
For example, each afternoon on our local public radio station, they have a segment where someone calls in to tell what, in their opinion, is “The Greatest Song of All Time.”
Now that’s pretty hard. How do you choose the “greatest?” Especially when there are no refining criteria. Do you narrow it down to the song with the greatest guitar solo (still a difficult decision) or the song with the most influence, or the best lyrics? No matter how you slice it, you will still have a lot of contenders for the title.
And I don’t know about you, but my opinion on the greatest song changes just about daily.
But what I don’t understand is why I’ve never heard of any of the songs that people call in and describe as their “greatest.” A lot of times I haven’t even heard of the group.
For example, they will call in and say that the greatest song of all time, bar none, is “Three Legged Blues” by Bradley Noodnik.
There will be a pregnant pause so that the listeners (except me) have time to say, “Ah yes, I’d almost forgotten. How true!” Then the host will say, “Tell us about that song and why you think it’s so great.” After a lengthy discussion of Bradley’s ouvre, they will finally play the song.
And guess what? You don’t agree that it’s the greatest song of all time. In fact, you come to understand why no one has ever heard of Bradley Noodnik before.
So with these prejudices in mind, before opening the pamphlet from the video shop, I said to myself “I bet Citizen Kane will be on the list.”
You know I was right.
Now, this is not a criticism of Citizen Kane. It is not even an attempt to argue that it shouldn’t be on the list. I’m not saying that the list is flawed because it includes Citizen Kane but leaves out Surf Nazis Must Die. I don’t know what the criteria for being on the list are. I’m just saying that Citizen Kane is always named as one of the, if not the, greatest movies of all time and I want to know why here at the beginning of the 21st century that is the case.
First of all, let’s look at some of the other offerings on the list. There is Star Wars, of course. And Rocky. And Borat. You see where I’m going with this. The Sound of Music is on the list. But not Die Hard.
You see my confusion? It looks to me like some different demographic groups had input into the list and I don’t know about you, but I have trouble figuring out who is in the demographic that says that Citizen Kane belongs on a list of top movies today?
When we compile a list of the top inventions of all time, we do not include the Comptometer. It might have caused as many techno-orgasms as the iPad in its day, but no one today thinks a clunky old calculator belongs on a list like that.
Would Pong belong on a list of the top video games of all time?
So if you were asking people what the greatest movie of all time was, who do you think would say Citizen Kane? People at a Lady Gaga concert? People at a video game convention? World Cup Soccer fans?
How about if you added a voting choice for American Idol fans?
I doubt it. I don’t know many people who have actually seen the movie. And none who rave about it.
Oh, wait. What about college freshman sitting around smoking dope and discussing the evolution of the roman a clef.
I guess there are more of them out there than we thought.