What a surprise! Citizen Kane is again voted all-time best American movie.

What a surprise! Citizen Kane is again voted all-time best American movie.

Another day, another list.

This one seeks to itemise the 100 best American movies ever made (stifled yawns!)

Film critics from around the world were polled by the BBC with each being allowed to pick their 10 faves.

No matter how many ‘experts’ contributed, these lists remain highly subjective and are mostly more interesting for what is excluded.

Inexplicable absences, to my mind, include On The Waterfront (1954), The French Connection (1971) and Bladerunner (1982). None of these were deemed sufficiently groundbreaking, while Heaven’s Gate (1980) one of cinema’s all time greatest flops, scrapes in at number 98 and at 53 comes the major WTF entry – Grey Gardens (1975) – an obscure documentary about the eccentric lives of a rich and reclusive mother and daughter in a decaying mansion.

The dubious criteria for being ‘American’ is that the movie must have received funding from an US source. This conveniently allows the appropriation of most recent film on the list , Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave (2013) . despite the fact that the director and most of the cast are British.

This is one of only fourteen post-1990 titles which is either a damning indictment of the current state of the US movie industry or a reflection of the exaggerated nostalgia tendencies of the critics.

I believe that it is the critics, not the movies, that are at fault here. Their conservatism means that they will ignore modern classics like Fargo (1996), Magnolia (1999)  or The Matrix (1999) yet will think nothing of genuflecting before Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), a movie which IMHO would only merit such an elevated status if it had not been butchered by the film studio (they re-edited it, changed the score and tagged on a ridiculously sentimental ending).

Can any best of US films list really be taken seriously when it does not include a single movie by the Coen Brothers?

Further proof that the critics are overly conservative and living too much in the past can be gleaned from how few of the fine ‘independent’ filmmakers win their vote. For instance, the list completely ignores the works of Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch and, most unforgiveably of all, The Coen Brothers.

In a linked video, cultural critic Noah Glittell says that the top ten movies are those that “impact society as a whole” and claims that most current movies don’t do that. This is a red herring for, in truth, public opinion matters not one jot when it comes to selecting these titles.  If it did, we’d see movies like The Shawshank Redemption (1994) or Titanic (1997) near the top of the charts (neither even makes it into the 100).

Lauding praise on former glories (for the umpteenth time) only serves to give the false impression that modern cinema is dead.  In reality, it proves that it is the minds of critics, not the pictures, that have gotten small.

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