12 October 2009
FILM CANONS – The decade draws to a close
My blogging habits of late have been woefully inconsistent. I have been commissioned to write a book on Indian cinema and so most of my time has currently been overwhelmed by the demands of research. So many films seem to be passing me by with great annoyance and I can foresee that it is going to be somewhat of a problem negotiating my way through an ever increasing pile of DVDs. However, as this decade is quickly drawing to a close, lists have steadily started to appear across the blogosphere. I’m already under the impression that this decade is likely to come up short in terms of quality cinema when compared to the memorable world cinema scene of the 90s. This has arguably been the decade that DVD and the Internet answered the old age question to do with accessibility and availability that continues to haunt the discerning cinephile. So, what have been the best films of the decade? I have never been a fan of film cannons but in many ways top ten lists continue to provide a great source of debate amongst cinephiles. I personally think it is wise to have two separate best of decade lists – one for Hollywood and the other dedicated to non mainstream, world cinema films.
A few weeks back, The Observer (a Sunday newspaper), published a list titled ‘The Best British films of the last 25 years’ in their magazine supplement. Not only was the list made up of predictable, mainstream films but many of them including the likes of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Shaun of the Dead’ were granted a place for inexplicable reasons to do with commercial sensibilities rather than be judged on valuable artistic merits. Michael Winterbottom was painfully represented by ’24 Hour Party People, one of his most recognisable films but also his most mediocre when compared to ‘Wonderland’ and ‘In this World’. Ken Loach appeared just once with his 1991 social realist comedy, ‘Riff Raff’, when in reality films like ‘Sweet Sixteen’ and ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ should have also been fully represented. I wasn’t too sure if the Jonathan Glazer directed ‘Sexy Beast’ should have been included either, considering how uneven his career has been.
Surely the most dubious entry of all was Anthony Minghella’s ‘The English Patient’, a Miramax production shot in Italy and Tunisia. Whilst this may be a sweeping epic (another unfriendly marketing euphemism), other than the presence of a British crew made up of Minghella, Kristin-Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes, it to me falls short of attracting the status of a British film. I was also duly disheartened by The Observer’s dismissal of significantly authentic and prescient contemporary British films like ‘Yasmin’, ‘My Son The Fanatic’, ‘Raining Stones’, ‘Bloody Sunday’, ‘The Last Resort’ and ‘Dirty Pretty Things’. I might just have to put together my own list so that I can prove how characteristically pedestrian the art of canonizing can become if one is solely motivated by popularity.
So here is the question I would like to ask; what are the ten best Hollywood and non Hollywood films of the last ten years? I will be putting up my list sometime in November and I am looking forward to seeing what the major film critics, academics and friends on the blogosphere have to offer in the coming months.
Labels: film canons