Monday, January 16, 2012

In Which Jason Makes a New 2011 List and Responds to John's Criticisms and General Curmudgeonry

I'll get a couple things out of the way, first.

Jeff, I considered putting The Black Cauldron in my 1985 list, but I couldn't remember enough of it to warrant its inclusion. It is very much an underrated Disney hand-drawn, though.

Great list, Chris. I like how you did a combo of different methods. I'm hoping it's because you saw merit in both methods, but due to you caving to John about Meek's Cutoff, I fear it may be your people-pleasing instincts taking over.

So, onto my new 2011 ranked Best-of list:

1. Meek's Cutoff
2. Meek's Cutoff
3. Meek's Cutoff
4. Meek's Cutoff
5. Meek's Cutoff
6. Meek's Cutoff
7. Meek's Cutoff
8. Meek's Cutoff
9. Meek's Cutoff
10. (and just for some variety) The Way Back

John, just be a man and admit that you see some merit in my method, or you wouldn't have spent time putting together a list using it. One thing that it does is provide a framework for ALL films seen in a year to be assessed in some way, which I like. I won't think less of you for complimenting me without throwing in an insult to "balance it out," or whatever goes through that crazy head of yours, I promise.

I will concede, after having done my 1985 list, that it is possible for me to rank films in order of favorite pretty confidently. But I stand by my "test of time"caveat. Some films excite and inspire when you see them, but then it can fade over time. You might be pleased to hear me say that while I still think Inception is an excellent film, and innovative and exciting, its impact on me has diminished a little over time. I'd say it takes a good year at least to measure effectively a film's true impact on me. Do I find myself thinking about it out of the blue or wanting to see it again? Do I want to show it to my kid, or my friends? Do I find myself relating events in the film to events happening in my life? These things don't happen right away. I mean, we have to be honest. Film is art, and art's power is in its impact. Sure, you can make judgments about technical skill, but at the level most of us are watching, we're already dealing with the upper echelons. So what's left? Impact. Pure, subjective impact. What's fun about arguing back and forth with each other is that one will point out things that the other has missed, potentially affecting the impact a particular film has had, potentially changing his/her estimation of it.

My point in saying this is to point out that we're already making decisions about which films are best based upon subjective criteria--to be specific, the personal impact a film has had. So why not categorize a film's release date based upon when the film has been in a position to make the most impact, i.e. a wide release date? Or, even better, why not allow for flexibility in the cases where an argument could be made for a film's release (and subsequent impact) happening in two different years? The films in our individual lists get moved around to suit our whims, so why get particular about one aspect of categorizing and not another? Or, should I say, why get on other people's cases for not being particular when a lot about ranking films isn't particular at all? Ranking films by year is as artificial a construct as ranking them at all, anyway. We're arbitrarily setting parameters and framing sets to make the groupings more manageable and to provide a platform for discussion. If quality discussion ensues, then we've accomplished our purposes. So, Chris, if you want to put Meek's Cutoff in your 2011 list, you go right ahead. You said it seems silly, and so it is. But it's not silly for John to do so, and I enjoy reading his lists because basing them on slightly different criteria is interesting and thought-provoking and provides more variety.

Another issue I have with ranking films by year is that, as I mentioned previously, it's like trying to compare apples and oranges. Different films have different objectives, and to lump them all together for purposes of ranking seems to me to diminish them all in some fashion. I would have an easier time ranking comedies of 2011, or dramas...but even then, where do you put films that cross genres, like Cold Weather? That's why it was easy for me to rank superhero films from 2011. Similar subject matter, similar themes, similar objectives in terms of audience response.

And that's all I have to say about that for now. Let the quality discussion ensue.

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