Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The worst ten best? Or, how to get laughed at in the teens.

John Podhoretz, whom I generally admire, has been making great fun of Richard Brody's list of the ten greatest films of all time, posted and explained here.  He calls it the worst ten best list ever published and then goes further by posting Brody's picture and making fun of THAT. (To quote a line from Rocky "I don't see any crowd around you...") Adolescent hi-jinks aside -- and that 's what Twitter is for, right? -- there is a point to be made about the dangers of going too far in refining your taste for something that is, after all, a vital and popular art.  Here's the list.  (Turns out that I've seen all of these except "Voyage to Italy", and there are only two movies on the list -- "Playtime" and "Rules of the Game" of course -- that I seriously treasure.  It is truly a strange list, I must say.)

King Lear” (1987, Jean-Luc Godard)
The Great Dictator” (1940, Charlie Chaplin)
The Last Laugh” (1924, F. W. Murnau)
Marnie” (1964, Alfred Hitchcock)
Shoah” (1985, Claude Lanzmann)
The Rules of the Game” (1939, Jean Renoir)
Gertrud” (1964, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Playtime” (1967, Jacques Tati)
Husbands” (1970, John Cassavetes)
Voyage to Italy” (1953, Roberto Rossellini)

UPDATE: Fanning the flames, Podhoretz in back to back tweets today quotes both James Wood on Hilary Mantel's gift of being interesting and Salman Rushdie saying: "Art is not entertainment. At it's very best, it's a revolution." To which Podhoretz adds: "Which is why he's a bad artist."

You could write a book on turning common-or-garden variety anti-intellectualism into its own aesthetic. Lots of people have, I'll bet.  I often lean that way myself, especially when confronted with the company I'd have to keep otherwise.


David Chute said...

I'm not a charter member of "I don't like movies" club, but even so, I'd pick a "primordial source of pleasure" other than cinema.

This is the screwiest list imaginable. Hard to even guess what his criteria could be -- or what's projected on the inner surface of his skull.

Christian Lindke said...

"Marnie" isn't even Hitchcock's best film.