What’s the point in lists? Honestly, why do people bother? Last week Entertainment Weekly published their list of the ‘twenty coolest heroes in pop culture, as well as their ‘twenty vilest villains’. I’m not going to bother discussing the lists themselves (you can see for yourself by clicking here), frankly I don’t care who EW think is cool, I’m just irked that the lists exist in the first place.
I understand why these lists are published: they’re filler. We’re now in the fallow months for film journalism. The awards season is over, and we’re still over a month from the beginning of ‘blockbuster season, so for at least the next thirty days there we’re going to get more of these lists. The problem is that they’re so utterly meaningless. Of the Entertainment Weekly list almost all of the ‘heroes’ are from franchises, eight of the characters appeared in films that have been released in the last two years, and of the remaining twelve, five feature in TV series that are either currently or have recently been in syndication.
I have no idea who chose these characters. It could have been public vote, the staffers in the Entertainment Weekly offices, or just one overworked intern. Whoever put this list together did exactly the same thing everyone does when asked to put together a list: reached for the familiar, be that something they’ve seen recently or something that is considered de rigeur.
A few months ago Empire magazine published their list of the 500 greatest films of all time. They made a big deal of the list being voted on not only by readers of the magazine, but also by critics, and even industry professionals, yet still it came back looking like a slight remix of every other ‘greatest film’ list in existence, the top five being:
1. The Godfather
2. Raiders of the lost Ark
3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
4. Shawshank Redemption
Other highlights include Pulp Fiction at number nine, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring at 24 and Ben-Hur way down at 491.
Again, I’m not going to discuss the list in great detail (although I will point out that, as big a geeky fanboy as I am, I have seen many films better than Raiders of the Lost Ark and Empire Strikes Back). What I am going to do is compare it to the IMDb’s top 250. This list again features The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction and The Empire Strikes Back in the top ten. Does that mean that any of these films are among the greatest of all time, of course not. It just means that the same people are voting in all of these polls.
The fact that the only film released since 2001 to feature in the top twenty-five of either of these polls was The Dark Knight doesn’t mean that we’ve had a dearth of good cinema for the last seven years. It doesn’t even give a guide as to the quality of The Dark Knight, all it shows is that the people who vote in these polls are voting for what is considered the standard rather than what’s recent. They are still, however, voting for what’s familiar.
I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this. At this stage, I am as well. I appreciate that this is something of a meandering rant, but the point I am trying to make is that all of these lists, whether a list of the best films ever or a list of the ten most erotic lovemaking scenes of all time, ignore them. They’re pointless.
On a related note Empire Magazine held their awards last night. The novel thing about the Empire Awards is that as well as letting their readers vote on the shortlist they also let the public nominate that shortlist. Amazingly, the nominees were actually not just the usual suspects, but also featured films like Son of Rambow and In Bruges.
Sadly whilst the nominations seem to have been made by people who saw a lot of films last year, the voting, in at least a few categories, seems to have been done by fourteen year old idiots, and middle aged women, hence Wanted won Best Sci-Fi/ Superhero over Iron Man, Hellboy2, The Dark Knight and Wall-E while Mama Mia! Won best soundtrack over Sweeny Todd, RocknRolla, Quantum of Solace and There Will Be Blood. Alright, I appreciate that the shortlist was pretty shitty, but I can’t understand why an Abba covers album just won a gong at a film awards show.
Go and check out the site for the full rundown of winners, and lookout for James McAvoy letting the world know his love for Battlestar Galactica.