Citizen Kane No Longer “Best Film of All Time”
Roger Ebert has labeled it as “by far the most respected of the countless polls of great movies — the only one most serious movie people take seriously.” To others, it’s a dusty collection of films put together by an equally dusty assortment of critics. Both opinions are accurate. Sight & Sound is a monthly film magazine, which nobody really reads, published by the British Film Institute (BFI), an institute no one really cares about. Every decade since 1952, however, the magazine has polled the world’s “film professionals” on their favorite film of all time — its one claim to fame. The top fifty films the poll produces has gained the international respect of film critics like Roger Ebert.
Now that I’ve had a little less than a week since the 2012 release, I’m ready for some reflection.
This poll is not without its controversy. The most recent pick in the top ten is 2001: A Space Odyssey, a 44-year-old movie. While there are more recent examples as you near fifty, this appears an archaic, to-the-book approach to selecting “the best film.” Surely there are examples in the past twenty of years that have pushed new boundaries, tried new techniques and told new stories. I respect a film’s ability to stand the test of time, but stubborn critics unwilling to change make for a stagnant list. And, other than one monumental shift, 2012′s list has evolved at the most casual of paces.
Fortunately, the above change happens to be an earthquake. Citizen Kane, the reigning champ since the poll’s inception, has stepped back one spot and ushered in the new best film of all time, Vertigo. Now, there have long been rumors of Sight & Sound’s editor Nick James’ desire to see a change at the top. In order to ensure this happened, James enrolled six times as many voters than a decade ago, 846 to 145. He basically opened the doors to successful bloggers (sadly, I was not on the list), which is a wise move because many of these “film professionals” are stuck a few decades in the past.
So what about our new champion? Personally, Citizen Kane is the superior movie – Vertigo isn’t even in my top ten. Then again, I’m 22. My wisdom to all those interested: appreciate the change, at least. Citizen Kane‘s cinematic punch was softening with every passing decade it remained atop the list. Blame it on human nature, but people grow disinterested in the best of the best over time. Vertigo is without a doubt Hitchcock’s best work, made all the more impressive considering it came first in a string of four classics pumped out by the director: Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). To those of you who have not seen it, to spoil the plot would be sinful, but it’s still fair to assume this a pick from the heart for many of the voters. It is a film that speaks to all hopeless romantic singles, especially those who are male. The first time Stewart follows the eternally beautiful Kim Novak will never stop speaking to me, nor keep me off the edge of my seat no matter how many times I watch the movie. Through the lens of Hitchcock, we witness a beautiful, hypnotic yet uneasy world. A world that opens to the door to desperate male psyche of dominance and obsession. Sappy, disturbing and shocking all at the same time. It is, perhaps, the best blend of so many emotions, those we wear on our sleeve and those we keep locked away, portrayed on screen of all time.
Makes some sense it is number one to so many.