When you see a Top 10 list of the best movies ever made, you have to assume most movie connoisseurs would prefer seeing influential filmmakers compile the lists rather than critics. Sure enough, Sight & Sound has released a list of legendary directors who assembled personal Top 10 lists of their favorite all-time films. And when you see those lists from Woody Allen through to Quentin Tarantino, you realize one thing: They aren't brave enough to place their own films there.
Not that we'd expect them to without them facing the fear of being egomaniacs. But considering this is a small breed of directors more or less making up the last of what you'd call classic filmmakers, what does it say about the films they chose? Almost every single movie on their list is from before the 1980s, except for one or two.
It's an ample warning that there simply haven't been any films made in recent years that will influence directors profoundly to the point of stylistic assimilation. One of the few films mentioned that's recent is "Avatar" from Michael Mann's list, which also poses the question of how influential James Cameron's films are becoming. An argument can be made that perhaps Cameron is the only "younger" director alive who's setting up wholly original and epic visions for future filmmakers.
Truth be told, every one of those directors featured in the Sight & Sound piece have been influenced by the directors they mention in their lists. Even Martin Scorsese will be the first to tell a living soul that his style has the influence of Orson Welles, Fellini, Renoir, and Hitchcock all rolled into an individualistic visual style. Plus, nobody shows more assimilation of prior directors than Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino.
It's quite obvious that our younger directors also have subsequently assimilated the styles of Coppola, Scorsese, and perhaps Tarantino. Nevertheless, the movies those newer directors make today just don't turn out to be films that can revolutionize the industry with a strong sense of quality, no matter how hard they may try. An obvious reason for that is because Hollywood has a tighter reign on letting anyone have complete dominion over a production like an Orson Welles or the great European/Asian filmmakers of yore.
No matter what the film is, studio executives are going to make sure that it's as marketable as possible as guided by the vagaries of the masses. A truly visionary filmmaker will seldom have the power to do something that breaks barriers storywise unless they have the deep pockets that James Cameron has. In that regard, being a near billionaire is the only tool keeping Cameron away from joining the business as usual club.
This isn't to say that studio suits aren't aware of this situation and seem to be doing something about it this year. Upon us, before Oscar nomination time, are some movies that are being made in classic styles like we haven't seen in decades. "Anna Karenina", "Life of Pi", "Cloud Atlas", and "Les Miserables" are just four that have enough reported innovations to revolutionize film again and potentially slip onto Top 10 film lists of the future.
Even if they do, those future Top 10 lists will be sadder if they forget that Allen, Coppola, and Scorsese were still alive and creatively high when the above films were released.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Quentin Tarantino
- Woody Allen
- James Cameron