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more sight and sound

The instant uproar from some over the recent results of the Sight and Sound poll reminds me of arguments about the literary canon back when I was an English grad student and then professor. Complaints about how the broadening of the group of voters leads to unprofessional opinions based on "woke" agendas suggest, incorrectly, that this represents something new, a tainting of the selection process that, in the good old days, was based solely on objective critical analysis. These complaints are often accompanied by faint tips of the cap ("don't get me wrong, I think Jeanne Dielman is a great film") that are the equivalent of "some of my best friends are black". Canon selections have always been based on things beyond objectivity. Paying more attention to women film makers and film makers of color and LGBTQ+ film makers isn't about being "woke". It's about recognizing that there is, and has always been, more to film history than simply deciding which John Ford film is the best.

I make great use of consensus lists. I find value in the aggregation of opinions such lists represent, opinions that often differ from my own, opinions that expose me to new possibilities. But the value of consensus is greater when the participants are diverse. The narrower the contributors, the narrower the consensus ... the more diverse the contributors, the more diverse the consensus.

I used to say I wasn't in favor of expanding the canon, that I wanted to destroy it. But now I think all of us have a personal canon. Hierarchies at the individual level are appreciated ... when I say, for instance, that Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell is better than Attack of the Crab Monsters, it should go without saying that by "better" I mean "I think it's better". In essence, consensus lists are made up of the various personal canons of various people. But if all of those people are just like me, that makes my personal canon into THE canon, and that's nonsense. If those various personal canons are constructed out of mostly like-minded people, that's approaching nonsense, as well. Sight and Sound expanded the number and kind of personal canons, and Jeanne Dielman ended up on top. That is less an indictment of the current poll than it is a critique of previous polls.


music friday: christine mcvie

Saw Fleetwood Mac twice, once in the Peter Green pre-Christine days, and once in 1975 when they were touring behind the Fleetwood Mac album. Here is that setlist, minus a Buckingham-Nicks song that isn't on Spotify. McVie songs are "Over My Head", "Say You Love Me", "Why", and "World Turning".

Here's a version of "World Turning" from 1975:


sight and sound

The new Sight and Sound poll is out, with the delightful news that Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles is the new Greatest Movie of All Time, supplanting Vertigo. I do not think Dielman is the greatest movie ever, but it's very good, and I love that it finished at the top, a sure sign that the voting population has increased and changed for the better.

There was also a director's poll that somehow ended up with 2001: A Space Odyssey in first place. Here's an incomplete list of movies from 1968 that are better than 2001:

  • Shame
  • Monterey Pop
  • Memories of Underdevelopment
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Kuroneko
  • Once Upon a Time in the West
  • Wild in the Streets

And that's just 1968. If 2001 is the 10th-best movie of 1968, how can it be the best movie of all time?