|All Around Us
|Goodbye, Dragon Inn
|House of Hummingbird
|If Beale Street Could Talk
|Los Angeles Plays Itself
|Portrait of a Lady on Fire
On reflection, I’ve approached this decade’s vote as a do-over of my 2012 ballot – cynically to counter the relative sameness I expect from the critics poll this time around, with the added motive of putting forward a more inclusive set of choices.
All of which may prove to be academic – but on principle the last thing I want to be contributing to is another aggregated list where the film greats we all recognise and acknowledge may politely change position, yet will invariably cluster into a hierarchy that fossilises the status quo. A canon that withholds space for newer and more diverse filmmaking voices to not only occupy, but rightfully be legitimised within, is not what’s needed in 2022 – nor is a representation of film excellence top-heavy in works from the first half of the medium’s history. Until the poll’s format is revised or there’s a groundswell of voting against the grain of familiarity, it will continue to feel past its use-by date – an exercise in tradition out of step with the idea that cinema and cinephilia is ever evolving.
I’m not interested in paying respect to established greatness for this reason, much less the idea that greatness happens over time. I’m more interested in how the act of rewatching transforms the artform and can alter our appreciation of a film or inform our taste and subjectivity as cinephiles on a micro level, quite separate from historical estimations of influence and importance. It felt vital to be thinking about all of this contemporarily by only considering films I’ve encountered, either for the first time or through repeat viewings, since the conclusion of the last poll.
Ten years on, I’ve given precedence to films I felt most invigorated by during this time, and set myself a few other key selection parameters: to only include films I’ve seen more than once; to exclude any films and filmmakers ranked in the previous critics top 100 or my own vote towards that poll; and to ensure my list comprises at least 50% films directed by women, and 50% films made in the 21st century.
I also wanted to be accommodating of the fact that first films can be great films on their own terms, irrespective of their legacy in the context of a ‘Greatest Films of All Time’ discourse. Of the three debut features I’ve highlighted, one addresses the conspicuous absence of Korean cinema in the last poll. While HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD may not be the most prominent choice to fill that gap – PARASITE being the most likely candidate for a breakthrough – it’s my favourite Korean film of recent memory.