There's nothing more divisive that a definitive list of anything.
Taste is as subjective as politics, only twice as infuriating. If some fool elevates a piece of tat over your own particular hero, they deserve flaming, scorn and possibly even burning at the stake. Because they are not simply stating their own opinion, but broadcasting, to the world, that YOU are wrong. A filmic minefield, for sure.
None of which I thought about when, carelessly, I announced on my movie review website: "Hey, I know, I'll list my Top Ten movies." And before I could consider the ramifications, I'd designed it, built it, welded it to the main navigation, and pre-launched it emblazoned with the overused online kiss of death: "Coming Soon".
Good job, Oliver. Well done. A heroic demonstration of procrastination, sure to delay the delivery of your debut screenplay by another six months. At least.
Now, troll-baiting and work-avoidance aside, I had made a classic mistake... I realised that I don't actually have a top ten of movies. I know, I should have thought of this first. But I simply don't have a top ten.
I have a very solid, carved in stone, top three movies. Three movies that define me, and extol my credentials as a film lover. But what the hell is going to fill the 4 through 10 slots?
I started jotting down some ideas, thinking it should be quite easy. And it was, I suddenly had 20+ contenders for the remaining top ten positions. But, scanning through them, I blushed as I realised that there was a distinct lack of 'classics'.
There wasn't a single of the AFI's top 30 movies on the list, and don't even look at the BFI's top 100 films, I hadn't named a single entry. Would readers laugh me out of the film fraternity? Perhaps. So I chucked on some 'classics' out of, well, embarrassment.
Suddenly my list was spiraling out of control, plunged further into the depths when my helpful friend decided to throw some curveballs into the mix too - the eighties weren't represented enough, romantic comedies had been severely unserved, and where was Spielberg? [Well, frankly, after War Horse, I have actually declared a filmic-fatwa on the man.]
Said helpful friend had, in fact, just strong armed me into watching This Means War (for the love of God, please don't make the same mistake), and so her opinion was precariously balanced on the precipice of dismissal. But still, she'd raised a fair point - does every genre need a look in? Does every decade? Does every country? So many questions, but the one that shone through was: "why even bother?"
But then that night, alone, my unfinished screenplay still not writing itself, I slide Magnolia into the DVD player, and was overcome, once again, by the sheer emotional sucker punch that my defining films can deliver. And that, ultimately, is what this list is about: me. Not you. Not the AFI, BFI, FBI nor even the Troll Party. My top ten.
Beloved films are the diary entries of your life: young love bathed in the glow of Moulin Rouge, the gut-wrenching discovery of Dancer In The Dark in your loneliest moment, and the universally panned, but defining VHS of your freshman year - So I Married An Axe Murderer. Ok, so perhaps that last one was just my freshman year.
I want this list to speak of my past, of my life, of the movies that re-runs only make better. And so I have begun - safely held aloft on their Top 3 pedestal:
- The Station Agent - I secretly take a real film-snobby delight that most people have never seen my favourite film.
- Moulin Rouge - A roller-coaster of velvet, feathers, electricity and every single love song you've ever loved, all mashed into one intense ride.
- Magnolia - From the frogs, to the lip sync to the taming of the lady bits, every scene is pure cinematic bliss.
Meanwhile the auditions for the remaining seven slots of my own precious screenwriting-avoiding procrastination is underway. Repeat viewing of Jackie Brown and Annie Hall have reignited my awe at the possibility of film, and just watching these five movies with 30+ left to go, it feels like, as it is in the life they represent, the journey will be far greater than the destination.
You can keep up to date with my nostalgic progress at www.thebackseatdirector.com and feel free to troll, insult or even explain how your jaw just dropped in shock and disgust when you read Moulin Rouge was my number two.
Follow Oliver Warren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/backseatdirect