This week, Neil Calloway questions another films of the year list…
On Friday, Sight & Sound Magazine announced their top films of 2016. It’s an eye-opening list, though perhaps for the wrong reasons.
According to the critics surveyed, Toni Erdmann is the winner. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the name of Angela Merkel’s deputy, but it turns out to be an Austrian-German comedy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s because it hasn’t been released in the UK or US yet. It’s been shown at Cannes, and at the London Film Festival, but its general release is yet to come, and you can be sure when it does come it won’t make it to the Showcase in Walsall.
Sight & Sound bills itself as “The International Film Magazine”, but it is still the in-house magazine of the British Film Institute. Despite this, of the top five films they consider the best, only Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake and American Honey by Andrea Arnold are the only films to have been shown outside festivals in the UK, with only four out of the top ten having been seen in Britain, and one of them – The Death of Louis XIV – not having a released lined up in this country.
Here there are echoes of the list, released earlier this year, of the BBC’s best films of the 21st Century, which was won by Mulholland Drive, a film that only made $20 million dollars on its release. “Of course, that’s fifteen years ago, there’s been inflation since then.” You say. Of course there has, but David Lynch’s film didn’t even make it into the top 100 grossing films of 2001 (in the same year Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles made almost double that at the box office).
Whichever way you look at it, in film, as in politics, there is a huge gulf between what critics watch and enjoy, and what the great cinema going masses who actually pay to go and see films are watching. The politician Michael Gove – a man who once appeared in a film with Christopher Lee – was much derided when, before Britain voted to leave the EU this summer, stated that people were fed up with experts. You don’t have to agree with him that this is a good thing – I certainly don’t – but you can see his point when critics are telling us that the best film of the year is a movie all but a handful of people have seen when we’re all watching Bad Santa 2.
These lists should be seen as a sign post – getting on top will help get Toni Erdmann on more cinema screen – it’s what people should watch, rather than what they are watching. The only trouble comes when they end up signalling how cultured critics are.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.