What is it about lists?
Recently the BBC made something of a song and dance about a poll it had conducted amongst several hundred film critics to determine the hundred best comedies of all time. I know cinema as an art-form is not unique in being prone to lists; we all are participants in this exercise of putting together our most loved/most hated, best/worst films. It seems to me to be part of the DNA of film culture and one has to wonder why it is so fundamental to the moving image in a way that is not the case to such an extent with literature, fine art or music – or am I just plain wrong on this? I note that on the BBC page devoted to the comedy list there is a link to ‘The World’s Ten Most Beautiful Ceilings – niche listing or what?
Anyway, back to the latest list to wind me up! If you haven’t already joined in the conversation then the BBC has set aside web space for you to indulge here. Actually the list is 101 long as there are two films in the one-hundredth spot.
To me, what is most tickling are the dates of production. 18% of the films chosen where made in the twenties and thirties; 9% in the forties; 7% in the fifties; 10% in the sixties; 13% in the seventies; 18% in the eighties; 10% in the nineties and 15% in this century. From this can one presume that the fifties was the least funny decade and the eighties the funniest? It is interesting how evenly spread the numbers otherwise are. Does this suggest that all those critics are equally young, middle-aged and ancient? Perhaps it is wiser to posit that comedy transcends age, although what makes a teenager laugh doesn’t necessarily amuse me! Almost certainly my list of the world’s least funny comedies includes films designed for a youthful audience. Can we all agree that Some Like it Hot really is the funniest film ever made? (I declare an interest here as it is probably the film I have watched more than any other and it always makes me laugh).
However, what also sets my teeth on edge happens as one scrolls down the webpage to see what else the BBC stuffs into its so-called assumptions of what are ‘Amazing Culture Stories.’ Golfers playing whilst a forest fire rages nearby, Americanisms killing English, A rose-tinted view of Englishness and poverty in LA amongst others.
Anyway, to conclude in the spirit of list-compiling and having a bit of a laugh I have to admit that I cannot find fault with the top ten comedies of all time as selected by all those critics. I’d probably put most if not all of them into my most loved comedies. Would you?