The Dark Knight Rises diminishes in quality the more time you spend away from it. I remember upon leaving the cinema feeling it was fine – that there were huge problems with it, sure, but Christopher Nolan had more or less succeeded in creating the awesome spectacle he had intended to. The Dark Knight Rises is nothing if not grand – in an attempt to outdo The Dark Knight he has piled on a huge cast of players, an entire army of antagonists led by Tom Hardy’s Bane, a score even more seat-rumbling than Inception’s and more wheeling shots of Gotham’s skyline than you can shake a stick at. But the effect is somewhat blinding – you end up overlooking the small details because you’re constantly having the epic sweep shoved in your face. Spend some time thinking about the film afterwards, though, and the cracks start to appear, and eventually send the whole thing crumbling to the ground.
A lot of people don’t see the point of best-of lists. I’ve had many a conversation with people where they argue that lists like Sight and Sound’s best-ever films poll tend toward mediocrity, that the same films will always rise to the top, and more interesting, but underseen and underappreciated, films will never get a look in. The argument is quite valid – the problem with these kind of polls, especially when they’re as large as Sight and Sound’s, is that though each individual ballot may be an interesting, challenging selection, the mean of the lot is always going to be a little blah. Film is a unique medium in that it’s both relatively new and vastly overpopulated, and great films are often overlooked for films with broader appeal.
Still, though, I can’t help poring over lists. The Sight and Sound one may be the largest and most definitive, but I also love Slant’s alternative “100 Essential Films” list, best-of-the-decade lists large and small, and every December I get a little crazy contrasting and comparing critics’ year-end lists. It’s not that I think that there’s some kind of objective, quantifiable “best film”, but seeing people jostle toward defining a canon is really interesting to me, however unnecessary it may be. It’s like seeing the dialogue of film laid out on the page, with all its history and its ebbs and flows, and while the Sight and Sound poll’s final top 100 only tracks the medium’s sharpest peaks, when you dig down into each individual ballot you can see something that resembles the full spectrum.
And with that in mind, I’ve endeavored to create my own top ten. It’s hard for me, because I feel like there’s so much I have yet to see that I can’t honestly say that I feel like enough of an authority on the subject, but I can but try. And while these films are in no particular order, I can tell you that the first two choices here are constantly wrestle for my personal favourite film, at least for now.
I don’t intend to write about TV too often here, as the volume of serious television criticism on the internet is close to saturation point and I’m not sure what I could bring to the table. However, I’ve decided to to briefly diverge from my usual film-talk to champion a TV series that ended nine years ago and has such a huge cult following that no one really needs to talk about it anymore. When people talk about great seasons of US drama you tend to get the usual suspects time and time again: season one of The Sopranos, season two of Deadwood, season three of Breaking Bad, season four of The Wire, etc. One television season that I rarely see standing alongside those giants, though, season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.