Critics polls are, however diverting, a dime a dozen, and though they may have their eccentricities, they’re usually reshufflings of the same handful of movies. So it’s fascinating — and occasionally infuriating — to pore over the Top 100 Films chosen by Time Out New York’s poll of 73 actors ranging from Bill Hader to Juliette Binoche, especially when compared to the Top 100 American Films chosen by the BBC critics poll last week.
Here’s the Top 10:
2. “The Godfather”
3. “A Woman Under the Influence”
4. “Cinema Paradiso”
5. “To Kill a Mockingbird”
6. “The Godfather Part II”
7. “Annie Hall”
8. “Boogie Nights”
9. “The Red Shoes”
10. “Taxi Driver”
The first thing you notice is what’s not there: perennial critics’ favorite “Citizen Kane,” relegated to a lowly 39 on the Time Out list. Instead, TONY’s list is topped by “Tootsie,” a superlative American comedy that didn’t make the BBC list at all. Neither, for that matter, did #5 “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or #8 “Boogie Nights,” both of which were eligible for the BBC poll.
The TONY poll spreads the wealth better than the BBC’s: Spielberg and Scorsese get three slots instead of five, Billy Wilder two, and Alfred Hitchcock scores only one: “Notorious,” at #62. Do actors still hold a grudge for his famous statement that they should be “treated like cattle”? Then again, Terrence Malick, who’s notorious for eliminating entire performances in the editing room, makes the cut at #71 with “The Thin Red Line,” so there’s no hard and fast rule.
The actors’ poll is no more diverse in terms of gender — Patty Jenkins’ “Monster,” at #62, is the only movie directed by a woman — and even less in terms of race: Even though the TONY poll was, unlike the BBC’s, open to movies from around the world, nearly every movie is by a director of European descent. (The only exception: Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story,” at #76.) But it is a more broad-minded bunch in terms of genre, far more favorable to comedies, romances and musicals. (No animation or documentaries, though.)
Not surprisingly, the list favors movies with strong central performances, like “Taxi Driver” and “Breaking the Waves” (#16), as well as those with generous ensembles like “Boogie Nights,” “Pulp Fiction” (#19). (Andersons P.T. and Wes, both absent from the BBC list, are present here.) But if there’s a pronounced trend, especially as far as the movies that stick out from other lists, it’s in the focus on movies about performance: In the top 10 alone, three movies are about actors (if we count porn stars) and one is about the obsessive life of a dancer. Who better to appreciate the genius of “Waiting for Guffman” (#38) than actors who’ve toiled in community theater, or narrowly avoided it? That’s not to suggest that actors are narcissistic — certainly not any more than critics — but that it’s no surprise they’d be more likely to recognize, say, “A Star Is Born” (#45) than, say, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” which occupies the identical slot on the BBC list. (In fact, John Ford doesn’t make the TONY list at all.)
Truth be told, if I had to pick one list to watch in its entirety, I’d pick the critics’, if only to avoid having to watch “The Goonies” again. (Seriously, actors?!) But line them up side by side, and it’s hard to question in either case that you’re looking at close to a hundred pretty great movies — and its easy to remember that, when you’re drawing from the entire history of cinema, 100 isn’t very many at all.