We've stormed the gates and are now officially part of the canon-forming establishment…or (fingers crossed) the canon-altering anti-establishment. That's right, for its seventh installment, the venerable Sight & Sound poll to determine the 10 best films of all time is including among its ranks of voting members a whole slew of bloggers and new-media representatives, including a handful of writers from Slant.
Not, unfortunately, all of us. But, speaking on behalf of all of those who didn't get a ballot, I can say we're not jealous, but instead thrilled that the same critical profile that once placed Trash, Showgirls, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Lickerish Quartet alongside Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, John Ford, and Carl Theodor Dreyer will be making its mark in what nearly any card-carrying cinephile recognizes as the most authoritative word on the canon.
Especially since being the most authoritative has in recent decades come to also mean the most calcified. One can surmise that Sight & Sound has been receptive to the catcalls of “dead white male” that only seem to grow in volume every time Citizen Kane coasts its way to the top of the heap, and the magazine's editors secretly have their fingers crossed that the new influx of young and/or recklessly idiosyncratic punk aesthetes (yes, these glasses are rose-tinted) can shake the cobwebs away and at least cast some of the canon's permanent fixtures in a new light vis-à-vis their refreshed context. (If nothing else, the magazine's decision not to count the first and second Godfather films jointly serves as a tip-off that they're hoping for a slightly less, um, patriarchal top 10.)
It's still up in the air whether S&S 2012 will see the almighty Kane finally toppled from its seemingly untouchable berth at number one, or if anything from the last 25 years has even an outside chance to reach the upper ranks. To be honest, I'm not even sure that the sheer number of online critics I've seen confirming their involvement doesn't mean that we won't in the end be surprised by a new, third top 10 alongside the standard critics' and filmmakers' lists. But while we killed time waiting out these last few weeks or days to find out the answers to those questions, the writers for The House Next Door decided to put together our own fantasy ballots. The writers were encouraged to take their own approach, either focusing on their personal favorites or making as objective an attempt as possible to list the “all-time definitive best.”
Starting tomorrow, we'll be unveiling one ballot a day for the next few weeks. And if the collective results of our informal sidebar poll are any indication of what effect online critics can have on these proceedings, Kane fans might have reason to worry.