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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Calum Marsh’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Calum Marsh’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Calum Marsh’s Top 10 Films of All Time

List-making is an exercise in futility, but as futile exercises go, it’s one of the best. Over 10 brief bullet points, one maps out a condensed history of personal taste, a cartography of the canon made one’s own. I found it taxing and, by the end, exhausting, struck at every moment with crippling self-doubt. I wondered: Is my list exhaustive? Am I a victim of my own myopia? My confidence in these choices—which, truly, I love with all my heart—began to crumble under the pressure of a (I think universal) desire to not only be, but to seem worldly and omnivorous, to appear to have taken in everything and to conclude, finally, that these 10 films are definitively the best of all time. Which isn’t to say, of course, that I felt compelled to trade out canonical classics for idiosyncratic curveballs (though in the end I included a couple of both), but that while thinking through my favorites I couldn’t help but criticize myself for what was surely missing. Doubt gnaws away at you always, often like so: How much did I know about African cinema? Why are none of these 10 films directed by women? (Vagabond was a late and regrettable cut.) Why are there no silent films on my list? Are these films generally too recent? Should I feel guilty—and I mean this seriously—that each of these 10 films is an English-language narrative feature directed by a white male? What does that say about me as a person? Should I trade one of these films out for, say, Close-up, Paris Is Burning, or A Brighter Summer Day, each of which came extremely close to making the final cut but, alas, did not? The truth is that I don’t know. Maybe it makes me a shitty white critic with blinders on. But what I do know is this: I love these 10 films more than any other films in the world. I hope that’s enough.

5 for the Day: Blind Spots

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5 for the Day: Blind Spots
5 for the Day: Blind Spots

As the cashier canned the goodies I had picked out as part of my latest DVD run, she noted one of the discs in my stack and said, “To Have And Not To...” Then she corrected herself: “To Have and Have Not...Is it any good?”

I smiled. She was a young woman about my age, and our conversation would not have evolved beyond routine customer chit-chat had she not noticed the sultry image of young Lauren Bacall latching fiercely onto Humphrey Bogart. “Honestly, I have no idea,” I said. “It’s actually the only one out of the bunch I haven’t seen.”

“You know…which was it where the girl goes ’Where am I gonna go, what am I gonna do?’, and then the guy goes ’Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’? Might’ve been this one I think.”

“No, that’s actually from Gone with the Wind.

“You sure about that?”

“Positive.”

“All right, well…You better be right, ’cause I’m gonna look it up online when I get home.”

It was only after I had left the register and presented my receipt to the doorman that the oddity of my sure-handed response sunk in: I have never seen Gone with the Wind.