Society has a habit of putting everything into categories, of slicing up every aspect of daily life into a hundred different sub genres and categories. One of the worst offenders is the entertainment industry. And with over a hundred years of pop media and mass culture export under its belt, the American entertainment industry is starting to break itself apart by comparing what came before to what comes now.
It's one of those horrible side-effects of such high mass production―dilution of quality and ingenuity. Everything is a hybrid of things that came before. There is no groundbreaking work anymore, because all the ground has been broken.
So, instead of throwing new genres at us, experimenting with the nature of film and trying to figure out the best way to entertain the country without replaying the past, industries such as Hollywood have taken to homage and repetition. I've complained about the remakes and the sequels enough of late though. This is about the 'Best Of'. Everything today is some kind of confluence of 'The Best Of', in which new films only cater to those that came before, and the endless catalog of old films is ranked and filed away in lists for the viewing public.
There are hundreds of movie critics out there, each of them as prolific as the next, offering their unbiased opinion as a paramount voice in the marketing and destruction of good and bad films. There are a lot of movie reviews, and keep in mind that there are probably more, with smaller outlets in towns across the country that may have decided not to review some films.
So, reading a single movie review anymore is almost as productive as listening to your buddy after class go on about that one scene in the first ten minutes, only to find out that the rest of the film is utter trash. If you've read one review, you've read them all, unless you've actually read them all.
So, with hundreds of movie reviews attached and hundreds more in the wings for nearly every film on the market, patrons can simply look at a single number attached to a film, a general rating, often a percentage, and decide if it's enough with reference to their margin of error to pay $9 for. IMDB offers the same service, only with thousands of fans offering their opinions, crafting a Web 2.0 inspired consensus.
So, it is that most films these days are assigned an index, a value compiled from the sum opinion of a few hundred individuals, either educated in giving opinions or not. It's hard not to take those for what they're worth, and honestly I'm surprised that you don't see more films boasting their 80% tomatometer ratings on television ads.
However, the act of ranking films is still somewhat esoteric, relegated to a few stuffy individuals and members of the American Film Institute or to individual critics or even the critics polls that occasionally arrive every few years or so. The American Film Institute's lists are probably the most famous, with their 100 Films in 100 Years list leading the way, released in 2000 as an homage to the first 100 years of American cinema.
The lists are of course biased, forgetting the work of thousands of filmmakers outside the United States. Even film critics fall into that trap every so often, offering up their opinions of films spanning the history film, without considering the great works of directors like Kurosawa or Lang.
I don't want to complain about the self-centered views of Hollywood though. That's almost too easy anymore. What I'm most intrigued with is the growth in importance of the Web 2.0 offerings of sites such as IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes. IMDB, for example, offers its own Top 250 service, which at first was a nice little gimmick to go with a movie database. As the site has grown though, into the largest single database of film information around, the top 250 films list has been cemented as an aware tool for the catalog of films as they are released and the opinions of English-speaking world citizens.
It means that Seven Samurai makes it into the top 10, that Lord of the Rings gets a rightful place, and that new films deemed worthy of special attention are not left from 'best of' lists for the next ten years until a new one is written. Similarly, Rotten Tomatoes does not merely rely upon the opinions of the Roger Eberts and Richard Roepers of the world. They employ highly regarded websites and news sources from the new media to compile their total ratings.
Movie rating is a business all its own these days. Which makes the growth of mass opinion and group evaluation so much more intriguing. No one cares what the opinion of a single man or woman is anymore in regards to a new film. Opinion is too subjective. Even the worst-rated films of all time garner a three or four approving opinions. It's called the margin of error.