Stanley Fish has, for some reason, been chosen by The New York Times to name “the 10 best American movies”… ever.
Fish is “the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago,” so I guess we’re supposed to accept that he knows what he’s talking about. Why a professor of law should be called upon to comment on film is something of a mystery to me. Why not a professor of biology? Or literature? Or politics? Why not the person who’s posted the most reviews of movies on Amazon? Or Ain’t It Cool News? Why not the person who’s rented the widest range of movies from Netflix?
I leave it to you to discover the titles on the list for yourself. Not that I have anything in particular against any of the movies on the list — a few I have not seen, others I acknowledge as quite good indeed — but when I say the list is classic, I mean that sarcastically. It’s classic “cluelessness of the Times” in that it appears to be designed to appeal to, ahem, the certain demographic that still reads newspapers (and people wonder why no one under 60 is buying a daily paper anymore). The average year of production of the 10 movies on the list is 1956. Only two of the 10 movies were produced since I was born, and I’m no spring chicken. If you take out those two movies, the average year of production drops to 1948.
Like I said, I’m not saying there’s anything actually wrong with the movies mentioned. But I do find it somewhat shocking that not one of the best American movies ever is less than 15 years old… and most of them are more than half a century old. Even more suspicious, not one of them is older than Fish, who was born in 1938, and the median year of films on his list is 1949… which is very suspiciously close to that “golden age” of 12, which is typically applied to explain a fanatical devotion to science fiction, but which I think applies to movies, too.
But of course, were I to submit a “10 best movies ever” list to The New York Times that included Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension, I’d get laughed at, wouldn’t I?