Sunday, October 7, 2007

Top 25 documentary films of all time

The International Documentary Association (IDA) has listed their choices for the best 25 documentary films of all time. I am glad that Errol Morris is number 2 with "The Thin Blue Line", but I have a huge problem with Bowling for Columbine at number three. Michael Moore is a decent filmmaker, with an amazing sense of flair and self promotion. The old saying is that you will never get rich working in documentaries, so I have no problem with Michael Moore's hucksterism. I just feel like a lot of the time, he is more concered getting himself attention, rather than his subject matter. I would never put any of his films above "Night and Fog" or "Gimme Shelter". Does Michael Moore really deserve THREE spaces out of the 25? He has more films on this list than ANY other director. The IDA must feel that Michael Moore is the greatest docuementary filmmaker of all time!

I also have a problem with "An Inconvenient Truth" in the top 10. In terms of money made, imprint on society, ok...maybe. However, the film is a powerpoint presentation! It's a lecture filmed off a screen! History may judge the film on how it changed public awareness, made Al Gore seem a little less like an evil cyborg sent from the future to kill John Conner, and the reaction to that film was intense on both sides of the political fence, but the film itself is just not that good.

Plus, this list leaves off every documentary film made before 1960. Film from its birth was a documentary medium with amazing films from Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers. We have nothing from Bumuel, Vertov, and so very few from women filmmakers. What about Ken Burns? The man perfected the technique of panning and zooming still photos and as a result of "The Civil War" it became ok for middle Americans to watch a documentary. Apple's I-Movie even has a default filter named after him that will pan and scan your photos! What would Michael Moore's filter create for you? The ability to chop up someone's interview during a cut-away, so as to create an entirely new sentence and meaning?

The list leaves off films like "Why we Fight", "The Man with the Movie Camera", "The Plow that Broke the Plains", "Nanook of the North" "When We Were Kings" and "Triumph of the Will"

What are your thoughts?

Here is the complete list from

1. "Hoop Dreams," directed by Steve James, Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx
2. "The Thin Blue Line," directed by Errol Morris
3. "Bowling for Columbine," directed by Michael Moore
4. "Spellbound," directed by Jeffery Blitz
5. "Harlan County USA," directed by Barbara Kopple
6. "An Inconvenient Truth," directed by Davis Guggenheim
7. "Crumb," directed by Terry Zwigoff's Crumb
8. "Gimme Shelter," directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
9. "The Fog of War," directed by Errol Morris
10. "Roger and Me," directed by Michael Moore
11. "Super Size Me," directed by Morgan Spurlock
12. "Don't Look Back," directed by DA Pennebaker
13. "Salesman," directed by Albert and David Maysles
14. "Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance," directed by Godfrey Reggio
15. "Sherman's March," directed by Ross McElwee
16. "Grey Gardens," directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer
17. "Capturing the Friedmans," directed by Andrew Jarecki
18. "Born into Brothels," directed by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
19. "Titticut Follies," directed by Frederick Wiseman
20. "Buena Vista Social Club," directed by Wim Wenders
21. "Fahrenheit 9/11," directed by Michael Moore
22. "Winged Migration," directed by Jacques Perrin
23. "Grizzly Man," directed by Werner Herzog
24. "Night and Fog," directed by Alain Resnais
25. "Woodstock," directed by Michael Wadleigh

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First of all, adding "of all time" to any list immediately discredits it. That is, unless you are omniscient and can know with absolute clarity that there will never, EVER be anything better than this list.

Which these people clearly cannot know.

Second, these lists serve one purpose and one purpose only--to start arguments. It's like including Kurt Cobain on a list of the greatest guitarists of all time. It angries up the blood.

Third, Micahel Moore is a tool. A big, fat, stupid tool. And I don't want to live in a world where Al Gore is popular. I think the living would envy the dead.