Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger


Our Top Five Films, Our Selves


In the interest of re-checking the obvious, I was inspired by that Alan Moore quote, wherein he touched upon this blog’s great theme - the infantalization of our culture (with the superhero film era as Exhibit C of supporting evidence) to take a quick peek and see, was it really ever not so.  After 15 minutes of research, you be the judge.

I’ve looked at the Top 5 films of every year ending with a 3 going back 90 years including 2013 to date. I’m sure there’s a case to be made that this year’s crop are in fact as sophisticated any decades winners and the fact that these are the top grossing films compared to years past says nothing about the general state of our culture. You go ahead and make it.  I’ll let the lists speak for themselves.

The Covered Wagon, The Ten Commandments, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Safety Last, Daddy

Queen Christina, I’m No Angel, King Kong, 42nd Street, She Done Him Wrong

For Whom the Bell Tolls, This is the Army, The Song of Bernadette, Hitler’s Children, Star Spangled Rhythm

Peter Pan, The Robe, From Here to Eternity, House of Wax, Shane

Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Tom Jones, Irma la Douce

The Sting, The Exorcist, American Graffitti, Papillion, The Way We Were

Return of the Jedi, Terms of Endearment, Flashdance, Trading Places, War Games

Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fugitive, Schindler’s List, The Firm

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Finding Nemo, Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Bruce Almighty

Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Hunger Games 2: Catching FIre,Man of Steel, Monsters University

You can go ahead and quibble with the implications of this list (even though I didn’t say a word, just laid out the facts) because the internet is a place for quibblers and nitpickers, myself included.

You can say - and I wouldn’t disagree - that Despicable Me 2 is as good a movie as The Robe, How the West Was Won. or any number of these supposed Golden Age films.  You can say, we’re in the golden age of animation which is just a different genre - a case made by many I have great respect for.  You can point out that amidst the heavy handed dramas and the urbane comedies, there are plenty of action movies sprinkled about.  To that I’d respond: yes, there have always been some action and kids movies at the tops of the list. But that wasn’t all of the list.

Rather than laying out the differences any further, I’ll just put it to you:  if you can say we, as a culture, are what we watch. And I would say all in all, if you look at the top films of a year, that’s about as good a temperature taking of the ethos of the day as you’ll find - so looking at those lists, if you had to make a choice: which audience would you want watching your house while you’re out of town, babysitting your kids, educating your kids, remembering to feed your pets,managing your assets, choosing your government, cooking the food you put in your mouth - which audience would you choose?

Addendum: One can see pretty clearly where the thing goes off the rails and its no coincidence I’m sure that the bottom starts to fall out in maturity the exact moment the baby boom grows up and takes control of our culture.

For those who would say the audience of 2013, I suppose that’s a defensible choice on some level and I say, good luck finding your place un-burned to the ground when you come back from vacation.

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