Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On the AV Club's Best Films of the '90s & Sexism

Let me start by saying that I like the AV Club's Best Films of the '90s lists, which can be found here, here, and here. I vehemently disagree with many of their selections, omissions, and rankings, but such is the nature of "best of" lists. Lists are inherently ridiculous when it comes to discussing artwork, but they do serve a purpose as guides for others and debate starters so I appreciate the time and effort the AV Club into their list.

I would like to comment on the complaint levied by some that the list is sexist or at least does not include a sufficient amount of films by female directors. I'd like to dismiss the former and focus on the latter. To examine the latter allegation I compiled a list of films from the '90s that are considered great by trusted film critics. These critics are Dave Kehr, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Catherine Grant (of Film Studies), Adrian Martin, Jonathan Rosenbaum, David Phelps, and Daniel Kasman. This list consisted of 214 films. It could be rationally argued that all of these films belong a "Top 50 Films of the '90s" list. I found that 21 of these films were directed by women (or at least had a female director).

This means 9.813% of the great films of the '90s according to these critics were directed by women. Thus one would expect 4 or 5 of the films in the AV Club's list to be directed by women. However, none of the films on their list are directed by women. I would attribute this to structural sexism in the world of cinema rather than the AV Club.

Note: I do not know exactly how this percentage relates to other decades. So far I have found that the percentage for the '80s is 12.069%.

Here is a list of the 21 films that met the criteria and the critics that endorsed them:
- An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990) (Dave Kehr)
- Jacques Rivette: The Night Watchman (Claire Denis, 1990) (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky)
- No Fear, No Die (Claire Denis, 1990) (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky)
- Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (Fax Behr, George Hickenlooper, and Eleanor Coppola, 1991) (Catherine Grant)
- Night and Day (Chantal Akerman, 1991) (Adrian Martin) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- The Famine Within (Katherine Gilday, 1992) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 1992) (Dave Kehr)
- D'Est (Chantal Akerman, 1993) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) (Dave Kehr)
- U.S. Go Home (Claire Denis, 1993) (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky) (Daniel Kasman)
- Blush (Li Shaohong, 1995) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995) (Adrian Martin)
- A Great Day in Harlem (Jean Bach, 1995) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- Von Heute auf Morgen (Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet, 1997) (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky)
- Divorce Iranian Style (Kim Longimotto & Ziba Mir-Hosseini, 1998) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- The Apple (Samira Makhmalbaf, 1999) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- Beau travail (Claire Denis, 1999) (Daniel Kasman) (Catherine Grant) (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
- Holy Smoke! (Jane Campion, 1999) (Dave Kehr)
- Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 1999) (Catherine Grant)
- The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999) (Catherine Grant)

Note: Adrian Martin submitted Night and Day as one of the ten greatest films ever made on a Sight & Sound Poll. However, as Sam Adams of the AV Club noted, it is only available on VHS in the US and Denis' US Go Home has never been released in the States.


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