Beyond the Canon is essentially a greatest films poll, only without the greatest films. I challenged a number of dedicated film-lovers – critics, bloggers, filmmakers, IMDbers; professional, amateur, and in-between – to select up to 100 films that they believed to have been under-represented by film history, that meant more to them than the established, well-exposed classics. And because under-represented is such a wishy-washy subjective term, I presented them with a list of films that they were not permitted to include on their own individual ballots.
I selected the titles for the canon - the list of ineligible classics - as arbitrarily as possible, so as to avoid any undue worry and guilt, which would surely have accompanied any such undertaking, had I attempted anything approaching definitiveness. Instead, I based the list on a quickly taken consensus between the top 300 films on They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?’s top 1000, The One-Line Review Presents “1000 Films from the First Century of Cinema that Every Self-Respecting Film-Buff Should See at Least Once”, and the results of The One-Line Review Presents "The 50 Greatest Films," The resulting list of 289 films is a decidedly eclectic one, with Jaws and Sátántangó, Star Wars and Jeanne Dielman, and The Silence of the Lambs and Last Year in Marienbad, making strange bedfellows, indeed. In fact, I doubt very much that this collection of films would ever appear together on any official canon of great films; but for the sake of my sanity, this is what we are left with.
155 people from 28 different countries took up my challenge, championing the cause of over 5000 different films. The results – decidedly eclectic if somewhat US-centric – feel rather refreshing, particularly when compared to the fairly predictable results of The One-Line Review Presents "The 50 Greatest Films," Having said that, not many of films that make the top 100 are exactly what one would call obscure. Should I have gone further and stipulated 500 (or more even) films that could not be included? Or would I have been better to disqualify filmmakers rather than films? As William Brown states, in his beautifully written diatribe, “Including a Howard Hawks film as being 'beyond the canon'? One might choose a 'minor' Hawks, or a 'minor' John Huston film, but this hardly constitutes anything other than a re-affirmation of Hawks and Huston as precisely canonical directors. Not only that, but it is perhaps the least imaginative effort at expanding the canon conceivable.”
With Dr. Brown’s words ringing in my ears, I present an alternative to the official results – a weighted vote - created using a formula to weight each film’s vote against its relative visibility/obscurity, so as to highlight some of the lesser known films. Whether this is of any worth or not, I don’t know; but there we have it.
And to bring proceedings to a close, back to Dr. Brown to eloquently put everything back into perspective – “Lists? Who needs vertical lists when we have a whole world out there that we can discover if only we do that apparently most counterintuitive of things: shift off our arses, try things we've never heard of, try things we don't like - but at least we tried (and some of our favourite tastes are in fact acquired ones), walk across the horizontal face of this beautiful planet of ours, get out there and look around, stay on the ground...?”