‘Sight & Sound’ Poll Writes Screenwriters Out of the Movies

When the latest edition of the Sight & Sound poll was published last year, commentators were abuzz over the results. “Hitchcock knocks Welles off top of ‘greatest film’ poll,”1 announced one headline. “Hitchcock dethrones Welles,”2 proclaimed another. Again and again, the ascendancy of Vertigo to the top spot on the critics’ list was dramatized as one auteur vanquishing another. Taking this rhetoric to the limit, one blogger used the poll to decide on “the greatest auteur in cinema.”3 Even some critics who refused to participate in the Sight & Sound poll, such as Peter Bogdanovich, only did so on the grounds that it was impossible to narrow down the list of movies made by favorite directors to such a manageable number.4

If all the talk about directors and auteurs didn’t make the point clear: screenwriters, once again, were left out in the cold. Indeed, coverage of the results might lead one to assume that Vertigo emerged from the mind of Alfred Hitchcock fully formed, rather than from a screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor, itself adapted from a novel (The Living and the Dead) written by Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud. To be fair, this oversight isn’t entirely the fault of bloggers and journalists. Directors are so feted by Sight & Sound that they have been invited by the magazine to vote in their own poll since 1992. Screenwriters aren’t afforded the same opportunity (nor is anyone else involved in the filmmaking process, for that matter). Worse, screenwriters aren’t even credited on the Sight & Sound website, which has an entry for every film to place on both the critics’ and directors’ polls but only indicates the films’ directors and most prominent actors. Continue reading “‘Sight & Sound’ Poll Writes Screenwriters Out of the Movies” »

The Mediascape Roundtable: The Film Studies Canon and ‘Sight & Sound’

Once per decade since 1952, Sight & Sound—the monthly publication of the British Film Institute—has conducted a worldwide poll of critics and filmmakers to determine the 10 greatest films of all time. To discuss the film studies canon in relation to the 2012 poll, which was unveiled on August 1, the Mediascape Blog convened a roundtable of four film studies graduate students. Their conversation can be read or listened to below, or downloaded in MP3 format.


Click to download “TheMediascapeRoundtable_TheFilmStudiesCanonAndSight&Sound.mp3” (66 minutes, 90.4 MB)

Moderator: J.M. Olejarz

Mediascape Blog: Jimmy, why don’t you introduce yourself first, then we’ll go around the circle, so to speak.

Jimmy Gilmore: OK. I’m Jimmy, I’m just about to start the second year of the M.A. [in Cinema and Media Studies] at UCLA.

MB: Cliff?

Cliff Galiher: Am I next? I’m Cliff, I’m a first-year Ph.D. at USC, just finished up my Master’s [in Cinema and Media Studies] at UCLA.

MB: Eliot?

Eliot Bessette: My name’s Eliot Bessette, I’m a first-year Ph.D. student in Film and Media Studies at [UC] Berkeley, and before that I was in Cliff’s year in the M.A. program at UCLA.

Maya Smukler: Hi, I’m Maya, I got my Master’s and Ph.D. at UCLA in the critical studies department, and I’m two years [All But Dissertation]. And that’s it.

MB: I’m Josh [Olejarz], for those—well, I think you all know me, except for Maya. I’m a second-year Master’s [student] at UCLA, and I’ll be moderating tonight. Ready to get started, everybody? I was thinking to begin you could each, one at a time, say what your personal view of the canon is—what you think of it generally, general impressions, is it useful, is it not useful, and maybe we can get something going from that. Jimmy, do you want to start us off? Continue reading “The Mediascape Roundtable: The Film Studies Canon and ‘Sight & Sound’” »