From the Chicago Reader (October 14, 2011). — J.R.
It’s a fairly safe bet that “List-o-mania,” first published in June 25, 1998, was the most popular piece I published in the Reader during my 20 years there as film reviewer, roughly halfway through my stint there. I suspect its appeal had a lot to do with the growing popularity of movie lists ever since the video market started expanding the choices of most viewers.
Like a commercially successful Hollywood feature, “List-o-mania” had its share of sequels and spinoffs. Retitled “The AFI’s Contribution to Movie Hell,” it became a chapter in my most popular book, Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (2000), a rant that received over a hundred reviews despite the fact that its small Chicago publisher (a cappella books, a division of Chicago Review Press) couldn’t afford much advertising, aside from freebies in the Reader, and I never even met my publicist there.
In the book, I added in a footnote a list of 25 titles in the AFI’s list that I probably would have included if I’d started my own list from scratch. Then, as an appendix to my 2004 collection Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (Johns Hopkins University Press), I compiled a chronological list of my 1000 favorite films, with asterisks next to my 100 crème de la crème, this time including shorts as well as features and non-American as well as American items—a list to which I added 60 more titles in my Afterword to the 2008 paperback.… Read more »