There is an honour in being asked to compose a Best Of list–it assumes a certain expertise. A Best Of All Time list assumes an encyclopedic expertise. Of course one would be flattered to asked to distill greatness within a field, and of course there would be a certain instinctual response, something along the lines of “these just happen to be my favourite films,” which would affect, at least, the rough draft of excellent contenders.
But there is something else at play in composing these kinds of lists, and that is a contribution (however small) to the construction of cannons. It is a big fucking deal to tell someone that this or that is “the best,” especially “the best of all time.” Value judgments are at play, informed by experience as much as social indoctrination. For instance, Alfred Hitchcock made stunning films, but the fact that his name appears so predictably on Best Films of All Time lists is as much a fact of his skill as it is the fact that historians of cinema tell us his films are great. While I have nothing against Alfred Hitchcock’s films, the opportunity to compose a Best Of list is an opportunity to challenge the authority of received wisdom. A Best Of list is a concrete, tangible opportunity to acknowledge other kinds of greatness, and to make room for artists + histories + works + narratives that are otherwise silenced by the mechanisms of power that seek to replicate themselves through the writing of history. What an amazing opportunity! In fact, I believe it is a moral imperative to at least try to conceptualize the world beyond one’s experience of it, or to try to understand the interrelation of one’s subjectivity to another’s, especially when making claims that aim to behave as history. We are all impacted by cannons, but that is no justification for replicating them.