Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Rise of the Fifth Estate–excerpt

My book, The Rise of the Fifth Estate is released tomorrow. It is available in ebook form in various formats.

Here is a bit of a taste – an excerpt from the first chapter.


Chapter One: Thrills and Spills


For as long as the media have had any say in how the news is to be provided to the public, journalists within its warm and self-protecting bosom have adopted the role of gatekeepers.

This is never more the case than when it comes to the Canberra press gallery. Imagine what it is like to be one of those few — well, actually, the not-so-few. The email list of the federal parliamentary press gallery runs to nine pages, and contains nearly three hundred names (The Australian has eighteen by itself, and the ABC’s names run for over two pages). But when you get down to it, the number of them who get by-lines, whose faces appear on television, and whose voices broadcast the news of the day, are few and privileged.

Oh, to be one of those few. Imagine the power — to be able to decide what to write, the angle, the slant, the lead. To be able to head off for dinner in Kingston or Manuka with some minister — either government or shadow — for a little off -the-record briefing (because we can safely assume that not all of those un-named ‘government sources’ are made up). Imagine being one of those who sit in the parliamentary gallery, overlooking the elected and deciding their fates. Oh, mighty Fourth Estate! Gatekeepers of the
news; provider of opinions for us all!

And should you disagree with a particular opinion or with the presentation of the news, send an email, or get hold of pen and paper, and write a letter to the editor — and see the wonders of free speech and freedom of the press combined (ignoring the fact that the media is the gatekeeper of even the public’s views of the media).

Back in 2007, in the run-up to the November election, the world of political blogs in Australia was beginning to disrupt this nice, century-old tradition. The ‘old media’ — The Australian, most particularly — didn’t take it particularly well. This was odd, not only because it was strange that a paper that held itself up as the leading newspaper of the country should care what a few ‘amateurs’ might think, but because at the time The Australian had one of its best journalists doing great work as a blogger.

The late Matt Price would have been perfect for the Twittersphere. A love of politics and sport, and the ability to mesh both with popular-culture references — such as when he compared the voting publics’ declining attraction to John Howard with Price’s own inexplicable indifference to the band REM — along with an ability to see both sides of a debate, and also to find humour in all things, would have seen Price as assuredly the dominant Australian political journalist on Twitter.

In 2007, Price’s output on The Australian was also the only kind of writing that deserved the name of a ‘blog’ being posted on a mainstream-media website by a journalist. Sure, by this time, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt had blogs running on The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun websites, but Price’s blog was secondary to his work as a journalist. On news.com.au, Tim Dunlop was showing everybody how it should be done, as he spent long hours responding to comments, guiding the debate, providing updates and links, and moderating the comments.

Dunlop, however, was a blogger from way back, and was an anomaly among the authors of new-fangled ‘blogs’ that News Limited websites were trying to fashion. While the newspapers would occasionally fi re shots at the blogosphere, and journalists would obviously read the blogs — especially when their own name was mentioned — the interaction between the public and the gatekeepers remained as it ever had been. This was a state of media stasis that, a mere five years later, seems quaint. A look back over recent years shows the great changes that have occurred in the way that political events are reported.

On 11 September 2007, news came through from Canberra of a possible leadership spill within the Liberal Party. In the morning, Sky News ran a story that Malcolm Turnbull and Alexander Downer were withdrawing their support for John Howard. Both Tim Dunlop and Andrew Bolt were onto the story quickly on their respective blogs. Bolt ran with ‘Downer, Turnbull give up on Howard’; Dunlop, with ‘The last days of chez Howard?’ But the best place for readers to find answers to their questions was from Matt Price, who was also covering the story on his blog with the tantalising opening stanza of ‘Something is on in Parliament House’.

What we saw this day would not be the end of the Howard prime ministership, but it was the start of social media breaking down the gate-kept world of Australian politics. Throughout the day, Price provided updates of events taking place:

On the way out of questions, Downer walked past a bunch of journalists and dismissed all this as much ado about nothing, declared nothign [sic] would happen with the leadership, and predicted we’d all get sick of idle speculation over the next six weeks or so.

Yes, even the odd typo would get through — something that bloggers and Twitter users know happens, and that only the most miserable of pedants worry about. The social-media space is fast and messy, and is not the environment for as perfect a news article as one that has passed under the watch of a vigilant subeditor (back when sub-editors were employed directly and were valued).

However, Price was doing more than just providing updates; he was also responding to comments and questions from his readers. During the day he responded fourteen times to readers’ comments.

Some of these involved his calming down the hopes of lefty readers:

LukeH Tue 11 Sep 07 (10.45am) looks and smells like D-Day has arrived for the PM. baseball bats ready?! present arms!

Matt Price Tue 11 Sep 07 (12.18pm) Not so sure, Luke. Howard will need to be blasted out.

Or the delusions of the right:

deadcato Tue 11 Sep 07 (11.35am) Matt, a hypothetical: Costello’s unelectable, Howard’s gone, Turnbull hasn’t had much cut-through despite being fairly high- profile: what are the chances of a genuinely fresh face being vaulted in? I’m thinking Julie Bishop- two months to tart her up, election in January?

Matt Price Tue 11 Sep 07 (12.29pm) You’re dreaming, Deadcato.

He also gave insights into how the system works, and how journalists are never passive agents during a leadership spill:

Jane Tue 11 Sep 07 (11.42am) Is this a case of the Canberra press gallery getting too excited or is it going to be one of those historic days in Federal politics?? I guess we’ll just have to stay online (with Sky news on in the background) to see what happens …

Matt Price Tue 11 Sep 07 (12.33pm) Let’s be clear about this, Jane. When leadership battles are on, MPs use the media to pressurise rivals and send messages to colleagues. I don’t believe David Speers is inventing his story on Sky — clearly, senior Libs are attempting to force JWH to quit.

And then a final summing-up:

nomad3 Tue 11 Sep 07 (01.23pm) Matt, someone asked you a question earlier ... please respond … have you ever seen anything like this this close to an election … whats your take ? you think today is the day?

Matt Price Tue 11 Sep 07 (01.31pm) We’re in new territory, Nomad. Right now it seems Howard will hang in, but who one earth knows?

Over on Andrew Bolt’s blog, predictions were being made:

UPDATE 2: .... Costello isn’t stirring any of this, but is ready to lead. He’ll be prime minister tomorrow

And Matt Price was being used as a primary source:

UPDATE 4: No confirmation from Matt Price, but a sense of end of empire …

This was the blogosphere come to the mainstream media — blogs referencing other blogs, readers discussing events with each other, and it all being done in a fluid and (in the case of Bolt’s prediction) messy way.FIFTHESTATE_300dpi

There is often a messiness to blogs that is tough for the traditional media to accept (except when they make similar errors). But while it is easy to go in hard on Bolt’s error of foresight, it is clear that he was expressing his gut reaction. On some occasions (such as, much later, when he speculated wrongly about the religion and motives of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik), this can be unwise, and can lead to false conclusions being made that become fact in the minds of trusting readers. But in the case of the machinations of political parties, Bolt’s readers were after his insights and hunches — and they knew they were just that. No one was thinking it was fact that Costello would be prime minister on 12 September.

Such discussions were not new to the blogging world, but what made this day unique was the presence of Matt Price inside the walls — responding directly to readers, and not filtering them through his editor or the editor of the letters pages.

It was an indicator of where the media would be going, because it was where consumers were demanding the media go. Write a letter to the editor? Why on earth would you bother to do that, when you could leave a comment on a blog of the journalist who wrote the very piece about which you wished to comment? While Price’s responses to his readers showed the way, they were still just a taste of what could be. His fourteen responses were written between 12.17 and 1.31pm. Most of them were in reply to comments written at least an hour earlier.

The nature of the moderation policy for blogs on media websites reduces the ability of the blogger/journalist to provide quick responses, and means that there is next to no chance for there to be quick dialogue between the commenters. Those blogs in September 2007 had brought the interaction between readers and journalists closer than ever before, but real-time responsiveness was still beyond reach. Readers could call out their comments, and know that the journalist would hear them, but the distance between producer and consumer was still there, and it could be measured by the lapse in time between query and response.

The cheek-by-jowl closeness of Twitter was yet to arrive.

Even by the time the leadership of a political party next became the subject of urgent political discourse, little had changed in the social-media landscape of Australian politics. On 15 September 2008, when Malcolm Turnbull challenged Brendan Nelson, none of the journalists in the Canberra press gallery had yet joined Twitter.

There were a few early adopters who existed on the periphery — Sky News director John Bergin had joined on 3 September. The earliest joiner of Twitter from among the main political journalists in the country was news.com.au’s Paul Colgan, who had signed up at the extraordinarily early date of 7 April 2007. Political blogger Malcolm Farnsworth and Crikey blogger Possum Comitatus (Scott Steel) had joined respectively in April and May of 2008, but had little cause to use it. Of the over three hundred journalists who covered federal politics or national affairs, only ten were on Twitter at the time of Turnbull’s leadership challenge.

Some politicians were also on Twitter, but little to do with politics was happening or said there — and certainly not by them. The Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was the first Australian politician on Twitter. She joined in April 2007, but she would not find another parliamentarian to tweet to until Malcolm Turnbull joined in October 2008 after his ascension to the leadership of the Liberal Party. Thus, for the social-media history of Australian politics, we can move swiftly past this glorious peak for the Member for Wentworth, and move to his awful valley.

Throughout 2009, Twitter — a social-media program that enabled conversations of 140 characters in length that had been around since March 2006 — suddenly became popular in the Australian political-media world. Journalists who would scarcely admit to reading blogs, let alone commenting on them, were suddenly joining up and putting themselves out in the world of the Internet, and ‘micro-blogging’.

At the end of 2008 there were fourteen Canberra press gallery journalists and Australian political bloggers on Twitter: Paul Colgan, Malcolm Farnsworth, Scott Steel (‘Pollytics’), Michael Rowland, Sophie Black, John Kerrison, Tim Dunlop, Andrew Landeryou, Jonathan Green, John Bergin, Joshua Gans, James Massola, and Jessica Wright. By the end of March 2009, there were forty-six. Among the group that had joined were some of Australia’s most high-profile journalists — the ABC’s Leigh Sales (then with Lateline); Mark Colvin, the host of PM; Annabel Crabb, who quickly built up a large following, and remains the most followed Australian political journalist on Twitter; Crikey’s Canberra correspondent and ex-public servant Bernard Keane; The Age’s Misha Schubert; and News Limited’s David Penberthy.

After being badgered by Scott Steel on the Crikey blog Poll Bludger, I also decided to join — putting aside my concerns that not much of worth could be said in 140 characters, and after I was convinced it was not just a mini-Facebook. I joined in June 2009, by which time seventy-three journalists, political writers, and bloggers were on board. Others less political but ready to ride the social-media wave were aboard — Mia Freedman, having discarded the dead-tree magazine life, and finding branches online with her blog, Mamamia, had joined in February.

One of those journalists less well known to the broader public was Latika Bourke — a young reporter for Fairfax radio. She had joined in March, and quickly took to the medium in a manner that would bring her to a prominence well above what someone in her situation would normally command. She would be one of the first to grasp the possibilities that 140 characters afforded, and it would lead to her becoming one of the top-four most followed journalists covering federal politics — trailing, on the Twitter
mountain, only Annabel Crabb, Laurie Oakes, and Leigh Sales.

Australian politicians were also joining in greater number during 2009. Malcolm Turnbull had been joined by Kevin Rudd on 17 October 2008, and they were later followed by others such as Rob Oakeshott, Steven Ciobo, George Christiansen, Joe Hockey, and Jamie Briggs. Other than Rudd, Labor MPs and senators were somewhat slow on the uptake — the concerns of stuffing up in government being somewhat higher than when they were in opposition — but long-time social-media/Internet champion ACT Senator Kate Lundy joined Twitter in February 2009, followed the next month by Kate Ellis and Tony Burke, whose Twitter style would be the source of amusement and notoriety eighteen months
later, during the 2010 election campaign.

This all led to a community of political writers, participants, and watchers who were ready to put the speed of Twitter to use. Twitter denizens who were confident that they would discover the news well before it made it onto a news website or radio bulletin boasted that Twitter was the future of news here and now. All that was needed was an event of such importance that it would galvanise everybody interested in Australian politics.

This event happened in the last sitting week of the parliamentary year in 2009.


The book charts the use of blogs and twitter in the coverage and debate of Australian politics and what happens when the traditional media collides with this world – most notably on Twitter. Rather than focus on how media companies and political parties attempt to use the internet to further their aims and adjust their business models I instead examine how journalists and politicians themselves are coping in this new environment. I look at the problems both blogs and the MSM have dealing with comments and misogyny, the fights that can occur on Twitter and what can happen when those in the social media tweak the nose of the traditional media – including what happened when I was outed by The Australian.

The chapter titles are:

1. Thrills and Spills
2. The Australian Blogosphere: what, what, how, who, why?
3. Where Are All the Women?
4. Never Read the Comments
5. The MSM v Bloggers: ‘let the professionals do their job’
6. How to Become a Twitter Hashtag
7. Journalists All a Twitter
8. One, Two, Three, Four, I Declare a Twitter War
9. How Many Votes Are There on Twitter?

Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

June Quarter WPI shows once again Wages fail to Breakout.

I’ve written about this quite a few times, but if there has been one aspect of the economic debate that has been more subject to obdurate facts it is that of IR and the predictions of the Fair Work Act bringing about a wages breakout.

Take Terry McCrann in April last year:

Counting cost of wage breakout

UH oh. Are we about to go back to a Peter Reith and John Howard future. Except, obviously, without them, or crucially, their legislation.

Glenn Stevens' real nightmare scenario - and trust me, it's every mortgage borrower's as well -- is a wages breakout. Is it about to start on the waterfront?

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard dismantled the immigration rules and the boats started coming again.

They dismantled the IR rules and industrial disruption and exaggerated wages claims are starting to come again.

On a side note, it takes a real skill to make a link between asylum seekers and IR, though I take points off McCrann for not also mentioning climate change.

Well today the June Quarter’s Labour Price Index was released by the ABS. It showed an increase in seasonal terms of 1% in the quarter and 3.7% in past 12 months:



Can you spot the breakout? It might help if you tilt your screen sideways 90 degrees.

Let’s look at the public sector – public servants are always bloody greedy, no doubt the total figure hides a big breakout there:



Ok let’s look at selected Industries:


Mining again (as it was in March) is where the big jump occur. Also interestingly Wholesale Trade also jumped by a lot, but one of the problems with these breakdowns is they’re not seasonally adjusted at all, so you don’t want to read too much into one quarter.

Let’s look at mining, given that’s where the demand for labour is, and thus according to the laws of supply and demand (Adam Smith's invisible hand and all that) that is where we should see the increases in wages. A look over the past 6 years is interesting – ie after the March quarter of 2006 when Work Choices came into effect till now):


The last two quarters have been above the 6 year trend, but a fall from the March quarter, which some suggested was the start of a big spike.

What about the non-mining industry areas of construction and manufacturing over the same period:


Again no sign of a breakout occurring due to the Fair Work Act.

But let’s look at the waterfront. Most of the work involved with that sector comes under the “Transportation, Postal and Warehousing” sector. How has that been going since June 2006 (or indeed since McCrann wrote his piece April last year)?


At some point it might be time for the fear mongers to admit that anecdote doesn’t cope well when it goes toe-to-toe with facts.


On another note, today the Gallery of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament house) released a GREAT website that features all the campaign launch speeches from the Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition from every election since 1901.

You can read the speeches or you can “explore” and type in key phrase to look at when certain issues were of importance (or not).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Australia’s Unemployment Rate is 5.2%

And so the ABS released the monthly employment figures came out today. The headline grabber is that unemployment stays at 5.2%.

But technically the unemployment rate fell from 5.3% in seasonally adjusted terms to 5.2%, it’s just that last month when the figures were released they had the rate at 5.2%. When the ABS calculated the June rate this time round it ticked just over 5.25% and thus got rounded up to 5.3%. The decline from June to July wasn’t actually a 0.1 percentage point increase, it was 0.02575 percentage point. So lets call it no change and be done with it.

In trend terms the rate did remain unchanged at 5.2%.

On the graph of the past 5 years it all looks like this:



One thing to note about the adjustments is that the adjustments are more marked in the trend rate that the seasonally adjusted rate.

Here’s the different seasonally adjusted rates over the past 12 months as measured in May, June and now July:


Other than the June amount, there is not much difference. But now look at the trend rates in the same months:


Back in May the ABS estimated the trend unemployment rate was below 5.1%, and that it had been trending down for a good six months. In June the trend showed a definite flattening. Now the ABS shows that the trend rate had actually already started increasing in May (and perhaps a month or 2 before hand). Thus we know now that the labour market was doing worse in May than we thought then.

So yes, the trend is your friend, but always remember that a trend result inherently takes longer to adjust to changes. The Seasonally Adjusted rate however showed April was the start of the increase. The point however is that we only know now that is was a start. So don’t rely on just one measure, use both together.

Of course the unemployment rate is just one statistic, let’s look at actually jobs growth – both seasonally adjusted and trend:


After a big drop last month, there was an increase in seasonally adjusted terms of 14,000 (0.1%) to 11,512,600. Also Full-time employment increased 9,200 to 8,073,700 and part-time employment increased 4,800 to 3,439,000.

The trend is going down – due mostly to that big drop last month. We wait to see next month’s figures to see if June was an anomaly or indicator of things to come.

But anytime it;s going down is not a good sign, and also more so when you look at the growth in aggregate hours worked per month:


It’s all a little weak, really.

And finally forget all of this, we know only one figure really matters, and that’s the Employment to Population ratio:


It is flat, but has declined from the start of the year. This again shows that there is still a lot of weakness (and capacity) in the economy.

When we compare the decline in the employment to population ratio since the GFC hit, you can see we still haven’t got back to where we were in June 2008:


And if we compare that decline against other recessions, we see that the climb out of the GFC is mirroring the patterns somewhat of the 1981-82 and 1991 recessions where a recovery occurs before a decline. By this measure the rate should begin to climb soon.


Now to the states.


Interestingly, Queensland’s unemployment rates in Seasonal terms went from 5.3% to 5.8%, and yet it’s employment numbers increased – mostly because its participation rate also increased from 66.1% to 66.5%. Seasonal adjusted at the state level really jumps around, so here is it best to look at the trend, and again it’s all a bit flat. 

In short, the unemployment rate is good – there are always caveats to the rate, but it remains a good indicator. But employment growth is pretty slight, and despite the RBA on Tuesday signalling no more reductions in the cash rate, I think what we see here is that the previous reductions still haven’t flown through, and given the way the trend rate of unemployment is going, I wouldn’t rule out another drop in rates before the end of the year.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sight and Sounds picks Vertigo as the Best Film of All Time

Yesterday came news that British film magazine, Sight and Sound had released it latest poll of the best films of all time. In an age where lists of best ofs are pretty much stock standard, Sight and Sound gets extra attention because it is only done once every 10 years, and it was first done all the way back in 1952, when Bicycle Thieves was number 1. The poll also involves “critics” so it has a eliteness to it that polls like the IMDB top 250 don’t have. Whether this makes it any more “valid” is debateable, but at least you do get some feeling that the people voting at least have seen a lot of films.

Since that first poll, the winner in 1962, 72, 82, 92 and 2002 spot has been held by Citizen Kane. In 2002 it came in first by a mere 5 votes – 46 to Vertigo’s 41. This year, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo took the prize – 191 votes to 157. The count suggests they asked a shirt load more critics than in the past. Did this lead to the change? Perhaps, but it is interesting that in 2002 Citizen Kane won the “Directors’ Poll” (they poll directors separately) with 42 votes, to “The Godfather I and II” with 28 votes. Ozu Yasujiro’s 1953 film, Tokyo Story didn’t even make it in the Director’s Top 10. This year it won, with 48 votes, to 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2nd on 42 votes.  Among the directors polled, Citizen Kane came in 3rd.

Now film study is perhaps the closest thing I can claim to have any qualifications in. My English Literature PhD was on Satires of Hollywood, which rather nicely meant I could study film as well as novels. But I must admit I don’t have a critic’s palette when it comes to films. For a start I am a Hollywood film fan. I do enjoy non-English films, but I must admit my sensibilities don’t always go there.

Silent film is also not my favourite. I’m a fan of words.

One thing about the list – it’s old. Only 4 films in the top 50 come from after 1980. The newest film is Mullholland Dr in 2001 and  In the Mood for Love in 2000.

So to reveal my gross ignorance of “high film” I’m going to go through the list and give my views:

1. Vertigo Alfred Hitchcock, 1958 (191 votes)

It’s not even my favourite Hitchcock. I’d put Rear Window and North by Northwest ahead of it. Strangers on a Train is also brilliant, Notorious, The 39 Steps and Psycho as well. And while I do see the intelligence in the film, to be honest, if I really wanted to have a fun afternoon I’d put on To Catch a Thief.

2. Citizen Kane Orson Welles, 1941 (157 votes)

Yes it is brilliant. And while there are parts of The Magnificent Ambersons that I enjoy more, the deep focus of Gregg Toland is wonderful to behold. Welles acting is also good, and he and Joseph Cotton work together like old friends. There’s a reason why it is held in such high esteem, and while I think it’s probably good to see is knocked off the perch, I still rate the influence and work in this higher than Vertigo.  

3. Tokyo Story Ozu Yasujiro, 1953 (107 votes)

I have never seen it. I hate that I haven’t. I must rectify this.

4. La Règle du jeu Jean Renoir, 1939 (100 votes)

There’s much in this that is a joy to watch. It’s a great “group film” – the type that has a few narratives and big cast working together. It’s not surprising that Robert Altman essentially did an updated version of this with Gosford Park. I do think it’s dated a tad – and the version I have seen had a lot of hiss on the audio track, but it’s certainly one I recommend people seeking out.

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans FW Murnau, 1927 (93 votes)

The best silent film of all time? In 2002 it came 7th, and was tied with Battleship Potemkin. I’d put that film higher. But still, if you don’t think you’d like silent films, this is a good one to watch.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick, 1968 (90 votes)

It may not be the best film of all time, but it sure as hell is the most pretentious. Geez, I hate this film. The “I probably would like this if I was stoned out of my nut” ratio on this film is higher than on any other in all history. And don’t give me the “you have to see this in the 70 mm” the visuals ain’t going to overcome the dull plot. And you know what? The cut from the bone being thrown in to the sky to the spaceship, isn’t all that deep. (And be honest – that whole start with the apes is really boring.) The worst thing about this is it is the type of film that inspires films like Inception and  Prometheus that don’t mean as much as their makers think they do.

7. The Searchers John Ford, 1956 (78 votes)

A great film. And just one of the best ending scenes of all time. It doesn’t forget it is a western and so there is action and fighting, but that old right-wing-stay-at-home-and-fight-the-war-from-the-comfort-of-the-Hollywood-lot, John Wayne gives a great performance. I’d prefer to watch Rio Bravo or Red River, or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but this is the better film.  But I don;t think it is the best western of all time. 

8. Man with a Movie Camera Dziga Vertov, 1929 (68 votes)

Haven’t seen it. It’s a documentary. I probably should seek it out. I know I probably won’t.

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc Carl Dreyer, 1927 (65 votes)

Another silent one. Another one on the “yeah one day I might watch it” list. 

10.  Federico Fellini, 1963 (64 votes)

I have this on DVD and once began watching it and stopped about 30 minutes in. I haven’t gone back. I might have to. Actually I know I will, because I was enjoying it. But it;s another long one, and I have to find the time to watch it without having to have my girls interrupting me etc. 

11. Battleship Potemkin Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 (63 votes)

I haven’t seen this for year, but my memory when seeing it was thinking it had to be over rated. It isn’t. It might be Socialist propaganda but it’s also art at its best. The Odessa steps sequence is great.

12. L’Atalante Jean Vigo, 1934 (58 votes)

No idea. 

13. Breathless Jean-Luc Godard, 1960 (57 votes)

One of my favourite “non-English language” films. So hip and cool it makes Clooney and Pitt look like a couple of bogans going gown to the Westfield for a shop. So much to love. The quick cuts that were done by Godard just to cut the film down in length, which changed film making as we know it. A wonderful ending, but most of all Jean Seberg, with her short haircut and her New York Herald Tribune t-shirt looking as chicly European as anyone possibly could strolling around Paris in 1960. 

14. Apocalypse Now Francis Ford Coppola, 1979 (53 votes)

Pure madness. Gotta say the Redux version is better. But what a glorious mess is this film. Not Coppola’s best in my opinion, but there are so many scenes in this that could each  serve as a master class in film making. Does it matter that Brando was a incoherent and inaudible blimp? Nope. Great if only for the opening scene of Martin Sheen in his hotel room drunk and nude and punching the mirror. A scene that let you know this war film ain’t going to be like Patton or The Longest Day.

15. Late Spring Ozu Yasujiro, 1949 (50 votes)

As with Tokyo Story, no idea.

16. Au hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson, 1966 (49 votes)

Again, no idea.

17= Seven Samurai Kurosawa Akira, 1954 (48 votes)

It is long. But it is worth watching. Really good. Influenced Sergio Leone so much he flogged Kurosawa’s Yojimbo to make A Fistful of Dollars. But while this has greatness to it, I think Leone ended up surpassing it.

17= Persona Ingmar Bergman, 1966 (48 votes)

19. Mirror Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974 (47 votes)

Haven’t scene either- my lack of Ingmar Bergman knowledge is a bit of a shame of mine to be honest. So too my lack of Tarkovsky.

20. Singin’ in the Rain Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1951 (46 votes)

This came 10th in 2002. I love it, would probably have it in my top 10. The best Hollywood musical of all-time. Great singing, but even better dancing, and also a wonderful satire of the period in Hollywood when sound was introduced. One of the few musical comedies that is actually very funny.

21= L’avventura Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 (43 votes)

Look I want to watch this. I will get it one day. It sounds great. Incidentally back in 1962 this film came second, 10 years later it was 5th, then in 1982, 7th. By 1992 it was gone from the top 10. 

21= Le Mépris Jean-Luc Godard, 1963 (43 votes)


21= The Godfather Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 (43 votes)

Back in 2002 for some reason Sight and Sound combined this and The Godfather Part II. As a result the two films came in 4th. This time round if both their votes were combined they would come in 8th. This gets my vote as the best movie of all time (though not my ‘favourite’) Everything is great – the score, the acting – especially as so many in the cast would go on to have great careers. I’ve seen it many times, can quote masses of dialogue. It’s a as good as Hollywood can do.

24= Ordet Carl Dreyer, 1955 (42 votes)


24= In the Mood for Love Wong Kar-Wai, 2000 (42 votes)

This one annoys me. I have been looking for it in shops for ages (yeah I know, download it blah blah…) It was on Foxtel a while ago, I taped it, and then accidentally deleted it. Grrr. Will get around to watching it.

26= Rashomon Kurosawa Akira, 1950 (41 votes)

Haven’t seen it for ages, but loved it. It is also responsible for one of my favourite lines in The Simpsons:

Marge Simpson: You liked "Rashomon".
Homer Simpson: That's not how I remember it.

All films that try to make you question whether you can believe what you saw take their lead from this. A great meditation on the meaning of truth.

26= Andrei Rublev Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966 (41 votes)


28. Mulholland Dr. David Lynch, 2001 (40 votes)

Great film. Love it; studied it; wrote about it. Such great acting – especially by Naomi Watts. I think she deserved the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in this as Diane. I love that it doesn’t tell you its meaning like other “ooh was that all a dream” films like Vanilla Sky.

29= Stalker Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979 (39 votes)

29= Shoah Claude Lanzmann, 1985 (39 votes)

Would love to see Shoah. But 500+ minutes? Geez.

31= The Godfather Part II Francis Ford Coppola, 1974 (38 votes)

Love it mostly for the flashback scene involving the young De Niro playing the young Vito Corleone. I think the first is better, but again, there;s just so many great scenes in this, and at its heart pure blackness. Chilling.

31= Taxi Driver Martin Scorsese, 1976 (38 votes)

Heresy I know, but I’ve never really liked this all that much. I might have to give it another go, but I’d prefer watching Goodfellas any day of the week.

33. Bicycle Thieves Vittoria De Sica, 1948 (37 votes)

You feeling happy? Got a smile on your face? Think life is good. OK, watch this film and see those feelings dissipate. Such a sad film. Such an honest film. Heart breaking “neo-realism”. Life shown without rose coloured glasses. In The Player, a screenwriter jokes to the Hollywood exec, Griffin Mill that Mill would probably remake it with a happy ending. Made with non-professional actors, it is probably the anti-Hollywood film.

34. The General Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926 (35 votes)

Interestingly Keaton now ranks above Chaplin. Back in 1952, Chaplin tied for second with both City Lights and The Gold Rush. By 1972 Chaplin was gone and The General came in 8th.

35= Metropolis Fritz Lang, 1927 (34 votes)

Haven’t seen it for ages. It didn’t really do much for me.

35= Psycho Alfred Hitchcock, 1960 (34 votes)

Probably not as scary now as it once was (including for me given I first saw it when I was about 12). The ending is awful, but everything beforehand is perfect. Of note, Hitchcock originally wanted to have no sound at all during the shower scene, then Bernard Herrmann came up with the violin screech and movie history was made. Take that auteur theorists…

35= Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles Chantal Akerman, 1975 (34 votes)

35= Sátántangó Béla Tarr, 1994 (34 votes)


39= The 400 Blows François Truffaut, 1959 (33 votes)

Really good. I’m surprised this isn’t higher to be honest. If I’m honest, it does drag on a bit. But it is perhaps the best study of adolescence on film. The cinemagraphic Catcher in the Rye.

39= La dolce vita Federico Fellini, 1960 (33 votes)

You know what? It’s long. And dated.

41. Journey to Italy Roberto Rossellini, 1954 (32 votes)

42= Pather Panchali Satyajit Ray, 1955 (31 votes)

I really should see some Satyajit Ray.

42= Some Like It Hot Billy Wilder, 1959 (31 votes)

My second favourite film of all-time. I’m not even what my favourite film of all-time is, but this is a lock for second.

42= Gertrud Carl Dreyer, 1964 (31 votes)

42= Pierrot le fou Jean-Luc Godard, 1965 (31 votes)

42= Play Time Jacques Tati, 1967 (31 votes)

42= Close-Up Abbas Kiarostami, 1990 (31 votes)

Nope, nope, nope, nope.

48= The Battle of Algiers Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966 (30 votes)

How come I haven’t seen this? Probably because it’s not on sale in JB HiFi. Yes, I know, I know…

48= Histoire(s) du cinéma Jean-Luc Godard, 1998 (30 votes)

50= City Lights Charlie Chaplin, 1931 (29 votes)

I’ve seen a few Chaplin – The Great Dictator, The Gold Rush, Modern Times. But oddly not this – his most regarded.

50= Ugetsu monogatari Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953 (29 votes)

50= La Jetée Chris Marker, 1962 (29 votes)

No and no.

So the ones I think should be there? Once Upon a Time in the West gets my vote as best ever western, and says as much about America as does The Searchers. Goodfellas and City of God are two great films about crime. There’s lots of French films, but no Jules et Jim? Back in the first poll David Lean’s Brief Encounter came 10th, it deserves to still be in the top 50, as does The Third Man.  And no Woody Allen? Where’s Manhattan or Annie Hall? And if we’re talking romantic comedies, I’d also give a vote for The Apartment. Of more recent films, yes Pulp Fiction… but to be honest, I prefer watching Michael Mann’s Heat.

UPDATE: Michael Powell on Twitter gave me a link to a great idea – the Top 10 and the 1 star reviews they’ve been given on imdb. Brilliant!