Winslet, Cruz, Herzog crack 2009 TIME 100

Posted by · 3:02 am · May 1st, 2009

Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslet at the 81st Annual Academy AwardsGiven the debate currently active on these pages over what does and does not merit the term “influential” in the film world, there couldn’t be a better time to link to Time magazine’s list of (supposedly) the world’s 100 most influential people.

Time slightly sidesteps the inherent comparative silliness of such a list by breaking it down into spheres of influence — though you have to admit there’s something slightly confounding about a survey that places Michelle Obama and Rafael Nadal in the same category. (Apples or oranges? Discuss.)

But even  by just taking a mini-survey of the film-related figures in their Artists & Entertainers division, one has to conclude that they are as uncertain about what “influential” actually means as so many others are. In many cases, the list could be more plainly described as “famous people who have had a very good year.”

Take Kate Winslet, for example — an undeniably great actress, a constant media presence in the last few months, and duly rewarded for her pains. But “influential?” As accomplished a performer as Winslet is, I’m not convinced that she has significantly altered the craft in which she works, or given rise to any discernible popular or artistic trends. Going strictly by the book, I’m afraid I’d have to declare Zac Efron a worthier inclusion than Winslet.

The same caveat goes for Penélope Cruz, also on the list — a very talented and likable figure who some feel scored a personal best in the past year, but success does not equal influence. (On the other end of the scale, while his industry power remains a constant, what has Tom Hanks done in the past 12 months to merit his inclusion? And what did any of these folks do so right that, say, Christopher Nolan did not?)

Anyway, I’m nitpicking. The real pleasure of the list derives from reading heartfelt tributes to talented figures from largely well-chosen peers. My personal favourites include Spike Jonze’s take on Academy Award nominee M.I.A. (sorry, I still get a kick out of saying that), and Roger Ebert’s celebration of Academy Award nominee  Werner Herzog (OK, I get an even bigger kick out of finally saying that):

Herzog believes our world is “starving for images.” He tries to feed us: Kinski as a madman adrift on a raft with gibbering monkeys in Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Timothy Treadwell in Alaska with the bear that would eat him in Grizzly Man; a tiny teardrop airship exploring the rain-forest treetops in The White Diamond.

In 1974 Herzog walked from Munich to Paris to carry his new film to the dying critic Lotte Eisner. To a younger generation, he represents a similar heroism. Ramin Bahrani, the much admired new American director, told me, “If I could meet Herzog, I would crawl to him on my knees.”

Indeed. There’s no best-before date on some people’s influence. Check out the rest here.

→ 8 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

8 responses so far

  • 1 5-01-2009 at 6:00 am

    Jim said...

    Regarding Winslet (alright, I’m a big fan) I have to say that though I also don’t see how she changed the world (cinema world or the whole world), it is a fact that she has finally established herself as a force in the industry. I think that alone is a kind of influence. My opinion anyway. :p

  • 2 5-01-2009 at 6:15 am

    Zac said...

    Once again, Joe vs. the Volcano gets the shaft re: Tom Hanks starred with Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.

  • 3 5-01-2009 at 8:38 am

    Bill said...

    If you check out Joel Stein’s follow up article, he addresses the same issue you guys are tackling. He says these are the people Time WANTS to be the most influencial, not the people who ARE the most influencial. Some of them don’t even have Wikipedia entries.

  • 4 5-01-2009 at 9:59 am

    Dennis said...

    Regarding Hanks, I would say that producing a television show that wins approximately a zillion Emmys (“John Adams”), and producing a movie that made $600 million dollars (“Mamma Mia!”) might merit inclusion, even if he didn’t star in any movies this year. Power, I suppose, takes different forms.

  • 5 5-01-2009 at 3:03 pm

    Patrick said...

    I think if you ask any young actress who’s career they would aspire to have, a large majority would say Winslet. She’s the icon of ‘female based drama’ – as crass as that term is – whether you agree that she deserves to be or not.

    Winslet is on track to muster the same critical kudos points as Meryl – she’s what you need to greenlight independent films with strong female characters. That’s how it is. I would say she’s certainly as influential as any other young actress out there at the moment.

    If you think thousands of scriptwriters aren’t creating parts specifically with her in mind, over any other actress, then you’re a bit deluded. It’s certainly influence.

    Penelope Cruz, however, I would agree is a dubious entry.

  • 6 5-01-2009 at 3:13 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Don’t get me wrong — I really do like and respect Winslet. A lot. But I’m not sure what “the icon of female-based drama” actually means.

    Along with the likes of Blanchett and Kidman, she’s making a place for herself at the table of a still largely male-oriented industry, and doing a good job of it. I still don’t see her as an influential figure. But I’ll agree to disagree.

  • 7 5-01-2009 at 11:13 pm

    Glenn said...

    I was going to say that about Hanks. No doubt he helped get a movie about women, written and directed and woman and featuring the songs of ABBA up.

  • 8 5-02-2009 at 1:35 pm

    anonymous said...

    i’m a little surprised that shigeru miyamoto isn’t on the list. wasn’t he one of the main creative forces behind the wii, currently the most financially successful game console?

    and as much as i despise twilight, i can’t deny the influence stephanie meyer has had on the entertainment industry.

    i agree also with you on the omission of christopher nolan. totally unforgivable, especially since they could make room for werner herzog. a great director, but more influential than the man behind the dark knight?!? c’mon!