James Cameron tops Guardian’s “most powerful” list

Posted by · 8:55 am · September 24th, 2010

There has been some debate this morning in the British corner of the Twitterverse about the merits of The Guardian’s inaugural Film Power 100 list, which claims to represent the 100 industry figures current wielding the most power over, and influence on, UK filmgoers.

It’s an ungainly and frequently baffling collection of names, mashing together actors, directors, moguls and journalists, but as readers pick away at the inclusion of this star over that — and non-Brits scratch their heads and wonder who the hell Claudia Winkleman is — few are arguing with the paper’s #1 choice: the long-dormant but mightily resurrected James Cameron. They explain his selection as follows:

[H]e is almost the entire reason why [3D] is no longer viewed exclusively as a sideshow gimmick … No film-maker has taken a more passionate interest and involvement in cinema technology than this Canadian-born writer-director-producer, who pushed 3D and computer-generated character creation to a point of sophistication that would enable him to make his Pocahontas-goes-science-fiction extravaganza.

Fair enough. The top 10 of the list is filled with similarly expected names: Steven Spielberg, John Lasseter, Scott Rudin and Christopher Nolan, with Nolan’s most recent leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio, the highest-ranking thesp at #3. (Angelina Jolie, meanwhile, is the highest ranking woman on the list — albeit quite few rungs down, in 18th place.)

The further down I read, however, the higher my eyebrows rose. The slightly nebulous rationale behind the list is that it is less a Forbes-style business meter and more “the ability to shape the experience of film viewing in the UK.” (In that regard, they rather flatter their own, questionably placing head Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw at #65.)

Obviously, a British flavor is to be expected, but they nonetheless seem to have a curiously removed sense of what, or who, local audiences really respond to: Colin Firth but no Will Ferrell? Sofia Coppola but no Michael Bay? No Bollywood figures at all, in a country where Asians make up half the minority population?

Their selection of female figures is especially bizarre: Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep (who, just two years ago, anchored the highest-grossing film in UK box-office history) don’t crack the top 100, but Tilda Swinton, Kate Winslet and Kristin Scott Thomas — terrific actresses, all of them, but none of whom can open a multiplex title on their name alone — all do.

Anyway, like most lists of this committee-voted nature, it’s fairly meaningless, but an entertaining enough conversation starter. The top 10 is below; check out the full list here.

1. James Cameron
2. Steven Spielberg
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
4. John Lasseter
5. Brad Pitt
6. Christopher Nolan
7. Scott Rudin
8. Quentin Tarantino
9. George Clooney
10. Ed Vaizey

[Photo: Deceiver.com]

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9 responses so far

  • 1 9-24-2010 at 9:34 am

    red_wine said...

    Daniel Craig should be the highest actor if we are talking British film-viewing experience. He is your biggest leading man, one of your best actors and of the most prominent and famous Brit figures in the world.

    Harry Knowles is more powerful than Mike Leigh?????
    Some names who are not on the list or with whose placement I don’t agree – Dench, Mirren, Gambon, Rowling, Potter kids, Philip Glass, O’Toole, Connery.

    Bradshaw is probably your Top critic, though Kermode is perhaps the most popular.

  • 2 9-24-2010 at 9:42 am

    John said...

    I, for one, have always believed Michael Cera to possess more industry clout than George Lucas.

  • 3 9-24-2010 at 11:51 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    Bob and Harvey Weinstein are FAR more powerful than Leonardo DiCaprio or Ridley Scott or any of the other random names they’ve drew out of a hat.

  • 4 9-24-2010 at 11:56 am

    Pete said...

    Mixed feeling on this one.

    I see this list as nothing less than a conscious attempt by Guardian (one of the absolute worst papers in the world and one of strongest reasons to despise UK press in general: seriously is there another country in the world publishing as much crap on consistent bases (Sun, Daily Mail, Guardian/Observer, Hello…) to reinforce it’s own importance. Call it power by association.

    And this is one stupid list. And yet… I cannot help but realize that most lists of this sort are. Premiere’s list was better though.
    To be fair, not all descriptions are equally idiotic. It was interesting to see programming directors for festivals. Sort of makes sense.

    While I strongly believe that Spielberg is a more powerful figure (even if he rarely wields a lor of that potential power), it is, currently, Cameron’s moment to shine. His name is big. Should this be recognized as a #1 spot on the forward looking list, especially considering the the time before his next project? I would argue not. His standing is more a snapshot, but, paradoxically, his very spoken commitment to making only popular (read: “commerical”) films makes him less likely to become “small”. At the same time, the list’s exclusion of Lucas has to be based, almost entirely, on an expection that we won’t be seeing films from him soon. Questionable.

    Right from the beginning, the list’s creators hit the wrong note by calling Benjamin Button “an enormous folly”. Even if they were right (which, imo, they are not), considering the nature of the list and it’s basis, at least in part, on success, there is no place for comment of such subjective nature. Cheap shots at Tom Cruise (I counted at least two!) , who is still a more conistent draw than Jolie don’t help either.

    The sad thing is, the list could have actually represented something, showed something, if only it’s creators cared to be objective, rather than biased.

    Kathryn Bigelow but no Kathleen Kennedy (like in top 15?). Rudin, too, seams a bit high. Though he does tend to do a lot of British literary adaptations.

    Martin Scorsese is #20? I am not arguing his importance but I would hardly call “Shutter Island” a huge hit. That just reads like a clear excuse for wanting to put him so high, especially considering the absense of Ron Howard/Brian Glazer (whom I, by the way, cannot stand). Or Robert Zemeckis? You can tell that there was little, if any objectivity here.

    Looking over the list I had to wonder just how much of a draw Will Smith was in UK. One would assume the guy would have to have at least a CERTAIN presence to, at least, place somewhere, even after an absense from movies.
    Oh wait, the geniuses at Guardian called him too “control freakery”. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

    Would love to hear people’s thoughts on this particular topic. Is Smth a big name in UK?

    Sorkin is #21? He might very well win an Oscar this year. But does anyone see him scoring this high on a US based list?

    I could continue, Cera over La Beouf? Did del Toro ever make a film that made money? Is now the time to say how much I hated “Pan’s Labyrinth”?

    And, red wine:

    I think Craig, despite being a superb actor, is not quite the huge star yet. He ceirtanly belongs on the list, I think, even subjectively (he IS the current Bond) and he does have two big movies next year. That said, character actors like him tend to be ignored a bit, in general.

    Connery is assumed to be retired, I think. This is not a list of all time UK icons, after all.

    Hugest fan of Philip Glass, and he is a huge in classical world, but don’t entirely follow your logic. Unless you want to make a point for him being the most important documentary composer, perhaps ever. And even then, that would be a rather awkward.

    Most other names kind of make sense. Maybe not Gambon and not all of Potter kids but Mirren makes sense. As mentioned, Streep’s absense is bizzare.

    Re: Harry Knowles. I would argue he is not that much more powerful than other people who write for AICN. He is certainly the biggest idiot there (save for, maybe, Merrick). More people read him, for sure. Few truly care. I pity those who do.

    And lastly, in regards to Nolan, it doesn’t matter if he can greenlight any movie he wants. It’s not even true. (Show me anyone able to greenlight a 4 hour silent puppet version of Mary had a little Lamb on the Moon in 3D and I’ll show you a guy who paid for the film himself). It’s how much the movie makes that really shows “the ability to shape the experience of film viewing in the UK”. Nolan is current running very hot, no doubt, but he only has two hits to his name.

  • 5 9-24-2010 at 12:02 pm

    Pete said...

    “Bob and Harvey Weinstein are FAR more powerful than Leonardo DiCaprio or Ridley Scott or any of the other random names they’ve drew out of a hat.”

    I don’t think so. Apart from being in different domains, as Guardian noted they are more IMPORTANT than they are powerful. Their importance lies to how they made independent and foreign cinema viable in the 90s. For that I am tremendously thankful as a viwer. I remember seeking out Miramax films because very often they were top quality. There had been a bit of decline in recent years on that front though.

    Apart from that, Bob and Harvey have different domains. And let’s not confuse Harvey’s ability to generate Oscar heat with his power. Two different things. He has clout no doubt and that’s mainly because despite his questionable marketing tactics, for the most part, there was a layer of quality in the projects he was invlolved with.

  • 6 9-24-2010 at 12:14 pm

    Pete said...

    Oh and the very last thing. I like how the list makes a mention that DreamWorks was sold in 2005 but (deliberately, I think, otherwise it’s an unforgivable oversight) makes no mention that it’s an independent studio, once again. Kind of a big difference. DreamWork’s does have a distribution deal with Disney but it is no longer under anyone’s arm like it was during the Paramount days.

  • 7 9-24-2010 at 12:46 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    That’s a lot to take in, Pete. Happy you found so much to respond to in this short piece, though.

    Would be interested to know what your specific beef with The Guardian — which, for better or worse, can’t really be lumped in with the Daily Mail, given their completely opposed perspectives — is, but if you could keep it under 800 words, that’d be great. ;)

  • 8 9-24-2010 at 5:43 pm

    Filmoholic said...

    I didn’t have any thoughts to offer on this matter, but then I looked at the full list out of curiosity and saw Charlie Kaufman. Huh? Kaufman? On a “most powerful” list? After Synecdoche, New York, it’s going to be difficult for him to get someone to read his screenplays, let alone greenlight a movie for him. The guy is a genius, sure, but his inclusion here is baffling.

  • 9 9-24-2010 at 8:46 pm

    tintin(uruguay) said...

    Jolie! Jolie! JOLIE! jajaja