CLASSIC—Adjective: Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality, or a work of art of recognised and established value. —-Taken from the Oxford English Dictionary
The word ‘classic’ is one of the most misused and overstated words in the arts vernacular. Many things, films, TV programmes, art, music, literature and plays, find themselves trumpeted by marketing schemes and audience hyperbole by being called a ‘modern classic’ and the like.
And yet, in truth, something cannot be judged as a classic for at least a generation, or about 20 years. In order to be a true classic, the thing in question must speak to multiple generations, cultures and demographics. Something may be well-made, perhaps even create a cultural phenomenon in its day, but if it doesn’t stand the test of time (to use a cliché) it really cannot be seen as a classic. Many things date quickly and become more of an embarrassing reminder of the fashion and social mores of its day; other things mature though the years, perhaps finding richer interpretations and different meaning and context through the passing of time.
And sometimes classics aren’t necessarily members of the ‘best of the best’ club. Sometimes its status may be down to a few elements, or even one very powerful key aspect, or it may be a connotation to an historic event, some artistic development or someone involved with the project. Whatever the case, the title ‘classic’ can be a very fickle thing.
It’s also very easy to get caught up in hype and expectation when originally critiquing something. Many things receive rave reviews on opening night, only to be forgotten within months. It is also, unfortunately, not uncommon for many ground breaking productions to be shrugged off at their premiere. Some of the most important artistic work in history were met with antagonism and hardly gained any public notice when first shown.
This is why I’ve created Modern Potentials. By looking at films that are between 10-20 years old, I hope to be able to cut through the glass eye of nostalgia and the power of marketing and demand to assess artistic merit. A classic isn’t determined by the onslaught of publicity, demand or hype that many films are embroiled with these days. Instead, a real classic should stand on its own, existing above and outside its time or the people behind its creation.
Modern Potentials is my attempt to sort the truly great from the rest, to stand up for those forgotten and misjudged films while disregarding those that were a fragment of their time, and to champion those that have already discovered high favour. Only time will really tell if any of these become actual ‘classics’, but all of them, for one reason or another, are worthy of a second look.
Links to past Modern Potentials: