Thursday, August 18, 2005

Van Goch? She Said Van Goch?

Premiere Magazine, ever eager to incite controversy and come up with editorial inches that don't involve any real journalism, has come up with a list of the "20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time." And the list is (sorry, no link, as they don't cough up content for free):

2001: A Space Odyssey, A Beautiful Mind, An American in Paris, American Beauty, Chariots of Fire, Chicago, Clerks, Easy Rider, Fantasia, Field of Dreams, Forrest Gump, Gone With the Wind, Good Will Hunting, Jules and Jim, Monster's Ball, Moonstruck, Mystic River, Nashville, The Red Shoes, and The Wizard of Oz.

An intriguing start, if ridiculously front-loaded with films from the last few years since Premiere assumes (probably sadly correctly) that no one knows older films anymore. But even if we wait to pass judgment on A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Monster's Ball and Mystic River --each, in its own way an emblem of middlebrow, of course--there's still plenty to talk about.

Easy to agree with:
2001: I have to say, although I love Kubrick. Here he seems too schematic and simple-minded and dull. Ah, for the days when he made films that were under 2 hours and made in less than 2 years.

An American in Paris: I'm an Astaire man, not a Kelly kid, plus this film seems too impressed with itself (unlike The Band Wagon, the Astaire-Rogers films, or even Singin' in the Rain, which, if you excise the turgid ballads, is ace).

Easy Rider: More dated than the easiest girl in your high school class. Cheaper, too.

Field of Dreams: So treacly, it could make me hate baseball.

Forrest Gump: So treacly, it could make me hate America.

Good Will Hunting: Not a bad film, but it gave us years of Ben Affleck so must be punished.

Impossible to agree with:
Jules and Jim: Simply put, the Belle Epoque and post-WW I era in one wistful piece o' celluloid. Lots of other Truffaut's could get on the overrated list, however, starting with Day for Night. And The 400 Blows is responsible for so many bad films trying to copy it, it almost belongs on some kind of list, too. We could call the list "What hath Reservoir Dogs wrought?" maybe.

Nashville: Altman was a genius for a run there in the '70s, just like Preston Sturges in the '40s, but of course comedy meant very different things 30 years later.

Thorny cases:
American Beauty: Full of Alan Ball's usual attractive if easy cyncism, the cast is so good you can forget it's mostly hokum. But well-acted hokum is never over-rated.

Gone with the Wind: Speaking of hokum, if hokum on a grand scale. It's pretty good until the second half becomes one long funeral.

Clerks: As with most Kevin Smith, it's a screenplay that happened to be filmed--what's the equivalent of radio theater for cinema?

Fantasia: You have to watch something when you're high, and it would be decades before Koyaanisqatsi.

The Red Shoes: There's some British whimsy in the Michael Powell films I never quite connect with. Give me the creepiness of Peeping Tom any day. (Well, you know what I mean--I don't want to be stabbed to death with the third leg of a camera's tripod.)

Who really cares?
Moonstruck and Chariots of Fire (I can't wait for those angry letters from the Cher and Vangelis fan clubs.)

As for films that I would add to an overrated list
Titanic (If I have to explain, you haven't been reading this blog for very long.)
Star Wars (Poorly acted hokum. Be serious with yourself--it's not like our grandparents thought their Saturday matinee serials were the best films of all time.)
Body Heat (Not warm enough for me--give me real noir any day.)
Repulsion (Pretty much just silly, and Denueve looks stoned the whole film.)
Cinema Paradiso (Bathos Endlesso)
Blade Runner (Set design isn't enough of an excuse for a movie.)
The Apartment (Never believable for one second)
Sound of Music (If only we kept their little Von Trapps shut.)
The Maltese Falcon (It's actually kind of boring, and nowhere near as fun as The Big Sleep.)
Brazil (A stand-in for all of Terry Gilliam's bloated, "let me do all the imagining for you" films.)
Giant (If James Dean didn't die, no one would remember this epic as slow as Texas is wide.)
Holiday (Suffers terribly by comparison to either The Awful Truth or The Philadelphia Story.)
City Lights (A film by a man in love with himself, but again, I'm a Keaton fan, less so a Chaplin fan.)
Arsenic and Old Lace (I really do like Cary Grant, but here he triple takes, as if his head-wagging might convince us the jokes are good.)
The Graduate ("Plastics"--no, plastic.)
Dances with Wolves (Pauline Kael had all the best lines on this one, including, "He has feathers in his hair and feathers in his head.")
When Harry Met Sally (Also know as When Reds Met Manhattan, or Nora Ephron says, I haven't stolen from a movie you didn't like.)

I'm sure there's more, but who wants to talk about the overrated forever? That only adds to their myths.


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