Saturday, June 9, 2007

The 10 Movies Whose Presence In The IMDb Top 250 Is Most Galling

I know no one takes this list seriously as an index of considered critical judgement, or even ordinary good taste, but it continues to bug me anyway. Perhaps that's because the Top 250 does reflect, in a weird hybrid way, both established film-history judgements and authentic popular choice. Normally that kind of combination works pretty well for my taste--and there are lots of good movies on the list. But their presence only makes the absurdly overrated stinkers more irritating...

In reverse order of IMDb rating:

10. #219 - Stalag 17 (1953). Just to show that I'm not a historical snob. This is a fine WWII POW movie, but it's also dorky, dated, and unmemorable. One of the Top 250's many problems is that it overrates the 'Golden Age' of the '50s (37 films) and underrates the 'New Hollywood' period of the '70s. No way Stalag 17 deserves this position ahead of, say, Straw Dogs.

9. #214 - Cinderella Man (2005). I haven't even seen this, and its presence here still galls me tremendously. I won't complain about Gladiator, because I understand big historical epics do well on this kind of list, but do we need TWO Russell Crowe movies in the Top 250? That's embarrassing.

8. #197 - Magnolia (1999). This is up there with A.I., I Heart Huckabees, and Igby Goes Down in my personal list of Most Hated Movies Of All Time. In fact I'd say this is my signature Most Hated movie. You have to go to and look up synonyms for 'pompous' and 'leaden' to fully appreciate how awful this film is. I'm confident the recent Hilary Swank 10-plagues-of-Egypt feature, The Reaping, did a better "Frogs" scene than this clanking monstrosity.

7. #130 - Crash (2005). All I'll say is that I disliked Crash before it was fashionable to dislike Crash. I'm actually surprised the post-Oscar backlash hasn't dropped this Academy embarrassment out of the Top 250 altogether.

6. #129 - V For Vendetta (2006). What the fuck? Seriously. This is the most surprising movie on here. Even more surprising, it apparently does better among women then men. Mysterious and very galling.

5. #122 - Children of Men (2006). The most overrated movie of 2006. It's not really all that different from V For Vendetta in its sophomoric futurism -- I used to think that was a snark, but according to the Top 250, it's a mark of distinction. Blech.

4. #96 - Braveheart (1995). OK, so I said I wouldn't complain about about popular historical epics, but this is an exception. What a piece of crap! And just to prove that I'm not a blind Mel Gibson-hating Jew, I thought Apocolypto was very, very good. But if you add a few slaves-who-aren't-really-slaves to Braveheart, you have the The Patriot, don't you?

3. #63 - Reservoir Dogs (1992). I'm sure this will raise a few eyebrows, but I detest this movie. Truly pointless violence. Violence so "cool" and so idiotic that it could only be immortalized in a frat boy college poster. Peckinpah would vomit Beast Lite all over himself if he lived to see it.

2. #29 - Fight Club (1999). Same college-poster bullshit as Reservoir Dogs, only combined with a truly vapid "existential" mindfuck.

1. #2 - The Shawshank Redemption (1995). The Most Quietly Overrated Movie Of All Time. Somehow, between 1995 and 2005, this film went from absorbing (if manipulative) prison flick, to middlebrow cult classic, to THE SECOND GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME. I know it's not Tim Robbins' and Morgan Freeman's fault that they're naturally wooden and self-serious. But how did this happen? Not only is Shawshank #2 all time, it's also the single most voted-on movie in the entire top 250, and, as far as I can make out, on the entire IMDb site. How did this happen? It's extremely galling.


Akshay said...

I really liked Children of Men. What were your objections to it?

Jeffrey said...

How about the loathesomely manipulative editing and pacing? Or the awful sound (soundtrack itself was decent)? Children Of Men was quite possibly my least favorite film of 2006, and I could swear I saw Nacho Libre in the same year.

Jeffrey said...

I might also point out that I saw Magnolia with three of the current members of this blog (Mike H., Akshay, and John), and 100% agree with you about its bloated pretentiousness. Hell, it would've been better if it had been directed by Paul W.S. Anderson rather than Paul Thomas Anderson.

Paul Morton said...

Children of Men seems to be one of the more polarizing films of the last year. I loved it. Half the people I know hated it. With it's two top-notch low-speed car chase scenes, the best shot battle scene since Saving Private Ryan, and all those wonderful little details (did you catch the Yiddish-speaking refugee calling the black soldier a schvartze? or the newspaper headline declaring the major nuclear explosion in Kazakhstan?), I found it immensely satisfying. Maybe the politics were too self-righteously anti-Bush, but, hey, it's the spirit of the times.

P.S. I interviewed the Romanian actress who played Maricka for an online magazine last year. Check it out:

Paul Morton said...

I would also like to make the case for three other movies on your list, all of which are terribly flawed, but have something going for them.

Stalag 17 is not quite so dated. The one figure in the film who does most to defend the American cause also happens to be the most cynical, cold, and least patriotic of the bunch. How can you not love William Holden's final salute, as fine a middle finger as pre-1969 Hollywood could allow?

Magnolia: Think of it as a collection of music videos strung together with half-assed character studies. It's a lot more enjoyable that way.

Reservoir Dogs: I happen to like my beer cold, my sex explicit and my violence excessive. Fifteen years later, Reservoir Dogs is still a smart, funny script ("Why am I Mr. Pink?" "I'm hungry, let's get a taco.") And that ear scene speaks to the tortured 13-year-old kid in all of us. See also: Stanley Crouch's defense of Tarantino.

John said...

Looking at the list, it's kind of odd. How does a recent, little-viewed art movie like City of God get all the way up to #17?

That being said, Matt's choices, at least the ones I've seen, seem largely pretty good.

Other potentially dubious ones would include Léon (#40), Some Japanese animé movie I've never heard of (#55), Sin City (#70), Grindhouse (#72), The Prestige (#87) and such. I even liked all three of those films that I've seen, but they don't seem like "top 100 of all time" kinds of films.

What definitely should be on Matt's list is Life Is Beautiful (#86). That movie was awful.

The presence of 12 Angry Men at #14 also seems pretty questionable to me.

Matt K said...

I actually liked a lot of Children of Men -- the car chases were cool, Clive Owen is always fun to watch, and even Michael Caine's goofy John Lennon impression had its moments.

But yeah, it was ridiculously overpraised. Here's one embarrassingly overwrought comment from the Onion critic, who is normally much more decent: "Children of Men is a heartbreaking, bullet-strewn valentine to what keeps us human."

No, it's not. It's just another reasonably well-made chase movie, with some apocolpytic stuff thrown in. There's no character depth -- which is, I suppose, acceptable in these kind of future scenarios (it's not like Winston Smith was such a clearly defined individual). But the apocolpytic world itself -- the "main character," so to speak -- is incoherently defined. If there's a severe shortage of native births, why is the government so keen to stop "illegal immigration"? How does the society possibly function? And do we REALLY need to see a sympathetic character get the Abu Ghraib hood? (this is where the V for Vendetta comparison comes in).

For an 'apocolyptic' world to make sense artistically, it has to be imagined and explained with some kind of internal discipline. Otherwise, like Children of Men (and even worse, V for Vendetta), it just comes off like a lazily cherry-picked response to contemporary politics.

Akshay said...

I think the infertility had only gone on for about 18 years, so the "missing" infants wouldn't have entered the labor supply yet. In any case, it's quite possible that the government is allowing an adequate amount of legal immigration, but is deluged by refugees because - as the public service announcement in the bus indicates - the rest of the world is, for whatever reason, in much worse shape than Britain. In any case, there are plenty of modern countries with plummeting birth rates and substantial popular opposition to immigration (of any variety).

Paul Morton said...

I saw a lot of interesting touches that explained the internal logic of the futuristic distopia: a massive universal love for animals as replacements for children and several indications that technology essentially stopped somewhere around 2012 (there doesn't seem to be too many radical improvements from our current era), a sign that humankind gave up advancing for a very obvious reason. V for Vendetta's use of prison camp scenes felt a little Holocaust-lite, the kind of thing a 13-year-old would write after reading Michael Moore. But I felt the Abu Ghraib tie-in here was well placed and downright heartbreaking. That said, I did find the waterboarding scene in The Good Shepherd annoyingly didactic, so maybe I'm not too consistent.