‘Top’ lists are an unending phenomenon that spawn articles in magazines, books, TV shows, fan sites, and, in the world of movies, unending discussion/debate on which ones make the cut.
As a young movie lover, it was always fun to talk about which ones were my favourite. A discerning pallet that recognised poor story structure, bad dialogue, bad editing, repetition, unoriginality, or just plain crappiness, hadn’t entered or jaded this reviewer back then. You liked what you like, and be damned what the critics said. If you even knew there were critics.
Low and behold, many years later, I became one—though I prefer the term reviewer—with this wonderful site that offered to share the opinions of any movie lover. It was, unlike many magazines and sites I’d read, a place that welcomed anyone’s opinion and didn’t pretend it knew better. This appealed to me, as I always thought that everyone’s opinion counted. Film, like any creative work, is subjective, and there is absolutely no right or wrong interpretation of it. That kid in me that just loved movies still does, and sometimes he is in direct opposition to the critical consensus.
Already a voracious consumer of everything film, I’d gained what was deemed the only few skills needed to write about ‘em: I could string a sentence together and I knew plenty about movies. I love writing reviews and I love talking about my views of stories they tell. But there is an article I have wanted to write for a long time that I seldom seen any critic or reviewer tackle; one about the times when their view goes against the grain.
I’ve heard plenty of folk out in the wild give a thumbs down to a revered movie and one up to something most describe as something they scraped off their shoe. But critics who come out and say it? Never read it.
So here goes. This is me, someone employed to tell you what the current crop of offerings are like, and what classic fare has come out on blu ray, throwing all pretentions out the window, killing once and for all the myth that a ‘critic’ knows best, and just saying what I like and what I don’t:
REVERED CLASSICS I DON’T LIKE...
The Godfather movies: revered, undeniably masterfully created, and they bore me to tears. I just can’t sit through them without my mind wandering.
A Clockwork Orange: Cult masterpiece; has the intellectuals gushing over its biting satire. Ugly, uninteresting, and way, way, WAY over-rated in my book.
Just while I’m on poor Stanley Kubrick, who is the director of one of my favourite movies, The Shining. 2001: A Space Odyssey: undeniably brilliant visual effects, but the best cure from insomnia for this reviewer I could ever hope for.
Rocky: Gave Sly, who I love, his career; often quoted as the greatest underdog movie ever made. Find it predictable; and nothing in its narrative surprises enough to keep me re-watching to the end.
John Hughes fans—brace yourself. 80s’ classic The Breakfast Club: solidified Hughes as the voice of teens for that generation; made stars out of most of the cast; fawned over for its dramatic genius, its accessibility, its wit. To me? Bunch of whining teens in a library. SNORE!
King Kong: Pioneering film in special effects back in the day; an affecting cautionary tale of man’s greed and its consequence. I don’t like movies where animals are hurt.
Raging Bull: I know, I know, looks like I have it out for boxers. This film was a critical triumph for Scorsese and De Niro, is voted best sports movie ever by the AFI, and to me is dull, plodding, and hard to sit through.
FLOPS I LOVE…
All right, enough bashing of classics. How about some movies I like that most critics should be ashamed to admit? Guilty pleasures!
Let’s get this underway with a film I know will incite bullets from my Texan editor! Police Academy: that bawdy 1984 comedy that spawned an unending onslaught of (shitty) sequels. The original just tickled my funny bone then (I was nine) and still does now. Commandant Lassard is a particular highlight, and his podium scene still cracks me up. I still enjoy breaking it out once in a while.
Her Alibi: Tom Selleck was very popular, but not a movie star to most people back then, and he did do a couple of films directly after Magnum, pi (his crowning career achievement) ended that did nothing to improve that. This one got mauled, won some Raspberries, and is undeniably not a great movie. But again, it tickles this reviewer’s funny bone. Selleck wins me over in this movie and I love watching his writer character fumble through one situation after another. The confident monologues, juxtaposed against slapstick clumsiness, just always make me smile.
Rogue: never heard of it? It was Wolf Creek director Greg McLean’s Aussie-centric riff on Jaws, only with a huge crocodile. Derivative? YES! Predictable? Pretty much. But REALLY well shot and executed. Great CGI and carnage, and a good cast.
How about one from this year? Amazing Spider-man 2. It’s gotten a critical pounding. I loved it. I would take it over Spider-man 3 any day, and I thought it did a better job cramming too much in than Raimi’s final movie did. I found it affecting, the performers better than the previous trilogy, and I look forward to another one.
And last but not least, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. BOY was this film lambasted. And BOY did I get hauled over the coals when I gave it a good review. I was accused of dishonesty, of being paid off to write a good review. What those nasty folk didn’t take into account is I love 50’s B-movies and I love Dr Jones. It was a good match to me. And I wasn’t gonna knock it because my peers decided it was an unworthy entry.
Well, folks, there you go. Here is a critic, laying out a few of his personal dislikes and likes that don’t seem to gel with the well regarded lists out there. How about you? Sure there is some revered classic (a dude the other day told me he HATED Star Wars) or some piece of cinematic crap that’s on your list. Let it out! What is it?