Some of my more faithful readers (all one of you) will recall that I did write a list of my most hated films of all time. Well, I did promise that, at some point, there would be another. Frankly though, I tend to avoid films that I know I will probably despise. I am fully aware this is unfair-how on Earth can I call myself a critic without taking into account that there will be some films that I probably hate? I hope to rectify this in the future to a certain degree-I will still not be spending full ticket price to go see, say, Furry Vengeance. But I will try my best. This list is a list of films that I do not like (or even do like, but not to the degree society insists that I should) because I disagree with their approach. Yet I am in the minority here-there are many who love the films I will list and will want nothing more than to throw a very large rock through my window once they finish reading this. I will try my best to prevent this by explaining myself. In the meantime, here is my list of some of the most overrated films of all time. There are many more-I will get to them at another time.
Lost in Translation (2003)-Sofia Coppola’s second film wowed audiences and critics alike when it was released in 2003, eventually winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Well, that was a little generous, because the film is hardly original nor is it really a “screenplay.” Anyway, many of the lovers of the film derided the detractors of the film by using the Old George Plimpton defense: claiming that those who detract it did not have the sufficient mental capacity to understand it. Well, I did understand it. That is, I understood the message. What I did not understand was the point. Why was ashamedly ripping off the Wong Kar Wai movie In the Mood for Love the best way to convey the story? Why create a subplot more interesting than the main plot? For that matter, where was the plot? This film was a build up to nothing-it is the equivalent of baking a cake and then never eating it. Yes, I could see the craft that goes into it, but I was still being denied the ultimate climax of the experience. And the jokes-well, I got them, but I wasn’t laughing. The Suntori time commercial (don’t even really care if that is the correct spelling) made me groan-mostly because I knew what it was a reference to and I simply found it arrogant for Sofia to bring up those two great filmmakers for a cheap laugh. Yes, I know the film still has many defenders. But do not count me among them.
Crash (2005)-Maybe this is not an overrated film anymore-this film has a good many detractors today, and with good reason. It should not have won Best Picture in 2005, or even been nominated. What director Paul Haggis did was attempt to remake the Robert Altman masterpiece Short Cuts in his own image. And that image apparently means that everyone speaks like they are in 1950s Alabama, where race is the only thing that matters. In this world, humans are not complex beings-they are truly judged by the color of their skin. You know, the exact opposite ideal that Martin Luther King Jr was advocating? The does feature some good performances-I felt Michael Pena’s performance and story could have warranted its own film. But that is not what it is-it is how he connects to these people. And when people are as shallow as presented here, why should I care what anyone thinks? Their opinions and examinations of races and racism are not new or even particularly intelligent-they are racists solely because the script demands they be so. Also, I hate the title-every time someone asks if I have seen the film, I ask which Crash they are referring to-David Cronenberg’s well executed adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel or this? What is depressing is that most have only heard of this one. So maybe the film is still overrated after all.
The Elephant Man (1980)-Now what is this doing on here? A David Lynch movie that cemented his credibility in Hollywood? That was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director? That features a powerful performance by John Hurt and (to a lesser extent) Anthony Hopkins? Yes. This is mostly because the film’s fundamental message is so flawed as to be fatal-that the titular character is somehow special. Well, yes, as a medical case. But characters (and audiences) were somehow surprised when he turned out to be a reasonable being despite his deformity. Why was anyone expecting this? And why, for that matter, does the film pretend as if living a normal life is considered heroic? Each and every one of us does this every day. Heroism involves choice, sacrifice, some free will. Joseph Merrick (NOT John Merrick) had none in his story. And the film never addresses the difference in true heroism-it simply prevents us with a tragic figure and says that this is the face of heroism. Sorry, but I am not buying it.
Forrest Gump (1994)-This is a film I actually do like-that is, I can watch it and still find things to admire about it. I enjoy the skill that went into creating the effects and Tom Hanks’ performance. That said, I do not love it nearly as much as its fans. That is because they misunderstand the film. They view it as a humanistic story about a simple man trying to find his place in a complex world. It is not-it is far from humanist. What it is is a time capsule for Baby Boomers to watch and smile at. They use this film as an indication of what they witnessed. Maybe I dislike this element because I am getting tired of retiring Baby Boomers who are convinced my life will not amount to anything-I didn’t see the Dead at Woodstock, Man. Whatever; I will have to find something else to replace it and I have no doubt that I will. But Forrest Gump clearly wants to exploit this element. Maybe the fact that the character of Gump refused to comment on his many successes made people overlook this element. But that does not change what the film fundamentally was. This was a cash in on that growing Baby Boomer nostalgia, and now the only reason anyone probably admires the film is for nostalgic reasons itself. This is not the worst film on the list-in fact, it is probably the best. But it is not the masterpiece people make it out to be.
Gone with the Wind (1939)-I can hear the screams now. How could I hate this film? This classic of old Hollywood that defined the epic? Well, for one, if it defined the epic, then it is from this film that that terrible genre receives all of its flaws. None of the characters in the film can even be said to approach normal human characteristics. Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most loathsome figures ever put on celluloid. There, I said it and I will say it again. Vivien Leigh does well at embodying these traits-maybe that is why I have such a strong reaction to the character. But she acts as a spoiled child throughout the film-constantly throwing tantrums when she does not get her way. Every character she seems to interact with also ends up dead or, more likely, just as joyless as her. Yes, I am aware of what the film does-capturing the feel of the Civil War. Yet why spend so much money on sets and costumes if the characters and actors are not well developed. Also, yes, if Birth of a Nation is racist, then so is this film for exactly the same reasons. Yet why is this film never criticized for racism? I do not know. I do know that I never want to see the film again.
Let the brick throwing commence.