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Agree, or disagree? Or should we even care?

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mrsl
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Postby mrsl » May 6th, 2008, 9:59 am

I'm taking a whack at this comp working.

First off, I like lists for the fun of it, like the ones we do around here. We have so many people from different walks of life, I love to see what they consider 'special', but then again, none of our lists are 'orders' that the films chosen are to be regaled as perfection.

IMO, when Spence is saying his lines at the end of GWCTD, he is not acting, nor is he literally quoting the written dialog. He is talking directly to Kate, knowing he may never be able to do so again in such an open, yet guarded way. I'm sure he had a lot to do with the writing of that little speech because it was too perfect for their lifelong relationship.

Nobody can specify what movies are good or bad. You can have your opinions about them, but you cannot state assertions of either kind. You may like your little black dress, but half of your friends may like it and half may not. It's all relative.

Anne
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ChiO
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Postby ChiO » May 6th, 2008, 11:19 am

Chalk me up as a list lover. The issue is what one does with a list: If looked at as a command or directive from on high, then one is either stifling one's own curiosity, or bound to get angry or frustrated.

The value I get from them (as others have alluded to) is:

(1) A guide to explore movies. There are too many movies now available and a list, combined with my filters, helps me make selections. If Jonathan Rosenbaum, for example, has a film on his "Essentials" list, it doesn't mean it's the "best" or that I'm guaranteed to like it, but I can have confidence that watching it will be of some value, even if I hate it or (more likely) don't get it. Without lists to guide me through Japanese cinema, I may have never been encouraged to go past Kurosawa and discover the wonders of Ozu and Mizoguchi (and now such lists provide an impetus to go beyond them).

(2) An aid in self-criticism. Making lists helps me think about why I like a film. Does my noir list say that GUN CRAZY is the best noir, or that it is demonstrably better than OUT OF THE PAST? Nope. At most it says that, at the moment I made the list given my recollection of all of the noir I've seen, I remember enjoying GUN CRAZY more than any other. But in making such a compilation, I had to think why that is the case. The reason(s) may be deep and critical, or a function of exposure and what else was happening in my life at the times I saw the films, but I find the self-analysis enjoyable (is that the clinical definition of narcissism?).

Like others, I find it more useful to approach the process positively -- what do I like and why, rather than what I don't like and why (although the former inevitably involves the latter).

That said: Where did Fears get the idea that LOVE STORY is an overrated classic? That implies that (a) it is a classic, and (b) it is generally rated highly. At some point early in my posting career at TCM, I got frustrated by the number of folks commenting on how CITIZEN KANE is the most overrated film of all-time (it being my favorite film and -- deep down inside -- we all know it's the best, right?). Then, I realized: Of course it is the most overrated. When the apparent weight of critical authority (see BFI Sight and Sound) has it at the top for a lengthy period, it is difficult to claim that it is underrated. There, enough curmudgeonly comments. I'm off to make a list of the best Moroccan films of the '50s making transgressive use of mise-en-scene.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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srowley75
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Postby srowley75 » May 6th, 2008, 11:27 am

JohnM wrote:I detest what the AFI has done so much, that I've stopped being a member (which I had been since its inception in 1967. I even did volunteer work for them in those early days). Those lists are counter to everything the AFI is meant to be, imo. Actually claiming that one film is better than another is disgraceful of them. I didn't read this current one, so I cannot comment on it.


I agree that ranking the films is ridiculous (after #10 or so, most people don't care anyway), but I still give the AFI some credit for their yearly specials. True, film buffs wouldn't find any of their choices revelatory, and would probably scoff at the conventionality of many. But for the nominal movie fan, the lists stimulate interest in films beyond the latest DVD releases -and because it's the AFI and they have a big, bombastic special, they're viewed as bearing some authority.

And having worked in a video store in the late 1990s-early 2000s, I can testify that after those first few yearly specials aired, we always had a larger percentage of people looking for or requesting the older films. [Though I did hate having to make a display for the movies in order to make them easier to find - if you know your alphabet, it shouldn't take you long to locate what you want...] And conventional though the lists may be, they do fuel discussions about film, though admittedly on an elementary level (but something is better than nothing).

-Stephen
Last edited by srowley75 on May 6th, 2008, 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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movieman1957
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Postby movieman1957 » May 6th, 2008, 11:49 am

For me it depends on who is doing the list. I remember reading a magazine where, whoever it was, did the best comedies. There was no time fram listed but the oldest thing on there was "Some Like It Hot."

I like those that we do mainly because I like getting ideas from this group. My Netflix list has many things on it that I've picked up here.

I don't want to argue lists because they are largely so subjective but am happy to learn.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."

Dawtrina
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Postby Dawtrina » May 7th, 2008, 12:12 am

I'm a huge fan of lists because they give me starting points. When I started seriously investigating film I found that I had way more gaps than I ever thought possible. I've been filling them in via some pretty basic logic:

1. For a particular genre/era/country, find a long list (usually a Top 100) that at least stands up to my non-expert eyes. Some don't (the OFCS list of animated films, for instance).

2. Watch as much as I can find of the list, using it as a starting point.

3. Go beyond just the viewing, read up on who and what and why.

4. As I start to get a grip on the genre/era/country, branch sideways. Follow names that stand out, either by frequency or by impact to me: actors, directors, cinematographers, writers, whoever.

The list is far from everything. I find entries in lists I disagree with all the time, though the more I learn the more I gain perspective onto why they were there. However the list is the start that I don't have the background to generate myself.

I saw an entire book the other day that did what this list did. It looked painful. The only redeeming feature I could see was the inclusion of Manhunter in the much shorter list of underrated films at the end.

From what I've read on this forum I'd think that most of us have enough background and opinion to generate a list of their own overrated films. I'd also bet that every film one of us puts on an overrated list would be someone else's favourite. As an example here's a sampling of some of the films that would make my overrated list. I already know some of them are personal favourites of some of you.

Miller's Crossing
Bonnie and Clyde
Modern Times
The Sixth Sense
Rope
Gigi
An American in Paris
A Day at the Races
The Birds
Prizzi's Honor
Throne of Blood
The Seven Year Itch
Bullitt
A Place in the Sun
Five Easy Pieces
Alexander Nevsky
Hell's Angels
Anna Christie
Silkwood
Mean Streets

That's just 20. I could come up with more. Of course that doesn't mean they're not great films. I just don't grok them. Should I add a 'yet' to that last line?

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charliechaplinfan
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Postby charliechaplinfan » May 7th, 2008, 1:49 pm

I know what you mean. I'd remove Modern Times, Gigi and An American In Paris from your list but then I am a Chaplin and a musical fan.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

Mr. O'Brady
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Postby Mr. O'Brady » May 7th, 2008, 6:27 pm

I don't mind if someone compiles a list of their favorites, but my blood boils when someone releases one under the headings "the best", "the worst", "must see", etc.. To me, it just comes across as awfully arrogant.

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Postby Mr. O'Brady » May 7th, 2008, 10:29 pm

As you said in your earlier post, the AFI, critics, hosts...

I'm just a bumpkin that enjoys watching a good (or more often bad) flick. Others' opinions are always welcome, but I usually slam the door on condescension, and those lists often smack of it.

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srowley75
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Postby srowley75 » May 9th, 2008, 12:09 pm

Mr. O'Brady wrote:Others' opinions are always welcome, but I usually slam the door on condescension, and those lists often smack of it.


Concerning the AFI lists, what I find condescending are the remarks by the industry professionals, which are usually so uninspired that you wonder if the commentors have even viewed the films, or whether they just read a synopsis before appearing. Regardless, I'm sure most people just ignore them and watch to see what films are included in whatever the list happens to be.

In keeping with what others have said, I read lists to find recommendations and read comments (assuming that the compiler made the effort), but I don't consider anyone as a "final authority," whether it be an Amazon.com contributor or Sight and Sound.

-Stephen

Ollie
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Postby Ollie » May 9th, 2008, 1:12 pm

I dislike the exclusionary purpose of lists.

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mrsl
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Postby mrsl » May 10th, 2008, 5:20 pm

Because of this discussion about lists, I was amused while watching 'The Holiday' this a.m. that Kate Winslet (as the British girl visiting L.A.) was led on an exploration of 'good' American films from lists made by Eli Wallach who in his day was an A-line writer. In the film he actually said don't worry about new movies because they're garbage, it's the old ones that will teach you. I felt like cheering for the old guy but was also surprised they kept that line in the movie.

As I said before, nobody can tell you what are the best movies because all opinions and tastes are so different, but they are a good starting point if you are beginning some sort of study, or other learning experience.

Anne
Anne


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Ollie
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Postby Ollie » May 10th, 2008, 6:26 pm

I really enjoyed Eli Wallach in THE HOLIDAY. I've watched the film a few times and it would be OK without him - just with the dangling-participle of romances, but I doubt I'd have voluntarily rewatched it. Wallach donates a class to this film that it would not have had. Stack this one up to his THE LINE-UP, and it's been an amazing journey, Mr. Wallach. Thanks!

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mrsl
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Postby mrsl » May 12th, 2008, 6:43 pm

Ollie:

Jack Black and Cameron Diaz - two people who turn me off like a light switch, together in one movie - I never dreamed I would watch it, but, on the other hand, I do like Kate Winslet and the story plot sounded halfway decent, so I took a chance. It did nothing to change my attitude about Black and/or Diaz, but I did like the movie a lot. Wallach would probably be a great person for guest on Private Screenings because he has done so many roles from every walk of life, and I'm sure he could come up with some pretty good bits of interest to young and old.

Anne
Anne


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Ollie
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Postby Ollie » May 13th, 2008, 7:47 am

We've been positively blessed by Wallach's two stints as a film-festival host, once in the early '90s and once a few years ago, and each time we end up realizing we snagged a stand-up comic instead of whoever we presumed was behind those characters on-screen. Just terrific, little jigs, a little song. Despite his claims that he wasn't a pure Studio System product, his skill level always reminded us that young actors after WWII were still trained in a wide variety of entertainment skills.

I've gone back and watched Wallach's other post-1980s films and he does, to a great degree, compel me to give the film a higher expectation and level of 'class', much like I do in Robert-Duvall films. Their presence in a film seems to donate something more substantial than the rest of the film may deliver. You and I seem to share the same prejudices and tastes regarding THE HOLIDAY.

As for Jack Black... he has been a peripheral participant in my annual "Who's The Next Charles Laughton" quiz show, because I don't think we've had such a creature - some unhandsome, ungainly, overweight character who can't be a leading man, but takes over that role anyway - just thru sheer force of character or screen presence. Paul Giamatti usually gets a tacit nod; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Black get some mentions. I suspect the final tally will only come toward their end of career where longevity proves the winner - or more likely, the many losers - including all of us Laughton fans who must accept only his films as The Next Laughton. Not a bad option.


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