This year was actually a good year for movies, as I’ve written repeatedly. The King’s Speech was great; so was Toy Story 3; Inception may go down as one of the most creative films of all time. The Fighter was excellent as well.
Then there were the overrated films. Black Swan was atrociously awful, another Aronofsky masterpiece of self-aggrandizing bullcrap. The Kids Are All Right was a TV movie masquerading as a prestige film because it was about lesbians. True Grit was a remake.
Which got me to thinking: what are the most overrated films of all time? There are plenty of them, of course – we can all remember hearing from everybody about some terrific movie that defied the laws of physics by both sucking and blowing simultaneously. For some of us, it was My Dinner With Andre. For others, it was The Pianist. For still others, it was anything with Diane Keaton other than Godfather I and II (me!). As a movie addict, I can name dozens of overrated movies off the top of my head. So I’ve decided to compile my top 20 overrated films of all time. Remember, unless I say that I think they’re terrible, they’re overrated, not terrible (that point got me into trouble last time with my overrated directors list when people overlooked the distinction).
Without further ado, here we go:
20. Blade Runner: I’ve watched it three times, hoping to understand the hubbub. The concept is interesting, as all Philip Dick concepts are. The pacing, however, is glacial, and the plot is amorphous. I don’t hate this movie, I just don’t love it the way some film geeks do. Minority Report is a better movie, and an underrated one (aside from copious amounts of snot).
19. Juno: This movie falls with Napoleon Dynamite into the category “movies about teenagers I dislike speaking in unlikely ways.” No real teenager acts or speaks like Ellen Page does in this movie. Her aggravation factor is off the charts. She grates like Gilbert Gottfried’s voice. Michael Cera, who clearly did attend the Michael Cera school of acting, plays Michael Cera. This movie was written with the Gilmore Girls model in mind: speaking quickly must mean the dialogue is clever. Jason Reitman is vastly overrated in every way. Thank You For Smoking was obnoxious. Up In The Air was cold and coma-inducing. Like Darren Aronofsky, Reitman has made some sort of pact with Satan to which none of us are privy.
18. Shakespeare in Love: This won best picture over Saving Private Ryan. Ryan has its own problems – the scene in which an SS soldier stabs Mellish is particularly troublesome and nasty. But Shakespeare in Love is insulting on every level. The idea that getting laid is what causes good writers to write as they do is idiotic (if it were true, Emily Dickinson would have been a literary dud). The idea that the passion of a play is reliant on the co-stars of a work sleeping together is similarly dumb (though many in Hollywood like to pretend otherwise). In fact, the word stupid aptly describes this movie from beginning to end.
17. Little Miss Sunshine: Why anybody thought this movie anything extraordinary is beyond me. It is cynical, dark, annoying and boring. The plot is non-existent, the writing dull. Alan Arkin won an Oscar for playing the same character Alan Arkin has played for forty years. Cliches masquerading as depth.
16. The English Patient: Oh, Lord. The movie is longer than the entirety of World War II. Again, a plotless morass with unlikeable characters who seem destined to make fatuous decisions. The flashbacks don’t work at all. The current story is unremarkable and jaded. Wow, women liberating themselves with sex. Haven’t seen that since, oh, every other movie made since 1965. The Count is a boor, the Nazis are the good guys, and euthanasia is an affirmative good. If this sounds like a party to you, you’ve been attending the wrong kind of parties.
15. Giant: James Dean is great. The rest is garbage. The film runs 201 minutes, and feels like it runs twice that. Like many other movies on this list, Giant breaks the first rule of plotting: you need a coherent beginning, middle, and end. Instead, we get panoramic views of Texas. I like those views as much as anybody else, but you can give us great Western views and still give us a plot. George Stevens should have known better – after all, he did make the classic Shane.
14. American Graffiti: I get that this film is supposed to be evocative of a time and place, just like Easy Rider. So what? Nothing happens.
13. The Matrix: Teenagers love this movie because it has guns, cool special effects, and faux deep lines like “Do not try to bend the spoon – that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no spoon.” Do not try to understand this pathologically dumb mish-mash of third-grade philosophy and CGI – that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is nothing here.
12. Annie Hall: Woody Allen made my overrated director list at #3. Annie Hall is a big reason why. Allen is like Freud doing a self-analysis, only less artful and more neurotic. When the deep message resonating from the film is that people need relationships even though they’re painful … well, that ain’t all that deep.
11. Lost In Translation: WTF? Seriously, can someone please explain why people liked this film? It is like watching paint dry, except paint acts better than Bill Murray, who should be relegated to comedies for all time, where the straight man act is fine. Another cryptic ending to an interminable mess makes for a crappy movie.
Top ten to come …