After Ben Shapiro first submitted the article that created such a hailstorm yesterday, here’s what our email exchange looked like:
Hey, you’re right, Scorsese hasn’t made a movie worth a shit since ’96, but…. David Lean??? Hitchcock??? We must have a vigorous debate over many beers.
Yes, and then you can explain the plot of Mulholland Drive to me!
The only thing that comes close to the pleasure of watching movies is the pleasure of debating them. And that’s what was so invigorating about Ben’s list of the Top Ten Overrated Directors Of All Time and the just as invigorating response from the readers.
We could all come up with lists like this, lists that defy the conventional wisdom in one area or another. Taste is subjective. Certainly there are those who somehow find themselves in the enviable position of being “cinematic tastemakers.” But…
…who anointed them?
Who anoints the anointers?
There are many film writers and historians worthy of admiration for both their passion and knowledge of cinema’s rich lore and history. Off the top of my head I can’t get enough of Robert Osborne, Kurt Loder, David Thomson, Richard Schickel, and Ephraim Katz. Not to mention our own Robert Avrech and Leo Grin. Leonard Maltin’s movie guide has been a well-thumbed staple at my side for a quarter century. So I say with no offense to any these gentlemen that their opinions mean nothing to me.
As with any art medium, no matter how schooled, experienced, educated or knowledgeable, when it comes to likes and dislikes, there is no arbiter. No one knows.
I’ll take a velvet Elvis over a Picasso or Jackson Pollock Any. Day. Of. The Week. Because…
No one knows.
Certainly there are reasonable ways to objectively judge the look of a film, the performances, the score, and the other cogs that make up the wheel. But not the wheel itself, not the movie itself. That would be like judging someone’s love for another. You and everyone else may find her homely and dumb and a lousy cook, but he loves her and she makes him happy.
And I’m tired of being told what to like. I’m tired of being told that this director’s important or that film has something to say…
My personal definition of what makes a good film is a terrible one, but it’s all mine and nothing will ever change it. And so I rise from my chair, clear my throat, raise my index finger and proclaim in a booming voice dripping with authority:
A good film is one that casts a spell and doesn’t break it.
That’s it. That’s all I got. Because that’s all I want — to be transported from the everyday and taken someplace else. I’m a degenerate junkie and movies are my heroin. I am only about the high and what some beard-scratcher with elbow pads thinks of how I go about finding lift-off means nothing to me.
Sure, some part of me might understand that Citizen Kane is the “better” film. But the real part of me, that part with only so much free time, the part that craves escape after a long grueling grind of a week watches Death Wish II and Abbott and Costello Meet Whoever a whole lot more often.
There’s a school of thought that serious cinema-types must subscribe to certain schools of thought. But I don’t. Sure, I could fake it. I could write about Fellini and pretend I like watching his paint dry, but frankly I’m too lazy. Writing with passion is hard enough. Faking passion is breaking rocks with a sledge hammer.
So in the spirit of Ben Shapiro’s shot across the conventional wisdom bow, here are some thoughts of my own in the overrated department.
1. The Beatles suck.
2. People I respect tell me good things about Ingmar Bergman and Christian rock and yet while the “importance” of both washes over me, my only thought is, “Gee, this gun barrel tastes oily.”
3. I can name ten Abbott and Costello movies funnier than Duck Soup.
4. Who cares what Mulholland Drive is about, I still love it.
5. Laurel and Hardy are tedious.
6. The Magnificent Seven is so much better than The Seven Samurai.
7. Saving Silverman, DC Cab, The One and Only, and Deuce Bigalow are all funnier than Some Like it Hot.
8. Easy desert island choices: The works of Adam Sandler over Chaplin; the works of Charles Bronson over, well, anyone…
9. Titanic and Legends of the Fall turn me into a fourteen year-old girl.
10. I loved Ben’s article and loved just as much the response from everyone in the comments.
Yes, right here at Big Hollywood, let’s tear this mother down, start over, and have at it.