The folks at ReelzChannel know a little something about the power of controversy.
The film-focused network bought the rights to broadcast “The Kennedys” earlier this year, and the consternation over the film’s alleged mistreatment of its source drew plenty of eyeballs to the network.
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Now, the cable channel’s newest special looks at some of the most controversial films ever made. Ten, in fact.
The latest installment of “Hollywood’s Top Ten,” airing at 7:30 p.m. EST tonight, counts down films which drew endless bickering around the time of their release. Some still draw heated debates amongst movie lovers today.
“Hollywoood’s Top Ten” executive producer Steve Holzer says the list came from a combination of online viewer voting and consultation with the network’s resident movie gurus, Leonard Maltin and Richard Roeper.
The Top Ten doesn’t include “Birth of a Nation” – “we know it’s a controversial movie for its time,” Holzer says – but the list spans the last 50 years of movie making.
By controversy, the network means the reaction to a film before and after it hit theaters, be it based on religious disagreements or cultural taboos being smashed.
“Some were very successful, and some were probably made more successful because of the controversy,” says Holzer, adding films like Oliver Stone’s “JFK” and “The Last Tango in Paris” didn’t make the final cut. “Had people not raised a ruckus, the films might not have been seen by that many people.”
Religion figures prominently in several selections, while other choices seem fairly tame by modern standards.
“Things that were so controversial 30-40 years ago, today with the onset of reality television and TMZ … people wouldn’t even blink at it,” he says.
One Top 10 selection Holzer would leak is the 1971 classic “A Clockwork Orange.”
“It was certainly controversial in its day and remains controversial, even though movies today get away with so much more,” he says.
One factor that became clear about the channel’s new list is the quality of the selections. The shock factor couldn’t hide the artistic merit of the chosen films.
“There’s not one movie on the list that’s a bad movie. They’re all well made, well acted and feature some of the most proficient directors who have ever worked in Hollywood,” he says.
Not every film turns out to be as button-pushing as expected. Some film controversies are much more smoke than fire.
“We ran into this with ‘The Kennedys,'” he says. “People had not seen it, and they thought they had seen leaked scripts. Then, it aired, and not one person raised an objection to the miniseries.”
He expects more fallout from the channel’s latest Top Ten program. In fact, he welcomes it.
“Lists like this are always controversial,” he says.