Friday, August 1, 2014



OK, here goes nothing...

So, Empire magazine just put out their July, 2014 issue featuring a list of the 301 Greatest Movies of All Time.  301 movies!!!
Now this list was compiled of a reader's poll so it basically could be viewed as the 301 Most Popular Movies of All Time but that's not the name that the editors of this British mag give it.  They call it the 301 Greatest Movies of All Time.
And I must say that it is quite a list.
First of all, it is impressive that the list contains 301 movies.  When Entertainment Weekly did their movie list last year they only did the Top 100.  This is over 300 movies.  
Now, with that many movies, there are bound to be some stinkers in there just based on the sheer volume of movies needed to fill out the list and that is certainly true but you might also expect that all the great classics are included (as they are included on every list) and that is also true but the rankings that these movies are given is downright mysterious and deserves some comment (aka ranting).
For a few days, I've wondered how to approach this list and last night I was looking it over and I suddenly found it so here goes...
You start the list off and there are a few non-descript movies that could be interchangeable but then you reach #295 and what is there?  WEST SIDE STORY!!!
Now wait just a minute.  Hold the phone.  "Now cool it, Action!"
West Side Story is one of the greatest movies of all time and an easy argument could be made that it is the greatest musical film of all time.  It's in my Top 25 (please see my post on this subject because I may be referring to it often: )
And Empire has it at 295??!!!??
Immediately this list has gone off the rails.
Especially considering that as the list goes on they have Iron Man 3 at #242 which IMO is not only one of the worst comic book movies of all time but one of the worst movies I've seen in the last decade or so.
Into the top 200 are films like Ben-Hur (barely making it at #200??!!!??), The Sound of Music (#194), The Great Escape (#181), Amadeus (#137), The Exorcist (#136), and The Wizard of Oz (#123). All of these are either in my Top 25 or would definitely make a Top 50 list if I made one, but here they don't even make the Top 100.
And speaking of the Top 100 of Empire's list, it begins with, at #100 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Ok, maybe there's hope...
The very next movie is...  get ready...
The Blues Brothers.
Blues Brothers?  Really?
Well, lets keep going because Singing in the Rain is at #96 and Rocky is at #95 but then at #92 is...
Whitenail and I.
WHAT?  I've never even heard of that movie. And it's better than Singing in the Rain?
The Top 100 quickly starts to devolve into a morass of bad movies featuring directors such as Scorsese, Tarantino, and Kubrick.  Ugh!!!
However, Hitchcock also begins to appear especially with Psycho at #70 (another one of my Top 25).
Titanic sinks in at #62 and we are heading for the Top 50 when lo and behold at #52 is...
Gone With the Wind is, arguably, THE GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME!!!!!
And it's at #52 on this list?  
There is something seriously wrong here.
OK, take a breath and let's keep going.
At #45 is Skyfall.  But wait a minute, you're telling me Skyfall is the best James Bond movie of all time with this ranking.  What about Goldfinger?  Oh wait, Goldfinger is at #221.  

Getting into the Top 35, we find Forrest Gump at #34 and Citizen Kane at #33 (Thank God, one movie poll that doesn't put this over-rated film at #1 - see my post on this: )
And then Lawrence of Arabia at #31 (I have Lawrence at #4 in my Top 25) and then Casablanca at #26 (how is this movie not even in the Top 25).
At #22 is the worst movie ever made IMO - 2001: A Space Tragedy er... Odyssey.  Yuck!!
And heading into the Top 20 and bookended by Alien at #21 and Aliens at #19 is Apocalypse Now at #20.  Now I like Apocalypse Now but that could be because I only recently saw it all the way through for the first time and I gotta say it is a disturbingly brilliant film.
We start to get some blockbusters from the past 35 years or so from here including Jurassic Park at #18, Back to the Future at #17 and Avengers at #16.  Solid enjoyable films, but Top 20?  No.
We get the worst of the Lord of the Rings movies, Return of the King at #12 and after a hiccup of Blade Runner at #11 we go now to the Top 10.
At #10 is Inception, the first of two Christopher Nolan movies in the Top 10 (that statement right there should be enough for you to consign this list to the trash heap of time) but more on that in a moment.
We get two Spielberg classics (and in my Top 25) in Raiders of the Lost Ark at #9 and Jaws at #8 (both with John Williams scores, I might add).
Then Fellowship of the Ring at #7 which is a movie that for a long time I really admired but then I figured out that it wasn't a complete movie but more on that in a moment.
Then comes my favorite movie of all time (it may not be the best movie of all time, that honor goes to Gone With the Wind, but its my favorite nonetheless) - Star Wars at #6 (you're trying to tell me that there are five movies better than Star Wars - not in this universe).
Next comes a Tarantino movie that everyone seems to love but I can't stand in Bad er... Pulp Fiction at #5.  Oi vey!!
Then comes a movie whose appeal I also don't get and that is The Shawshank Redemption at #4.  It's not a bad film.  It's actually a good film. But it's not a great film.  (And BTW, where is Glory on this list?  That is a far superior Morgan Freeman film with an iconic performance by Denzel Washington - "COME ONNN!!!!")
#3 - The Dark Knight
I just don't get it.  I hated the Christopher Nolan Batman movies (I didn't even see Dark Knight Rises at #72 on this list).  Nolan seems to be the golden boy of the moment (with two films in the Top 10 along with Spielberg) but he just doesn't impress me too much (I was impressed with the practical special effects in Inception because I'm not a huge fan of CGI and to me CGI hasn't improved and has never been surpassed since Jurassic Park). 
This list has, once again, officially gone off the rails. 
But wait a minute...
An offer you can't refuse.
The Godfather is at #2.  
OK, now we're talking, maybe there is redemption.  
Let's get to #1


I was shocked.  I had no idea that this was coming.  And it is a mistake of the greatest proportions and reveals a deep misunderstanding of what a great film is.
Now don't get me wrong, I love The Empire Strikes Back.  It is a great sequel, scratch that - it is the greatest sequel ever.  But in and of itself, it is not a complete movie.  You can't have Empire without Star Wars.  Nothing would make sense if you had not seen Star Wars before seeing Empire (the same is also true of The Lord of the Ring movies, they are not complete independent movie entities, you have to see all of them to get the complete story).  
Imagine you were to sit someone down in front of a screen and show them Empire and they had never seen Star Wars.  They would be totally lost.  They wouldn't know any of the characters, concepts, relationships and then the ghost appears in the snow and they would be like, "What the hell am I watching?"  It's not a complete movie.  Star Wars is a complete movie.  You can watch Star Wars and never see the other sequels (or prequels) (btw Return of the Jedi is at #120 and Revenge of the Sith is at #224 on this list).  It is a complete movie-watching experience (sure Darth Vader flies off into space at the end but you don't need to know what happens to him because the good guys have won and now they get their medals - great John Williams music btw).  Empire (is it a coincidence that the #1 movie is also the name of the magazine this list is in?) is a good sequel but Star Wars is a great movie and my personal favorite.

So, what to make of this List?  Well, it's just a list and seems to skew strongly to more recent films that will not stand the test of time.  A buddy of mine maintains that no film of the 21st century can be evaluated as one of the greatest of all time because not enough time has passed.  I would agree with that assessment even though I do recognize that a few very good films have come out of this century such as The Passion of the Christ (a shattering movie experience), Phantom of the Opera (a heart wrenching movie experience), Alexander (an epic movie experience), and Aliens vs Predators (just kidding, heh-heh).
And where are some of the other best films of all time (and those in my Top 25) such as Patton, Spartacus, and Gandhi.  Great films all.  

But as I said before, to name the Top 300 films of all time is an epic undertaking (I know I couldn't do it) and inevitably it is an endeavor fraught with the perils of irrelevancy, incongruity, and intelligent decisions and I just couldn't let this one go until I had said my peace.

OK, end of rant.

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