Monday, November 21, 2011

Acclaimed Films You Should Avoid At All Costs



This blog is mainly going to be about film facts rather than film opinions. But I did want to add just this one post about my own tastes. There are so many great movies in the world and some of them are enshrined in a canon which I will not dispute. I like millions of others love the famous ones that win awards, as long as they’re more like Amadeus or The King’s Speech than Driving Miss Daisy. To me, it’s self-evident that things like The Wizard Of Oz (1939) Citizen Kane (1941) Casablanca (1942) It's A Wonderful Life (1946) The Big Sleep (1946) 12 Angry Men (1957) Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) and The Graduate (1967) are excellent. But I’m not hung up on the old-time classics: I think Heat (1995), Magnolia (1999) and Inglourious Basterds (2010) are just as good. I love the films of unique directors like Coppola (in the 70’s), Hitchcock, Hawks, Billy Wilder, Michael Powell, Scorsese, Polanski, Woody Allen and Kubrick. But also more unsung heroes like Alan J.Pakula, Mike Nichols, Sidney Lumet, William Wyler and Fred Zinneman. I love Cary Grant, James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck, but also Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Catherine Deneuve, Donald Sutherland, Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, De Niro and Pacino (usually), Jim Carrey, Naomi Watts, Zhang Ziyi, Michael Fassbender and many, many other brilliant actors. And like so many fans of world cinema I love the works of Bergman, Kurosawa, Bunuel, Mizoguchi, Kiarostami, Haneke and a few other foreign directors who are nearly always interesting, plus 100’s of other foreign films from directors and actors who are occasionally brilliant.

So in setting out my tastes it would make more sense to list my disagreements with the canon, the films that are praised -by some, at least- that I don’t think deserve any acclaim whatsoever. I’m going to go on and on now about what I dislike. But I am, I assure you, a movie-lover, not a movie-hater. My motivation for all this is actually a positive one. If you're a real movie fan, you've got to hate the phoney movies, you've got to reject the empty or trite films that get recommended by some. Bad films that are falsely acclaimed actually poison the waters for all, because when people see these films and feel cheated they get discouraged from seeking out unusual films more worthy of their time.

And my point is also this: if you get one of those long, long lists of great movies like the ‘New York Times 1000 greatest movies’ (which is online, I think) or the book ‘1,001 movies to watch before you die’ and take out all these over-rated films, then you’ve got yourself a really good list.


  1. Gone With the Wind (I have no idea how anyone can like this film).
  2. The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Finian’s Rainow, Fiddler on the Roof and nearly all 60’s and early 70’s musicals
  3. Lars Von Trier; he started out bad and just gets worse and worse. A good artist should humbly offer up something which expands your consciousness. Von Trier does the opposite: he arrogantly offers up something which will reduce you. Dogville was passably good, saved by a fine cast, but the other films I've seen by him (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark) were execrable and now I refuse to watch any more. It was hard to resist this year with so many critics proclaiming Melancholia one of the films of the year but I say simply to all those critics: I don't believe you. I think you're lying.
  4. Most Tim Burton films
  5. Cult horror films that some critics get very excited about, e.g. The Wicker Man, The Exorcist, John Carpenter's The Thing. Very over-rated.
  6. Most Samuel Fuller films, as well as all Derek Jarman and most Peter Greenaway films; vapid pretention is just as bad as crude hackery.
  7. Jean Vigo, Jacques Tati and Jacques Rivette: 3 French directors whose films don't live up to the hype.
  8. Biblical or classical epics like The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur, and even so-called intelligent films in that genre like Spartacus.
  9. Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and Greed. (There are some good silent films but these three certainly aren’t among them).
  10. Most works by the arthouse ‘masters’ Antonioni, Bresson, Dreyer, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Tarkovsky, all vastly over-rated as far as I’m concerned.
  11. Most of the worthy ‘prestige’ films from the 1930s e.g. The Good Earth, David Copperfield, Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight, Dodsworth and the many biopics of famous people. Perhaps not many still think much about these films but they get 4 stars in the best-selling Leonard Maltin movie guide, and they cannot be excused just for their age; so many other films from that decade –like the best screwball comedies, and WC Fields and Marx Brothers pictures- do stand the test of time.
  12. Some worthy ‘prestige’ films from other eras like Going My Way, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Defiant Ones, On the Beach, Judgment at Nuremburg , The Lion in Winter, Chariots of Fire, The Remains of the Day, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Brokeback Mountain and the massively over-rated There Will Be Blood (‘I drink from your milkshake’ indeed!)
  13. A Nous La Liberte (1931) Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932) Les Enfants Du Paradis (1945) The African Queen (1951) East of Eden (1955) La Dolce Vita (1959) Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) The Leopard (1963) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) Le Samourai (1967) Easy Rider (1969) Medium Cool (1969) Five Easy Pieces (1970) Last Tango in Paris (1973) Nashville (1975) Network (1976) Grey Gardens (1976) Killer of Sheep (1977)  Das Boot (1981) Terms of Endearment (1983) Shoah (1985) Cinema Paradiso (1989) The Double Life of Veronique (1991) The Piano (1992)  Life is Beautiful (1998) The Cider House Rules (1999) The Blair Witch Project (1999) Almost Famous (2000) Monsters Ball (2001) Let the Right One In (2008) Dogtooth (2009) : a random selection of bad or average films that have been revered in some quarters.
  14. Bad films by great directors, like The Age of Innocence, Kundun (Scorsese), The Trouble with Harry, Frenzy (Hitchcock), A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick) Interiors, Alice, Scoop (Woody Allen), Lost Horizon (Frank Capra), The Story of Adele H. (Truffaut) 9 Songs, The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom), Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh), The Fearless Vampire Killers, Frantic (Polanski), The Ladykillers, Burn After Reading (Coen Brothers)  
  15. Virtually any movie, however acclaimed, about baseball or American football. I love American movies, American music, American novels but American sports send me to sleep.
  16. Many modern arthouse films by directors like Alexander Sokurov, Catherine Breillat, Lynne Ramsey, Claire Denis, Apichatpong Weerasakatul and Tsai Ming-liang who get copious praise in highbrow film magazines. To me their films are invariably dreary and uninspired.
  17. Jim Jarmusch, except Night on Earth and Broken Flowers, which are good (but his Limits of Control is possibly the worst film of all time!).
  18. Tropical Malady, The New World, Kings and Queen, Russian Ark, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,In Praise of Love, I’m Not There, The Holy Girl, Y tu mamá también, Gerry, Last Days, all of which made Film Comment’s list of the ‘100 Best Films of the 2000’s’ and all of which are so tedious they make you despair for the future of cinema. I wouldn’t wish these films on my worst enemy.








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