I was recently asked to name ONE movie in each of a number of genres and categories as my favourite, and ONE in each that I considered to be grossly over-rated. Almost an impossible task, but I promised to take a crack at it. Here are my choices, randomly listed:
BEST MUSICAL: Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Cole Porter’s songs are out of this world, witty, melodious and forever memorable. The only weakness is Kathryn Grayson’s aggravating vocals. So many brilliant tunes. The score and scenery in South Pacific (1958) almost won the day, but those damned colour filters…
MOST OVER-RATED MUSICAL: The Sound of Music (1965)
Compared to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other wonderful scores, I find the tunes in this picture rather dull. Great scenery but generally irksome children. No wonder Christopher Plummer cringes when the movie is mentioned. His performance is so affected! West Side Story (1961) ran a very close second. I cannot abide movies that focus on street gangs as if they are something special. They ain’t.
BEST FILM NOIR: Double Indemnity (1944)
This picture has a mood about it that makes it timeless. All the main players are excellent and the score fits the mood perfectly. I never tire of watching it. Barbara Stanwyck’s best film. Edward G. Robinson has a role to die for and Fred MacMurray is surprisingly good. Even he was surprised by his performance.
MOST OVER-RATED FILM NOIR: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
I used to like this movie, but it has dated quite a lot. I always thought the courtroom antics were unbelievable and I still do. Talk about ‘stream-lining’ the judicial process! James M. Cain’s novel is far superior to the movie thanks to the censors back in post-war America not allowing anything remotely suggesting a sexual relationship between the two leads. Lana Turner couldn’t act, by the way, – but who cares?
BEST COMEDY: My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Leonard Maltin only gave this two and a half stars. I don’t care. It is very funny from beginning to end. Joe Pesci and the delightful Marisa Tomei head a cast of terrific character actors. In short, I struggle to find a dull spot anywhere in it. My only criticism – a bit too much swearing for my liking, but I am probably just showing my age. Some Like it Hot (1959) almost got the chocolates. Just missed.
MOST OVER-RATED COMEDY: Home Alone (1990)
I simply cannot stand some of the characters in this indecently successful picture. Eight year-old Kevin is a disrespectful, opinionated little creep. His brother is positively gross and impossible to like. His mother is annoying beyond measure. Add to this the boy’s ability to put in place booby traps that would take a team of experts months to set up (which it probably did), and you have a movie with a cringe factor of around 90%. As for that ‘heart to heart’ in the church…sheesh!
BEST SPORTS BIOPIC: 61* (2001)
Billy Crystal (a huge baseball fan) directed this terrific movie about the 1961 race between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, as they attempt to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane are perfect as the hitters chasing the record, but this is a labour of love for Billy and it shows. A seriously fine piece of directing that deserved recognition.
MOST OVER-RATED SPORTS BIOPIC: Chariots of Fire (1981)
Chariots of Fire is not a bad picture at all. I just do not think it was the best picture that year when it won the Oscar. A lot of liberty was taken with the facts, but that is often par for the course in movies based loosely on the truth. I often feel that the iconic musical theme played a major part in winning for it the Best Picture award.
BEST WESTERN: The Searchers (1956)
Being a big fan of westerns, I took a considerable amount of time to separate this picture from Ulzana’s Raid (1972) and Tombstone (1993). They are three quite different types of western, but in the end I kept coming back to the Duke’s best movie. The Searchers has everything – great director (John Ford), great script, magnificent scenery (Monument Valley), superbly photographed, and John Wayne’s terrific performance. What’s not to like?
MOST OVER-RATED WESTERN: High Noon (1952)
I recently gave this movie yet another opportunity to impress me – and again it failed miserably. It has dated, Gary Cooper was well past his ‘use by’ date when he took it on, and it is mind-numbingly slow. I put it in the Citizen Kane (1941) category – a so-called ‘masterpiece’ that simply isn’t!
BEST ROMANTIC COMEDY: Love Actually (2003)
This is one of those ‘feel good’ films that fans are happy to watch more than once. There are a number of romances brewing throughout the picture, most of them involving beautiful actresses that appear to have been hand-picked for their appeal, both visually and personality-wise. Even the guys are loaded with personality. A most enjoyable picture.
MOST OVER-RATED ROMANTIC COMEDY: There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Evidently, this production is enormously popular with the younger set. I tossed up between this and American Pie (1999). Why? Because both movies rely on gross concepts to get laughs. I won’t go into details here, but fans of these films know very well the scenes I refer to. Personally, I loathe the modern understanding of what is funny and what is simply tasteless crass. Speaking of tasteless crass, the utterly unfunny A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014) is so thoroughly worthless that I could not find a genre for it. Not that I wanted to.
BEST WAR PICTURE: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
For obvious reasons there has been no shortage of war pictures ground out by Hollywood, especially during World War Two, but the First World War has not had a lot of coverage. Lawrence of Arabia focused on the war in the Arabian Desert between Arab guerrillas, led by Lawrence, and the Turks. Few movies can be judged to be ‘perfect’, but this one comes very close indeed.
MOST OVER-RATED WAR PICTURE: The Deer Hunter (1978)
This garbage won the Oscar for Best Picture, would you believe? It comes as no surprise to learn that when it was first screened at the 1979 Berlin Film Festival, the entire Soviet delegation walked out in protest to the way the Vietnamese people were portrayed in it. This led to walk-outs by the Cubans, East Germans, Bulgarians and Poles. Admittedly, they were only a bunch of Reds following the Russians’ lead, but I would have walked too.