BEST ‘CAPER’ FILM: The Sting (1973)
This selection was a ‘no-brainer’. If Lawrence of Arabia was near-perfect, The Sting is probably a touch better. Quite simply, it is a seamless, brilliant piece of movie-making. Great writing, an ideal cast on the top of their game, and a plot that could easily have had holes galore, yet I cannot find a single one. And all of this capped off with a great score.
MOST OVER-RATED ‘CAPER’ FILM: The Italian Job (1969)
The general public absolutely loved this Michael Caine caper film. Mind you, he was so hot at the time they would have liked him in a haemorrhoids cream commercial! The movie is basically a ‘driving’ exhibition from beginning to end. If you enjoy watching Minis driving around for a couple of hours then this picture is right up your alley, but if you hope to see Michael doing the driving – forget it. He never had a license, so he never gets behind the wheel. Not once.
BEST SPACE FILM: Apollo 13 (1995)
I was hard-pressed to separate Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff (1983), but Ronnie Howard’s great film won out. The presence of no fewer than five of my favourite actors (Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise and the late Bill Paxton) proved to be the deciding factor. Also, The Right Stuff was a bit too long (193 mins), compared to 140 mins.
MOST OVER-RATED SPACE FILM: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
There have been a few laborious space movies – Gravity (2013), The Martian (2015) and Prometheus (2012) immediately spring to mind, but 2001: A Space Odyssey beat them all hands down for sheer lack of pace. It was cleverly done (for 1968) and it looked real enough, but it was undeniably, unforgivably snail-paced from the outset. Surprisingly, it only ran 9 minutes longer than Apollo 13, yet it seemed as if it was twice as long. Give me Howard over Stanley Kubrick any day.
BEST ROMANCE: Casablanca (1942)
My all-time favourite movie was always going to win whichever category I chose for it. It is, of course, a war film and a drama, but above all Casablanca is a big fat love story. And it has not dated one iota. Ingrid Bergman was never lovelier and Humphrey Bogart, dare I say it, was actually quite handsome, considering he was basically an ugly little spud. The script is great; the acting’s great; the music’s great and the movie’s great. End of story.
MOST OVER-RATED ROMANCE: Pretty Woman (1990)
Boy oh boy, there were an awful lot of romantic movies that were popular in their time – and were rubbish! Dirty Dancing (1987) is more or less unwatchable for me, When Harry Met Sally… (1989) hung its hat one a solitary scene. The rest of the film is forgettable. Magnificent Obsession (1954) was so sugary it probably gave half the world diabetes. And there many others just as diabolical. However, the idiotic premise for Pretty Woman takes the cake. Seriously, are we supposed to believe an intelligent, good-looking billionaire is going to fall in love with and marry a hooker? Come to think of it, is a hooker likely to turn down being the highly-paid mistress of such a man and take a punt on him marrying her? Not bloody likely. Dumb movie. Dumb.
BEST THRILLER: Jaws (1975)
Needless to say, there have been literally hundreds of highly effective thrillers churned out in Hollywood over the past 100 or so years, so to select just one was a tall order indeed. In the end, however, it turned out to be a relatively simple decision. After all, only a few movies have ever impacted strongly enough to alter the way ordinary people think. Psycho (1960), we have been told, caused many people to avoid their bathroom showers. At the very least they removed plastic shower curtains forever. Jaws supposedly scared them away from the water. Scene for scene, I thought Jaws contained more genuine scary moments. It thrilled.
MOST OVER-RATED THRILLER: Vertigo (1958)
I may be wrong, but aren’t most people afraid of heights? James Stewart’s character is acrophobic, so the camera executes a few ‘zoom-ins’ and ‘zoom-outs’ and we are supposed to be un-nerved by this. We aren’t. Billed as a ‘thriller’, Vertigo is less thrilling than a close game of croquet. Whenever I think of that term ‘over-rated’, my mind immediately conjures up an image of Alfred Hitchcock, hand in hand with Woody Allen. Why is that?
BEST DRAMA: The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Pt 2 (1974)
I have never been truly able to separate the first two ‘Godfather’ films. And I still can’t. They represent movie drama at its very best. Francis Ford Coppola take a bow. Every once in a while a movie comes along that fits its genre and its era perfectly. Coppola managed to do this twice in four years. Some achievement.
MOST OVER-RATED DRAMA: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Every critic on planet Earth is in love with this rotten, rotten movie. What can possibly be entertaining about watching a husband and wife insulting each other for two hours? To be perfectly honest, I suppose, I should acknowledge a similar public attraction to reality TV, an attraction I cannot for the life of me appreciate or understand. ‘Domestic altercations’ should not come under the heading of ‘entertainment’. Nevertheless they do. Just ask any movie critic.
BEST HISTORICAL DRAMA: Elizabeth (1998)
Elizabeth had some serious competition from the likes of A Man for all Seasons (1966), Spartacus (1960), Gladiator (2000) and Glory (1989). To name but four. But in the end it got down to which movie convinced me most of its authenticity, and which one contained the best performances. Paul Scofield won an Oscar for A Man for all Seasons, as did Russell Crowe for Gladiator. In my humble opinion though, Cate Blanchett, who was only nominated for Elizabeth, should have bolted in.
MOST OVER-RATED HISTORICAL DRAMA: The Patriot (2000)
This is one of those occasional American movies that purport to be ‘based on a true story’, but then hurl the truth out the nearest window. In its stead they invent atrocity tales that never happened and use them as an excuse for the hero to exact revenge. Revenge movies sell well. Just ask Mel Gibson. He makes a very tidy living from them. Anyway, The Patriot is one of those pictures that give ‘historical drama’ a bad name.