Sunday, July 23, 2006

The ten most overrated films

These are by no means the worst films ever made. They are the films that disappointed me because they failed to live up to their publicity or where I find myself not agreeing with the consensus view.

This list probably says more about me than it does about the films. When you feel you have been taken in by the hype about a film, it is hard to take a fair view of it.

Gone with the Wind
When I was young there were two Hollywood films that I felt guilty I had never seen: Casablanca and Gone with the Wind. When I finally saw Casablanca I was bowled over: when I saw Gone with the Wind I was hugely disappointed.

It goes on for ever, the politics are suspect and it is just so dated. The only reason for watching it is waiting for Clark Gable to say: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

The Blair Witch Project
A classic case of being taken in by the hype. The central idea was neat, and I liked the interviews with the locals at the start.

But all the main characters were so unlikeable that you did not care what happened to them, the film failed to build tension properly and there were too many handprints at the end. A few would have been chilling: but that many were just silly.

A lovely film for a Sunday afternoon? No. Kay Kendall is wonderful and the glimpse of mews living (the upper classes moving into the quarters where their parents' servants had lived) are an interesting bit of post-War sociology, but Kenneth More is insufferable and the whole film is soooo formulaic.

At least it could appear in a list of films that end on Westminster Bridge: Genevieve, London Belongs to Me, Seven Days to Noon. Much later. And Trial and Error.

The Titfield Thunderbolt
I love Ealing Films but this is dire. When films become self-consciously English and quirky, they cease to be English and quirky at all.

Billy Elliot
Scenes were stolen from other films, it showed the miners' strike without saying anything useful about it, the locations in London and the North East were all over the place, half the songs came from the wrong era.

Worst of all it patronised the working class. When newspapers set out to find "real Billy Elliots", they found several and each had received tremendous support from his family.

The Piano
Again I was a victim of hype. I still love the music, but was there ever a more absurd Oscar than the one awarded to Anna Paquin?

The Italian Job
OK, so Noel Coward is fun and it is a nice period touch to see Simon Dee in a movie, but this is not a classic sixties film. It is a foretaste of Mrs Thatcher and the eighties - that really was the self-preservation society. In many films from this period (Alfie, Get Carter) Michael Caine is a god, but he never establishes a believable character here.

And how can "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off" be the greatest line ever?

Chariots of Fire
"The British are coming," said Colin Welland. Not with overinflated tosh like this they weren't.

And I am sure Olympic athletes did not run that slowly, even in 1924.

Anything by Richard Curtis

I saw Four Weddings and a Funeral on video some time after it came out and quite enjoyed it. But I hate the way Curtis panders to both New Labour and the American view of Britain and have not seen any of his films since. (In part I am afraid that I may like them.)

Taxi driver rushing hero to Heathrow: "I know a short cut".

Mary Poppins
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has Dick Van Dyke talking normally, Stanley Unwin, James Robertson Justice and Max Wall. It's no contest.

Mind you, Dr Dolittle was even worse.


Anonymous said...

I've only seen a few of those, but agree on Blair Witch, Richard Curtis and Gone With the Wind. I've only seen the end of the latter, and found the Rhett Butler line disappointing due to the choice of emphasis.

Alex Wilcock said...

Slightly disturbingly, I've seen all but one or two of these - given that I've only seen half of this week's fashionable Channel 4 50 or Radio Times 25.

I'd pretty much agree with you in all but one case (though the music does help Chariots of Fire, and the Liberator Songbook helps Mary Poppins). I have a feeling I watched Genevieve twice because my Dad had raved about it, and still the only details I remember are Westminster Bridge at the end (Seven Days to Noon; much better) and them driving past a police box…

I do always find The Italian Job thoroughly entertaining, though. Nobody's a believable character here, least of all Noel Coward, but surely that's the root of why they're amusing? It cheers me up when I watch it.

I'd agree on its incipient Thatcherism, despite that. I can't watch it now without thinking of a Rory Bremner standup routine from about 1996 on the Tory Cabinet as squabblers in the coach about to go over the cliff, singing Self-Preservation Society as Kenneth Clarke.

Off the top of my head, I'd pick Alfie as a disappointing movie people had recommended to me, with Michael Caine; a comedy about a charmer where the main character's off-putting and it's more depressing than funny. I might say the same about Withnail and I (and without any methodical thought, If… springs to mind as too up itself even for the '60s, and GoodFellas and Taxi Driver as just unpleasant).

Tristan said...

You missed Titanic...
And the Lord of the Rings (at least the first one- didn't bother watching the others...).
Oh, and The Matrix (certainly the last three) is probably a contender...

Onlinefocus Team said...

Hi , I agree with you regarding Gone With the Wind.

But Chariots of Fire and the Italian Job are OK with me.

And Mary Poppins is still one of my favourite children's films. (That's the Disney version. The Soviet version is an acquired taste)

Larry Gambone said...

You are right on the bit with Gone With The Wind. It is way too long and the glorification of the Old South is sickening...

Devil's Kitchen said...

Hmmm, I have a soft-spot for the Titfield Thunderbolt, but then I had an obsession with trains as a child. Apparently I used to have bad dreams, and always burst into tears during the film, when the original train comes off the track and is destroyed...

I think that the single most over-rated, and simultaneously awful film, is 2001: A Space Odyssey. It remains the only film after which I have said, "I want those two and a half hours of my lifeback" and really meant it.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about 'Gone With the Wind'. I still can't believe that that film won an award. Stilted, artificial characters and dialogue. It is a shame so many good actors were wasted in it.

Most of Hitchcock's films are overrated. His photography was brilliant, but his characterizations are shallow, and plots often contrived. The women in his films are pretty dumb & helpless. With the exception of Thelma Ritter.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Avatar....nice graphics and a storyline that plagiarised Ferngully