Joe Carter over at the evangelical outpost has been discussing the most overrated films of all time. While I'm not equipped to make the sort of judgements Joe has (such as the "most overrated and underrated German films"--I think I saw "Das Boot" once, and that was about it), I've seen more than my share of American movies in my lifetime.
And for my money, the most overrated film of all time, nonpareil, is "Chinatown."
About every five years I think "My goodness, everyone keeps writing about what a masterpiece 'Chinatown' is. I must have missed something. Surely I'm older and more mature now than the last time I saw it. I'll rent it and finally understand what I was missing."
But the same thing pours out of my TV set each time: a turgid, talky, incomprehensible, plotless period piece about irrigation.
Critics can't stop slobbering all over themselves about this film even thirty years later. Entertainment Weekly ranks it as the fourth greatest film of all time. And I'm here to tell you that it stinks. On ice.
Here are a few of my other personal, annotated selections for Most Overrated:
Actor: Marlon Brando. I understand that in the early 50's, his approach was new and different. But in "The Godfather," his whole schtick was to stuff cotton wads in his mouth. He wasn't bad, but c'mon, a few balls of cotton and a lot of mumbling make him great?
Runner-Up Actor: Michael Caine. Has this guy ever turned down a script? He was recently knighted "Sir Michael" by the Queen of England. Hmmm. I can't figure out what he got it for. Was it "Jaws: The Revenge" or was it "Blame it on Rio"? What it's all about, Alfie, is doing anything that shows up in the mailbox.
Actress: Meryl Streep. She does accents. Great. So did every girl in the drama department at my high school. Quick! Name two Meryl Streep movies you own on DVD. . . . I didn't think so.
Runner-Up Actress: Audrey Hepburn. You're delicate and foreign. We get it. Eat something.
Director: Robert Altman. Give me a plot. Any plot. Ten people talking at once while the camera meanders around aimlessly might impress the film students at NYU, but for the rest of us it's just boring. Which is why each of Altman's critically-lavished films grosses about $22.50.
Sex Symbol: Jean Harlow. Granted, tastes change over a hundred years (or however long ago she was popular), but I still just can't see this. She always looks vaguely like a guy to me. And were people really into dark circles around the eyes back then, or was that just a quirk? She died when she was ten years younger than I am, yet she always looks so old to me. I think back in the 1930's, everybody looked like they were 47 no matter how old they actually were.
Died-Too-Young-Star: James Dean. Did you realize that James Dean made three films? A lot of people think it was a tragedy Dean went out so young. I think it was great for his career. If he'd stayed alive, he'd have been doing "Love Boat" by the 70's. Just because nobody had ever seen a guy act like a hysterical girl on film before didn't make him great.