Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

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Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:52 am

How would you determine the best movie ever? Critical Acclaim? Popularity? Longevity? Influence? Financial returns?

Discuss!
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:24 am

I've been thinking about the subject for some time. Over the past few months I've watched a small chunk of the AFI Top 100 list, several Criterions, and some movies that I just plain enjoyed on my own.

Popularity/Box Office Returns - No way is this an indicator of a good movie. Most people view movies as a fun way to kill a couple of hours, instead of an artistic medium. So finance would tell you that the Transformers flicks are amongst the best.

Critical - Generally the best way to go. Take it from the people who'd see the most movies and would be educated about the medium and history of the industry. But what about consensus on the absolute best? Is our most respected list the AFI list? After 10 years they swapped around many films. Can the best movies change? How about supposed critical turds that are later reevaluated to be masterpieces, like Vertigo or Blade Runner? Can the critics' mob mentality be taken into consideration?

What about international films? This thing about AFI is that the A stands for American, so no foreign movies are on that list. And any list that by definition excludes Kurosawa and Bergman I think is not the exclusive greatest list. Is there a global list?

Influence - I find this element the most interesting. Can a movie be influential if it's a financial failure? If so, does that make it less of a movie? Take something like Master and Commander, which bombed horribly, but many including myself take to be one of the better movies made in recent times. Nobody saw it, so it won't influence anything. But if it had shatterred box office records, and through the next decade we saw a slew of copycat Napoleonic ship battle movies, I think this might be held in a much higher regard. Would that have made it a better movie? The difference would just be marketing wouldn't it?
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Ptolemy » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:59 pm

Strange Brew. What could be simpler?
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Attrage » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:13 pm

Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to sh*t on your post, but what does it matter? For starters, no group of people on the planet is ever going to agree on what is the greatest movie ever.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Steve T Power » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:15 pm

There is no clearly defined criteria for me - Critics are just as full of shit and wind as the public at large. There's also very little in the way of middle ground between the two sides. Then there's the subjective nature of personal taste vs. the pretentious nature of objective opinion. One man's trash is another man's treasure and vice versa.

Do we look at what did things first? Or what perfected a pre-established formula. Pushing the narrative envelope? Or perfectly telling an old tale.

It's an impossible question that will end in tears. As much as the AFI loves their lists, there's really no clear cut way to define a single "greatest film of all time". Honestly? I don't think it's been made yet.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mkiker2089 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:53 pm

The problem with critics is that they often overlook good movies in favor of movies with "something to say".
-Marshall-
Nun sacciu, nun vidi, nun ceru e si ceru durmiv.
I know nothing, I see nothing, I wasn't there,
and if I was there, I was asleep.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Attrage » Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:04 pm

Is there a movie that has the balls to call itself the "Greatest Film of All Time"? Like how Carlsberg beer states on the carton - "the best beer in the world"...while I gotta admire the self confidence there, that don't necessarily make it so.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby hoytereden » Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:44 am

There are too many genres for one thing. Is a great comedy better than a great drama? A great horror film somehow better than a classic musical? My take is "Whatever your favorite movie is-That's the greatest movie ever!" Personally, I have too many favorites, in too many catagories, to name any one film.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:49 am

Good points from everybody.

There's the Oscar mentality that a high-caliber film cannot be fun, or that anything genre-related need apply. God help me if I enjoy myself during a movie, or that something like Star Trek II (sci-fi and a sequel) can be more affecting than most critically acclaimed movies. I think a lot of critics are afraid of losing credit if they dare to nominate a Pixar movie for Best Picture, or if they fail to list Citizen Kane, The Godfather & Casablanca at the top of their "Greatest Ever" lists.

Animated films need not apply either, as they are perceived as being only for children. Just watch that little montage at the beginning of Up and get back to me on that one.


I guess I wish there existed an actual list of greatest movies that I could mine for my own viewing. Like an AFI list that didnt include Titanic and did include international stuff.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:55 am

Steve T Power wrote:Do we look at what did things first? Or what perfected a pre-established formula. Pushing the narrative envelope? Or perfectly telling an old tale.

It's an impossible question that will end in tears. As much as the AFI loves their lists, there's really no clear cut way to define a single "greatest film of all time". Honestly? I don't think it's been made yet.


I think a lot of the credit goes to the movies that discovered certain film elements, which is why Citizen Kane tops every list every time. But is this really the best movie ever made? If the greatest movie ever made was made in 1939 and we never topped that in 70 years since, then it's a sad state of affairs indeed.

Total respect to a movie like that for pioneering what it did, but hasn't anything perfected those discovered formulas? Or can an old movie be rendered obsolete by newer ones?

My fear Steve is that the greatest film will get made, but we'd be afraid to acknowledge that because it didn't pioneer enough.

Also take into consideration how much more media there is nowadays, 100's of TV stations, the vast internet, more movies, video games, music, etc etc. I don't think it's possible for a movie to make the same cultural impact that it did back in the day. So a great movie is likely to slip under the rader, while something like Avatar becomes the big success of the day.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Andrew Forbes » Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:37 am

Steve T Power wrote:Critics are just as full of shit and wind as the public at large.

No offense, Steve, but that's bullshit. I'm not about to claim that critics are objectively correct or that critical consensus is never re-evaluated after years, but if one were to take a statistically significant sample of critics and "average" people, the critics would at least be better equipped to articulate what they did or did not like about a film. Critics, with exceptions, tend to be more appreciative of a range of styles, genres, paces, cultural perspectives and authorial intents than the general public. That's precisely why the most popular films are so rarely the best. The stereotype of the anti-populist, snobbish, beret-wearing critic is as contrived as the Magical Negro or 1950s suburban paradise.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Steve T Power » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:29 pm

Andrew Forbes wrote:
Steve T Power wrote:Critics are just as full of shit and wind as the public at large.

No offense, Steve, but that's bullshit. I'm not about to claim that critics are objectively correct or that critical consensus is never re-evaluated after years, but if one were to take a statistically significant sample of critics and "average" people, the critics would at least be better equipped to articulate what they did or did not like about a film. Critics, with exceptions, tend to be more appreciative of a range of styles, genres, paces, cultural perspectives and authorial intents than the general public. That's precisely why the most popular films are so rarely the best. The stereotype of the anti-populist, snobbish, beret-wearing critic is as contrived as the Magical Negro or 1950s suburban paradise.



Revise my "are" to read "can be", and no, I don't think it's bullshit. There are some exceptions (Ebert comes to mind immediately), but sadly, elitism is still one of the hallmarks of the average movie critic.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Andrew Forbes » Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:07 pm

Steve T Power wrote:
Andrew Forbes wrote:
Steve T Power wrote:Critics are just as full of shit and wind as the public at large.

No offense, Steve, but that's bullshit. I'm not about to claim that critics are objectively correct or that critical consensus is never re-evaluated after years, but if one were to take a statistically significant sample of critics and "average" people, the critics would at least be better equipped to articulate what they did or did not like about a film. Critics, with exceptions, tend to be more appreciative of a range of styles, genres, paces, cultural perspectives and authorial intents than the general public. That's precisely why the most popular films are so rarely the best. The stereotype of the anti-populist, snobbish, beret-wearing critic is as contrived as the Magical Negro or 1950s suburban paradise.



Revise my "are" to read "can be", and no, I don't think it's bullshit. There are some exceptions (Ebert comes to mind immediately), but sadly, elitism is still one of the hallmarks of the average movie critic.

I find average people to be vastly less tolerant of anything that lies outside their narrow range of preferred film. Even the more narrow-minded critics I can think of don't go into a "mainstream" film determined to exercise elitist contrarianism. It's not elitist to have a preference for complexity, originality and depth, if you can articulate why you prefer those things. Critics tend to be critics because they love movies, not because they want to put artists in their place.

Moreover, as someone with a broad range of brow-heights, depending on my mood, I don't find anything wrong with finding Maximum Risk hugely entertaining while definitively ranking it as a lower order of film-making than, say, Naked Lunch. The latter is a failure as a film, in my opinion, but nevertheless employs more artistry, consideration and inspiration than the former. I enjoy Maximum Risk more, but it doesn't hold nearly the same level of fascination. Incidentally, the average viewer would probably write off both as "shitty" while a critic would at least consider them on their own terms.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Andrew Forbes » Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:10 pm

Having said all that, defining the greatest movie ever is an empty exercise.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:52 pm

The truth is somewhere in the middle. I agree with Andrew about the critics having the experience needed to pick out the best of the bunch. But how can most of them dismiss Blade Runner, only to decades later collectively call it visonary?

"Average Joe" will be less stuffy, but won't pick out originality. If the first movie you ever see is a Vin Diesel flick, you might call it great. But if you've seen the same stories over and over again, you'll recognize originality or technical acheivement when you see them.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Steve T Power » Tue Dec 13, 2011 7:42 pm

Andrew Forbes wrote:
Steve T Power wrote:
Andrew Forbes wrote:
Steve T Power wrote:Critics are just as full of shit and wind as the public at large.

No offense, Steve, but that's bullshit. I'm not about to claim that critics are objectively correct or that critical consensus is never re-evaluated after years, but if one were to take a statistically significant sample of critics and "average" people, the critics would at least be better equipped to articulate what they did or did not like about a film. Critics, with exceptions, tend to be more appreciative of a range of styles, genres, paces, cultural perspectives and authorial intents than the general public. That's precisely why the most popular films are so rarely the best. The stereotype of the anti-populist, snobbish, beret-wearing critic is as contrived as the Magical Negro or 1950s suburban paradise.



Revise my "are" to read "can be", and no, I don't think it's bullshit. There are some exceptions (Ebert comes to mind immediately), but sadly, elitism is still one of the hallmarks of the average movie critic.

I find average people to be vastly less tolerant of anything that lies outside their narrow range of preferred film. Even the more narrow-minded critics I can think of don't go into a "mainstream" film determined to exercise elitist contrarianism. It's not elitist to have a preference for complexity, originality and depth, if you can articulate why you prefer those things. Critics tend to be critics because they love movies, not because they want to put artists in their place.

Moreover, as someone with a broad range of brow-heights, depending on my mood, I don't find anything wrong with finding Maximum Risk hugely entertaining while definitively ranking it as a lower order of film-making than, say, Naked Lunch. The latter is a failure as a film, in my opinion, but nevertheless employs more artistry, consideration and inspiration than the former. I enjoy Maximum Risk more, but it doesn't hold nearly the same level of fascination. Incidentally, the average viewer would probably write off both as "shitty" while a critic would at least consider them on their own terms.


And saying that, you and I are probably closer in tastes than either of us would like to think ;)

I read a decent amount of film critique, and even some of the genre guys (Drew McWeeny, i'm looking at you) have gotten a lot more pompous in recent years. You know there are a ton of critics out there who walk into the latest R-comedy, Horror flick, or summer tentpole with knives sharpened, just waiting to go in for the kill. You can tell who these critics are even when reading one of their positive notices for a film that might be dubbed "mainstream" by the masses. It's as though they never lost that air of superiority they had when they reviewed movies for their University paper (Ye Gods! I'll never read a campus paper's film section again...) I'll give you this much, film criticism is in much better shape than music or video games... ugh.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:56 am

Specific ranking really is pointless. What does it really matter if Raiders of the Lost Ark, Psycho or Singing in the Rain are ranked in a certain order, especially considering that they'll keep getting re-sorted each time they make a new list? These are all considered to be important movies, recommended to anybody looking to expand their horizons in film. They all deserve a place on a list for different reasons, and that placement is the honor they earned.

I think what we need is a general pool of a few hundred perfect or important movies. Don't confine the list to a clean 100, or 500 or any amount. Make a list of excellent movies, whether influential or not, and keep adding to it.

And I think the point of making a list like this is to get more people to see said movies. Somebody might use the AFI list like a checklist. So while it might be a blast to watch say, Commando (I watch that more often than The Godfather), I would like to see the experienced critics come to some sort of consensus and give us a big ass list of great movies.

But this is all rhetorical and would never happen. It baffles me how something like Tootsie makes the AFI list, and expanding the list would just let more movies like that in. And there'd be no official voting group or such.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby molly1216 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:37 am

Attrage wrote:Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to sh*t on your post, but what does it matter? For starters, no group of people on the planet is ever going to agree on what is the greatest movie ever.

since it is obviously a subjective question...just give a subjective answer...
what do YOU personally consider when you are judging a film's worth.
i like a lot of films that have neither critical acclaim nor box office, so i don't consider them GREATER than other films that are close to my heart

Woo's The Killer is high on my list and it has all the qualities of a great film.
Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark etc... all great films for me
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Andrew Forbes » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:05 pm

mavrach wrote:I agree with Andrew about the critics having the experience needed to pick out the best of the bunch. But how can most of them dismiss Blade Runner, only to decades later collectively call it visonary?

Blade Runner sure as hell wasn't embraced by the general public, either.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Dan Mancini » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:35 pm

mavrach wrote:But how can most of them dismiss Blade Runner, only to decades later collectively call it visonary?

Because critics (the good ones) make informed assessments based on established standards. If a work is truly visionary, it changes established standards rather than conforming to them, which means critics are automatically behind the curve.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:21 pm

Dan Mancini wrote:
mavrach wrote:But how can most of them dismiss Blade Runner, only to decades later collectively call it visonary?

Because critics (the good ones) make informed assessments based on established standards. If a work is truly visionary, it changes established standards rather than conforming to them, which means critics are automatically behind the curve.


That's a great point, critics might not know what's on their hands before they see the impact that a movie has or if they revisit at a later time.

But do you think a lot of critics have a mob mentality as well? I remember one of the Objection podcasts you were talking about how you might see different critics use the same obscure word to describe the same movie. I think some critics are afraid to go against the grain of the general consensus on a movie, for fear that they'd lose respect.
+1. this is very interesting.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby Dan Mancini » Wed Dec 14, 2011 2:04 pm

mavrach wrote:But do you think a lot of critics have a mob mentality as well? I remember one of the Objection podcasts you were talking about how you might see different critics use the same obscure word to describe the same movie. I think some critics are afraid to go against the grain of the general consensus on a movie, for fear that they'd lose respect.

I'd say some critics (maybe even a lot of critics) are lazy and/or incompetent. When 9 out of 10 reviews of The Dark Knight compare it to Heat (after Christopher Nolan drew a loose comparison between the two movies in an interview), we're not dealing with a bunch of original thinkers.
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Re: Define "Greatest Movie Ever"

Postby mavrach » Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:28 am

mkiker2089 wrote:The problem with critics is that they often overlook good movies in favor of movies with "something to say".


Mkiker, I've been thinking about your post here and I think you nailed it.


I mentioned in the Watching thread how I recently saw Good Night, and Good Luck. It was well directed, had great performances from a perfect cast, stood for something that I firmly believe in, tells a true story with style, and honors an important figure. But I didn't actually like the movie. Frankly I was bored out of my mind, despite the talents involved.

If it were my job to be a film critic, I think I would have given this a positive recommendation though. I'd have to praise the elements I just listed, because they all deserve credit for doing a damn good job.

I wouldn't want my personal tastes to get in the way of the recommendation. What if I was in a bad mood, distracted, tired, etc., or just expected something different? You almost need to see a movie multiple times to give a proper critique, which is impossible for professional critics who need to watch every single movie before release.

I think that's how this movie was popular around awards season, then nobody ever talked about it again. I bet that's how Chariots of Fire beat Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Best Picture Oscar too.
+1. this is very interesting.
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