Monday, July 14, 2014

The #TFS100 and 'Favorite' vs. 'Greatest'

     We movie-lovers, film-buffs, cinephiles, what have you, we are an eclectic bunch.  From all walks of life, from full-time writers to accountants, we come together to share our love of cinema with each other & the world.  And since its inception, we have thrived on Twitter.  So much so that one of us started an even smaller & more passionate community called the Talk Film Society (formerly the Tweet Film Society).  It's mission is simple: to talk & celebrate the best of the cinema.
     It's founder, Marcelo J. Pico, decided to do something ambitious this past June: create a list of the best 100 films as voted on by the Society's members.  We were each asked for our lists of the "25 Greatest Movies". Hundreds of you (I say "you" and not "us" because I didn't submit a list, having taken a Twitter break for a few weeks.  Oh, the stuff I miss...) sent in ballots.  And the results were, in short & in my opinion, disappointing.
     We all have a movie collection.  And by all of us, I mean everyone who watches movies.  Usually within that collection, we have a few DVDs with scratches from playing them numerous times.  For me, there are four specifically in that condition: DR. STRANGELOVE, BOOGIE NIGHTS, AIRPLANE! and WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.  These are the four movies that I consider my favorites.  If I have just finished a terrible, waste of my time movie, I usually put one of these in to make me feel better.
     That is what a favorite should be: something you never get tired of.  I would love to proclaim the glory, beauty & greatness of these movies.  Just one problem: I only think two of these movies are "great".  The other two are just "good" or "highly watchable".  But which ones?
     Let's begin with the one by Kubrick.  Simply put, DR. STRANGELOVE is a masterpiece.  It's dark satire about the possibility of nuclear war and its effects on man is just as biting now as (I assume) it was 50 years ago.  I hope to go into greater detail about this in the future.  P.T. Anderson's sophomore effort is still, to me, his finest (2.5) hour(s).  A glorious story of finding fortune, "fame" & "family" in the dark underbelly of the adult entertainment.  We feel for these characters.  We know these characters.  We hope for them to find some sort of happiness.  Again, I will love to get deeper into this later.  These two would probably land on my Top 25 somewhere.
     Let me repeat that: DR. STRANGELOVE and BOOGIE NIGHTS would probably land on my Top 25.  These are my favorites movies.  I think they are perfect movies, right?  Wrong.  I could nitpick these if given the time to re-watch and fully focus on them.  But I have seen better than both.  SCHINDLER'S LIST would be my #1 movie of all time.  It's harrowing look at one man's quest to save potential Holocaust victims is beautiful & disturbing at the same time.  CITIZEN KANE, my would-be #2, is a technical marvel and arguably the most influential film of all time.  The amount of praise I could place on these movies could be endless.  The total number of viewings: Two, each.  Why?  I am not afraid to admit it, both of my top 2 are tough watches.  The former because of subject matter & length.  The latter due to its almost academic nature.  
   Which finally leads me to the #TFS100 itself.  The first movie to grab my attention was #93 SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.   As a celebration of geek culture, I kinda get the appeal.  But top 100?  Ehhh...  Then two movies 17 spots apart caught my attention.  Cult favorite DONNIE DARKO is #71 over Big 5 Oscar winner ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST at #88.  This really put chill down my spine.  I became worried that the Talk Film Society had recreated the IMDb Top 250.  As the list was revealed more & more, I noticed the same pattern: a blockbuster, followed by a cult favorite, then a oft-repeated action flick, then a revisionist masterpiece with the occasional modern masterpiece.  The same movies were appearing in virtually the same places.
    Then, #16 was revealed: THE BIG LEBOWSKI.  And that confirmed it.  The Tweet Film Society voted the Coen Brothers' 1998 cult hit as their best movie.  Not NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (#47).  Not FARGO (#24).  No.  The Dude is deemed the best.  That placement is proof positive that a majority of voters picked their favorites.
    At best, you could say each member voted for their biggest influences in becoming the film buff they are today.   But that is just spin.  A euphemism.  Their favorites were placed on a pedestal years ago.  Whether they be the movies their brother made them watch (DIE HARD), movies they grew up on (FIGHT CLUB) or a movie they discovered on its opening night (INCEPTION), nostalgia gets the best of us sometimes.  I don't mean to criticize anyone's opinion.  I just want to start a conversation about why THE GRADUATE is a better, but not necessarily more enjoyable or watchable, movie than TITANIC, THE PRINCESS BRIDE or DIE HARD.
    The best films leave that lasting impact that influence all of your love of cinema.  Especially on your favorites.  Our favorite movies are that comfort food that you reheat in the microwave and devour in 90 minutes.  But the best of the best are like a fine wine: preserved in a vault, just waiting to caress your palette.