Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is overrated?

So, yesterday I stumbled onto a list put together by Tim Robey, a film critic for The Telegraph.  I think most of the world saw the list, or at least the cinephile world that I often associate with.  The list was on the ten most overrated films of all time.


I’m not going to get into some serious bashing here, because that’s never really productive, but his list (which is kind of ridiculous on so many levels) got me thinking.  What does ‘overrated’ really mean?  In looking at this list, I’m not sure that Tim Robey even knows.  His list is a strange mixture of films that the majority of people have never seen, some films that Oscar embraced but film enthusiasts have disregarded and then some films that the average moviegoer fell in love with.  So, pick your vein.  Is a film overrated because the average family man loves it, because Oscar loved it or because the critics loved it, but on this list it’s a little confusing since rarely do these attributes crossover. 

I don’t think that putting a definitive list like this together is possible, or health really.  It’s really more pretentious than anything else.  Now, I’ve put lists together before, so I’m not saying that lists are a bad thing.  We live in a society where lists are just really, really popular.  Everyone I know, especially those who are infatuated with film or music or art of some medium, love to list, rank and evaluate their opinions.  I’m an advocate for this, but putting together a list of this nature can get complicated and messy.

It’s too vague.

I mean, let’s take a look at Robey’s list:

10) The Departed
9) Videodrome
8) The Double Life of Veronique
7) Slumdog Millionaire
6) Ikiru
5) Million Dollar Baby
4) Armacord
3) Inception
2) Network
1) Skyfall

Ok, so looking over this list I can see three films that technically I could consider overrated even if I personally don’t.  Skyfall, Inception and The Departed are films that critics and audiences heaped praise upon and continue to regard as exceptional films.  Personally, I really like both Inception and Skyfall, and have even defended Inception to the group of devout haters.  I do consider The Departed overrated to an extent and even agree with Robey’s breakdown.  I think that the collective cinematic world got wrapped up in the whole ‘Scorsese is finally going to win an Oscar’ idea that they were blinded to the fact that the film, while a lot of fun, is heavily flawed.

But, for me, his list loses credibility after those three.

The reason for this is a mixed bag of ‘that doesn’t make sense’.  Firstly, I don’t think you can consider Slumdog Millionaire or Million Dollar Baby overrated.  If you made this list in 2008, maybe you could list Slumdog Millionaire because the world had caught that fever and everyone, from critics to audiences, was singing its praises.  Million Dollar Baby was never really seen as some kind of masterpiece but was a product of the right kind of emotion at the right time in the Oscar race, and it has always been seen as such.  The point is though, that this is 2014.  These films, even if they were overrated or praised or beloved upon their release, are NOT by the general audience right now.  I think that this is the biggest problem with compiling a list like this, because in order for a film to be overrated (at least in my eyes), the general population has to adore it and sell it as the best ever.  Is anyone saying that about Slumdog Millionaire right now?  No.  In fact, most cinephiles loath the film and consider it one of the worst Best Picture wins in recent memory.

Yes, it has a pocket of people who love it, but that pocket is actually quite small, and even those who love it (or like it) are not about to try and tell you it’s a masterpiece.  It’s fun, but that’s about all.

In my eyes, it looks like Robey just grabbed two films that won a bunch of Oscars that he doesn’t really like and said “these movies are overrated” forgetting that ‘winning an Oscar’ does not merit the term overrated.

Moving on.

I ask you this; how can films like Amarcord, Ikiru and The Double Life of Veronique be considered overrated when half of the known world hasn’t even heard of them, let alone seen them?  Now, if you personally don’t think they deserve their critical standing, that’s one thing, but then maybe you should specify that this is a list containing films you think are critically overrated.  I’ll be the first to say that Amarcord is not Fellini’s best and personally I think that cinephile friends and critics have overhyped it, but shouldn’t you try and pick at a film that more people have heard of.  And come up with a better criticism than “the boobs make it hard to focus on the story” because that makes you sound like an idiot.

And then, look at what Robey has to say about Ikiru.  I honestly think that Robey is confused here.  He starts his breakdown of the film by saying that it IS a masterpiece.  He says that it is impeccable.  He then proceeds to say that it is overrated…because people say that it is subtle and he doesn’t think that it is.  I’m sorry, but since when does that translate to overrated?  YOU love the film and think it’s a masterpiece, but it’s overrated because someone describes it in a way that you wouldn’t?

He’s reaching, and it shows.

I haven’t seen Videodrome, so I can’t comment, but I find Cronenberg as a whole to be overrated, so I’m not the best judge here.

Now, I find his criticism of Network to be somewhat half-assed.  Lots of films feel dated when you compare them to the modern way in which film is made these days, but you need to look at these films of yesteryear through the eyes in which they were created and the times in which they encompassed.  I suppose that you could consider Network overrated, but I would also find that assessment incorrect.

Honestly, if you want to compile a list of films that are overrated, don’t you need to look at the films that everyone (audiences, critics, Oscar, whatever) have considered and CONTINUE to consider the best of the best.  Where is Gone with the Wind?  I mean, that is like the epitome of overrated.  It’s like Robey wanted to appear edgy by dissing foreign films and taking out recent Scorsese, but he is too scared to push it all the way and attack the most beloved film in the entire world.

This entire list is a joke, obviously.

So, I put it to you; what does overrated even mean?  What do you think of this list?  


  1. I think the list is crazy, because as you said it's a mixture of so many things without much in common.

    For me overrated is if majority loves something and I find it bad/mediocre or just not as great as people think. I think Inception is mediocre, I think Aliens is ridiculous and There will be Blood, which is treated as if it was cinematic second coming of Christ, is mediocre/has some good moments. So when I see that people continuously rate something 9 or 10, I watch it and I go 'what?' then it's overrated for me.

    1. I think you hit it on the head there. Continuously rate it 9/10. That is the problem with some of these picks. No one still thinks Slumdog is a 10...

      No Country for Old Men
      A History of Violence

      For me those are recent examples of films that are overrated, because they are treated as if they are infallible masterpieces by almost everyone.

  2. I agree the list is unfocused, which makes it tough to critique.

    For me 'overrated' just means a lauded film (by critics and/or audiences) that doesn't live up to the hype. The problem is finding a film 'overrated' is very subjective. A lot of people love the same films, but no one can love every lauded film.

    1. That's the problem with a list like this...the majority of people are going to look at you differently. You lose all credibility because no one agrees with you.

      And yes, this particular list is so wildly unfocused it makes him look extra dumb.

  3. Of the films in that list, Network is the one film I haven't seen as I have seen everything else in that list. All I can say is this. Tim Robey is a fucking twat. Nothing he says makes any sense. Ikiru, Videodrome, The Double Life of Veronique, and Amarcord are overrated? Compared to what? Fucking Growns Ups?