Not At Odds #06 – This Episode Has No Context

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Hi guys! Sorry for skipping a week. Allow us to make it up to you by offering an episode free from context. Or was it an episode about context? Dang. I may or may not have forgotten the topic before starting this episode. Fling your umbrage at will. Mmm. Umbrage.

 

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Film on TV: November 29 – December 5

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Night of the Living Dead, playing Saturday on TCM.

Among new things this week we find Charlie Chaplin’s first full talkie The Great Dictator on TCM on Monday, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, a relatively early oddity in Frank Capra’s career, on TCM on Tuesday, late Truffaut film The Last Metro on IFC on Thursday, and Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead on TCM on Saturday. TCM brings out some 1940s greats to go along the latest installment of Moguls and Movie Stars, which focuses on wartime Hollywood, so stay tuned for those Monday and Wednesday night.

Monday, November 29

11:30am – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1933
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.

1:15pm – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1932 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.

8:00pm – IFC – Barton Fink
One of the Coen Brothers’ most brilliant dark comedies (heh, I think I say that about all of their dark comedies, though), Barton Fink follows its title character, a New York playwright whose hit play brings him to the attention of Hollywood, where he goes to work for the movies. And it all goes downhill from there. Surreal, quirky, and offbeat, even among the Coens work. It’s based loosely on the experiences of Clifford Odets, whose heightened poetic style of writing has clearly been influential on the Coens throughout their career.
1991 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, Tony Shalhoub.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 30th)

8:00pm – TCM – Moguls and Movie Stars: Warriors and Peace Makers
TCM’s Hollywood History series enters WWII, examining how Hollywood reacted to the war – everything from war-themed films to escapist entertainment to explicitly political films. A selection of those films directly inspired by the war and war efforts play tonight, then several other non-war themed 1940s films play Wednesday night as part of the series.

9:00pm – TCM – Casablanca
Against all odds, one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, focusing on Bogart’s sad-eyed and world-weary expatriot Rick Blaine, his former lover Ingrid Bergman, and her current husband Paul Henreid, who needs safe passage to America to escape the Nazis and continue his work with the Resistance. It’s the crackling script that carries the day here, and the wealth of memorable characters that fill WWII Casablanca with life and energy.
1943 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.
Must See
(repeats at 6:00pm on the 5th)

12:00M – TCM – The Great Dictator
Chaplin’s first completely talking film, and one in which he doesn’t play his Little Tramp character. Instead, he’s both Hitler and a Jewish man who looks strikingly like Hitler. This obviously creates confusion. Brilliantly scathing satire – it always amazes me that it was made as early as 1940.
1940 USA. Director: Charles Chaplin. Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard.
Must See
Newly Featured!

2:15am (30th) – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.

3:45am (30th) – IFC – The Piano
I often find Jane Campion films overly pretentious, but this one strikes the right chord, with Holly Hunter as a mute woman in an arranged marriage who finds love with one of her husbands’ hired hands – but stealing the show is her young daughter, an Oscar-winning performance by Anna Paquin.
1993 New Zealand. Director: Jane Campion. Starring: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin.

4:30am (30th) – TCM – Hollywood Canteen
One of several films made during WWII that largely functioned as excuses for studios to parade their stable of stars on-screen in cameos, musical numbers, and comedy bits – in this case, the central device is the major Hollywood USO location of the title with a standard soldier-starlet romance plot, and the film has basically the whole Warner Bros. lot running around. It’s entertaining though not that good, and fun to see so many big stars playing themselves for a change.
1944 USA. Director: Delmer Daves. Starring: Robert Hutton, Joan Leslie, Dane Clark.
Newly Featured!

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Film on TV: October 4-10

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Sweet Smell of Success, playing on TCM on Sunday

Of special note this week is the tribute to Tony Curtis that TCM is running on Sunday; besides everything else that TCM does well, I’m always impressed by how quickly they clear off room on their schedule to memorialize classic Hollywood stars and directors upon their deaths. They’re running Operation Petticoat, Sweet Smell of Success, and The Defiant Ones, among other Curtis films. Also newly featured this week are a pair of early Tarantino-related films on IFC on Wednesday: his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs and From Dusk Till Dawn, which he penned. Also on Wednesday, TCM has a pair of films from Max Ophüls, including the delectable The Earrings of Madame de… And there are an extraordinary number of great films this week that we’ve featured before – I rarely bring attention to those up here, but do always keep a look out in case you’ve missed something earlier that you wanted to catch.

Monday, October 4

7:45am – TCM – Scaramouche
Stewart Granger was sort of a poor man’s Errol Flynn in his 1950s swashbucklers – never quite had Flynn’s panache, but hey, he tried. Scaramouche (from the novel by Rafael Sabatini, who also wrote Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, which became Flynn vehicles) is one of his better films, and does boast the longest sword fight in cinema history. So there’s that.
1952 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Mel Ferrer.

9:45am – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but it usually works best to place his stories and words in a new context. Kiss Me Kate does just that by coupling a musical version of Taming of the Shrew with a backstage story that mirrors Shrew’s fighting protagonists. Great supporting work from Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, etc. helps out leads Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson considerably, as do Cole Porter’s songs.
1953 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn.

10:00am – IFC – Paranoid Park
I go back and forth on whether I think Gus Van Sant is brilliant or a pretentious bore – maybe some of both. But I really quite liked the slow, oblique approach in this film about a wanna-be skateboarder kid who relishes hanging out with the bigger skateboarders at the titular skate park – but there’s a death not far from there, and it takes the rest of the movie to slowly reveal what exactly happened that one night near Paranoid Park. Gets by on mood and cinematography.
2007 USA Director: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Lu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney.
(repeats at 3:15pm)

11:00am – Sundance – Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog has made the savage beauty of nature one of his themes throughout most of his fiction films, so perhaps it’s only natural that he has moved onto explicitly non-fiction explorations of some of nature’s most remote locales, in this case, Antarctica.2007 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 4:40pm)

6:20pm – IFC – The Uusal Suspects
One of the earliest in the late 90s wave of “twist” films, and still one of the few that did it best. Spoiler warnings may not have been invented for The Usual Suspects, but it was certainly one of the films that popularized anti-spoiler sentiment (and the converse glee for spoiling, I suppose). Thanks to Christopher McQuarrie’s tight script and great acting turns, though, the film is about more than the twist, which is what makes it continue to be worthwhile over a decade and multiple viewings later.
1995 USA. Director: Bryan Singer. Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Bryne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite.
(repeats at 9:05am and 2:05pm on the 5th)

11:30pm – TCM – Touch of Evil
Likely the last great noir film, with Orson Welles directing and starring as the corpulent corrupt sheriff of a corrupt border town, and Charlton Heston as a cop trying to solve a case with little, no, or negative help from Welles. Throw in Marlene Dietrich in one of her last roles and a virtuoso opening tracking shot, and you’ve got one of the most memorable noirs ever.
1958 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff.
Must See

1:30am (5th) – TCM – I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the Depression. Eventually he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. One of Warner Bros’ best “ripped from the headlines” socially conscious films – they did a lot of them in the 1930s.
1931 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson.

3:15am (5th) – TCM – Cool Hand Luke
One of Paul Newman’s most memorable films, with Newman playing a renegade prisoner on a Southern chain gang who refuses to do what he’s told, escaping time and time again only to be recaptured as the guards attempt to break him.
1967 USA. Director: Stuart Rosenberg. Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio.

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Film on TV: May 3-9

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The Searchers, playing on TCM on Tuesday

There are three films playing this week that I honestly can’t believe I haven’t featured before. TCM is playing John Ford’s classic The Searchers on Tuesday and King Kong on Saturday, both of which are definitely must-sees if you haven’t seen them before. Then one of my all-time favorite films (I’ve probably seen it fifteen times) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is on Sunday on Fox Movie Channel; I don’t always include Fox Movie in this column, so that could explain why that one hasn’t come up before. Other notable newly featured films include the better-than-you’d-expect noirish Nightmare Alley, a more than adequate adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s difficult-to-film novel Mrs. Dalloway, Tommy Lee Jones’s strong directorial debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and the unjustly forgotten William Powell-led mystery The Kennel Murder Case. Lots of variety and good stuff to choose from this week.

Monday, May 3

4:15pm – TCM – Midnight
Solid Billy Wilder/Charles Brackett-penned screwball comedy that ought to be better known than it is. Claudette Colbert ends up in the middle of a millionare-wife-gigolo triangle, paid by the millionaire husband to break up the wife and gigolo by impersonating a baroness; meanwhile, a poor taxi driver she’d met previously is smitten with her and seeks her out, only to find her in her new guise. Sparkling dialogue and a strong cast give this a sophisticated twist that doesn’t quite match Lubitsch at his best, but is on the same track.
1939 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Francis Lederer.

9:00am – Fox Movie – Nightmare Alley
Fox didn’t make too many noir films, and this one just barely sneaks in by virtue of…some high contrast lighting here and there? Okay, we’ll give it to them. Anyway, Tyrone Power gives one of his better performances here as an opportunistic carney who takes a chance to turn a sideshow fortune telling act into a high-profile nightclub show, no matter who he takes down on his way to the top. What it does to his personal life and his own psyche is pretty dark and kind of fascinating, and Helen Walker is great as a psychiatrist who may have her own angle to work. Also, look out for one of the more off-putting definitions of the word “geek.”
1947 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, Helen Walker.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Fox Movie – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments.
1990 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, Albert Finney.

3:30am (4th) – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a routine but darker-than-usual story for a musical, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. But the way the music and dancing is integrated is wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on).
1955 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore.

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Film on TV: February 15-22

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Spirited Away, playing on Sunday at 9:45am on IFC

 

A few new ones this week – the still powerful mental illness drama The Snake Pit on Monday, the mismatched buddy comedy The Odd Couple on Tuesday, Meryl Streep’s first Oscar-winning role in Kramer vs. Kramer on Wednesday, a great teaming for Taylor and Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Saturday, and one of Miyazaki’s best, Spirited Away on Sunday. A lot of great repeats, too – some Bogart and Bacall, some of Woody Allen’s best, a few of our favorite films of the decade (The Squid and the Whale and The New World), a pair of Soderberghs, some classic sci-fi from Kubrick and Spielberg, and a pair of Hitchcocks to finish out the week.

Monday, February 15

7:30am – TCM – I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the Depression. Eventually he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. One of Warner Bros’ best “ripped from the headlines” socially conscious films – they did a lot of them in the 1930s.
1931 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson.

8:00pm – TCM – The Snake Pit
One of the earlier films to deal with the realities of mental illness seriously, with Olivia de Havilland as a woman in an insane asylum, brilliantly moving back and forth between lucidity and falling back in the fog of illness. She got an Oscar nom for her role, based on a true story.
1948 USA. Director: Anatole Litvak. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.

12:00M – IFC – The Proposition
Australia’s answer to the western; Guy Pearce must hunt down and capture his brothers for the law in order to save his own skin. Gritty and violent almost to a fault, and it definitely brought new life to the Western genre.
2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone.

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Film on TV: August 31 – September 6

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A Hard Day’s Night, playing at 7:25am on Friday, September 4th, on IFC

 

Monday, August 31

6:15pm – IFC – Before Sunrise
Though some people think Richard Linklater’s 2004 follow-up Before Sunset is better than this 1995 original, I’m going to disagree, at least until I get the chance to see both together again. Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 5:05am on the 1st)

8:00pm – TCM – The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Based on John LeCarre’s bleak novel, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is the anti-James Bond spy story, full of world-weary cynicism and spies who just want to get out, but can’t. It’s hard, and cold, and its edge of sadness and grief won’t let you go.
1965 UK. Director: Martin Ritt. Starring: Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Haunting (1963)
No worries, this is the good, 1963 version of The Haunting, not the overblown 1999 remake. The story’s the same, but Robert Wise’s original is creepy, disturbing, and, like, good.
1963 USA. Director: Robert Wise. Starring: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn.

12:00M – IFC – The Proposition
Australia’s answer to the western; Guy Pearce must hunt down and capture his brothers for the law in order to save his own skin. Gritty and violent almost to a fault, and it definitely brought new life to the Western genre.
2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone.

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Film on TV: June 15-21

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The 400 Blows, playing Thursday, June 18th, at 10pm on TCM

 

This week TCM pays tribute to Elia Kazan, Orson Welles, William A. Wellman, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Mervyn LeRoy, and Vincente Minnelli, as well as throwing in some shorter director marathons for Tony Richardson (on Wednesday) and Blake Edwards (on Friday). I only highlighted a couple from those last two, but if you like them, check out the full morning schedule on TCM for those days.

Monday, June 15

3:30pm – TCM – National Velvet
One of my favorite movies growing up, probably not least of all because I was mad about anything to do with horses. Even so, National Velvet stands pretty tall among family friendly films, with a young Elizabeth Taylor fighting to run her beloved horse in England’s most prestigious steeplechase with the help of world-weary youth Mickey Rooney.

Great Directors on TCM: Elia Kazan
I gotta say I don’t really count Elia Kazan among my favorite directors – he tends to be a little message-y for me. Still, he got some great performances out of some great actors, and the Academy Awards loved him – although I’m not entirely sure that’s a positive.

9:30pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over. Must See

12:00M – Sundance – Sex and Lucia
This isn’t a favorite of mine, but a lot of people around Row Three like it a lot, so I’ll let them defend it in the comments if they so choose. 🙂

See the rest after the jump.

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IMDB’s Top 250 – How Accurate Is It?

Like all of us who spend a good deal of time here on Row Three, I love movies. However, (and I say this without knowing the depth or breadth of each person’s particular obsession), the way we express this love differs from individual to individual. For instance, one of the particular ways that my affair with all things cinematic has manifested itself is in an enormous excel database, one that I have been maintaining for six years now (in fact, it all started six years ago yesterday). In this database, I have compiled, among other things, daily viewing logs for every day since August 16, 2002 (there’s no real significance to that date…it’s just when I decided to start keeping track of this information), which I cross-reference with an alphabetical list of films and the days on which I viewed them. On March 19, 2003, the day the U.S. first launched the war against Iraq, I was busy watching The Big Bird Cage, a Roger Corman-produced exploitation film starring Pam Grier. The film I’ve seen the most since August 16, 2002 is Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which I’ve viewed 10 times in the past 6 years.

One of the spreadsheets I put together as part of this database was a list of IMDB’s Top-250 films, which I did with the express intent of watching every film on that list. To date, I’ve been fairly successful, with only 8 films on the list that I still need to see. The problem is that the top-250 I laid out for myself was from December 15, 2002. Looking at today’s IMDB top 250, the number I have yet to see has jumped to 17. Furthermore, only five of the films I haven’t seen from my original 2002 list are even on the newest top 250. Three of them (The Others, You Can Count on Me and The Man Who Would Be King) have dropped off completely.

Even the five that appear on both lists have shifted positions since 2002, some significantly:

Das Boot (#36 on the list in 2002, #66 on the current list)
Double Indemnity (#44 in 2002, #54 now)
It Happened One Night (#112 then, #130 now)
Arsenic and Old Lace (#131 then, #241 now)
His Girl Friday (#148 then, #231 now)

The new additions to the Top-250 that I haven’t seen are:

The Lives of Others
Oldboy
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Brief Encounter
Sleuth (1972)
The Lady Vanishes
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Kid (1921)
Stalker
Ace in the Hole
Hate (La Haine)
Great Expectations (1946)

Now, the additions of The Lives of Others, Oldboy, and The Diving Bell and Butterfly make perfect sense; none of those films had been released at the time the 2002 list was compiled. What’s surprising is that the remaining nine are considerably older, and were around in 2002. Kind Hearts and Coronets, released in 1950 and completely left off the 2002 list, is now #140 on the current Top-250. Why the 110-position surge? I originally thought the answer might be DVD related, that the release of the film to the home market may have influenced its standing, but Kind Hearts and Coronets was first released on DVD in the U.S. three months prior to the 2002 list I copied (I don’t know when it was released in other markets). Has the film found a recent audience, or did a few zealous Alec Guinness fans ‘stack the deck’, taking the time to create hundreds of accounts on IMDB in order to vote it onto the list?

Other films have also changed significantly. Some (released around 2002 amid a great deal of hype, only to see the furor dwindle by 2008) make sense. Others don’t. Here are a few of the other ‘list shifts’:

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (dropped from #5 in 2002 to #20 today)
Citizen Kane (#4 in 2002 to #29 today)
Lawrence of Arabia (#22 then, #35 now)
Raging Bull (fell 20 places, from #51 then to #71 now)
Touch of Evil (down a whopping 35 places, from #58 then to #93 now)
.
.
.
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Still other films on 2002’s list have now dropped off completely, and not just ones that were at the bottom to begin with:

All the President’s Men (was #171 in 2002…gone today)
The Iron Giant (#198 in 2002, also gone today)
Miller’s Crossing (from #205 to oblivion)
The Untouchables (#215 to nowhere to be found)
Clerks (#217 to nothing)

Of course, not every film has dropped. Some have even increased in popularity over the last 6 years:

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (#27 in 2002, #5 today)
Pulp Fiction (up 13 places, from #19 in 2002 to #6 today)
12 Angry Men (from #24 in 2002 to #10 today)
Fight Club (was #37 in 2002, and now it’s #23)
A Clockwork Orange (jumped from #64 in 2002 to #48 today)
.
.
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And for the record, the #’s 1 and 2 films in 2002 were The Godfather (#1), followed by The Shawshank Redemption (#2). Today, #’s 1 and 2 are The Shawshank Redemption (#1) followed by The Godfather (#2)

So, how reliable do you feel the IMDB top-250 list is in determining the likes and dislikes of its contributors? Can it be heavily influenced by a ‘fad’ mentality (The Dark Knight is still sitting at #3 overall on the current list), or does it do a good job in detailing the tastes of the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of film fans who vote on a regular basis?

What do you think?