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Friday, February 13, 2009

‘Top’ Movies

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One thing led to another and me and my friends started comparing how many movies we have seen among top movies of all time. As of this date, I’ve seen 41 out of IMDB100 and 86 out of IMDB250, give or take a couple as I may not remember. Out of AFI’s 100, I’ve seen about 30 odd films. Despite having seen plenty of movies over the years my strike rate here seems moderate to poor for a movie buff. There are couple of things which led to such result. Simply put, what others found great, I found lacking. Perhaps due to cultural implication, but most likely not, I’ve found all time great movies like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or Forrest Gump below average and others like Vertigo and Harvey mere average. Earlier I used to pick movie based on IMDB rating and hence proportion of movies watched is more from that list. Lately I am using predictive software Movielens which helps me avoid even top ranking movies if I am not expected to enjoy them. Of course, IMDB ratings don’t necessarily reflect taste of all public but they do reflect maximum we can expect to get out of internet given its largest user database. Movie preference are subjective, no doubt, but if I differ so widely from average of a large number of people then can there be any conclusion drawn? I do agree to average of large number of people too, of course, in many cases.

If I didn’t agree with public’s or critics’ perception of movies, then could I come up with my own rank list? May be, if I really get into it, but it seems rather hard. How are comedy, drama and horror genre comparable? How can one decide between Gone with the Wind and Dr. Strangelove? One can still understand IMDB ratings as they are average of popular ratings but how can a panel of critics pick one over another? Of over 354 movies ratings I’ve collected, 48 are rated among the highest. Finding order among them is surely very subjective and monumental task for me. Thankfully, I am not the one entrusted with the job and can just watch a movie purely from entertainment point of view.

It’s not uncommon, or in fact, it is near certain to find few persons in IMDB discussion thread of any movie who cannot understand why others don’t like or like a particular movie. Desire of such people to browbeat others into liking or disliking a motion picture is laughable at one hand but eerie at the other. Why cannot some people accept that who will like what movie is very difficult to decide and is not mere function of movie itself but also of time of day, mood, company of co-viewers, audio & video effects and interruptions while watching among other external things. In fact, even when film industry is such high cost business where millions of dollars and years of work can be easily dismissed in two hours, no sure shot way to predict success of movie has been devised. One could make a fortune if one can come up with a formulae beforehand I am sure.

My record among Hindi movies is even more abysmal, though I don’t know. There isn’t any official list of all time best Hindi movies to my knowledge (here is one by a friend), IMDB ratings are not reliable for Hindi movies, getting hold of old Hindi movies is difficult, and many movies were watched over TV during early part of life of which I don’t even remember anything about. If Box Office revenue were to indicate public preference then this list can be assumed to be of some relevance. Among recent ones, since I went to college, I’ve seen pretty much all, and among old ones, I’ve not, particularly because of unavailability but also because of dramatic increase in quality which make best of 1970s seem near equal to mediocre of today.

Edit 16/12/2011 - 100 out of IMDB250