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Critics overlook movies that are actually popular

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

How can you think you are better than anyone? You don’t even create, you just critique.

— Of Montreal

Entertainment Weekly, the magazine that purports to have its pointer and middle finger firmly planted on the pulse of the entertainment biz, created a stir this week when it released its all-time Top 100 movies, TV shows and albums.

Certainly any such list is subjective (you should read some of the comments I got when The Herald published my Top 200 albums and Top 500 songs lists), but there’s a lot of pressure to “get it right” when you’re a national publication with insider access to the stars of our favorite pop culture media and your first name just happens to be “entertainment.”

As someone who’s always been fascinated with popular culture, I’m giving EW top grades for its TV and album picks. Like me, the magazine chose “The Wire” as its No. 1 TV show of all-time, surprising many but not those of us who watched the amazing HBO series. “The Simpsons” came in at No. 2, followed by “Seinfeld,” “Mary Tyler Moore” and “The Sopranos.”

I’d have Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer at No. 2, but it’s hard to quibble with EW’s list.

Choosing top albums is a tough order; there are so many great works. The magazine folks chose the Beatles’ “Revolver” at No. 1, Prince’s “Purple Rain” at No. 2, the Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” at No. 3, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at No. 4 and the Clash’s “London Calling” at No. 5. Hard to argue with any of those choices.

It’s EW’s movie category that I’m going to take exception to: No. 1 “Citizen Kane,” Nos. 2 (tie) “Godfather” and “Godfather II,” No. 3 “Bonnie and Clyde,” No. 4 “Casablanca, No. 5 “Psycho.” The newest among these classic films? “Godfather II,” which came out in 1974.

Don’t get me wrong, old movies are great. A couple of the smarter folks here at The Herald swear by the classic movies and can quote lines that were written way before I was born. But I think EW short-changes moviegoers when the magazine ignores some of the more modern classics.

Like, where was “The Hangover” on their list? Yes, the sequel was a frame-by-frame remake of the original, only in a different locale, and part three was just a payday for everyone involved (kind of like the really bad sequels to the Wachowski brothers’ great “The Matrix”) that left everyone with a bad taste. But the original “Hangover” came out of nowhere and was hilarious. Surely it had to be considered.

And how can “Caddyshack” not be near the top of anyone’s best-of list? Or “Friday”? Or “The Departed?” Or “A Hard Day’s Night?” Or “Night Shift?” Or “Dog Day Afternoon?” Or “Showgirls?” (OK, I was kidding about “Showgirls,” but it is one of those movies that’s so classically bad you can’t help but watch ... or maybe it’s the costume design.)

Unfortunately, I think the people who rate, critique and generally get paid to watch movies feel they owe the people who pay them some level of snobbery. So they’ll talk about the artistic elements of trash like Lars von Trier’s “Dogville” — which is closer to dog s ... OK, move on — or George Clooney’s one momentous misstep, “Solaris,” and hint that anyone who doesn’t agree is obviously too misinformed, boorish or stupid to know what real art is.

Personally, I’ll take the acting of the dog in “Air Bud” over the vastly-overrated-anyway Nicole Kidman in “Dogville,” and I’ll take the “O Brother Where Art Thou” or even the “Facts of Life” Clooney over his boring turn in “Solaris.”

Granted, again, “Citizen Kane” is a good movie. (By the way, “Rosebud” is a sled; huge reveal.) So is “Casablanca.” And “Bonnie and Clyde” was groundbreaking. And there are few movies better than “Godfathers” I and II. But let’s not let our snobbishness dictate that we overlook modern-day classics ...

Like “Major Payne,” “Tin Cup,” “Pitch Perfect” (who knew?), “Animal House,” “Top Gun,” “Roadhouse,” “Stir Crazy,” “The Sitter” (way underappreciated), “Billy Jack,” “Swingers,” “The Graduate,” “Footloose,” “Clerks,” “American Grafitti,” “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “The Exorcist” ...

Heck, I’ll take “Showgirls” over critically acclaimed hoo-hah like “Dogville” or “Solaris.”

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.