There’s nothing like being beat to the punch. I had this idea for a series of “Excess Hollywood” columns where I would delve into the best movie performances of all time. I had this idea on a Friday, but family life, poker and a fascinating book titled “Abortion Wars” kept me occupied. Come Sunday my wife brought home a copy of the April 2006 issue of “Premiere” that covered the “100 greatest performances of all time.”
Shit. Now I look like a copycat.
I bitched and moaned about how my idea had been stolen … again. Of course, “Premiere” hadn’t stolen my idea (it’s a fairly generic one), but I wasn’t in the mood to listen to logic, until my lovely wife said, “Why don’t you compare your list to the magazine’s?”
That’s why I married her.
So I started the list. I made it over halfway through, keeping what I thought “Premiere” got right, and subbing in my own choices for what I found to be ill-conceived selections. By the time I made it to number forty-four, however, something hit me. I had become the thing I hated.
The thing that bothered me about the list in “Premiere” was that it was so subjective. Sometimes I thought the actor was great, but the role wasn’t. Other times I thought someone was included on the list just so that the “Premiere” staff could feel superior to its audience. It seemed like some entries were just smug bits of self-satisfaction that said, “Look how cool we are. We listed a foreign film from the Sixties.”
And I was doing the exact same thing.
My list was full of snob choices. Obscure choices. Choices I knew would cause controversy. Looking at it, I realized I was no better than the magazine. I may have even been worse, as some of my choices were just so damn obscure that I was sure only a handful of people would even know of them. Others, like Sylvester Stallone in “Copland,” seemed to me that they should’ve been on the “Premiere” list, but then I realized that my inclusion of Stallone was probably like the magazine’s inclusion of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.” No difference. I like Stallone’s role, but I don’t like Hanks’, so there was an inherent bias. Not everyone would agree with every choice, which is what makes those things fun, but I crossed a line. I became what I was fighting against. I didn’t listen to Nietzsche.
I destroyed my list. Purged it from the computer and burned the paperwork (which I gathered for research purposes). I even wrote an e-mail apology to “Premiere,” but then scrapped it once I realized I sounded insane.
The Top 100 Greatest Performances of All Time is an interesting idea. It’s bound to spark debate and, perhaps more importantly, get people thinking about what roles they loved and why. Some of my favorites are good roles in bad movies. Some, like in the case of the previously mentioned Stallone, are great roles in great movies.
Those lists that categorize the best or worst of anything are fun to partake in from time to time. They’re ultimately meaningless, but that doesn’t stop people from doing them on a fairly consistent basis. Still, it was a list I decided not to do because I couldn’t justify myself any better than “Premiere” could.
So you’ll probably never see that list from me, but I do have a list coming up that I don’t think any magazine would ever do. And if one does, nobody will be able to convince me my ideas aren’t being stolen, and the bastards will pay.
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Posted on June 8, 2006 in Features by Doug Brunell
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