Overrated, Underrated, and Awards Season

“The Lord of the Rings is soooo overrated.”

I don’t know how to respond to this sentence anymore. I’ve gotten really good at resisting the urge to roll my eyes.

Overrate: have a higher opinion of (someone or something) than is deserved.
Underrate: underestimate the extent, value, or importance of (someone or something).

Now that we’ve got useless definitions, let’s get down to business. (cue Disney sing-a-long). It’s awards season now. The Golden Globes have come and gone, the Oscar nominees have been announced. Other awards are happening or have happened and nobody noticed. Short Term 12 is still one of the best movies of the year and has gone criminally overlooked but that’s neither here nor now. Oh, and the internet is alive with the sounds of people complaining. Everywhere you look somebody is unhappy because something was or wasn’t nominated, and somebody else is mad at the first person for being unhappy and now they’re both unhappy at a third person who is unhappy with something else. It’s a mess. I’d recommend staying off the internet for a month but we all know you’re not going to do that. But why is everyone so upset? I mean really, why? I get the award craziness. Admittedly I don’t understand anything about sports or sports love, but awards season is pretty close, right? That’s what I’ve heard anyways.

Overrated, underrated. In my experience there’s usually two reasons to call a movie either of these.
1.) You like the movie but nobody else does (or you don’t like it but everyone else does) and since you are right and everybody else is wrong, the movie was either over or under appreciated.
2.) The movie is famous for being good or bad.

In the first case, obviously since you’re right, you’re right. So I guess I understand that one. We all know Undisputed III: Redemption is a masterpiece right? Right?
In the second case… I don’t know. Can you really say Casablanca is overrated just because it’s popular? It’s a great movie. Great movies are great movies are great movies. What about Citizen Kane? Often thought the greatest movie ever made, but ask any film school student these days and they’ll sigh and tell you just how overrated it is. Okay, so it’s not your favorite, it’s not my favorite either, but is that really a fair indicator of its merit? What about Vertigo which just lately made Sight and Sound’s #1 movie of all time?
Okay, let’s go in the opposite direction. How about a movie like… A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III? You know, Roman Coppola’s film? Is it an underrated masterpiece? Nobody seems to be taking that stance.

It seems a lot easier to argue for the validity of a movie that others ignored. In your opinion, it truly is underrated by the public, by everyone else. And perhaps you are right. It seems more difficult to argue that a movie everyone loved is actually not very good at all. A case could be made, and justifiably so, for 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. The “feel good comedy of the year.” A case could also be made about Argo.
So let’s compare the two.
I really liked Argo. I own Silver Linings Playbook on blu-ray. I think that Argo is a really good movie. I think that Silver Linings Playbook is not very good. I just happen to like it, you know, personally. I get the impression that a lot of people dislike Argo simply because it won Best Picture over… I’m not really sure what it won over that was “supposed” to win. I think the whole notion of what movie is supposed to win being more important than what actually does win is quite silly, but I understand it. In the case of this year’s nominees, it seems quite likely that American Hustle could take home the prize. I have not seen it yet but from what I hear it is very good. Perhaps not Best Picture good, but very good. And yet, I get the sense that nobody wants it to win. If we were to jump ahead in time by ten years and look back, I think that it will become one of those overrated movies that stole the prize from the more deserving film. You know what I’m talking about: Shakespeare in Love vs. Saving Private RyanCrash vs. Brokeback Mountain, and so on. It’s weird, because somehow I think that if Brokeback Mountain had won, I don’t think we would be saying that Crash was underrated… but it does seem like in some way, Crash winning was the best thing that could have happened for Brokeback Mountain. Of course, hypothetical situations like these probably aren’t very helpful.

The argument persists, however, about what movies are good, bad, better than people say, worse than people say, and so on. The internet is at war with itself right now over the Oscar nominees. Movies were snubbed, others stole nominations they didn’t deserve. It all seems so silly, and so much fun. Look, we all love feeling smart, so naturally it makes sense that we would find a way to assert our so-called expertise over a medium that at its heart is very, very subjective. What was the best movie of 2013?

What I’d like to see is a bit of a shift in our conversation. Can we stop using such silly terms as overrated and underrated all the time? Can a movie just be exactly as good as it is? Or do we just need an underdog to root for as it competes against the giant movies that are good, but not that good. Not Best Picture good. Not as good as everyone says.

But it’s still so much damn fun. Everyone’s a winner, except the winners, because they are losers. Or is it the other way around? No, wait, I’m confused. But I’m also right, so there.

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