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My beef with sacred cows.

The Deer Hunter, that epic Vietnam war movie starring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep was released 40 years ago. Remember the Russian Roulette scene? The bit where De Niro stalks the deer? Acclaimed as a classic, it’s often described as one of the greatest films ever. Actually it’s dreadfully boring, histrionic, and so long it felt longer than the war it depicted. It’s one of the ‘sacred cows’ of cinema, appearing on many a ‘100 Best Films Ever Made’ list, yet actually almost unwatchable. But only a brave critic or film fan would stick their neck out and ask “Is it really any good?”

I often feel there is a disconnect between the opinions of those paid to watch films, and the opinions of those who pay to watch films. Professional critics will point out the subsequent influence a film has had or its place in developing new techniques, but does that mean it’s any good? I understand the role the Model T Ford played in the evolution of motoring, but I wouldn’t want to drive one now!

Sometimes it feels a film can reach a critical mass of praise after which no-one wants to disagree, the narrative having been set in stone. I thought this happened with last year’s Dunkirk, it clearly involved huge technical effort, but was it really all that good?

My personal list of hugely overrated movies includes Forrest Gump (Too schmaltzy), The Danish Girl (Too hammy), Spectre (Please make it stop), American Hustle (An adult wrote that?) and, whisper it, Oscar nominee Lady Bird (Perfectly good coming of age story, nothing more.)

Top of my list is 2014’s Boyhood. Famously, it took 11 years to make, and watching the full 165 minutes of it, I felt like I sat through every one of them. What cinematic ‘sacred cows’ would you lead to slaughter?

By Michael Hudson.

From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published in June 2018.

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