One of my favorite things to do is make lists. Not anything productive like “list of things I need to accomplish in my life”, but little things, like “best looking men in Hollywood” and “my favorite ways to take naps”. Needless to say, places like the Internet Movie Database and Rolling Stone are two of my favorite sources of lists. I’m a big fan of pop culture, and I love music and movies, so reading publications such as these are always interesting because they allow me to see an actual list of media.
IMDB and Rolling Stone both maintain “best of” lists, IMDB’s in the form of a top 250 movies while Rolling Stones opts for a new list every few years, such as “500 Best Songs” or “100 Greatest Albums”. IMDB is great because the members of the website, which is anyone who signs up, are allowed to cast votes and rank films, which IMDB then gauges an aggregate score to determine the best films. This site allows the community to have a say in what they think is the best. Rolling Stone’s writers and industry professionals rank their top albums and songs, but they don’t just say “this is my favorite song, so I’m voting for it”, they attempt to back up their nominees with empirical evidence.
Which makes me wonder, how seriously do people take these lists? If you think about it, movies and music are not things that can be supported very easily. If you ask 50 different people what they think is the best movie of all time, for example, you are going to get 50 different answers. Same with songs. It’s because the ability to be objective does not exist when ranking based on personal preference.
Even Rolling Stone, who attempts to back up their choices with evidence and data, fail to take human emotion into account. Rolling Stone currently considers the Beatles the greatest rock band of all time, because their music “revolutionized the genre.” This rationale may indeed make the Beatles the most important band of all time, but what about the band itself? It could be argued their songs weren’t all the special lyrically, and their song structure typically involved nothing more than simple chord progression a beginner could learn. The point is, getting someone to agree what is “the best” is impossible because of individual ideas.
The Shawshank Redemption, for example, is my favorite movie. I also consider it the best movie ever made. Another one of my favorite films is “Saving Silverman.” I love that movie, but I would not argue it deserves to be considered one of the best movies, like I would consider Shawshank. This disparity is because of how I, as an individual, determine my preference. The Shawshank Redemption combines a nearly perfect story with flawless acting, great directing, and an emotional, all-encompassing theme anyone can relate to. But I’m sure some people don’t see it that way and I accept that.
The Academy Awards, the most prestigious award a film can receive, is nothing more than a group of old white dudes casting votes based on their individual preference. When the Academy Award season hits, it’s so easy to guess the winners. It’s always a drama film, with dark undertones and themes where the hero might not always come out on top. I think the last film that wasn’t a drama to win an Academy Award for best picture was Lord of the Rings. The Academy Awards are handed out by a literal Cabinet of members, with a president and everything, based on nothing more than personal preference.
Success at the Academy usually doesn’t translate to much success on ranking sites like IMDB anyway. According to IMDB’s top 250, The Dark Knight is the fourth best movie ever, period. The Dark Knight wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award.
Members of the communities who vote on these things take it very seriously. The Academy Award results are protected by actual guards until it’s time for their reveal. Members of IMDB act as if films rated too high on the top 250 are a personal insult to them. It’s easy to be a film critic when every argument you make involves saying “this movie sucks.” I think it’s because the world is so pretentious now.
Saving Silverman holds a 5.9 rating on IMDB. Not bad, but that means the film isn’t exactly held in the highest regard either. And reading the comments makes you think members of this community are actually analyzing this film as if the director had his sights set on an Academy Award. One of the reviews states the jokes are “corny, childish, and sometimes flat out stupid.” There is a scene where one of the main characters attempts to fellate himself and another where main character has a car battery hooked up to his nipples. This movie was not meant to be taken seriously, but everyone is so caught up in determining “the best” they are entirely missing the point of simply being entertained.
And that’s the problem with attempting to objectively determine a ranking for everything. My friends and I rank stupid stuff all the time. Last week we ranked which female celebrities we found most attractive and conducted our own aggregate vote (Emma Watson won, by the way). Sure, not everyone agreed with the result (me), but at the end of the day, no one is forcing me to find Hermonie to be as attractive as Scarlett Johanson, so we agreed to disagree and moved on. I love seeing other people’s opinions on stuff, especially things like movies and music, but when people get angry and take the simplicity and innocence of making a friggin’ list too seriously, then maybe it’s time to determine what actually matters in life.