Celebrating Great Films

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Big Lebowski

#158 at time of writing.

Colourful scenery and colourful characters, with a wonderfully wry and highly quotable script. The warped imagination of this film bowls me over.

The Big Lebowski

The Coen Brothers' taste for surreality can sometimes detract from their stories for me, which made me wary of this film on first viewing, but it has grown on me hugely. The Brothers can be hit or miss, and this is a hit.

The sense of humour is reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, with its bumbling gangsters and irreverent dialogue. The dysfunctional buddy couple at the core of the film, The Dude and Walter as played by Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, spark off each other wonderfully. John Goodman's misguidedly aggressive character, apparently his own favourite performance, is oddly familiar - I knew a guy like that.

Having raved about their film, I should say that I watched an interview with the Coen Brothers on the DVD extras (actually, VHS extras) and they are incredibly boring.

The Big Lebowski - dancing girlsComedy Central produced a wonderful example of preposterous TV censorship when they aired this film, dubbing Walter's dialogue in the scene where he is destroying the Corvette with a crowbar. Instead of repeating "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass" he says "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps" and then, even more bizarrely "This is what happens when you feed a plover scrambled eggs". See it for yourself.

The Dude's car is a 4-door 1973 Ford Gran Torino. Two vehicles were used in filming: one was destroyed during the filming, the other was destroyed in Season 8 of The X-Files in an episode called "Salvage".

Friday, August 07, 2009

Only votes from regular (American) voters are considered

The more time I spend on IMDb's Top 250 list, the more flaws I find with it. Not that I'm ever likely to watch a dud film if I stick to the list, but I will doubtless miss many hidden gems.

I knew that IMDb doesn't include documentaries in its Top 250 (and therefore ignores such unmissable treasures as The King of Kong, The Corporation, Koyaanisqatsi, Touching the Void, Capturing the Friedmans, Man on Wire...), but what else gets excluded? Well, according to their FAQ, films with fewer than 1,300 votes, films shorter than 45 minutes and non-theatrical releases are also excluded.

Furthermore, only votes from "regular voters" are considered when calculating the weighted average rating for each film. What constitutes a regular voter is explicitly mysterious.

The following films have received over 20,000 votes on IMDb, with an average rating of 8.1 or higher (which would be more than enough to secure a place in the Top 250) - and yet they are excluded from the Top 250, presumably because fewer than 1,300 of those votes came from "regular voters".

Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle & My Neighbour Totoro
Barry Lyndon
Infernal Affairs
The Celebration
The Hate
The Man From Earth (the only US title on this list)
Fa yeung nin wa
The Sea Inside
The 400 Blows

Two conclusions can be drawn: 1. Regular voters seem to be significantly biased against foreign (ie non-US) films. 2. Either the "regular voters" bar is set very high, or there is an awful lot of unsportsmanlike ballot-box stuffing going on.

An extended listing of the Top 500, following the same criteria, is available to IMDbPro subscribers. I wonder how many of the films mentioned above are in 251-500 - implying that "regular voters" gave them slightly less high ratings? If the answer is "not many" or "none", my conclusions become more acute.

Turkish voters deserve a special mention for being particularly zealous. With over 10,000 votes, Babam Ve Oglum has a phenomenally high score of 8.9, which would place it at least 7th on the Top 250 - but the "regular voters" obviously disagree. Gegen die Wand (score 8.1, 14,167 voters), Eskiya (8.2, 8,229), and Hababam sinifi (9.0, 5,817) are also neglected - they have cracked the Top 250 briefly in the past, but then mysteriously dropped away.