21 June 2007

The revised AFI list of the top 100 movies of all time contains some good news (especially the huge leaps forward by Vertigo and The Searchers), but more than anything else, it gives me an excuse to talk about the most overrated movie in history, which is currently at #5. Ready for it?

Raging Bull.

Before you start throwing things, I should make it clear that I've done my best to love this movie. I've seen it on the big screen. I own the DVD. I even had the poster on my dorm room wall, for chrissake. But the more I see it, the more I agree that it represents, in David Thomson's words, "artistic will rising far above experience." I don't think that Scorsese understands boxing, or Jake LaMotta, and I think that by creating such a stark, schematic, obsessively designed movie, he slights his natural gifts for life, humor, and teeming movement, which are so much in evidence in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, and The Departed. Sure, there are great things in Raging Bull. But more and more, whenever I watch it, I ask myself, along with Pauline Kael, "What am I doing here watching these two dumb f—ks?"

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