04 March 2009
Never Heard of Him
I am second to no one in my appreciation of the world's greatest website, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). It is absolutely, positively the most comprehensive film website in existence. It's the first place I go after watching a movie (unless I really need to use the bathroom). Want to learn more about the director? Check IMDb. Want to figure out where you'd previously seen that the guy who played the ranch hand? Check IMDb. Looking for reviews of the movie? Check IMDb. Trivia? Alternate Versions? Release date? Awards won? Filming locations? All on IMDb.
How about TV shows? IMDb is your one stop source. Fancy a discussion on a film or TV show? Try their discussion boards. How about if you want to get out of the house? (To see a movie, of course. ) You can find showtimes for theaters near you without leaving the comfort of the good ole IMDb.
Want some news or gossip from the film world? Guess who's got it.
Why they've even got links to some really cool blog posts (occasionally from this very site).
Yes ladies and gentleman, meine Damen und Herren, naiset ja herrat, signore e signori, Mesdames et Messieurs, señoras y señores, the IMDb is practically the only surfing center you'll ever need for everything and anything cinematic.
So what's Mr. Grumpy here got to complain about, then?
A "seemingly" trivial matter. Every day IMDb presents a poll asking readers a film or TV related question such as which is your favorite Paul Newman film or how many movies do you go to a year or what was the best film of the 1980's. The answers may sometimes astound you.
I enter into evidence today's poll question: "Only three directors have won the Academy Award for Best Director three times or more. Which one of these guys is your favorite filmmaker?" The choices were, of course, these notables:
Frank Capra (pictured above) (It Happened One Night; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; You Can’t Take It with You)
John Ford (The Informer; The Grapes of Wrath; How Green Was My Valley; The Quiet Man)
William Wyler (Mrs. Miniver; The Best Years of Our Lives; Ben-Hur)
Guess who won. No, go ahead, guess....If you said the leading answer, with an astounding 36%, was "I am not familiar with these directors" you are correct.
Not "familiar" with the directors of The Letter (1940) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) My Darling Clementine (1946), Dodsworth (1936), Meet John Doe (1941), Stagecoach (1939), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Roman Holiday (1953) and many, many more? Sacrebleu!
This is a classic example of the abyssal ignorance you come across on the IMDb. There is a huge number of little tykes, or people with the brains of little tykes, who come on the site and vote.
Another feature of the site is that for each movie and TV show you can assign a rating from 1-10. All films thus have a composite rating and you can look up what age groups and genders particularly liked or disliked a film. IMDb also keeps track of its top 250, the ratings leaders. Of all movies ever, guess what's number one? The Shawshank Redemption. A nice enough film, but number one? Ever? The Dark Knight clocks in at number six! Of all time! Two installments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy grace the top 20. Gran Torino, which popped in and out of theaters a few months ago is somehow number 82. Who even knew it had a cult following? Another recent Clint Eastwood offering, The Changeling, appears on the list as do The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and the recently released Caroline.
The top 250 is not surprising heavy on films released in the past ten years.
I am reminded of last year when I was still toiling as a middle school history teacher. I told the class I was going to show them a movie about a mountain man, called Jeremiah Johnson (1972). One student asked if there was anyone famous in it. When I replied, Robert Redford, she smirked "who?" as if I had told her Pernwickle Pennyllcker was the star.
So what we have here is a crotchety old man complaining about all the young whippersnappers who know of nothing pre MTV. Right? Well yes but it goes a lot deeper. Not so many years ago when I was a lad (and dinosaurs roamed the Earth) us young uns knew all the old baseball players and movie stars and even many of the long deceased presidents. Despite the efforts of such teachers as yours truly, today's younger set not only doesn't have a clue, it doesn't much seem to care.
So I could now launch into a lecture on our disposable society, but I think if you've made it this far you get the point.
Anthony Hopkins in the role of John Quincy Adams in Amistad (1997) said, "who we are is who we were." Our culture is in very serious trouble if the younger generations have no awareness of what built it and no appreciation for what those building blocks were. Whether in film, music, sports or politics, to recognize and appreciate those who came before enhances the appreciation of those around today. We are moving so fast so far so recklessly that we are leaving behind some very precious memories. Thank God for DVDs and Turner Classic Movies (world's greatest TV station) and the reverence many sports institutions hold for the past. Still I fear that it is too many of us old fogies who are fondly remembering and enjoying Jimmy Cagney, Benny Goodman and Willie Mays. We need to get our young people on board. For their sakes and the sakes of future generations. We lose something of ourselves as a culture when we lose links to our past.
Now will someone help me down off this soapbox?