18 September 2009


A trusted source has informed me that if I mention Saffron Burrows in my blog posts, I'll get more hits from the many people randomly Googling her name (probably in the hopes of finding naked pictures). So I would like to start this entry by naming my Top 5 Saffron Burrows Movies:

Top 5 Saffron Burrows Movies
  1. Deep Blue Sea - Remember when she got eaten by that shark and everyone was all like"Whoa! I totally thought she'd end up boning Thomas Jane!" It was awesome, right?! Uh, spoiler alert, I guess.
  2. Gangster No. 1 - Paul Bettany tried to run over a naked guy in a parking garage. And then later he tortured someone else to death and we saw it from that guy's point of view. It was pretty sweet. Saffron Burrows was in this movie too.
  3. Frida - According to the IMDb, Saffron Burrows played Gracie. I don't recall that character. Salma Hayek did get naked, though. And those paintings were very nice. OH! And there was that bus accident in the beginning where Frida Kahlo got pwned.
  4. The Bank Job - I haven't seen this movie, but I've heard it's pretty good. And it features merkins. That's a word that doesn't get used often enough.
  5. Wing Commander - I haven't seen this either, but it's supposed to be incredibly awful. Not even fun-awful. I wonder if it's been a My Year of Flops entry yet?
Way back in 2006, I briefly wrote for a film news website. At some point the management changed hands, and I seemed to get lost in the shuffle, so I quietly made my exit and lamented the loss of the spare change they graciously paid me for my reviews and posts. Before I left, however, the new boss told us that we should be writing more lists. It didn't matter what their subject was or what was in them, it was just important that people clicked on them, and forwarded them to their friends, and vociferously debated over your careful rankings of the Top 20 Heist Movies Where Something Goes Wrong Because of a Dopey Bank Employee. In my spare time, I would try to think of list ideas, but not just any ideas - ones that felt new to me, and sparked my interest in actually writing them. That is, lists I would actually feel passionate about and avidly defend.

I couldn't come up with any.

If I were given the challenge anew, I still wouldn't be able to come up with anything (okay, maybe one), and here's the reason why: pop culture lists generally suck balls. Back in the day, when the AFI was first getting into the game, they were helpful and useful, but lists' hasty adoption and rampant proliferation across the face of the Internet have ruined them for our lifetime. One can no longer go to the IMDb Hit List (which is the good kind of list) without finding at least one trash list entry. Just today it was The 10 Most Iconic Opening Scenes in Cinema History. (Also, dude, no Once Upon a Time in the West? Come on. And yes, I'll say it, Blue Velvet is overrated, especially the beginning. "Oh look! There's worms under the ground of this idyllic suburban back yard! Get it?!" Sometimes I think David Lynch took a while to let go of the film school mentality.)

The worst lists are those where the writer has selected only the most obvious choices and provided the minimal amount of words necessary to complete the piece, offering no worthwhile insight, commentary, or criticism. A close number two are the ones that make you click through multiple pages to see their selections one by one in a crass attempt to up their hit counters. (I'm looking at you on both of these, Entertainment Fucking Weekly). The best ones provide you with a fresh angle on old material, or inspire you to add even more selections to your already-bursting Netflix queue.

But my list fatigue is even starting to affect my enjoyment of those. The A.V. Club's weekly Inventory is usually a reliable time waster, well-written if nothing else, and they will soon be releasing a new book that looks very suitable for bathroom material (and I mean that as a compliment). And yet every week, when they put up their new collection of 36 Movies and Television Shows Where Precocious Kids Get Slapped in the Mouth, I can barely find it in me to click through. ME! A writer! Procrastination is our lifeblood! Just in the course of writing this I've stopped three times to play Solitaire! "Can't you just tell me about something you like or don't like on its own terms?" I think. "Why must you arbitrarily cluster it with other things it may or may not be related to?"

The entire point of pop culture lists is to stir debate and get everyone talking about art, ideas, and why or why not something is good. But that never really happens. If you agree with them, you just flit from item to item, nodding your head and thinking "Yes, that is correct," and your knowledge is not deepened or enhanced in any way. If you disagree, you just get indignant for no reason. "How could you leave out that 'Kids in the Hall' sketch from the list of Best Sketches About Dry Cleaning?! How did an ignoramus like you even get this job?!" Ranked lists are even worse, forcing you to quantify the unquantifiable, and then argue about it. I would dread coming up with a list of my Top 10 Movies of All Time, because, naturally enough, I love a lot of different movies for a lot of different reasons. Is Rushmore better than Sunset Boulevard? I don't know. I just want to embrace what I love, and flog what I hate.

Comparing and contrasting films can be very edifying, and can highlight differences and similarities where none were previously seen. When lines and connections are drawn, they reveal a complicated but beautiful patchwork of relationships and causes and effects. And that is perfectly wonderful. But please, can we stop doing this through lists? How about the next time you think of a list idea, write out your choices, and then examine them for a way to link them up in a more satisfying way? For instance, turn your list of the Top 17 Badassed Badasses into a meditation on violence and fear, and what draws us to figures with repulsive morals. Or take Twenty-Three Female Characters Who Need to Man the Fuck Up and apply it to the evolution of feminism as represented in films throughout history.

All I'm really asking is that you think just a little bit more. Now if you don't mind, there's a surprisingly long list of Saffron Burrows movies I have to catch up on.

Top 5 Saffron Burrows Movies I Haven't Seen but Might Actually Watch
  1. The Bank Job - Jason Statham? '70s London? Merkins? Sign me up!
  2. Enigma - Only because I read the book in high school.
  3. Fay Grim - I'll have to see Henry Fool first, though.
  4. In the Name of the Father - Daniel Day-Lewis, mothafuckas!
  5. Welcome II the Terrordrome - I'm going purely on title with this one. I don't even want to know what this movie's about.

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