November 9, 2000

Got What It Takes?

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During my unnecessarily long lunch break, I usually busy myself by strolling through the campus store. I gaze at the screens of noteworthy alumni, pretend to be somewhere better and hipper when at our new espresso bar, and CornellCard my way through hazelnut coffee and Peppermint Patties.

But today was different. Not just because it was Election Day, but because I overcame my fear of the “For Research Purposes Only” signs on the Olin computers. This opened a whole new world of activities for my two-hour siesta.

I 007-ed my way into my e-mail account and then proceeded to “surf.” I found myself scanning through the results of a “Most Overrated Movies” search, and this is where my uneventful tale takes an unexpected twist. Among the responses to this query were several in support of Annie Hall, A Clockwork Orange, Citizen Kane, and The Godfather. I was in disbelief. My facial expression took on too much emotion for a researcher, and I had to back away from the computer to remain inconspicuous.

Now I know that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but sometimes opinions are simply wrong. This happens to be the case with these cinematic masterpieces. For movies of this caliber, the only explanation for an opposing viewpoint is that the critic simply does not get it.

The notorious it is, of course, an unwieldy concept to explain. It takes many forms in many different genres. It changes from film to film, and yet its essence remains constant. Perhaps the best way to explain it is through application.

Tommy Boy has it while There’s Something About Mary does not. Fight Club starts out with quite a bit of it, but forgets how to spell “it” somewhere in the middle. And if Annie Hall had any more of it, the movie would explode and form a completely new pronoun. Sometimes an imperfect cinematic piece can be overflowing with it: The Tao of Steve, for example. Other times the it is comprised less of the movie’s content and more of the nostalgia it evokes: Can’t Buy Me Love. The line is often fine, but always definite.

What was frightening about these numerous poll respondents was that, by virtue of voting via Internet, they displayed a certain level of education and media interaction. The people volunteering for this Yahoo! survey were not a simple random sample — they were computer junkies.

For this reason, one might assume that they would make smarter evaluations. Instead, they called Casablanca overrated, which would make any living actor or director fall into an early grave just to roll over.

With politics in the air, my mind immediately turned to the voting booths where it-less people were freely casting their ballots. Of course, I have a great appreciation for equality, but if you can’t trust someone to make a decision at Hollywood Video, do you really want him or her choosing your president? All I’m suggesting is a small cinematic questionnaire upon arrival at the polling center.

While pondering over how a political race involving a candidate with 3rd grade grammar skills could possibly be so close, I suggest that we take a look at contemporary film appreciation. The success of Coyote Ugly may have had wider implications than we cared to notice.

Archived article by Sarah Fuss