No. of Recommendations: 8
This is going to sound very intolerant, but I often use people's reactions to films to judge whether or not I consider them able to judge good from bad. Yes, it's judgmental, yes it's probably error-prone, but what the heck, it's a personal foible and I'm unlikely to give it up. So sue me.

One of my favourite(?) litmus test films is The English Patient. Once again I know I am sounding ridiculously dogmatic, but I honestly believe that if you can't see through that piece of artificial tripe then you simply cannot judge films very well. You can't sort out true depth and meaning from something that is merely doing an impression of the above, especially allowing sweeping vistas to take the place of anything real. Another good bad example is the god-awful The Piano. That stuff like this can fool so many is a source of both frustration and fascination to me.

I've got a new offender to add to the list. The Hours. I don't think I've ever seen a more self-important film peopled with more self-important but utterly artifical characters in my life, except for maybe Henry and June (which brings up another pet peeve: film makers relying on the legend of their real-life subject matter to do their work for them rather than making them live on screen.) I am just amazed that Nicole Kidman's performance in it, another in a long line of over-acted, under-baked efforts, can even be partially considered as good. People, people, people! Just because the period clothes and steam trains are broken out, it doesn't make a film worthy! Don't be seduced by facadism!

There is more true emotional insight in American Pie than in The Hours, and I am not even close to kidding. And please don't think that this is one of those "I hate films with intellectual aspirations" rants. It's not. Most of my favourite films are ones that the vast majority of people alive today would probably think were absolute pretentious twaddle. But the big difference is that they are actually good. Case in point: Death In Venice. Artsy, yes. Pretentious, oui! Not readily accessible, certainly. But by God, an effin' masterpiece. Films with a high culture impetus can be done well! Don't settle for those that are just blurred facsimiles! I mean, sweet Jesus Christ! Is it that long since Remains Of The Day and Room With A View? Neither of them are on my "best" list, but at least they are competent!

The Hours is a forced, obvious, two-dimensional, emotionally cheap mess. It is worse than the pap that Hollywood is so often roundly castigated for. That it can garner a storm of praise is a sad indictment on the contemporary film audience.

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