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By Doug Brunell | April 27, 2006

If you’ve ever read any of the forums on eBay, you know that there is a fairly eclectic group of people who post there. It seems that their only common trait is that they use or have used the online auction site. A little while ago I was looking through the topics and came across one that had to do with the “worst films of all time.” I’m a sucker for this type of thing, so I decided to check it out. After finishing about half the list I became so utterly terrified that I had to leave and take in “American Psycho” just to feel clean again. It’s rare that a forum discussion will leave me feeling so alone and vulnerable, but this one did it.

There were the usual suspects on the list. “The Coca Cola Kid,” “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” “1941,” “Ishtar,” “The Last House on the Left” and others that came up with some frequency. But two surprising choices listed were “Pulp Fiction” and “American Beauty.” I happen to like those two films, but I do know plenty of people who don’t. None of those folks would paint them as the worst films of all time, however. None of them. The fact that people had puzzled me. If those were the worst, what qualified as the best? Was “Pulp Fiction” really worst than “Kangaroo Jack”? Was “Scream” really a better film than “American Beauty”? Had Bizarro posted these selections?

The inclusion of these films (and a few others) stuck with me for a few days. I wondered what kind of world these people lived in where they considered those films the worst of all time. Not bad films or substandard ones, but the worst of the worst. The bottom of the barrel. The scum that collects in the locker room. The s**t in the toilet of cinema. “Pulp Fiction” and “American Beauty.” Two films that aren’t worth anyone’s time. Wow. The mind still reels.

The optimistic among us may say that the people who listed these films must have such a high regard for cinema that such blatantly “cool” and “subversive” works would never have a place on anything other than a worst films list because they tried too hard or were too popular. These people only enjoy the absolute cream of the crop — the old standards that make every list every year. “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” and more recently, “The Godfather.” Those are the cinema elite who listed “Pulp Fiction” and “American Beauty” as the worst films of all time.

I tend to believe it’s something else. I think the people who panned them probably heard they were great films. They went to see them — somewhat grudgingly — and found them to be offensive on different levels. “Pulp Fiction” was offensive because of its violence and non-linear story telling, which confused simple minds. “American Beauty” was offensive because of its criticism of upper-middle-class American culture and all the trappings that go along with it. And it had a gay guy. Blood, gays and challenges to the status quo are not things you put in “good” movies. “Good” movies have happy endings, plenty of laughs and, if you’re feeling wild, a car chase or two. You don’t show people getting their heads blown off in the backseat of cars, and you definitely don’t show anything even close to homosexuality. Lordy, what were those bigwigs in Hollyweird thinking?

I don’t have much faith in people to begin with, but when I see things like that list, I lose a little bit more. The people who included these films as the worst don’t have good taste in movies. They don’t think film should aspire to higher things. If that were the case, they wouldn’t list these films as the “worst.” Boring maybe, or even disappointing. Perhaps even overhyped. But the worst? Even the biggest film snob can appreciate what these movies did, and like them or not, would never label them the worst. Not when things like “Snow Dogs” and “Super Mario Bros.” are out there.

And for those of you who agree with these misguided souls. Enjoy your fullscreen, what-the-f**k-are-subtitles, Blockbuster rental of “Herbie: Fully Loaded.” You got to stick with what you understand, right? Otherwise, it all just seems like crap, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint you.

I think I need to go watch Bale kill a few more yuppies before I puke.

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