Friday, February 05, 2010

Best movie vs. Favorite movie - what's the difference?

When I commented on reader Rob's list he submitted to the favorite movies project, he pointed out "First off, I'll say my list is very much a 'favorites' list and not a 'best' list. It's very much about what films have really grabbed me and less about the technical merits of the film."

I understood him perfectly well. After all, I myself titled the project FAVORITE movies. And like Rob, I will always favor emotional impact over technical merit. But thinking back on my own list, it seemed to be more of a "Best-Of" ranking than a favorites list.

What's the difference? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. The most common delineation seems to be that best = prestigious and favorites = fun, but that seems simplistic. My list blurs the line between the best films and my favorites.

For example, A Hard Day's Night falls into both camps for me. I believe it to be the best rock film ever made. And it's also the most fun for me because well - it's a Beatle movie, dammit. With Beatlemania like mine, it would be unnatural if it didn't make the list.  

Then there's Citizen Kane. Many people cite it in best-of lists because of its technical and narrative innovations, as well they should. But there's much more to the film than that. I also think it's a lot of fun. Sure, it has weighty themes and its moments of melancholy, but every time I watch it, I can feel the glee with which Orson Welles made the film, knowing he was breaking all the rules. Kane is both a best film and a favorite film for me.

Sometimes "favorite" also tends to mean "most compulsively watchable." If I followed that definition, my list would look decidedly different. It would be a lot less democratic. It might contain a whole bunch of Hitchcock films, (like Rear Window) Scorsese pictures (Goodfellas) or Disney movies (Beauty and the Beast). Diversity would go out the window.

But I get also a charge out of the movies that are either emotionally punishing (Raging Bull) or fascinating enigmas (2001) because I love the craft on display. And I was the nut who saw Schindler's List five times in the theater, trying to approach it analytically -  and failing every time when the tears started to flow.

When I start a blog with a query, I often end up answering my own question, but I really don't think I have this time. For me, the distinction between "best" and "favorite" will never be concrete. There will always be overlap.

So let me ask you  - what, for you, is the difference between a favorite movie and a "best" movie? Is there a difference?


Allison Dickson said...

I often find "favorite" to be synonymous with "guilty pleasure." For instance, the first Bridget Jones movie is probably one of my favorite romantic comedies, but it is not on my top movies list because I don't think it's one of the best movies ever. However, the ones on my lop list are definitely favorites. But my favorites aren't all on my top because the list is composed of movies that captured me both emotionally and artistically/technically. They have it all. It's like the difference between a really good Beatles cover band and The Beatles.

Martha Hardcastle said...

OMG! Allison, "guilty pleasure" was my thought too, and I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on this and saw your response! Sappy, sentimental, embarrassing - those are guilty pleasures. For me, it's baring the unhip pieces of my soul.