Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Overrated/Underrated

Every now and again, some newspaper or some website or some magazine or some TV channel (most likely Channel 4) will do a “Best of X”, and tell you all the movies you should see, books you should read, games you should play, whatever. The fact is, however, that a lot of these things aren't the best of the best. They’re what a bunch of critics think the best are – and most of the time, they’re wrong. Citizen Kane is an okay film, but it’s not the best one ever made – that’s Revenge of the Sith. Sgt Pepper isn’t the best album ever made, that’s blatantly The Varangian Way.

So, here are five things that are frequently over-rated, and their plucky little underdog that you should be rooting for:

Comic Book Writers

Overrated:

Alan Moore

What you are hearing is the sound of a million casual comic book fans screaming into the Xbox 360 headsets. They can’t believe that someone would dare label Alan Moore as overrated. The guy wrote Watchmen! The Killing Joke! The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! V For Vendetta!
And...

From Hell...and...uh...Albion?

I’m not saying that Moore is a bad writer. Moore is a great writer responsible for some of the greatest comic books ever written. However, if you Mountain Dew spitters can take a step back and be objective for a moment you’ll realise that Moore has a pretty even 50/50 split between pure gold, and brown, sticky stuff that smells like shit. There’s a reason people talk about his five greatest achievements all the time, and that’s because they are all his achievements.

He’s a great writer, but let’s not get carried away here.

Underrated:

Pat Mills

Who?

Pat Mills is, for my money, the best comic writer there is. His work manages to stay “comic booky” (good vs evil, big action sequences, larger than life characters, a great sense of humour), whilst also being intelligent, and actually saying something at the same time. Nemesis the Warlock was about an alien crusader fighting against a Human Supremacist government/religious organisation – but it did it with humour, explosions...dark wit and biting satire.

Mills is also responsible for Charley’s War, which is (along with Maus) the only war comic you will ever need. Charley’s War managed to be a kid’s war story that was totally uncompromising – and when I first read it as a kid, I really appreciated that.

Mills has also worked on Batman, Dan Dare, Judge Dredd, The Punisher and Star Wars; and created Diceman (the 2000AD Choose-Your-Own-Adventure comic), Slaine, Defoe and The ABC Warriors.

Moore can give us layered textures and characters and hidden meaning and blahblahblahblah. Moore never made “BIG JOBS!” a catchphrase.

Gothic Horror Writers

Overrated:
Edgar Allan Poe

Again, I like Poe. He’s a great writer, but I think he’s a pretty lousy horror writer. Can anyone honestly say that they’ve ever been scared by anything he’s ever written? Impressed: yes. Entertained: yes. Scared: no.

We can allow a little for changing sensibilities and tastes over the decades. I can get that The Raven was probably more chilling back then that it is now...but was it ever really scary? To me, Poe is admirable for setting the stage for those that followed. His work in and of itself is...lacking.

Underrated:
Sheridan Le Fanu

Sheridan Le Fanu, may be the second greatest horror writer of all time. His work is eerie, ghostly, uncompromising, and pretty damn original. Fans of M.R. James, in particular, will love him. He wrote several short stories that were full of the kind of frights I loved as a kid, and – of course – his most famous work is Carmilla. Published in 1872, it predates Dracula by a quarter of a century, and is probably the first story ever to combine vampires and lesbians. And for that, we applaud him.

Action Movies Stars

Overrated:
Hollywood Action Heroes

I love action movies. I’m as excited about The Expendables as the next person with a penis. But, when you think about it, all The Expendables is saying is that all of the action heroes is Hollywood are actually so f’n weak, that you need to use all of them at once to generate any sort of interest in a project. Stallone used to be able to carry a movie on his own, as did Li...but the rest of them? Okay, maybe Lundgren had a couple of movies that were actually pretty good, but Statham? Steve Austin?

Who is our biggest star these days? Is it really Vin Diesel? Dwayne Johnson?

Hollywood Action Heroes just aren’t as kick-arse as they used to be. This is because when an action movie star gets older, he just can’t be taken seriously any more. This then leads to make one of three choices: a) do family movies, b) do comedies or c) be Bruce Willis.

Interestingly, Bruce Willis chose all three.

Underrated:
Vincent Cassel

Sure, he looks like a French hotel manager, but this man has kicked more arse than you even knew was on the face of the planet. He’s starred in hyper-violent movies such as La Haine, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Irreversible, Guest House Paradiso, and the almighty, death-by-tarmac-abrasion featuring Brad’s Personal Favourite Action Movie Ever After Commando: Dobermann.

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