After an 80-year-old review resurfaced, the previous 100% score for Citizen Kane on popular movie-reviewing site Rotten Tomatoes dropped down to a 99%, allowing Paddington 2’s score of 100% to “dethrone” it.
The review, published in The Chicago Tribune in 1941, said Citizen Kane was “bizarre” and “gives one the creeps”. This one review managed to knock Citizen Kane’s perfect 100% down to a 99%.
Many people, including the creators of Paddington 2 themselves, are not taking it too seriously. However, it raises an interesting question: how does ground-breaking entertainment in the past compare to the standards of today?
Frankly, some new movies are underrated and old movies are overrated, and that’s perfectly okay.
Let me clarify this by saying I am a huge film buff. I have thousands of hours on YouTube into videos about how movies are made, from everything to digital effects to cinematography to how to craft a scene. With that knowledge, I can say this: carefully crafted movies and enjoyable movies can be two entirely different things. The best movies manage to overlap the two.
I have an equal love for The Godfather as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Sure, it’s a different love, but an equal love nonetheless. I appreciate The Godfather for its brilliant cinematography and character writing; I love Bill and Ted for its goofy, fun adventure. There are many modern movies that manage to strike the balance between enjoyment and craftsmanship. These can make for some of the best movies of all time but are often overlooked in favor of the “classics”.
A prominent example of this is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which has to be my favorite movie of all time. Because of its comic-book style and the fact that it’s an animated superhero movie, many people do not take it seriously. However, its craftsmanship with the animation and character writing combines with its humor and fun action to make for an incredible experience. It has won several awards, such as an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, and Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s truly an incredible movie and one that shouldn’t be overlooked simply because of its medium.
However, it’s important to take into account why older movies are considered classics in the first place: they have been integral for the foundation of film-making today. Citizen Kane was revolutionary in the way it used visual storytelling. It was the first to tell its story in a non-linear fashion, showing all different parts of Kane’s life told through those who knew him. It was the first of its kind to make the camera into its own character in the form of an unreliable narrator, jumping through different contradictory accounts of Kane’s life. It was unique even down to its editing; it was the first to utilize the montage sequence, such as condensing the story of a 16-year-long failing marriage into an easily understandable 2-minute sequence. Citizen Kane served as the introduction of these ideas and techniques, and through this has since paved the way for modern movies.
The concept of groundbreaking techniques can be found in other classic movies. Psycho challenged what could be shown to audiences and inspired the slasher genre. Star Wars paved the landscape for cinematic special effects and the sci-fi movie genre as a whole. The Matrix first introduced the iconic concept of bullet time. Regardless of enjoyability, it can’t be denied that they’ve had major effects on cinematic history.
Overall, it’s perfectly okay to view classic movies as boring or not as enjoyable as modern flicks. The quality of entertainment has greatly evolved over the years, and it’s always changing. However, it’s important to understand why they’re considered classics: they’ve served as the foundation for the movie industry and have paved the way for modern cinema today.