Friday, January 16, 2009

The Top 25 'Biopics'

Entertainment Weekly is promoting its top 25 "biopics," which follows a previous post of the second half of its top 50 choices in that category.

As with any such list, there is plenty of room for debate.

I agree that most of the films in the top 25 list are deserving of mention. So are the subjects — Johnny Cash, Abraham Lincoln, Ray Charles, Malcolm X, Queen Elizabeth I, Oskar Schindler, T.E. Lawrence, Mozart and others.

But, although I agree that "Raging Bull" was a great film, should it rank as the best biopic of all time?

Likewise, I would question whether some of the entries in the 50-26 list belong there. Many, like "Gandhi" (ranked 43rd), "Patton" (ranked 39th) and "Chaplin" (ranked 33rd), deserve to be in the top 25. In fact, "Gandhi" would be my choice for top biopic — but that, admittedly, is a personal preference.

And I will concede that it's hard for me to judge the quality of some of the films on the list because I haven't seen them.

Biographies have always been among my favorite books in my personal library so, naturally, films dealing with biographies are among my favorites as well. There are so many inspiring lessons to be learned from individual lives. We will pay tribute to one such person next week (Martin Luther King) on the day that is set aside to honor his birth. And we will recognize the 200th birthday of another such person (Lincoln) in a few weeks.

Biopics are rarely among the top-grossing films in a given year. I think the last film on EW's list to finish in the top 10 was "Schindler's List." Some films with historical themes, notably "Titanic" and "Apollo 13," make a lot of money, but few are biographical in nature.

And, while I may disagree with EW on its rankings, I applaud it for recognizing an often-overlooked film genre.