I am a lucky man. I live in a house with six people who are all stubborn, egotistical and think they know best. It's an odd statement, but the facts of the matter are, nothing tests your ability to debate and discuss topics more than having a group of people who will disagree with you on any subject simply because they don't like to admit you're right. It's all fun and mentally stimulating until you reach that rare thing; a quiet Saturday night in. Inevitably the discussion turns to watching a film, and then for the next two hours you are guaranteed to spend discussing which film to watch, with vetoes flying around the place like bullets in a John Woo film.
"We can't watch a horror, I don't like to see human suffering," "I don't want to watch an action film, they're misogynistic and boring." "I can't watch anything starring Mickey Rourke, his face reminds me of a decomposing piece of cheese." The list of films we can't watch is endless, with people saying certain films are terrible, they've watched them too recently or worse still they're simply not in the mood. So round and round we go until finally someone brings up the inevitable, "Let's watch The Replacements." Everyone agrees and on it goes. This ritual that we have within our tiny community got me thinking: What is it about certain films that make them acceptable to a large audience, even if their quality is not up to the standard of others of a similar type?
The Replacements is a prime example. It was released in 2000, coming shortly after the release of Varsity Blues, Remember the Titans and Any Given Sunday. It does not have the quality of shots of Any Given Sunday, it lacks the emotional punch of Remember the Titans and it doesn't have the cheeky high-school charm of Varsity Blues. It is for all intents and purposes the weakest of the four films, and yet it always gets the nod over them and is watched time and time again. It could be that we've all seen it enough now to quote it word-for-word, but there must've been a point before we had a religious knowledge of Clifford Franklin's description of the "ball being a cold," a time where it was still fresh.
I asked each housemate if they could remember the first time they'd seen the film and to my surprise everybody could remember the exact circumstances of that first watching. They ranged from "I found it in a bargain basement bin and thought I'd give it a go, and was surprised at how fun it was" to "I friend lent me a copy on DVD and I loved it so much that I never gave it back." It was odd that people could remember with great clarity the exact year and month that they watched it, and more than that, they remember their thought process whilst watching. It seemed that the majority were surprised to have found a film they liked so much having no knowledge of it upon its release. It also seems to have been a hidden twist of fate that we all saw it separately from each other, and agreed subconsciously that the film was just plain fun.
The Replacements itself is mediocre, but when it comes to fun-filled Saturday film nights at home there is no other film that unites the disparate group of argumentative twits that I live with. Inevitably, however, watching it always leads on to a discussion on the merit of films for a technical reason as opposed to for simple enjoyment. The Godfather or Citizen Kane are often cited by people in the know, as the best films ever made, and anyone with a passing knowledge of film would be hard-pressed to argue with either, but I guarantee that they don't get religiously watched in the same way that Old School, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and The Replacements do.
Then there's the discussion on the difference between the 'best film' and your 'favourite film.' Surely they should be one in the same? But I guarantee that the 'best' is not the one you've seen more than any other. It's a testament to the complexity of language, semantics the human brain that we can see something as better in quality, but still refuse to name it our 'favourite.' Could it be that there's a rebellious part of each of our brains that refuses to be boxed in with large numbers of others? "Well The Shawshank Redemption may be the best film ever made, but personally I prefer to curl up on the sofa with some popcorn and watch Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls because that monkey is just so gosh darn cute."
So with that in mind, I challenge you to name your top 3 favourite films and the top 3 best films you've ever seen and see how many of them match up. I bet it's not many. I also can't help but wonder if anyone other than the seven of us has even seen The Replacements, perhaps it's a figment of our collective psyche, it's the film we need it to be to fill the long Saturday nights when there's nothing else going on. Moreover are there others out there who have an equally run-of-the-mill film that holds an important spot in their hearts, for equally tenuous reasons?