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CameronH

The Shawshank Redemption

Does The Shawshank Redemption deserve to be on the AFI list?  

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  1. 1. Does The Shawshank Redemption deserve to be on the AFI list?

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  • Poll closed on 08/02/18 at 03:59 AM

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This week Paul & Amy tunnel through Frank Darabont’s prison allegory The Shawshank Redemption! They discuss the use of opera as a 90’s film signifier, learn why Shawshank was constantly played on TNT, and debate whether this is “the Bud Light of movies.” Plus: comedian and podcaster Duncan Trussell stops by to talk about Stephen King adaptations, and how prison films can be a metaphor for transcendence.

Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your best King Kong grunt or Fay Wray scream! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts.

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Sorry, the forums have been down all day so took the liberty to create a thread for us. I'm looking forward to talking to you all about TSR tomorrow :)

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I haven't seen Shawshank (I know, I know, I'll get to it, something about every human on the planet telling me "You have to watch this!" made me pretty resistant). But just listening to this episode and some of the clips that were pulled, I realized that the 90s were chock full of Soft Piano Dramas. Other examples that come to mind are Field of Dreams (which I know technically came out in 1989), American Beauty, A River Runs Through It, and Forrest Gump, and they're basically movies with multiple scenes where people (usually men) speak very softly about something very serious, and in the background we hear soft piano music. SPD's also usually have lovely cinematography, plenty of pretty shots of sunsets and grand vistas, very pleasant-looking actors, and a general lack of risk-taking. This TOTALLY worked for me in the 90s (I cried a lot more easily back then, but I definitely cried at the four movies I just mentioned, and I'm sure I would have cried at Shawshank if I'd seen it back then). Anyway, now that I've thought of that genre I can't stop thinking of movies that fit into it. And I think it was mostly successful back then, but now it just feels dated (or wonderfully nostalgic, if you're a Shawshank fan). Definitely Oscar bait-y, too.

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Posted (edited)

Hey Unspoolers!

This is Ben from Chicago, avid listener and amateur film critic and podcaster myself. I love unspooled and am watching along each week. I just had a a question/statement regarding the Shawshank Redemption episode - I think one of the reasons this movie is also very well respected but also should be a mark against it being a number one film, is because it's a retelling of the classic Dumas novel the Count of Monte Cristo. The film even mentions this within a library scene where an inmate refers to the author as "dumbass" and Andy saying the inmate would like that book because it's about a prison break. Is this something you noticed as well? 

Edited by Video Droog

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The Bud Light of movies?! How DARE you! If Shawshank is the Bud Light of Movies then Titanic is the Zima of movies.

I am not defending it as a #1 choice or the BEST movie ever, but all of your complaints about the movie can and should be leveled at Titanic, which you loved. Checks all the boxes? Schmacting? No risk-taking? Perfect cable movie? Unambiguous broad character? These are all criticisms that apply to BOTH movies. You even say that it is too perfect. How is that a complaint? You loved Titanic for being a throwback to classic Hollywood but so is Shawshank. I am not saying that you have to like Shawshank, but it's flaws belong in the same breath as Titanic.

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Let's talk for a minute about the IMDB Top 250. Saying that Shawshank is the top film on IMDB is a given fact almost like saying water is wet but this wasn't always the case. Do you know what the first number one movie on IMDB was? Star Wars! Shawshank did come in at number two in 1996 which is an incredible feat if you think about it, considering only a few year earlier it was a massive bomb. The power of TV which I'll get back to later. Soon Star Wars was replaced and you know what replaced it? Nope, not that movie that was sitting in at number two but rather The Godfather. Star Wars tumbled into the high single digits while films like Citizen Kane and Casablanca rose to top five status but Shawshank hung in at number two. This is how things would last for a long time. With The Godfather in first, and Shawshank in second, only losing that spot for a brief moment to Return of the King. Then in 2008, after over ten years of fighting, Shawshank over took The Godfather and became number one and has reminded there ever since with The Godfather nipping at its heels. Was this due to a massive internet fan support because the internet making it a thing? Nope, simply math and algorithms.

If we think back to the early days of the internet when Shawshank first hit the top of the IMDB charts, it wasn't because the movie had a sudden swelling of popularity or something. There was no social media to get people to go online and vote. No, the movie as mentioned was a bomb and therefor cheap for cable companies which resulted in high TV play time. It had recognizable actors of the time and was on TV a lot so people tuned in and watched it. The movie, for the most part, is TV friendly as well with little editing needing to be done. It's not going to suffer like some other movies from a harmful TV edit. This fact lead to many people watching it. Young and old, man and woman, all quadrants watching it. This is why it had solid early ratings. As time goes on other movies come out but Shawshank stays an evergreen cable classic. Which means as the years go on more people were easily exposed to it, so more people ranked it. It was always the most rated movie even from the earliest days. It's growth was consistent with the growth of the site. There was never a massive influx of votes for it, only slightly spiking when Facebook and IMDB were linked. What happened was the way IMBD did their algorithms. They decided to weight the reviews and take into account the number of reviews. So this movie that as always been the most rated suddenly gets that tiny bump to move it to number one. The Godfather which sits only 0.1 star ranking behind it actually has 600,000 votes less. The only other movie that comes close to number of votes is The Dark Knight which is only about 30,000 behind and comes in at number four.

So what does this all mean? Does this make it the greatest movie of all time? No. IMDB is user rated. Ranging from people voting that study film, to those that only watch movies when they have a free Sunday and nothing else is on TV. What it means is there is something to this movie. For this movie to reach and move so many consistently over time speaks volumes for the movie. What it does mean is that the average IMDB user has watched this movie and enjoyed it. I can not understate how impressive it is that after being a failure in theaters the power of TV made this movie an instant and constant chart topper before social media or anything like that telling you it is a hit. If anything in more recent years there has been a push of negativity towards this movie because it is so highly rated online ahead of more technical or artistic films. However, I think simply at the end of the day what it comes down to is this, Shawshank is not technically the best made or innovated movie but it was never trying to be. It was trying to be a movie about hope and redemption and it had a message that spoke through and got to people so it achieved its goals in spades.

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5 minutes ago, Cam Bert said:

Does this make it the greatest movie of all time? No.

Or does it?  If a wide swath of people find the movie to be extremely enjoyable/memorable/moving, is that not a great movie?  I'd argue that IMDB rating is a better measure for greatness than, say, how many Oscars a film gets.  Can only movie critics or people in the biz make such lists?  Anyway, what is 'great'?  

We bumped up on this before, I think in our thread about starting our own shuffling of the top-100... someone asked how we'd do this, and we all had our own ideas.  Is 'greatness' a objective or subjective thing in art?   

(Just playing a little devil's advocate: I personally don't think it is the greatest movie of all time, but I'm not about to argue such a huge cumulative poll as IMDB users.  I mean, maybe if it were nonsense Amazon 'second opinions' than we could dismiss the rating results right off haha.)

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Cam Bert said:

So what does this all mean? Does this make it the greatest movie of all time? No. IMDB is user rated. Ranging from people voting that study film, to those that only watch movies when they have a free Sunday and nothing else is on TV. What it means is there is something to this movie. For this movie to reach and move so many consistently over time speaks volumes for the movie. What it does mean is that the average IMDB user has watched this movie and enjoyed it. I can not understate how impressive it is that after being a failure in theaters the power of TV made this movie an instant and constant chart topper before social media or anything like that telling you it is a hit. If anything in more recent years there has been a push of negativity towards this movie because it is so highly rated online ahead of more technical or artistic films. However, I think simply at the end of the day what it comes down to is this, Shawshank is not technically the best made or innovated movie but it was never trying to be. It was trying to be a movie about hope and redemption and it had a message that spoke through and got to people so it achieved its goals in spades.

I definitely agree. Shawshank Redemption is certainly not my favorite movie, but the fact that it reaches so many people, so many enjoy it,  such a large number of demographics are moved by it, and how many of those people are willing to watch it repeatedly speaks to its power. I certainly think it's a more well-rounded, enjoyable, and powerful film than Titanic is, which is another ginormous crowd pleaser, but does that in a very different way.

One issue I do have with the episode is how Paul and Amy characterized the film as being like a warm embrace where nothing bad happens to the characters, how there are no real challenges. They did mention this in the podcast, but I think it should be emphasized that Andy Dufresne is RAPED. Repeatedly. It does not compute for me to have a main character, whether he actually is a murderer or not, be subjected to the most grievous violation a human being can experience and shrug that off as inconsequential. The rape is not graphic, exploitative, or depicted as a means of titillation. Instead it demonstrates the bifurcation of human extremes: how the lowest of the low can be overcome by the noblest of human endeavors, like art and the spirit within Andy. Obviously, rape in a prison movie is not unique to Shawshank, but that does not mean the film is an altogether easy experience, for the audience or the characters.

Edited by Elitist Prick
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1 minute ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Or does it?  If a wide swath of people find the movie to be extremely enjoyable/memorable/moving, is that not a great movie?  I'd argue that IMDB rating is a better measure for greatness than, say, how many Oscars a film gets.  Can only movie critics or people in the biz make such lists?  Anyway, what is 'great'?  

We bumped up on this before, I think in our thread about starting our own shuffling of the top-100... someone asked how we'd do this, and we all had our own ideas.  Is 'greatness' a objective or subjective thing in art?   

(Just playing a little devil's advocate: I personally don't think it is the greatest movie of all time, but I'm not about to argue such a huge cumulative poll as IMDB users.  I mean, maybe if it were nonsense Amazon 'second opinions' than we could dismiss the rating results right off haha.)

Oh for sure. I think a very valid an argument can be made for public opinion being a greater decider. 

If it was based of Amazon reviews the number one movie would be based on speediness of delivery if I've learned anything from Second Opinions.

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2 minutes ago, Elitist Prick said:

I definitely agree. Shawshank Redemption is certainly not my favorite movie, but the fact that it reaches so many people, so many enjoy it,  such a large number of demographics are moved by it, and how many of those people are willing to watch it repeatedly speaks to its power. I certainly think it's a more well-rounded, enjoyable, and powerful film than Titanic is, which is another ginormous crowd pleaser, but does that in a very different way.

I would also argue that Titanic is just as manipulative if not worse in terms of trying to force emotion but gets to hide it behind "true events" and effects.

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I also think it's the job of critics and Film Nerds to keep artistically fulfilling films in the conversation. If we left it TOTALLY up to popular opinion, Avatar would be among the greatest films ever made based purely on box office numbers. We needs critics and hardcore fans to be around to say, "no idiots, Citizen Kane and Blade Runner are worth remembering and re-watching. This Ingmar Bergman guy? He has a couple good ones."

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Posted (edited)

@CameronH are you able to add a poll to this thread?  "Does Shawshank Redemption belong on the AFI 100?"

ETA - cool we can @ each other now.  

Edited by tomspanks
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5 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

@CameronH are you able to add a poll to this thread?  "Does Shawshank Redemption belong on the AFI 100?"

ETA - cool we can @ each other now.  

What can't this new forum do?!?

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I've been listening since episode one.  In fact, if it weren't for this podcast I would never have gone back to rewatch Titanic.  

I enjoyed it at first, but as the shows went on I have started to become less and less enthusiastic about it.  In fact, with the most recent episode on The Shawshank Redemption, I actually couldn't get past Amy's initial comments regarding this film.  I will eventually get back to listening to the entire episode, but I find it very troubling that she's dismissing this film in the same way that she mentioned people dismiss Citizen Kane.  This dismissal essentially boils down to over saturation.  I could hear this in my head as the episode began, although it was never literally said, "Too many people like it, and think it's great, so I'm going to use this as an opportunity to bash it using generalities and oversimplifications to sound hip and smarter than everyone else."

There have been other issues I've had with the podcast reaching all the way back to The Wizard of Oz episode.  Namely, that the subtext of the film had something to do with the economic environment of the early 1900's in the United States.  This theory, that's been around since the 1960's, has since been debunked multiple times.  With L. Frank Baum being an active participant in the women's suffragist movement (he was a member of a supportive club of that movement) makes it much more likely that he was saying something about women coming of age in taking charge of their own lives. All the strong characters are women, the male characters all lacking in some way or another, and Dorthy having the power to send herself home all along all support this interpretation, and yet this was never brought up.

The question of why these movies are on the list has come up.  Is it because they are groundbreaking, or because they are great movies that are just as great today?  Obviously, most of the movies on the list are there because they were groundbreaking.  They have changed how we think of cinema, how we make films, and even had some effect on society.  In the same way that we still study Shakespear, and hold in high regard is why these movies are on this list.  Regardless of them standing up to films today, they were the beginning of a new direction or were the pinnacle of the craft in general.  We may have newer films that we feel are better, (Terminator 2 is by far a greater film than Titanic) but the films on this are why we have those newer greater films.

I promise to listen to the rest of the podcast at some point, but it's going to take me a while if all it boils down to is a hipster dislike of a movie that is genuinely a great film.

Also, who on earth actually takes IMDb ratings seriously?

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1 hour ago, Quasar Sniffer said:

I definitely agree. Shawshank Redemption is certainly not my favorite movie, but the fact that it reaches so many people, so many enjoy it,  such a large number of demographics are moved by it, and how many of those people are willing to watch it repeatedly speaks to its power. I certainly think it's a more well-rounded, enjoyable, and powerful film than Titanic is, which is another ginormous crowd pleaser, but does that in a very different way.

One issue I do have with the episode is how Paul and Amy characterized the film as being like a warm embrace where nothing bad happens to the characters, how there are no real challenges. They did mention this in the podcast, but I think it should be emphasized that Andy Dufresne is RAPED. Repeatedly. It does not compute for me to have a main character, whether he actually is a murderer or not, be subjected to the most grievous violation a human being can experience and shrug that off as inconsequential. The rape is not graphic, exploitative, or depicted as a means of titillation. Instead it demonstrates the bifurcation of human extremes: how the lowest of the low can be overcome by the noblest of human endeavors, like art and the spirit within Andy. Obviously, rape in a prison movie is not unique to Shawshank, but that does not mean the film is an altogether easy experience, for the audience or the characters.

Our main character is wrongfully imprisoned for decades. I mean, the entire premise of the movie is challenging even if he does escape and makes the best of his situation.

Andy is beaten, raped, put in solitary confinement, threatened by guards, kept in prison after a corrupt warden had a witness murdered in cold blood to keep wrongfully imprisoned man for profit (so, functionally literal slavery). It's a movie that's nothing but challenges for Andy. One of the film's greatest abilities is making it feel good despite what's happening to Andy. Plus, what happens to other people like Red who become broken in prison and Brooks who felt he needed to kill himself because he couldn't manage life outside.

I admit that when I watch Shawshank it does feel like a "feel good" movie but it's a horrific story.

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38 minutes ago, W.Alexander said:

Also, who on earth actually takes IMDb ratings seriously?

Straight white dudes who hate women being in Ghostbusters.

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52 minutes ago, W.Alexander said:

Also, who on earth actually takes IMDb ratings seriously?

I mean, why not?  We're taking the AFI list seriously.  Why is it better?

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Honestly, it doesn't surprise me that The Shawshank Redemption is number one on IMDb. Like Paul said on the episode (and as I implied in my Letterboxd review), for a movie about someone falsely imprisoned, it's very relatable. I think most people can empathize with a genuinely good character who is the victim of injustice. It's basically the story of Job - a person suffers at the caprice of Fate, but is ultimately rewarded for their Faith. That doesn't necessarily make it the best movie ever made, but it's something that people can relate to on a gut level. Certainly moreso than sociopathic space computers or Billionaire newspaper mogels and their fetish for winter sports equipment. And just because it's relatable doesn't make it bad. It's just a catchy tune. There's a time for "Hey Jude" and there's a time for "Revolution 9", you know? Just because something is commercial doesn't make it better or worse.

So, yeah, number one on IMDb? Sure. I get that. Does it belong on the AFI List? For me, yes. It's not the greatest film of all time, but I feel like its cultural impact alone warrants it a spot.  

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1 hour ago, tomspanks said:

@CameronH are you able to add a poll to this thread?  "Does Shawshank Redemption belong on the AFI 100?"

ETA - cool we can @ each other now.  

I'm not sure how. There are definitely times when I would have loved to create one, though.

ETA: NM - I figured it out :)

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4 hours ago, PoeJarsons said:

The Bud Light of movies?! How DARE you! If Shawshank is the Bud Light of Movies then Titanic is the Zima of movies.

I am not defending it as a #1 choice or the BEST movie ever, but all of your complaints about the movie can and should be leveled at Titanic, which you loved. Checks all the boxes? Schmacting? No risk-taking? Perfect cable movie? Unambiguous broad character? These are all criticisms that apply to BOTH movies. You even say that it is too perfect. How is that a complaint? You loved Titanic for being a throwback to classic Hollywood but so is Shawshank. I am not saying that you have to like Shawshank, but it's flaws belong in the same breath as Titanic.

According to Paul's Instagram post about said quote, he meant that no matter where you're at there's someone that likes Bud Light and that's how he feels about Shawshank. It's gonna always be available to the masses and universally held as something liked by people. Jonah Ray even commented on it and said, "Bud Light is great," and Paul responded, "As an active Bud Light drinker, I agree. My argument is that Bud Light is indisputable everyone can drink it."

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Posted (edited)

well... my feelings towards Bud Light, as a beer fan, is that it is watered-down pseudo-beer, and that nobody SHOULD drink it.

and as someone who likes Shawshank pretty well, this whole Bud Light metaphor hurts.

Edited by AlmostAGhost
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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

well... my feelings towards Bud Light, as a beer fan, is that it is watered-down pseudo-beer, and that nobody SHOULD drink it.

and as someone who likes Shawshank pretty well, this whole Bud Light metaphor hurts.

Couldn't agree more. I have friends that purposefully choose that over other, note better, beers on tap and I always ALWAYS make fun of them.

ETA: I do purposefully order it if we're also doing shots and I need a chaser that's cheap lol.

Edited by taylorannephoto
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18 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

ETA: I do purposefully order it if we're also doing shots and I need a chaser that's cheap lol.

Right yea... cost is the only acceptable reason!

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Unlike Amy, I didn't really have a problem with Andy knowing when the thunder was going to clap, but I did wonder how he managed to squeeze in that tiny hole. After it bursts, he pokes his head in and it just barely fits. What tool could he possibly have on him that could make that hole any wider?

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