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A Seriously Random List Specifically Designed to Elicit Outrage

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | March 29, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | March 29, 2010 |

Human nature is a bizarre and wonderful thing. There’s a part of us all that likes to be manipulated, and we often allow ourselves to give in to it, even when that manipulation is completely phony and transparent. Where would the movie industry be without our willingness to be manipulated? Chuck Klosterman writes about this in his latest book of his essays, Eating the Dinosaur, specifically with regard to current state of advertising. In that piece, he talks about the evolution of marketing, the invention of media duplicity during the “Mad Men” era, and how it’s evolved from that into today’s brand of emotional transference; in the modern era, we like a product because it’s associated with something else we like (think Air Jordans) not because of its own intrinsic value. “You sell people Pepsi by selling them Obama,” he writes, illustrating this principal. “That’s the trick, and everyone knows it. So, what happens when everyone knows the trick? Does it still work?”

“It does,” he states. “It works better.”

I’ve been considering that a lot these last few days, and how I could illustrate that point within the context of Pajiba. Then, a friend of mine texted me his own Seriously Random List the other night. I looked at it, and I thought: “It’s the perfect list. It’s inarguable. People who love movies could not reasonably dispute this list.” And of course, that made it useless for a site like Pajiba. There’s a certain art to the Seriously Random List, and I think most of our readers realize this, even if it’s not explicitly stated. If there are ten excellent choices, then you only list five. If there are 20 great possibilities, then you list ten. Even recognizing the frivolous nature of an SRL, there has to be room for argument, or the Seriously Random List fails as a means to generate discussion.

It’s not that the SRLs I write are dishonest — if I choose the top five of something, it’s the top five I believe. But, there’s room for reasonable minds to disagree (obvious ones are also left out occasionally because of simple or stupid oversight). It’s the ones that are left out, of course, that generate the discussion. A list completest may get points for not leaving out anything, but it doesn’t allow a lot of room for debate (which is what part of this site is about). The list of the Decade’s Best Films at the end of last year demonstrated that notion perfectly: So worried that they might leave something out, a lot of site runners put together a list of the Top 50 or the Top 100 films of the decade, or else included 10 or 20 honorable mentions. Part of that is ego, and part of that is the fear of the dreaded comment, “But HOW could you leave off ______! What a fucking moron!”

Movie critics, by and large, are insecure narcissists. They don’t like to be called a moron. That’s in part why they create Top 50 or Top 100 lists when the universe of real possibilities is only 50 or 100. It’s also why, in many cases, they won’t own up to an oversight — they’ll create an argument to justify the omission. They’re bull-headed motherfuckers. If you’re paid to be an expert in one field, you don’t like to be told you’re wrong. (Obviously, that behavior is not exclusive to movie critics; an Internet soapbox and a press credential is often all that separates a movie critic from a troll).

That’s not always the case with our Seriously Random Lists — sometimes, they’re unashamedly designed to provoke. Long-time readers of the site probably understand this, just like most media consumers understand the nature of modern advertising. But if I told you, outright, that the list below was specifically designed to elicit outrage (it’s right there in the title), would it still work? I’m gambling that it will. I’m gambling that the urge among Pajiba commenters to correct an oversight is so powerful that you won’t be able to resist. That you will be compelled, driven by your own sense of what is right and wrong in this world. That you won’t allow it to stand. Not without noting your objections. It’s like obsessive compulsive disorder: You understand why you keep avoiding the cracks on the sidewalk, but it doesn’t stop you from doing it.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m curious.

Let’s find out:

The Five Best Time Travel Movies of All Time

5. The Butterfly Effect (2004), written and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber.

Logline: A young man blocks out harmful memories of significant events of his life. As he grows up, he finds a way to remember these lost memories and a supernatural way to alter his life.

4. Star Trek (2009) Written by Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Directed by J.J. Abrams.

Logline: A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members.

3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) Written and directed by James Cameron.

Logline: The cyborg who once tried to kill Sarah Connor must now protect her teenager son, John Connor, from an even more powerful and advanced cyborg.

2. Army of Darkness (1992). Written and directed by Sam Raimi.

Logline: A man is accidentally transported to 1300 A.D., where he must battle an army of the dead and retrieve the Necronomicon so he can return home.

1. Time Crimes (2007). Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo.

Logline: A man accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour. Finding himself will be the first of a series of disasters of unforeseeable consequences.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.