August 21, 2007

10 movies I am supposed to like, but don't - and why

You know that awful feeling when you don't like a film that has received unanimous critical and popular acclaim? You're sitting around with your friends, and they're talking about how great it is, and you don't know whether to pipe up with your opinion and risk being ridiculed and ostracized. Well, I am about to take that risk, and share with you movies that I am "supposed" to like, but don't - and why. Hopefully none of you know where I live. WARNING: Spoilers follow.

- Children of Men
Why I should have liked it: Several Oscar nominations, solid cast, promise of a good story.
Why I didn't: As promised, this film delivered amazing cinematography and visuals - I can't deny that. And I was very intrigued by the premise that woman worldwide suddenly became infertile and the human race risked extinction. Too bad they didn't flesh out that idea AT ALL. I wasn't looking for a scientific play-by-play of why...I just wanted them to explore it more. The film, despite praise for its provocative rendering of the future, is so minimalistic and unexplained that it's basically a glorified road/chase movie. A girl becomes miraculously pregnant (again, no reason given) and Clive Owen and Co. have to smuggle her to The Human Project, which they don't explain either. The characters get killed off carelessly. Julianne Moore, whose character shows promise and an interesting backstory with Owen's, dies unceremoniously about 8 minutes into her screen time. That, my friend, is a waste of Julianne Moore. Michael Caine gets offed too, and Clive-dawg dies right at the end. I get it. These individuals have to die so mankind can survive. What's that vague throbbing pain I feel? Oh, it's this movie whacking me violently over the head with its message. Plus, they just show the pregnant girl (who has since given birth to her baby) arriving at a boat that supposedly contains members of The Human Project. They don't even show her getting on the boat! I kept thinking how funny it would be if the boat didn't see her and left. Maybe her baby is sickly (um hello, it was about six weeks premature and spent the first couple of days of its life in a war zone) and it dies the second she gets on the boat. Oops, sorry, human race.

- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Why I should have liked it: Won the coveted 5-Oscar sweep (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), inclusion in the AFI Top 100, Jack Nicholson finally channeling his craziness into a movie about a mental institution.
Why I didn't: You'd think that a movie about crazy people would have a lot of energy, but this film just seemed lethargic to me. Maybe it's the 3-hour running time. You see, I have a short attention span. I am not opposed to long movies, but if it goes for one nanosecond over two hours, it better be fucking captivating. I had absolutely no problem with Gone With the Wind being four hours long, because I feel that every minute was entertaining and justified. But a film this slow and psychological just can't be this long. Plus, everyone's obsessed with Louise Fletcher's performance as Nurse Ratched (for which she won an Oscar) but I wasn't terribly impressed. She just reminded me of my uptight 11th-grade chemistry teacher who really needed to get laid.

- M
Why I should have liked it: It's a universally praised 1931 German thriller by Fritz Lang starring Peter Lorre as a child killer! Fun!
Why I didn't: Seriously though, I was kind of excited to watch this. It let me down. In fact, I only got through about 30-45 minutes. Petey didn't even show up til pretty far in, so it was just a bunch of unknown German actors running around with mild concern because they couldn't find their kids. I could see that at a playground. Maybe it gets better later on, but I don't know if I can sit through enough to find out.

- Blade Runner
Why I should have liked it: Hailed by some as the greatest sci-fi movie ever, just got included in the revamped AFI Top 100 list, cult favorite.
Why I didn't: In the film's defense, I think its 78 different versions hurt it. Okay, there's only about 6, but that's still a few too many versions. I saw the director's cut, just because it was the version available to rent. I did think that the futuristic vision of L.A. was pretty cool. But Harrison Ford's acting ineptitude is just unbearable to watch. I recently read an article that accused Ford of constantly having his mouth hanging open to look dramatic and pensive. It's painful. He shows the dramatic range of celery. The still unanswered question as to whether Ford's character is a replicant is also problematic. It'd be fine to just leave it open, but Ridley Scott and Ford keep having these arguments about it (Scott allegedly said he was a replicant; Ford said that he and Scott had explicitly agreed that he wasn't) that I think weaken the film. The love story seems forced, and Daryl Hannah's character is just fuckin weird. Sorry, Blade Runner.

- Lord of the Rings
Why I should have liked it: The third one won best picture and got included in the new AFI Top 100, film snobs and Tolkien nerds alike hold it in high regard
Why I didn't: I only saw the first one, but I already know I couldn't deal with the other two. I think to fully enjoy them, you have to have a huge boner for the books, or at least the characters. I didn't. We read "The Hobbit" in 7th grade and I was not impressed (although I did deliver a stunning performance as Thorin in our class' movie adaptation). Also, I am not interested in movies with such an epic scope. Whether it's the Civil War or Middle Earth, I don't like wrapping my brain around that much in one movie. I prefer movies that focus on the lives of just a few people. When Return of the King won Best Picture in 2003, resulting in a united asthmatic wheeze of joy from nerds everywhere, I found it strange that among its numerous nominations, there was not a single acting nomination. How do you have a strong movie without good acting?

- My Fair Lady
Why I should have liked it: Won Best Picture and Best Actor, inclusion in the AFI Top 100, my undying love for musicals.
Why I didn't: The movie should really be called "An Hour of Audrey Hepburn Screaming, Followed By a Forced Love Story." Seriously, the beginning of this film made me want to honorably retire my ears. I get it, she's a Cockney flower girl - but I didn't know that "Cockney flower girl" was synonymous with "autistic indecipherable screaming bitch." Once Rex Harrison's character "tames" her, she falls for him. Because if there's one thing women love, it's men that spend months torturing and ridiculing them until they have proper grammar. At the end, AuHeps runs away, decides she loves him, and goes back, and then it ends with him telling her to get him his slippers. Great. A blissful life of chauvinistic domination awaits her. Oh, and did I mention that it's 3 hours long?

- The Sting
Why I should have liked it: It won Best Picture in 1973, and it stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
Why I didn't: I made it through about an hour. It's all fine and good, but I realized the problem - it has no oomph. It was in the drama section at the video store, but it's not dramatic. It's not that funny either. It's not really action-packed. It was just kind of matter-of-fact, like someone describing their day at work. That's not what I want from movies. Oh, and I think I was expecting Paul Newman to look as delicious as he did in the 1950s. Damn aging!

- Sideways
Why I should have liked it: I liked Alexander Payne's other directing work, Oscar for best adapted screenplay, seemingly indie and quirky.
Why I didn't: I saw this in the theater, and perhaps my impression of it is tainted because I was new to driving at the time and got terribly lost on the way home. Anyway, this must have come out amongst a sea of pure cinematic crap, because it got hailed as the most unique and indie thing of all time. It's not. Writer/director Alexander Payne is very hit or miss. He wrote the (adapted) screenplays for Election and About Schmidt...but he also wrote the screenplays for Jurassic Park III and some softcore porn. Hm. Thoms Haden Church's character is fun, but Paul Giamatti's character in this is just plain unlikeable. He's a grumpy, frumpy, whiny alcoholic. As we all know, women totally go gaga for men like that, and Maya (Virginia Madsen) is no exception. That would never happen. The part where I really threw up in my mouth a little, though, is when Maya and Miles (Giamatti) are talking about pinot wine, during a Deep Moment of Mutual Sharing. What transpires here is a Blatant Comparison of Miles to Pinot As Written By A Developmentally Delayed Third Grader. "Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression"?!?! Oh wait, you guys, see, like, Miles is socially challenged, so I think A. Payne is actually talking about MILES here and saying you have to be patient with him or something. WHOA.

- Manhattan
Why I should have liked it: I like Woody Allen, and this is hailed as one of his best.
Why I didn't: I don't like watching Woody Allen carry on a relationship with a 17-year-old for two hours. It was just too creepy - and prophetic. Plus, the entire movie was just really depressing, but then Muriel Hemingway says some catchy happy bullshit at the very end and it's all better? Not.

- Vertigo
Why I should have liked it: I'd never met a Hitchcock movie I didn't like, it soared up the AFI list this time around.
Why I didn't: I don't know. Something just didn't click with me. I found the plot confusing, the characters unsympathetic, the ending weird. I know I am probably alone here.

So there you have it. I have probably made many enemies here today, but hopefully I've also made some friends who can sympathize with the feeling of not liking a popular movie. What movies tickle everyone's fancy but yours? Comments welcome, but please don't try to convert me to liking the above selections. Live and let live, people.


Kristen said...

Great idea for a post! I agreed with you on almost every movie on this list that I'd seen. Sideways was b.s. faux-intellectualism that made me distrust wine snobs forever, and My Fair Lady always enrages me with its sexism whenever I see a production of the musical or the film. (It also makes me mad when people try to explain to me why it's actually not misogynistic as it sounds!) I have been wanting to see Children of Men for awhile, but I'll be keeping your skepticism in mind when I finally get around to renting it. :)

Scott Nye said...'ve made enemies. You don't like movies with an epic scope? You've just cut yourself off from a huge portion of cinematic history. I'm not one to defend the RINGS movies, but the first one is a masterpiece.

And can't put up with just about any movie over 2 hours? Why limit? Take a break for God's sake. Like Ebert said one time, no good movie is too long, no bad movie too short.

Also, you seem to have a bias against any movie that doesn't explain itself almost entirely. First, there are any number of situations in life that aren't explained entirely, and second, half the joy in those movies are the various interpretations that come from it. Like, you know, any other great work of art.

I love you Julie, but you anger me so sometimes.

As long as we're at it though, I don't like the second thirds of the RINGS movies, was similarly bored by CUCKOO'S NEST (love the book though), hate SIDEWAYS, and think CHILDREN OF MEN is really overrated (but it's a truly great action movie).

Julie said...

Oh Scotty...please let me defend myself, because you actually DO know where I live.

I don't think I defined "epic scope" properly. I felt that LOTR was more about Middle Earth than the characters. I couldn't connect with the characters when they were onscreen, because I kept feeling that it was supposed to be about The Bigger Picture. Compare this to "Gone With the Wind," arguably a Civil War epic, that has the political and social events as a backdrop but does focus primarily on the four main characters.

As for running time, I was cursed with a short attention span. I agree that no good movie can be too long, but if it's a movie that I'm not really digging in the first place, I'm just gonna get angry that it's taking up so much time.

Scott Nye said...

Well, that's what I'm saying...if it's just not a good movie, or at least one you don't enjoy on whatever level, it can't possibly be short enough (though if I'm watching it on DVD, I'll just turn that sucker off...happened to me this summer with Roman Polanski's Macbeth, and that's only a touch over two hours, but an hour in I was just like "screw this movie").

As for LOTR...possibly. I see the point you're making, I'm just not sure if I agree. Part of what makes it work is totally the scope and the imagery (and I'm an hour away from finishing GONE WITH THE WIND tonight, but I gotta say the imagery is playing a large part into how much I'm digging that movie), and it is about way more than the struggles of its characters, but the characters are undeniably well-drawn, and I know for a lotta people who are big fans, it's Sam and Frodo's relationship that kept bringing them back (I always thought Sean Astin was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination, never mind a win, for RETURN OF THE KING).

Anonymous said...

A film I just can't like but everybody else seems to love would be Fargo
I really don't understand why though
I just didn't get that "oh man this is amazing" feeling while watching it
I thought it was just okay
and I too wsn't that impressed by the LOTR movies after awhile
They were cool when they came out about the time I was 10-11-12
but four years later Eh

Alex said...

I found your blog from a link on I like it a lot. The funny thing is, just this morning, I was thinking of posting this very topic on my blog, 10 movies everyone likes but me. I still might but don't think I'm stealing your idea.

I'm not going to take you to task on the movies that I like on your list but I wanted to put my two cents in about M. I tried on 3 separate occasions to watch it on DVD and I couldn't get more than 30 minutes into it. But I saw it on the big screen 2 weeks ago and I was riveted. Some movies just don't fare well on TV and need to be seen in a theatre.

brian said...

I think Harrison Ford is actually pretty underrated as an actor. Of course, he hasn't really given a great performance since Witness, but still. He's certainly not a showy actor. His performance in Blade Runner grounds the movie, gives us someone to relate to. I won't defend the film, because you either like it or you don't. I have several friends who don't. I think it's brilliant (the director's cut & hopefully, the upcoming final cut). You really dislike Harrison Ford? Are you one of the 2 or 3 people in this country that dislikes Raiders of the Lost Ark?

brian said...

One more thing. Ford is brilliant in The Mosquito Coast.

El Gigante said...

I admire the courage and conviction behind this post even if I completely disagree with it. I am glad that I discovered this blog as it is alternatively intriguing and hilarious (and always well written). Kudos.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the idea of the post, and the courage it took to write it, but I must say that I own quite a few of the movies listed, and these are some of my favorite films.

LOTR - The trilogy is just beautiful, and the way in which Jackson and crew pulled it off is remarkable. Plus, they're just great movies.

Manhattan - I'm a big Woody Allen fan, so I am biased in that regard. The film's black and white depiction of NY is beautiful, and this is enhanced by Gershwin's score.

Children of Men - This was one of my favorite movies from 2006. Cuaron's direction is amazing. The cinematography is great, but I just think it's a powerful film in general.

There may be others, but these were the big ones for me. Again, I really like the idea for the post, and it's just natural that there is some disagreement when discussing a medium like film.

P.S. I just found this blog and I am truly glad I did. It's well written, original, hilarious, and just plain entertaining. Well done.