|| Print ||
|Written by April Yorke|
|Wednesday, 24 November 2010 00:00|
As the sage Ferris Bueller once observed, "Life moves pretty fast." Given its pace, you should be judicious about how you spend your time at the multiplex or the video store. Fortunately, we've got your back. Below, you'll find our companion piece to last year's Underrated List. It's our A to Z guide for everything in movies you should avoid.
Bow to the mighty power of the prestige picture. Studios load up September to January with middlebrow melodramas aimed not at you and me but at Academy members, hoping to take home a prize between December and March. And for what? Academy members get DVD screeners. That leaves critic's circles (who also often get screeners). The thinking behind this plan is that what's top of mind -- and what's associated with the now standard movie seasons -- will have a better shot at bringing home a statuette. Instead, let's all take a lesson from last year's big winner: The Hurt Locker. It started making the festival circuit in fall 2008 and was released in the summer of 2009. That's right: summer! There are plenty of weekends to go around, so why not spread the wealth a little? If you give us more and better options year round, we'll be filling up your coffers every quarter instead of just one.
When an actor makes it big, studios rush to release everything in that actor's back catalogue, hoping that the star will be enough of a draw to win back the studio's money or even make a tidy profit. Which is all well and good for the studio, but pity the Twilight star that suddenly has to do interviews promoting Little Ashes or Welcome to the Rileys. Studios often release these movies in too few markets to truly pick up the burgeoning star's fan base, never mind the fact that many of those fans just want to see sparkle motion vampires, not said vampire's take on Dalí (for the record, they're remarkably similar). So why do it at all? Better to banish these entries direct to video, where people are more likely to pick up an embarrassing title.
Critics v. Commenters
Finding a community that shares your values/opinions is a stroke of luck. When that luck is used to get together to bash a critic because he or she seemingly bashed a movie you haven't yet seen, you're doing it wrong. Critics, in the end, are fallible human beings who bring their own tastes and biases along with their education and expertise. If a critic expresses an opinion that you don't agree with, you are, of course, free to let that person know via the comments or an email. Then let it go. Going on and on about how that critic is "destroying" a movie's Metacritic rating or threatening him or her with harm is above and beyond. No one critic has the power to sink a movie, and, above all, no one critic should have the power to ruin a movie for you.
Aside from New Moon or The Ghost Writer, his scores are mostly boring and inoffensive, as opposed to actively terrible, but, whether it's The Queen or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, his work generally has a few moments of "look at me! look at me!" pretentiousness that doesn't sit well. Scores should elevate movies, drawing out feelings without the audience realizing what's happening instead of drawing attention to themselves.
English is an absolutely fantastic, transcendent, laudable language. But it's not the only one in the world in which movies are produced. Whether it's cinéma québécoise or the prodigious output from Bollywood each year, there's no reason to let subtitles put you off. Missing out on a world of cinema because you "don't go to the movies to read" is ridiculous. And don't even get us started on American remakes of foreign movies. Let Me In? No, we will not.
Facile Female CharacterizationHave you ever seen a movie about a pretty girl? Did she have issues? Were they daddy issues? Why yes, they were. Giving a female character daddy issues does not make her complex. It makes her the same as every other female character who needed a little shading. Worse still is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who got hair colour in the place of a personality.
Worried your cultural relevance may be slipping now that you are no longer working on a popular action series? Release a movie that's clearly been sitting on the shelf for two years to remind everyone who you are! One glitch: no one cares about the combination of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon when they're not making Bourne movies.
Remember circa 2001, when we found out there were two Hugh Grants? There's the floppy haired Four Weddings and a Funeral Hugh Grant, and there's the sexy, dirty Bridget Jones's Diary Hugh Grant. Message Mr. Grant: Bury the former, and you'll never have to make a movie like Did You Hear About the Morgans? again.
Here lie "spoilers" for a movie we've not yet seen: Love and Other Drugs. Anne Hathaway is sick, probably dying. That's why she doesn't want commitment from Jake Gyllenhaal (women couldn't possibly want to keep things simple for any other reason, could they?). Fortunately, she's got movie sickness: she'll have relatively few symptoms and look luminous right up until the end. And how do we know this? Love Story.
Yes, we all love his iconic work for the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. But what has John Williams done for us lately? Get musicians to saw away at their violins? He used to know how to use a full orchestra. Someone should take away his wand.
Knew Him When
Sometimes, rather than celebrating the success of an actor we've seen struggling on the fringes for years, we find ourselves a little resentful of his or her newfound fandom. As a result, we make a point of being all, "Yeah, he was much better in Sylvia." Stop doing this. You don't look like a cinephile, you look like a dick. So the next time someone tells you that they think Vincent Cassel is looking good in Black Swan, just agree. If the conversation keeps going, you can drop in La haine, politely.
Lord of the Rings, The
Much to the chagrin of our former cinema editor, we've never gotten the appeal of these movies. They're long, they're boring, and they never end when you want them to. Howard Shore's bitchin' Two Towers trailer music is just a remix of Clint Mansell's Requiem for a Dream score. It's not that we're opposed to mystical otherworlds. It's just that there's never much of a reason to care about this one.
A list, B list, C list, Z list. Who made up these designations? Why? As far as we can tell, the only people who are consistently raking it in at the box office are wizards, vampires, and super heroes. Yet no "A-listers" star in these movies. Would it be so crazy to throw away these lists and let actors focus on the doing the work? Yes? Sigh.
We're all for nostalgia. We still quote Don's perfect pitch. What we're not for is shared nostalgia as the sole reason to greenlight all manner of projects. As much as Peter Berg + Tim Riggins + Eric Northman gives us hope, a Battleship movie? Shared nostalgia is an easy way to establish a feeling of kinship at a cocktail party, but it's not going to get our butts in seats for Monopoly: The Movie.
We're sorry that we understood Wall Street so that Mr. Stone felt he had go Michael Haneke on us and explain it in more detail in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. We're sorry that it was necessary to drag Carey Mulligan into it and give her a character that was endlessly, inexplicably hypocritical while giving neither her nor the movie any room to examine why that might be. We promise to do better next time, so long as Mr. Stone promises us that there is no next time.
Hey, look! Guys wandering around in the jungle! Still wandering around in the jungle! Still . . . wandering . . . around . . . in . . . the . . . jungle. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't lead to so many official and unofficial sequels, culminating in 2010's Predators, which cannot be redeemed by Gyulas Pados's lush cinematography or even Danny Trejo calling Adrien Brody his hog.
Quest for Self-Discovery via Self-Imposed Exile
There is only one story of note in which the protagonist achieves any sort of enlightment via exile, and that is The Catcher in the Rye. It is certainly not a movie about a beautiful woman who negotiates a hefty book advance so she can gallivant around the world, having her life affirmed by white men, and banging Billy Crudup, James Franco, and Javier Bardem in the worst example of filmic white privilege not perpetrated by Nancy Meyers. "Forgive yourself"? For what, living the dream? Shut up, Eat Pray Love.
Lest we let romantic comedies die their overdue death, romantic round-ups have swooped in to take their place so that Julia Roberts can make $500,000 a minute for Valentine's Day. You know, that movie that's stitched together from the discarded scraps of six romantic comedies that couldn't get produced on their own. But isn't Julia's smile worth every penny?
Sequels 20 Years Too Late
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps at least had some cultural relevance going for it, but where are the audiences for Tron: Legacy and now Top Gun 2? Sequels usually do a good enough job of tarnishing the original without having decades of corrosion thrown into the mix.
Unless a movie is made from the ground up as a 3D picture, it isn't worth three extra bucks for motion sickness. Save your money, and your stomach, and stick with 2D.
Underrated lists are easy (well, maybe not X). Overrated lists are hard. It's hard to call something out being taken too seriously or being well liked for no real reason or being liked for the wrong reasons. No one wants to hear that. It's far easier to say, "Hey, look at this thing! Like it!" than "Stop looking at that!"
Visual Artists as Filmmakers
Visual arts and media arts are two distinct disciplines. While directors with great visual style (Baz Luhrmann, Michel Gondry) can make great movies, visual artists with an understanding of film rarely do. Which is how you end up with a movie like The Runaways. Michael Shannon promises us that "rock and roll is a blood sport," yet we spend more time watching the sunlight reflect off Dakota Fanning's hair than gaining any insight into the seminal '70s band.
War On Original Ideas, Hollywood's (tm The Vulture)We saw the same movie four times this year. Did we go see Inception four times? Nope. We saw The Losers, The A-Team, The Expendables, and Red. All of these seemingly different movies are actually the same movie about a team of former military men (and women, in the case of Losers and Red) who are betrayed and band together as mercenaries to clear their names. Only The Expendables gets points for not being an adaptation. As for The Losers and The A-Team, is there a reason they went so far as to set their climactic final battles in the same location?
Ratings can be helpful guidelines for parents. Nowadays, so can Kids In Mind and the thousands of other sites like it. So what purpose do ratings, particularly X-ratings, serve? To keep audiences from movies they might enjoy, like A Fistful of Dollars, Saturday Night Fever, and even 1931's Frankenstein. Is there a parent today who wouldn't let their child watch Frankenstein until her 18th birthday? Is someone tearing their hair out about how their 17-year-old can't handle Saturday Night Fever? Of course not. The MPAA isn't doing anyone any favours.
As pop culture vultures, it's hard to stop ourselves from agreeing with Rob Gordon on this one: "What really matters is what you like, not what you are like. Books, records, films -- these things matter. Call me shallow, but it's the fuckin' truth." What we need to remember, though, is that everyone thinks they have good taste. It is statistically very unlikely that we all do. What we have is tastes. Personal, specific, biased tastes. As much as we can learn about filmmaking, as many movies as we see, we just might end up with shelves that house Twilight along with The Godfather.
Galifianakis isn't actually overrated. What he is is in great danger of becoming overexposed and thus losing his appeal. Slow down, Galifianakis. It's too late to get out of The Hangover II, but, if Due Date is anything to go by, stop taking Todd Phillip's calls. To quote the latter, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Tags: adrien brody is my hog, alphabet, check yourself before you wreak yourself, cinema, list, mad men, nostalgia, overrated, vampires