A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a dozen movies that I wanted to see again and considered underappreciated. Here’s the antithesis: a dozen movies with critical raves, Academy Awards or box-office cash up the wazoo, yet I would rather shoot my eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun than have to sit through any one of them again.
(Turn it off! Turn it off!)
Battleship Potemkin: The cineaste inside me says, “Sergei Eisenstein’s silent classic is one of the most influential films of all-time, establishing the power of montage.” The moviegoer inside me says, “The plot is so one-dimensional and simple-minded that I feel like I’m watching the birth of Fox News.” Fox News says, “The Odessa Steps sequence represents the Obama socialist agenda (the Cossacks) pushing working Americans (the baby carriage) into an imminent massacre.”
Blade Runner: Wait, this is supposed to be L.A, right? So why is it always raining or snowing and since when do they have an insane amount of pedestrians? This is science fiction all right! And why are visions of the future always so bleak - forbidding architecture (dark, oppressive), everyone living in tall buildings? Doesn’t anyone live in a McMansion? And if the replicants are so dangerous, why do the police assemble only one (count ‘em, one) agent to hunt them down? And why am I writing everything in the form of a question?
The Blair Witch Project: Seriously, was anybody scared by this laughable piece of crap? If you knew the gimmick going into the theater, how could you swallow a second of it? Just shows that you can sell anything with a clever p.r. campaign. (Personal note: one of the stars of the sequel, Erica Leerhsen, grew up across the street from my parents. Of course, that was well after I moved out.)
Borat: Shortly after this movie came out, I penned a long screed about why I laughed when Sacha Baron Cohen, as Ali G, made political blowhards uncomfortable, but why I didn't laugh when he did it to ordinary citizens. One example: the dinner party scene where he hands the hostess a Ziploc full of his feces (oh, that’s hilarious), tells another woman she’s not attractive (I woulda slugged him) and then brings in the black hooker in hot pants as his date. Of course, that was supposed to make this dignified white Southern group look racist, but I bet an African-American family would have had the same reaction to the trashy guest. I also noted how, whenever Borat came upon a politically acceptable group, like the feminists, his own ignorance became the butt of the joke, but when it was anyone else, their “bigotry” was the point. (Salon posted a detailed article about the manipulations.)
Gone With the Wind: “Lawdy, dem slaves sho’ was happy with dey white massas!” A Southern white belle – and not even a nice one - who owns slaves is the heroine of a book and movie 70 years after the end of Civil War? She’ll never go hungry again? Frankly, I don’t give a damn!
Kiss Me Deadly: A cult classic that, when I finally saw it, seemed laughably overwrought – a noir movie that ends with a nuclear explosion! But boy, Cloris Leachman was hot when she was young!
Moulin Rouge: After 15 minutes of this digital migraine headache, I was screaming, “Turn it off! I’ve seen better film on teeth!”
Out of Africa / The English Patient: Should have been rated “X” – no one will be admitted without an extra X chromosome.
Philadelphia: Yeah, yeah, first major Hollywood film about gays, Hanks is great, yada yada. But I was thoroughly annoyed by the way Hanks’ family pampered him during his final days. At a time when many gay men dying of AIDS were shunned by their families, it seemed to be avoiding a harsh truth. More annoying: After Hollywood liberal Mary Steenburgen, as a corporate lawyer, grills Hanks’ character about his sexual behavior, she mutters to the camera, “I hate this case!” so we stupid viewers will be reminded that she’s just reading scripted dialogue and she’s not really a homophobe. Thanks, Mary, I almost forgot for a minute that you were an actress.
Star Wars: Saw this movie three times – on its initial release, on VHS and during its late 1990s re-release, and fell asleep every time. I need a story at least as complex as Dr. Seuss to hold my attention. Yeah, I know, whenever I say I hate Star Wars, everyone looks at me like I’ve got one eye in the middle of my forehead.
There Will Be Blood!: I’m saying something very profound about capitalism! Can’t you tell by the strong, masculine images? Pay attention, or I’ll drink your milkshake! Jeez, you can have my milkshake, I wanted a beer anyway. Plus why was the climactic scene held in a bowling alley? Did the producers run out of money and that was the only location they could afford?
Waiting for Guffman: Everybody keeps telling me how funny Christopher Guest’s improvised movies are, but except for Fred Willard in Best of Show, nothing has triggered more than a titter or a tee-hee from me. You know, Chris, just because you’ve assembled a talented bunch of performers, there’s nothing disreputable about the occasional scripted punch line. (And maybe the next time you play a character, you could make him a little less mincing.) This movie especially irks me because I have a spouse who participates in community theater and none of them resemble any of these characters. But I guess it’s OK for a Hollywood success to mock we poor souls with lesser talents.