Archive for the ‘Reasons I Hate Movies’ category

Reasons I Hate Movies #4: January-April

February 18, 2010

I like going to the movie theater.  As this blog proves, I don’t always like the actual movies I see there, but the experience of going to a movie theater is pleasant in its own right.  It’s not enough, though, to warrant going if I don’t think there’s at least some chance that the movie I’ll see is at least decent.

Which is why the first four months of every year are so miserable.  There is nothing worth seeing this time of year.  The movie studios save all of their big blockbusters for the summer so that they can cash in on all of the teenagers who are out of school and searching for something to do with themselves.  They save all of their “quality” dramas for the fall so that these films will still be on people’s minds come Oscar season.  So, since making films that don’t fit the blockbuster or Oscar formula is absolutely out of the question, come January there’s nothing left.

Of course, theaters can’t afford to shut down for four months, so they have to show something.  So what do movie studios do?  They run all of the movies that they’ve held onto because they either wouldn’t be a big box office draw or weren’t good enough to get Oscar buzz.  In other words, they release all of their stored up crap.

Take, for instance, last year’s He’s Just Not That Into You.

This was a movie based on a book that Oprah made famous back in 2005.  Trying to capitalize on the popularity of that book, the studios rushed to make a romantic comedy based on its premise.  So they lined up an all-star cast of B-level celebrities, made some references to trendy new pieces of pop culture like Myspace and text messages, and prepared to rake in the cash as masses of people lined up to see the “feel good movie of the year.”  The only problem is that by the time the movie came out, the book that it was based on was yesterday’s news and Facebook had made Myspace obsolete.

So what happened?  Apparently, even the studios seemed to realize that this movie was crap – and that’s saying something.  But, they’d already made the thing so they were stuck with a multi-million dollar dud that wouldn’t make a penny in theaters if it went up against special effects blockbusters or films that were getting Oscar buzz.  So they held onto it and waited for a time when it wouldn’t have to compete against any films that anyone even remotely cared about.  That time was last February.

Sadly, the strategy worked.  He’s Just Not That Into You hit #1 at the box office and went on to make almost $94 million domestically.  Never mind that it wasn’t even a remotely decent film.  Never mind that its references and even its title were completely dated before the film even came out.  Like a college student getting excited to eat a microwaved pizza that’s been in the freezer for several months because it breaks up a steady diet of Ramen noodles, desperate audiences flocked to the theater to see Jennifer Aniston and Drew Berrymore go through the motions and pick up giant pay checks.

And this has become a yearly ritual.  I haven’t been to the theaters in a couple months.  I’d really like to go.  But I just can’t bring myself to see Wolfman or Valentine’s Day no matter how desperate I am.

In fact, the trend of dumping bad movies on audiences this time of year is so pervasive that even movies that I might normally be interested in, like Scorcese’s Shutter Island, make me nervous.  Sure, it’s a Scorcese (I don’t care what anybody says, his name should be pronounced “score-cease”) film, but why is coming out now?  Why would a director whose films usually generate Oscar buzz come out in February?  There can only be one reason – it isn’t good.

So, I’ll do my best to resist.  As much as I miss the theater, going now will only reinforce the movie studio’s bad behavior.  Instead, for the next few months, I’m putting them in time out.  Yes, I’m treating them like I would a naughty child.  And, yes, that is what they deserve.  And yes, that is another reason that I hate movies.

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Reasons I Hate Movies #3: Award Shows

January 19, 2010

The Golden Globes are behind us and they have proven, once again, that award shows have no positive impact on film whatsoever.  Which isn’t to say that the shows themselves can’t have some entertainment value – Ricky Gervais was, after all, hilarious.  But what made him funny was that he constantly took pot-shots at the actors and repeatedly used his sarcasm to point out just how unimportant these multi-millionaires that we shower with awards and attention really are.

Unfortunately, that irony seemed lost on the many undeserving winners.

And such is the irony of award shows.  Presumably they exist to reward good film making but, instead, all they do is keep bad movies and unimportant actors in our collective conscious far longer than they deserve.  Sure, there is the occasional deserving win – No Country for Old Men for instance – but those movies would have stood the test of time with or without an award.  Those movies don’t benefit from the award nearly as much as the award benefits from them since it acts to validate the accuracy of the award.  But once they secure that validation it seems that award shows remain intent upon spending it on crappy films that we should all forget but that, because of a Best Picture Oscar or a Best Director Golden Globe, people will continue to talk about for years.

And such was the case last night.  A movie like The Hangover was fine for what it was – a mildly amusing way to lose two hours of a Sunday afternoon.  But an award winning film?  That’s ridiculous.  But now it won’t simply laps into obscurity as it should since it has inexplicably changed from a throw away comedy to an award-winning piece of cinema.

Which brings me to my two biggest complaints about last night’s show: the almost complete exclusion of Where the Wild Things Are from the nominations, and the infuriating celebration of Avatar.

I’ve already chronicled my love of Where the Wild Things Are, but I realize that it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.  It is unusual and unsettling and asks a lot of the viewer on a narrative and emotional level.  In other words, it’s a provocative and original film.  Maybe it doesn’t deserve to win many awards since it didn’t achieve widespread appeal, but it definitely deserved at least a nomination – after all, it takes something truly remarkable to polarize audiences the way Wild Things did. It doesn’t, though, take anything remarkable to try to get some cheap laughs out of a few Mike Tyson gags, yet that apparently warrants not only a nomination, but a Best Comedy or Musical Award.  Love it or hate it, Where the Wild Things is an affecting experience.  The Hangover is nothing of the sort.

And then there’s Avatar.  I’ve already chronicled my disdain for this film, so I won’t go into it here.  Instead, since the acclaim that it’s achieved is so colossally undeserved I’m going to give it a very dubious honor: it will be the first movie to ever become a part of my “Why [classic movie] is an over-rated pile of dung” series before it even leaves theaters.  This will be the subject of my next post.

But the very notion that I could already be objecting to the “classic” status of Avatar brings me back to my initial objection to award shows.  The Golden Globes that Avatar won for Best Director and Best Drama, and what I fear are the inevitable Academy Awards for Director and Film that I foresee coming in March, will make Avatar, like Gladiator and  Crash before it, an instant classic, event though it is a horrendous piece of trite and unimaginative garbage.  Without award shows, the novelty of 3D would eventually wear off and everyone would probably come to realize what a bad movie Avatar really is.  But with the backing of a bunch of gold statuettes, the movie-going public will continue to erroneously believe that a technological marvel (which Avatar admittedly is) is also an artistic marvel (which it definitely is not).

But mark my words.  Award shows aside – in twenty years, love it or hate it, viewers will remember Where the Wild Are on a level that Avatar isn’t even sophisticated enough to know to try to achieve.  I just hope that means more to Spike Jones than silly trophies do.

Reasons I Hate Movies: #2 – Low Expectations

October 27, 2009

Perhaps the only thing worse than the tendency of movies to raise my expectations only to then let me down is their tendency to unapologetically create low expectations.  It never ceases to amaze me how willing moviegoers (myself sometimes included) are willing to go see a film that we already know will suck before we shell out our ten dollars and hours of our day to see it.

This is most common during the summer.  When I once commented that this summer’s “blockbuster” X-Men Origins: Wolverine looked terrible, a friend gave the reply “well, it’s not supposed to be good.”  Another friend who was trying to defend Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, responded to my comment that it looked stupid by saying “well, yeah, but it’s supposed to be stupid.”  At various times I’ve heard lines like “I’m not saying it’s good, but you should still see it” or “well, of course it was bad, but I knew it would be bad when I went to see it, so I enjoyed it,” or “yeah, I knew it was going to be terrible, but I went to see it because, you know…”

No, I don’t know.  In what other medium would any of this ever be okay?  If I hear that a book sucks, I don’t read it.  Period.  If reviews of a video game are terrible then I stay away.  And I don’t think I’m alone in this.  But for some reason, when it comes to movies, we are more than willing to hand over our money to see something based purely on the hope that it might not be as bad as we are expecting.

Now I understand the desire to sit in a dark cool place and eat popcorn and candy.  And, sure, it would be weird if we just did that and there was nothing on the screen.  But as long as there is something on the screen, and we’re paying to see it, then it should maintain a certain level of quality.  But instead, we’ve actually come to expect the awfulness and to not only forgive it, but to support it by paying exorbitant ticket prices so that the studios can recoup their hundred million dollar investments on complete drivel.  Forget health care – this might be the most screwed up industry in America.

And this is another reason I hate movies.

Reasons I Hate Movies: #1 – Disappointment

October 14, 2009

Since my distaste for most movies is the subject of this blog, I decided that I should probably validate my disdain.  So, I’ve decided to add a feature to my writings in which I give some of the reasons that I generally hate movies, and this is my first installment.  The reasons will appear in no particular order, so it’s not as if what follows is my absolute top reason for disliking movies, it is simply the first one that I chose to write about.

And the reason that I chose to write about disappointment first is that it is particularly topical for me right now due to the upcoming release of Where the Wild Things Are.  When I first heard that someone was making a movie out of this beloved book, my reaction was probably the same as most – how on earth are they going to make a short childrens’ book into a full length movie?  Or at least, how are they going to make it into a good movie (Hollywood has proven that they can make anything into a crappy movie)?  In response, many remarked that Spike Jonze was directing it, so surely he’d figure it out, but, since I am no movie buff, all I heard was the word “director” followed by the sound that adults always made in Peanuts cartoons.

But then something happened: I saw the trailer for the film.  It was, simply put, breathtaking.  Never before had I had actually felt chills just from watching a trailer (with the possible exception of the trailer for the first new Star Wars film, but more on that in a second).  I immediately went from thinking the movie was a stupid idea to counting down the days until its release.  For those who have been living in a cave for the past several months, here is the trailer:

As moving as this trailer is, it also makes one of the reasons that I hate movies very apparent to me.  Every time I think about this film and how excited I am to see it there’s a little voice in my head whispering “but what if it sucks?”  This voice, mind you, is not the product of paranoid delusions on my part (not that those voices aren’t there), they are the voices of experience.  Far too often I let my guard down, let myself get excited about a movie, and then come away with bitter feelings of disappointment.  Sometimes this disappointment stems from nostalgia (Spiderman III, Transformers, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull,  and the new Star Wars films all had me pumped only to kick me in the gut with their badness) and sometimes it stems from a film’s reputation (Vertigo, Fargo, The Godfather, and Silence of the Lambs all made me eager to see what the fuss was about only to leave me wishing I had just taken a nap instead, which, in the case of Vertigo, is actually what I ended up doing).  Regardless, as someone who generally dislikes movies, it takes a lot to get me worked up about a film, so when a film that I’m excited about doesn’t deliver, I end up feeling like Charlie Brown after Lucy pulls the football away as he tries to kick it  – trusting in a film to deliver on its promise just leaves me open to another let-down and mad at myself for not learning from the past (wow, two Peanuts references in one blog, maybe I’ll go for the hat-trick).

And so it is with apprehension that I’ll be heading to the theaters this weekend.  Hopefully Where the Wild Things Are will blow me away. Hopefully, I’ll leave the theater wanting to see it again and counting down the days until it comes out on DVD.  Hopefully, it will spawn the first glowing review I write on this blog and I’ll come away as giddy as Charlie Brown after seeing the little red-headed girl (I did it!).

But every time I watch that trailer, I can’t help but wonder if the incredible music playing throughout is the reason it seems so great.  Or maybe it’s the impact of seeing images from my childhood realized on the screen that gives me the chills.  Or maybe a trailer, in its brevity, is the perfect format for an adaptation of such a short book.  If any of these is the case, then it doesn’t bode well for the film. But, just like Charlie Brown swings his leg at that football with all of the gusto he can muster, I’ll put all of these fears aside and when I see Where the Wild Things Are this weekend I’ll be full of excitement and anticipation.

Spike Jonze better not pull a Lucy.