Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Cinema Styles Year End/New Year Super Amazing Opinion Wrap-Up Thingy!

I don't have a clever lead-in to this heaping mound of year-end/new year bullshit, just a lot of opinions, so let's get started.

Main observation: critics and viewers alike seem to think that when they disagree with the herd, they stand alone.  This is bullshit and I've fallen for it countless times myself.  First of all, no movie has unanimous backing.  Hell, some critic ranked 12 Years a Slave as the worst movie of the year and Rex Reed continues to be utterly baffled by the cinema on every level.  If you hate a movie that appears to be loved by all the critics, trust me, you're not alone.  There are not only other critics who agree with you but probably millions of other moviegoers.  So, for fuck's sake, can we stop treating people we disagree with like mentally disabled baboons who only recently discovered the joy of playing with their own poop?  It's bad enough when the folks in the profession do it but does everyone else have to do it on Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere, all the time, day and night?!

"Just saw [Insert literally ANY movie title here!].  What the fuck?  Cannot believe the praise this thing got.  Do you guys even know what a good movie is anymore?!"

And, yeah, it's true, I've been guilty of that many a times myself but this year, holy shit, it's been like a fucking epidemic.  American Hustle conned critics into liking it, Wolf of Wall Street condones Jordan Belfort, and everyone who thought Gravity was excellent has amazingly low standards.  Oh wait, that last one was me.  See, when I saw Gravity, and I'm just going to crib most of this from Roderick Heath because he wrote it up extensively and I happen to agree with him, I saw the complete absence of a first act that would make me give, at a minimum, two solid shits about Sandra Bullock's character, Dr. Ryan Stone, and instead got hokey dialogue by the gross load, much of it existing in dull platitudes:

"You've got to learn to let go."

"If you decide to go then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it's time to go home."

"Five... four... now we're just driving. Let's go home."

Notice how I used two quotes with the "time to go home" cliche? I could have pulled other hoaky dialogue but I wanted to point out how Gravity tends to return to the same hokum again and again. Fetal positions implying birth and/or comfort in the womb happen more than once when once actually felt like too much. What I got from Gravity was amazing visuals on the good side and standard operational "inspiration" from every other side. I saw it again on a DVD screener and, let me tell you, without the big screen amazement, there's nothing there. There really isn't. And so, falling victim to the same way of thinking I chastise in others, I think, "How in the name of all things good did this movie get the praise it got?!" And then I remember how:

Not everyone agrees with me.

More importantly, I can see what they're seeing: there's good acting, great tension, and, yes, amazing visuals and since the movies are a visual medium, that's not exactly something to casually write off. So, the conclusion? I saw little great in it, myself, but others did. Not exactly an earth-shaking conundrum.

And you know what else? I still like parts of it! In fact, I like parts of almost every movie I see, even ones I think are shitty. Every movie has something. I often think back to The Godfather, Part III, a movie I find, after multiple viewings, to be a big, gooey pile of pig slop, and there's this moment where Michael says to Kay, "You hate me, don't you?" And Kay responds, "I don't hate you, Michael. I dread you." That's a great line, a great moment and great delivery by both actors (Pacino and Keaton, obviously). I love that moment. Everything else? No love. But that moment, yes.  And that's the point. I take something from all movies, just like, ahem, everyone else. With Gravity, it was the moment where she says to herself, "Everyone dies but I'm going to die today." I love that because, yes, we all deal with our mortality in one way or another but to suddenly realize your end of days is upon you, that's something I can't get my mind around and that moment expressed it perfectly.

Other movies where I felt at odds with the rest of the community (well, most of it) were many. The one that stood out the most was The World's End. God how I love Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead is still a favorite and I love Hot Fuzz probably as much. But here's what tempers both of them from being considered great in my book. They both have final acts that practically abandon the satire/parody and become exactly, and actually, what they're satirizing/parodying. That is to say, both of those movies end with long, drawn out attack/chase scenes that are the stock and trade of the zombie/cop movies they're parodying, only without the parody.  It's as if they reserve the parody for the first part of the film, get bored with it, then say, "Well, enough of that, now let's just do a straight up zombie movie."  Is it because they run out of ideas after the initial joke?  Do they think going straight-on at the end works better because the audience is tiring of the parody?  I don't know.  I remember with Hot Fuzz, in particular, being very put off by how very humorless and how very straight-faced the final shootout/chase was. It became this dull action movie with only a couple of jokes thrown in to justify it (the elusive swan appears, for instance). Now, with The World's End, the formula's become entrenched.  Only it wasn't just the last act of the movie this time, it was the last two-thirds.

I went into The World's End with, probably, unreasonably high expectations.  I knew, just knew, I was going to love it!  And the first thirty minutes or so didn't let me down.  I did love it!  And then, well, if you've seen it, you know.  It became an action-oriented, loud, bombastic sci-fi feature with... jokes?  I guess?  After Pegg goes to the bathroom, I found little else funny in the movie.  There was no room for funny, they were too busy running and fighting and blowing up blue goo heads.  And the character denouements were slaughtered along the way.  Why deal with Eddie Marsan's bully issues head on, in a very funny way, when we can have him, (har, har), destroy the robot bully in a field!  Instead of dealing with the clear issues between Frost and Pegg's characters, just have Frost drink up some booze, say "let's boo-boo" and start swinging bar stools!  The last two-thirds - so, the majority of the movie - felt lazy.  Very lazy.

But again, I can see why others liked it.  Pegg and Frost do some great stuff throughout and damned if Pegg doesn't deserve a Best Actor nomination for his performance.  He's fucking fantastic.  And the first thirty minutes is damn-near good enough to still make my top ten for the year!  So why should I fault others for liking it?  I can totally understand why they did.  I just don't agree.  And that's no big deal.

I'm still seeing movies from the year so I have no big wrap up list of the year's best.  For what it's worth, the best two I've seen are 12 Years a Slave and Inside Llewyn Davis.  Still haven't seen Blue is the Warmest Color or Bastards but hope to soon.  I have other movies I've seen, like Frances Ha, that I was really charmed by and hope it gets some recognition come awards time.  Otherwise, I don't have much to say.  Mainly, I just wanted to express my sincere hope that I continue to understand my opinion isn't shared by everyone and when it's not, that doesn't mean others are morons, or that I am, although they may be and I may be as well.  It just means the movies elicit emotions that we all have a hard time sharing in the exact same way.  And that's fine by me.  Who the hell wants to agree on everything?


Patricia Perry said...

Greg - Great post, and I don't have too much to add. This year, more than any year I can recall, I found myself unable to buy into the prevailing critical opinion - on GRAVITY, BLUE JASMINE and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING especially. But that's no reason to be vicious.

And I'm glad to see you liked FRANCES HA, which was a high point in my film-watching this year.

Happy new year!

Bob Westal said...

Opinions are like assholes because they tend to cut me off in traffic and borrow my condiments from the refrigerator without asking me first.

Greg F. said...

Patricia, it's like we're the same person (except I haven't seen MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING). No need to go into my feelings on GRAVITY again, here, since I did it in the post, but I'm glad to hear others had the same reaction. It's not just that it got good reviews, it was hailed as a masterpiece which, perhaps, clouded my expectations a bit.

FRANCES HA I really liked and found Greta Gerwig utterly charming.

Greg F. said...

Bob, exactly! Or something.

wondersinthedark said...

I strongly disagree with you (and Roderick) on GRAVITY (which is a great film) but heck I won't go to the mat for it since it didn't in the end make my Top 10 list. The critics who put 12 YEARS A SLAVE as the worst film of the year is....well....I'll keep it civil. Great to hear you loved FRANCES HA which was indeed utterly charming. It made my Top 10 list, which isn't finalized but is sizing up to be as follows:

1. 12 Years A Slave
2. Short Term 12
3. Her
4. La Grande Bellezza
5. Blue is the Warmest Color
6. The Past
7. Wadjda
8. Nebraska
9. To the Wonder
10. Mud
Frances Ha
The Hunt (TIE)


Fruitvale Station
My Brother the Devil (U.K.)
Beyond the Hills (Romania)
Hannah Arendt (France/Germany)
The Act of Killing (Indonesia)
Kiss the Water
All is Lost
Saving Mr. Banks
American Hustle
Lootera (India)
Lawrence Always (France)
A Touch of Sin (China)
Inside Llewyn Davis
Star Trek: Into Darkness
August: Osage County
A Highjacking (Sweden)
The Hobbit
The Spectacular Now
The Wolf of Wall Street

I am thrilled to we are in agreement that 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the best film of the year, and much appreciate putting everything about list making and critical reference point into proper perspective. Especially with a critics' ass kisser like me. LOL!!!

Happy New Year to you and yours Greg!

-Sam Juliano

Greg F. said...


The critics who put 12 YEARS A SLAVE as the worst film of the year is....well....I'll keep it civil.

Ha, yeah, I know! That's crazy. I thought that film was pretty damned magnificent. Beautifully shot, with a keen eye towards quiet moments of despair and fleeting hope. A real treasure of cinema.

And, hey, take heart, I did like some of Gravity, I just didn't see what you and others did but I would not call it a bad movie, just a movie that doesn't hold up well for me once the spectacle is removed.

And Sam, I hope I can one day see the amount of movies you see every year. You're amazing! Thanks for dropping by.

Roderick Heath said...

Wooh! I got cribbed, baby!

Greg F. said...

And Sam still doesn't agree with you!

Roderick Heath said...

Ha, but this time I've got you to back me up -- I said this time I've got -- what are you doing over there?

Jandy Hardesty said...

I love how you've pulled out moments you liked even from films you didn't care for overall. I'm trying to be more positive in 2014, and I think that's one way I'm going to do it. Just about every film has some moment or line or something that I like. It's not an all-or-nothing game like our hyperbolic culture would have us believe.