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For your next edition of ‘Circle of Jerks’ you should (maybe) have this question: what is a film you hate that is considered a cinematic masterpiece? – Nicolas M.
Oh, man, tough question. I’ll say American Beauty. I don’t know if it’s considered a cinematic masterpiece, but it did win Best Picture and for awhile there, people were just obsessed with it. And to be fair, the first time I saw it I thought it was pretty decent. I thought it was funny. But it lost me about halfway through when Wes Bentley does his oft-mocked “garbage dancing in the wind” monologue.
And maybe if I’d never seen it a second or third time, when the cracks in the storytelling became so apparent and I realized how cliche and pretentious the screenplay was, I wouldn’t have minded it. Maybe if my high school friends didn’t keep claiming “oh you’re a movie buff? So am I. Have you seen American Beauty?” I wouldn’t have become annoyed with the movie.
Truth is, it’s one of the worst Best Picture winners because I feel like it’s only been a little over a decade since its release and the film feels very dated. We’ve discovered since ’99 that Sam Mendes can really only frame a shot one way, Kevin Spacey can only act one way (besides Se7en which he was awesome in), and Alan Ball has a knack for writing THE MOST IMPORTANT SCRIPTS KNOWN TO MAN. Or so he would have you think. I don’t know…maybe I don’t “hate” American Beauty, but it represents a lot of things I truly dislike. That being said, Annette Bening is great.
2001: A Space Odyssey
I’m not the biggest Kubrick fan to begin with, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love me some science fiction. Throw just about anything shy of a bone into outer space and I will watch it. There’s just something magical and mystical – actually scratch that – there’s just something scientifically beautiful about the vastness and depth of space. Or so one thinks.
In reality, 2001 is probably a great example of what space is really like. Big, empty, and boring, for millions of miles in all direction. Watching this movie, as the kaleidescope camera panned for what seemed like forever, that was the first time I ever considered suicide. That is the length to which this film bored me. Yes, it has iconic moments. A few single frames out of what feels like ten million feet of film. At “only” 2 hours and 21 minutes, I’ve seen longer films in theaters and managed not to cut myself.
I wish I liked this movie, with its mostly realistic take on space and space exploration, but then again I could just watch the NASA channel for fifteen minutes and feel the same emotional resonance to keep watching. 2001: A Space Odyssey just does not appeal to me at all.
There are very few movies that I actively hate, but there are several that I dislike with the heat of a thousand fleshy nubs. Looking over the AFI list of the 100 Greatest American Movies the temptation is to throw some shit Citizen Kane‘s way. It’s a boring movie by any stretch of the imagination, but even a contrarian like myself recognizes the innovations that Orson Welles put forth with the film.
So instead I’ll jump down to #17 on the list… John Huston’s The African Queen. How this ranks in the top twenty of any list other than ‘Movies Starring Hepburn And Bogart’ I don’t know. It’s a bland and uneventful film featuring two opposites who become attracted to each other for no goddamn reason. Seriously. They jibber jabber for what feels like hours and then suddenly they’re in love. And if you’re curious how something as exciting as a U-boat sinking could be made into something as boring as pouring a cup of coffee just watch the end of this flick. If you’re like me it’ll take you a few tries to reach the finale… but oh boy is that final embrace so not worth it.
A film I just can’t make myself fall in love with is Truffaut’s Jules and Jim. The odd thing is, I understand the love for it. I understand why the characters of The Dreamers discuss it at length or why Tom Cruise’s character in Vanilla Sky has its poster placed predominantly on his wall. To make matters even stranger, Truffaut’s slightly more famous The 400 Blows is one of my favorite films ever.
Jules and Jim does have the occasional divine moment, but as much as I try to like it, it’s an incredibly frustrating film for me to watch. It’s a scant 90 minutes and years of the lives of these characters are packed into it – hell, the film even contains the entirely of the first World War! Yet it’s one of the most painfully long 90-minute films I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that I really don’t give a shit about Jules or Jim. Jeanne Moreau’s beauty and charisma hardly stands a chance at making up for the presence of these vapid cogs of actors/characters. The film constantly exhibits joy, but it feels joyless.
Ultimately, after two viewings, I can’t quite describe why Jules and Jim simply isn’t a winner for me. As with the love of the band Rush, there are some things in this world I simply accept that I don’t get. I recently bumped this movie up to three stars on Netflix out of respect for Truffaut, but I think I’ll bump it back down to two as it’s time that I be honest with myself about my distaste for this beloved film.
I’ve had some pretty hard words to hand out to recent films like The Social Network, Closer, Crash, Wendy & Lucy and Funny Games. But rather than focus on these, let’s take a look at a classic in a genre that I dearly love.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is an iconic film, and overall it is extremely well made. Yeah, there’s that strange homoerotic undertone between Michael Rennie and the snotty kid, but that seemed to be par for the course in the 50s. Sure, it gave us a fantastic movie robot, a soundtrack that was ahead of its time and some very powerful imagery, but the full allure of this film has been lost on me.
What is meant to be a warning that as a race we’d better shape up or ship out turns into one of the most unintentionally chilling endings in Cold War history. Ultimately, the human race is relegated to slavery under the oppressive yoke of the aliens’ robots. Gort is seen by many to be our protector to keep us in line, but he’s the kill switch on our species, ready to wipe us out if we fight too much. If we get too violent, Gort will crush our violence with more violence. In the end, freedom is lost forever under the threat of genocide. To make things worse, this is presented as a good thing… and I have always felt that to be the wrong message.