Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ten Films I Dislike: 05/06/12

This is not a bottom 10. Don't see the point in that. It's just a list of films I don't like. As I'm a tad too busy to go and see films to review and with Shadows all but a faded memory, most of what will appear here for a few weeks at least will be these lists. If I can think of an essay I'll put one here. Anyway, until then I'll supplement the top tens with these. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Lost Highway: Yes, that's right, a big David Lynch fan dislikes a David Lynch movie. Well, I do. I watched this again recently to see if my wince at recalling it was still justified. The local blu-ray is superbly presented, great sound and vision but the big sagging blech in the middle (ie most) of this piece manages to snatch boredom from a potentially gripping neo-noir movie. There are some great ideas here. While they are held up by some impressive Lynchian visuals and sound mixing, it just doesn't warm up. I'll quote a fan from an old Usenet post (he was speaking in admiration): "It's a cold film about a bad man." So it is.

Anything by Wes Anderson. Sorry, I've tried but every time I try to watch something by this director all I get is how studiously contrived it is. Each one is a waste of good set design and stellar casts. It's as though he saw a few quirky 60s and 70s movies like Harold and Maude or  Barefoot in the Park and created a series of formulae on how they work and then ... applied the formulae with the precision of the autistic. None of it feels like someone's genuine vision.

M.A.S.H. When I was a kid and this was fresh I remembered loving it for the larks and the cynicism that my older siblings laughed at. When I was in my twenties I felt affronted by the misogyny and couldn't look past that. More recently I could look past that and see it as part of the satire but hated the unquestioned laddishness of it. I love a lot of Robert Altman films, probably most of them. But this one broke my feeling that I liked all of them. See also Lost Highway, above, it made me admit what I didn't like about one of my favourite directors.

Sexy Beast: Celebrated for Ben Kingsley's overboard guttermouthed psycho gangster and less so for Ray Winstone's more measured ex-gangster. I found it irksomely calculated and uninvolving.

Satantango: Bela Tarr's seven hour epic of post communist Hungarian life has some extraordinary passages, truly individual and spellbinding. It also includes passages which stretch a loooooooong time past their point. I tell new girlfriends early on in the piece that I like a lot of boring movies. It's true. I don't need thrill a minute narrative or even any narrative to keep me compelled but this one fails with me. By contrast the same director's Werckmeister Harmonies, which is over a third of the length of this and uses all the tropes that I find tiresome in this, I think of as a masterpiece.

Somersault: No wonder Abbie Cornish fled the country when she was getting sentenced to roles like this or the one in Candy. Heidi is cast out of home because her mother's boyfriend tries his luck with her (and she complies). Then she goes on a series of pointless adventures and then it ends.

The House of Sand and Fog: Are we to find Jennifer Connelly's imbecilic stubbornness as strength of character? Are we to assume that Ben Kingsley's character is so improved by the new humility of his circumstances that he forgives Jennifer Connelly for her interpersonal atrocities? Are we to care about the carelessly stacked disasters that clog the final act like a drain attached to a few houses of bricks and mortar whose plumbing has failed all at once?

Sullivan's Travels: I feel like appending "and anything else by Preston Sturges" but I've seen too few of his movies to cast that blanket. This film about a young buck movie director out to prove a point really ought to go off like a box of roman candles but it just turns cute and never turns back. I'd call this the Wes Anderson of its day except that too many fans would call that a compliment.

Broadcast News: Almost a cheat as I reviewed it unfavourably earlier here. A film of cutesy garbage masquerading as satire. Horrible.

Dead Poets Society: What was clearly intended to be an ode to individuality and personal freedom somehow ended up as support your local demagogue. Robin Williams typically cloying in a role that while initially dramatic allows him too much freedom so he pushes it out of proportion. I hate this movie. Wanna see a good film about the power of teaching? Try The Paper Chase, it doesn't even try to make the old master likeable. 


  1. thanks peter. I was trying to dredge up the name of that Abbie Cornish flick (which I had repressed for all the reasons above) in order to non recommend it to someone else. Glad you canned DPS, append 'laddish' comments from MASH to it. If you want to see a good SERIES on teaching, try NZ's '7 Periods with Mr Gormsby', funniest thing to hit television since Deadwood.
    Jennifer Jackman
    ps. saw Sexy Beast recently: overrated, but came highly recommended.

  2. I think Sample People would have to be one of my worst - some kind of early 80s video nightmare, albeit from 2000