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April 2, 2013 3:31 PM   Subscribe

The Criticwire Survey: Overrated Masterpieces. Badlands... La Dolce Vita... 8 1/2... The Godfather... Star Wars... Citizen Kane... Taxi Driver... ...

'"I like all of Terrence Malick's films with the exception of 'Badlands.' The imagery is strong and the score is wonderful, but I find the writing and acting atrocious. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek have zero chemistry, their dialogue is laughable, and their poorly developed societal disconnect makes for a cold and distant film. Malick worked out the narrative kinks in 'Days of Heaven,' which I do consider a masterpiece, but for me his debut is nowhere near worthy of that designation."'

'"Every few years, I give 'La Dolce Vita' another shot, but sorry, whatever I'm supposed to be seeing in it, I just don't see. I love Fellini, and count any number of his films among my favorites ('8 1/2' just keeps getting better, the older I get), but 'LDV' just leaves me cold. I do love watching the recreation of the filming of the Trevi Fountain sequence in Ettore Scola's 'We All Loved Each Other So Much' though."'

Etc.
posted by VikingSword (137 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Your Favorite __________ Sucks. Episode 67584785746374901018475 in a continuing series.
posted by yoink at 3:38 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


But Badlands is sometimes my favorite Malick depending on my mood.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:38 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see Kazam didn't make the list because it's fucking awesome
posted by smackwich at 3:38 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"..but 'Kane' just fails to move the mercury for me."

Boom-tish.

(For me there's a fair mix of justly burst bubbles and how very dare you here, but I won't bore you with my opinions.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:39 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cant stand the Godfather movies and their influence on the culture. I've never understood their popular and critical success.
posted by joseppi7 at 3:42 PM on April 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


La Dolce Vita is incredible.

I saw so much of myself in the protagonist, I honestly changed my bullsh*t around. I haven't seen the film in like, forever, but it's more because I'm *scared* to go on that sort of journey, and I'm not easily frightened to do anything.

I'm sorry that this person didn't find it as life-changing. Good thing there's a lot of art for him to enjoy for his own personal reasons. Such is the human condition!
posted by alex_skazat at 3:43 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Actually surprised not to see more people naming The Graduate because, groundbreaking as it was, I don't think it's aged particularly well outside of the affair/pool montage and the colossal ending.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:44 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love telling people that The Godfather is nothing but a boring 70's soap opera brought to the big screen, a stuffy exercise in tedium. I will never understand or accept its appeal.
posted by item at 3:45 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But Badlands? More like Badasslands. Such a perfect film.
posted by item at 3:46 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


i don't get "overrated" criticisms. it's good, or at least ok, people like it, leave it alone.
posted by facetious at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2013


I agree with many of those, not least Star Wars, which is basically a terrible and terribly unoriginal kids' film with effects that were pretty cool for the time. Inception was a bloody mess, with so many logical holes I felt like I was watching the inside of a creationist's brain. But anyone who doesn't see that The Godfather is a work of godlike genius is... well... severely mis-calibrated. Let's keep it polite.
posted by Decani at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


So glad I'm not the only one who loves 8 1/2 and can't sit through La Dolce Vita. I feel less alone in the world now, other cranky critic!
posted by ariel_caliban at 3:49 PM on April 2, 2013


I love The Godfather but I would give it up if I had to choose between it and The Conversation.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:49 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's better when they give a reason. Drew Hunt actively dislikes The Conformist because?
posted by Jahaza at 3:50 PM on April 2, 2013


Very Bad Things and The Godfather are both about terrible people making terrible decisions, but that doesn't make both terrible.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:50 PM on April 2, 2013


"It always surprises everyone who knows of my love of musicals just how much I despise 'The Sound of Music."

When critics bite,
When reviews stink,
When I'm feeling mad,
I think of a few of my favorite things,
and then I don't feel...so bad.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're wrong about BADLANDS and mostly right about the others.
posted by unSane at 3:52 PM on April 2, 2013


A lot of those aren't classics (Black Swan... ) and dissing Star Wars for its structure is deranged

That said The Godfather is totally overrated, give me Goodfellas any day (And I don't even like Scorsese that much). And everything Woody Allen ever did evah.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:54 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surprisingly, I tend to agree with about 80% of the films mentioned. If I had to pick only one on that page (and that's hard to do, because there are quite a few listed that I loathe) I'd probably have to go with The Deerhunter. I really want that six or seven hours of my life back.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:59 PM on April 2, 2013


Peter: But since we're all gonna die, there's one more secret I feel I have to share with you. I did not care for The Godfather.
Lois: What?
Peter: Did not care for The Godfather.
Chris: How can you even say that, dad?
Peter: Didn't like it.
Lois: Peter, it's so good! It's like the perfect movie!
Peter: This is what everyone always said. Whenever they say...
Chris: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, I mean, you never see, Robert Duvall!
Peter: Fine. Fine. Did not like the movie.
Brian: Why not?
Peter: Did not-- Couldn't get into it.
Lois: Explain yourself. What didn't you like about it?
Peter: It insists upon itself, Lois.
Lois: What?
Peter: It insists upon itself.
Lois: What does that even mean?
Chris: Because it has a valid point to make, it's insisted!
Peter: It takes forever getting in; you spend like six and a half hours... You know, I can't get through, I've never even finished the movie. I've never seen the ending.
Chris: You've never seen the ending?!
Stewie: How can you say you don't like it if you haven't even given it a chance?
Lois: You know, I agree with Stewie. It's not even fair.
Peter: I have tried on three separate occasions to get through it, and I get to the scene where all the guys are sitting around on the easy chairs.
Lois: Yeah, it's a great scene. I love that scene.
Peter: I have no idea what they're talking about. It's like they're speaking a different... You know, that's where I lose interest in it.
Chris: They're speaking Italian!
Lois: The language they're speaking is a language of subtlety; it's something you don't understand.
Peter: I love The Money Pit. That is my answer to that statement.
Lois: Exactly.
Peter: Well, there you go.
Lois: Whatever.
Chris: I like that movie too.
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


"The thing about 'Star Wars' (the one from 1977) is, all but the most dedicated fans will concede one or all of the following: a) it's extremely messy structurally, with numerous false climaxes, b) its inability to withstand logical scrutiny transcends standard nitpicking/'what I would have done differently' peanut gallery stuff; it's easier to list the things that do hold up to a closer look than the things that don't, and c) the dialogue is frequently appallingly bad (a subpoint of which is Mark Hamill's terrible delivery of same). There may be a 'yeah, but' thrown into the concession, but it's my personal experience that almost without exception, fans will at least grant a degree of merit to those and other critiques, which does not speak well of it's being an unassailable classic. As pure cinema, on strictly audiovisual terms, 'Star Wars' is a delight, but as a text it's an absolute howler; extratextually, note also that at least two extremely important points (the identity of Luke Skywalker's father and his relationship to Princess Leia) that arise in the subsequent 'Star Wars' movies raise enormous, never addressed, issues with the first one. If none of this bothers you, fine. In your ability to enjoy 'Star Wars' unencumbered, may you live long and prosper."

...and none of that matters one bit.
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't believe anyone would consider Star Wars a masterpiece, even an overrated one. The movie's a piece of shit in and out and up and down. Oh, you like it? That's cool. But your liking it does not make it a masterpiece. Or even good.

And this person:

"Jesus, I have to pick one? Because I actively dislike 'Chinatown,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Touch of Evil,' '8 1/2,' 'The Conformist,' 'The Deer Hunter,' 'The Graduate,' 'Metropolis,' and most of 'Apocalypse Now.'"

Is an idiot, not because he hates any of these movies but because he hates all of them. It takes a special kind of contrarian to hate Chinatown and The Graduate and...

And that other dude didn't understand Mulholland Drive.
posted by dobbs at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


God, I hate Inception.

The Godfather, to me, is a film that keeps pace with the viewer as you age, and has new things to say as you age into them. There are many -- many -- films I loved as a kid that I now think are, if not junk, then certainly disappointing to a more mature viewer, but The Godfather isn't one of them.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't the laughable dialogue in Badlands kind of the point? Or at least A point?

That said, some of the other arguments (can't get through The Godfather again because its about terrible people making terrible decisions) are personal reactions I can't argue with, though as others have pointed out, I'm not sure that qualifies the films as 'overrated' -- which makes the question " What movie widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece do you dislike (or maybe even hate)?" far more interesting than the headline suggests.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:04 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, the guy who hates Inception...so brave.
posted by biffa at 4:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


What a buncha amateurs. Here's how the late great Pauline Kael took down a so-called masterpiece: Antonioni's meretricious Blow-Up.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:06 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


…their loss.
posted by Omon Ra at 4:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


In general, I accept that when I dislike something that's universally critically admired, I'm wrong.

The film that tests this acceptance is Jules et Jim. It took me half the film to realize it wasn't being funny on purpose. Maybe it just has to hit you at the right age or something.

(I'm also not crazy about Lawrence of Arabia and The Searchers, but in both cases it's the lead performance that puts me off, and I can certainly understand someone not caring as much about that, or agreeing with me.)
posted by doubtfulpalace at 4:10 PM on April 2, 2013


Glenn Kenny nails it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:13 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The person who picks Citizen Kane picks The Third Man as their rubber up. That takes a very special kind if person.
posted by Artw at 4:17 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The only bad thing I did that whole time was throw out my pet fish when he got sick."

Does not appreciate Carl Orff.
posted by ovvl at 4:17 PM on April 2, 2013


Badlands is amazing. I mean, I realise I'm probably bias because I consider Malick my own personal lord and saviour but I only saw it for the first time last month and was so impressed with how damn cool and creepy it was all wrapped up in one. The "societal disconnect" mentioned above plays in so well with the atmosphere of the film.
posted by liquorice at 4:19 PM on April 2, 2013


Glenn Kenny nails it.

Yes he does. I just scrolled through to find something to get mad about (SHUT YOUR FILTHY DOG'S ASSHOLE SUCKING MOUTH ABOUT L'ATALANTE) and then there's Glenn Kenny pointing out that's the whole and only point of pieces like this and I fall for it every time.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm going to go against the grain here, I know, but I think Criticwire is terribly overrated.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:34 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I recently rewatched Fight Club with someone who hadn't seen it before, and I was struck by how poorly it has aged, especially considering how good I thought it was when it came out.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I started to offer First Knight as my most hated movie, then I saw the "widely acclaimed" qualification. So I suppose Fight Club would be my nominee. I never much liked it at the time and I haven't grown more fond of it over the years.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:40 PM on April 2, 2013


Ha! The Beavis and Butthead movie isn't on there! Sucks to those guys!
posted by Broseph at 4:48 PM on April 2, 2013


OMG, I am not alone! Joey Magidson thinks The Return of The King is overrated, too (I however, AM a fan of the trilogy, unlike Magidson). Fellowship was the best of the LOTR movies and all the praise bestowed on ROTK (along with Jackson's Oscar) seems to be coming more from a place of "we loved the first one but were too scared to heap praise on an untested fantasy franchise at the time and look like fools if this whole thing went tits up." ROTK was full of bloat, being faithful with the novel in all the wrong places (they really needed to combine the Battle of the Pelannor Fields and The Battle of the Black Gate for the film) and not nearly enough in the right ones (No scouring of The Shire? BULLSHIT.)

As far as The Godfather goes, if you're talking about the first film, then I can agree that it's overrated, especially when compared to The Godfather, Part II. I'll watch Part II anytime its on--- the first one, not so much (not that its a bad movie, just not as good as people make it out to be). THERE WAS NO GODFATHER PART III.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:50 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


God, I hate Inception.

Films, songs, novels (anything really) shouldn't be discussed in terms of "classic" until they've been around for at least fifteen years. We just lack cultural perspective. So, when was fifteen years ago -- 1998?

Cool. That makes The Big Lebowski our most recent indisputably classic film.
posted by philip-random at 4:51 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


OK, Star Wars I'll grant you if we can we talk about how unfairly underrated the Star Wars Holiday Special is.
posted by zippy at 4:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heh. I've got La Dolce Vita, Deerhunter, 8 1/2 and a couple other of these on my DVR and I've been waiting to watch them, but I never seem to have three hours to devote to any of them. Maybe I shouldn't ;)
posted by klangklangston at 4:54 PM on April 2, 2013


Badlands is amazing. I mean, I realise I'm probably bias because I consider Malick my own personal lord and saviour

Seems like this is as good a place as any to ask this: I saw Badlands a while back and thought it was incredibly good. Looked it up on imdb after I watched it and decided I should maybe check out more Malick (I'd never seen any of his films previously). Watched The Thin Red Line this weekend and I couldn't stand it. I mean, it wasn't bad exactly, it's a decent enough war movie and there were some really great moments, but overall it was just cloying and obvious. So, thread: should I watch more Malick, and if so, what?
posted by junco at 4:56 PM on April 2, 2013


La Dolce Vita is a perfect movie ... but make sure you've got some decent red wine on hand, and cheese. It has that sort sumptuousness, and seriousness. But it's not what I'd call sober.
posted by philip-random at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm fine with people hating Inception but not because
it has "plot holes". Geeze Loise, the reason why it never comes near greatness is BECAUSE the filmmakers contorted themselves like Gumby
to COVER holes! Hate it because the ending is either (1) the sidewalk
like, just, ends!, or (2) you are left stepping on a step that isn't there.
Or however the heck you see it ending, for that matter.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2013


This weekend I was talking to my brother about music that was classic (and good) but still overrated. The Clash, for example.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:58 PM on April 2, 2013


I loved the Badlands, but I'll cop to being a sucker for great vistas and American rot. It was also part of a hardcore Noir binge, so I saw it around the Third Man, In Cold Blood and Touch of Evil. It seemed like a nice counterpoint.
posted by klangklangston at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2013


So, thread: should I watch more Malick, and if so, what?

I'd recommend Tree Of Life to anyone who's open to cinema taking them places they didn't think possible.
posted by philip-random at 5:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Films, songs, novels (anything really) shouldn't be discussed in terms of "classic" until they've been around for at least fifteen years. We just lack cultural perspective. So, when was fifteen years ago -- 1998? "

I'll cosign that notion, though I'm not sure that Lebowski ever gets out of the underachiever cult status and into classic territory for me. And by now, I tend to think it's more overrated than underrated, even though I love it.
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on April 2, 2013


classic (and good) but still overrated. The Clash, for example.

When Sandinista is ranked the top album of the 20th Century, I'll be open to discussing whether it's overrated. Hell, Pitchfork hasn't even been bothered to review it.
posted by philip-random at 5:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


You don't love Star Wars because it's a great movie, you love it because it's Star Wars.
posted by octothorpe at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty convinced that nobody has any idea what "plot hole" means anymore, except maybe people think it means "this thing wasn't explained to death!" or "a story went in a different direction than the one I was wanting".
posted by Artw at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


So, thread: should I watch more Malick, and if so, what?

As someone who more or less shares your opinion of the relative merits of Badlands and Thin Red Line, I'm going to strongly recommend Days Of Heaven.

The New World and The Tree Of Life are certainly worth seeing, but I found them maddeningly uneven.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 5:12 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I much, much, much prefer the TV edit of the Godfather movies to the theatrical releases, which I can hardly stand.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:13 PM on April 2, 2013


I doubt time will be kind enough to the LotR movies to for them to get called classics, but if that happens i'll happily join in denouncing them.
posted by Artw at 5:15 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree about La Dolce Vita. For me that movie is like watching somebody drink until they pass out. And while I grant you that there are people who can be very entertaining as they get drunk, La Dolce Vita ain't that kind of party.

I also agree with the fella who hates Moulin Rouge. I hate hate hate that movie. I don't think I would get along well with Baz Luhrmann if we ever met.

And while I'm at it, I cannot stand Last Year at Marienbad. So there.

I really like the Godfather movies, Citizen Kane, The Third Man, Taxi Driver and Vertigo though. And also Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm pretty convinced that nobody has any idea what "plot hole" means anymore, except maybe people think it means "this thing wasn't explained to death!" or "a story went in a different direction than the one I was wanting"."

Uh, as the proud owner of two official No Prizes, I know a plot hole when I see one. And how to fix it with imagination™.
posted by klangklangston at 5:16 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd recommend Tree Of Life to anyone who's open to cinema taking them places they didn't think possible.

Seconded. I'd recommend reading through Intimations of Immortality (text) just before watching since it seems like the key to some of the more inexplicable scenes (I'm thinking of the shore in particular). The tone-poem of childhood is mind-blowingly good.

The New World was excellent as well, though I was thrown a little by Colin Farrell's anachronistic tribal tattoos.
posted by stopgap at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


About this "plot holes in Star Wars not withstanding scrutiny" thing, I would like to recommend this beautiful (but all-caps) essay by the genius Film Crit Hulk. Casablanca doesn't withstand scrutiny and neither does most magic.
posted by steinsaltz at 5:20 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kenny nails it. But then, Kenny's been on this beat for some time.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:21 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting mix of high- and lowbrow. I mean, it's funny to see Last Year at Marienbad and E.T. in the same list.
posted by uosuaq at 5:44 PM on April 2, 2013


The Searchers is a bad movie. It doesn't work on almost any level, except for the occasionally beautiful shot (but that is balanced out by the many, many bad shots). It fucking astonishes me that in a poll of 800 critics (the Sight and Sound poll) it would end up as one of the ten most widely regarded movies of all time. How's that even possible?

I liked most of the picks, but then I got to James Rocchi:

"David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive' is, to me, one of the most curiously over-praised films of the past 30 years. It doesn't work at all, as a narrative or even as a slideshow of noir-ish dreams, and aside from one good scene with Naomi Watts, it's inert and inept.

Dude. Duuuuuuuuude. Them's fightin' words. As in: I will fistfight you!
posted by gkhan at 5:45 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also agree with the fella who hates Moulin Rouge. I hate hate hate that movie. I don't think I would get along well with Baz Luhrmann if we ever met.

I was pleased to see that also, as my feelings about it are very similar. If you take "Transformers:Revenge Of The Fallen", replace Shia LaBeouf with Ewan McGregor, and all of the robots with giant transforming Fabergé eggs, you get a film that is not really that dissimilar to Moulin Rouge in all the important respects.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, thread: should I watch more Malick, and if so, what?

You should absolutely watch Days of Heaven, it is in many ways even better than Badlands. The New World is also very good, and less divisive than Tree of Life (which you'll either love or hate, depending on who you are).
posted by gkhan at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2013


"So, thread: should I watch more Malick, and if so, what?"

OH ho ho ho ho!

Hello gentlemen and also ladies! No, it's not Santa Claus although I have a beard as well! It's me Terry again! I couldn't help but notice that some of you were talking about my movies! Well let me show up now to set the record straight!

There's an old saying where I come from (TEXAS) about friends: "You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." Isn't that fantastic? FRIENDS! Well I was talking to Adrien Brody's answering machine the other day (long story- LOL) and "Adrey" I said (I just made that up, "Adrey, because his name is Adrien) "Adrey" I said "You may hate me now but some day we will be best pals!" That's what I said. And do you want to guess what happened? I'll tell you: Adrey (Brody) called me back! "You treat actors like garbage" is what he said.

He's a celebrity!

Well I learned that day that you can't choose your friends either. Which I guess makes them family! ANd that's how I like to think of my movies too- as friends I don't want! LOL

Sometimes funny things happen, like you try to make a movie about circus stunt planes but clowns are SUPER EXPENSIVE so most of the movie happens on a farm and you can't even afford light bulbs and everything looks kind of dark because the sun is going down. That's what happened on "Days of Heaven" (original title: "Flying JErks")! And sometimes you find out too late that a book is not written by James Earl Jones like you thought. That's how I accidentally made a guns movie called "The Thing Red Line". Whoopsies!

As for my failed Dinosaurs movie oh god did you just see that burst of thrushes




Oh okay I'm back.

All in all I suppose that my point is just that life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
posted by "Doctor" Terence Malick at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [19 favorites]




I share the dislike of Mulholland Drive! I've seen five or six of his films and I give up, I don't get David Lynch at all. His stuff just feels flat and lacking humanity.
posted by citron at 5:53 PM on April 2, 2013


At least no one has tried to defend my own most hated film, Eyes Wide Shut, a film so dull that it degrades the director's other films retroactively.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:55 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that the young film critics here in the post are kinda youthful, exuberant and silly.
I disagree with most everything that they say.
If this was France in the 1960's, then they would create a new form of Cinema.
posted by ovvl at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2013


Get to see Days of Heaven on a big screen at Ebertfest this month with Haskell Wexler giving a talk afterwards. Very excited about that.
posted by octothorpe at 6:09 PM on April 2, 2013


I recently rewatched Fight Club with someone who hadn't seen it before, and I was struck by how poorly it has aged, especially considering how good I thought it was when it came out.

This reminds me that I haven't watched The Matrix since the sequels came out. That was the first R-rated movie my parents let me watch and I thought it was the coolest thing. I've been on a cyberpunk kick lately and I want to see if it has held up but I'm a little afraid that it will have lost its magic.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 6:09 PM on April 2, 2013


I don't feel strongly one way or another about any of these opinions but I have to agree about Vertigo. I've really tried to like that movie but I find it as dull as watching paint dry. Until the ending, of course, and that's when there's some nifty camerawork (and nice cinematography throughout), but the whole 85% or so before that just doesn't work for me. It is a very dated film. The music puts me to sleep and the characters might as well be space aliens, as far as I could figure out their motivations and story arcs.

Oh, and did anyone say The English Patient? Because Elaine in that one Seinfeld episode was dead. on. right. What a bunch of hooey that thing was.
posted by zardoz at 6:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, and did anyone say The English Patient?

I tried, three times, and fell asleep each time.
posted by Jpfed at 6:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The music puts me to sleep

Was this still about Vertigo!??
posted by stopgap at 6:45 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Marc Ciafardini, GoSeeTalk.com:

"'Citizen Kane' is just one of those films that despite the near infinite acclaim it has acquired for decades simply does not do it for me. I don't hate it, I'm simply not impressed by it. Runner-up would be 'The Third Man' which at least keeps things interesting to a point, especially Welles' exceptional Ferris wheel monologue, (ironically they're both Welles films) but 'Kane' just fails to move the mercury for me."


I'm not sure I could look at myself in the mirror in the morning if I was paid to critique films and I claimed that The Third Man was a Welles film. I know he was in it. I know the rumor is that he wrote the ferris wheel scene. I'm sure he used his considerable skills to provide advice to Carol Reed et al, but it ain't a Welles film.
posted by nushustu at 6:56 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, thread: should I watch more Malick, and if so, what?

The Thin Red Line is his only film that I haven't been maddeningly absorbed by, but if you enjoyed Badlands then Days of Heaven is where to go from here. My only fear really is around his most recent work, To The Wonder, but I'll keep my negativity in check until I see it.

I adored The New World but accept that others may not be as entranced or find it too long. The making-of documentary is fantastic also and gives you a deeper appreciation for both the film and Malick's techniques.
posted by liquorice at 6:57 PM on April 2, 2013


Not only wasn't The Third Man a Welles picture but he barely showed up for the shoot. A lot of scenes had to be shot with body double because he was two weeks late.
posted by octothorpe at 7:19 PM on April 2, 2013


I share the dislike of Mulholland Drive! I've seen five or six of his films and I give up, I don't get David Lynch at all. His stuff just feels flat and lacking humanity.

I can't stand David Lynch... except for Mulholland Drive, which I think is a masterpiece. I'd put it in my top 50 or so and I think it's one of, if not the, best film ever made about Hollywood. Here's my take on it.

And for Malick, I'd recommend seeing The Thin Red Line on a very large screen. I love all of his films but that one's extra special.
posted by dobbs at 7:21 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because Lynch is getting attention toward the end: Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart are terrific. Admittedly, I like much of Lynch's work, but both of these seem to me simultaneously cryptic and legible, which two characteristics together are the sufficient condition to make it on my "I-love-this-film" list. To the respondent who thinks Lynch's work is devoid of humanity, take a look at Straight Story (though for my money I'd say look more carefully at Mulholland Drive).

Inception is entertaining but doesn't really bear repeat viewings. But it's not that bad, is it?

Fight Club is brilliant. What is wrong with you people?

And Vertigo overrated? I'm sorry. Overrated compared to what? Yeah, exactly what I thought.
posted by mistersquid at 7:33 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


My problem with Fight Club is the origin of the actual club in the movie. The 2 characters are the same person. We don't "know" this the first time through the beginning of the movie. We see 2 people beating each other up in a parking lot, with some people watching, which forms a nucleus of the club.

But later we realize it was just the one guy. So some people in a parking lot watched a guy beating himself up, and decided "I want a piece of that"?

It strikes me as something that was written from start to finish without going back after the reveal to see how it changes the meaning of all the previous scenes.

I still like it though.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:40 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Taxi Driver was so depressing. Watching it is a good way to ruin your day.
posted by limeonaire at 7:56 PM on April 2, 2013


In thinking about "depressing movies," many people don't realize that all bad movies are depressing, and no good movies are.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:03 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Taxi Driver was so depressing. Watching it is a good way to ruin your day.

Here's what I say to that.
posted by Artw at 8:12 PM on April 2, 2013


I love that Ebert quote, and I apply it to all art I see and hear.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:17 PM on April 2, 2013


I kind of hate the entire concept of 'masterpiece,' except perhaps when it's used in the sense of eg. a journeyman's masterwork, the thing you made that proved your mastery. In actual use it's a way to say that things you like are great or, worse, that there is some particular aesthetic standard that you are obliged to judge all such things by, and this one rates the highest. Having an aesthetic standard isn't bad, I'd recommend it, but sticking to it when it doesn't describe what you actually like--by, for instance, calling a film you don't like a 'masterpiece'--means it's no longer working as a way to describe what you like. What is it for now? Are you obeying an aesthetic dogma, as if it were a creed? If you find something that ticks all your aesthetic boxes but doesn't do anything for you, that's a reason to change your standard, not submit to the masterwork's greatness. You may have to admit, for objectivity's sake, that a work is "great" in the sense of being historically important, but aesthetics never have anything objective about them.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:21 PM on April 2, 2013


I just can't understand how anyone could not like THE SEARCHERS.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:35 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I love The Money Pit. That is my answer to that statement.
posted by Brak at 8:52 PM on April 2, 2013


Badlands. I saw it when it came out. I was an innocent convent-school educated Nigerian girl. I was a complete innocent abut film because the most radical things things the local cinema at home had shown was The Sound of Music and Lawrence of Arabia. I hadn't seen any modern films. Our television showed B&W films from the 40's and 50's. Not that there weren't some classics. But Badlands changed what I thought about film forever.

And that year I'd seen a lot of good films, because my art college in UK had a film night every week. I'd seen a Japanese season (Rashomon, Redbeard, Ugetsu Monogatari, Tokyo Monogatari and a lot more) I'd seen Fellini and Pasolini at the independent cinema in town, I'd seen Last Tango In Paris, which I hated and didn't understand (too young) I'd seen stuff which is still hard to access like El Topo and Goto L'ile D'Amour. Oh, and I'd seen some Andy Warhol.

Badlands is up there.
posted by glasseyes at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, I totally agree that Star Wars is overrated. It's like Sci-Fi for people who don't get Sci-Fi.
posted by glasseyes at 9:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Putting aside how much fun Star Wars is and the nostalgia and all that, it was a revolutionary piece of filmmaking. The way it mixes genre tropes was unprecedented - at any moment it's a Flash Gordon serial, a western, a WWII flying aces picture, a samurai movie - all of these crazy elements mixed together so they somehow work. If you have problems with the plot structure, take it up with Joseph Campbell. The dialogue is a bit clunky at times, but it's got a lot of great lines too and the actors really sell it. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher banter like Bogart and Bacall. (Seriously, how did the same guy who came up with "your worshipfullness" ever write that speech about how Natalie Portman is nothing like sand?)

The film still looks impressive, but when you put it in the context of its era, it's extraordinary. In the age of CGI, it's easy to miss what kind of a quantum jump Star Wars' special effects were from everything that had come before. (I say this as an effects geek, and it's no knock on what came before... But I think even Harryhausen must have sat through most of Star Wars with his mouth hanging open.)

If you're talking about the films as drama, I think The Empire Strikes Back is definitely a better film. But Star Wars is almost inarguably the most innovative film of the latter half of the 20th century. There was Star Wars, and then everything that came after.

A lot of these "overrated" lists are frustrating to me, because too often the authors don't consider the context of the films. Sometimes the stuff that seems trite to you in 2013 is trite because you grew up watching other movies that ripped off the truly innovative movie you're watching now. As a Gen-X'er I find movies like Easy Rider and Blow-Up to be almost unwatchable relics of my parents' era, but I can step back from that enough to acknowledge that they were truly revolutionary in their day. Even Duchamp's Fountain is just an old piss-pott, unless you put it in context.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Rules of the Game: When you start noticing things such as the fact that not only the women, but also the men have trimmed eyebrows, you know there's something that doesn't work for you

Yep, have to say I agree with her there.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:09 PM on April 2, 2013


Because I haven't seen many of these films, I'm going to instead touch on something I've figured out about myself in recent times.

Like many, I was an insecure dork who used sarcasm and anger as a defense mechanism in my youth. I became really good at hating things, and doing so articulately and in detail. People sometimes accused me of being secretly enamored with the things I despised, but largely it was because it didn't resonate with me, and it felt empirically 'wrong', like people were missing something. Largely it was me feeling insecure about not feeling the same thing other people did, and not being able to, but like all other emotions, it was filtered out as anger, and bitterness, and sarcasm. I remember at the time, one of my proudest moments was convincing a friend to ditch her Chuck Palahniuk novels after I pointed out how they all seem to follow the same formula. Of course, things that *I* liked were beyond criticism, as there was always a bunch of really good reasons why you were wrong for not liking or "getting" what I was into.

Of course, being a nerd, being hypercritical of everything became a skill in and of itself, and then everything was fair game; I could come up with a million convincing reasons why even my own favorite band sucks. It became something of a fixation: everything was flawed and broken and no one else seemed to see it. Plus, it was a good way to feign noteworthiness: be the first guy on the block to hate on something popular, and it's all the benefits of being a trendsetter with bonus "anti-cool" factor! Far out, David Spade, you're too cool for school!

Then I got old and a bunch of stuff happened, and once I came out of it, I learned to enjoy things again. I found myself mining for joy in everything instead of finding fault in it; seeking true quality and positivity outside of labels or cred; i find myself embarrassed at the pride I took at my skills at pissing on what brought other people joy, and I hate seeing it in my peers today, because snark is cool so long as we know we're better than 'them', but I get it, because I've been there. Maybe I'll find out I'm on the upswing of some weird manic break, who knows.

I guess my point is, I can watch nearly anything and give you 1,000 words on why it's great and another 1,000 on why it's awful, and have neither of them be a reflection of my actual opinion. Criticism says much about the critic: focusing on the technical missteps and plot holes of say, the original Star Wars may indeed be something the critic genuinely feels is necessary to communicate, but I can't help but feel it come across as a pointed statement to set oneself apart from one of cinema and culture's Sacred Cows.

You may feel free to disregard my ramblings however, my two favorite movies are Falling Down and Terminator 2.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:24 PM on April 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Dude. Duuuuuuuuude. Them's fightin' words. As in: I will fistfight you!

You might want to consider this reaction when you criticize the searchers. For many of us, it works on many profound levels.

But then, a lot of this boils down to "It didn't work with my personal tastes, and therefore it is overrated."

That's not overrated. It's just rated highly by people who don't share your tastes. And that's fine; not every film must suit every single taste. There are a lot of movies I respect as artistic achievements and never want to see again. I think, but for the fact that it was botched by the studios, The Magnificent Ambersons is a better film than Kane, but I don't respond to it the way I do Kane. I love Inland Empire, and think it is the most purely David Lynch film that David Lynch has ever done, but cannot in good conscience recommend it to anybody else, because, for many people, the film is nothing but a collection of what they dislike about Lynch.

I have been an arts critic for a long time. When I started, my goal was to make the case for my aesthetics, to convince people of their internal logic, to let people know why some films were good and some were bad. The trouble was, I'll watch Blade a million times before I ever watch Elizabeth, although the latter probably is, according to most standards, a better film. Mrs. Brown is a very good film, and I like the cast very much, but I have no desire to ever see it again. Air Force One is pretty dumb, but, if it's on television, I'll watch it.

Now, when I write criticism, I don't shy away from expressing my own tastes, but I also try to describe the art accurately and fairly, because I know how much of this is just a matter of personal taste, and I want people to be able to say, well, Bunny didn't like it, but it sounds right up my alley. Art benefits from this sort of variety.

Is Taxi Driver overrated? I don't know. But I'd rather be in a world that has that film in it than doesn't, and I'd rather the critic give me the opportunity to decide whether it might be the right film for me than decide it's not really worthwhile and dismiss it.That's not criticism. That's privileging one's own idiosyncratic tastes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have a theory about films, inspired by watching Dolores Claiborne: that there are journeyman films that tell a story well, without pretension, and on a score of quality they get a 3 out of 5, because they are not trying to be unique or different or anything - and these films that score 3 out of 5 are some of the best and most satisfying films you will see. You will remember them, and they will be your favourite films. Ghostbusters. That's a good example. Misery. Labyrinth.

And then there are films which try very hard to be serious works of filmic art, and sometimes, because they catch the zeitgeist and have the right stars and directors, it obscures the quality of the film until that contemporary glamour is past.

And I think Casablanca is massively overrated. But I love The Night of the Hunter, which is less than slick and completely perfect (like The Wicker Man of 1973).
posted by glasseyes at 9:31 PM on April 2, 2013


Bunny Ultramond, Taxi Driver and Bad Lieutenant are films I rate. But Bad Lieutenant has my empathy.
posted by glasseyes at 9:36 PM on April 2, 2013


Ghostbusters and Labyrinth weren't trying to be unique? I guess they achieved it by accident, then. (I find the inclusion of Labyrinth particularly perplexing. Say what you wanna say about its quality, but that is one ambitious and wonderfully bizarre film.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:37 PM on April 2, 2013


That's not criticism. That's privileging one's own idiosyncratic tastes.

Nicely put. I've generally tried to word this notion along the lines of knowing the difference between your favorite movies (books, music etc) and the best. Of course, best and favorite are both annoyingly vague words but, for me, "best" suggests that there is some level of critical consensus involved (ie: a masterful application of the art in question), whereas "favorite" just means it pushed my particular buttons in all the right ways. So I can happily claim that a train wreck like the Bob Dylan movie Masked + Anonymous is a fave (mainly because I just love the music so much), but I'd never push it on anyone too hard. Taxi Driver on the other hand, that's a movie that everyone who cares about the art of cinema should invest two hours of their life in.
posted by philip-random at 9:51 PM on April 2, 2013


I have "personally overrated" movies- movies that I think are THE BEST EVER and then, after some time period, I realize are not really all that. This time period varies a great deal from movie to movie; generally the longer the interval, the more embarrassing (or personally interesting) the eventual realization is.
posted by Jpfed at 10:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generally, I advise against "The emperor has no clothes"-ing. I had a bunch of friends who started working their way through Best Films Ever lists as part of some ill-conceived life improvement program and all got stuck on 2001: A Space Odyssey. And they all responded badly to the film's ponderous pace and its resolute refusal to offer a pat explanation for itself. And they all acted as though they had discovered that the critical consensus consisted of a bunch of self-deluded fools who were suckered into a critical assessment that no sane person could possibly share.

In some ways, I had an advantage. I first saw 2001 when I was very young, and watched it often growing up, so its odd pace and storytelling decisions didn't seem weird to me, they seemed very, well, 2001-y. And I understand responding poorly to it -- Rock Hudson stormed out of the first screening saying "Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?"

And that's fair. It's a tough film, especially if you are new to it. It's a piece of art, in the sense that you are expected to do some of the work, and some of the work involves thinking about the film, or researching it, or letting it sit in your head for a while. It helps to know the structure is based on How the West Was Won. It helps to know that they decided against representing aliens, as they felt that it could not be represented, and so instead represented alieness, with Bowman aging in a visually imaginative way. It helps to know that the decision to make the humans deadpan almost to the point of dullness, thus making Hal the most active character, was deliberate.

Not knowing these things, though, it's a tough film, and not everybody has to like it. But not liking it isn't the same as figuring out on your own that its a terrible film, and the critical consensus has it wrong. It's not a terrible film -- it's a great film. And claiming it makes no sense and is terrible doesn't make you the child who cries out the emperor has no clothes. It just makes you Rock Hudson.

Also, that sort of behavior made me lose respect for a lot of my friends. Don't tackle the best films ever list if you're not going to engage with the films. Films aren't great because they are immediately accessible -- often the best art is very hard.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:06 PM on April 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


Glasseyes, I get the sense that you could find a lot of those 3-star movies in the 24-hour-movie-channel thread.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:32 PM on April 2, 2013


Labyrinth is a kids film with puppets. I personally don't know anyone who rates it apart from my kids! Maybe I need a wider set of acquaintances but, Ursula Hitler, you're the very first adult I've encountered with this opinion (which I agree with.)
posted by glasseyes at 10:40 PM on April 2, 2013


Man. I spent last August in the States and did find a TV channel with old movies on which I enjoyed a lot. They were very average but one of them had James Earl Jones in it. *swoon*

ps Never seen a Kubric film I liked. Know he's supposed to be a genius. Saw Strangelove when it came out (I was pretty young.) Maybe I'm just too simple-minded?
posted by glasseyes at 10:42 PM on April 2, 2013


It comes down to sensibility, as to whether people like a well-made film or not. But one thing that can't be argued against is that most, if not all, the films that make these best lists are made by very skilled filmmakers. So from a purely formal standpoint most of them do deserve to be considered great films.

Some movies make these lists due to popular acclaim, and not because they are well made: Star Wars being an example.
posted by Birchpear at 10:47 PM on April 2, 2013


I recently rewatched Fight Club with someone who hadn't seen it before, and I was struck by how poorly it has aged, especially considering how good I thought it was when it came out.

The scene about the IKEA nesting instinct gets to me all. the. fucking. time. I could watch the movie and over and over again for the warm, warm kensho that the scene gives me each time I watch it in my own little cocoon made out of cheap self-assembled furniture, and I wonder: when IKEA said they were friends and offered me a free coffee for my birthday at their coffeeshop, are they, [gulp] lying?
posted by the cydonian at 11:54 PM on April 2, 2013


What about Mozart? You don't wanna leave Mozart out, you know, when you're trashing people.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:04 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Glasseyes, maybe you need to run with a different crowd. Labyrinth is a classic. And give Kubrick another chance. If you can walk away from 2001 unimpressed, I don't know what it'd take to impress you.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:38 AM on April 3, 2013


I'll go ahead and admit it, I think North By Northwest is overrated. Yeah, sure, most of the film is pretty fantastic, but the first half hour or so is some really corny, loosely held together, plot.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:04 AM on April 3, 2013


What a silly piece. Glen Kenny is the only critic to come out of that unscathed.

I do say though that I am puzzled by anyone who calls themselves a film critic and cannot appreciate Vertigo or 8 1/2. Those films almost define what film-making is.
posted by vacapinta at 1:08 AM on April 3, 2013


"Glasseyes, maybe you need to run with a different crowd. Labyrinth is a classic."

Laughing a little. I personally think Labyrinth is one of the best children's films but I haven't seen it on any lists. I was just now trying to remember what the reviews were like at the time. I think they were more or less, "Hmm, ok kids film but why feature such a peculiar washed-up pop-star? Adds unwarranted weirdness. And everyone knows he can't act. And why all the clever-clever Esher stuff? OTT. Puppets super as usual, nice visual effects, bravo Henson. Pretty young girl, tries hard."

It's not at all clear what makes a classic though I'm pretty sure time has something to do with it. Time, and accumulating enough viewers who can articulate what they see in a work, film or otherwise. Popular taste can definitely be a marker of quality but not always. (Forrest Gump, worst film ever */comic book guy*.)

I've tried with Kubric, there's a coldness there I can't get to grips with. I can appreciate they're fine films.

As for Star Wars, well, you and me will disagree.
posted by glasseyes at 2:29 AM on April 3, 2013


Even though I will die soon(ish) and will probably not see the revolution, I still am very glad to have been an insufferable twenty-something prick before the Internet.

Also, I thought Labyrinth was less a film and more rites-of-passage type introduction to David Bowie's penis.
posted by fullerine at 3:07 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is a very dated film. The music puts me to sleep and the characters might as well be space aliens, as far as I could figure out their motivations and story arcs.

Vertigo is a movie that really deserves to be watch twice (at the very least) because the focus of the story shifts dramatically once you're aware of its twists. Although it may not be initially apparent, nearly every scene is driven by characters' latent motivations. A second viewing reveals a lot of things about Scotty, Madeleine and Midge (and Hitchock). So yeah, do give it another go. In fact, I think I read somewhere that Vertigo only became a critical darling once it had been release to home video because it offered cinephiles easy access to multiple viewings.

Also, the Vertigo theme is brilliant!
posted by quosimosaur at 4:14 AM on April 3, 2013


"Hope I'm not greeted on my doorstep by a demented, gun-welding, mohican-sporting fan of the film, now I've shared this."

Keep hoping you smart-mouthed motherfucker *disassembles drawer, dons final Mohican*
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:13 AM on April 3, 2013


Poor Midge. Disappears halfway through the film after Scotty burrows into his obsession.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:13 AM on April 3, 2013


In recent weeks I've devoted a little too much time to arguing about Labyrinth on Metafilter. Suffice to say, if you don't love that movie unreservedly, you are missing out.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:13 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is Star Wars considered a masterpiece by anyone? It's a big fun mess, as the reviewer points out, but who ever called it a masterpiece?
posted by zzazazz at 6:12 AM on April 3, 2013


It would actually be quite handy if every critic could all the films they hate. For instance if I ever see that Drew Hunt has given a film a bad review, then it's probably well worth me going to see it.
posted by Shatner's Bassoon at 6:26 AM on April 3, 2013


I found myself mining for joy in everything instead of finding fault in it

Uther Bentrazor says this way up thread and it seems to me so profoundly wise. Carping at any work of art is just so tediously easy--and you can always get a "yeah! at last! someone is brave enough to say the Emperor has no clothes!" from the peanut gallery, so one can see the appeal of it. But I find as I get older it becomes clearer and clearer to me that if you look at a work of art that myriads upon myriads of people who are deeply informed about the medium and passionately love the medium have found rewarding and find yourself to be unmoved it is far more likely that this reveals some limitation in you than that it reveals something about the art work. There's something that you, personally, are not equipped to understand or to enjoy in that work and, maybe, if you give the work enough second chances, and you try harder to understand what it is that others see in it, and you try to understand the aesthetic traditions within which the work properly takes its place, and you try to understand what the author/artist/director was trying to achieve with it then maybe, just maybe, if you're lucky, you'll find that you've opened up a new world of enjoyment and understanding for yourself.

Or, you know, you could just write another tedious blog entry about how everything you don't personally like sucks and people who like it are obviously poopyheads who are just pretending to like it because that's what the cool kids told them to say.
posted by yoink at 8:27 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I cant stand the Godfather movies and their influence on the culture. I've never understood their popular and critical success.
posted by joseppi7 at 6:42 PM on April 2


Man. Had no idea people had the hate-on for The Godfather. The Godfather and The Godfather II are two of my favorite movies of all time.


Does anyone remember what gangster films were like before The Godfather? Gangster movies were a tried , tested, and frankly very tired film genre that had pretty much run its course by the time the '70s rolled around. Take a look at the old gangster films from the '30s to the '60s. All you had were cartoonish criminals, actors who just put on a heavy Italian accent and acted tough while threatening to do nasty things in corny dialogue. God alone knows how Coppola was able to convince Paramount to embrace his vision of the film, but he was savvy enough to realize that what makes The Godfather/Godfather II work is that the story is, at its root, an examination of how the American Dream can be twisted into something sick and despicable.


Just think about that for a sec. Instead of the classic American narrative of immigrants fleeing violence in their home countries, coming to our shores, being embraced as equals, finding honest work, bettering their lives for themselves and/or their children, and passing their good ol' American values to their children, which frees them to pursue their dreams, Coppola tells the same story with a twist that is sickly familiar. We have immigrants fleeing violence *but also bringing it with them*. They aren't treated as equals, they're despised as minorities. And since they're despised they can't get honest work, so take what work they can find, and if that work means robbing people or worse, then so be it, 'cause you have to survive somehow. They better their lives, and the lives of their families, on the backs and bodies of the people they destroy, and then they pass mutilated versions of those American values of hard work, persistence, and loyalty onto their children, trapping them in the same cycle of crime and bloodshed, convinced that it's normal and right.


At one point in Godfather III (we do not usually speak of Godfather III, except to say that Andy Garcia's Oscar nomination was deserved), Michael Corleone's ex-wife Kay observes him talking to some Mafiosos and says to herself, "It never stops." And that's the point of the whole series, IMO. It never stops. It can't stop, because this dark version of ourselves, this psychotic version American Dream, is still American. It's as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. Even if we go back to our roots (as Michael did in the third film) to escape it, we carry it with us.


I read Puzo's book as a kid before I ever saw the movie. On the surface, yeah, it's a potboiler. But the subtext is amazing. The constant scenes of love and loyalty for family being twisted for criminal purposes, which blew my eleven-year old mind. I remember Clemenza talking to Michael about how to make spaghetti sauce for the men in his family that were gearing up for war. My mom was teaching me to cook at the time I read the book, and I shit you not, that scene scared the pee out of me. Because the idea of taking a simple, loving act like teaching a young family member a favorite recipe, and twisting it into something sick like cooking for family members who were going to return home with blood on their hands, just horrified me to tears. It was my first exposure to the idea that some people grow up in families that don't love them, or rather, love them in horrifying ways.


Someone said in an interview I read years ago--it might have even been Coppola, I don't remember for sure--that a major theme of the first two movies is "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). By the end of Godfather II, Michael Corleone has gained the whole world--he's definitively destroyed his enemies, and he's got control of organized crime from coast-to-coast. But he's also lost his wife and his children, his sister hates him, and he's killed his own brother. "I ordered the death of my brother...I killed my mother’s son. I killed my father's son!" he cries in confession during Godfather III. The family he fought so hard to protect has abandoned him, the love of his life aborted their child and walked out, everything that ever mattered to him has run away from him in revulsion. That final shot of him sitting alone at the house in Vegas, realizing that he has in fact lost his own soul, is one of the most powerful in American cinema.


Contrast that with how the saga begins. The whole series kicks off with Bonesera looking at Don Corleone and saying, "I believe in America." It's not an accident that The Godfather begins this way, and it's not an accident that Don Corleone makes it clear to him that the America Bonasera believed in screwed Bonasera and his daughter over, that they weren't equal, they were never going to be equal, and if he wanted justice he had to take it. The Psychotic American Dream is a powerful, seductive thing, just as powerful as its counterpart, even though, as Coppola warns us, the price for chasing that dream is very, very high. And Michael pays it. At the end of the wedding scene in the first film, after Michael tells Kay about how his father knows Johnny Fontaine, he says to her "That's my family, Kay. It's not me." Then Coppola spend the rest of the series showing us that it is him.


God. I love these movies so much (okay, I have a love/hate with Godfather III). It does so many things right, tells such a compelling story, touches on themes of family, class, equality, and the American Dream. All with brilliant acting as a bonus. The critic who says that The Godfather is about terrible people making terrible decisions misses the point, which is that those terrible people could very easily be him or me or any of us.


Okay, rant over. Except to say:

(1) I love Mulholland Drive, but agree that The Straight Story is better. Muholland Drive fascinates me, but The Straight Story moved me to tears. And movies NEVER make me cry.

(2) Anyone who hates Il Conformiste is an idiot.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


Not knowing these things, though, it's a tough film, and not everybody has to like it.

2001 is also gorgeous. It must have been quite something when it first came out.
posted by ersatz at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2013


The only Fellini film I've made it all the way through is 8 1/2. I did like it. I fell asleep twice trying to watch La Dolce Vita. The problem with Fellini films for me is this: the dubbed dialogue. I realize this was apparently a standard practice in Italian movies at the time, but it makes things feel totally fake to me, and it prevents me from getting into the film.

Still haven't seen Badlands, but really want to. Tree of Life completely blew me away, but I think it would be totally boring on a home TV screen - the whole evolution of the universe sequence needs to be seen as hugely as possible.
posted by dnash at 9:05 AM on April 3, 2013


My favorite Fellini is Satyricon. It's an adaptation of remaining pieced-together fragments of an old Latin novel and Fellini adapts it in the most straightforward way possible-- scene for scene. So there's huge chunks of the movie missing, characters die and then show up alive later with no explanation. It's hugely disorienting and bizarre and the first thing in my head when I hear the term Felliniesque.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:33 AM on April 3, 2013


"I have been an arts critic for a long time. When I started, my goal was to make the case for my aesthetics, to convince people of their internal logic, to let people know why some films were good and some were bad. The trouble was, I'll watch Blade a million times before I ever watch Elizabeth, although the latter probably is, according to most standards, a better film. Mrs. Brown is a very good film, and I like the cast very much, but I have no desire to ever see it again. Air Force One is pretty dumb, but, if it's on television, I'll watch it.

Now, when I write criticism, I don't shy away from expressing my own tastes, but I also try to describe the art accurately and fairly, because I know how much of this is just a matter of personal taste, and I want people to be able to say, well, Bunny didn't like it, but it sounds right up my alley. Art benefits from this sort of variety.
"

When I started working as a critic, my two goals were to make sure people heard about things that were great that would otherwise have been missed and to get free records. In general, I think I failed at the first one (though both my readers no doubt had good taste) and wildly over-succeeded at the second, to the point where I kinda burned out trying to keep up — you listen to a lot of terrible music if you legitimately try to ignore press kits and plow through everything.

Along the way, I stumbled into some things I wish I'd thought about more when I started, things like no work is perfect, that edification and entertainment are different but not exclusive goals, that other people may like things that I don't and have different priorities for their art, and that it's important to treat any work fairly, on its terms. That doesn't mean that some things don't need skewering, or that some things aren't over- (or under-) rated. Just that a critic should be able to articulate a context for a work, describe how it succeeds or fails in that context, and (at best) how a work says something about the medium it uses and the broader culture we live in.

I gave up on the idea of guilty pleasures a long time ago, and try to focus more on articulating why I enjoy something or why I don't, and I've got a broad enough experience to place most things in a context of other works that have had similar goals. Now the hard part is to not try to over-connect things and not to go over the goddamn word limits.
posted by klangklangston at 9:42 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


(I will say that by far, the hardest things to review aren't the things that are good or bad, but the ones that are mediocre to moderately good — it's hard to hit the right qualified endorsement, especially if it's something where the flaw is mostly that it's not distinctive enough to be memorable. That's the way a vast amount of "indie" music has gotten to be for me, where I kinda react to, say, Death Cab for Cutie or Postal Service with a meh — it's OK to have on, and I don't really hate it or anything, I just feel like that kind of mid-tempo melodic stuff isn't terribly interesting — it's like the audio version of wall-to-wall apartment carpeting, soft and comforting but nothing that I'm excited to come home to.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just that a critic should be able to articulate a context for a work, describe how it succeeds or fails in that context, and (at best) how a work says something about the medium it uses and the broader culture we live in.

While this is crucial, and a better understanding than many critics have, it's unfortunately not self-evident how to qualify the applicable context. For example, to say a Tarantino film is out of step with a post-Columbine world, or to review a film with a high ratio of fart jokes in feminist terms provides plenty of meat but serves absolutely nobody effectively for obvious reasons. But an awful lot of working, mainstream, high-profile critics make that error to an only trivially more subtle degree. There's no obvious formula; no rule that you can make that doesn't have a solid case for breaking some of the time. For example, it's almost always an error to criticise a film in terms of the one you think its maker ought to have made. Except when that's exactly the right thing to do. Hitting that mark is an art that not many critics have.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:08 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


2001 is also gorgeous. It must have been quite something when it first came out.

It probably helped that it happened to come out when LSD was still legal.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:31 PM on April 3, 2013


While this is crucial, and a better understanding than many critics have, it's unfortunately not self-evident how to qualify the applicable context. For example, to say a Tarantino film is out of step with a post-Columbine world, or to review a film with a high ratio of fart jokes in feminist terms provides plenty of meat but serves absolutely nobody effectively for obvious reasons."

Qualifying the applicable context is part of the critic's job, and I disagree that those examples couldn't be effective criticism — I just think that they're easier to turn into lazy, bad criticism.

But an awful lot of working, mainstream, high-profile critics make that error to an only trivially more subtle degree. There's no obvious formula; no rule that you can make that doesn't have a solid case for breaking some of the time. For example, it's almost always an error to criticise a film in terms of the one you think its maker ought to have made. Except when that's exactly the right thing to do. Hitting that mark is an art that not many critics have."

I tend to think that it's maybe harder to do good criticism than good art, because you can do good art accidentally. I don't think you can accidentally do good criticism.
posted by klangklangston at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]



It probably helped that it happened to come out when LSD was still legal.


Not in any of the regions I'm aware of. 2001 was a 1968 film. Can't find definitive info in 90 seconds of googling but I'm pretty sure LSD was illicit by 1967 in Canada and the USA, and most of the rest of the western world. Which isn't to say that there wasn't still gallons of the stuff around in 1968 (or now for that matter). Want to increase the production of something to a perilous degree? Criminalize it.
posted by philip-random at 2:45 PM on April 3, 2013


I mean, I've seen 2001 at least twice on the big screen while under the influence, and that was in the 1980s.
posted by philip-random at 2:46 PM on April 3, 2013


This has been a nice discussion. K, art is much harder to do than criticism. Criticism is an academic exercise, all you need is brains. Art is going somewhere you hadn't been before, you need something different for that, and nobody knows what it is. Foolhardiness perhaps.

2001, wasn't that shown on some kind of super-surround screen when it came out? Can't remember what the thing was called.

Malick, who is so austere, and Fellini, who is so messy. Love em both. Love that Fellini can have any number of technical infelicities and sketched-out bits and still have you caught in that magic, untidy, irrational world. And it is the business of film to be plausible and fantastic at the same time.
posted by glasseyes at 2:53 PM on April 3, 2013


"K, art is much harder to do than criticism. Criticism is an academic exercise, all you need is brains. Art is going somewhere you hadn't been before, you need something different for that, and nobody knows what it is. Foolhardiness perhaps."

Nah, if you're gonna reduce criticism to an academic exercise that you "only" need brains for, all you need for art is a good eye (or ear) or good luck. Anything past that, and we're talking about what makes something good, which is criticism.
posted by klangklangston at 3:59 PM on April 3, 2013


Gotta go with klang on this. As someone who has (rarely) been given money for both art and criticism it's meaningless to say which is harder. They are not even notionally different -- an artist is frequently a critic, their art being an interpretation or translation of some phenomenon. The critic is in no minor sense an artist (here we suppose a good critic :P ) in expressing and interpreting experience, thought, feeling and sensation in words that evoke a response and an understanding in the reader.

Obviously there are shit critics who don't deserve so fine a description. But no one will deny there are plenty of shit artists too, so that's no distinction either.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:39 PM on April 3, 2013


Can't find definitive info in 90 seconds of googling but I'm pretty sure LSD was illicit by 1967 in Canada and the USA, and most of the rest of the western world.

See, that's what I thought, but Wikipedia says October 24, 1968 US-wide and October 6, 1966 in California. Erowid agrees.

Which isn't to say that there wasn't still gallons of the stuff around in 1968 (or now for that matter).

True, although there was a major shortage beginning, ironically enough, around 2001.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:24 PM on April 3, 2013


"2001, wasn't that shown on some kind of super-surround screen when it came out? Can't remember what the thing was called."

Aye, Cinerama. 3 35mm projectors. I saw it, and "How The West Was Won", and "Windjammer", in that format at the same crummy downtown Chicago theater wherein mostly you noticed the slight overlap of the
projections. Still, you knew you were seeing something BIG!
posted by Chitownfats at 2:46 AM on April 4, 2013


I think 2001 was shot in UltraPanavision, so would have most likely been a single 70mm projector, not true "Cinerama".
posted by ShutterBun at 3:29 PM on April 4, 2013


By contrast North (1994) is a unfairly underrated masterpiece.
posted by Omon Ra at 5:07 PM on April 4, 2013


When I was in 7th or 8th grade our social studies teacher screened 2001 to the class over several days. I still have no idea why, it was not connected to the preceding or following lesson units, but he just seemed to like it. Actually, this is the first time I'm reflecting on this and I'm realizing this was in 1998 so maybe he was trying to teach us something about perception warping history of the future. or something.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:16 PM on April 4, 2013


Man, my 7th grade social studies teacher only showed us Baraka.

Later, my high school history teacher showed us The Sting and the kids in back said they couldn't follow it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:23 PM on April 4, 2013


My 11th grade American History teacher showed us Stargate.

(Because she was in the middle of an ugly divorce and when Dan Bennet questioned it, she said, "Do you want a fucking test? I can give you a test right now. Just say the word.")
posted by klangklangston at 11:45 PM on April 4, 2013


To be fair, she showed us many other movies as well, and spent most of them sobbing at her desk while we watched quietly, yet was still a pretty good teacher on the whole.
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


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