Critic Favourites I Just Don’t Get

A short one today for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it’s probably going to make me look really stupid

Secondly, I watched a vodcast today where the presenters chose their ‘goes against public opinion’ movie views and it just came across as…trying too hard. This isn’t intended as some ‘look how alternative I am’ article. It’s just an honest recognition that despite those years studying Film…there are some recognised ‘masterpieces’ I just don’t like.

One of these days I’ll get round to writing about the classics I’ve never seen – and believe me there are some truly embarrassing omissions from my viewing history…

This article follows on from yesterday’s where I noted some critically loathed films that I have a real soft spot for and I should point out that I’m not arguing that Drop Dead Fred is a greater cinematic achievement than some of the movies mentioned below. I’m just saying…as I hope I’ve made clear…I just don’t like them.

Saving Private Ryan

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I’m not a huge Spielberg fan in general (get that ball rolling straight away…) other than most of the Raiders films, Jaws and Close Encounters, but when it comes to Saving Private Ryan, which Rex Reed says simply is “a masterpiece.”, and the Hollywood Reporter said, “The visual masterwork finds Spielberg atop his craft, weaving heart-pounding action and gut-wrenching emotion that will leave viewers silently shaken…”

I wasn’t shaken and I wasn’t very silent watching it – reading William Goldman’s thoughts on it a few years later I found myself very much in his camp – Yes, there’s that beach landing scene in all its incredibleness, but after that… it feels a lie of a film – not just in the ‘based on a true story’ which is stretched even further from the true origins than most Hollywood ‘based on true events’, but it’s a lie in the storytelling – sentiment winning out over story-telling rules that ultimately just left me feeling annoyed.

Punch Drunk Love

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“Adam Sandler like you’ve never seen him before” was the cry. “If you don’t think you could ever like an Adam Sandler movie, you should see this…”

Well, I’d seen a few Adam Sandler flicks at the point I saw Punch Drunk Love and I’d quite liked a number of them (The Wedding Singer in particular). I’d also seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies Hard Eight (liked), Boogie Nights (Loved) and Magnolia (Loved). And by all rights Punch Drunk Love should have been a movie I loved too – a dark, deeply subverted romantic comedy, with a socially inept central character: it had all the makings of being another After Hours for me.

So why did it leave me so cold? It wasn’t Sandler. It wasn’t the subject matter. It wasn’t that I don’t think Anderson can do off-kilter humour – some of Boogie Nights and Magnolia are deeply, darkly, funny. But Punch Drunk Love didn’t make me laugh at all and despite it being around half the length of Magnolia it felt as if it dragged longer. Even more sacrilegious? I think it was the end of the line for me with Anderson… There Will Be Blood, so many people’s favourite of the year left me similarly cold, The Master bored and confused me, and since then I haven’t even seen Inherent Vice or Phantom Thread. I will do – someday, because I can’t believe I’ve gone off everything the man that made two of my favourite films of their respected time, that much and so completely but having tried Punch Drunk Love two and a half times now (the second time because I wondered if it was one of those fluke things that happen when you’re not in the mood for something and the last time because I’d let a few years go by and wondered if I’d changed – I hadn’t and realised that halfway through) I’m not finding myself in any rush to do so…

Some Like It Hot

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Considered the greatest comedy of all time by many critics, I’ve seen Some Like It Hot a number of times but other than the last line and the oft-repeated Marilyn Monroe related quotes I really don’t find much memorable about the film – and I really don’t remember laughing at it. David Jenkins, the critic from Little White Lies commented “Everyone has a canonical classic which they just don’t get. This one is mine.” I hold up my hands completely and say yes – that’s how I feel about it: a lot of critics I greatly admire revere it as one of their favourites so I realise it must be me…I just don’t get it. It’s not an age thing – there’s a ton of ’50’s comedies I love…Outside of Fawlty Towers and Fraiser I’m not good with farce at the best of times – they tend to annoy me more than amuse. Screwball I can take or leave (and I’ll take a Bringing Up Baby any day of the week), but Some Like It Hot seems to hit some sweet spot between the two which I just fail to enjoy each and every time I’ve watched it.

The Shining

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OK – this one needs a little bit of explanation.

I don’t hate The Shining. Hell, I’ve even got my own geeky Overlook Hotel t-shirt. I’ve seen it into double digits at this point in my life and it’s probably my second favourite Stanley Kubrick movie. Perhaps the bigger soul-bearing point to make here is this: I don’t really like Stanley Kubrick movies. Phew, it’s taken me around 30 years to admit that, but there you go.

Maybe it’s constantly seeing The Shining showing up as the number 1 Horror Movie of all time in every pre-Halloween list that ever seems to come out that get me. It’s not. It’s really not. For me, it’s a long, at times badly-paced and at times shockingly badly edited film which, most importantly really isn’t scary. And that’s not something I say because all the Jack with an Axe stuff has been parodied to death. It’s something I’ve always thought. There are, for me, two effective ‘scare’/ surprises which are brilliant twists on viewer expectations. The rest, while a slow-build (at times glacial, then suddenly cramming too much information or skipping over stuff that needed more time devoted to it). Otherwise, I’m one of those in the Stephen King camp who thought the source material was far more interesting than the finished movie version (and even though the later TV version which followed King’s novel was badly acted, cheaply made and badly directed it at least hinted at what could have been.) I’m interested in seeing what happens with Doctor Sleep – the Ewan McGregor starring sequel due next year and thought the documentary Room 237 was really, really good – and given the choice, I’d watch that again, rather than the movie this Halloween…

The Big Lebowski

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I suppose now’s the time to hand in any Geek badge I might ever have had.

I swear to god I’ve tried to like The Big Lebowski. I’ve tried so many times. Because it’s the Coen Brothers. Because it’s Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi and John Goodman and…and because it’s one of the most quotable movies of all time. I’ve watched it about eight times over the years. I’ve finished it twice – the second time admitting to myself to give it up: I’m a genuine fan/ hipster of enough ‘hip/ cult’ movies not to try to fake this one…and there’s certainly enough of the Coen’s work that I can watch again and again to just face up to the fact that this is the one I just don’t get. 

There’s plenty more I could have chosen – from the classics (Lawrence of Arabia, Persona, even my beloved William Goldman’s All the President’s Men leaves me a little cold) to the modern spectacles (I made it through a whole half an hour of Lord of the Rings before realising I’d prefer to stick to Jackson’s earlier stuff like Bad Taste and Heavenly Creatures to bother with the thirty hours or whatever it is of that series), to blockbusters like Mission Impossible (I’ve seen every one and while I find them okay, I’ve never found one of them as adrenaline-pumping as the efforts put into the stunts warrant).

In all cases I know – it’s me. It really is. So don’t bother commenting to tell me I’m wrong: there are a million and one critics out there whose views and love for the films let me know I must be.

But that’s the great thing about the movies: there’s something for everyone – and even if pretty much everyone is right and you’re wrong then that’s fine. We just don’t have to be internet-mad about hating them…

If you do want to comment, perhaps suggest a ‘great’ that you ‘just don’t get’… and we could fight over it…

 

 

 

 

 

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