Six Movies I Expected to Like, but Didn't
I love movies. When I sit down to watch a film, I do so with the attitude that I’m probably going to enjoy what I’m about to see. Very occasionally, I sit down to watch a movie with a skeptical attitude and am surprised to find I actually enjoy it – I fully admit, I expected to hate Titanic, but it was a great movie. Even more occasional is when I sit down to watch a film that has gotten heaps of praise from critics and audiences, but to me it falls entirely flat. That’s what this list is about.
I was excited about this one. Taxi Driver is generally considered to be one of Robert De Niro’s most iconic performances, and the film has been praised by countless critics over the years. So I was in a mood to be impressed when I sat down to watch this one. I fell asleep. I stayed awake long enough to see Travis Bickle take a girl on a date to a porn movie, and woke up right before the ending when he guns down a bunch of guys. De Niro’s character was so stupid I had trouble sympathizing with him. And let’s be honest, I can count on one hand the number of movies I have fallen asleep to during the first viewing, and it never bodes well. 2/10 is being generous.
Scorsese was such a critically acclaimed filmmaker that I didn’t want to write off his entire filmography as a waste of time after just one bad experience. So I picked out what was widely considered the best film he’s ever done and watched it. And fell asleep again. Figuring I wasn’t giving it a fair chance if I just left it at that, I watched it a second time. This time I stayed awake through the whole thing. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. The language was bad enough to be a turn-off, the characters were generally unlikable, and I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the ending. Indifference is never a good thing. When the credits rolled my first thought was “that’s it???” My second thought was, “there are people that consider THAT a better movie than The Godfather?” 5/10 Indifference is about the last reaction a director would want from his audience.
Now here is a film that my friends actually got me to watch at the campus theater. I knew full well it was Scorsese all over again. Here’s the thing about this film, the writing is clever, it’s energetic, and the performances are really good, good characters on both sides of the law. Then there was the ending. Anti-climactic as hell, and when the credits rolled my first thought was “That’s it? What kind of an ending is that?” It was such an unsatisfying resolution to the story that the entire film was soured as a result. That can happen with a lousy ending. It’s tragic, but it’s true. 5/10
A Clockwork Orange
Here was a film that critics had dubbed a classic, and Kubrick is a filmmaker that is venerated by most who know about film. This was my first real exposure to Kubrick’s work, and I hated it with a fiery passion. Lousy performances, poor production values – that caused the film to age badly – universally unlikable characters, and some of the most disgusting, exploitative, violence and sexual content I have ever seen. Not to mention a political agenda so blatant that by the time the movie was over, my throat was sore. All in all, out of all the movies on this list, I felt like A Clockwork Orange was a waste of my time.
I actually saw A Clockwork Orange in a film class, I had been interested to see it, and was shocked at how little I enjoyed it. Much of what I said here, I told to a fellow student as we were walking out of class, and he said: “Well, not all films are meant to be pleasant to watch, and what’s important about this one was its political underpinnings, not the story itself.”
I can definitely appreciate his point of view on the matter, but I’m not that type of filmgoer. This is not to say that I don’t take film seriously, because I do. And I also don’t mean that I don’t think films should contain underlying themes or messages of any kind, because I think the best movies do. Movies can be political, environmental, philosophical, even religious, but there has to be some sort of entertainment value to be found within the film. And the best filmmakers know how to tell a story on film. I’ve persevered through a few more of Kubrick’s films, like Dr. Strangelove, and The Paths of Glory. The conclusion I’ve come to is that Kubrick lacks the storytelling instincts needed to make above-average films. His films are all about the political/philosophical underpinnings. They are about the agenda that he was trying to communicate. However, in the case of A Clockwork Orange, the anti-violence agenda did not change the fact that the movie sucked. If anything, it made it worse. 1/10 worthless.
No Country for Old Men
What can I say about this film? It's got exactly one character I actually liked and she dies at the end. Add to that the fact that most of the characters mumble their way through the movie, so I couldn't understand what they were saying, and you've got a 2 hour movie that nearly bored me to death. Even Javier Bardem couldn't save that one.
The killer is, this movie won best picture in 2008, the critics couldn’t possibly say enough good things about it. So when I went into the theater to watch it I was excited. Tommy Lee Jones is a great actor, and Josh Brolin is cool. I wasn’t familiar with Javier Bardem at the time, but I was generally impressed with him, he was a complete and utter psychopath in this – scary even. Still, it wasn’t enough. I walked away from the film wondering what the ultimate point was, besides to depress the hell out of me. I’ve seen the film twice, once in the theater, once off of Netflix on a whim (and with subtitles). Still don’t get it, and it’s not like the Cohen Brothers haven’t done some good films. Fargo was way better, as was True Grit, which came out recently. 4/10 – Four points for Bardem and Kelly McDonald who was the only actress in the film with a character I could root for.
Kill Bill: Volume 1
OK, let me start off by saying, I am a big Tarantino fan. However, I’m not the type of guy that is arbitrarily going to like anything and everything a filmmaker does, just because I think he/she is brilliant. The fact is that Tarantino has a couple of cruddy movies in his filmography, no filmmaker who ever worked in the business ever managed to get through his entire career without making ANY crappy movies. Even Stephen Spielberg has done a few stinkers, like AI Artificial Intelligence (dodged this bullet, thankfully, never seen it, don’t plan to), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Not so lucky with this one, saw it in the theater, thought Indiana Jones and aliens made a lousy combination). Anyways, I fully expected to love Kill Bill, the trailers were awesome, I love Tarantino and Uma Thurman. I didn’t like Kill Bill volume 1.
There are a number of reasons for that, first off, I don’t like Japanese Animation, never have, never will, couldn’t tell you why. Second, I thought the blood spattering all over the place was way over the top – I say that knowing full well that was intentional. The real clincher though was the fact that I thought it was badly written and badly acted – the first one anyway, the second part was better. It didn’t hit me the way I expected it to. Certainly it didn’t resonate with me the way Pulp Fiction or even Inglorious Basterds did. 4/10