The Oscars are a’comin’, which brings to mind movies whose popularity eludes us. They may be critically acclaimed and audience favorites, but for us, the review is… meh.
Here are the Chicks’ choices of movies whose popularity, acclaim, or existence we just don’t get.
Just start humming the opening bars of the theme song to The Godfather, and I’m out faster than Tony Soprano when he suddenly stops believin’ in a Jersey diner. I simply cannot make it through that movie, let alone the even more zzzz-inducing sequels. Please don’t get me wrong—I’m fine with violence in my movies, if it makes sense (and for organized thug-types, it certainly does). I watched most, if not all, of The Sopranos because I cared about the characters. But I felt much better about my Corleone Family aversion when I saw You’ve Got Mail, in which Tom Hanks’s character tries in vain to explain The Godfather’s appeal (mainly to men) to a clueless Meg Ryan. I did adopt the key quote he also explained to her, though: “Go to the mattresses.” It means, Get in there and fight. But there’s only one movie I actually walked out of a theater for: Eyes Wide Shut, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. I couldn’t even sleep through that one, but no one else liked that movie, either. I wanted to bleach my eyes.
For me, the Meh Award goes to… Jerry Maguire. This has nothing to do with the fact that it revolves around football, a sport I will never understand. (Sidebar: When I was in college, a date took me to a football game. Something happened on the field and our team ran off and another team of ours ran on. “I didn’t know we had two teams playing today,” I told my date, who responded, “That’s offense and defense.” Never saw him again.)
If you don’t remember, Tom Cruise plays a sports agent who strikes out on his own. My main objection to Jerry Maguire is that the wife of his one client makes the pivotal decision that determines the end of the movie while Jerry stands there being indecisive. Yet Jerry gets all the credit for it!! That chaps my storytelling hide. But I do appreciate the fact that the movie spawned a timeless cliché: “You had me at (fill in the blank.)”
I admit I’ve never been a Thomas Wolfe fan, but because I’m Southern and maybe because I’m an author, I really wanted to like Genius, the 2016 movie about Thomas Wolfe and his New York editor, Max Perkins. (It might be a stretch to talk about its popularity, since it was nearly universally panned by critics and didn’t do so well at the box office either.) But, I struggle more to understand how it got made to begin with. And how did so many brilliant actors, including Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, manage to make such a bad movie?
You may totally disagree with me, of course, about Thomas Wolfe or the quality of the movie, but I absolutely DEFY anyone to defend Jude Law’s Southern accent in this film! One review described it as “arguably the worst performance of Jude Law’s career.” I take exception to the word “arguably.” But even if it had been a good movie (it wasn’t), I never could have gotten past his accent. It was painful to hear. I submit that Jude Law’s attempt at a Southern drawl is right up there as a contender for worst accent evah – on par with Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in the original Mary Poppins, which at least Dick was classy enough to apologize for years later.
Not sure if this movie was actually popular, though we watched it in class, so it must have had renown: Duel. I don’t know why they showed it to us–it was completely unrelated to anything we were studying. Maybe they were secretly doing some sort of psychological test about what happens when you try to scare a bunch of students with a film. It is quite unsettling. But–and this is totally on me, not the film–my least favorite part of any movie-viewing experience is a car chase. Once a car chase begins, I’m out. And this whole film is one long stalker-y chase. One minute Dennis Weaver is driving down the road; the next minute, he’s being terrorized by a creepy truck. For no apparent reason. For the rest of the movie. Yep. Peace out.
It’s on numerous “best movies ever” lists and is the darling of critics the world over, but the last time I watched Citizen Kane (and it will be the last time), I was astounded at how bad I thought the film was: full of stilted dialogue, eye-rollingly embarrassing plot-lines, and clichéd tropes. Yes, I get that when it was released (1941) the film was far ahead of its time—simultaneously perhaps the first film noir and the first “mockumentary” ever made—and that Orson Welles was exceedingly brave to take on the Hearst publishing empire as he did. But today it merely seems dated and over-acted to me, especially compared to other movies such as The Maltese Falcon and Suspicion, released the same year, which still remain relevant and fresh.
I know, I know. It’s a classic! It makes us think deep thoughts! Gravity is optional! I get the themes of false realities, complacency, freedom, and autonomy, but I just don’t get its wild popularity or how it sustained an entire franchise. (Sorry! Please don’t pelt me with popcorn.) I don’t know if it’s Keanu Reeves’ wooden acting or the writing or the shifting time/place/reality sequences, but it was not for me. I actually watched all of the films in hopes that I’d have some kind of Matrix-y epiphany that would make me go, “Ahhhhhh, yes. Now I understand.” But I didn’t. Give me Bill & Ted Keanu or Parenthood Keanu. If The Matrix comes on TV, you’ll find me in the other room reading.
I’ll confess I never watched Life of Pi because the book pissed me off so badly. It completely failed to live up to the “promise of its premise,” a cardinal sin in my book. The description says Pi was the son of a zookeeper who finds himself in a cargo ship, and then a lifeboat, with a bunch of animals, one of which is a tiger. That says to me straight-up adventure, but it turned into a steaming pile of woo-woo New Age-y extended metaphor gloop. Apparently the movie did the same. Plus, the trailer I saw had really unimpressive CGI.
The first twenty minutes of The Tree of Life was simply a kaleidoscope of unrelated images — can I say “a steaming pile of woo-woo New Age-y extended metaphor gloop” again here? The entire movie might have been the same way, but I’ll never know because that’s where I ditched out. I watch all kinds of movies, 70% of which are indie and foreign, with their fair share of extended metaphor, so it’s not like I need car chases and meet-cute scenes to be happy. But I do like my movies to have some sort of plot.
And don’t argue with me because if you do, I’ll be forced to go full Cranky Grandpa on you. Now get off my lawn.
Readers, what do you think of our choices? And what’s a movie whose popularity eludes you?
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