5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

Argo3 5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

I’ve come to terms with Argo being declared by a number of governing bodies including the oh-so-prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the Best Picture of 2012. It’s ok. I watched it again, and it’s fine, whatever. A well told story that’s engaging throughout and has a conclusion that stretches the definition of “true story” but is fairly well conceived and executed and all that. It’s good. It’s fine. It deserves to be among the year’s acclaimed movies.

I also think I get why it received all this acclaim long after it had been released. In what seems to be the victorious narrative, Ben Affleck was left out of the Best Director category when the Oscar nominations were released, and this led to a flood of sympathy votes for his darling little movie to win every award that came after. This is not necessarily a satisfying explanation in the sense that it’s unfortunate this is the way the world in general and the world of Hollywood more specifically seems to work, but satisfying in the sense that there is an explanation, and this one seems to hold water.

There are other movies that have been the recipients of enormous acclaim, either popularly in the form of box office or word of mouth reception, or from critical raves, none of which makes any sense to me. I’m not saying they’re bad in every case, but the degree to which they’re hailed as great movies baffles me nonetheless. This may just be obtuseness on my part. But I’ve never let that stop me before from sharing my reservations about popular movies.

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1) The King’s Speech

The Kings Speech2 5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

The King’s Speech was sort of like 2010’s Argo, ending up with all the big awards after it seemed another movie, in that year The Social Network, seemed to have all the critical momentum behind it. It’s even more baffling because instead of having the sentimental narrative behind it, I’m talking about the Ben Affleck “comeback” (because people were mean to him for a while, omg), The King’s Speech was directed by Tom Hooper. People don’t seem to like Tom Hooper, and every criticism made about his movie from this past year, Les Miserables, has basically been mounted as a personal attack on his skills and knowledge as a director.

And yet his movie about a stuttering monarch who finds his voice and singlehandedly wins a war for England, I think, earned him a Best Director prize at the Oscars, and the movie won Best Picture. Seems odd for a director that is hailed by many as the worst and they’d like you to believe he has always been that way (I thought The Damned United was a fine film before this one). But that’s neither here nor there. I don’t get the affection for The King’s Speech. My feeling leaving the movie was like, ok so he got over his stammer and delivered his speech and everything, but what would have happened if he had failed? He still would have been…the King of England? I find it hard to sympathize with royalty, I guess. It was a nice little personal victory for him, but making it into this big national triumph rang false for me. I must have missed something because everyone I talk to loves this movie.

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2) Gran Torino

Gran Torino 5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

Gran Torino I’m more brazenly negative about. It’s worth saying I really liked Clint Eastwood up until this point. He was on a hot streak from 2003 to 2006, with four stellar movies coming out in that four-year span. Possibly the hottest streak of any director working at the time. Then in October of 2008 there was the release of Changeling, which was met with more mixed response but many, including myself, found it to be on par with his previous efforts, an excellent and heartfelt film.

So maybe I was too excited to see Gran Torino just two months later in December, given that it was another directorial effort by Eastwood but also featured him in the starring role with a shotgun. Hell yes. Then I saw it and I was like hell no, sorry. I don’t like to dismiss a movie for its acting and so that wasn’t my biggest problem with this movie. But it was certainly an obstacle that made its enjoyment harder to come by.

I dig that he wanted to cast Hmong actors in Hmong roles, but the inexperience of these performers was painfully obvious and a major distraction, for me at least. But that wasn’t my biggest issue. It was the classic “mean SOB is actually a good guy” trope that irked me the most. It’s not so much that this is a cliché, as that it’s a cliché that is executed so poorly so often, including here. I get that he’s supposed to be a racist old man, and we’re supposed to find him amusing but kind of reprehensible for what he says and does, until the end when he redeems himself and all is well. This would have perhaps been tolerable if not for the immensely heavy-handed Christ-like imagery they used to turn Walt Kowalski into a savior. They could have made him complicated and interesting, and this was a copout and possibly really offensive and goddammit I hate this movie! Not actually, but when people, including a vast majority of critics and review boards, cite it as a great movie, I can’t abide that. It makes no sense.

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3) The Blind Side

The Blind Side 5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

I tend to have more questions than answers about movies, which makes it tough for people to take me seriously when I write about them, and that’s ok. But movies like The Blind Side just baffle me sometimes. From where I stand, based on all the movies I’ve seen and witnessed how they’ve been received, which is limited in scope but all I have to draw upon, I can’t fathom exactly how a movie like The Blind Side gets nominated for an Oscar. This is a type of movie, and it’s not exactly a movie that plays against this “type,” that does not typically generate awards consideration. It’s usually seen as harmless but not particularly noteworthy. And so I was expecting this movie to be in that pantheon of sports movies that people enjoy and are fine and good but don’t get elevated to the heights of awards reception because that would be crazy.

And then they went and nominated this thing and gave Sandra Bullock a freaking statue for it. I appreciate that it’s a really cool story and the movie tells it well enough. But why was it received so much better than the other movie director John Lee Hancock is known for, The Rookie? Or any other solid sports movie? How did this one break through and get nominated? Even if it was the first year that expanded the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten? I mean, The Rookie is a good movie. I just somehow completely missed how Sandra Bullock was more deserving of awards attention than Dennis Quaid, or insert any other overlooked sports movie example you want. Forget the actual huge issues people had with the movie, of which there were many. The acclaim for this one specifically, as opposed to the many others like it, is still bizarre to think about.

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4) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

Hey, remember that time Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars? I had forgotten about that, and how confounding it was. Because this movie is pretty bad, and most people who saw it agreed on this, or so I thought, before it got nominated for a freaking Oscar.

The majority of critics, given its “rotten” overall rating on Rotten Tomatoes and its “mixed” rating on Metacritic, seemed to have a similar experience of the movie that I did, so I feel somewhat validated. The story seems like it sort of had potential, and from what I hear about the book, it works well in print form. But on screen it’s either completely flat or completely ludicrous. The child is irritating and that could be ok, but he’s held in such high regard without much awareness of how insufferable he is (again, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing necessarily), that it becomes—I don’t know, overwhelming?—listening to him in scene after scene. The Max von Sydow character is kind of interesting, as are many of the other supporting players, but this gets overshadowed by how preposterous their degree of accommodation for his personal quest is, and the partial explanation for this at the conclusion of the film is not at all satisfying. That was my take, at least. Some liked it, many others were even more vitriolic towards it, but somehow it gets to go down in history as an Academy Award nominee instead of a brilliant movie like Beginners. AMPAS, you crazy.

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5) J. Edgar

J. Edgar 5 Recent Movies Whose Popular Acclaim Makes No Sense

I apologize for the Clint Eastwood hate. I’ll make up for it another time. For now, what the heck happened with J. Edgar? And better yet, how did this movie make it onto both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review’s respective top ten movies of the year lists? Again, if someone could explain this for me I’d be overjoyed. What I saw was a lot of speechifying characters and a pretty straightforward biographical drama that showed glimpses of interesting things but went the broad route instead of going into depth in anything. I much prefer something like Lincoln, which allowed itself to get kind of specific, than J. Edgar. Then again, Hitchcock also kind of sucked. So I’m not sure what would have made J. Edgar work better. But if people got something out of it, that’s awesome.

With the access we now have to virtually every opinion imaginable about movies released each year, it’s becoming easier to identify common threads and the dominating opinion about seemingly everything, not least of which movies. Things like award designation have become less of a surprise because we tend to already know what most of the “experts” as well as the public think about any film that’s out there. This also lends itself to potential groupthink, people simply signing off on the popular opinion without giving it much thought themselves. In some cases that makes for some really interesting outlier opinions on movies that were widely thought to be of one type, and with one shift in perspective, could be seen another way. So we always have to be open to having our minds opened or changed when it comes to movies we think are dumb. That’s why I’m open to, in fact would welcome, any of these movies receiving an ardent defense from their fans. But from where I sit, I just don’t see their redeeming qualities.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.rader.336 Brandon Rader

    First off, that is an M1 Garand rifle, not a shotgun in Gran Torino.
    Second, he wasn’t playing “the classic SOB”, he was playing the Vietnam Vet who lost close friends in the war and struggled with multiple problems including PTSD and an intense hatred of the entire group of people.
    Third, sure, some of the Hmong actors were a little unpolished, but the one that counted put on a very good performance for her first role.

    The story isn’t “the mean guy is actually good”, the story is a man dealing with his pain overcoming his hatred of a race of people because he chose to honor the memory of his wife. Sorry you missed the predominate themes, but this movie doesn’t deserve to be on your list.

    • Hatorian

      Don’t you mean Korean War? When you want to correct someone get your own facts right. Geez.

  • Jennifer

    After reading all your reviews I realize you lack depth and attention. You’re correct it is hard to take you seriously since you sound like an errant adolescent with an obvious lack of understanding or true appreciation of life and art. You really do seem to miss the mark on most accounts with all your “reviews”.

  • ststst

    I’m glad you had the balls to pan the King’s Speech so I’m only going to address that. You’re right about it. The reason it’s silly is because King George’s stutter is historically unimportant. It was Churchill’s inspiration that gave England heart during the war. Churchill who came from nothing. Where is his movie? It was a boring topic for a movie even if it was solidly rendered.

    • nevilleross

      Churchill didn’t come from ‘nothing’, he was the son of an MP and was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the noble Spencer family. His life was just as aristocratic as that of the King George’s (not that I’m defending this movie, far from it). Also, Churchill’s has a ton of movies devoted to his life (including Young Churchill, so he’s not lacking for movie biopics that could win Academy Awards.

      Another thing that gets me about The King’s Speech is that King George shouldn’t have been king in the first place; it should have been his brother, Edward (even if he was married to a commoner and even if he had Axis sympathies.) Of course, if they didn’t want him, they could have just kept the monarchy free until somebody else came of age that could be king or queen. As it was, George had health problems brought on by being king and died to the stresses.

  • schniebem

    First I want to say thank you to Brandon Rader for the M1 Garand correction. Iagree with you on some of your picks and I typically not to ridicule people for their opinions, but your comments about the kid from Extremely Loud and incredibly Close are way off the mark. That kid did a fantastic job portraying a child with a serious mental disorder. If you found him irratating you should probably never volunteer to work with the disabled. Among the many side effects of mental and social disorders, is O.C.D. and his performance was spot on.

  • Ric

    Wow, you truly have no idea what you’re talking about. So sad. The King’s Speech was a seminal movie about struggle, with Bertie’s struggle actually a metaphor for the great war. But I expect that’s lost on an imbecile like you. Oh well..

  • Anti-Critic

    You are seriously one of the worst critics I have ever had the displeasure of commenting on. You need to realize the shallow depth of your understanding of movies and work on it. How can you not realize how great of a movie Argo actually is? I’m not saying other movies are just as good. I’m just saying your reviews are completely of the mark of what the viewers actually enjoy in a movie they want to see. You seem to make it a personal vendetta to write the worst reviews possible for decent or good movies. Do yourself and everyone else a favor, and please delete your site.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dusquene.whistler Dusquene Whistler

    Durrr, more splosions! Derp!

  • KXB

    POPULAR acclaim for Extremely Loud…? What are you talking about???? The movie was a (deserved) dud that was hardly “popular” with the audience (who wisely ignored it, seeing it as the exploitative claptrap it is)..

  • J.D. Stutts

    MOST people HATED J. Edgar (or just didn’t see it)- WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT???

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sage80 Steve Golac

    Garbage. Gran Torino was awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sage80 Steve Golac

    Garbage. Gran Torino was awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sage80 Steve Golac

    So was Blind Side. This list is nonsense.

  • Chicnstu49

    Spot on.

  • Brandy McNamee

    OMG, I’m just going to go get a tub of popcorn and sit back and scroll through the comments. This is going to be fun… so many irreversibly ruffled feathers, lol.

  • p3orion

    This list needs to be retitled “Five recent movies I didn’t like that a few of my friends did.”