Find out when the critics got it wrong…
Film is one of the main centrepieces of pop culture in the 21st century; to many it likely remains the absolute epitome when it comes to entertainment and even artistic expression. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can make you think and there are even some movies that will make you stop thinking whilst you watch them, slowly rotting away your brain cells until you are nothing but a pudding-brain who thinks the Mrs Brown’s Boys movie is actually funny.
Film, much like all other outlets, is of course massively subjective. There are those of us on the UDS team who adore the MCU for example, juxtaposed with at least one member of the team who has no affinity for it whatsoever – dare I say that he even hates the MCU! Equally, there are those of us on the team who love arthouse movies and to see a Director’s artistic vision come to life, while there are others of us who can’t find the entertainment value in a lot of those films. The fact is, no one is truly right or wrong. What you enjoy is what you enjoy, and that shouldn’t be taken away from you. As far as I’m concerned, it all comes together to make what we know as cinema (and Scorsese can disagree all he likes!).
Even in the face of this subjectivity, though, award shows are all the rage. The biggest example of this is of course the Oscars, in which a very exclusive group of Hollywood types (also known as the Academy) all vote so as to tell the world which movies of the last year are the absolute best of the bunch. The awards themselves are viewed as very prestigious, but it’s hard to deny that it can come off as Hollywood tooting its own horn, so to speak. When the filmgoing public seem to barely get a say in the voting process, who’s to actually say these movies are the best in their respective categories? Surely they can’t be getting it right all the time?
The 93rd Academy Awards are now just a few days away, and to celebrate we thought that we’d come together and show off our own subjective taste by talking about critically acclaimed films that we think are actually pretty rubbish. Let us know yours, and if you agree with ours, in the comments down below…
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (2019)
I love Tarantino’s movies. The likes of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and even more recent releases like Django Unchained are some of my favourite films of all time. But boy howdy, when he gets self-indulgent, he really gets self-indulgent.
His most glaring example of this is 2019’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Featuring an all star cast, including the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, it tells the tale of a Hollywood in transition, with the old stars unable to adapt to the new way of working. Also the Manson Family are doing their normal hippy death cult schtick.
Sitting at a more than healthy 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, you’d expect it to be a classic ultra violent, stylised romp that we know Tarantino can do so well. And while it definitely is violent, and it definitely is stylish, it lacks the underlying substance needed to make us care. All the characters are vapid and unlikeable, and the whole picture comes across as ol’ Quinty-T showing off how much he loves post-classical cinema.
A real slow burn, it maybe would’ve worked better as a limited series, rather than a feature film. However, if you’re looking for a much more enjoyable movie that shares a lot of the same tropes and aesthetics as Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, I’d definitely recommend Shane Black’s phenomenal The Nice Guys. It’s a much better use of 2 ½ hours of your life.
There’s a line from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie that goes something along the lines of “One good deed is not enough to redeem a man of a lifetime of wickedness”. M. Night Shyamalan has two-and-a-half good deeds and it’s still not enough to redeem him. The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are incredible films, and James McAvoy makes Split feel like a good film by association. Every single other thing he’s been associated with ranges from frustrating to laughable to downright incompetent.
What baffles me is that people still count Signs as another member of his very short ‘good’ column, despite bearing all the classic marks of a bad Shyamalan film. Characters stiffly recite pretentious, unrealistic dialogue with little to no movement or expression. It doesn’t take a prodigy to pull a good performance out of Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson but somehow they ended up sounding like they’re reading the script off a teleprompter. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to throttle an irritating child actor as much as the two kids here.
The camera is drearily static, fixed on extreme close ups or symmetrical medium shots, and not in a charming Grand Budapest Hotel kind of way, like in an irritating The Last Airbender kind of way. People often praise the quiet, slow-building tension of the film, but there’s nothing visually stimulating enough to make the wait worthwhile, and the final reveal of the aliens doesn’t come close to justifying all the fuss. Signs more often than not slips into outright comedy. From the wife looking like she’s taking a nap on the car, to the terrible CGI on the aliens themselves, to Shyamalan’s lengthy, self-indulgent cameo.
I honestly think that contemporary viewers, high off the quality of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, gave him a huge amount of leeway. “No one can be perfect all the time, right?” is what I bet they were thinking, “We’ll forgive him this one momentary dip, and he’ll return to form in his next film.” But he didn’t return to form, and showed his true colours repeatedly in the next 20 years. Signs wasn’t his last good one, it was the herald of the apocalypse to come.
As for modern day viewers, I just don’t understand them. Our own Tom considers Signs to be a great movie to this day. But he likes the Star Wars prequels. Need I say more?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Jim Carrey is an actor I loved in my youth. Ace Ventura, The Mask, Liar Liar, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, so on and etc. I thought he was an actor that could do no wrong. However, I was wrong, tragically so. This is where Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (ESOTSM) enters my life.
Sitting on Rotten Tomatoes at a really good 92%, this film is loved all round which, to this day, I still don’t understand. When released I recall people saying it was the best thing since sliced bread. This loaf evidently was not for me and was seeded with hypothetical visual poison.
Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Frodo, The Hulk and Rose from Titanic is a truly great cast but the story itself bored and confused me to the point I could not finish this motion picture. It’s the classic story, boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl go through a painful break up, girl erases memories of boy and boy gets upset and attempts to undergo the same memory removing procedure but Frodo is doing a hash job of it or something.
The film centres around Jim Carrey’s character overcoming the loss of his dream (pun intended) relationship with the woman that killed Jack by laying on a door. You join him in his mind as the memories disappear around him, it’s here he realises that having the experience of love is better than having the experience of heartbreak.
I’d like to cut myself some slack for my synopsis of the film. I was 14 years old at the time and as I previously said did not finish it, but the dissatisfaction still lingers with me over 15 years later.
I could probably watch this film now and enjoy it (Editorial note: I will never watch this film). The feeling of renting this from Blockbuster and realising it was boring and confusing will never go away. I’ve now learnt words like convoluted and puzzling to better describe the ordeal since becoming an adult.
It was my dad’s pick for a film that week from Blockbuster. I will never forgive him. At least he was making memories with his son, I guess.
La La Land (2016)
I’ll be the first to say that a lot of what wins at the Oscars tends not to be much to my taste. I’d also have to caveat that by saying I’m not someone who necessarily follows all the big films either though, if something piques my interest I want to see it but for the most part the Oscars’ ‘Best Picture’ nominees tend to be movies I’ve not really heard of or that I just had no interest in whatsoever. This isn’t always the case though.
La La Land is a movie I didn’t get around to seeing until 8 weeks ago at the time of writing. I’d wanted to see if ever since it came out for a whole host of reasons: I have a lot of love for musicals, it has Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling starring, it was a movie that got an awful lot of hype at the time and generally I suppose I just thought it looked quite good! When I finished my first viewing earlier this year, however, I was a little disappointed. I didn’t think it was bad, but I didn’t think it was good either – certainly not as good as the world seemed to make it out to be. Equally though, I remember it being quite a mixed reception at the time, some people absolutely loving it and others not enjoying it at all.
Realistically, I’ve chosen La La Land for this article because of how fresh the disappointment is in my mind. Not only that, but it’s a disappointment that’s grown over the last few weeks as I’ve realised just how little I actually enjoyed the movie. I genuinely couldn’t even remember the 2 lead characters’ names (Sebastian and Mia apparently, didn’t ring any bells at all)! The story of 2 aspiring Hollywood types who meet, fall in love, fall out of love and then move on is very tried and tested but with characters that feel incredibly one dimensional to me it’s difficult to find much in the way of enjoyment from the story, especially when it’s already been done multiple times in cinema. In fact, I’d even say that the character of Sebastian is outright unlikeable, with a pervading memory of the film for me being how much of a dick he was to Mia.
The biggest problem for me is that, a mere 8 weeks later, I can’t remember a single note of the soundtrack to this movie. I remember the opening scene starting to reel me in with a massive song being sung by many LA drivers who’ve had enough of being stuck in a traffic jam, but whilst I remember the visual I don’t remember any of the music. I remember a whole lot of jazz being played with Seb opening his own Jazz Club at the end of the film to play what is apparently some very unmemorable music. In fact, I can’t even remember the music that encapsulated the movie’s most famous scene in which the 2 leads are dancing around a streetlamp on a hill overlooking LA in all its beauty.
Listen, it’s a movie that’s got some clearly brilliant cinematography on show, it was directed very capably and the 2 leads do put in some superb performances – it’s just a movie that’s really not to my taste it would seem. I’d say it falls very flat as a musical, even though it’s quite nice to look at. I totally understand why people love it. I just really don’t like it personally. I don’t even really care enough about it to hate it. I just sort of nothing it, because that’s the impression it left on me really – none at all. Watch the director’s previous movie, Whiplash, instead. It’s a million times better.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Critically Acclaimed but Intensely Overrated.
‘Fan Service’, for those not up to date with the parlance of our times, is when something is added to a movie to titillate them; to make them giddy or feel nostalgia or strong emotion. When fan service is implemented poorly, or too much, it ruins the experience for me.
Enter Avengers: Endgame. Or, should I say, Fan Service: The Movie. Because that’s all that this movie is. And critics ATE IT UP.
I have a lot of problems with Marvel movies, and superhero movies in general. That’s something I’m very vocal about. For every $200mil+ superhero movie, it feels like we lose something smaller from the cinema schedule that might have been more interesting, less formulaic, and far more creative. Studios are willing to take fewer and fewer risks. We need more movies with a strong creative vision. The only creative vision Marvel movies have is printing money.
Which brings me back to Endgame. Endgame is the 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That means you have to have seen 21 movies prior to understand it fully. A lot of the emotional impact is lost if you’ve missed even ONE of the previous movies. And when there is something that emotionally resonates, it is quickly undercut by some Whedonesque quip. I shouldn’t have to think; ‘Aha, that’s a reference,’ every time a character opens their mouth.
The final battle in itself is a ridiculous CGI fest that mimics the final battle in all the previous movies. I just don’t get the appeal.
AND IT’S THREE HOURS LONG. THREE HOURS OF FAN SERVICE: THE MOVIE. It is absolutely exhausting.
What’s worse is that the MCU has made the leap to television. So in the nice gap you’d usually get between the movies, now all everyone is talking about is the massive MCU shows, like WandaVision, or Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And they’re guaranteed to churn out more (as of writing, I think there are at least two more MCU Television shows in production). And let’s be real here; you’re probably going to have to have watched them to get the full impact of the next tranche of Marvel movies? Will this torture ever end?!
And where does that leave the other shows premiering on Disney+ right now? The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is, arguably, the best show on television at the moment that nobody is watching. Yes, there is some fan service, for people who liked the original movies – bringing back Emilio Estévez as head coach Gordon Bombay, and a future episode will bring the original rag-tag Ducks together. But it feels organic. Please. Somebody. Watch it. It is glorious.