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The Criticwire Survey: Overrated Masterpieces

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 25, 2013 at 10:06AM

What beloved classic do you dislike? Or maybe even hate? That's the subject of this week's Criticwire Survey.
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"8 1/2."
"8 1/2."

Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week's question:

Q: What movie widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece do you dislike (or maybe even hate)?

The critics' answers:

Edwin ArnaudinAshvegas:

"I like all of Terrence Malick's films with the exception of 'Badlands.' The imagery is strong and the score is wonderful, but I find the writing and acting atrocious. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek have zero chemistry, their dialogue is laughable, and their poorly developed societal disconnect makes for a cold and distant film. Malick worked out the narrative kinks in 'Days of Heaven,' which I do consider a masterpiece, but for me his debut is nowhere near worthy of that designation."

Monika Bartyzel, The Week:

"Definitely 'Au Hasard Balthazar.' I just couldn't connect with it. Surely it didn't help that I spent half the movie thinking Marie was blind because of the far-off look in her eyes... until she (I think) started driving. I've thought about giving it another chance, but I'd rather just revisit 'The Passion of Joan of Arc.'"

Adam BattyHope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second:

"This week's hot topic, the 'Jane Got A Gun' debacle, has brought back some sour memories for yours truly, in the shape of Lynne Ramsay's 'We Need To Talk About Kevin.' Having grown up with Ramsay's earliest films as an integral part of my own filmic grounding, expectations were hopeful for the Scottish filmmaker's third film, adapted from Lionel Shriver's novel, only for disappointment to strike almost immediately. The heavy-handedness, however much intentional, proved too much, and stood at odds with the particular style I'd come to associate with Ramsay. While stylistic complacency isn't a specific requirement I expect of my favorite filmmakers, 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' just really didn't work for me."

Scott BeggsFilm School Rejects:

"It's widely enough regarded that it made the Sight & Sound list last year, and I truly, deeply disliked 'L'Atalante.' Even recognizing all of the subversive ideas and the poetic inclinations (like internal rhyme and fluidity), its story is mishandled despite how simple it is. The relationships in it don't work, and there are a ton of logical gaps. It's brimming with subtext but missing everything else. Fortunately it gave rise to many New Wave filmmakers that delivered a library of great work, so its legacy as an influence outlives its own quality."

Danny BowesMovie Mezzanine/Movies By Bowes:

"The thing about 'Star Wars' (the one from 1977) is, all but the most dedicated fans will concede one or all of the following: a) it's extremely messy structurally, with numerous false climaxes, b) its inability to withstand logical scrutiny transcends standard nitpicking/'what I would have done differently' peanut gallery stuff; it's easier to list the things that do hold up to a closer look than the things that don't, and c) the dialogue is frequently appallingly bad (a subpoint of which is Mark Hamill's terrible delivery of same). There may be a 'yeah, but' thrown into the concession, but it's my personal experience that almost without exception, fans will at least grant a degree of merit to those and other critiques, which does not speak well of it's being an unassailable classic. As pure cinema, on strictly audiovisual terms, 'Star Wars' is a delight, but as a text it's an absolute howler; extratextually, note also that at least two extremely important points (the identity of Luke Skywalker's father and his relationship to Princess Leia) that arise in the subsequent 'Star Wars' movies raise enormous, never addressed, issues with the first one. If none of this bothers you, fine. In your ability to enjoy 'Star Wars' unencumbered, may you live long and prosper."

Marc CiafardiniGoSeeTalk.com:

"'Citizen Kane' is just one of those films that despite the near infinite acclaim it has acquired for decades simply does not do it for me. I don't hate it, I'm simply not impressed by it. Runner-up would be 'The Third Man' which at least keeps things interesting to a point, especially Welles' exceptional Ferris wheel monologue, (ironically they're both Welles films) but 'Kane' just fails to move the mercury for me."

Jake ColeNot Just Movies:

"I'm certainly not alone in my hatred of Lars Von Trier's 'Dancer in the Dark,' but I don't hate any other broadly acclaimed film like it. Tearing down the musical at the turn of the millennium, Lars? How timely. The cruelty lavished upon Bjork's character is as meaningless and hyperbolic as the giddiness of classic musicals, something the film routinely announces as some kind of accomplishment. But Demy already used musical form to tell subversive, wrenching stories more than 30 years earlier. He just wasn't an insufferable dick about it. Besides, nothing in 'Dancer' does half so much to tarnish the musical's reputation as some of the crap with which Hollywood would saddle the genre over the next decade-plus."

Michael DaltonMovie Parliament:

"While this film may not be widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece just yet, I fear it is headed that way. The film in question, is Terrence Malick's 'The Tree of Life.' The lengthy beginning of time sequences serve only to distract from the majesty of the performances given by Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Hunter McCracken, all of which are underserved by Malick's self-indulgent, pretentious, and out-of-place explorations of the universe. My contention that such material belongs in an entirely separate film is supported by the fact it is, with 'The Voyage of Time' a film Malick planned with Pitt narration to showcase more footage of a similar ilk. Ultimately I found 'The Tree of Life' to be an emperor has no clothes experience and the critics would have rightly slaughtered it if an M. Night Shyamalan or Richard Kelly had made it, rather than Terrence Malick."

Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder/Press Play:

"I was struck by something midway through the sterile 'Oz: The Great and Powerful,' a needless prequel/reboot if there ever was one. It occurred to me that I've never been a fan of the colorful but static 'The Wizard of Oz.'"

John DeCarliFilmCapsule:

"'Pierrot le Fou.' I'm a big Godard fan and I even love some of his most militantly experimental work, but I don't respond to the frenzy of cinematic ideas in 'Pierrot le Fou.' I think that falling in love with Anna Karina is important to falling for Godard's work during this period, but her apathy in 'Pierrot' ('I don't know what to do!') doesn't do it for me. It's all a bit too haphazard for me, even compared to some of Godard's other envelope-pushing film. I guess I just don't agree with his maxim: 'You must put everything into a film.'"

Alonso DuraldeTheWrap/What The Flick?!:

"Every few years, I give 'La Dolce Vita' another shot, but sorry, whatever I'm supposed to be seeing in it, I just don't see. I love Fellini, and count any number of his films among my favorites ('8 1/2' just keeps getting better, the older I get), but 'LDV' just leaves me cold. I do love watching the recreation of the filming of the Trevi Fountain sequence in Ettore Scola's 'We All Loved Each Other So Much' though."

Jessica ElgenstiernaThe Velvet Cafe:

"Everyone loves Jean Renoir’s 'The Rules of the Game.' Everyone but me. It ended up as #4 in the recent Sight & Sound poll. And over 800 critics can't possibly be wrong, can they? TSPDT puts it even slightly higher, at #3. There are loads of quotes about it by famous directors: Bernardo Bertolucci claimed it was the best movie he's ever seen. Truffaut said it’s 'The bible for all true film lovers. This is the movie of movies.' Robert Altman claimed he learned how to make film by watching it and Paul Schrader witnessed that it was 'quick, spiritual, innovative and entertaining. For me there's no better film.' However all testimonies in the world can't talk you into loving a movie you're just not attracted to. I just can't see what everyone else appears to see. If it's funny, I don't laugh. If it's entertaining, I struggle to stay awake. When you start noticing things such as the fact that not only the women, but also the men have trimmed eyebrows, you know there's something that doesn't work for you. I'm not particularly proud over my disliking of this movie, considering its reputation among cinephiles. But I've sworn an oath to always, always be honest in my writing. So I'm putting it out there: 'The Rules of the Game' is a 1/5 stars movie in my world and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."

Kenji FujishimaThe House Next Door:

"Well, 'dislike' is perhaps too strong a word to describe my reaction, even across 4 or 5 viewings of this film, but I've never really been able to work up much more than distant admiration at best for Federico Fellini's '8 1/2.' Roger Ebert, for one, considers it 'the best film ever made about filmmaking,' but personally I've always found its meta-movie aspects much less interesting than its autobiographical, confessional aspects -- and even those I've never been able to work up much by way of personal investment either, frankly, despite my acknowledgment of the impressive imagination and creative freedom with which Fellini brings his self-absorption to the screen (the Saraghina and harem sequences are pretty brilliant, even now). '8 1/2' has always struck me as a film that's so personal that it got locked up in the creator's head, with no resonant entry point for those of us on the outside looking in. But then, considering how widely regarded as a masterpiece it is, maybe I just have a mental block regarding this film that one day I'll break through."

Russell HainlineThe Password is Swordfish:

"It always surprises everyone who knows of my love of musicals just how much I despise 'The Sound of Music.' I can't fathom how people still love that endless dreck to this day. If folks simply need a Julie Andrews fix, 'Mary Poppins' destroys it in every category except for 'Number of Nazis Present.' When people ask me if there's anything I like about it, I struggle for a while and then sputter out, 'Some of those big sweeping shots of the hills are nice.' The only person who might hate 'The Sound of Music' more than me is Christopher Plummer. By the time they sing 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain,' I wish they would all jump from the summit. In my worst nightmares, I have my eyes wired open a la 'A Clockwork Orange' and am forced to watch 'The Sound of Music' on repeat. I was once asked to play Rolf in a professional production of 'The Sound of Music' on the stage at a time when I really could have used the work. I turned it down, because I thought I'd find something better eventually, like waiting tables, or perhaps being a guinea pig for dentistry students to practice giving root canals. What I guess I'm trying to say is I'm not really a fan of 'The Sound of Music.'"

Eric HavensDownright Creepy:

"I've been scoffed at, glared at, and openly mocked for this, but I do not enjoy 'The Godfather.' If forced, I can watch it and acknowledge what makes it a classic, but as a viewer I can barely stand to sit through it. The narrative and the characters do nothing but actively anger me. In this case, terrible people making terrible decisions drives me to pure annoyance and very little enjoyment. The cinematic lynching line forms to the left."

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com/ScreenCrush:

"There's no way to answer this without sounding a bit like a stooge, but here goes. Despite a deep affection for 1960s counter-culture, psychedelic rock and all the signifiers that come with it, I don't particularly care for 'Easy Rider.' I've watched it under multiple conditions: as a wide-eyed teen on VHS, as a hazy undergrad in a smoky room, in the context of multiple documentaries and 'remixed' by conceptual artist James Benning. My problem with it is simple: it's more 'important' than good. Forget that much of it drags, the parts that make concessions to a typical narrative are, in a word, inelegant. How to express that Fonda and Hopper are going to New Orleans around Mardis Gras? Uh... have Hopper just, I dunno, sing it. 'I'm goin' down to Mardis Gras, gonna get me a Mardis Gras queen.' These haphazard notes (among the first spoken words in the film), set to no discernible melody, represents false behavior – even for someone on drugs. No one just sings their premise, especially in a movie allegedly about “the truth,” man. Perhaps I'm being overly critical -- I don't hate the movie. It has some nice photography and some of Hopper's raging id is entertaining. The thing is, I far prefer other films that tap into what was going down at the time. 'Chelsea Girls,' for example, has a lot more going on in my opinion. I suppose I'll always take hanging out in New York City apartments over the open road of the West."

Peter HowellToronto Star:

"I'm abusing the assignment by citing 'Citizen Kane,' which I actually quite like, but my appreciation of it is based more on respect than ardor. I admire the bejeezus out of it, bow down to the craft and audacity of Orson Welles and will probably go my grave with 'Rosebud' sputtering on my wrinkled lips. Yet I find it difficult to completely love the film, probably because I've been told since I was old enough to be propped up before a shiny screen that 'Citizen Kane' is The Greatest Movie Ever (TM). I rebel against sainthood, because I know I shall never achieve it, and watching 'Citizen Kane' often becomes the film geek version of attending Sunday school, even as I never fail to marvel at it. I take fiendish delight in my small role of having booted Welles and his wunderkind debut from their penthouse roost on the most recent Sight & Sound poll. Go, 'Vertigo!' As an aside, and for similar reasons, I am completely in sympathy with people in their 20s and 30s who hate the Beatles because they've been told since birth that nobody can top the Fab Four. Who wants to be told what to like, and besides, doesn't everybody know that the Stones' 'Exile On Main Street' is superior to the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper?'"

Drew HuntChicago Reader/The Talking Pictures:

"Jesus, I have to pick one? Because I actively dislike 'Chinatown,' 'A Clockwork Orange,' 'Touch of Evil,' '8 1/2,' 'The Conformist,' 'The Deer Hunter,' 'The Graduate,' 'Metropolis,' and most of 'Apocalypse Now.'"

Sean Hutchinson, Latino Review:

"This is going to be a touchy subject for a lot of people, I can just feel it. With all due respect I'd have to say a cinematic masterpiece I dislike is Federico Fellini's '8 1/2.' I find that the film errs on the side of being too self-reflexive for me to embrace the story. I understand the ways in which it explores the creative process itself, but I feel as though the narrative delves into personal subjects for Fellini that detach me from caring about the fragmented struggle Guido Anselmi is going through. All the digressions into flashbacks and fantasies just seem incoherent, and what is generally supposed to be the film's most exhuberant moment at the end with Guido leading the parade of supporting players in his life is obvious and uninteresting."

John Keefer51Deep.com:

"This is causing a disconnect in my brain. If I search my memory for 'masterpiece' I only see visions of Mizoguchi, Renoir, or Weerasethakul dancing in my head. Are you just trying to get me to say I hated 'Inception?' Because I hated 'Inception.'"

Glenn KennyMSN Movies/Some Came Running:

"I find this question especially dispiriting, as it's really just a form of bait, and a cue for individuals to come up with objects to snicker at, feel superior to, and all that. I'm sure many critics will have a blast with it. Instead of providing a title, I will quote a brief passage from Richard Hell's autobiography, 'I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp,' which I recommend very highly to anyone interested in either 'the culture' or, you know, actual art. The passage is from Hell's recounting of an early '80s dinner with Susan Sontag: "The was one thing [Sontag] said that I didn't understand at all until many years later. She said that she 'hated opinions' and that she'd rather not have them. I thought she was being like [host] Victor [Bockris] in contrarian incitement. I took it for granted so completely that opinions defined a person, that one was the sum of one's opinions and that the point was to have interesting ones, that I could only think she meant something else, like prejudices' rather than opinions. Wasn't her whole identity the opinions she spun out in her essays? No, she meant opinions, and that lately she'd been thinking that she wrote the essays to get rid of them, to make 'space for other things.' In a way, I was right, because opinions will solidify into prejudices that substitute for perception. Over the years I've come to realize that once arrived at, opinions dry up and die, and you have to sweep them away, like she said."

Jette Kernion, Slackerwood:

"Embarrassing confession: I'd never watched 'Vertigo' all the way through until recently -- just bits and pieces in film classes or caught mid-movie on TV. As the years went by I felt I ought to wait until I could see the movie on a big screen, and somehow the timing was never right until Alamo Drafthouse showed a 70mm print last month. And... it left me cold and disappointed. I can admire and appreciate the amazing shots and color choices and masterful direction and techniques. But I was never engaged in the film, felt nothing but distaste for any of the characters, and frankly disliked some of the plotting. (Poor Midge just vanishes with no sense of resolution.) If I were ranking Hitchcock's films I would put 'North by Northwest' ahead of 'Vertigo,' so I don't understand why 'Vertigo' topped the Sight & Sound list and others recently. Perhaps it's because I waited so long to see it in its entirety that I had little sense of suspense. Or perhaps I'm not watching it from enough of an allegorical/psychological angle? I don't know."

Gary KramerGay City News:

"'Dr. Zhivago' is a classic that I can appreciate for its visual splendor and Julie Christie, but I just don't like it. And I've tried. I even once sat through the Making Of -- which was almost as long as the film -- and it too bored me to the backteeth. I also have never quite embraced Hitchcock's 'Notorious.' I admire things about it -- the lengthy kiss, the marvelous shot of that ends with the key, but it just doesn't wow me."

Peter LabuzaLabuzaMovies.com/The Cinephiliacs:

"As great as his visual talent and use of widescreen space are, there's something about Sergio Leone's talent that has always lost me when he's attempted to take on 'big' and 'important' subjects. And thus I'll go for a double header of 'Once Upon a Time in the West' and 'Once Upon a Time in America.' Fantastic production design, some great performances (Fonda in the former especially), but their narratives are lulling without particularly an inquisitive nature and even worse, emotionally flat. There's nothing like a good revisionist Western, but Leone's references feel empty, especially compared to some of the brilliant work his Italian counterparts like Sergio Corbucci and Tonino Valerii were pulling off. Leone's best film, 'Duck, You Sucker!' manages to pull of both by starting as light as a feather as a comedy, and satirizing the roll of its figures in political rebellion. But I'll skip 'West' and 'America.' Sorry, Sergio."

Jonathan LackWe Got This Covered:

"I do not know if this is generally considered a full-blown masterpiece, but as far as celebrated, award-winning, beloved movies go, 'Moulin Rouge!' is a film I hate. Detest. Despise. Loathe. No words are strong enough for how much I dislike this film. It is wretched on just about every level, a worthlessly saccharine, artificial, and endlessly derivative narrative that uses bright colors, flashing lights, and loud noises to distract audiences from the fact that the film has absolutely nothing to say. Not about love, the power of music, the nature of spectacle, or anything else it claims to be 'about.' It is empty, hollow to its core, and I have never heard a single person trying to defend 'Moulin Rouge!' actually be able to explain away or contextualize the severe flaws in the text of the film. I cannot fathom how anyone could view the film as anything more than a 'guilty pleasure,' which is a valid stance given the colorful production design and jukebox musical hurricane. But as an actually good film? 'Moulin Rouge!' fails. None of the talented actors can make anything out of it. The editing is an insult to filmmaking. I hate, hate, hate this movie, and I hate it even more because the rest of the world cannot stop fawning over it."

Adam LowesHey U Guys:

"I've rewatched it a couple of times in an attempt to reassess what I'm supposedly missing, but I'm just not a fan of 'Taxi Driver' at all. The lush, spellbinding Bernard Herrmann score notwithstanding, I find the film plodding, disjointed and far too in love with itself to really resonate on an emotional level. The scenes between Albert Brooks and Cybil Shepherd always feel completely superfluous and like they belong in a different film, and in general, theres a lumbering pace which I find off putting and slightly boring. Hope I'm not greeted on my doorstep by a demented, gun-welding, mohican-sporting fan of the film, now I've shared this."

John LichmanFreelance:

"Hate is a strong word, but an easy one for film folks. My current knee-jerk reaction is to say 'The Gatekeepers' since that is almost as generic as an Alex Gibney doc. But I feel like the true mark of hatred should go to 'Black Swan.' Beloved by folks for being dark and daring when it comes to Natalie Portman as a giant metaphor. It took me four times to actually see the film: walked out the first time after Winona Ryder's speech in front of a giant bird statue. After that it was a matter of suffering through it at home. It did the impossible because it inspired me to go back and rewatch 'Requiem for a Dream' because I had to reevaluate my enjoyment of Aronofsky. So do I hate this film because it not only made me dislike a filmmaker I enjoyed as a kid but also ruined his work forever to me? Yes. On a scale of Alex Gibneys, 'Black Swan' is like Alex Gibney making a documentary about how awesome Alex Gibney's choice of music is."

Scott MacDonaldToronto Standard:

"Well, I sure wasn't a fan of Malick's 'The Tree of Life.' I can't believe how reverently some people speak of that movie, which struck me as empty-headed, quasi-spiritual kitsch. The images have grandeur, I suppose, but an oddly pedestrian sort of grandeur, like the pastoral, sun-dappled images in life insurance ads. And sorry, but his writing is atrocious -- flower-child drivel ladled on by the gallon. Worse, it's flower-child drivel with an oddly conservative, regressive bent, wherein women are treated not as human beings, but as symbols of purity and goodness. (Not only here but in 'The New World' and 'The Thin Red Line,' too.) I've already seen 'To the Wonder,' incidentally, and it's more of the same, but taken to an even greater extreme. Every other shot is of the heroine twirling on a lawn or running a hand over tall grasses, and the voiceover lines are all 'poetic' inanities like 'What is this love that loves us?' I'm sure his fans will continue to defend him, but even they are going to have to admit he's repeating himself."

Joey MagidsonThe Awards Circuit:

"For me, it has to be 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.' I'm not a fan of this franchise to begin with, but the extra adulation bestowed on this one makes my dislike of the trilogy stand out even more. Beyond just being movies about walking (as was said in 'Clerks II'), I just never found anything to capture my imagination. I know I'm really in the minority here, but I just didn't get what all the fuss was about."

Mike McGranaghanThe Aisle Seat:

"I feel like I'm going to have to duck for cover after answering this question, but if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it big. My pick is 'It's a Wonderful Life.' Now excuse me while I finish typing this under the nearest table. My reason for disliking the film isn't because I think it's bad (clearly, it's not), but rather because it was irreparably spoiled for me by other entertainment. Ever since I was kid, I've seen literally dozens of TV shows and cartoons co-opt or adapt its plot for their own purposes. 'The Simpsons,' 'Married...With Children,' 'Mork & Mindy,' 'Moonlighting,' 'Charles in Charge' -- they all did their own versions of the story. And then there were movies like 'The Family Man' and 'Mr. Destiny' whose plots are thinly-veiled ripoffs. These are only a few examples; there are many, many more. Because I'd see so many of them, my first experience watching 'It's a Wonderful Life' (which happened as an adult) wasn't entirely pleasant. I felt bored and impatient, as though watching a movie I'd already seen 500 times before. I couldn't get all the parodies, spoofs, and tributes out of my mind. You would think that seeing the real deal would make the memory of those lesser versions disappear, but for some reason, it didn't. And that makes me sad. I think 'It's a Wonderful Life' is a well-made picture with some genuinely moving themes; however, I have no absolutely desire to ever watch it again."

Amy Nicholson, Badass Digest:

"Please don't club me to death in a bowling alley, but I couldn't stand 'There Will Be Blood' except for its cathartic ending -- I'd also been wanting to kill for the flick's entire 158-minute running time. So many people I respect love 'There Will Be Blood' that I've really tried to pin down why it makes me murderous. My working theory is that the framing, the pacing, and the score are so oppressive that I felt bullied into buying that it was a masterpiece, when it's really just a few great scenes and a lot of portentous piffle. But then I adored 'The Master' -- go figure."

Rudie ObiasShockYa.com:

"Alain Resnais' 'Last Year at Marienbad.' Is it a fevered dream, recalled suppressed memory, or romantic meet-cute? Although it's beautifully shot, I have no idea what's going on in this movie."

Zac Oldenburg, Having Said That:

"'Citizen Kane.' I haven't seen this in years, but I was bored silly and struggled to stay with it after the first half hour or so. Sure, it innovated and introduced all these new techniques and styles to the world of cinema, but why is it that only in the realm of art that we declare the first to be the best until the end of time? Innovation is lauded, appreciated and encouraged in every other facet of our society except art. Obviously innovation is encouraged in cinema today, but it is rarely ever given credence over those works that did something similar 'first.' I am not saying we should jump to laud something undeservedly the moment we step out of the theater, but it shouldn't take films over fifty years before they are considered the best of the best. This phenomena is how we have no films post-1968 on Sight & Sound's list and I think this position strongly encourages groupthink and forces impressionable film fans to feel the need to meet consensus instead of forming their opinion independently."

Pat PaduaDCist/Blogcritics:

"I walked out on 'Nashville' the second time I saw it. I love other Altman films but that particular world has always seemed forced to me."

Jordan RaupThe Film Stage:

"I wouldn't say they are 'cinematic masterpieces' but 'Braveheart' and 'Gladiator' are highly regarded and I found little to admire in ether of them."

Andrew RobinsongmanReviews:

"I'm going to go for 'Citizen Kane.' I remember when I first watched the film it felt like it was a 'Lawrence of Arabia'-length epic that would just never end it was mainly because I never felt myself caring for Kane as a character. My biggest problem was in the long search to try and understand what Kane's main motivation was I always pinned it down to his hunt for true happiness and his inability to see that it could never come from money. So whenever I get the urge to revisit this film instead I just listen to The Beatles' song 'Can't Buy Me Love' and end up getting to the point in less than three minutes."

James RocchiMSN Movies:

"David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive' is, to me, one of the most curiously over-praised films of the past 30 years. It doesn't work at all, as a narrative or even as a slideshow of noir-ish dreams, and aside from one good scene with Naomi Watts, it's inert and inept. Tad Friends' New Yorker piece on Lynch, in 1999 laid out perfectly how 'Mulholland Drive' isn't a fever-dream of invention; it's a sad, awkward attempt to 'save' an unreleasable TV pilot Lynch shot with ABC's money  by rounding up foreign financing, jettisoning any connection to plot and character and instead ladling 'visual invention' and sex over the wreckage as if enough icing would fill up the hole in the donut. There's also a tiresome 'but it was all a dreeeeeam!' non-twist to the non-plot to try and hide the seam where Lynch grafted nonsense onto a failure to disguise it as a movie. The love and respect for 'Mulholland' confounds me -- Lynch's 'The Straight Story' is 10 times the film it is -- but some people love to rally around a crooked cross high on a lonely hill to prove they're smart and tasteful enough to truly appreciate the Emperor's new clothes in a way you can't. With 'Mulholland Drive,' it's not just impressive that smug cineastes can't just see how truly naked the Emperor Lynch actually is; what's amazing is how they insist his clothes are so lovely even as he's rubbing their noses in his literal and figurative junk."

Joshua RothkopfTime Out New York:

"I've learned a lot from the so-called accepted masterpieces (even the ones that haven't knocked me out), but I feel we were all under some kind of weird spell when we praised 'The Silence of the Lambs.' In retrospect, it's a terribly campy movie (I've never been part of the cult of Sir Anthony Hambone), and not as stylish or subversive as David Fincher's 'Se7en.' Worse, its director, Jonathan Demme, usually a very empathetic filmmaker, was getting lauded for his least humane film. I can't bring myself to return to 'Silence,' because it's so silly to me."

Jason ShawhanNashville Scene/Interface 2037:

"I hate to say it, but I can't stand 'The Shawshank Redemption.' It's all well and good if you enjoy Triumph of the Human Spirit Cinema and all, but it's a terrible adaptation of the source material, which is a down and dirty EC Comics revenge tale. And I honestly cannot abide it."

Josh SpiegelMousterpiece Cinema/Sound on Sight:

"Technically, 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' is an immense achievement from writer-director Steven Spielberg. But I'd be lying if I said its story, specifically the choices its lead, Roy Neary, makes on his way to making contact with extraterrestrials, didn't bother me equally as much. That Neary leaves behind his family -- portrayed as stifling even though the way his wife reacts to his growing obsession is totally natural -- is troubling enough. What I find most distasteful is that Spielberg didn't find Neary's choices wrongheaded at the time. If Roy Neary is presented as an anti-hero, his actions would be disturbing but not loathsome. We are, I fear, meant to sympathize with Roy in his choice to leave, which I can't do. I can acknowledge this film being visually stunning. The plot within it, though, pushes me away where so many others find it exceptional."

Andreas StoehrPussy Goes Grrr:

"I've never been able to really stomach 'E.T.' I like the film's forays into horror and its realistic representation of a squabbling middle-class family, but it grates on me so intensely with its sudden swerves between pathos and broad comedy. Thanks to the emotional force with which Steven Spielberg and John Williams shove that cutesy, self-righteous boy-and-his-alien relationship down my throat, I invariably end up wishing E.T. had never come to earth in the first place."

R. Emmet SweeneyMovie Morlocks:

"'Nashville.' I should watch it again now that I'm supposedly wiser, but as a hotheaded kid it seemed like a shallow satire taking potshots at a culture it did not care to understand."

Luke Y. ThompsonTopless Robot:

"I don't know if people still consider it as great, but 'Gladiator' was a fraud at the time and is still terrible, vacillating between tedious scenes of characters talking about shared pasts we should be seeing, and action sequences chopped to shit where it's impossible to tell where anything is in relation to anything else because of all the drop-frame and the cutting and the slo-mo. All of which, I can only assume, is used to cover up the fact that the actors can't fight so well in real life, despite Russell Crowe's reputation. And then there are the terrible CGI bird flocks, and horribly obvious names like 'Maximus' and 'Proximo,' the latter of whom introduces himself by saying he's going stay very close to our hero. That it won an Oscar for Best Editing is one of the most bizarro-world errors in judgment I've ever seen, the equivalent of handing the Best Actor to Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Junior.' Ridley Scott's 'Kingdom of Heaven' is about a million times better, and far less-regarded. I never understood that, beyond perhaps an innate repulsion to Orlando Bloom on some viewers' behalf."

Anne-Katrin TitzeEye For Film:

"The fawning over 'Spring Breakers' as if it were the latest, hippest 'cinematic masterpiece' takes a dumbing down of film criticism, combined with overlooking the regression of a filmmaker. Harmony Korine packages his ideologically poisoned gift basket as art by reveling in shameless self-manipulation. Spring breakers repetitively pretending to be wild, rebellious, and in control are sold as something new and empowering, when they are actually stale young actors in the 21st century Disney tradition acting out in inane ways, playing on a collective self-hatred shared by the characters and a passive audience."

James WallaceCentralTrack.com:

"Using IMDb's Top 250 as a guide, it doesn't take me scrolling through the first 100 before I get to number 93; Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.' Now before you go all HAL 9000 on me, I will say 'hate' is a strong word for my feelings on '2001.' I don't hate it. I don't even necessarily dislike it entirely. I see it as a great technical achievement in filmmaking and understand its rightful place as a classic among the sci-fi genre and cinema as a whole. I just think from the iconic opening credit sequence, it sets out on a 141 minute spacey snooze fest of Kubrickian self-grandeur. You may say I'm wrong and to that I say 'Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.'"

Mark YoungSound on Sight/New York Movie Klub:

"I hate 'Gone With the Wind' -- passionately. I don't like Clark Gable, I don't like Vivian Leigh, and I don't like that Best Supporting Actress winner Hattie McDaniel wasn't allowed to give her own speech at the Oscar ceremony. Eff that movie."

Alan ZilbermanBrightest Young Things/Tiny Mix Tapes:

"I'm not sure how widely regarded it is, but I hate the documentary 'Dear Zachary.' It's manipulative in the worst way possible, and it tricks you into feeling unearned emotion."

The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on March 25th, 2013:
The Most Popular Response: "Spring Breakers"
Other Titles Receiving Multiple Votes: "Leviathan," "Like Someone in Love," "Stoker," "Beyond the Hills," "Silver Linings Playbook."

This article is related to: Criticwire Survey


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