Unclean! Unclean!: Reverse Shot's 11 Offenses of 2010

by robbiefreeling
January 3, 2011 6:08 AM
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Now’s the time of year when we piss people off. And trust us, though our annual 11 Offenses column (oh, how we could go higher than 11…) incites the angriest mail and message board postings we get, we do not do this for attention (completely). We genuinely hated sitting through these movies. When they receive nothing but accolades, it only makes our ire grow stronger. Though some claim these articles are oppositional, even opportunistic, we prefer to think of them as vital correctives. Our picks have stood the test of time thus far: looking back at past 11 Offenses columns, we must say we have no regrets (anyone who still thinks Slumdog Millionaire is a good movie simply cannot be your friend; Juno continues to annoy the living hell out of us; no, Southland Tales was not a misunderstood masterpiece, sorry fellow cinephiles; the memory of watching The Lovely Bones still gives us the skeezies; does anyone even remember Babel?). Which of this year’s releases are most likely to end up in the trash bins of cinematic history? Read on!

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More: dear god why?


  • RG | January 13, 2011 11:24 AMReply

    i think not including the inception mite be the greatest thing. it doesnt even deserve to be a conversation topic at all, why spill internet ink on it.

  • Kamera88 | January 9, 2011 10:29 AMReply

    Kind of shocked Tiny Furniture, The Fighter, Blue Valentine, and Inception didn't make the cut.

  • robbiefreeling | January 6, 2011 6:44 AMReply

    Hey Emmett,

    Yeah we decided to discontinue the once annual Get Over It column for the past couple of years...mostly because it started to feel like year-end overload, and also because by the time we got through the Offenses, we felt like we were having negativity overload. Hopefully some of our feelings about the overrated will turn up in the 2 Cents column (coming soon), and though the Winter's Bone entry (by far the most controversial choice this year, it seems) might seem more like a Get Over It to some, we felt, after a long conversation about this very matter, that it belonged in the column after all, for the reasons outlined. Which brings me to the very fair questions outlined above by Asher, and elsewhere, which is why we are suddenly all offended by Ozark representation. I don't think it has anything to do with the Ozarks, per se, that Jeff wrote that piece, but that he found the film just another in a long tradition of American indie films that exploit a region for a genre exercise; and in this case, the seemingly endless line of sinister, violent characters slamming doors and drawling, "Now you get outta here if you know what's good fer you" just seemed a mite simplistic. We're not offended as Ozarkians, but as movie watchers.

    And to Stephen: thanks for the support!

  • Asher | January 6, 2011 6:28 AMReply

    I didn't really find Winter's Bone condescending - nor do I think that eliciting thoughtful sadness, expressed in pre-dinner headshaking or otherwise, about how bad things are "over there" is necessarily a bad thing. There are really poor rural parts of America where people do tons of meth, and that is legitimately sad, and it's not condescending to show that on film. Though of course, depictions of poverty can get so over-the-top as to be condescending - but it's not like Winter's Bone is Precious, or something similarly ridiculous. As for the choice to make it a gothic thriller, I'd probably like Winter's Bone a whole lot better if it were a much more thoroughgoing thriller than it is; as is, it's sort of a halfassed pseudo-genre exercise that uses a thriller premise as an excuse to indulge in tedious parousals of one ramshackle dump after another. That said, you're of course right that it's a wholly undistinguished movie, and that critical enthusiasm for it is rather baffling. It's nowhere nearly as good as, for example, True Grit - and that isn't even all that great a movie itself.

  • Stephen Cone | January 5, 2011 7:39 AMReply

    This is more or less the highlight for me of every first week of January. Thanks for existing, RS.

  • Emmett Booth | January 5, 2011 6:57 AMReply

    I see nothing wrong with critics having some fun and, yes, roasting some hysterically pompous films which deserve nothing more than to be pricked, letting Noe and Aronofsky's hot air out.

    Glancing back through Reverse Shot's previous year-end issues, I notice both "Offenses" and "Get Over It" columns. The former seems designed for the truly outrageous, the latter for the overrated and the blindly accepted. Certainly, there's much crossover to be had--the likes of Slumdog belong in both. But I do like the separation of those columns, as it allows for a clearer establishment of what, exactly, is under discussion (or under fire, if you're into being outraged on behalf of widely praised, high-grossing productions).

    "Offenses" are all about the films--they need not be beloved elsewhere, as in the case of EatPrayLove. (It's more honest as a single word, doncha think?) "Get Over It," then, is more about critical culture, and how certain mediocre-to-awful films get assimilated or (Southland Tales) reified as masterpieces. It's difficult, especially in the space of a capsule review aiming for humor more than anything else, to juggle both of those lines of thought, and I think continuing this delineation and making it explicit would clear up the discussion. Just a suggestion! I dug the column as is, but then, I agreed in base on every film.

  • clarencecarter | January 4, 2011 5:01 AMReply

    I always find it amusing that the concern trolls of movie discourse only seem to get all up in arms about standards, reasonability, and the proper way to do criticism when the discussion around the anticipated titles in any given year turns even the slightest bit sour.

    Never mind the far more detrimental problem of writers tripping over each other to be the first to make the big statement about the next "important" release, and those who follow in their wake who borrow the ideas, and sometimes even the language of those leading the charge.

    Why be so quick to suspect the motivations of a few oppositional voices? Shouldn't we instead be wondering how it is that dozens of writers working across the country and hailing from various backgrounds and geographies could ply their trade in solitude and all wind up with basically the same conclusions about something as unruly as a year in cinema?

  • Liz | January 4, 2011 4:47 AMReply

    Ok, I will go look up Lim and see what he has to say about Black Swan. I look forward to seeing the movie on cable in a couple of years and making a drinking game out of it. I like Hoberman's take on it as the Showgirls of the ballet world.

    And I'll take your word for it that Genevieve treated Eat, Pray, Love intelligently. Your website has some of the most thoughtful reviews on it. I just don't want to read any more about a movie that I'm never going to see. I would be curious to read more about your take on Winter's Bone, though.

    And I know this exercise is in fun, it just seems that in a couple of these cases (EPL, GwDT - neither of which I've seen), you picked easy targets. Still, carry on. I'm enjoying it.

  • robbiefreeling | January 4, 2011 4:36 AMReply

    Liz -- All or most of us at RS are faithful readers of Dargis, Hoberman, et al and fully see (and perhaps enjoy?) the camp aspects of BLACK SWAN. But we also read Dennis Lim religiously, and his brilliant piece on this very subject in Slate is as insightful and cogent a rebuttal to the camp appreciation "camp" one could hope to find.

    Also, no one said EAT, PRAY, LOVE was critically acclaimed. We only said that many of the movies on this list were critically acclaimed. Nevertheless, EAT, PRAY, LOVE clearly deserved the intelligent treatment it received here from Genevieve.

    hmmm: You're right--these capsule reviews aren't criticism. Many of these films were reviewed in 1,000-2,500 word essays in Reverse Shot. In those essays, we offered considered reasons for having problems with them. This piece is an exercise. Yes, we're having a little fun, but I think that, in one way or another, many of these movies (sorry WINTER'S BONE and GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO) have received lengthy, fair consideration in the (web)pages of this journal. —cnw

  • Liz | January 4, 2011 4:00 AMReply

    What critics gave "nothing but accolades" to Eat, Pray, Love? None of the critics I read liked it. Rotten Tomatoes says the critical average was only 36% and even the great unwashed masses who rate movies on the IMDb only gave it a 5.1 rating. Andrew O'Hehir says "Non-devotees of the book are likely to find Murphy's "Eat, Pray, Love" an emotionally murky, inflated Lifetime Channel movie, alternately charming, cloying and dull." and "Eat, Pray, Love" is a minor and superficial summer diversion that offers female viewers not much more than a two-hour escape fantasy, but that's not a crime." Where's the love you're protesting?

    I think a lot of critics see Black Swan for the camp it is. J. Hoberman's whole review is about just this. Manohla Dargis touches on the "virtuoso moments" that seem to fool a lot of viewers, but then pushes past the thin veneer of pseudo-psycho-sexual-seriousness to talk about the layers of shallowness that lie just below the surface. So while she really liked the movie, I think she saw it for what it was. So I'm wondering again what critics you read.

    And could it be that the condescension you see in Winter's Bone might just be in the eyes of the viewer?

  • hmmm | January 4, 2011 1:43 AMReply

    There is not a problem with taking directors to task, but there is a problem when that "criticism" becomes an excuse to take an easy jab at a film and have a self-satisfied snicker. Instead of insight, we get a couple of interesting gestures towards a decent point and some weak evidence tossed in (Aronofsky uses a lot of slam cuts! Boom! Roasted!). I guess it's good to "open up a larger debate" but you could start by engaging with the debate in a constructive way (ya know, take a risk and actually say something you care about more than your ego). The Winter's Bone elitism is interesting and worth discussing, but that discussion can't go very far with the way you dismiss the film; "Though well-meaning in many ways, there’s condescension in it, and lots of it" -- Sounds more like the article I just read than any of the films on the list.

  • ben je | January 3, 2011 11:43 AMReply

    Are you aware that you have an international audience that also follows your stories. The language used is so American biased, reading is as painful for people like myself like watching some of the movies you have up there. Keep your language simple, please. An cut down on the piling up of adjectives together, its so confusing and please don't assume everybody has seen those movies. As for calling out filmmakers, i don't know when critics began assuming that role. It is only in film you will hear critics say that, not in painting or writing. Critics i believe don't have any business calling out film makers, you are the lawyer, not the jury. let the audience decide that, you present your case. What happens when everybody else don't share your views, then what happens.

  • robbiefreeling | January 3, 2011 11:06 AMReply

    Thanks, Asiafilm, for reading, but I disagree with you on a fundamental point. Which is that because you believe that few directors are aware of pandering to their audiences they are above being taken to task. Naturally they do not try to make bad films, though I don't think that's what you were trying to say when you wrote it. For good critics, it should be this very speciousness of intent that we are trying to call out. Does the passion and effort behind wanting to get CATFISH, for instance, made really negate the nefarious intentions of the filmmakers? Should they not be called out on it? Is Gaspar Noé really above reproach simply because he is an artist, and the ridiculous, offensive, misogynist, intentionally provocative images he produces are not worthy of our scorn simply because he "believed" in his project? Is Todd Solondz allowed to make the same demeaning, meandering, misanthropic film over and over again without someone calling attention to it? Does a film such as EAT PRAY LOVE, made by committee by a lot of people evidently out of touch with the "common folk" it so clearly thinks it's reaching, deserve a fair break? Is it mean to push around GET LOW because it thinks it's small (despite the big-earning stars and industry-insider filmmakers who made it possible)? Does the crassly made product GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO not have to answer for the objectionable stereotypes and luridness it so happily serves up?

    You might answer YES to all these questions, and that would be a fine enough philosophical position, but I simply do not agree. And despite the stridency of our introduction, our goal is not necessarily to mock but to try to open up a larger debate around films that have widely (for the most part) been praised and accepted without question.

  • asiafilm | January 3, 2011 8:31 AMReply

    Critically, you may be partially right (and soulfully wrong), but the past decade of snide, sarcastic, contemptuous criticism is destructive to creativity, cold-hearted, and depressing. Few directors try to make bad, audience-pandering films. And few critics know the searing commitment and passion that goes into making an entertainment or art film. Isn't there someway "alternative" critics can write about their true analytical and emotional experiences, without resorting to easy, clichéd, positive and negative superiority hipness? Despite the freedom of the internet, everyone is NOT a useful critic, though everyone can be glibly destructive. That's why there used to be intellectual, social, and artistic standards.