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You Can't Please Everyone: Negative Reviews Of Some Of The Best Loved Films In Cinema History

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
July 17, 2012 10:02 AM
34 Comments
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"Casablanca"
"The love story that takes us from time to time into the past is horribly wooden, and clichés everywhere lower the tension." — William Whitebait, The New Statesman

"So I finally got around to watching Casablanca, one of the greatest movies ever made, or so I've always heard. Does it live up to its hype? In a word, no. It was maudlin and melodramatic; Ingrid Bergman was homely, no matter how many softening effects were used in the close-ups of her face (did a rodent gnaw off the sides of her nose? To say nothing of that masculine jawbone and those underdeveloped lips...); Humphrey Bogart was about as slick and charismatic as the Hunchback of Notre-Dame; and the story was undisguised war propaganda. One would have to have the mental age of 5 to think this movie was in any way great. Watchable, yes, but not great, and certainly not deserving of being on the IMDb top 250.
The movie was fast-paced, which was both good and bad: good because it would've been unbearable to watch otherwise, and bad because it didn't give the viewer time to get attached to any of the characters (which is just as well, since as I've said, it was war propaganda and so the less effective, the better). - le_chiffre-1 , IMDB

"Raging Bull"
"Robert De Niro is one of the most repugnant and unlikeable screen protagonists in some time... the director excels at whipping up an emotional storm, but seems unaware that there is any need for quieter, more introspective scenes in drama... the scenes it does choose to show are almost perversely chosen to alienate the audience - Joseph McBride, Variety

Oh my is this film terrible. I really wanted to like this film, honest; in fact, I bought it before actually seeing it. Seriously though, this film is grossly pregnant; there is nothing there; it's fluff; get it? Forgebodit!! Boxing movies are stupid enough as is, next to football flicks of course. However, I thought, "Well it's a Scorsese flick, he'll do something meaningful." Nope!!! Just a bunch of swearing, violent, irrational, testosterone-junkie wops walking around beating their women saying forgebodit. Peachy, let me tell ya; in fact, I want my time back, dig. This film is boring, redundant, annoying, and meaningless. The cinematography is somewhat sharp, but then again, somewhat sharp is just dull. One last thing, just because a film is black/white does not make it art...K?...K. - Kevin Cordia, IMDB

"Lawrence Of Arabia"
"It is such a laboriously large conveyance of eye-filling outdoor spectacle—such as brilliant display of endless desert and camels and Arabs and sheiks and skirmishes with Turks and explosions and arguments with British military men—that the possibly human, moving T. E. Lawrence is lost in it. We know little more about this strange man when it is over than we did when it begins... The fault seems to lie, first in the concept of telling the story of this self-tortured man against a background of action that has the characteristic of a mammoth Western film. The nature of Lawrence cannot be captured in grand Super-Panavision shots of sunrise on the desert or in scenes of him arguing with a shrewd old British general in a massive Moorish hall... The fault is also in the lengthy but surprisingly lusterless dialogue of Robert Bolt's over-written screenplay. Seldom has so little been said in so many words... sadly, this bold Sam Spiegel picture lacks the personal magnetism, the haunting strain of mysticism and poetry that we've been thinking all these years would be dominant when a film about Lawrence the mystic and the poet was made. It reduces a legendary figure to conventional movie-hero size amidst magnificent and exotic scenery but a conventional lot of action-film cliches. - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

The first thing I'm looking for in a movie is "historical accuracy".Since the movie takes its name from the leading character Lawrence let me ask you a question to those who casted a top-ten vote for this movie?Do you really know how Lawrence looked like?Six foot two inch Peter O'Toole differed strikingly with the real Lawrence, who was almost nine inches shorter.Lawrence was not a gung-ho drama queen who lead a nation to freedom.Most scenes such as the attack on Aqaba were heavily fictionalized from the writings of Lawrence.You can easily question how much he is reliable.Lawrence mentions in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom that he was raped by the Turkish Bey which was called into question by the historians.(Check out the article : Lawrence of Arabia 'made up' sex attack by Turk troops By Elizabeth Day) Not only most scenes are heavily fictionalized but some characters are a bunch of fiction too like Sheriff Ali,Mr. Dryden and Colonel Brighton. The movie neither tells you anything from the Turkish point point of view nor does it tell anything about the real Arab points. Yes it's a well-know truth that the Arabs were tricked into fighting against the Turks by the British and they have been paying the price by being belittled by the westerners for centuries.But the movie shows us only a bunch of Bedouin tribes which are desert dwelling nomadic people. Not every Arab is (and was)a Bedouin. The historians say that the real Lawrence actually shunned the limelight, as evidenced by his attempts after the war to hide under various assumed names but the British officers certainly did not the find the attack outrageous since the Great(!) British Empire can finally be positioned at a table with the French to take care of the rest of the Turkish empire.And according to Wikipedia the film's portrayal of General Allenby as a cynical, manipulative superior to Lawrence is not entirely accurate either. Allenby and Lawrence respected and liked each other, and Lawrence once said of Allenby that he was "an admiration of mine"... There are people who claim that such fictionalization was necessary to dramatize the great Lawrence character but I say "watch out! The devil lurks in the little details" - shutterbug_iconium, IMDB

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34 Comments

  • Morningstar | November 13, 2012 8:00 PMReply

    Dark Knight Rises was pure rubbish; It's hype was fueled by the WB marketing machine, and forced on the masses as a work of high-art, and those who spoke up against it were castrated. The Nolan camp are master manipulators starting with their grass roots efforts (see: Nolan Fans website). Critics scared of getting lambasted gave it high marks, and those who questioned what they saw online were crucified with the same audacity. Truth be told, only those with a very low IQ or sheeple (people who can't think for themselves) could possibly forgive a movie with such a poorly written script, plot holes, and acting.

  • ssm07 | July 19, 2012 10:05 AMReply

    well i my self aint a big fan of the deputy cop from 'die-hard' but the rest of the review sucks

  • Sean | July 17, 2012 1:03 PMReply

    Time changes all things. I hated the Wild Bunch when I saw it at 15. Boring and dull. 5 years later I gave it another go and it easily became my favorite film.

    But something that bothers me about negative reviews, is that I think most of them don't come emotion or anything along those lines. There's critics out there, like Armond White, who just han out negative, college level reviews to popular films. Why? Just because so many love the film, he has to go all hipster and go against the grain.

  • Head Buckaroo | July 17, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    To be fair, most of the IMDB reviews and likely all of the Batman fanboy vitriol is the product of teenagers. And so, who cares?

  • [A] | July 17, 2012 12:22 PMReply

    You need a "VIEW ALL" option!

  • Christopher Bell | July 17, 2012 11:44 AMReply

    This was great.

    Also, I recently discovered that "The Shining" was nominated for a Razzie.

  • Olli | July 18, 2012 8:41 AM

    and right so ;-))

    To me one of the most overrated movies of all time, right next to Kubricks 2001.

  • Scott Mendelson | July 17, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    Roger Ebert is dead-on about Die Hard. We can all choose to ignore that specific portion of the film and/or choose to not make it a deal-breaker, but Ebert was 100% correct about Paul Gleason's character. Even when I first saw the film when I was 10, it annoyed me. I still love Die Hard, but it's one of the reasons I don't consider the original on a higher plane than the sequels.

  • Alan | August 12, 2012 4:19 AM

    Yeah, but the problem with the review is that he goes on with the Gleeson character ... and on and on (for three paragraphs). You know, Roger, Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis were in that film, too. This is something that Siskel picked up on, too. Focusing on Paul ... Gleeson (right?) in a Die Hard review is like spending half a review on 'The Social Network' talking about the work of John Getz: sure, you CAN do that, but why would you WANT to?

  • K Knight | July 17, 2012 12:11 PM

    Couldn't agree more. Gleason's character is laughable.

  • tristan eldritch | July 17, 2012 11:36 AMReply

    You know, I honestly think The Searchers review is spot on. It's overlong, anti-climatic, and even by general standards the humor and melodrama have aged extremely poorly. I haven't seen too many of Ford's movies, but I would rate Liberty Valance and My Darling Clementine as vastly superior to The Searchers - its seems to have become a sacred cow somehow, maybe because that closing shot is so iconic and ubiquitous in movie books.

  • Great Scott! | July 17, 2012 11:17 AMReply

    "i found the storyline confusing and didn't see any of the quotes used in 'You've got Mail'!" <--- Best line.

  • Liz | July 17, 2012 11:13 AMReply

    From the Raging Bull IMDb review:


    "Seriously though, this film is grossly pregnant; there is nothing there"


    Isn't "nothing there" sort of the opposite of "pregnant"?

  • Xian | July 17, 2012 10:32 AMReply

    Devin Faraci goes all Armond White on ‪#TDKR‬ - http://badassdigest.com/2012/07/17/mov … ‪#Cinema‬ ‪#Movies‬ ‪#Nolanverse‬ @DCComics vs. @Marvel

  • JOHN | July 17, 2012 10:26 AMReply

    Your inclusion of random IMDb crits made me laugh out loud for real. Thanks for that.

  • rotch | July 17, 2012 10:19 AMReply

    I would add Ebert's Blue Velvet pan, so infamous it made it to the dvd's extras.

  • AS | July 17, 2012 10:18 AMReply

    I agree with The Searchers. The performances are way over the top, to the point where I don't understand how anyone could possibly overlook this glaring flaw. The film is also shockingly racist.

  • d | July 18, 2012 4:34 PM

    And you just quoted me and said things like, "wow. Very impressive." I actually only said something "like 'great stuff'" once, for the record. And I did counter what you said, by quoting you and pointing out, using sarcasm (which perhaps you found hard to understand), your poor reading comprehension skills, the baselessness of your comment that the racism came "from the filmmakers' perspective," and your silly use of the word "futile" to describe making a point well-understood by most people, excluding yourself obviously. And I'm the buffoon? Anyways, I've had enough of this, thanks. :)

  • AS | July 18, 2012 10:19 AM

    Exactly, you didn't counter anything I said. You just quoted me and said things like "great stuff." Wow, very impressive. Thank god there are more intelligent and articulate people out there like Stephenm, because if it wasn't for him you would have looked like a total buffoon.

  • d | July 18, 2012 12:57 AM

    "So basically you saying that by being so overtly racist, it's actually a commentary on racism?" Yeah, nice reading comprehension! I don't remember saying the movie was "overtly racist" (in fact, I think I said the opposite!), but I'm sure that's what I meant. "This is not just from Wayne's perspective, it's from the filmmakers perspective." Because you say so? Great stuff, AS. "You can sit there and defend it all you want but it's futile effort on your part." Yeah, so futile, not to mention sad, to defend a movie not only widely understood to be (yes) anti-racist but also considered by a wide majority of scholars/critics to be one of the greatest ever made. I think "pointless" would be a better word for it. STEPHENM, your contribution was quite welcome.

  • StephenM | July 17, 2012 5:57 PM

    I probably shouldn't be weighing in on this, but yes, the film is anti-racist. At the same time, the Native American characters in the film are rather paper-thin and stereotyped, and I can understand how modern audiences could be uncomfortable with it. The point of the film, though, is very much the way hatred, prejudice, and revenge can destroy a person's life, and Ethan Edwards is very much an anti-hero who threatens to become a villain. Martin, his half-Indian nephew, is the true hero of the film, coming of age over the course of their search until he can confront Ethan and stand in front of Debbie to guard her against Ethan's vengeance. There is also subtle commentary throughout the film on the way racism has permeated the society--see the point when Martin's girlfriend tells him that Debbie's mother would have wanted Ethan to kill her rather than see her become the slave/wife of a Comanche, shocking Martin and us. There is also the significant scene where Ethan and Martin discover the burned Indian village, strewn with dead bodies of women and children, all done by the US Cavalry. They even find Look, the Indian girl Martin had accidentally "married" and had mocked and resented so much, now dead, and they realize how poorly they had treated her. And you do John Ford a disservice: He was one of the most anti-racist filmmakers in Hollywood history, and he was beloved of the Native American tribes who live near Monument Valley. He gave them consistent work in his movies and they made him an honorary member of their tribe. The main Indian characters in The Searchers are played by white actors, it is true, but all the rest of the Indian extras seen in battle scenes and the like are genuine Native Americans.

  • AS | July 17, 2012 4:21 PM

    That's just sad. So basically you saying that by being so overtly racist, it's actually a commentary on racism? That's laughable. Take a look at every western Wayne made. The Native Americans are always the bad guys and he's always the good guy. And it's not just his character, it's every white character. And it's not just the characters themselves, it's the way Ford depicts the NA. Like I said, they are depicted as savages. This is not just from Wayne's perspective, it's from the filmmakers perspective. Also, Ford didn't even attempt to hire Native American actors to portray the Comanche. He just got a bunch of white guys and put face paint on them (which only adds the overall campy nature of the film). You can sit there and defend it all you want but it's futile effort on your part.

  • d | July 17, 2012 4:05 PM

    I'm not about to expend a lot of energy, because plenty of writing has already been done on the subject (which you could look up.) The racism in the movie IS pretty blatant, because the movie is ABOUT racism. Do you know why it's regarded as one of the great American films? Well, it's not just because it's a rousing adventure movie, it's because it's among the only westerns to take racism as its primary subject, and by far the most frank and powerful depiction. Ethan Edwards and the movie are not the same thing. He's not a hero. The movie makes clear that Ethan is driven by racism, that he even hates members of his own family if they're mixed-blood (Martin). He spends the entire movie trying to find and conceivably kill his kidnapped niece because in his mind, she's better off dead than living "with a buck." And after all this, the happy ending only comes by way of a change of heart -- he and his racism don't "win." You might also consider the parallels between Ethan and Scar before you make them out to be polar opposites. "To claim this film is not racist is to claim that The Birth of a Nation is not racist either." Are you fucking kidding me?

  • AS | July 17, 2012 1:05 PM

    It's pretty blatant, but okay...

    The Native Americans are presented as one dimensional savages whose very existence threatens any safety or peace the white people could ever hope to enjoy. They are viewed as primitives who systematically kidnap poor, innocent white women and turn them into Comanches. Take a look at the scene halfway through the film when Ethan comes across the white women who managed to survive indian "captivity." The women are depicted as frightened, wide-eyed and insane. The bystander says "It's hard to believe they're white," to which Mr. Wanye replies "They aint white, not any more. They're Comanch." This suggests, of course, that the Comanches are not even human. They're depicted as being something lower, more primal and savage. The REAL humans, as we know, are the white people! To claim this film is not racist is to claim that The Birth of a Nation is not racist either. But go ahead, make your case.

  • d | July 17, 2012 12:06 PM

    You called the film "shockingly racist" without articulating why you thought it was. Either make a case for The Searcher's "shocking racism," or... etc, etc.

  • AS | July 17, 2012 11:53 AM

    I called the film "shockingly racist." Then you called ME a moron without articulating why you thought I was. Either make a case defending The Searchers against my claim, or risk rendering your comment irrelevant.

  • d | July 17, 2012 11:28 AM

    Funny, I didn't see where you presented anything that resembled an argument.

  • AS | July 17, 2012 11:21 AM

    Nope, you were just trolling. You didn't present anything that might even resemble a counter-argument.

  • d | July 17, 2012 11:13 AM

    As thoughtful a response as your comment deserved.

  • AS | July 17, 2012 10:52 AM

    Brilliant response. You've clearly shown me...

  • d | July 17, 2012 10:28 AM

    "The film is also shockingly racist." Wow. Moron.

  • Zack | July 17, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    I get what you're trying to do with this, but IMDB users are not "serious critics"; they were made in a factory so YouTube commenters would have someone to feel superior to.

  • daniel | July 17, 2012 12:14 PM

    @Maicol: The critics at Mubi are 1) serious critics who often work for (other) legitimate publications, 2) knowledgeable about film, and so 3) nothing like IMDb critics.

  • maicol | July 17, 2012 12:02 PM

    Now that's what I call wit! Have you guys checked out mubi.com? It's like the film elitist's IMDB. The reviews on there are worth a hoot/look.

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