Monday, October 12, 2015
Ask JKM a Question: Well-Regarded Films that I Don't Like?
A regular reader, Chuck, writes:
"I have a secret confession: I dislike Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
I have tried…TRIED…to like this movie. I have looked deep within myself, hoping it will finally somehow register with me, so I might finally join the masses who sing its praises as one of the greatest, most celebrated and groundbreaking cinematic achievements of all time.
But, try as I might, I just don’t get it. I think its dull, depressing, over-rated and pretentious. And I know you disagree with me. The entire world (it seems) disagrees with me too. I am in the vast minority, I know that.
Unfortunately, this sometimes makes it difficult to share my opinion with others, given how passionate fans of that particular film can be. And, unlike Star Trek or Star Wars fans—who have always been accustomed to dealing with at least some measure of detractors—many film buffs seem flat-out baffled (sometime even furious) when I mention my feelings towards 2001.
Which leads me to my question: Is there a classic, critically acclaimed, and much-beloved film (or franchise) that, try as you might, you just do not “get it.”
That's a great question, Chuck! I feel for you!
I do love 2001: A Space Odyssey (as you noted), but I have indeed felt like you do regarding films that others cherish.
So I can sympathize.
Not trying to change your mind, but perhaps you can get to the point where you admire the film's artistry, even while maintaining your points of criticism. That way, you get it, you just don't like it.
Or maybe not!
As for me, The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), and The Avengers (2012) all fall into the category where the Kubrick film landed for you. These films are widely and wildly lauded, and yet I wouldn't give one of them an unreserved positive review.
Vast swaths of my demographic group -- middle-aged fan-boys -- love, love, LOVE these movies, and I don't even like them a whit.
The Dark Knight is visually-muddled and thematically deplorable (an apology, basically, for the post-9/11 surveillance state).
The Avengers is over-long and, approximately, about nothing. It's such a dull movie, in fact, that I fell asleep in it the first two times I attempted to watch it. I find The Avengers absolutely lacking in any human interest at all. It's a great hype machine, but notthing else. And, of course, I'm a huge admirer of Joss Whedon's, so I am baffled by how little of the artist's personality or humor made it into the film.
But Inception is the one that gets me, really. It is regularly ranked in the top 200 at IMDB -- currently ranked at #14 -- almost 80 slots higher than 2001: A Space Odyssey. Other film it ranks higher than: Unforgiven (1994), Raging Bull (1980), Chinatown (1974), and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).
I have seen this film's praises sung so many times. And yet, as I've written before, the concept is inherently ludicrous. The film also moves at the pace of slow molasses.
In Inception, a group of people delve into multiple levels of dreams to "plant" an idea into the psyche of an unsuspecting individual. The same task was routinely accomplished on the original Mission: Impossible (1966-1972) series using either psychological manipulation or psychotropic drugs.
But no, Inception takes us into layers and layers of dreams, all moving at different rates, and runs over two-and-a-half hours to get us exactly where Mission: Impossible got audiences more plausibly, and with greater economy, several times a season.
Why is Inception so beloved? It's the Nolan effect, I think. (And hey, I like Batman Begins and Interstellar, Insomnia, and Memento). He was riding a high after Dark Knight, and his next film received the benefit of the doubt, I suppose.
So I do understand your feelings even if I disagree with your assessment of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And I'm absolutely certain many, many movie scholars and fans disagree with my selections too.
The thing is: people don't really have to agree with you. If you can make the case for your view of a film -- and its consistent -- you really don't need anyone else to agree with you.