Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Escaping a Bad Movie


I celebrated (or at least begrudgingly accepted) my milestone 55th birthday in July.  As the years cruelly advance, I have come to realize that I am becoming less and less patient.  This lack of patience has extended to my movie-viewing habits.  For years, I somehow felt obliged to sit through a film that I wasn't enjoying.  After all, I did pay for my ticket and it would be throwing away money to leave.  Also, I felt that I needed to secure my fanny in its place out of a misplaced sense of morality.  How would it be fair for me to judge a film that I hadn't seen from beginning to end?  I couldn't leave the theatre declaring that a film was terrible unless I had actually witnessed every last frame for myself.  I could only hope that the film was going to get better and the story would reach a satisfactory resolution.  I now look at myself as having been foolish to suffer through films that were useless, irritating and hopeless.  It was unreasonable for me to sit through a cinematic disaster until the bitter end just for the unlikely chance that the film would pull out of its perilous tailspin and accomplish a breathtaking last-minute redemption. 

The multiplex made it easy for me to reject a film as it took little effort to stumble out of the one dark theatre and slip into another dark theatre next door.  Whenever I did this, I was sure that the film being exhibited in the other theater could not be worse.  I was usually right.  But, now, I no longer feel the need to sneak, or slip, or stumble.  Now, I proudly walk out of a theatre rather than subject myself to another nauseating moment of a bad film.  It is even easier when I am watching a bad film at home and all I need to do is press the eject button on my DVD remote.  Sometimes a person needs to accept defeat and cry out, "No mas!"

Film critic Rex Reed was widely criticized for reviewing a film even though he had walked out after the first twenty minutes.  But I have to defend Reed on this matter.  Reed made it clear in his review that he "happily deserted" the film at an early stage because he found it "unwatchable."  Fair enough.  I admitted in my review of I Saw the Devil (2010) that I didn't watch the entire film because I could no longer endure the film's relentless blood and brutality.

I recently gave up on American Hustle (2013) after 40 minutes.  I couldn't figure out what I was watching.  True-life characters were represented by surreal comic grotesqueries.  With his conspicuous belly bulge and funny wig, Christian Bale just needed to put on a clown nose and he would have been ready to drive around a circus tent in a clown car.  With blackface, Bradley Cooper's manic, bug-eyed federal agent could have traded barbs as a dandy in a minstrel show.  Of course, you also have Jennifer Lawrence accidentally blowing up a microwave, which Bale keeps calling "a science oven."  I expected Cooper to show up and say, "You done blown up the science oven.  Yuck, Yuck, Yuck!"  I didn't make it through twenty minutes of The Bling Ring (2013), which had some of the same problems that American Hustle had.  I have long had issues with filmmakers deviating wildly from the facts of a true story.  This unfortunately diminished my appreciation of Saving Mr. Banks (2013) and Lone Survivor (2013), which were well-made films that needlessly fabricated characters (the chauffeur in Saving Mr. Banks) and events (the firefight climax of Lone Survivor).

The one film that I most happily deserted this year was About Time (2013).  The film introduces its protagonist, Tim, as an unfortunate individual who deserves our sympathy.  In the opening narration, Tim describes himself as "too tall, too skinny, too orange."  But we soon find out that this young man is a wealthy snob who has enjoyed unending privilege throughout his life.  He really sees himself as being highly attractive.  He certainly believes himself to be better than this nice woman that he rejects.  She expects to get a kiss from him at midnight on New Year's Eve, but he simply reaches out and shakes her hand.  She turns away looking devastated. 

He thinks that he deserves this woman.  

This actress, Margot Robbie, is by no means an average young lady.  In the real world, Robbie is rumored to have lured Will Smith away from his wife of 16 years, threatening to destroy one of Hollywood's great power couples.  Many critics are of the opinion that Robbie uses her considerable charms to steal The Wolf of Wall Street from superstar heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio.  In a review of The Wolf of Wall Street, Kara Warner declared Robbie "a scene-jacking breakout star."

But this fellow who admits to being "too tall, too skinny, too orange" still doesn't think he's so bad that he cannot attract Robbie.

The plot of About Time is set in motion when Tim's father (Bill Nighy) reveals to Tim that the men in their family have the ability to travel through time and, if he uses this power wisely, he could greatly improve his life.  I had a hard time accepting that a rich young man really needs time-traveling abilities to improve his life.  I can only dream of having the life that this person has without the time-traveling hoodoo.  Why should I waste my sympathy on him?  The insufferable problem of the film is that its writer and director, Richard Curtis, is unaware that Tim is a jerk.  He assumes that viewers will have no problem instantly falling in love with Tim and tirelessly cheer his efforts throughout the duration of the film.  It wasn't long before I ejected the DVD.

I also value my remote's fast-forward button, which allows me to skip past irritating characters and uninteresting subplots.  Let's take, for example, The Way Way Back (2013).  The central character is a 14-year-old boy named Duncan.  Duncan vacations at a beach house with his mother and his mother's overbearing boyfriend.  Duncan is able to get away from this gloomy, dysfunctional couple by performing odd jobs at a nearby water park.  The water park is the only place where Owen is happy and the only place where I am happy to see Owen.  I fast-forwarded through the awkward and unpleasant beach house scenes and focused my attention on the warm and funny water park scenes.  This made the film half as long and twice as entertaining. 

My message today is for film fans to march fearlessly out of a film that has fallen far short of their expectations.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

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