Sometimes, we just can’t properly appreciate a movie on first viewing. Perhaps the marketing misled us into expecting something entirely different than what we’d actually get, perhaps we set impossibly high expectations that no movie could possibly meet, or perhaps we were just in a bad mood the day we first saw it. Whatever the reason, some films require a second (or sometimes third or even more) viewing before we can recognize their best qualities. In this week’s Roundtable, we revisit some of the movies that we just didn’t “get” the first time around.
I remember that the first time I watched Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven‘, I was less than thrilled with what I saw. The movie seemed overly violent to me, and I was totally unprepared for an ending where the “reformed” Bill Munny turns back to his old, evil ways. After I saw the film, I heard an interview in which Eastwood said that he wanted to demystify the modern Western – that he’d seen hundreds of Westerns where the bad guy turned good, but wanted to do one where the good guy turned bad again. After listening to that interview and noting the Oscar buzz that was building for the film, I went back to the theater for a second viewing. Now knowing what to expect and what the movie was aiming to achieve, I liked it much more a second time. Over the years and with multiple viewings, I’ve come to realize that ‘Unforgiven’ is probably the best Western of the modern era.
James L. Brooks movies have gotten pretty rambly since ‘Broadcast News’, almost like he spends a decade enjoying that Simpsons money and jotting down anecdotes he hears at dinner parties and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf visits, then dumps a shoebox full of notes on his desk and starts fitting together all these strange half ideas. I’m actually pretty sure that’s exactly what he does, which results in bizarre, undercooked movies like ‘How Do You Know?’. But I also find that repeat viewings of those movies inevitably turn up some unexpected treats. ‘Spanglish‘ is the perfect example. The first time I saw it, I thought the movie was a total mess. I hated it, but my wife really loved the characters. A year or so later, she got me to watch it again, and lo and behold, I really enjoyed it. Now it’s one of our favorites. And the Spanglish sandwich is delicious.
It’s not that I didn’t “get” it, but more so as the first time I watched it, I didn’t find ‘Step Brothers‘ funny at all. This was strange to me as I enjoy Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly quite a bit. I even looked forward to the movie when it came out. But as the credits rolled, I thought it was an unfunny and dull film. I only managed to get a couple of chuckles throughout the picture.
As time went by and ‘Step Brothers’ was released on Blu-ray, I decided to give it another chance. I had to be sure that my friends were wrong in saying that it was comedy gold. Needless to say, the next few viewings – some solo and some with friends – I found myself laughing out loud all the way through. Still to this day, every time ‘Step Brothers’ is on TV, I get sucked into watching it all the way through and continue to bust a gut. Hell, even a few friends and I quote this movie on a daily basis. It has since become a favorite of mine in the comedy genre.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Fourteen years ago, I broke in my shiny new DVD player with a copy of ‘Blade Runner‘. This is a movie I’d seen bits and pieces of on cable for ages, and I even owned the first issue of the comic adaptation for reasons I don’t recall, but I’d somehow never quite managed to watch the whole thing before from start to finish.
As excited as I was at the outset, I dozed off pretty much immediately. In fact, it probably took me four or five attempts to finally slog my way through ‘Blade Runner’ in full. I’m not even the type to fall asleep during a movie, but ‘Blade Runner’ was like a glass of warm milk, making me nod off each and every time. I don’t think I even gave it another shot for six full years, but in rediscovering the film on HDNet Movies in 2005, I finally saw the light. I’m in awe of the film’s unparalleled visual style, its intermingling of science fiction and film noir, and studying within the confines of a genre film what it means to be human. I’d say now without hesitation that ‘Blade Runner’ ranks among my very favorite films, and I’m embarrassed that I was unable to appreciate it sooner.
As I recall, ‘Galaxy Quest‘ wasn’t terribly well received when it came out in 1999. The ‘Star Trek’ spoof received middling reviews and poor box office, likely the fault of casting Tim Allen in the lead. The trailers made it look like ‘The Santa Clause’ in outer space, which undersold its charms to both the actor’s usual fans (who weren’t so interested in science fiction) and to sci-fi fans (who were put off by his presence in it). When I first saw the movie on DVD, it didn’t register much of an impression with me. I think I found it mildly amusing but a bit strained. Years later, I revisited the movie on Blu-ray, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t laugh my ass off through the whole thing. The picture is a spot-on satire of all things ‘Trek’ and science fiction, but also a legitimately funny and exciting story in its own right, with well-developed characters and sharp dialogue. I can’t believe I dismissed it the first time.
One more example: I felt that Ben Affleck’s ‘The Town‘ was wildly overpraised during its theatrical release, especially here in Boston (Affleck’s home town, and where the picture is set). The movie, a crime thriller derivative of a dozen other, better films, frankly just wasn’t good or special enough to live up to the hype. My nickname for it is ‘Warmth’, because it’s like a tepid ‘Heat‘. However, watching the movie for a second time on Blu-ray after I was already well aware of its flaws, I set my expectations low enough that I found myself better appreciating the things that it does right, such as capturing the city’s local color. It’s still not a great movie, but it’s a solidly entertaining heist thriller that I’m not ashamed to own on disc.
Tell us in the Comments about the movies that you needed to see twice or more to appreciate.