It’s awards season, a time when everyone in movie-land looks back on the previous year to congratulate themselves for all the awesome films they made. The Golden Globes just wrapped up, and Oscar nominations will be announced soon. Amid all this self-satisfied back patting, some movies will inevitably get over-praised with award nominations or placement on critics’ Ten-Best lists. In this week’s Roundtable, we look at some of the most overrated films of 2011 that we didn’t feel merited all the attention they’ve been getting.
I was really looking forward to ‘The Ides of March‘. As a political junkie, I thought it looked absolutely fantastic. As a film fan, I had some extremely high expectations. The cast was borderline mind-boggling. The trailer was phenomenal. It seemed to have everything a top-notch political drama/thriller needed. Then I saw it. Yeah, this movie is severely overrated.
First of all, I think we’ve all seen the “You have to sell a bit of your soul to work in politics” story a gazillion times now. This movie offers us no new insights or meaty questions to chew on. Secondly, the main character is a supposed veteran of I think 40+ campaigns by the time we meet him, but the entire movie hinges on one of the most naïve, newbie mistakes that I’ve ever seen in a political movie. The moment the plot machinations kicked in, I thought, “There’s a twist coming. There has to be. They’re not really expecting us to buy this, are they? Are they? They ARE! Gimme a break!”
I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling ripped off or horribly disappointed. I just left thinking, “Hmmmm….ooookay. That one is checked off my list.” This isn’t a bad movie, or even an entirely boring one; it will just have many of you yawning and checking your watches from time to time. Since I don’t wear a watch, I used the moments of distraction to think back to a far better, far more interesting political film, albeit it one in a much different genre. If you haven’t seen it before, or even if you have, skip this movie and check out ‘Primary Colors’ instead.
I didn’t get out to theaters much in the past year, but I got out there just enough to find something to pick on. I really wanted to like Scorsese’s latest, but ‘Hugo‘ just wasn’t good. Well, that’s not entirely true. Each individual thread of the movie was good. The scenes of the titular Hugo fell a bit flat, but I quite liked the bits with Sacha Baron Cohen. The flashbacks of Georges Melies were fantastic. They stand well on their own, but fail to tie together into an actual movie. The tone of some of the parts just feels too different. Watching ‘Hugo’, I get the feeling that Scorsese would rather have been making a movie about the real Georges Melies than one about a kid who wants to fix a machine. I can tell you for certain that a semi-fictionalized history of film focused on Melies would have been much more interesting for me to watch.
I’m probably going to be booed for this one, but I have to go with ‘Bridesmaids‘. Don’t get me wrong, it has some hilarious parts – like the airplane scene, the food poisoning scene, and the cop attention-grabber drive-bys – but the movie also has a ton of dead space where nothing really funny is happening at all. Maybe I set my expectations too high or maybe I wasn’t in the right mood. I don’t know. I just expected a lot more than what I got from this highly-praised comedy.
Personally, I thought that 2011 was a fairly strong year for cinema. Then we’re suddenly talking about ‘The Descendants‘ winning Best Picture awards, and now I’m totally rethinking my position. ‘The Descendants’ is a well-polished, well-acted movie without much substance to go with it. I found it cloying and self-important. It’s a movie that relies far too much on the beauty of Hawaii to sell the otherwise flimsy plot. It’s one of those films that leads you by the hand all the way through its emotional tugs and turns. There’s nothing here that you need to figure out on your own. It’s all laid out there before you, complete with comedic relief from the daughter’s clueless boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather watch ‘The Descendants’ than, say, ‘Transformers 3’, but to think of it as Best Picture status gives me pause on whether or not this really was a good cinematic year.
M. Enois Duarte
The one movie that seems terribly overrated to me is ‘The Help‘. The well-intentioned, racially-charged drama about the hired-help during the Civil Rights Movement is typical saccharine tripe that we’ve seen numerous times. It’s meant to warm hearts as well as pull at them. Like ‘Titanic’, viewers are celebrating mediocrity, middle-of-the-road storytelling, specially designed to not insult the widest possible audience while completely misrepresenting history. And don’t even get me started about the inherent problems of the characters and the film’s plot. I won’t go so far as to call the movie racist, but it’s definitely insulting. It reinforces negative images of a people while perpetuating a grossly overused myth infecting our modern culture. It’s fine if you enjoyed ‘The Help’, but for me, it’s a dreadfully overrated movie.
I’ve mentioned this in a couple of other posts recently, but I honestly thought that ‘Drive‘ was one of the worst movies I saw in 2011, not one of the best. Director Nicolas Winding Refn has been hailed as the second coming of Tarantino and his film praised as a revitalization of the action genre for reasons that I’m at a loss to explain or even understand.
As an action movie, ‘Drive’ is dead boring. The 100-minute film consists of about 90 minutes of Ryan Gosling staring blankly forward at walls, at other characters, or off into the distance, usually while other characters stare blankly at him. All this staring is punctuated by two or possibly three brief action scenes, one of stomach-churning brutality and gore. An important car chase (the movie is called ‘Drive’, after all) does nothing particularly innovative or exciting. A more accurate title would have been ‘Stalled’.
As an art film with supposedly amazing intellectual and psychological depth (which it also pretends to be), I found the movie completely vapid and empty. All of Gosling’s staring is meant to signify that he’s a tough guy Man of Few Words. Yeah, I get it. The problem is that Gosling utterly fails to sell the conceit. I’ve liked the actor in other movies, but he’s terrible in this. He’s totally dead both in front of and behind the eyes. He says nothing because he has nothing to say. To call the film “style over substance” would imply that it had some substance. But it doesn’t. It’s a lot of faux-existential posturing, with nothing going on beneath the surface.
From the ‘Risky Business’ title credits, to the fake ’80s electronica songs on the soundtrack (with laughably on-the-nose lyrics about being a real hero and a real human being – particularly ironic considering how false everything here is), to the recitation of the “Scorpion and the Frog” parable (famously told in ‘The Crying Game’), and countless other references, ‘Drive’ is a pastiche movie. Refn borrows his stylistic affectations largely from Michael Mann films, which he clearly watched but didn’t understand in the slightest. Unlike Tarantino, who combines bits and pieces of his favorite movies to form something uniquely his own, Refn is just a poseur. He’s only interested in copying the movies he likes, not bringing anything of his own to the material. After leaving the theater, I wanted to rewatch some of the real ’80s movies that inspired this, not such an inferior facsimile of one.
‘Drive’ just plain rubbed me the wrong way. I thought it was garbage and hated everything about it.
Before the deluge of hate mail from ‘Drive’ fans comes in, dare I ask what movies you thought were overrated in 2011? Tell us in the Comments.