I often find myself much more frustrated over an overrated movie than an outright bad one.
An overrated movie is not a movie I disliked, but a movie I thought was mediocre at worst and pretty good at best, and with which I’m baffled at all the adoration it receives. So for now, I’ll spare you my rant on how much I despise certain cult hits like Napoleon Dynamite. I’m also going to skip over movies that had a huge backlash, like Titanic. Instead, here are movies that make me want to scream: “It’s not that good.” And yes, it’s a bit Oscar-winner heavy.
In no particular order…
What’s good: Some of the visual concepts were neat. I particularly enjoyed Joseph-Gordon Levitt walking on walls and losing the bad guys on an impossible staircase. I actually really liked the ambiguous ending; I don’t consider it a “twist ending,” but a symbolic one.
But: For a movie about the nature of reality, the story had too much logic involved, where the rules were clearly laid out right away. I expected something mind-blowing that would make me lost in the dreams within the movie, and it didn’t even get close. We also just saw Leonardo DiCaprio’s tortured-by-dead-wife thing in Shutter Island, where he was much more convincing.
What I like more: Christopher Nolan’s far superior Memento and The Dark Knight.
What’s good: I recently saw this again, and it was enjoyable enough. It helps that I’m a sucker for period epics, especially ones with a driving Hans Zimmer score.
But: There isn’t much depth to this movie. The characters, their motivations, and the plot development is standard textbook screenplay. The execution is fine (pun unintended), but there’s nothing transcendent that makes me really feel anything.
What I like more: 300 doesn’t take itself so seriously and has some serious style.
The Shawshank Redemption
I’m not even going to break this one down because I am truly baffled. This was a solid, well-made movie, but I don’t understand why people love it so much that it sits #1 on IMDB’s list.
What’s good: Like everyone else, I agree that the dialogue-less first half of the movie is inspired. My favorite moment was WALL-E’s confusion with a spork.
But: When reviewing a movie, I also have to consider the second half. As far as Pixar movies go, overall, WALL-E didn’t have the non-stop creative energy of The Incredibles nor the emotional resonance of Up or Toy Story 3.
What I like more: See above.
No Country for Old Men
What’s good: Javier Bardem’s performance is terrifyingly effective. You can’t go wrong with the Coen Brothers’ craft.
But: When a movie is this unrelentingly bleak, it actually has the effect of making me feel distant. I wasn’t “with” the characters so much as just waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
What I like more: Fargo has a similar quick-cash-gone-wrong story and a nihilistic view of the world, except with a good dose of humor, which makes me more invested in the characters.
What’s good: The “Jai Ho” dance at the end, and the musical score throughout.
But: Questionable depictions of India aside, this is just a rags-to-riches story and not much more. I suspect its huge success has to do with Western audiences being able to see something “exotic” while still having the safe anchors of British filmmakers’ point of view and the frame of a familiar game show.
What I like more: I admit I’ve never seen more than a clip of a Bollywood film, but based on what I liked about Slumdog Millioniare that’s probably where I should go.