10 Dirty Secrets That I Keep

No, not THAT dirty. Just dirty movie secrets I keep- things that I generally don’t say out loud because I know it’ll make someone else angry. It’s much like Peter Griffin’s confession on Family Guy that he didn’t like The Godfather. Even if you really do think that The Godfather “insists upon itself” and you preferred The Money Pit, you’d be wise to not bring it up very often. There’s also the notion that it’s better to keep some things to yourself for fear of how you’ll be viewed among your peers. I’m hoping that there are at least a few people out there who agree with me on these. I also hope that half my readership doesn’t view me as some sort of angry ogre after finishing this article. So without further adieu, here are 10 Dirty Secrets That I Keep.

1. I like Kevin Smith, and I like his movies
This puts me in peril of losing a lot of credibility with a lot of people who take films very seriously. You know what? I don’t care. Clearly, his movies (other than maybe Clerks) aren’t beacons of cinematic accomplishment. But they make me laugh. I even liked Cop Out. Hell, I liked it quite a bit. His schtick about being an outsider who broke the system gets a little tiresome, but I’m not going to hold that against his films. And he seems to be a genuinely good human being (if you don’t mind the vulgarity and crass topics, which I clearly do not).

2. I thought that Melissa Leo’s performance in The Fighter was awful
She’s nominated for several supporting actress awards for her turn as the mother in The Fighter. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Her performance was way over the top and hackneyed. Her dialogue was cartoonish to the point that I expected her to rub her handlebar mustache, adjust her top hat, and say “Mwaahahahahaha” as she continually played favorites with her children, leaving Micky Ward/Mark Wahlberg out in the cold. I found it to be a serious detriment to the film. In her defense, it could very easily be a function of what kind of performance director David Russell asked her to give.

3. I didn’t like 2001: A Space Odyssey

This monkey's outrage isn't all that different from how I reacted at the end of "2001".

It’s consistently mentioned as a crowning achievement of American cinema. I’ll meet the fans of 2001 halfway. Visually, it was amazing. From an auteur’s standpoint, it had a really awesome, really cool feel to it. But the plot or story or whatever the hell happened in that movie is completely inaccessible to the casual viewer (which is what I was when I first saw it). I’m pretty sure that upon a subsequent viewing, I’d have a kinder opinion of the whole thing. But when I first saw it, when I had less refined cinematic tastes, my reaction was “What the hell just happened?!?!”. And not in a good way.

4. I didn’t like Annie Hall
This is one of the more vexing items because I generally like Woody Allen. I love his dramas, and I even like a lot of his comedies. Bananas and Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask) are two of my favorite comedies. I love that he has an infatuation with Ingmar Bergman, just like me. But his character in Annie Hall– Alvy Singer- is completely unlikeable. Simply being annoyingly neurotic doesn’t work on its own. You need something more. It does not click for me. Take my Film Nerd union card away.

5. I liked Shutter Island, The King of Comedy, Bringing Out the Dead, After Hours, and The Color of Money
In other words, I liked all of the less popular Scorsese movies to varying degrees. I gave all of those movies at least 4 out of 5 stars on Netflix. After Hours got 5 stars. There’s something brilliant in Scorsese’s uncomfortably obsessive characters. And even if you don’t like the characters, the pure art that goes into making his movies is incredibly impressive.

6. Even though I have no children of my own, I will occasionally watch kids movies
It probably makes me look a little creepy when I have some crazy horror flick at home at the same time as Up or The Muppet Show: Season 1. But whattyadonnado? A good movie is a good movie. Some films in the newer batch of childrens movies are particularly impressive. Wall-E, which pays homage to silent comedians and film history in general, comes to mind. I’m not going to miss out on good movies just because I look either stupid or creepy for watching certain films.

7. I have never seen Avatar or Titanic

The boat sinks. There, are you happy now?

Every single review of Avatar that I’ve read indicates that it’s basically a really highly polished turd. The plot is allegedly clichéd and the only reason to see it at all is the visuals. There’s also the hubris that went into the marketing of that movie. The trailers on TV at the time were using phrases like “James Cameron has changed movies forever” or something in that vein. I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. Movies were great before, they’re great now, and they’ll be great in the future. Movies didn’t need 3D smurfs, least of all 3D smurfs that are packaged with an average/bad/clichéd story. As for Titanic, the mythos behind the wreck is fascinating. But it took a really wonderful mythos and turned it into some sort of romance. And as the joke goes, “You know how it ends”. There’s really nothing that appeals to me about that concept.

8. Frank Capra annoys me
I wouldn’t dream of denying the quality of his films. I also wouldn’t dream of denying his place in American film history. But they all end with this nice neat little cherry on top. They’re just so gosh-darned saccharine sweet. You know how when you were a kid, you’d get a ton of candy on holidays? And then you’d eat as much of it as possible. You’d almost literally make yourself sick. That’s how I feel watching the sugary sweet endings in Capra films.

9. I think John Wayne was a horrible actor
Don’t misunderstand me here. I love a lot of his movies. I think his agent or whoever chose his films for him did a spectacular job. His movies are classics, and deservedly so. But Wayne? In the words of a friend of mine, he was “a conservative cartoon character”. It’s no surprise that I liked the Wayne-less version of True Grit so much more than the original.

10. I don’t understand David Lynch movies
Believe me, I wish I did. It seems like it’s right up my alley. I certainly don’t hate his movies. I just don’t understand what the hell is going on in them. Obviously, he has some more accessible films like The Straight Story and Blue Velvet, but those aren’t the films I’m talking about. I’ve tried and tried and tried but still nothing clicks. I’m holding out hope that one day, I’ll pop in a Lynch film and suddenly the lightbulb will go off over my head and everything will be cool as cucumber.


44 Comments

Filed under Movies

44 responses to “10 Dirty Secrets That I Keep

  1. martin

    How do you feel about “the Princess Bride”?

  2. aleksa

    You have virtually the same opinion of “2001” that I do. Visually, yes, it’s beautiful, but the plot is a head-scratcher.

    • heyzeus

      Thirded. Watched it on dvd, and felt guilty at first for watching in 2x speed during the s u p e r e x t e n d e d space shots…then 3x speed…then I stopped feeling any guilt at all during, say, the final hour and a half.

      • When I first tackled the AFI Top 100, it was the one I scratched my head on the most. The “What the hell just happened?” quote is a paraphrase, but it’s pretty close to whatever it was that I actually said.

  3. Phil

    Where to start… it’s fine to not like classic movies. No one’s taste needs to be in line with the critics. But… you don’t need to understand Lynch. It’s surreal art, like Bunuel, Picaso, or Dali. You don’t need to comprehend all of it to appreciate it.

    Watch 2001 again, you may make like it more. It’s supposed to make you wonder what happened and then think about it.

    John Wayne most definitely can act. You may not appreciate his style, but he knew exactly what he was doing. Watch ‘The Searchers’ for proof.

    I like almost all Scorcese, but are you writing off ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Taxi Driver’? They are both almost perfect films.

    • There’s the rub, though- I LOVE Bunuel. He’s one of my three favorite directors out there. Don’t misunderstand me about Lynch- I’m not being critical. Quite the opposite. I’m saying I wish I did get it.

      2001 is on my checklist to re-watch at some point down the line, probably pretty soon. I tried Annie Hall twice, even after disliking it a great deal the first time.

      I’m definitely not writing off Raging Bull or Taxi Driver. Those are universally loved and rightfully so. Saying that those movies are incredible isn’t much of a dirty secret or unpopular opinion.

      I’d respectfully disagree about Wayne. It’s popular and it’s his “style”, but the man had zero range. If that’s how he wanted to be, more power to him. It made him an icon and I’m glad that so many people get so much joy out of his films. But I’d never say that playing the same character again and again makes someone a good actor.

  4. mgss

    HULK HERE.

    1. NEVER FEEL BAD ABOUT LIKING A COMEDY. “IF IT MAKE YOU LAUGH, YOU HAVE BE HONEST”… ALSO CHASING AMY LEGITIMATELY GOOD MOVIE TOO.

    3. THE STORY CONCEPTUAL. IT INVITE VIEWER TO INTERPRET FILM IN SYMBOLIC CONCEPT. ANY MOVIE THAT ASK US “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED” SHOULD ALWAYS BE INVITATION TO VIEWER TO GO DEEPER. NOT SOMETHING THAT PUSH YOU AWAY. SOMETIMES GREAT MOVIES TAKE A LITTLE WORK. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretations_of_2001:_A_Space_Odyssey

    4. IT NOT HAVE DO WITH “LIKABILITY” IT ABOUT HIS PERSPECTIVE ON THE WORLD. ALSO, HAVE UNDERSTAND HOW REVOLUTIONARY THAT MOVIE WAS AT TIME. THE HISTORY OF A FILM TRULY MATTER. AND THE NARRATIVE AND STORYTELLING WAS REALLY LIKE NOTHING SEEN BEFORE. IT COMPLETELY BROKE ROM-COM 4TH WALL.

    5. HULK LIKE ASPECTS OF THOSE MOVIES TOO. NOT EVERY SCORSESE FILM COMPLETELY SUCCESSFUL, BUT THERE SOMETHING ABOUT EACH THAT VERY COMPELLING AND INSATIABLY WATCHABLE.

    6. THOSE MOVIES FOR EVERYONE. NEVER FEEL BAD FOR WATCHING “KIDS MOVIES” HULK THINK THERE NO SUCH THING. THERE ONLY GOOD MOVIES AND BAD MOVIES. GENRE ITSELF NOT AN INDICATION OF WORTH.

    7. DON’T WORRY. IT OK.

    8. DON’T RESENT THE DIRECTOR FOR THE STYLE OF THE COMEDIES AT TIME. ALMOST ALL THOSE MOVIES END LIKE THAT. IT JUST THE NATURE OF MOVIES THEN. WATCH “WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF HISTORY.” NOT OUR CURRENT PERIOD. ALSO CHECK OUT PRESTON STURGES. HE MIGHT BE MORE YOUR SPEED. THE GUY A GENIUS.

    9. JOHN WAYNE WAS NEVER AN ACTOR (EXCEPT FOR, LIKE, ONE MOMENT IN THE SEARCHERS). HE WAS A MOVIE STAR. HE CRAFTED A PERSONA AND PRETTY MUCH JUST WENT WITH THAT. AND JUST LIKE PPL AT THE TIME, MANY EITHER LIKED OR DIDN’T LIKE HIM. BUT NO ONE REALLY MISTOOK HIM FOR AN ACTOR.

    10. THIS LIKE THE 2001 THING. SOME MOVIES TAKE WORK. AND TIME. AND PERSPECTIVE. DON’T RESENT MOVIES THAT DO THIS. PLUS LYNCH MOVIES MORE ABOUT THE FEELINGS THEY CREATE THAN THE LOGISTICS. STILL HULK HAVE A LOGISTICAL INTERPRETATION THAT SUM UP PLOT OF MULHOLLAND DRIVE PERFECTLY. AND REALLY IT ABOUT YOUR OWN LOOK AT IT. NOT A SINGULAR ONE.

    BASICALLY HULK TRYING TO CONVINCE YOU THAT A LOT OF YOUR “DIRTY SECRETS” DON’T HAVE TO BE. YOU SHOULDN’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO BUCK THE SYSTEM AND STATUS QUO. THAT’S NOT REALLY WHAT FILM ABOUT. FILM SHOULD BE ONGOING DISCUSSION, NOT SERIES OF ALLIANCES. BUT AT SAME TIME SOME OF THESE FILMS DESERVE A LITTLE MORE REGARD AND A BIT MORE VIEWING IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT.

    BASICALLY OPEN UP THE INTERPRETATION OF HOW A MOVIE “SHOULD” WORK.

    HULK OUT.

    • Fair enough, Hulk. I’m flattered to have you as a contributor here.

      The Rom Com fourth wall comment opened up my eyes in the sense that, well, I hate rom coms. So maybe there’s a deeper reason I dislike “Annie Hall”.

      • mgss

        HULK HAPPY TO SUBSCRIBE.

        DON’T HATE ROM COMS. YES, A LOT OF THEM = SHITE. BUT THE BEST ADVICE HULK EVER GOT IN TERMS OF LEARNING + GETTING BETTER AT WRITING MOVIES/WRITING ABOUT MOVIES WAS THIS:

        “NEVER HATE A MOVIE. OR ANY KIND OF MOVIE GENRE. EVERY MOVIE WITH FAULTS CAN MAKE YOU BETTER FOR RECOGNIZING IT. BUT JUST PLAIN HATING WILL DO YOU NO GOOD. SERIOUSLY, NONE. ALMOST ANYTHING IS WORTH WATCHING IN A WEIRD WAY. AND IF YOU OPEN UP AND CHANGE HOW YOU ABSORB AND EXPERIENCE MOVIES IT WILL ONLY MAKE YOU BETTER. LIKE EVERYTHING.”

        KNOW WHO TOLD HULK THAT? QUENTIN TARANTINO. THIS WAS RIGHT AFTER WE HAVE CONVERSATION AND HE MENTIONED A MOVIE AND HULK SAID HE DIDN’T REALLY LIKE THAT MOVIE. HULK WAS 18 AT THE TIME (THAT LONG TIME AGO NOW). BUT IT CHANGED HULKS LIFE.

        NOW WHEN HULK SEE A SHITTY ROM COM, IT JUST WANT MAKE HULK SEE A GREAT ROM COM EVEN MORE. (FOR EXAMPLE, ALL EDGAR WRIGHT TECHNICALLY MAKING ROM COMS IN WEIRD WAY . AND HIS FILMS = FUCKING AWESOME)

        • That’s a killer story. And great advice. And I’m not surprised that Tarantino- king of the mult-genre homage, much like Edgar Wright- would be the one to say it.

          And in fairness, some of the best rom coms in existence came from one of my two cinematic heroes- Buster Keaton.

          • mgss

            YEAH. HULK AGREE. AND Q.T.’S FAVORITE MOVIES ALWAYS TEND INCLUDE ONE HEAD SCRATCHER. BUT IT THAT KIND OF THINKING THAT ALLOW HIM TO MAKE KIND OF MOVIES HE DOES. THEY TRUE AMALGAMATIONS.

            • @Da_Rhettster

              I’m with you on 3, 5, and 6. I do recommend Titanic if ONLY for the historic parts of the film which I really enjoyed. The love story isn’t terrible but Billy’s character is so one dimensional that you might have new appreciation for Melissa Leo’s depth in The Fighter.

            • @Da_Rhettster

              By the way, I truly love the way Hulk stays in character throughout this conversation. THAT is acting.

  5. rtm

    Oooh this is a good one, John… you should make this a movie meme. Or maybe I’ll just steal this idea for next week’s post 🙂 Agree on #10, that’s why I haven’t seen Mulholland Drive that my friend lent me ages ago.

    On the subject of classics you don’t love, on my list is Spartacus… can’t understand why that is so beloved, I thought it was terrible!

  6. Wow, this was a helpful post! I thought I was alone. Actually I loved 2001, till the LSD part, then I just got mad. For years I thought me not understanding 2001 or David lynch films was because I wasn’t cool enough.

    Wholeheartedly agree with you on Avatar/Titanic, right there with you! I uh, did see one scene in Titanic however…

  7. Don

    You had me until you said that little thing about John Wayne! John Wayne was the man! The Original Man. Without him we never would have had Arnold Swartzagovernor, or Bruce “stop Shtupin’ my wife Ashton” Willis, or Sly Stalone. Now, you might think that would be a good thing, but film is also about entertainment. Mindless easy to understand, good guys win entertainment. So I see Wayne as an historically important actor. And you’re right, he had no range, but he perfected “his” character. Just my 2 cents.

    • Ah! I knew I’d get you with that one, Don.

      I have a hard time not comparing him to Eastwood, and I sort of feel like you either dig one or the other. And for me… that’s definitely Eastwood. Of course, he ALSO had no range and would never be confused for a good actor. But I love those movies and his characters.

      • Don

        Check out Gran Torino, If you haven’t already. I think that film actually shows his ability to act and be a complex figure. I’d also say Unforgiven, but upon thinking about it I think it was more an incredible story and not so much his range as an actor that made that a great movie. Frankly I think Gene Hackman had more dialogue in that movie than Eastwood did. Probably more camera time too.

        • I loved Gran Torino (don’t let Daniel know I said that). The cool thing about Eastwood is that he was an iconic actor (range or otherwise) and then became an iconic director. It’d be like if Albert Pujols retired (in 10 years, hopefully) and then went on to win a World Series or two as a manager.

  8. I can’t stand Capra!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I think, for me, it’s jealousy. I wish every time I screwed the proverbial pooch, I knew I had a happy ending waiting around the corner.

      • I despise Capra nearly as much as Spielberg and that is saying something. I usually root for the bad guys in Capra films.

        I love this list, by the way. My number one would be that I believe that Forrest Gump is the most morally destructive film ever created. I would rather watch 15 hours of snuff films followed by the root canal scene in Marathon Man then see that thing again. I won’t let my children watch Gump for fear they will grow up with the misguided belief that all you need in life are stupid one liners and the ability to be ignorant under all circumstances. Saying that in a room full of people is like signing your own death warrant.

        • I have a friend who feels much the same way. I’m not a HUGE fan of Gump, the film, but I have a lot of positive associations with it. Lots of good things happened for me on a personal level when that movie was wildly popular. Those associations insulate me from poormouthing it.

  9. magnoliaforever

    I watch Lynch films for the heck of it, not expecting to understand what I view. And often, I don’t. But there is something exciting, intriguing in watching them, Mulholland Dr. and INLAND EMPIRE especially. I just watched INLAND EMPIRE for the fifth time the other night. I don’t understand it, but I love watching Laura Dern’s knockout performance. There’s something for everyone in a Lynch movie, but not everything’s for someone, if you get what I mean.

  10. Kelly

    I, too, like Kevin Smith and am a non-parent who owns a ton kids’ movies, but the one secret of yours that resonates with me the most is #7. I’m not a fan of Cameron, and the more hype I hear about his movies, the more I never want to see them. Ever.

    I also don’t understand Lynch as a filmmaker, but I watch Eraserhead whenever it’s going to be on IFC. I think it’s because I love puppets.

  11. Stu

    I also love “After Hours” and I like most Kevin Smith films (maybe not “Cop Out” or “Jersey Girl”). I think a majority of us still watch kids films. I won’t comment on those that I disagree with you on. It takes a lot of courage to admit some of the things that you did.

    • Heh… I just hope I didn’t lose any readership by having “courage”. Truthfully, it’s why I usually stick to Ralph Wiggum analogies and stick figures with boobs. I’d rather people laugh at whatever content I’m giving them than they hate me for saying that I don’t like John Wayne or Titanic or Frank Capra.

  12. 1,3,5,6,9,10 – Ditto

    One of my own… I prefer Predator 2 over the original… so sue me.

    • I just saw the original Predator for the first time a few months back. And I can easily see how that might happen- preferring Predator 2 to the original.

  13. Ted Blasingame

    “Look at all the things I hate.”
    I don’t like these kinds of articles. I’m going to go look for one by someone who likes movies rather than dwelling on ones he doesn’t.

    • Did you actually read anything else on this blog, or are you just a huge douche? I would cite examples of articles you should read, but I’m a year late in my response…

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  15. Vladdy

    Somehow I never saw this article. Funny how no one commented on Melissa Leo. THANK YOU for being the only person I’ve ever heard of who agrees with me on this. Will I lose you if I say I thought Christian Bale was equally terrible?

    • Nope, not in that movie. I’m a big Bale fan in general and his performance didn’t bug me in that movie… but I can definitely see the gripe. I think it’s every bit a legitimate beef.

  16. This is awesome, John! Very interesting and I love the brutal honesty! And, like always, hugely entertaining.

    -Steve

    • It’s almost weird to see it in hindsight, though, because I’ve spent so much time since then trying to change the attitudes in this article. I did a re-watch of 2001 and wound up loving it, for instance. I can’t say I liked them (actually, I really disliked both of them), but I finally gave Titanic and Avatar a chance. I’ve continued to try to turn over a new leaf with Capra. I’ve even re-done Annie Hall since then… and still didn’t like it. But hey, I’m trying. And that’s the important thing.

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