To say the least, film critics are wrong much more often than they’re right. In a previous article I looked at 10 films that are better than their negative reviews. Now, we shall reverse course and look at 10 films that clearly do not live up to their overblown reputations:
Gone With The Wind
Okay, it really isn’t a bad film. I would never say such a thing. Gone with the Wind certainly boasts a great cast of the very best Hollywood actors of its era. But it truly isn’t an epic. Basically, it’s a character study soap opera of a profoundly flawed woman. Therefore, at four hours, it’s much too long. Moreover, its depiction of the history of the Civil War is, to say the least, problematic. Gone with the Wind essentially gives one the impression that the North was unjustified to go to war with the South. And finally, even in 1939, the Hollywood elite knew full well that the slave culture prior to the Civil War should not be lamented. Ergo: They also knew that the book upon which the film is based was blatantly racist. Clearly, they didn’t care. As a result, Gone with the Wind is a blatantly racist film.
Tim Burton typically makes films that are badly in need of a rewrite. He even admitted the fact that storytelling isn’t his strong suit. He’s much better with the visual aspects of film making. Even though 1989’s first installment of the Batman saga is actually better than Burton’s 1992 sequel Batman Returns, it definitely meanders quite a bit. Basically, the critics were dazzled by Tim Burton’s flashy style. And why can’t we finally admit a painfully obvious fact…? In purely physical terms, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson were clearly miscast in their respective roles. Keaton was far too short and thin to be Batman, and Nicholson was much too beefy to be the Joker.
Absolutely no one can say a negative word about the portrayal of Lincoln by Daniel Day Lewis. The Oscar he won in 2013 certainly was well deserved. However, Spielberg’s movie Lincoln largely comes across as though it’s a filmed stage play. Also, for some unknown reason, we aren’t given a glimpse of General Sherman’s devastating sweep through the South. This is important because the political impact of the military dominance of the Union over the Confederacy in 1864 was profound. It gave Lincoln much needed political capital. This greatly bolstered his struggle with Congress to guarantee freedom for all former slaves through the passage of the 13th Amendment. Consequently, viewers may not fully understand all the intense political maneuvering dramatized in the film. Therefore, in this regard, the film remains a huge disappointment.
This perfectly entertaining 1963 Hitchcock thriller begins with two very beautiful people who meet and fall in love. But during their budding romance, all the birds in their town begin to go berserk! Before long, everyone is being dive bombed by our feathered friends! The critics were generally positive on The Birds, but I must offer a few caveats. There is no explanation for the sudden declaration of war on the part of the birds. Moreover, even though the original Daphne du Maurier story upon which the film is based has no real ending, Hitchcock should have known better than to take that route. The film doesn’t actually end as much as it just disconcertingly stops! To say the least, it cried out for a rewrite. For this reason, it’s about as satisfying as a sour glass of milk!
The Ten Commandments
I have absolutely no doubt of the fact that most film critics truly hate this film! But so what? The public loves it! 1956’s The Ten Commandments is on this list because, for once, the critics are right and the public is wrong. Let’s face it… Cecil B. DeMille had no idea how to stage a scene or use actors to their best advantage. In other words, as film directors go, DeMille had no discernible talent! But he knew what the audience liked and chose his scripts accordingly. After DeMille’s God-awful 1948 effort Samson And Delilah, 1956’s The Ten Commandments is probably the worst major studio film ever made! And yet, even though it’s four hours long, it isn’t the least bit boring. I actually love this movie! It’s supremely entertaining for all the wrong reasons! The bad directing, bad acting, bad dialogue, bad everything, makes it one of the greatest examples of kitsch entertainment ever committed to film! After all is said and done, The Ten Commandments stinks on ice! It’s also downright priceless!
Unlike so many other people (film critics, f’rinstance), I’m not afraid to tell the world that I don’t much care for plainly pretentious films. 2014’s Birdman certainly fits that description. And no, you’re wrong. It didn’t go over my head. I understood it perfectly. I just don’t like it. In my view, the nature or cause of Michael Keaton’s apparent mental breakdown in the film is not explained by his obvious hallucinations. Also, I actually became angry when the pseudo superior theater critic boldly told Keaton that she planned to give his stage show a scathing review, sight unseen! Surely, Keaton knew that he could easily neutralize such a plainly unfair attack. All he had to do was contact numerous other people in the media and tell them precisely what the critic said, word-for-word! As far as I’m concerned, Birdman laid an egg!
I liked this film a great deal when it was called Singin’ in the Rain! Basically, The Artist is a thinly veiled remake of the great Gene Kelly film, wrapped in the gimmick of a black-and-white silent movie. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t entertaining. It definitely has its moments. But as far as a modern take on silent movies is concerned, Mel Brooks clearly did it better in the 1970s with his hilarious and aptly titled film, Silent Movie. Regarding The Artist and its connection to Singin’ in the Rain, there is of course, no singing or dancing until the film finally shifts to sound near the end. In any case, there are a great many much better silent films that were actually made during the silent era. Anything starring Lon Chaney, Sr. or Charlie Chaplin fits the bill quite nicely.
After Avatar, (a film I could happily do without), the notion of mirroring a Western in the form of a space opera has become a cliché. Star Wars may well be the first film in that vein. Unfortunately, George Lucas really isn’t a very good film director. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t much question of the fact that his best film is American Graffiti. If you doubt me, just look at the first two sequels to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They’re better films because Lucas chose not to direct them. The primary characters in Star Wars are my chief complaint. Rather like characters from science fiction comic books of the 1950s, they’re little more than cardboard cut-outs. After all is said and done, Star Wars is popular because of its action and special effects. Everything else falls flat on its face.
I get it, District 9. Within the context of homely, insect-like, human sized aliens having been dumped like cattle in South Africa, this ersatz science fiction film is actually a thinly veiled statement about the trials and tribulations of illegal aliens. We are also supposed to ignore the obvious propaganda surrounding the obvious xenophobia and racism of the incredibly stupid human protagonist. To say the least, for truly aware audience members, it’s all too transparent for words. I just don’t understand why the guy who filled the human function of connecting with the viewer (SPOILER ALERT!) had to be physically transformed into one of the aliens…unless, of course, we’re all expected to consider the notion that we truly don’t understand the burdens of illegal aliens until we are forced to endure those burdens ourselves. Okay, thanks for making it clear. It just never occurred to any of us before…
Since I’m on the subject of propaganda, 1997’s Titanic may well be the most overt statement about class warfare ever committed to film. Of course, the romance is wonderful, the drama impeccable, and the climax is truly heart wrenching. That said, it also feeds everyone’s deeply rooted envy. Movies and television shows historically reverse the reality of crime in America. In the real world, the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are moronic street thugs who tend to bash your skull for your purse or wallet. In pop culture, the bad guy tends to be the wealthy businessman or corrupt politician who murdered his way to the top. Titanic happily wallows in this type of class warfare propaganda. Unfortunately, far too many people actually take the propaganda seriously. In the film, the hero is an itinerant bum who has no money, no prospects, and no real future. And naturally, the villain is tall, handsome, wealthy, obviously psychotic, and clearly out for blood. It’s all too plainly silly for words.
That’s it for the time being. Now it’s your turn to tell me where I went wrong. I’m looking forward to your comments. Please don’t be shy.
Blair Kramer is a widely published writer for various publications, including “Velocity: Chicago,” “A Guide to Art in Chicago,” “Comic Book Collector Magazine,” “American Metal Magazine,” and the “Jewish American Historical Society.” He also dabbles in screenplays and comic books. There are only two things in his life that he loves more than good movies. They are his wife and family.