Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Year in Review: The Overrated

I've recently decided that the image below, from Steven Soderbergh's misfire The Good German says a lot about this past year in film.

In this scene Cate Blanchett wanders through a sewer. As you can see from this still, German is all kinds of beautiful to look at (courtesy of black & white cinematography by Peter Andrews, Soderbergh's camera wielding alter ego) but plug your nose: the movie smells.

Yes, this sewer image is an apt stand-in for the movie year. Not for the ubiquitous presence of Cate Blanchett (though that's a neat bonus), but for this: even the good movies kinda stank.

Read the Full Article ...for thoughts on the six most overvalued films of the year (only one of them is "bad" in the normal sense but the hyperbole on all five is out of control) and a list of possibly terrible movies I avoided and why.


Anonymous said...

Interesting reading. Surprised after your GOOD GERMAN intro that it didn't make the list... or maybe no-one's over-rating it!


no one is overrating that one ;)

Paxton Hernandez said...

Kind of sad to see the brilliant Three Times in your "Most Overrated Films of the Year". Especially when no one saw it! Anyway it tops my TOP TEN OF UNDISTRIBUTED FILMS of 2006.

Aside from that, really good article! Keep them coming!!!

Paxton Hernandez said...


Click is a really good film. If you have the time give it a try on DVD. By far, Sandler's best film to date.

Anonymous said...

I can understand wanting to see 'The Break Up' and 'The Holiday', but why in the world would you have ever wanted to see 'Failure to Launch'?

Or am I the only one who thinks that Matthew McConaughey in anything but drama is soul-crushingly boring?

Glenn Dunks said...

Hmm, I liked Cars. But perhaps that's my penchant for Americana coming through. Plus, it was probably the best animation I've ever seen.

I agree on all the talking animals movies though (except Happy Feet, which I'm seeing tonight). They all pretty much merge into other.

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh, and I'm surprised Apocalypto didn't make the list. There are some scary quotes on Rotten Tomatoes about that movie being a masterpiece and such.

Poli said...

Interesting list. I'll still be seeing a good number of those movies, but I now know to go in with a bit of warning.

Although I still do and always will maintain that Phantom of the Opera was not a bad movie. Hell, I liked it better than Chicago as far as overall production goes (although it suffered from the same singing faults. I will admit it has them). But part of me thinks hatred of Andrew Lloyd Webber has something to do with it.

Quick question before ending my rambling: Is Dreamgirls worth fighting my way through the ticket line for? Or can I wait a week to see it?

Anonymous said...

As long as you realize that most of the flaws in DREAMGIRLS were/are present in the stage script, which was simply a triumph of brilliant staging and a good score. It's a very, very movie of a very, very flawed piece of musical theatre.

I agree with your other choices, though I think you and Kris Tapley are each going to have films (THE FOUNTAIN and MARIE ANTOINETTE) in your ten best (i.e. 'under-rated') lists that must of us would have on our ten worst lists.

Yaseen Ali said...

Yes, Apocalypto would probably top my personal list - the fact that it's appearing on top ten lists makes my blood boil. Or run cold. Same thing in this instance.

A great read as always, Nathaniel, although I still have yet to see any of those films with the exception of Flags.

Am really dreading Blood Diamond, but cannot help myself.

Anonymous said...

Saw blood diamonds. I agree 100 percent. My question- could a movie have so many coincidences, and still not fall into magical realism or other such fantastical genre? I don't want to give a way the story, but the thing with his son in the camp- can you say "give me a break." The acting was good. But, the script wasn't. The directing was so, so. Some of scenes could have been cut out.

Kris said...

Bravo. And you know why.

Anonymous said...

I was so glad to see your grade for Dreamgirls after seeing only Tapley's review as "negative." It was such a mess (the audience flat out laughed anytime someone sang out of couldn't decide if it was a musical or not...didn't work).

I disagree with Blood Diamond - a fine film that isn't getting too much praise, hard to call it overrated. Premature/overhyped buzz? Yes.

You're not missing much of the films you skipped out on...but one film I will encourage you to see is The Break Up. One can't entirely classify it as a romantic comedy, and I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked the film. People seem to have an opinion one way or the other, so I wouldn't be too quick to bypass it.

Javier Aldabalde said...

One more negative Cate Blanchett comment and I'll cry.

Brian Darr said...

I suspect a lot of (though certainly not all of) the critics gushing over Three Times are responding primarily to the first segment, which is 45 golden minutes of Hou Hsiao-Hsien distilled so perfectly that it completely overshadows the flawed second and (to a lesser extent) third segments.


i liked three times. that masterpiece label though... i just had to comment. I don't get it. Agree that the first segment is awesome, though.

i tried to go a little bit different on the overappreciated list and choose mostly good movies. because the movies i hated i can cover on the worst movies list.

adam k. said...

I assume Kris' "bravo" is referencing Nat's so-so reaction to Dreamgirls. I am quite disappointed that Dreamgirls is apparently kind of "eh", but oh well, at least now I know what to expect. I wonder if it's gonna do as well commercially as people are expecting. Sure it'll do well now, but will it hold up? Hard to say. I'm starting to expect a snub for Condon in both categories, and a big "no" on the best picture win. It saddens me that people can't handle the random singing, though. That is how musicals are. Chicago got lucky and was able to create a filmic device for it. But I feel like Condon just did the best he could with the material here.

In other news, how sad for Jude and Kate this year. A double flop.

And I was hoping I'd be able to get through Blood Diamond by just being able to stare at Leo and Djimon (together!) the whole time. But maybe I should just skip it...

J.J. said...

Bobby is NOT "Crash in a hotel." It's this kind of prejudice and misunderstanding that's making me WEEP at year's end!

Glenn Dunks said...

To be honest, Nat has given Dreamgirls a B, which is still pretty darn good and a respectable grade for a Best Picture contender.

I'd throw my weight behind The Departed and Babel as the most overrated. I just don't get the love for The Departed. It was good and all, but I think a lot of people are over-analysing it. I doubt it's much more than just a gangster action flick and not some critical thesis on the notion of violence within our society or whatever people are claiming it as. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that when I first saw a stage production of "Dreamgirls" I was a bit taken aback by how the story breezes by without giving as intimate a knowledge of the characters as it could or should. However, I still thought it was wonderful and gained a deeper appreciation for it when I played Jimmy Early in a recent production.

Having said all that, I do believe that Nate's points are valid. Knowing all that from the get-go, I personally was able took look past those things and enjoy the movie for what it is. I'm one of those who doesn't blame the cinematic version for what is not its fault -- the music, the actual story (both of which critics who have given "Dreamgirls" mixed review cite as its biggest flaws). Condon and Co. did the best with what they had, and to me, did exceptionally well.

Anonymous said...

On another note, I'll probably never understand what's so great about:

"The Departed"
"The Queen"
"Little Miss Sunshine"

...all of which I would give a solid "B" -- though nothing more.

Anonymous said...

A great read.

The Holiday suffered from the same problem every Nancy Meyers movie has suffered from (you get the sense she's made a good one, but then she pads it out 30 minutes too far), but I enjoyed it. Failure To Launch was lightweight but passable. And I enjoyed The Break-Up (and, yes, the performances in it!) so much that I went back for seconds.

None of them excellent, but certainly not worthy of your fear.


Anonymous said...

Jennifer Hudson (her performance of "And I'm Tellin You" almost sent me into cardiac arrest) makes Dreamgirls seem better then it really is, but even with all of it's flaws (the song "Family", UGH) it is still amazing to look at, and has some amazing numbers. I'd still recommend it.

But besides that, I pretty much agree with everything here, and anything that tames Blanchett's hyperactive fans is ok with me. I swear they make me lose respect for the woman day after day.

jeff_v said...

"i liked three times. that masterpiece label though..."

Replace Three Times with L'Enfant or The Death of Mr. Lazarescu while you're at it. This was a sorry year for foreign language films (that received commercial releases in the U.S.). Whenever something halfway decent surfaced, critics went bonkers for it.

Anonymous said...

What about Borat? Totally OVERRATED. Or perhaps a reflection on the sad state of movie comedies?

Craig Hickman said...

Dreamgirls isn't overrated.

It doesn't show up on that many top-10 lists, it hasn't won a single critics award outside of Best Supporting Actress (unless I missed something), and those who love it love it, while those who don't love it don't love it. There isn't a whole lot in between.

I love it. I still see the music and the industry as the main characters and so all the humans are in support of them. Is the film perfect? No, but nothing I've seen this year is. I played Mardy Madison in the early 90s on stage and I think the film, which is actually directed quite well like a piece of music itself, improves the stage version by just enough that I noticed. It's beautiful to look at, most of the songs have double meanings, and the story isn't as shallow as it appears at first glance. Danny Glover, Keith Robinson and Anika Noni Rose get blood out of rocks with their performances. Foxx and Beyonce are better than adequate, Murphy is fantastic. And yes, Jennifer Hudson lifts the film higher than it seems even while watching. Her performance reverberates still.

Dreamgirls remains the most entertaining film I've seen this year and I still wouldn't count it out for a Best Picture nomination.

I'm going to see it again.

Overrated films from where I sit:

The Queen
The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
United 93
The Good Shepherd

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Dreamgirls yet,but why is it only playing in 852 theatres?

If the movie is flawed wouldn't the play be flawed as well?

Craig Hickman said...

Not sure what the logic is behind the roll-out release of Dreamgirls.

The play is flawed. In fact, I think the second act of the stage version really suffers.

Riverdale said...

I don't think DREAMGIRLS and BLOOD DIAMOND can be called 'overrated'. A lot of people hate them. For me I would say THE DEPARTED is the most overrated movie of the year. I like it and thought it's very entertaining, but not as good as the original HK version and certainly not one of Martin Scorsese's best films. It's a shock that so many people (critics) called it 'best movie of the year'.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel says:
"Let Hsiao-hsien Hou's legion of cinephiles call me for a heretic: I don't think Three Times is all that. It's a good movie, certainly. It's hard to fault the breathtaking visuals. Shu Qi and Chen Chang also give good face and the triptych structure is fascinating and probably revealing for those well versed in Taiwanese history (which I am, sadly, not). But for me Three Times is marred by its second time. The middle 1911 chapter doesn't seem to follow it's own rules (is it a silent film or not?), Shu Qi reads too modern for it and it operates at such a glacial pace that even some committed viewers will lose interest in this otherwise lovely vision."
:H^3 fanboy:

Brian says:
"I suspect a lot of (though certainly not all of) the critics gushing over Three Times are responding primarily to the first segment, which is 45 golden minutes of Hou Hsiao-Hsien distilled so perfectly that it completely overshadows the flawed second and (to a lesser extent) third segments."

All the segments complemented one another IMHO. My v. subjective interpretation: The first segment was supposed to be more emotionally satisfying than the latter two. The '60s was presented as the most optimistic, considering that Taiwan was, at long last, independent of Japan and China, and entering this completely exciting new economy (capitalism - American pop music blaring in those purty pool rooms).

But w/e. I can't speak for all the Three Times lovers. I'm pretty sure everyone has different interpretations of what Three Times (or any other film, for that matter) is. I remember reading Roger Ebert's review of Three Times, and the only thing I'm was thinkin' afterwards was: Damn, did I see the same film as he did?! Was it truly - at its utter core - a love story, as Rog insists? :)

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel... I noticed HAPPY FEET was not mentioned in your missed list... have you seen it? Are you keeping something from us perhaps? The frantic musical style reminded me of MOULIN ROUGE, which of course reminded me of you...???


I have actually tried to see Happy Feet a couple of times (once I was actually in the theater) but things have always gone awry somehow.

i'll try to include it in my final moviegoing weekend (this one) before the awards

adam k. said...

Nathaniel, you really should see Happy Feet. It's kind of a major part of the season, and really fun. I don't love it as much as most do, but I still enjoyed it a good deal. It IS frantic and musical in much the same way as Moulin Rouge! (right down to Nicole Kidman singing and being breathy).

Anonymous said...

I actually meant, don't let DiCaprio cancel himself out! Should've been clearer - I'm sure Blood Diamond is absolute rubbish, but his performance in The Departed was so good for me, that I'm not being picky what they nom him for this year. Just so long as he actually gets on the shortlist. You can't be too picky with the Academy now, can you!

Isn't it weird though that they dont allow the actors two nominations in one category, yet in any other category someone coul be multi-nommed? Isn't that a little unfair?

I guess in the other categories you're actually putting film titles as opposed to a person's name on your ballot. But still, I think the academy should homogenise the rules for every category (including the stupid shortlisting/other hurdle-causing rules in the Original song, Visual effects, Foreign film categories).

And while we're at it, can they please introduce Best Casting and Best Ensemble Oscars please?!...

Anonymous said...

Eugh, posted the above in the wrong topic! Meant it to go in the other comments for Year in Review (which incidentally also had 34 comments at the time of writing!) Oh well, never mind.

Anonymous said...

Leo's performance in Blood Diamonds was fine. The problem was the script. It was just too many points where I couldn't suspend disbelief. Now, I am a filmmaker, and that maybe a factor, but I think its more because there were just way to many coincidences. Someone behind me said that as the movie was happening so I know I am not the only one bothered by them. This person was an older guy with his wife.