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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What movies do you find offensive that no one else does?

Today’s QOTD comes from reader/commenter doa766, who wonders: What movies do you find offensive that no one else does? Or, What movies do you see as offering a terrible message but no one else seems to notice it?

doa766 continues:

For example, I always thought the first Narnia movie was one the most offensive movies ever made, with Santa Claus giving a knife to a six-year-old girl so she can go to war, and a group of children marching to war with no training or any military knowledge other that a prophesy, but no one ever mentions this.

Heh.
I’d probably pick It’s a Wonderful Life, which seems to me to be suggesting that totally subsuming one’s dreams and desires and needs to those of others is good thing, a noble thing, and if — in the end — you’re bitter at having lost out on everything you wanted for yourself, well, you won’t even be allowed the luxury of a moment of self-pity.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • purplebutterfly

    His Girl Friday; not the whole movie, but just the way they handwave the soon-to-be-executed murderer’s victim. Sure, the alleged “anarchist” isn’t exactly the worst guy in the world, and once they talk to him it doesn’t look like the fact that he killed a black police officer in the 1940s was racially motivated, but…still. He shot a guy, and that guy is mentioned in one throwaway line about how City Hall is overreacting for political points. It does bother me.

  • Daniel

    I hated Traffic. It was meant to be an intelligent overview of drug policy, but it was full of dumb plot maneuvers, like the drug czar who knew nothing about drugs, and the security agents who didn’t think to perform a basic check for poison in the witness’ food, and the badass top assassin who was captured and broken in about ten minutes. Some of those plot twists could have been turned into interesting irony, but since they weren’t, I felt as though large portions of the movie were insulting my intelligence.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…

    What the hell is wrong with you, doa? Did you not -read- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child? Did you not want to -be- Susan or Peter or Lucy or Edmund*? Did you never picture -yourself- being handed a sword/rifle/lightsaber and going off to battle evil with nothing but pluck and prophesy??

    What kind of childhood did you have?!?!?? ;-)

    *Well, Edmund in Prince Caspian… Edmund in Lion was kind of a prat.

  • David

    Wall-E, well I guess it was more creepy than anything. With it’s Psyco-like quality of dragging around and falling in love with a deactivated (unconscience/dead) robot.

  • JSW

    Wall-E, well I guess it was more creepy than anything. With it’s Psyco-like quality of dragging around and falling in love with a deactivated (unconscience/dead) robot.

    Count me in for this as well. The fact that he spent the rest of the movie raising hell due to his inability to accept the fact that EVE had a job to do that didn’t involve him (when he wasn’t just being a jerk for the sake of being a jerk, like with that cleaning ‘bot) didn’t help matters.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    But anyway, I’m offended – no, not offended, but certainly opposed to – every “technology=bad, primitive shit=good” story from Frankenstein, to Metropolis, to Return of the Jedi, to Jurassic Park, to Avatar.

  • Ellen

    Not the whole movie, but the throwaway scene in The Hangover where the guys *leave a baby in a hot car!* while they go in to the wedding chapel! It’s not as if we don’t have more than enough adults in real life who think it’s OK to leave a child in a hot car… maybe 10-20 American children die every year this way… so do we have to see film characters doing it too, with no onscreen consequences?

    But every time I bring this up, nobody seems to think it’s a big deal. “It’s only a movie!” (but the scene wasn’t even funny, or necessary…!)

  • Lou

    Funny, I was going to say 90% of the Hangover. I don’t understand how people didn’t just SEETHE with anger when they saw this movie. In the first 10 minutes, we had “fag” jokes, “retard” jokes, countless jokes about what emasculating harpies women become once they’re in a relationship, jokes about how much marriage SUCKS… eventually we get racist, sexist, misogynistic, and hate-filled portrayals of minor characters. There’s all kinds of sex without consent. And YEAH, a baby left in a hot car!

    Just about everyone I know thinks I’m an asshole for hating this movie. In fact, in the middle of a recent fight, my roommate brought up my hatred for this movie as an example of everything that’s wrong with me. Well to paraphrase an old song, “If hating this movie makes me wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”

  • MaSch

    Didn’z we have this question before, or am I misremembering?

    However, I can’t tell people on the internet often enough that I loathe “Keinohrhasen” written, produced, directed by and starring Til Schweiger, as it managed to totally offend my (!) feminist sensibilities.

  • Okay, this is not mine, but I have a friend who is passionately offended by Chicken Run which she views as an inappropriate take-off on concentration camps.

    Me, I have trouble with Funny Face, where Audrey Hepburn is successfully talked out of being a beat-generation intellectual into being a fashion model by Fred Astaire. I mean, Fred should be ashamed of himself. It’s total abuse of his power and charm…

  • Lisa

    I absolutely cannot bear Oceans 12 and Oceans 13 (which is a shame beacuse the first one is good). Oceans 12 because it is unbearably smug (although Vincent Cassel carries no shame from this movie. Oceans 13 because of the way they treat Ellen Barkin’s character – I was really appalled.

  • Mark B.

    It’s A Wonderful Life is actually my favorite movie, and I thought it was made pretty clear that everything George Bailey had in his life that worked (terrific wife/family, lots of friends, etc.) far outweighed what he missed out on. Plus, George can be a bit of a horse’s ass at times (mote how he treated the guy who was dancing with Mary and ESPECIALLY Zuzu’s teacher) so I thought he was a perfect everyman.

    In answer to your question, the movie that offends me the most is Barry Levinson’s Diner. 1959 atmosphere is good and so are the performances of Kevin Bacon and Mickey Rourke, but I HATED the Baltimore Colts football quiz that Steve Guttenberg’s fiancee was forced to take or have the wedding called off. The poor girl spent all her time studying for it and we never even got to see her (indicating, I guess, that Guttenberg AND Levinson viewed marriage and women as something mysterious and scary.) If Guttenberg’s character thought that her not sharing his fanatical devotion to football was really a deal-breaker then he never should’ve gotten engaged to begin with. Filmmaker Nancy Savoca (True Love, Dogfight) wason the money in her discussion of this one!

  • doa766

    you already used this question, I sent it to you months ago

    @Dr. Rocketscience

    I read the book when I was a kid but I don’t remember that part

    my point is that on Narnia the good guys have the notion that just because they believe they fight on the right side then everything will turn out OK

    so it’s justifiable to send small children packing to war because God or whatever will protect them since they’re the good guys, the same with Peter who suddenly becomes an expert swordsman with no training at all just because he’s the hero

    that’s the same notion that drove people to crash planes into the world trade center

    on the great and underappreciated Kingdom of Heaven (director’s cut) the people with that notion are the bad guys (remember “God wills it!” and “an army bearing the holy cross can not be defeated”)

  • Christina

    One of my least favorites in this vein is A TIME TO KILL, which wants us to believe that because these guys raped and killed his daughter, and weren’t convicted by a white jury, the black father is allowed to take the law into his own hands and kill them himself. I could ALMOST make a case for this if he’d appealed this ruling all the way to the Supreme Court and STILL not gotten justice, but to blow them away after the first not guilty verdict is reprehensible… and is painted in an entirely “this is justice” light in the movie. This guy brings a shotgun into the courthouse and kills 3 men in cold blood – JUST LIKE THEY MURDERED HIS DAUGHTER – and we’re supposed to jump to our feet and applaud.

    Murder is wrong, no matter what the circumstance. I nearly got lynched myself when I pointed this out in a film class I took a few years back, but I still hold that this is a classic case of two wrongs not making a right. A vigilante is a vigilante, regardless of skin color – we all submit to the authority of the law in this country, and if you think you’ve gotten a raw deal – as he clearly did in the movie – then there are legal avenues to address the injustice. Murder is never the answer.

    Okay, bring on the brickbats…

  • doa766

    on along came a spider the bad guy kidnaps a little girl and during the movie he kills like a dozen people that got in the way of his plans but at the end morgan freeman rescues the girl and it’s a happy ending

    similar on The Dark Knight the tunnel chase, the Joker kills at least 6 cops but then he gets arrested by Gordon and everything it’s fine, Gordon gets promoted and applauded, when in fact he did a pretty awful planning job, the Joker was out on the open and even with Batman’s help he couldn’t prevent the joker from killing half a dozen cops before getting arresting him

    if the Joker’s gang overpowered the cops then it’s the cop’s fault, more specifically Gordon’s

  • MarinaB

    I’m so happy for this question — it seems like I am constantly being offended by movies that don’t bother other people.

    The poor grasp of biology in Wall-E bugged me. Why would humans grow weaker over successive generations? That’s not my understanding of how evolution works. And why were all the people blobs? Even if everyone were living a sedentary lifestyle, some people would still be thin, and even fat people carry their weight differently.

    Enchanted is a movie that I would never, ever want my hypothetical daughters to see. The movie seemed to be telling me that men want naive women who clean up after them.

    I would have really liked Love Actually but for the anti-Americanism.

    The 40-Year-Old Virgin crossed a line because I never ever find drunk driving funny. Ditto Roman Holiday, which starts with the character being drugged and ending up in a strange guy’s apartment.

  • Christina

    MarinaB, it makes perfect evolutionary sense that our species will get weaker, because we refuse to weed out the “non-viable” among us. We go to huge lengths to save newborns who, without major mechanical intervention, wouldn’t survive, and we keep coming up with ways to keep us alive long past our natural expiration dates with surgery and pharmaceuticals. All of this does nothing to improve the strength of the species, and perpetuates the conditions down into succeeding generations. I’m personally happy about this – my sister was born 2 full months premature and wouldn’t have had a chance in hell if she’d been born even 10 years earlier, and I’m about to have some of my parts replaced by stainless steel – but I’m dismayed at the overall trend for our species.

    I’m with you 100% about ENCHANTED, though – I wouldn’t let MY hypothetical daughters watch that or most of the other movies out today. The female roles are dismal at best, infuriating more often. And don’t get me started on television…

  • Ralph

    Saving Private Ryan

    I found the premise of weighting one soldier’s life over that of the entire squad that went to retrieve him deeply irritating. It left me completely unable to appreciate anything about the film at all.

  • Kate

    I would have really liked Love Actually but for the anti-Americanism.

    Uh…what?

  • sarah

    I thought Grease was horribly offensive. All of my childhood, my girlfriends would sing songs from the movie any chance they got– I didn’t actually see it until I was fourteen, and was appalled. It totally explained half of the horrible neuroses the insecure, fake girls at my school were suffering from. What do young girls learn from this movie? That the most important component to happiness is getting the guy you like- even if it means denying your own personality, compromising your values, and pretending to be someone you’re not. For chrissake, her virginity is the only thing standing between her and the asshole meathead she has a crush on who denies her existence when they get back to school because she isn’t popular enough. The best part? She sings goodbye to herself. SHE SINGS GOODBYE TO HERSELF before donning stretchpants and giving it up. Completely shudder-worthy.

    Also, I agree that The Hangover was horribly offensive, especially to women.

  • sarah

    Actually…

    DANNY: I like you, but you’re not cool enough.

    SANDRA: What if I became a slut?

    DANNY: Now that you’re not who you are, I can love you for who I wanted you to be.

    THE END

  • Chance

    Nearly every moment of “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” almost made me vomit. It was inexcusable for a movie that pretends to champion gay people to base its plot on the idea that gay people are so helpless (women, too) that we need these “understanding” oafs to be our champions. I’m probably not alone on that one, though…

    Devil Wears Prada, though… It pains me to say it but that is a very offensive movie. For all the glamour, and the catty intrigue of the fashion world, it totally loses me on how Andrea allows her friends to treat her. Here she is, plotting the course of her life and willingly making the sacrifices necessary for success (all of which, btw, are over in a year. A single year!), but she can’t count on her friends or lover to support her through it. And when she starts to make the best of her situation, and, god forbid, enjoy her opportunities, her friends vilify and abandon her. Oh sure, they enjoyed the perks of her new career early on, but only until they started feeling neglected once in a while. As soon as that happens, she had better throw away a year’s worth of ambition and effort just to make her friends more comfortable. And the most offensive part? She internalizes all of this garbage and says that they’re RIGHT. That she should put her friends’ interests and her boyfriend’s perception of her above her own ideas, self-image, ambitions, and concerns. She’s ‘lucky’ that her boyfriend might still date her in the end, instead of kicking his ass to the curb. Good for her, empowered enough to quit, but only if she does so for herself, not because of what everyone else is projecting onto her.

    And MarinaB –

    Unfortunately, we don’t live in an environment of survival of the fittest anymore. One does not have to be fit in order to have his or her genetic legacy survive. As for body shapes, and the missing metabolic people – those space tourists weren’t just leading a sedentary lifestyle. They truly were not moving. Think of chained veal calves. You don’t see an occasionally thin veal calf. They’ve ‘evolved,’ more or less, to be soft and doughy and incredibly tender.

  • tomservo

    Miss March. Sometimes I hang out w/ pee brains.

  • Kathryn

    Pretty Woman.

    It just beggars belief that people actually think this film is romantic. I mean, what makes Gere’s character decide to go back for Roberts’ is the guy in the hotel saying how hard it is to give up beautiful THINGS.

    Women are not possesions!

  • MarinaB

    Christina and Chance – I see your point about the environment not selecting against weaker people (and I am also happy about this on a personal level), but there was also nothing selecting against stronger people, so I still think there’d be more diversity. The veal calf metaphor is a good one, though. Maybe I’ll have to watch it again. If I still think it’s offensive, at least I’ll be able to look forward to the closing credits sequence.

    And absolutely agreed on Devil Wears Prada. You know from the start that she’s going to quit the job in the end, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t also quit her unsupportive friends and boyfriend along the way.

    Kate – The Americans in that movie were all so stereotyped and dumb, and there was really no reason to even have Americans in the movie, except to show how awful we are. The movie would have worked perfectly fine without.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    my point is that on Narnia the good guys have the notion that just because they believe they fight on the right side then everything will turn out OK

    so it’s justifiable to send small children packing to war because God or whatever will protect them since they’re the good guys, the same with Peter who suddenly becomes an expert swordsman with no training at all just because he’s the hero

    If you’d stopped there, I would have let it go as a lack of understanding of the concept of “fantasy”, particularly “children’s fantasy”. That’s just sad for you. I might have said you were over emphasizing the “Christian allegory” of the Narnia books. I mean, a lot of people do that, so YMMV.

    But then you went and said this:

    that’s the same notion that drove people to crash planes into the world trade center

    The problem here is not the idea that religious fundamentalism can lead to dangerous behavior. Only a religious fundamentalist would argue that.

    The problem is the direct line you want to draw from Narnia to 9/11. From an author directly involving his fictional characters in the fictional action of his fictional story, to real-life grown adults engaging in mass murder/suicide.

    That, my friend, is offensive.

  • @Rocketscience: I agree generally with your issue concerning movies that are science = bad and primitive = good, however, I draw a different line depending on whether it is technology itself being shown as bad or if it is the people using the technology that are shown as bad.

    When I was watching Jurassic Park, and the SCIENTISTS were saying anti-science things, I found myself wanting to scream, “It’s not the science, it’s the greed and hubris of the capitalist who thinks he’s on dinosaur safari!” Thus, it seemed like the plot disagreed with the dialogue.

    At Doa: I’d compare giving the kids weapons to fight for good to the Children’s Crusade, in which thousands of children marched to take back Jersualem, got onto ships, and were sold into slavery by the captains.

    @Sarah: While I agree with your specific points, Grease was not kind to the hero either. As I recall, it purposely showed him as insecure and giving into peer pressure in his treatment of the heroine. Which makes the ending a little odd, since it seems like for most of the movie the hero is in the wrong, but then he gets what he wants.

  • @Rocketscience: Apparently CS Lewis was at a book signing and a woman said to him, “I love your book. It teaches such good morals but without any of that Christianity stuff.” He had a good laugh.

  • ceti

    I actually like some of these movies for the exact reason others hate them, so really it is often dependent on one’s own perspective. For example, I dislike the newly rebooted Batman particularly for its pseudo-dark themes and its not too subtle endorsement of vigilante fascism. The same is true of other superhero stories which always dwell on petty crime while ignoring the superhero’s complicity in lending stability to an oppressive status quo. As for films I really dislike, I tend to avoid watching them in the first place.

  • Rebecca

    I’m going to agree with everyone who mentioned Wall-e. Why did the robots fall into really obvious generic gender roles, including Wall-e seeming to be physically attracted to the smooth, pretty, “female” robot? I’ll buy Wall-e having developed a personality over time, but why would Eve be able to develop enough of a personality to care about him?

    Plus, I hate the incredibly heavy handed “stop being a couch potato and ruining the environment!” message. I agree with the basic sentiments, and I think everyone does. But there’s this underlying attitude that humanity is just a few Big Macs and iphones away from losing all creativity, curiosity, work ethic and self control. Wall-e has to teach the most highly ranked adult on the ship basic curiosity about the world! The whole movie has a really dim view of humanity. It sets the bar for its human characters’ growth so low that the message ends up being “basic human contact and surfing wikipedia on random are good!” I really didn’t need a movie to tell me that.

    And as for that movie having a happy ending, all I could think was that there’s no way their destroyed bodies will ever be able to adapt to walking in earth gravity. Their muscles would have atrophied long ago. Maybe after months of extremely slow and painful physical therapy the younger ones could build their muscles up enough to carry the weight of their bodies, but even that’s a long shot.

    I love most of Pixar’s other movies, which was part of why this one bugged me so much.

  • I hated the end of movies like Breakfast Club (which I enjoyed otherwise), where the interesting girl succumbs to a “make-over” to be more generic and therefore liked by the main guy. The slightly less slutty version of the Grease ending. B)

  • Psyclone

    First of all, I totally agree in regards to It’s a Wonderful Life. I can see the uplifting message they were trying to convey but I can’t help sorry for this poor man whose entire life conspired to keep from his dreams. And yet the movie says I’m not supposed to. Go figure.

    Anyway, as an answer to the question I’d like to present the children’s movie Catch That Kid, the American remake of the Swedish film Klatretøsen that I haven’t seen yet I assume transmits a similar message.

    The gist of the plot is as follows: a 12 year old climbing enthusiast’s father is suddenly paralyzed due to a delayed reaction to a fall he took years earlier (yes, really). As is standard in Hollywood, there’s an experimental treatment that may save him that isn’t covered by insurance. Mom tries to ask the bank whose security system she designed for a loan but they turn her down. Hence, the “heroine” decides to rob it.

    Yes. A 12 year old decides to rob a bank.

    Naturally, the whole thing is played like a mixture of Mission: Impossible with Home Alone physical comedy and she manages to get the money but eventually they are caught. Tough break, right?

    Wrong. The mother manages to convince everyone that it was part of a test of the security system. The money is returned but the case goes on TV and the family is showered with donations. Dad is cured and everyone lives happily ever after. The kid doesn’t get grounded or suffer any consequence whatsoever for the fact that she tried to rob a bank.

    Basically what this movie teaches children is “As long as it is done for a good cause, crime has no consequences” and “Bankers are evil people so they deserve to get robbed: it’s not as if the money kept in banks belongs to other people or anything”. Utterly ridiculous.

    Other worthwhile candidates (and children’s movies!) are Krippendorf’s Tribe (a college professor and his children bond over creating a fictitious jungle tribe to cover up the former’s misuse of grant money. Somehow this is supposed to be endearing while the people trying to nail him are portrayed as the villains) and Radio Flyer (children should not report abuse from their stepparents since that would make their birth parents unhappy. Best to construct a ramshackle “flying” machine and go off to God knows where). These are probably only partial examples since there have been one or two reviews that called these movies out on this (Radio Flyer got a particularly outraged reaction out of Siskel and Ebert)

  • Psyclone

    Sorry, I meant to say Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin.

  • e

    I guess I always took Wall-E as using exaggeration to make the points it wanted to. It was many many generations after we left earth, and everything was taken care of, eventually we will lose the ability to function without the automated aides. (I do agree that walking in earth’s gravity is far fetched, but I was involved enough in the movie by that point for it to bother me)

    As for why Wall-E would suddenly go after Eve, because he’s obviously curious, but has had no companionship for the last hundreds of years, so when something shows up, that is sort of like him, and responds, he’s going to latch on.

    As for films, probably Tarantino films. I enjoy them to varying degrees, but I never understand the amount of love heaped upon them.

  • doa766

    @Dr. Rocketscience

    so if you see a picture of a child soldier holding an AK-47 standing on some road in Africa that’s bad, but if you’re on fantasy land a 6 year old girl waving a knife in a battle it’s OK?

    it might turn out OK on fantasy but on reality kids involved in arm conflicts are the first to go down, that’s why it’s offensive

    motivations are the same on fiction or reality, the Santa Clauss on Narnia and the 9/11 hijackers share the believe that if you think a higher power is on your side and you’re doing His work then the death of innocents on your side or the other is justifiable, that’s why he has no problem with sending young children packing to battle or why the hijackers had no problem with murdering thousands of people

    blind fanaticism takes many forms but it always shares the same roots

  • MarinaB, it makes perfect evolutionary sense that our species will get weaker, because we refuse to weed out the “non-viable” among us.

    Maybe I’m biased because I was born with a congenital heart murmur but I just love it when people start talking like this kind of talk is somehow courageous…As if the process of somewhat seeing to it that “nonviable” people don’t reproduce is a process that has never happened in the Western world before…

    And yes, the question of the day does seem a bit familiar. MaryAnn experiencing a bit of deja vu?

  • Things I find offensive:

    1. The pro-adultery subtext of Shakespeare in Love and The Bridges of You-Know-Where. Geez, doesn’t anyone in these movies ever have sympathy for the deceived spouses?

    2. The anti-working-stiff subtext in Terms of Endearment. I worked with clerks like the one that waited on Debra Winger’s character and I know from experience that that women was probably just as poor and stressed out in her private life as Ms. Winger’s character. But does she get a break? No. And the price of those items Ms. Winger refused to put back probably ended up coming out of the clerk’s salary to boot.

    3. The surprisingly misogynistic subtext of The 40-year-old Virgin. Almost every woman except Ms. Keener and her daughter are treated like imbeciles–especially if they’re interested in sex–and we’re supposed to believe that most grown men would actually get turned off by the real-life equivalent of the Elizabeth Banks character. Yeah, right.

    4. The not-so-misogynistic subtext of Roxie Hart which starts out being about the title character and ends up–SPOILER–being about a contest between two men. (If that’s not bad enough, there’s yet another Ginger Rogers movie in which the poor dear’s character is meant to feel guilty because she killed a would-be assailant in self-defense. Oh, those wonderful films of yesteryear…)

    5. The wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude towards alcoholism in CrazyBeautiful. Especially shameful is the scene in which it is implied that Ms. Durst character only drinks because she isn’t loved enough. As if anyone with an alcoholic friend, parent or spouse really needs a guilt trip on top of all their other problems. (Quick confession of bias: My last ex-girlfriend had a mother who was a hidden alcoholic.)

    I’m sure there’s more but that’s it for now.

  • His Girl Friday; not the whole movie, but just the way they handwave the soon-to-be-executed murderer’s victim.

    For what it’s worth, they did the same thing in the original movie version of The Front Page.

  • Knightgee

    One of my least favorites in this vein is A TIME TO KILL, which wants us to believe that because these guys raped and killed his daughter, and weren’t convicted by a white jury, the black father is allowed to take the law into his own hands and kill them himself. I could ALMOST make a case for this if he’d appealed this ruling all the way to the Supreme Court and STILL not gotten justice, but to blow them away after the first not guilty verdict is reprehensible.

    That’s the point though, the system would have never given him justice, not even at the highest level, if it were even allowed to go that far. That’s just the times they lived in. So what do you do then, just sit back and take it? You’re asking someone to have a rational response to their daughter being raped and murdered and her very obvious killers not being punished at all for it. I mean, I agree with your insistence that it shouldn’t have been hailed as a triumphant moment that he got off for killing them, but honestly, the system would never have given his daughter justice.

  • Alli

    MAJ posted this same topic about a year ago, and ever since I’ve never been able to look at Wall-E or The Beauty and the Beast the same way again. Thanks for that…

    I can’t think of anything that offends me, but I can think of a lot of films that I used to love but now wonder what I ever saw in them. Take Jerry MacGuire for instance. How did I ever like that movie? The two leads are codependent idiots. It’s just weird how life experiences change the way you react to things.

  • Knightgee

    I’m amazed at the vastly different interpretations of a lot of these films I have from some people here though.

    Anything from the genre of vigilante movies pisses me off, like Law-Abiding Citizen, or The Brave One, or the climax of Enough, or even the ending to Obsessed, because they all share the same general message: “breaking the law and going around committing murder is completely okay and acceptable if you’ve been wronged”. I hate that we’re supposed to be cheering these people on, because what should rightfully be an ambiguous action(how do you get justice in a system that won’t get it for you and is doing so yourself through violence ever an acceptable alternative?) just becomes, “hell yeah, kick those thugs’ butts, Jodie Foster!”

  • Muzz

    “Offensive” seems a little strong a word, but The Incredibles “Superior people being held back by the weak and cowardly jealous masses” thing struck me as distractingly creepy Randian claptrap.
    I have known plenty of American’s who aren’t at all arch libertarians who thought that was great though. I guess that “everyone is special!” stuff got more of a hammering over there than I’d thought and everyone’s dying for breather.

    (Incidentally, I don’t think veal calves are much of an example of evolution creating a sedentary animal. They’re no doubt selectively bred to be the sort that grows a lot of meat quickly. Humans have no similar selective action on their breeding. The sci-fi trope that we’ll turn into blobs of whatever in the future is a Lamarkian joke about our lives now (in the rich West anyway) and nothing more).

  • Brian

    @Ralph:

    I found the premise of weighting one soldier’s life over that of the entire squad that went to retrieve him deeply irritating. It left me completely unable to appreciate anything about the film at all.

    Did Saving Private Ryan’s treatment of that subject seem insufficient to you? The squad spends a lot of time in the movie kvetching about, debating, and struggling over that very point, essentially that they’re risking their lives to prevent bad PR for the Army. (And that premise is realistic; the US military pulled a lot of stunts for PR reasons, including the staged re-enactment photo of the Marines on Mount Suribachi – but that’s another movie.)

    In the hands of a more cynical director, I suppose the same story could have come out as grimly ironic or tragically senseless. But Spielberg focuses on the sacrifice of the men who commit to the mission anyway, perhaps as a stand-in for the sacrifice of millions of soldiers who gave their lives for people and countries they didn’t necessarily have a reason to care about.

    [SPOILERS] It also gives Spielberg the chance to set up Ryan as an especially acute case of the “survivor’s guilt” that so many soldiers feel. Capt. Miller’s last words are “earn this.” The elderly Ryan seems to be a perfectly ordinary man – did he “earn” his extraordinary rescue?[END SPOILERS]

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Incidentally, I don’t think the Nolan Batman movies are pro-vigilante at all: for all Batman gets things done, his presence inspires other, increasingly theatrical and unpredictable, villains like the Joker to come out of the woodwork. And Bruce Wayne knows this is happening, which is why at the start of The Dark Knight he’s getting ready to retire and hand the crime-fighting stuff over to Harvey Dent, and at the end of the film he takes the rap for Dent’s crimes, because Gotham needs the idea of Harvey Dent more than it needs the reality of Batman.

    I stand by my answer to this question when it was last asked – the gay brother in Wedding Crashers was my solid gold “Er, I can’t believe no-one else has a problem with this” moment.

  • Brian

    As for a movie that I found irritating and offensive, I’ve always thought American Pie is insultingly crass. (I mean, before all the exceptionally crass sequels the “franchise” has produced.) The script nods in the direction of teaching the boys that there’s more to life than getting laid, and that women are good for more than sex . . . then they all end up getting laid anyway, under circumstances that range from creepy to ridiculous.

    It’s also hardly sympathetic to any of the female characters. I guess Allyson Hannigan character comes off better than most of the rest, since she’s assertive about her own sexuality and knows what she wants, but it’s at the expense of being treated as a kook for the rest of the movie.

    It also has the dubious distinction of coining the term “MILF,” and spawning the trend of cynical “unrated edition” DVDs. A sterling legacy all around.

  • Jim Mann

    I would have really liked Love Actually but for the anti-Americanism.

    The part you probably consider anti-Americanism (where the Prime Minister stands up to the obnoxious American president) is the part I almost cheered aloud about. I didn’t consider it anti-American as much as anti the types of Americans who think they can come in and push everyone else around. I, for one, still think the world would have been in better shape if Tony Blair had acted more like the Hugh Grant character and stood up to George Bush rather than backing him up on the whole Iraq debacle.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    so if you see a picture of a child soldier holding an AK-47 standing on some road in Africa that’s bad, but if you’re on fantasy land a 6 year old girl waving a knife in a battle it’s OK?

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but, yes. The purpose of fantasy is to make real and/or permissible that which is not so in reality. How would you have written the story? Made the children older (and thus moved away from the target audience)? Kept the children out of the battle (and thus excluded your central characters from the central action)?

    it might turn out OK on fantasy but on reality kids involved in arm conflicts are the first to go down, that’s why it’s offensive

    I’m really starting to question your ability to distinguish between the two.

    motivations are the same on fiction or reality, the Santa Clauss on Narnia and the 9/11 hijackers share the believe that if you think a higher power is on your side and you’re doing His work then the death of innocents on your side or the other is justifiable, that’s why he has no problem with sending young children packing to battle or why the hijackers had no problem with murdering thousands of people

    Now you’re starting to contradict yourself. Earlier you claimed that Santa – and by extension, Muslims – believed that no harm would come to their chosen warriors. Now you’re claiming Santa sent them specifically to die for the cause.

    Incidentally, and to tangent off of Paul’s comment, here’s something to realize: The Narnia books are not tracts. They are allegories, and they are subtle enough that you could miss it. People tend to assume Lewis was preaching here because among his other writings are Christian apologetics. If you think you can’t write a Christ allegory without trying to convert the heathens, I would point you toward The Matrix and Star Wars prequel trilogies.

  • Lisa

    My sister works in a school and she is sick of the parents telling their kids how perfect they are, when they are monstrous little terrors. That’s what I thought that dig in the Incredibles was about. Parents should reward their kids for effort, not for success. Running was easy for that little boy and maybe that’s what his mother was trying to teach him. It’s no good telling your kids that they are special, when they can’t read or write or spell and make no effort to. My sister tells me she’s had parents go beserk with her, blaming her, when she mentions their kids have problems.

    I really hated that earn this at the end of Private Ryan too. How’s anybody gonna do that? but the guy seems to have lived a good life, with family and friends and people still loved him so that’s the best he can do.

    I think people are being a bit harsh on Grease. First of all, it’s initially implied that he will change for her, as he’s wearing the dorky cardigan at the end, he’s not so afraid to be seen out with her in public. Second, she looks so uncomfortable with the cigarette… so maybe they’ll meet in the middle. They’s a high school romance anyway so they’ll either marry young, earn no money and hate each other. 2- Marry he becomes a mechanic, she becomes a dr, he resents her for earning more money and cheats on her and they hate each other or 3 – they break up five minutes after the credits or a week before she starts college.

    Anyway, I’ll always love Rizzo.

  • Christina

    But Knightgee, my point is, he didn’t wait to see what the system could do for him, he anticipated the system’s failure and took the law into his own hands. As I said in my original post, if he’d waited until the system reached “absolute fail” and THEN blown them away, he might have had my sympathy, but doing it on spec, as it were, isn’t right.

    And let’s remember that the system he accused of being stacked against him, and used as his excuse for killing those 3 men, is the very same system that acquitted of the murders. He – or rather his lawyer – elicits so much sympathy from the jury for what happened to his daughter that they literally let him get away with murder. So… it’s a bad system when it lets THEM go, but a good one when it lets HIM go? Maybe if his lawyer had been given the chance to argue the original crime as passionately before a non-local jury or judge, those 3 men would have been convicted. But we’ll never know, because he didn’t give the system a chance. Maybe they would have been found guilty, and even given the death penalty, and the end result would have more or less been the same, but he took the law into his hands and personally meted out what he considered to be justice, and no, that’s not okay with me.

    I’d rather trust my fate, and maybe my life, to a system that, while admittedly not perfect, is designed to be as fair and impartial as possible, than to a person with a gun who correctly or incorrectly believes I deserve to die for something I did to them. The problem with the vigilante approach is that it eliminates the possibility of appeal; he shoots, I die, and if it turns out later that – oops! – he was wrong and I DIDN’T do what he’s accusing me of having done… well, that’s just too bad for me, isn’t it. That’s not justice, that’s anarchy, and anarchy is only fun when you’re watching it up on the screen.

  • Althea

    Back to the Narnia debate here, I have just one comment. When I was a kid – and ever after – I have seen the children in such fantasies as role models. They teach that even ordinary people can be heroes. As a kid, that meant that, rather than being weak, lesser, and easily dominated, you can stand up for yourself and for a just cause. Such stories also clarify what a just cause might be. (The best ones show different sides to the issue – think Harry Potter’s foe Voldemort. He’s not just an straw man evil entity, and we learn how he came to be evil.) Anyhow, I’ve always loved imagining myself in the story, being brave and not shrinking from the difficult challenge.

    As for Lucy and her knife, consider it was not meant to be an offensive weapon in battle. Her important gift was the vial of restorative potion. And by the way, she was dubbed Lucy the Valiant when she became a queen. I’ve always wanted that for me, too.

  • Jurgan

    I’ve heard before the idea that The Incredibles is a Randian tract, but I don’t really buy it. Yeah, you’ve got superior people being held down by jealous others, but why? I gather the plot of Atlas Shrugged is that the “great” people are being forced to work for “parasites,” and their response is to abandon them altogether. Whereas, The Incredibles rebel against society in order to help others. An Ayn Rand “hero” would reclaim his alternate identity only to help himself.

    I agree with the arguments about anti-tech movies, but the worst was I, Robot, just for the way it pissed all over everything Asimov believed in. He specifically was trying to get away from the idea that technology is dangerous and man is playing God with it. “I do not fear computers; I fear their absence.”

    I also agree that most vigilante movies can be pretty offensive, but I’ll accept it if the decision to take the law into one’s own hands is seen as a last resort. But then you have characters like Venom, the “lethal protector” who was practically sainted back in the 90’s. Purely based on marketing, they turned a vicious, senseless murderer (cop-killer, even) into a hero and star of his own endless series of mini-series.

  • MarinaB

    I, for one, still think the world would have been in better shape if Tony Blair had acted more like the Hugh Grant character and stood up to George Bush rather than backing him up on the whole Iraq debacle.

    Oh, we are on the same page there, for sure. I didn’t think the scene really belonged in that movie, but on its own it wouldn’t have bothered me. It was the portrayal of American women that really upset me. Both of those things together made it clear to me that the filmmakers have a problem with Americans.

  • Lisa

    with A time to Kill, you could make the argument that the system was broken and racist and that he wasn’t going to get justice because of that. If people are pushed into a corner like that, they do respond with violence. I’m not agreeing with it or advocating it but we’ve seen it all over the world, in countries where minorities are oppressed.

  • Chance

    Ah, Muzz, veal aren’t exactly appropriate in the evolution model. Mainly because veal calves are cooked and eaten long before they can lay down their genetic legacies. My point, though, was counteracting the idea that there would still be skinny bitches in the hover chairs. If you take any animal and chain it to a crate (or hovercraft) such that it is no longer moving, muscles will atrophy, and fat will accumulate. For sure. Those people then have children, and through the successive generations, people are spending more and more time in their hover chairs, and less and less time actually using their joints and muscles, and everyone would start to take on a fairly unified, fairly blog-like form.

  • Ide Cyan

    Chance, you’re describing Lamarckian inheritance, which might be valid for memes, but not so much for genetics.

  • Knightgee

    it might turn out OK on fantasy but on reality kids involved in arm conflicts are the first to go down, that’s why it’s offensive

    That completely neglects the entire point of children’s fantasy, which is to take kids, who are otherwise helpless to enact any kind of change or influence in their own world and make them the triumphant heroes in another world where they can fight the bad guys, save the kingdom and gain the glory.

  • Mo

    To echo Knightgee’s point, I do remember when I was five years old or so and being read the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time.

    The number one thing in all the books that ticked me off more than any other was that Aslan wouldn’t let the girls fight. Even at that age I understood that in the real world kids shouldn’t fight (and if handed a sword I would probably have run away), but that Narnia was a special world AND A FANTASY world where little kids like me could have their wishes of winning magic fairytale battles with cool swords all come true. For me the disappointment of having a little girl told she shouldn’t be fighting turned into a driving force in my life- sending me off into almost exclusively male-dominated trades among other things. There’s always a little piece of that five-year-old girl in me that still wants to prove that Lucy should have been allowed to fight just like the boys. I know this is supposed to be about personal opinions, but what offends you happens to be my oldest, rawest nerve for exactly the opposite reason. (Thank goodness for Eowyn…)

    Lewis was not a man with any illusions of just how awful war can be. He saw some of the worst of the First World War from the trenches, as did many of his closest friends. Apparently one of his best friends was blown up right beside him, and he was injured badly enough to have thought he was dead. I’ve always gotten the impression from his and Tolkien’s writings that for them the idea of oldfashioned medieval-style battles where the righteous prevailed and guns had never been invented were an escapism and a sort of tonic for them from their memories.

    I don’t think people give kids enough credit when it comes to separating fantasy stories from reality. You usually only have to explain it to them once or twice and they get it. I’d say they get the idea of what a fantasy story is better than many adults if people are seriously comparing innocent children’s wish fulfillment with the brainwashing and cult-like behavior behind modern terrorism. The heightened tone is usually a giveaway that it isn’t meant to be extrapolated into the real world.

    So if the kids get it and the adults should know better, who exactly would benefit from not letting children have the sort of fairytale stories they want? Must children be bubble-wrapped even in their make-believe?

  • THE CELL.
    Nasty, mean, nasty. Just nasty.

  • JoshDM

    This developer is insulted by the idiocy of both Swordfish and Sneakers for reasons that are obvious to other developers.

  • Mo

    This developer is insulted by the idiocy of both Swordfish and Sneakers for reasons that are obvious to other developers.

    Heh…Sort of like studying electronics and realizing how little almost all writers actually understand about electronics, especially in scifi based around electronics?

    “It’s not working!” “Reverse the polarity!”
    No. Just no.

  • I have to admit, the Incredibles bugged me a little, too. You’ve got the bad guy nerd vs. the hero jock and the idea of innate superiority, wrapped into one little package. I still enjoy it, and the Edna Moll scenes are classic, but it’s not guilt free.

  • stryker1121

    Talking about vigilantiasm in film, I thought ‘Taken’ went too far. Neeson’s character shoots his former colleague’s wife in the shoulder w/ the couple’s kids in the next room, just to get closer to finding his daughter. Neeson basically mows thru everyone in his way w/o remorse.

    –Do The Right Thing bugged me…I thought it was a histrionic portrayal of white males. Meanwhile, the ostensible hero of the piece (Mookie) is a coward and a thug.

    –Found Avatar to be blanantly anti-American..yeah the “bad guys” were actually corporate mercs, not Marines, but the parallels to a couple of current wars are pretty obvious. Meanwhile, not one of the Na’vi is portrayed as anything less that pure and good. I expected more from Cameron.

    –The Hangover was highly offensive for not being funny.

  • Muzz

    Do The Right Thing: Which white males could be described as histrionic? Sal and …er his boys were great. The portrayl of the cops is fairly one note, I grant. Still, Mooky isn’t supposed to be entirely likable. You realise that is the one day he stops behaving like he usually does and “does the right thing” or tries to? So you have to ask if that applies to everything he does in the film. Hence the controversy.

    The Incredibles: Calling it a Randian tract is a bit strong, but it’s an element or an undercurrent. You don’t have to mirror Atlas Shrugged to evoke it. To some extent I think it’s a collision of satires though; it’s funnier if you make Mr Incredible subject to a small petty jerk. It’s funnier if a litigious society just decides to restrict the whole Super contingent (even though that actually makes a lot of sense. It isn’t like we let the military do what they like with their destructive equipment at will under the pretense of fighting badguys). And taking a swing at the ‘everyone is special!’ school of developmental psych is something they obviously really wanted to do. All together it was a little distracting though.

    Evolution: Chance, as Idle Cyan points out, that’s Lamarkian thinking. Humans getting fat and their bones getting weak from being sedentary doesn’t create any heritable traits that weren’t there in the first place. It also doesn’t create any circumstances to select for these traits in the environment. Each of those people is still basically the same lean and mean hunting and gathering machine underneath and could, in principle, change themselves back.
    (Also Evolution was a really stupid movie ;)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Kightgee: Thank you! I was trying to find a way to explain why armed children in children’s fantasy is both acceptable and preferred.

    stryker1121, muzz: I think Spike Lee would be dissappointed in anyone who wasn’t offended by everyone’s behavior in Do the Right Thing. Offense was his point. As the cliché goes: if you’re not appalled, you’re not paying attention.

    stryker again: I think you give Avatar too much credit to suggest it contains a coherent thought. Even still, in what way do the actions of the military-industrial corporation on Pandora reflect the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Vietnam? Anyway, I think that to find any negative portrayal of the military-indutrial complex as specifically anti-American is to be looking to be offended. I mean, was The X-files anti-American?

  • MaryAnn

    you already used this question, I sent it to you months ago

    It wasn’t an intentional repeat, but obviously I shouldn’t worry about repeating questions, if this is the level of response a repeated question can get. :->

  • allochthon

    This developer is insulted by the idiocy of both Swordfish and Sneakers for reasons that are obvious to other developers.

    That’s funny. I’m in the computer security world, and many of us agree that while the coding and hardware is poorly done, the social engineering is brilliant. Very popular movie in my field, where social engineering is often a bigger threat than anything else (Frex, see spear phishing).

    For me, the most offensive movie that others seem to love is Se7en. But I have a tough time with my objections. I think the movie is just EVIL. And I can’t imagine why anyone would have gotten involved in it. The idea of a writer sitting down and creating that script makes me ill. I wish it hadn’t been made.

    However, I’m against censorship, so I can’t rail against the fact that is actually was made. And I understand the need to purge dark feelings.

    But *gah!*
    (*Did that movie pioneer torture porn? Gee, thanks…)

  • stryker1121

    @ Dr. R: Talk of terrorism, building roads and schools for the Na’vi, the phrase “shock and awe.” Cameron has you cheering for the “evil” American mercs to get their comeuppance, which I found very strange considering how clumsy and obvious(to me at least) the war metaphors were. I loved X-Files and never picked up that vibe..the show was much more elegant in its criticism of some of America’s policies.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    stryker: OK, I’ll grant you “shock and awe”, though I think the phrase is now so much a part of the cultural subconscious that its absence is more interesting than its use. The mention of terrorism in Avatar is so absurd (since no such behavior is shown) as to be best considered poor writing. As far as “roads and schools”, well, that fits the more obvious parallels of colonialism and American westward expansion. In that sense, sure, Avatar could be considered anti-American, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I think you mean in terms of the politics of the early 21st century. In which case, I think you’re casting an awfully wide net of “Hollywood libruls vs. brave Amur’cans” to catch Avatar.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash, having spent two s Avatar. Yuck.

    allochthon: nah, “torture porn” puts characters on screen through terror, humiliation, and pain, for the express purpose of getting the audience to giggle and squirm. Se7en keeps nearly all of the really awful stuff off screen, and wants you to recoil in horror at the idea of what’s happening. Yes, I realize some viewers giggle and squirm at Se7ev as well. Which is why there’s an audience for torture porn at all.

  • Very popular movie in my field, where social engineering is often a bigger threat than anything else.

    Which one is that? Swordfish or Sneakers?

    “Superior people being held back by the weak and cowardly jealous masses” thing struck me as distractingly creepy Randian claptrap.

    Actually it reminded me far more of the Kurt Vonnegut short story “Harrison Bergeron.”

    And as Jurgan has noted, the heroes aren’t exactly as selfish as the typical Rand protagonist. And compared to the villain–who seemed to care more about becoming rich and famous than about anything else–the heroes seemed like genuinely admirable people.

    Then again I’ve always been more creeped out by the notion promoted by Mystery Men that it’s okay to be a talentless loser even if your actions–or lack of action–make things worse for other people.

    SPOILER

    After all, it’s one thing to root for the lovable loser who finally gets his or her act together and saves the day. It’s another to root for the not-so-lovable loser whose actions get someone else killed.

  • Besides, part of me can’t resist seeing The Incredibles as an allegory about the arts.

    The Incredible family could be seen as stand-ins for every artist who genuinely wanted to use his or her artistic abilities to help other people while the Jason Lee figure could be seen as a stand-in for every mediocre artist who only wants to use his or her artistic abilities to show everyone how important he or she is.

    Of course, YMMV.

  • Muzz

    Well yeah, to all the above, but you don’t have to have your characters do what Rand’s heroes do to be Randian. That was just what Rand wanted “great people” to do so we sponging scum would see how important they are and try to be more like them, or something. There’s probably loads of “great people” whose kindess and selflessness dismayed her no end. It’s the shape of the world that’s the thing with The Incredibles. Society holding back excellence out of envy, laziness, false belief in equality, that kind of thing (which isn’t something I think you can find that much in the real world unless you’re an arch individualist. But again, I’ve not seen the inside of any institutional “everyone is special” hammering).

    But I take the point. There’s lots of ways to look at it. The villian is interesting like that. He’s a self made man who did everything under his own steam. Even if it was out of (insane) envy of the supers what he’s achieved is remarkable and how he’s done it should be laudable. Effort over natural ability. At the bare bones of it, in Gattacca that character is the hero. But the guy kinda reminds me of a lot of embittered libertarians you meet on the internet, in terms of personality.
    I think if there were more well meaning normals working alongside the supers, who weren’t just part of the masses (or insiders like Edna Mode) I’d probably have been less distracted.

    All this means I should watch it again soon in any case.

    I don’t follow the Mystery Men point exactly. Not that I’m disputing, you’ll just have to refresh my memory.

  • Lisa

    I agree with Dr Rocketscience about Se7en – you’re meant to be horrified.

    Re: Avatar weren’t they mercs, not real Army? cos that’s why Blackwater is still in Iraq.

  • KLW

    allochthon: I’m in full agreement with you about Se7en. I’ve seen plenty of movies that I thought were awful. I walked out The Hangover after 45 minutes of waiting for something more than fleeting moments of mild amusement and enduring long stretches of preposterous, offensive crap. But I have to put Se7en in a very special category of loathesomeness. It’s morbidness and cynicism gets swished around with creepy religious righteouness and served up with extreme Hollywood polish. I found it all so vulgar, I have to use a comment I read on another post here – it’s the one movie I wish I could ‘unsee’.

    It was dismaying but not quite surprising to find it recently on a list of top 150 grossing movies of all time. I’m fully aware how many people don’t agree with me at all about it.

  • Lisa

    I don’t think Se7en is as grim as the Dark Knight – now there’s a depressing movie. At least Morgan Freeman continues the fight at the end but Harvey Dent just loses his innocence and is corrupted entirely which I find really hard to bear. It’s like the end of Twin Peaks, the tv series – I remember being pretty horrified at that, all the good that is in Cooper, isn’t enough to save him.

    Plus, as I said, there’s no enjoyment to be had from the deaths. What I like about it, is that it starts as rookie cop/older guy buddy, buddy standard cop procedural movie and then descends into hell. I don’t think it’s a profound movie but it’s a good horror movie, it’s got some good twists. I love when he walks into that police station, I thought that was really scary, also that horrible sense of dread I felt during the last half hour of the movie. I was so freaked out, I couldn’t figure how it was going to end.

  • LaSargenta

    I don’t know about “everyone”, but I watched Breakdown with Kurt Russell in a theater full of yuppies with gortex jackets in NYC and walked out about halfway through. I was completely offended by its portrayal of the rural working class and poor. I’m from the upper mid-west, not Oklahoma, or Texas, or Arizona or wherever the fuck they were supposed to be with their SUV and their relocation blues; but, all those scary people…everyone was e.v.i.l.: The grill cook, the sheriff, the people at the service station, and most of the denizens there are either thugs or drunks…hey, Mr. Mostow, my family are those scary poor rural people who have leathery skin because they are outdoors a lot for their dollar a day, and their hands are dirty from fixing your engine and pumping your gas and growing your food and being in the Volunteer Fire Department in that town you visit for your Dude Ranch Vacation ™. They aren’t drunk all day, they will not kidnap your wife, and they are only scary to someone without a shred of open-mindedness.

    Small towns and rural places aren’t Mayberry, but neither are they something out of Stephen King or Shirley Jackson — and that is all that they are normally portrayed as: Buffoons or Evil.

  • I don’t follow the Mystery Men point exactly. Not that I’m disputing, you’ll just have to refresh my memory.

    Mystery Men was a much-advertised superhero parody which came out in the late 1990s. The morale of the movie seemed to want to be that even people with oddball talents could be heroes too but unfortunately, it didn’t quite come off that way.

    SPOILER

    The plot involved a bunch of very talented people playing people who–ahem–were not so talented. None of their actions were really funny–though Bill Macy did have a few good lines–and one key adventure involved an attempt to rescue a certain character which accidentally led to said character’s death–which, of course, was played for laughs.

    It got very sympathetic reviews on some movie websites but it just left a bad taste in my mouth. It was the type of comedy in which you not only rooted for the hero to lose but to lose badly because he was such a self-important schmuck and had such a grandiose sense of entitlement that he might as well have been an Ayn Rand character–though, of course, Ayn Rand characters tend to have at least one thing that they’re good at–unless they’re villains. The characters in this flick seemed best at whining about how unappreciated they were–yet they didn’t seem willing to put any effort into doing anything worthwhile. The type of people who would want, for example, to become a great artist or musician or athlete without expending any of the effort or paying any of the dues required to accomplish such a task.

    Then again, I grew up around a lot of people who were either blue-collar workers or former blue-collar workers so that might just be my class bias speaking.*

    * Says the person whose father was an amateur painter, whose favorite cousin was a former dancer and whose best friend is an amateur poetess. So I obviously hate the arts. ;-)

  • Muzz

    Yeah I guess you could look at it like that. That’s the trouble with black humour though (and the film wasn’t entirely successful in its satirical tone, mixing light with dark like that, so maybe that’s why it didn’t work). I wasn’t partcularly bothered by that as it didn’t have a huge impact on me one way or another (I do love The Sphynx though. Wes Studi getting to play something other than Stern Native Guy is always worth seeing).

    More generally I feel I must defend Seven. If you’ve seen The League of Gentlemen series there’s a couple of recurring characters who are pretty accurate take-offs of gore hounds. They rent movies based on a sort of violence accountancy; how many deaths, how much blood etc They pick up Seven in the video store and are disappointed to hear that’s the number of deaths that are in it and put it back.

    That’s not far off what I and my chums were like as teenagers. But the movie itself was something of a watershed for me in terms of how I thought about violence and death. It did so much with so little and it had this huge and totally gripping build up of tension towards the end. An end which was, to my gore hound mind, completely anticlimactic. But unlike many more gruesome (and often quite realistic, not just splatter) events on film I couldn’t shake it. It was all so personal, but also small and sad. It was as if the film had grabbed you and slapped and said “wake up, this stuff is real and it’s serious. What made you think one wasn’t enough? What made you think one wasn’t too many?”.

    That it could go down that road of clever use of exploitation, horror, thriller plot twists and still keep its head (so to speak). I’ll always be very impressed by that. I can’t think of any similar films that manage it (stuff like the Silence of the Lambs and the rest of the serial killer ourve have nowhere near as much going on)

  • Lisa

    That’s an interesting take on Se7en.

    I just remember watching the end, asking myself were it was going. I knew it was going to be horrific but it wasn’t going to be something as stupid as a bomb or a posse of guys with machine guns but it still leaves this question unanswered…

    Why is there a desert outside a city where it constantly rains?

  • MBI

    Dead. Poets. Society.

    Every piece of artwork is open to interpretation, of course, but I don’t see how “Dead Poets Society” can be classified as anything other than pro-conformity and pro-suicide.

  • drewryce

    The Aliens film where they killed off Ripley and the kid. (Come to think of it, isn’t it the same director as Se7en?)

    Making a bad sequel, okay, it happens. Making one that ruins the first two films in the series by making their desperate quest for survival fruitless? Unforgiveable.

    The essence of films like these is that the lead characters go thru the valley, terrible things happen to them, but then they come out.

  • Kenny

    dreryce, I agree with you. I especially hated the fact that Newt and Hicks died before the movie even started. I was so angry… Alien 3 essentially spoiled Aliens for me, as every time I watch it, I am reminded that their struggle and eventual triumph are ultimately worthless.

  • Muzz

    Lisa: Hah, yes. With weirdly variable levels of grass too. (I think it was because they shot in LA and the hose for the rain towers didn’t reach far enough for the location)

    I gotta defend another one too I love Alien 3 to bits now. I was a bit lukewarm on it at first, but there was always something that stuck with me. With the not-quite-directors-cut it’s one of my favourite flicks and my second favourite Alien movie by a long shot. Only the clunky convenient egg at the start really bugs me (although I think the dog birth makes the most sense and was handled best). Otherwise it’s a great tragedy. Not quite in the classic sense (since Ripley doesn’t really have some character flaw that brings on this curse) but a great modern tragedy all the same.

  • Christine

    Completely agree with previous comments about Grease (girls, don’t be yourselves – change for the guy, who only needs to make a token effort at meeting you halfway) and Pretty Woman (prostitution leads to true love? you can reform guys who only use you and see you as a piece of meat?) – offensive and not at all “feel-good” movies.

    How about The Philadelphia Story? ** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD ** Great cast (Jimmy Stewart! Cary Grant!), memorable dialogue, considered a classic. But I watched it as a kid, expecting to love it, and felt uneasy at the message.

    Katharine Hepburn’s character is basically blamed for her father’s infidelity. If only she had been a more loving daughter (um, what does *that* mean – does he want her to have an Electra complex?) and had more tolerance for her father’s flaws (women are such critical harpies!) …well, maybe he wouldn’t have cheated on her mother! Actually, he still would have. But he would’ve gotten away with it and the family could’ve stayed together. I guess it’s of utmost importance that The Family Stay Together, even if the relationships are based on deception and betrayal. God forbid the mother gain some self-esteem (of course she’s willing to take him back) – and discover she’s better off without this jerk. Which would be better for The Family too, as she’d be providing a strong role model for her daughters who need to know they *shouldn’t* tolerate similar treatment.

    But no, Hepburn’s character is considered cold and “unnatural”, and must be de-frosted with alcohol and publicly embarrassed so she can learn to accept “human frailties” in others…ie: be a good little girl and forgive daddy dear (not that he’s truly sorry for what he did). And now she’s ready to be a Good Wife to (won’t say who and spoil the movie completely. :P) Anybody else offended by this?

    Btw, I love this website and it’s thought-provoking reviews and discussions. :)

  • Christine

    posted by Knightgee:
    That completely neglects the entire point of children’s fantasy, which is to take kids, who are otherwise helpless to enact any kind of change or influence in their own world and make them the triumphant heroes in another world where they can fight the bad guys, save the kingdom and gain the glory.

    Exactly! I think that’s why I wasn’t offended as a child, and love the Narnia books (and of course they’re so well-written and engaging)…and I am not a physically aggressive person or gung-ho about wars, generally (or religion/religious crusades)… but these are empowering fantasies for children who feel helpless. I know some aspects of the books are controversial, but I do believe C.S. Lewis was sympathetic towards children, and meant well. I’ve read many quotes of his that seem to support that – but it’s also something a child can sense, when reading his stories.

  • Christine

    Sorry to post 3 times in a row – I arrive too late to the discussion, but I can’t resist replying anyway:

    I’d probably pick It’s a Wonderful Life, which seems to me to be suggesting that totally subsuming one’s dreams and desires and needs to those of others is good thing, a noble thing

    I know what you mean, MaryAnn, but I like to look at it as: Capra’s sympathetic, not condemning George for having dreams, but I think he’s acknowledging the sad truth that most of us don’t get exactly what we dreamed of, and trying to make people feel better (as his movies always tried to uplift), consoling viewers with the nice idea that even if our lives didn’t turn out as planned, they weren’t a total waste. We probably affected other people’s lives in (hopefully) positive ways, maybe never knowing it, but, y’know, try to take comfort in that thought. Well, it’s better than being suicidal anyway. :)

    I hate a lot of movies where people make Noble Sacrifices. But I guess this one’s so well-crafted, it just affects me emotionally, without seeming manipulative or mean-spirited. I mean, it’s not like all those movies that were designed to get women to abandon their careers so that men could resume their jobs after WWII without competition, for instance. There doesn’t seem to be any nasty agenda behind It’s A Wonderful Life, so it doesn’t offend me. Let’s face it, lots of people *do* make sacrifices for their families, and this may be their story. I can’t really begrudge them some comfort/validation (especially if it’s too late to make a different choice).

    I believe in being selfish, personally. :) But once in awhile, I can accept the story of a person giving selflessly to others, *especially* if that person is not portrayed unrealistically as a saint. It also helps that George wasn’t really guilt-tripped by his family. If they actively pressured or maliciously interfered in his life, I’d hate them and it would push all my oppressive-family buttons (I’ve got personal issues I won’t go into, but let’s just say it’s kind of a miracle that It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favorite movies.)

    I think it really helps to think of this as one particular story/decision that ended up being right for these characters, but isn’t meant to apply to us all. Besides, sometimes people’s dreams change and they find themselves loving something/someone they never expected. So the ending feels truly happy to me, not like a soul-crushing compromise or defeat.

  • Lisa

    @ Muzz re 7 yeah I figured as much but I like the idea that you are literally heading into new territory – I love that conversation in the car that goes on for ages. It’s quite surreal to be in the dark and then in the bright sunshine too. It reminds me of Shawshank but that had a more positive ending. That would be a good Morgan Freeman double bill.

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