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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting real: The social-cultural impact of The Hunt on Monsters

Another round of movies has just been chosen to be torn asunder by Gabe in the name of art. 
Have you seen some of the suggestions made? Yes, there are a lot of obvious offenders (The Happening, Jumper, Sex and the City 2), some more left-field entries which could be Hunt Material, but aren’t really the worst (Alice in Wonderland, Stranger Than Fiction, Avatar) and some movies I genuinely enjoyed, even loved (someone had the audacity to nominate Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorites of all time).
What would make Monsters so critical of those movies? Is the enjoyment of movies that subjective? Do our definitions of what makes a terrible movie vary that much? Could it be that we have become so adept in spotting weaknesses that it has become second nature to eviscerate movies?

Okay, back up just a little. The Videogum community is a very welcoming one, but it can be scary to start out. The regular commenters are all very smart and funny and while it is true that the Women of the Twilight Fan fiction panel also think they are, Monsters really are. You want to fit in, which requires to gain a report with the regulars. Being able to make a good (bad) pun helps, as does being able to make funny comments. By repeatedly think of funny comments, you develop a certain mindset. But this mindset can interfere with your enjoyment of less-than-perfect entertainment, most clearly seen in movies.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m trying to say. Exhibit A is “Easy A”, released last year. It is
basically a teenage sex-romp, minus the actual sex, where Emma Stone simulates having sex with several guys to help them be less miserable, which gets her ostracized by her peers. Had I seen this movie two years ago, not only would I have been a time traveler, I would have probably liked it. Now, I can’t help but feel torn about it. Really, a loser who gets to second base becomes popular? She does webcasts? The weird banter between the two female leads about breasts and not to mention the ham-handed way of trying to ‘naturally’ work in The Scarlet Letter into the story, even though it was clear it was a fundamental point in conception. On the other hand, it was endearing at parts, the parents were great and there was a scene that made me choke up. But it did trigger something inside of me that made me want to rip it a new one. Like, this is one of the jokes:


Exhibit B is “Please Give”, a movie about a couple who sell the furniture of deceased people as vintage and are very involved in giving back to the less fortunate. Two years ago it would have been a misguided attempt at trying to show the other more humorous side of white people problem’s that had some moments. But we do not live in that world. Instead, “Please Give” is the story of all kinds of assholes who are clueless about the real world, yet very condescending towards others. They are waiting for their neighbor to die, so they can expand their apartment! The final scene sees them buying a pair of 250 dollar jeans to make their teenage daughter happy! I give it two “Oh, Brothers!”.

These are just a few examples, I could go on forever. Over the break I was playing catch-up from the last year and watched a lot of movies. While I saw Youth in Revolt, Centurion, Despicable Me, The A-Team, Legend of the Guardians, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Step Up 3, She’s Out of My League, Kick-Ass, Cyrus and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (I had the flu, okay?), there were only a few movies that I thoroughly enjoyed, while I did have several moments where I went “Really?”. Has The Hunt jaded me, messed with my potential to enjoy films?

So I would like to pose this question to you Monsters: Have you been able to enjoy movies as much since the Hunt started?

Anchor Management


  1. Agreed, Anchor Management.

    I'm not sure if it's directly Hunt related, but I've also been catching up on the year's movies and it's hard to find one I actually like! It'd be nice to go back to the days where every movie was great because it was a movie. Except of course for the one's my parents picked out (THE WORST).

    On the other hand, when I find a movie that I like, I really, really like it. For instance, I just watched "I Love You Phillip Morris" and thought it was great.

    What I'm finding is I'm getting better at managing the messages that squeeze behind my eyeballs. Where before I used to take in anything and everything that "pop culture" was feeding me, I'm pickier about what I spend time with (read, watch, listen). It's nice watching a few movies or TV shows that I know I'll love, rather than a ton with questionable quality.

  2. The Hunt of the Worst Movie of all time has not changed the way I watch movies. Movies that I like, I love; movies I don't, I hate. There are some that fall in the middle--movies that I enjoy but don't think are great, movies that I like part of and hate part of--but in general, I've always been very strong in my opinions.

    When I go to see a movie, I always want it to be the best movie I have ever seen. I rarely go wanting the movie to be bad, or with a predisposition to hate on it. I see no point. Why would I not want the pleasure of seeing a great movie. I am a generous soul.

    That said, I am also picky and if a movie doesn't work for me, it doesn't work and I like to talk about why it doesn't work. This is not for aimless snarking, but I think talking about what doesn't work in a movie (or book or song or etc) makes me better as a watcher/reader and as someone who likes to make things.

    Now, it seems that there are sometimes existential questions that come up: "How can you say [insert title] is the worst movie of all time? You may not like it, but it isn't the worst."

    To that I say: I would rather dissect what fails in a supposedly good movie than wallow in what is wrong with a clear piece of crap. I have no problem with crap. If people want to blow their money on low grade mind poison, go for it. I am more interested in talking about what doesn't work for me in a movie that people talk about as being "great."

    This weekend, I was talking to my brother-in-law about movies that win the Oscar for best picture and how I think most of them are terrible. He challenged me on that, and of the ones that I had seen in the past 20 years, only two or three were movies that I thought were good. The rest that I'd seen, I consider terrible movies. Not just "not my kind of movie" but totally flawed failures.

    The Departed. A Beautiful Mind. Gladiator. American Beauty. Titanic. Forrest Gump. Are they the worst? No, but they are not good in my opinion and I would much rather discuss what is wrong with them, with people who like those movies, than just sit and crap on Old Dogs 3D: 2 Old 2 Dogs.

    Does this make sense?

  3. @ephcee: That is a very interesting take on the matter. The fact that I saw about 50 movies released this year (plus some older ones) does prove that we do get a lot of information and that does make us more critical of the choices we make and makes us have higher anticipation of the level of entertainment.

    @Mans: What I feel makes a movie good, therefore the opposite would make it bad: story, acting, cinematograpy (I'm a sucker for pretty pictures and music) and a sense of identity - it should feel like a seperate experience, not as something you had already seen. If is has all four: good, maybe even great movie. It is had two: okay movie. If it has none: bad movie. All the best Oscar nomations you just mentioned possess at least two of those criteria (in my opinion, at least), so they would not be a bad movie.

    That's what makes me so angry at some submissions for the Hunt. People seem to nominate anything they didn't really like or they thought was trying to hard. Is a movies like 500 Days of Summer really anywhere close to Battlefield Earth? To me it feels like they are just hating on over-hyped movies. That is why I wanted to pose the question to all of you.

  4. Anchor, I understand what you are saying and I in no way disrespect anyone's approach to encountering art.

    For me, it is a very all or nothing prospect. I expect the same thing from Texas Chainsaw Massacre as I do from Inception as I do from The Hours as I do from Talledega Nights.

    To a degree, if a movie is shooting for "great" and falls short, even a little, it is dead to me. This is often because I feel that movies that try to be great are only aping a certain idea of greatness rather than trying to get to greatness itself.

    Do people want to pick apart movies that are overhyped? Yes. Is that fair? No, probably not. Maybe. I don't know. But I also think part of the problem is the hyperbole of the name WMOAT. It really is "Some thoughts on Current Cinema".

  5. I love movies. A lot. Sometimes I love them more than I love (some) people.

    I find that when The Hunt points out the inherent flaws in some movies that I've loved (like you just did with 'Easy A'), I usually end up still loving the movie. It's like accepting the annoying quirks and flaws of a loved one.

    And when Gabe is eviscerating a movie I hated (Four Christmases, etc.) I feel vindicated for the loathing I felt but couldn't put into words!