The Meandering Hexagon
One Star Reviews of the Greatest Films of All Time - An Introduction
My wife and I had a startling moment of bonding early on in our relationship. We discovered that neither one of us likes Forrest Gump.
That's right. The Robert Zemeckis/Tom Hanks classic that stole Best Picture away from Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. The same film that also won five additional Academy Awards, three Golden Globes and currently resides at #71 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest movies of all time.
Yeah, I'm not really a fan.
We aren't really alone on this either. The film is fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but the critics consensus admits that it is "overly sentimental" and that it has a "somewhat problematic message."
Amy Nicholson of L.A. Weekly calls it "a movie with nothing to say." Adam Mars-Jones of the Independent calls it "a miniaturized car wash for the emotions." Entertainment Weekly claims that half of every audience isn't into it, although that claim certainly isn't backed up by the statistics on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb.
However, you might be able to concede that it's OK to have mixed feelings about Forrest Gump. It's a bit of a singular film and it might not be to everyone's taste. Certainly an intelligent viewer can at least acknowledge some of what bothers my bride and I about the film– the seeming encouragement to trust the status quo, the cloying saccharine sweetness, and the strange perverseness of the relationship between Forrest and Jenny.
At the same time, I can acknowledge why the other side (e.g. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) seem to love the film. It's got a lot of heart. Tom Hanks delivers a fantastic performance. It's a sweeping examination of the American way of life and it has a lot of great cinematic moments.
So, maybe it's alright to find some middle ground and agree to disagree.
But this got me thinking. What if a minority of film goers, however small, earnestly feel that the most lauded, accolade drenched, and highest grossing films of All Time are nothing but a load of shite?
Chances are you know someone who's like this about one film you absolutely love. And chances are, you find this absolutely baffling and a little bit infuriating. I know I had a friend who made some snide comments about Laurence of Arabia. I almost punched a hole in the wall.
The whole purpose of art is to inflame the passions and make a deeply personal impact on the viewer, so when someone who has had a different experience comes along with biting criticism, it's easy to be upset about it.
On the eve of the opening of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Fox News aired a segment on U.S. cable where a panelist, with a bit of support from host Neil Cavuto, bashed on the Star Wars franchise. For bashed, read: claimed it was over-rated. Pretty soon, that contributor, reporter Carley Shimkus, was getting snide comments from angry fans. Another Fox talking head, Katherine Timpf, called fans juvenile on a 3AM talk show and started to receive threats.
While this successful publicity stunt boosted both Fox News ratings and anticipation for the film, it does reveal an interesting side of human nature. We hate it when others disagree with us.
Instinctively, I get defensive over my favorite films. I turn to objective sources to prove my point in endless arguments. Box office numbers, awards, preservation by the Library of Congress... these things are for taking a subjective idea (how "good" a film is) and quantifying it into something objective and measurable. The problem is, the individual viewer experience might not be align with gross returns, awards committees or library standards.
Opinion is also a flaky thing, driven by a lot of outside factors. A great film can be ruined by indigestion, nagging thoughts about that argument with a co-worker, or by the bain of all film lovers– hiccups in the internet connection.
But nevertheless, the individual experience is what the movies are all about.
In this series of blog posts, we'll be examining the dark side of the world of film opinion. We'll be hearing from those who bash beloved classics, condemn all of our favorite characters, and find plot holes in our favorite stories.
As we go, try to have grace by latching on to that one film that everyone loves but that you hate. We all have our guilty pleasures and we all have those films we are ashamed to admit that we don't understand.