March 26, 2012

dear clusterflock

Last night I saw the new Muppet movie. It was terrible. Name other films that are critically acclaimed but are secretly crap.

Titanic doesn’t count because it’s no secret.


  1. Andrew Simone on March 26th, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Note: the goal here isn’t to create an exhaustive list, but to get other people mad.

  2. Joel Bernstein on March 26th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Fight Club
    The Princess Bride

  3. Joel Bernstein on March 26th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Also, as I’ve said before, I think Pixar movies are massively overrated, though I don’t really think they’re crap.

  4. Landon Ross on March 26th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    The Descendants.

  5. KevinQ on March 26th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I came here to fight you on The Muppets, and then I saw the first comment.

    So, instead, how about this:
    Anything by the Coen brothers


  6. Andrew Simone on March 26th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I am actually serious about the Muppets. That movie was terrible.

    But mission accomplished, I am a little mad, not everything by the Coen brothers is crap.

  7. Joel Bernstein on March 26th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    I’m willing to defend The Muppets, if nobody else wants to.

  8. KevinQ on March 26th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    The Muppets was probably the fourth-best Muppet movie (after The Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper, and Muppet Christmas Carol).

    Huh. That’s not really a ringing endorsement. I laughed. I definitely enjoyed it more than my three-year old.

    Occasionally, the Coen’s trip and fall into a good move. (See: Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?.) The rest? Crap.

    Adding to the list:
    Being John Malkovich
    Solaris (the original) (and the remake)


  9. Andrew Simone on March 26th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I can’t stand the cult around Lebowski, but it’s some of the most brilliant screenwriting of its time.

  10. Joel Bernstein on March 26th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I’m one of the few people who actually liked their remake of The Ladykillers.

  11. Andrew Simone on March 26th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Also, The Muppets is in no way superior to The Muppets Take Manhattan

    And what made all those films great was pacing, plot, and good writing. There was none of that in The Muppets a slap-dash craft to the nostalgic onanism of parents.

  12. Jonathan McNicol on March 26th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I was just gonna name some movies, but Simone’s thing here has worked wonders, and I’m all fired up.

    Hardly anything by the Coen brothers is crap! Even their crap (which I would argue is intentionally crappy crap: cf. Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading) is interesting in one way or another. And their non-crap… I would argue that No Country for Old Men is practically a perfect movie. And it’s markedly better than There Will Be Blood even though most people probably wouldn’t say so. (TWBB doesn’t really qualify here, as a response to the original post, as it’s definitely a very good movie, but I almost want to include it anyway just ’cause of the way some people have such a hardon for it and not for NCFOM. But anyway.)

    And I say all that as a person who’s never even seen all of The Big Lebowski.

    Now. As I was saying:

    Crash (2004)
    Pretty much anything written or directed by Paul Haggis
    Pretty much anything directed by Clint Eastwood
    So Million Dollar Baby hits a special sweet spot here
    Almost any of the Wes Anderson movies (exception: Fantastic Mr. Fox)

  13. Joel Bernstein on March 26th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I’m going to have to demand a retraction in the specific case of The Royal Tenenbaums.

  14. KevinQ on March 26th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    …a slap-dash craft to the nostalgic onanism of parents.

    Heh. I took my son to see it, and by the end, I’d pretty much decided that it was the a great movie for children who just happened to be in their mid-30s. I laughed at Kermit not knowing who the kid cameos were (and vice-versa).

    I will give you this: It is not a good movie, but if you fall in its demographic, it is a fun movie. And sometimes that’s enough.

    Also, I love the Muppets, but Muppets Take Manhattan was … not good. (It, and Muppets from Space, are the only Muppet movies on Netflix streaming, which means those are the ones my son watches, god help him.)


  15. KevinQ on March 26th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I think I like their crap more than their other movies. Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading were both enjoyable, for George Clooney’s Cary Grant impersonation and JK Simmons’ befuddled CIA manager, respectively.


  16. Dan on March 26th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Seconding Fight Club.



  17. Garrett on March 26th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Am I allowed to say The Wire? If so, The Wire.

  18. Andrew Simone on March 26th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    If Garrett can say The Wire, then I can say Mad Men.

  19. Michael Lang on March 26th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I’ll jump in to say I really enjoyed Burn After Reading. It registered for me as a dark comedy of errors where the villian is everyone’s lunatic paranoia. At that time in history that was wickedly cathartic.

  20. Sarah Pavis on March 26th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I also secretly (not so secretly) dislike Mad Men.

  21. Kelsey Parker on March 26th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I’m going to paint a broad brushstroke here and include every reality TV show that’s been produced in the past 5 years. There, I said it. Deron and Amanda will tell me, again, that I am not watching with enough meta-analysis and meta-experiencing and some such.

  22. Kelsey Parker on March 26th, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Hold up. Is Jersey Shore reality TV? If not, include that too.

  23. growler on March 26th, 2012 at 4:31 pm


  24. Casey Cichowicz on March 26th, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I didn’t know the new Muppet movie was supposed to be good, and also didn’t really know much about the first round of Muppet movies, but it seems pretty obvious that it’s just pandering to any nostalgia left in parents of a certain age. If anyone is keeping score:

    – I love most of the Coens’ movies, even the lesser ones, but also didn’t think Lebowski was as great as most people did.

    – I grew very bored with Mad Men very quickly. I don’t see the appeal beyond the wardrobe. I think The Wire, on the other hand, has a lot going for it and is one of my favorite TV series.

    Ok, now to challenge some accepted greats: does anyone else think that Spielberg is terribly overrated?

  25. Michael Smith on March 26th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    None of you watch anything right.

    Except Kelsey, she’s on the right track.

  26. Michael Smith on March 26th, 2012 at 5:22 pm


    Inception was crap.

    The Muppets was terrible, but only if you didn’t expect it to be, take a 3 year-old and it’s different.

    I’ve always thought 2001: A Space Oddyssey was overrated (maybe not quite crap).

  27. Sarah Pavis on March 26th, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Full Metal Jousting is one of my favorite shows on TV right now but I don’t think anyone is saying it or other reality TV is critically acclaimed but secretly crap.

  28. Kelsey Parker on March 26th, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Oh. I know so many people who defend American Idol or X-Factor or what have you to the death, but you’re right. They’re not critics.

  29. Sheila Ryan on March 26th, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Reservoir Dogs is overrated and annoying, as are most of Tarantino’s films, excepting Jackie Brown.

    The Matrix is to the late 1990s as Kurt Vonnegut and M. C. Escher were to the early 1970s.

    I gave up on David Lynch after Mulholland Dr.

    Black Swan is an interesting case. On the level to which it presumably aspires and by which it was generally praised, it’s awful. Viewed from a camp perspective, however, it’s pretty entertaining.

    Lots of folks liked The Big Chill at the time. I find it insufferable and unwatchable.

    The Blues Brothers embarrasses me.

    I am sure I have suppressed memories of well-regarded films that I really really hate. In fact, I know that I do. I’ll let you know if they surface.

  30. Michael Grant Smith on March 26th, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I’m starting to get the feeling there’s something wrong with liking crap, but I’m just going to ignore the idea.

  31. Robert Ledgerwood on March 26th, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I’m currently “acquiring” Lost Highway. Not only because I think it fits this thread perfectly, but because I haven’t seen it since it was released and I can’t remember a single part of it.

  32. Andrew Simone on March 26th, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    It’s no secret I loathe Lynch and Tarantino. I didn’t mention them because I just assume people know now.

  33. Pasha on March 26th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Not that I’m part of the crowd, and I’m certainly not here to flame, but I find it interesting that when people express dislike for a particular film or tv series, they refer to the director/writer of the film/tv series as their source of discontent as much or more than the merits of the actual film.

    For instance, EVERYTHING by the Coen Brothers? Their films are so wide-ranging, how can you possibly put Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, No Country for Old Men, and The Big Lebowski in the same category. Seems kinda silly.

    Genetic fallacy?

    Mad Men does suck, though.

  34. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Mr. Ledgerwood: Same here re: Lost Highway. (The not remembering.) But my non-recollection is that it’s pretty good.

  35. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Good point, Pasha. I got to wondering whether the tendency you note is a vestigial remnant of the once-powerful auteur theory, but I imagine that may be getting too theoretical. Still, it does point to the strong association people do make between an individual creator and a body of work.

  36. Wil on March 27th, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I loved the muppets.

    Isn’t there a difference between movies you know are good but you just don’t like for me its Thin Red line, Werner Hertzog films, Tinker Tailer, Tree of Life…

    Then there are critically acclaimed films that are awful like King Kong (new), Tintin and maybe a selection of Tim Burton movies.

  37. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Wil, there’s a distinction there, for sure.

    In fact, I deleted one film from my first comment before posting: Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. I enjoy and admire most of Kubrick’s films, but that one just did not do it for me. I’m not sure whether I have a critical leg to stand on . . . well, actually, I think I do, especially when it comes to the second half of the film. Still, I would not say that it was an awful film.

    In fact, when push comes to shove, I wouldn’t say that any of the films I listed are terrible.

    But I bet if I had seen Spielberg’s Tintin film, I’d be down with your verdict. What I have seen looks really really awful.

  38. Wil on March 27th, 2012 at 9:56 am

    oh, I bit, I was going to back off from here but couldn’t resist talking about films.

    What I don’t get so many of the films mentioned above are good cinema.

    – go make something

  39. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I think Goethe said something to that effect, Wil. Really! — Something along the lines of “go make something.” I couldn’t swear to it, but not very long ago a friend read to me a warning about devoting too much energy to criticism and to talking and writing about art, and I believe that it truly was Goethe who was saying, in essence, “Go make something.” In an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century kind of way, though. And in German.

  40. Robert Ledgerwood on March 27th, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Sheila: Come on over and watch it with me. I’ll get some popcorn.

  41. Garrett on March 27th, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Interesting, I just watched Tintin last night and really enjoyed it. They did some really clever things that couldn’t be done with traditional animation. For instance, this scene [MP4] was fascinating because the camera tracking is so clever and energetic.

    Maybe I’m ignoring the movie as a whole. I found it entertaining enough, but most of my enjoyment does ride heavily on the camera and visual work done on the film.

  42. Wil on March 27th, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Thanks Sheila, I’ll definitely look into that.

    There are so many good writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, designers here I keep hoping to see more things that you guys have made.

    Sorry for derailing this thread.

  43. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 10:59 am

    It’s not derailing, Wil! At least not to my way of thinking. Plus it gave me an easy segue to commenting on Michael’s “Itinerary” post.

  44. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Garrett? The Tintin film didn’t give you the what-have-you effect? I forget its name, but you know. That creepy feeling many people get from hyper-realistic robots and animatronic creations?

    (Somebody! What’s that called?)

  45. Garrett on March 27th, 2012 at 11:04 am

    The Uncanny Valley, which is actually quite nice this time of year, if you ignore all the weirdos.

  46. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Thanks, Garrett!

  47. Casey Cichowicz on March 27th, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Garrett, were you a fan of the Tintin books? As a serious fan from childhood until present day, I was worried Spielberg would commit sacrilege. Most of the reviews seem to have confirmed my suspicions. I had to go running out of the theater during a few previews last winter to protect myself.

  48. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 11:41 am

    That’s a whole nuther (good) issue Casey’s raising having to do with our responses to films: adaptations. (I know. I know. Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman.)

    Or films “inspired by _____.”

    I’ve been thinking about this stuff off and on for a good while now. When I was in college I wrote a paper on “literary adaptations” from the Golden Age of Hollywood and wound up doing my senior thesis on Lolita the Nabokov novel and Lolita the Kubrick film.

    I’m still working toward a conclusion and will let y’all know if I find one.

    What I liked about Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is that it diverged from the novel on which it was based (Rum Punch by my main man Elmore Leonard) but it did so in ways that were entirely consonant with Leonard’s universe and which worked really well in the film.

    You can also succeed with an adaptation that turns the original work completely on its head.

    And there are an awful lot of ways to misfire or to create, at best, something mediocre.

    Ultimately, I try to experience such films on their own terms. It’s not always easy.

  49. Erica Braverman on March 27th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Last night a friend convinced me to watch Pulp Fiction. I barely made it to the middle before going in search of bomb pops and watching Tron.

    I grew up reading the Tintin books and can’t bring myself to watch the movie.

  50. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Pulp Fiction is one of those films I enjoyed while watching it in the theater but never felt compelled to watch again.

  51. Marco on March 27th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Wes Anderson adorers confuse art direction and scene-ster-ism with cinema.

  52. Sheila Ryan on March 27th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Marco: I’ve found that confusion to be not atypical of the Young Pups who’ve come of age in the Era of the Film School (growled the Old Bitch).

    (Why, back in my day, we had to walk five miles through snow drifts — cling to ice floes like Lillian Gish — to get to the revival house for a nine-hour film marathon.)

  53. Marco on March 27th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    If that’s what it means, then I’m an old bitch too. I even get the Gish reference!

    I guess my BFA was showing…

  54. Rick Neece on March 28th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Quotes out of context in comments.

    “True cinéastes say that the ultimate French film will be a still photograph of a dead mime.”

    See New Yorker.