Saturday, August 22, 2015

Against the Crowd Blogathon

Welcome to my post in the 2015 Against the Crowd Blogathon, hosted by Dell on Movies!

The blogathon's theme is pretty much what you'd expect: Pick a film that "everyone" loves (at least 75% on Rotten Tomatoes) that you hate, and a film that "everyone" hates (at most 35% on Rotten Tomatoes) that you love. Then say why.

This was far more difficult to do than I thought it would be, but the fact is: Since time is (unfortunately) a finite resource, I tend to only see films that I know I'm going to like, and there are very few cases in which I saw something despite terrible reviews. I almost didn't find films that fit the criteria Dell set up! Except in the case of a film that "everyone" loves but I hate. I kept trying to find another one, but I just couldn't do it.
I HATE THE DARK KNIGHT. I didn't want to step in it with this film AGAIN, but I don't think there's a film as universally loved as this that I dislike so much. In general, I prefer my comic-book adaptations to be true to their source material - i.e., FUN. The Dark Knight is not fun. Not that this is necessarily a problem; Batman has always been a "darker" superhero, and after the numerous terrible superhero movies we got before 2008, it was definitely time for someone to go there and put a superhero in the "real world", and deal with the real consequences of his actions. I was ready to like The Dark Knight. I really was.


The Dark Knight is two-and-a half hours of relentless darkness, with a murky, byzantine plot that on repeat viewings only shows more and more holes. It is a punishing film, not just because that amount of cynicism and darkness over that length of time would make anything a tough sit (and the film is far too long to sustain the mood effectively), but because there's not a single moment of levity in the whole damn thing. Heath Ledger gives a great performance as the Joker, no doubt about it, but he's not funny in a fun, belly-laugh way - he's funny in a queasy, sick-to-your-stomach way. He's insane, and he renders Bruce Wayne/Batman the biggest idiot in the world with his mere presence. The man was trained by the freaking League of Shadows... AND THEN BEAT THEM, and yet he's not smart enough to figure out that the freaking Joker is not exactly a man you can trust to tell any part of the truth. AND, despite their admirable ultimate choice in the ferry boat standoff, the citizens of Gotham are proven to be the ultimate sheep, blindly following whatever voice screams at them the loudest in the moment, blaming Batman for the Joker's reign of terror instead of the police, the federal government/policing agencies, or, ya know, the clearly crazy Joker himself (they get even worse in The Dark Knight Rises, BTW). Which wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except that it begs the question: These are the people Bruce Wayne is so intent on saving?

And despite the strength of the film's cinematography, the editing is all over the place, often resulting in action sequences that are very nearly incoherent. And if you haven't yet done so, I urge you to take a look at the video below, which goes into detail on this very topic.

But my biggest problem with The Dark Knight, the one that completely outweighs all my other problems with it as a film in its own right, is that it's basically the film that was responsible for the cult surrounding Christopher Nolan, a group of people who think that every thing he does is an instant work of genius solely because he deigned to touch it, and that the man himself is infallible. Nolan is clearly very talented, and I've been a fan since Memento, but after The Dark Knight, a film wholly unworthy of being called his best, he was put on a pedestal as The Greatest EVER by a squadron of comic book fanboys, and it has become impossible to get a word in edgewise or have even a slightly negative view of Nolan or any one of his films without getting ripped to shreds.

But hold off on the ripping of me to shreds for just a little bit, because...



Unfortunately, it falls just a bit above Dell's threshold for this part of the project (it's at 40% on Rotten Tomatoes), which I found surprising given the vitriol often thrown this film's way. So I can't "officially" pick this one. But I wanted something shocking, and there you have it. I like the ways in which it differs from the book, I like that it allows the kid to be as difficult as he is in the book (which is a lot, and which is both very true to life and very different from how kids this age are usually depicted onscreen), and I love the performances from every single cast member. I also think it nails its big scenes in a way that feels authentic and doesn't pander to the audience's tears, but earns them through virtue of the actors' honest performances and good direction. BOOM.

ANYWAY, my "official" choice for this one is...

Okay, technically, this one is also above Dell's guidelines, but only by 1 percentage point, and it was REALLY hard to even come up with this one. Because most of the films I love that I thought would sit low on the Tomatomater either didn't at all (Intolerable Cruelty) or were hovering around the 40% mark (D.E.B.S., Step up Revolution, Letters to Juliet), which is too high. Or, I only liked them, and even at that, mostly for the surface appeal (The Wedding Date, John Tucker Must Die) - I know these are bad but I kinda like them anyway.

But Touch of Pink, I love. It starts with Kyle MacLachlan's sublime performance as Cary Grant, the imaginary friend of the film's main character, Alim. The thing is, MacLachlan doesn't really look or sound like Grant, but it goes so far away from being a good impersonation that it somehow goes all the way back around to being perfect. In many ways a lot of the film is like that. It's not "good", but everyone involved genuinely poured their hearts into it, and it shows: The film feels warm and loving. Alim is a gay Indian-Canadian man living with his partner in Britain. His mother comes for a visit, and since she would be shocked and hurt enough as it is to hear he was dating a white person, he introduces his partner as his roommate. Complications and heartfelt revelations follow. The characters don't feel lived-in, exactly, but they do feel honest. And while the plot may be contrived and cliché, it's still very enjoyable watching these performers spin gold (or something like it) out of straw.

I love it, and you should, too.


  1. Noooooooo!!!! Not The Dark Knight! This is truly hurting my heart. I actually had tons of fun with this one. And yeah, it's the best comic book movie ever made by a fairly wide margin. And no, I can't stand Extremely Long and Incredibly Dumb. Frankly, I'm shocked it didn't qualify. HOWEVER, we are entitled to our opinions and in the spirit of this blogathon, you made some inspired choices. I commend you for it. Haven't seen Touch of Pink, but I am curious. Thanks for participating!

    1. I have tried and tried again with The Dark Knight and while I do appreciate some things about it (Ledger's performance, the cinematography, the opening bank heist), I find it wholly unworthy of all the praise heaped upon it. I get that it's a different take on the comic book/superhero movie, and that it changed the game with regards to those, but I still don't think it's any good.

      I think EL&IC was always destined to be a love it or hate it affair, given its subject matter, but I think the film takes real risks, and is wholly unafraid to be messy in a way most films dealing with similar subject matter have been.

      As for Touch of Pink, maybe it's because I have such low standards by this point regarding "gay movies", but even for all its cliché-ness, I find it very touching and heartfelt, and the actors give it more than it's worth.

  2. How dare you. The Dark Knight is a masterpiece! lol I haven't seen a Touch of Pink though.

    1. A masterpiece of incoherent editing, yes. lol

      Touch of Pink is very cute. Give it a try!

  3. I sought out The Dark Knight a couple of months ago since it seemed like a blind spot for me. I didn't think it was total junk but I'd never watch it again. Ledger was good but I agree it wasn't a fun performance, I'm also in agreement that these types of films should be diverting not heavy and sour which this was. And I HATE that inky black/blue color scheme where you have to struggle to see what the hell is going on! I want to watch the movie not try and figure out what's going on because I can't see it.

    I also love Touch of Pink. It's not perfect nor is MacLachlan's performance but when he's on it's a lot of fun. His description of the reason for plastic slipcovers "It keeps the evil fresh" cracks me up every time. The real star of the film though is Suleka Mathew as Alim's mother, she is nothing short of brilliant and the rest of the cast has to try hard to keep up with her. The actors playing her sister Dolly and brother-in-law come pretty close.

    1. Yeah, The Dark Knight isn't completely worthless, but it is outrageously overpraised. Sour is a very good descriptor for it.

      So true about Suleka Matthew in Touch of Pink. The actors playing the Indian family members are all so enjoyable, but she really kicks it up a notch. I think my favorite Kyle-as-Cary moment is when he's in the bathtub - "Please don't leave me with her like that," and "Not enough air pushing through the windmills of her mind." It's kinda sad that Jimi Mistry is so blandly melancholic in the lead, but I still love it!

    2. You're right about Mistry, he's okay but a performer with a stronger presence or star quality like John Abraham would have punched the part across more.

      The first time I saw this it was the opening night selection at the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, it went over very well, and the director was there for a Q&A after, unfortunately none of the cast, and he spoke very highly of everybody. He said that Suleka really jumped into the part of Nuru and that she's the one who suggested that great line about the complexion of the girl that was bearding for Alim. "What do you call that peaches & milk?" "Peaches and cream-yeah cream" "Anyway I'm lactose intolerant".

  4. The Dark Knight, for me, is one of the best crime dramas ever. It is so much more than a superhero movie and is impeccably well-made. I have never noticed any editing issues. I've always gone right along with it. I mean, come on, Nolan flipped a fucking tractor trailer in the middle of Chicago. That shit is badass. The replacement of Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal is perfect. I love Eckhart in the Harvey Dent role. And Ledger. That is one of the finest performances in recent movies. And I get a lot of dark comedy sort of laughs out of The Joker's actions. I need to stop before I hyperbole this movie to death. It's just so cool and intense. I get why you don't like it, but I think I like what you don't like about it.

    Great write-up! I haven't seen, nor hear of, your other pick. I had the same issue with picking a "bad" movie I love. At least one that I wanted to really back up.

    1. The editing really only makes sense in a 2-D world (which is why a lot of people don't notice: it has to do with the visual representation of space. For example, when the Joker's truck rams into the back of the van Harvey Dent is in, Eckhart gets slammed into the wall behind him, which we've been told through other shots is actually the side of the van, which makes no sense logically - he should slide towards the front of the van - but does make a kind of sense visually since it's in the "same direction" that we saw the truck ram into the van), which to me is emblematic of the film as a whole: The characters are pawns Nolan is moving around a chessboard - except for the Joker, who's a Queen and can move anywhere at any time. That can be exhilarating for parts of the film (particularly the opening sequence), but overall I find it tiresome. You'll get no argument from me about the strength of Ledger's performance, and I agree that Gyllenhaal is an upgrade from Holmes, but Rachel is still a nothing part, so why even bother?