24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Letters

'Inception' wins informal poll as most overrated movie of 2010 (Part 2)

December 30, 2010 |  7:00 am


Last week we asked readers to weigh in on the most overrated movies of 2010. In messages, comments and tweets, the feedback has come, and the consensus choice is..."Inception."

Christopher Nolan's action-puzzle had its defenders, to be sure. But the plurality of moviegoers who responded said that it, among all 2010 films, didn't live up to the praise it was getting. ("The Town" and "The Social Network" finished in essentially a tie for second.)

Much of the feedback on "Inception" came with some pithy comments . Among them:

"Big set pieces are the wizard's curtain."

"Inception, hands down. And it will be like a taco inside taco within a Taco Bell that's inside a KFC that's within a mall that's inside your dream!' Seriously. Inception."

"'Inception' is 'Ocean's 11' minus the hot dudes & charisma."

Of course the choice may have something to do with the fact that "Inception" received so much praise in the first place, and was also one of the biggest hits of the year. (But then, we suppose that's what overrated means.)

The movie still has a shot at winning the Oscar for best picture. Which would only make the supporters and the skeptics scream louder.  Which in turns means that the film may also deserve another title: the most polarizing movie of 2010.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Inception.' Credit: Warner Bros.


What's the most overrated movie of 2010? (Part 1)


What's the most overrated movie of 2010? (Part 1)

December 23, 2010 |  4:44 pm

You've been in the situation before. You hear about a movie for weeks on end from your friends and family. Then you finally have a chance to see it, and your first reaction is: "That's what all the fuss is about?"

Below, six movies from the past year that inspired just such a reaction among a number of our colleagues here at The Times. We offer up a synopsis of fans' belief in their greatness, and our colleagues' case for why they didn't live up to the hype. Write in and tell us which of these films (or another movie entirely) you think deserves the title of most overrated movie of 2010.

"The Town"
The buzz: Ben Affleck has crafted an exciting story filled with class tension.
The case against it: We've seen the working-class Boston setting before. The chase scenes are tired. And accents and outfits can't substitute for character depth.

"Winter's Bone"
The buzz: A gritty story with great atmosphere and a powerful central performance.
The case against it: Slow pacing, a contrived world and unearned bleakness make this the emperor's new clothes of the indie world.

"The Social Network"
The buzz: A timely story with crackling dialogue and great performances.
The case against it: A movie that's not nearly as much about sociological trends as it claims to be, and that derives power from truth when it's mostly truthiness.

"The Kids Are All Right"
The buzz: A funny and tender story of a uniquely 21st century family that breaks both social taboos and new dramatic ground.
The case against it: The novelty of the setup can't camouflage a dysfunctional-family dramedy we've seen before.

"Black Swan"
The buzz: A movie with style, scares and sizzling Sapphism.
The case against it: As subtle as a pit bull, it's camp disguised as art.

The buzz: A brilliant exploration of the subconscious and virtual reality, "2001" for a new generation.
The case against it: It might have seemed like a good idea in Christopher Nolan's teenage mind. But complicated doesn't mean brilliant, and the expositional sections are less fun than a freshman calculus class.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jon Hamm in "The Town." Credit: Warner Bros.


Film critic Kenneth Turan's 10 overlooked films of 2010

Film critic Betsy Sharkey's 10 overlooked films of 2010

What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 1)

What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 2)

What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 2)

December 22, 2010 |  8:15 am

Last week, we wondered which film was the most under-appreciated of 2010. Through tweets, e-mails and comments, many of you weighed in with your choices.

Some of the more popular picks didn't surprise -- they were big-release movies with a distinct sensibility that got dissed despite (or because) they felt unique -- "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" most notably among them, or even the Sept. 11 romantic tearjerker "Remember Me."

Others were indie favorites that simply never caught fire with enough people: David Michod's dark Australian gangster movie "Animal Kingdom," or Nicole Holofcener's intimate look at (mostly female) relationships, "Please Give." (For our critics' take on overlooked movies, you can check out Kennth Turan here and Betsy Sharkey here.)

And then there were the titles so different from pretty much anything else out there that they were bound to have their supporters (if not that many of them) -- Rob Reiner's throwback coming-of-ager "Flipped," or the documentary about Norwegian black metal (always Norwegian black metal), "Until the Light Takes Us."

But two films emerged at the top of the list: Matt Reeves' "Let Me In" and Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go." They were movies that wouldn't, on their face, seem to have much in common. 

One is a vampire tale and the other is a dystopian mood piece. One derives from a Swedish cult hit and the other from a British bestseller. One came from a fanboy director known for a monster movie; the other from a filmmaker who hadn't made a movie in eight years (and was best known for a movie about a Robin Williams weirdo when he did).

But the two films have more in common than it would first seem. Both directors use well-established genres, as a Trojan horse of sorts, for a movie of ideas. Both films are unlikely love stories. And both share a particular (and particularly bleak) worldview, one in which social forces align against helpless young people who are forced to resort to desperate measures to survive (and even then it's hardly a certainty).

That sentiment was not, apparently, widely appreciated in 2010. But there were plenty who thought it was under-appreciated.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Scene from "Never Let Me Go." Credit: Fox Searchlight


What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 1)

Film critic Kenneth Turan's Top 10 overlooked films of 2010

Film critic Betsy Sharkey's top 10 overlooked films of 2010

What's the most under-appreciated movie of 2010? (Part 1)

December 16, 2010 |  7:59 am

The Golden Globes' denial of any nominations for "True Grit" this week had a number of readers writing in about the unfairness of that awards show, which in turn got us thinking about snubs, and buzz, and quality and other issues that bubble up at this time of year. 

In this age of hype, a lot of films are overpraised, but almost as many get lost in the shuffle. We took an informal poll around the office about 2010 gems that somehow never managed to get their due and came up with an interesting mix of films. Our staff critics, Kenneth Turan and Betsy Sharkey, will weigh in next week with their own lists, but in the meantime here are some titles to get the conversation started (we've linked to some of our reviews too, to refresh your memories):

Some argued for "Let Me In," Matt Reeves' take on the Swedish vampire hit "Let the Right One In" that supporters said was written off as a simple remake and not appreciated for its character complexity and  visual flair.

One colleague suggested "City Island," the Andy Garcia family romp she said should have been a populist crowd-pleaser along the lines of "Little Miss Sunshine," but was only a niche hit instead.

Another made the case for "Devil," the M. Night Shyamalan-guided horror story about a group of people trapped in an elevator that she said became unfairly maligned (perhaps because Shyamalan had released "The Last Airbender" a few months earlier).

One reporter weighed in with "The Switch," the Jennifer Aniston-Jason Bateman fertility comedy that she  said was smarter than the average romcom but caught in release limbo after Miramax was dissolved.

And finally there was "Never Let Me Go," Mark Romanek's exploration of love and morality that several in the newsroom extolled as smart and haunting but was apparently too bleak for audiences.

So what film merits the moniker of most under-appreciated of the year, a movie that didn't get anywhere close to the attention it deserved? Titles, thoughts and arguments welcome (and of course it can be any film, not just ones mentioned here). We'll round up the responses and let you know which movie takes the crown.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Kodi Smit-McPhee in "Let Me In." Credit: Relativity Media


Lighten up, Leo DiCaprio? Readers respond, Sharkey bites back

August 13, 2010 | 12:20 pm

Leonardo DiCaprio2

On Tuesday, I began an essay examining Leonardo DiCaprio's career with this question: "Is it just me, or does it seem as if Leonardo DiCaprio's acting career has somehow lost its way in the seventh level of "Inception's" labyrinth?" And before the ink was dry, like a bad moon rising, the reactions started rolling in...

Eric, a reader who periodically checks in when he thinks someone should hold my feet to the fire, was typical of the first wave. The subject line said it all: "It's you, Betsy." He went on to chalk up my musings to "female hysteria," and offer a couple of remedies... but at least he had a sense of humor about it. Besides, as he put it,  "No one ever said being a film critic was going to be easy. The shadow houses are banned in Saudi Arabia for a reason, dear." I love it when he calls me  "dear."

RB checked in from the lobby of "the old Warner Hollywood Studio" writing: "Leo is right now at this very moment a man, an actor, a talent to cherish and not to direct." Bummer, I always wanted to direct...

Continue reading »


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