A Few of My Least Favorite ThingsNovember 29, 2006
This is the time of year when those of us living in the United States pause to take a few minutes to express our thanks for things. Being contrarian by nature, I have decided to take a few moments to express my lack of thanks for a few of my least favorite things. You won't find mention of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Neither will you find mention of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, or Britney Spears, because they are far too easy targets for someone like me to take aim at. (Not in any particular order.)
Jessica Simpson: Lots of men drool over her but I find her to be singularly unattractive in every particular way. She really looks like a life-size Barbie doll - with features and form both plastic and unrealistic. What brings her to mind for me isn't her recent bomb of a movie (Employee of the Month, which I skipped), but her annoying TV ads for (I think) Direct TV. What does it say when an ad is so irritating that you don't remember what it's advertising?
Borat: Borat has become boring. At first, he was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the movie. Then I started watching Sascha Baron Cohen do his schtick everywhere he could book a guest appearance. It's always the same thing, almost line-for-line. Worse, it's almost all taken directly from the movie (from the opening section in "Kazakhstan," to be precise). Even the best jokes grow thin after a while, and this is far from the best material present in Borat. I also react adversely to hype. The "bigger" a movie becomes and the more universally it is applauded, the more easily I become sick of it. For me, Borat has crept over the line into overexposure, and I don't care if I encounter this personality again.
Saturday Night Live: Finally, after decades of watching this program, I have given up. I believe my expectations were reasonable: a few laughs. But it has been years since SNL has been sporatically funny, never mind consistently so. The problem may be that I was with the show almost from the beginning, back in the years when it was cutting edge and hilarious. Its slow, unsteady decline has been sad to witness. There was something of a resurgance during the Jon Lovitz/Phil Hartman/Mike Myers/Dana Carvey era, but after those luminaries left, the show entered a death spiral (for the record, I do not consider the Will Ferrell era to have been an improvement, although it's better than what's on today). SNL has turned into a time-waster, something people tune into out of habit. It is time to change my Saturday night viewing. If I feel like watching TV at 11:30 pm on a Saturday evening, I think I'll check out The History Channel or The Discovery Channel instead.
End of the Year Top 10 Lists and Awards: To an extent, I'm part of the problem. I vote in one awards pool (it's a requirement for keeping my OFCS membership) and religiously post a Top 10 list. However, I don't peruse other critics' lists and I don't care who wins the prizes doled out by the New York Film Critics or The Los Angeles Film Critics (or, truth be told, the On-Line Film Critics). That's the way I'm wired. I'm not impressed by prizes and awards. And I am bored by lists, especially when they're the work of a committee. (There's something to be said for lists made by one person, because at least those give insight into the writer's mindset.)
The Sopranos: When it first aired on HBO in the late 1990s, this was one of the most brilliant series on TV. David Chase is on record as having said that the orginal Sopranos arc was designed to be three seasons. Had he stuck to that, this might have gone down as one of the best series in the history of TV. Over the years, however, it has deteriorated badly, with every season (post-Season 2) containing only a handful of worthwhile episodes amidst a mountain of padding. I have stuck with it but without enthusiasm. Season 6a was awaste of time. I'll probably tune back in for the final batch of stories when they begin airing in March or April, but that's mainly to see whether or not Tony gets whacked. Truth be told, I no longer care.
Pre-Judging a Movie Based on Who Might NOT Make It: Specifically, I'm referring to The Hobbit. You can't judge a movie before it's made. The participation or lack thereof of a director is not a guarantee of success or failure. Good directors make bad movies. Bad directors make good movies. There's no guarantee that Peter Jackson, removed a decade from making The Lord of the Rings, would be able to re-discover triumph in Middle Earth. And there's no guarantee that another director with an equally strong vision wouldn't do as good a job (or a better one). Determinations cannot be made when there's no evidence. Give the director and his movie a chance. When Brett Ratner was named to replace Bryan Singer for X-Men: The Last Stand, fandom was in an uproar. But the movie turned out to be okay - not a home run, but entertaining. Those making the statement that they won't see The Hobbit unless it's directed by Peter Jackson are displaying a shocking lack of good judgement.
Boorish Theater Behavior: It hasn't gotten any better since I last wrote about it. One wonders whether it's such an effort for people to use mouthwash before going to see a movie. Or to take a shower at least once in the past week. Or to turn off their cellphone and (if they don't) not answer it when it rings. Or to not come to the theater if they're apparently dying of pneumonia. It has gotten to the point where mild problems like talking and kicking the chair's seat-back fade into obscurity. Given a choice between watching something at home (on a screener) or in a theater, there's no decision. Except during off-peak hours, theater going has become odious, and it's not because of commercials or projection problems or uncaring employees. It's because a minority of uncouth patrons treat an auditorium like their own living room or bathroom. Try enjoying a movie when the guy sitting next to you smells like smoke, alcohol, and something unidentifiable but not pleasant.
The Ebert Foreword
It has now been nearly seven years since I stepped tentatively into the world of print publishing and, although I can't claim the experience as a whole was negative, there were enough negatives associated with it likely to prevent me from working ...
Odds & Ends
"Special" Sunday entry this week because this one covers a lot of miscellaneous topics, none of which deserves its own column...The Golden GlobesFor some reason, there's an expectation that I should have an opinion about the impact of the WGA strike ...
Friday Afternoon at the Multiplex
It's multiplex bashing time again! This is a semi-regular event in this space because the more time I spend in multiplexes, the more irritated I become. At this time of the year, with so many general releases falling into the "not screened for ...