It costs a hefty piece of change to go to the movies these days. The price of a ticket may soon reach the height of the International Space Station, and the price of concession snacks rivals the cost of a surf and turf dinner. Going to the movies has become a large investment of time and money. The last thing you want is to be disappointed in the movie you chose to see.
So before you hand over your wallet at the ticket booth, I have some sage advice for all you moviegoers out there.
Don’t take a movie critic’s review and recommendation as gospel. They don’t always get it right. Case in point: a misleading review of An Officer and a Gentleman. A local newspaper’s movie critic at the time praised the movie as “an old-fashioned love story, the kind Hollywood used to make.” There was no mention in his review of swearing, nudity and simulated sex scenes.
We expected to see an old-fashioned love story instead of a modern-day lust story, so Macho Guy and I invited a single young friend to see the movie with us. It became apparent soon enough that we were not watching an old-fashioned love story.
Uh-oh. That’s not the moon rising. That’s Debra Winger’s bare butt! The only thing she’s wearing is Richard Gere’s Navy cap. Eek! They’re having sex!
I glanced at our young friend. She had covered her eyes. Awkward. Embarrassing. Mortifying. In a day or so, the paper’s Letters to the Editor section was flooded with letters from irate subscribers complaining about how far off the mark the critic’s review was. He apologized, but how do you unsee a movie you would rather not have seen in the first place if you knew what it was really like? I haven’t trusted a critic since.
Then there are the academy award winners. Trust me when I tell you to take the judgment of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a grain of salt. Heck, take it with a whole saltshaker. Some of the Academy’s best picture winners of late are enough to give pause to the average movie lover.
An example of a “you’ve got to be kidding” award winner is Birdman, this year’s academy award winner for best picture. From what I’ve seen in forums online, people either loved it or hated it.
I hated it. Birdman was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It was beyond awful. Beyond terrible. Beyond abominable. I wish I hadn’t wasted my money and the two hours of my life that would have been better spent watching grass grow and paint dry—and more enjoyable.
Macho Guy was taken in by all the media hype about Birdman. It won best picture, so it must be really good and he wanted to see it. We had already seen three of the nominated films—American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything—and all three were excellent. We decided to see Birdman before it left the theaters. We were visiting my baby sister at the time, and we took her with us. She has since forgiven me.
The first clue that we were about to lose two precious hours of our lives that we would never get back came from the cashier who was doing double duty at the concession counter. When we asked for tickets to Birdman, she said, “You really want to see that?”
The second clue: there were only two other people in the theater to see Birdman. I think they may have been tied to their seats.
About ten minutes into Birdman, I turned to Macho Guy and said, “Are we staying?”
He said, “Yeah, let’s give it a little more time to see if it gets any better.” It didn’t.
Not long afterward, my baby sister suggested leaving Birdman and going into another of the multiplex’s theaters to watch a different movie—anything had to be better than Birdman. Macho Guy was adamant about sticking it out, so we stayed. Big mistake.
There wasn’t one likeable character in Birdman, no one to care about, and no one to root for. It was a total downer and a total bore. It was peopled with unpleasant, self-absorbed unrealistic characters behaving boorishly. And what was with the drums? All through the movie someone played loud drum solos instead of incidental background music. The drumming did a number on my ears.
When Michael Keaton’s character leaped off a rooftop, we almost cheered because he was the main character, we thought he would die, the movie would be over, and then we could go home. No such luck. He flew like the Birdman hero his character portrayed in earlier film roles, or he imagined that he flew. Frankly, I didn’t care which. Still don’t.
When Keaton’s character attempted to blow his brains out onstage with a real loaded gun, he missed, dang it, and only shot his nose off. At that point, we were so disgusted with the movie that all three of us wanted his character to die. We wanted the entire cast of characters to die. We wanted our misery to end. We wanted to go home to try to erase the two hours of torture from our minds.
Obviously, narcissistic Hollywood loved Birdman because it was about actors and acting, hasbeens and comebacks. Hollywood is known for getting off on itself.
Film critics don’t have that excuse, so I’m not letting them off the hook for putting lipstick on the proverbial pig. However, there was a brave soul who dared to be different by calling Birdman out for not being worthy of Oscar. Richard Brody of The New Yorker writes the following in his review “Birdman Never Takes Flight.”
“Birdman” is an exercise in cinematic half-assedness: it tackles big questions and offers conventional answers. It yokes technical audacity to ordinary drama and complex stagings to simple cinematic compositions. Its devotion to the art of performance exalts an utterly familiar and unchallenging style of performance.
Brody saw clearly that the emperor wore no clothes.