Expectations can be a killer...|
by Brad Brevet, published on Friday, December 28, 2012 - 10:04 AM
Listing the best films of any year comes down to a matter of ordering -- Which film will I say was the absolute best? Listing the worst films of a particular year comes down to being honest with yourself -- Did I dislike it enough to call it one of the worst? However, when it comes to disappointments it's a different story.
As a movie critic, maybe it's different for me. People tend to believe critics should walk into every movie without anticipation or excitement. Then, if that perception is held up, those that disagree with your opinion will either say "Yeah, but you didn't want to see it anyway!" or "You were always going to like that film." I do my best to let my opinion be known before seeing most films (running a blog of daily opinions helps). I do my best to avoid expectations (not watching trailers helps with this), but that's the nature of being human. All said, if I ever lose my ability to anticipate or dread seeing a movie then put a fork in me... I'm done.
That said, at the beginning of the year I made a list of my Top 40 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 (#1-10, #11-20, #21-30, #31-40) and looking back at that list now I found seven of my Top Ten Films of 2012 -- Rust and Bone, Django Unchained, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly and Lincoln. Alternatively, eight of the films on the following list of my Most Disappointing Movies were also on that list and I've noted their placement in the blurbs below. I guess I can consider myself fortunate not a single one of my Worst of 2012 were to be found, though a few of my Dishonorable Mentions were among the forty.
I, like you, love movies. I look forward to seeing them. I look forward to finding hidden gems I didn't expect and yet, like you, I have the ability to be disappointed. People paint the movie critic as an emotionless drone that sits in the dark with their mind already made up. Sometimes that's true. I didn't screen The Guilt Trip or Parental Guidance for that very reason. I felt I could probably review both of those movies by simply watching the trailer. Maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong. It was a judgment call on my part and while some may look at that as a flaw, so be it...
All that build-up leads to the following list. Unlike my Top Ten of 2012 and my Worst of 2012, I don't have a ton of films that fell outside the ten and even the tenth selection was a bit of a stretch.
Tracking disappointments doesn't necessarily mean a film was bad, in fact I think on some levels Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises were disappointments, even though both generated a lot of conversation around these parts, particularly the former. Cloud Atlas could be considered a disappointment. At the beginning of the year I would have thought as soon as that awards screener arrived I would have rushed to watch it again... I didn't and haven't.
The buzz surrounding The Cabin in the Woods was huge, it didn't do a whole lot for me and even Beasts of the Southern Wild wasn't the life-altering experience reviews out of Sundance suggested it would be. As a life-long Tom Cruise fan, Jack Reacher left me wanting, Skyfall could have been so much better as it devolved into Straw Dogs Part II and all the buzz surrounding The Raid: Redemption was for naught.
No, not all of those films are bad movies, but there is a level of disappointment in each. My top ten is comprised of films I had ever so much higher hopes for and failed to achieve those levels of hope to a greater degree than those mentioned above. The largest difference, however, between the films that follow and many of the films I just mentioned, is that I won't likely watch any of these ten films again while I will certainly give some of the films above a second, third and maybe even fourth glance. Therein lies the disappointment...
To Rome with Love
Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg in To Rome with Love
Place on my most anticipated list: #6
I have come to look forward to every single Woody Allen film and my level of anticipation is more of an excitement to see how great Allen's next film will be rather than an expectation it actually will be great -- I hope that makes sense. He's always going to get the majority of the stars he wants and To Rome with Love was stuffed to the gills with Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Penélope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Riccardo Scamarcio, Judy Davis, Greta Gerwig, Alison Pill, Ornella Muti, Flavio Parenti and even Allen himself taking on a role.
In the last five years Allen has taken us to Barcelona, New York, London, Paris and now to Rome and it has been a whirlwind tour with five films I would watch long before several others and yet Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris are the two gems in that line-up while New York, London and Rome just didn't have quite the same energy, and a bit too much cynicism.
To Rome with Love's biggest issue was that it was simply too much. All the stories didn't tie together and the Benigni storyline could have been excised entirely and could have actually made it into quite a good film. I know it's tough to cast one of the more popular Italian actors in recent history and then cut him from your film, but to save the project, maybe it's worth it.
Snippet from my review: (read the full review here)
Woody Allen's To Rome with Love is great at moments, good in others and, at times, tedious. In all it's a testament to the lesson that less is more as he's loaded this thing with so many storylines, had the lesser of the bunch been excised he just might have had something to talk about as a solid follow-up to last year's hit and Best Picture nominee, Midnight in Paris. [...]
All-in-all, this is lesser Woody Allen on a whole with splashes of brilliance peppered throughout. The use of the Starlite Orchestra's "Amada Mia, Amore Mio" is so fitting and Darius Khondji's cinematography brings a few moments of wonder as a definite mood is set. There is fun to be had, but overall it's a bit too much.