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How I filled out an awards ballot

Flickchart: The Blog is right in the middle of the 2nd Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards. I took part last year for the inaugural installment and wrote a post about my experience as a nominator. This year, things were done a bit differently: the nomination voting was open to the public and not just to the contributors to the Flickchart blog.

The nominees were announced last night, and with that, the voting for the eventual winners has begun (go here to cast your votes). I won’t say too much about the nominations; a lot of it is for things I haven’t seen yet, so while I am disappointed that so many of my nomination votes didn’t go through, I can’t rightfully say with certainty that they deserve to be in over stuff that did make it.

Instead of talking about what did get nominated, I thought I’d share my ballot for the nomination phase. Voting was done with a point distribution system that allowed you to give extra push to certain nominees, but I’m keeping it simple here and just sharing my five picks for each category in alphabetical order.

Entries in blue are ones that ended up making the cut for nominations.

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5 Broken Cameras

Best Documentary Film
5 Broken Cameras
How to Survive a Plague
Indie Game: The Movie
The Invisible War
The Queen of Versailles

I didn’t see a whole lot of 2012 documentaries, to be perfectly honest. The only ones I saw and didn’t nominate were Mansome and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. That said, these five films are all interesting in their own rights. Three of them are Oscar nominees, one should have been, and the last is one of those narrow interest pieces that just happens to be within my field of interests.

Kon-Tiki

Kon-Tiki

Best Foreign Language Film
5 Broken Cameras
Eat Sleep Die
Kon-Tiki
Oslo, August 31st
A Royal Affair

Four of these films are from Scandinavia, so maybe I’m biased here. I knew that Eat Sleep Die would have a hard time gaining traction with anyone else, considering how very Sweden-centric it is and its limited international distribution, but it’s a great film that deserved a spot here on my ballot. This isn’t the last category it shows up in.

Best Animated Film
This is the one category I had to abstain in. I’ve seen zero animated films from last year, and I don’t have much desire to either apart from Wreck-It Ralph and Frankenweenie.

Mansome

Mansome

Biggest Disappointment of 2012
John Dies at the End
Mansome
Moonrise Kingdom
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
Take This Waltz

A hard category for me to fill out. I even had to put Moonrise Kingdom in here, a film that I for all intents and purposes liked. Most of what I’ve seen from 2012 has lived up to most of the expectations I had for it.

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

Biggest Surprise Film of 2012
21 Jump Street
Chronicle
Dark Shadows
Goon
The Grey

The counterpoint to  the previous category, these were all films that ended up being better than I expected. Granted, a few here were ones that the hidden good word had gotten around about by the time I saw them, like 21 Jump Street and Chronicle. Even so, judging by the expectations I initially had, they still fit in nicely here.

The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles

Best Underranked Film
Eat Sleep Die
The Invisible War
Killer Joe
Oslo, August 31st
The Queen of Versailles

This is a Flickchart specific category that ties into the site’s core mechanic of comparing and ranking films. You can think of it as Best Film Not Seen By Many. So here we have a motley crew of documentaries, foreign language films, and one “totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story”. If you’re looking for some hidden gems of last year, you’d do well to check out these five.

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

Most Anticipated Film of 2013
Before Midnight
Oldboy
Only God Forgives
The Place Beyond the Pines
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Make no mistake: this category is all about Before Midnight for me. The rest is filler.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Most Underrated Film
The Grey
Kon-Tiki
On the Road
The Queen of Versailles
Rock of Ages

The words “underrated” and “overrated” are ones I rarely use. Just who is it that’s rating it higher or lower than me? Here, I latched onto the further guideline supplied by awards supervisor Ross Bonaime: “film you thought didn’t get the audience it deserved”. Loosely interpreted, this can go for all five of these films.

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Moonrise Kingdom

Most Overrated Film
American Reunion
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lockout
Moonrise Kingdom
Take This Waltz

Or “film you thought received more attention than it deserved”. Like Biggest Disappointment, I had to nominate a number of films here that I actually liked: American Reunion, The Hobbit, and Moonrise Kingdom. These all got more attention than what I felt their quality warranted. Then we have the terrible Lockout, which, bafflingly, some people thought was okay, and Take This Waltz, which of the five is probably the closest to the usual interpretation of “overrated.”

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

Worst Film of 2012
Bad Ass
Get the Gringo
Killing Them Softly
Lockout
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

I didn’t like any of these films, but the first three mentions on the list are at least not terrible. I suppose I should be quite happy with the movie year of 2012 based on that.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Best Scene in a 2012 Film
The chicken scene – Killer Joe
“I Dreamed a Dream” – Les Misérables
“Valjean’s Soliloquy” – Les Misérables
Pi wanting to show God to the tiger – Life of Pi
“Wanted Dead or Alive” – Rock of Ages

This is a new category for this year, and a fun one it is. There was a lot of scenes I regretfully had to leave off, and some that I just forgot outright – the surgery scene in Prometheus should probably have gotten a mention from me, for instance. Still, this is a cool list. I could have put more Les Mis on it, perhaps.

Looper

Looper

Best Writing in a 2012 Film
Rian Johnson – Looper
Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley – Kill List
Tracy Letts – Killer Joe
David Magee – Life of Pi
Gabriela Pichler – Eat Sleep Die

Ever since watching the great screenwriting documentary Tales from the Script, I’ve been reluctant to praise or complain about screenwriters, because you never know if that great line of dialogue was theirs or an ad-lib, or whether that weird story turn was something they wanted or if it was due to executive meddling. I also don’t really know anything about screenplays, so what this category really reflect for me is well-crafted dialogue and/or interesting stories. Looper, Kill List and Killer Joe are ones I admire for their sheer ambition and out-there-ness. Life of Pi is a unique tale that must have been a real challenge to adapt. Eat Sleep Die is a marvel in Swedish film in that it actually reflects how people talk in real life, rather than the “theater on film” way of speech so common in movies in this country.

Oslo, August 31st

Oslo, August 31st

Best Directing in a 2012 Film
Joe Carnahan – The Grey
Tom Hooper – Les Misérables
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Ridley Scott – Prometheus
Joachim Trier – Oslo, August 31st

Like writing, directing is hard to judge, and easy to confuse with cinematography, editing and so much more. What these five films have in common is that they’re presented with a clear vision of what they want accomplished. A unified view, if you will. They’re all films I admire, too.

Kristen Stewart - On the Road

Kristen Stewart – On the Road

Best Supporting Actress in a 2012 Film
Samantha Barks – Les Misérables
Emily Blunt – Looper
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Alison Pill – Goon
Kristen Stewart – On the Road

A relatively weak slate of nominees from me, admittedly. The performances are all good, but apart from the amazing Hathaway and the novelty factor of Barks – who inside word says was very close to getting nominated – none of these are likely to be ones I remember five years from now. I should probably have put Gina Gershon and/or Juno Temple from Killer Joe in here in retrospect. Sometimes I forget things.

Matthew McConaughey - Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey – Killer Joe

Best Supporting Actor in a 2012 Film
Tom Cruise – Rock of Ages
Michael Fassbender – Prometheus
Garrett Hedlund – On the Road
Matthew McConaughey – Killer Joe
Andy Serkis – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I wasn’t sure whether McConaughey should be here or in Best Actor for the title part of Killer Joe, but ultimately, I figured that a case could be made for either, and it was easier to slot him in here. I’m a bit surprised that my fellow Flickcharters didn’t spring for Fassbender here, but hey, I guess Django Unchained needed its three spots.

Noomi Rapace - Prometheus

Noomi Rapace – Prometheus

Best Actress in a 2012 Film
Kara Hayward – Moonrise Kingdom
Nermina Lukac – Eat Sleep Die
Noomi Rapace – Prometheus
Alicia Vikander – A Royal Affair
Michelle Williams – Take This Waltz

I did not notice this until I submitted my ballot, but there are three Swedes represented here: Lukac, Rapace, and Vikander. Cool stuff. Still, this category is proof that I really need to see more female-centric stuff from 2012. I very reluctantly put Williams here: it’s a fine enough performance, but I had serious trouble buying into the character – something I ultimately attribute more to the writing.

Hugh Jackman - Les Misérables

Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables

Best Actor in a 2012 Film
Anders Danielsen Lie – Oslo, August 31st
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
Liam Neeson – The Grey
Seann William Scott – Goon
Suraj Sharma – Life of Pi

If you had told me just a year ago that I would put Stiffler on a ballot for Best Actor, I might have laughed at you. Still, he knocked it out of the park in Goon, so good for him.

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair

Best Overall Cast in a 2012 Film
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Killer Joe
Les Misérables
On the Road
A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair earned Vikander a mention in Best Actress, but I had her two co-stars Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard in Actor and Supporting Actor in my initial draft of the ballot. Les Mis got in in spite of Russell Crowe. If there’s one shining example here though, it’s Killer Joe. Everyone in that film was at the top of their game.

Gabriela Pichler

Gabriela Pichler

2012 Outstanding Achievement in Film
Joe Carnahan
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Matthew McConaughey
Gabriela Pichler
Channing Tatum

This is a very loosely defined category. Generally, nominees tend to be actors who have been in multiple films, or writer/directors. I had three of the former, two of the latter. I did make one big omission here: Anne Hathaway. She did strong work in The Dark Knight Rises and breaks my heart over and over in Les Mis. She should definitely have been here instead of one of the male actors. Oh well.

The Grey

The Grey

Best Picture of 2012
The Dark Knight Rises
The Grey
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
The Queen of Versailles

Here’s another thing I didn’t realize until just now: this is the only category I nominated The Dark Knight Rises for. It sounds weird, but I’m fine with that. That film just worked as a whole, and was a fitting end to the trilogy. It, and the rest of the films here, represent the best of what I’ve seen from 2012 so far.

 
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Posted by on 6 February, 2013 in Lists, Misc.

 

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Monthly Report: January 2013

I have no idea how this happened. I thought December was very movie-intense at 30 new films seen. Well, in January, I saw 42. Plenty of good stuff was at hand, including two terrific Best Picture Oscar nominees that stuck in my head for days and required multiple trips to the cinema. I did quite a bit of last minute catching up on documentaries and foreign language films of 2012 for award nominating purposes, too. Gotta love Netflix. February will have more work on its plate for me, so I expect there to be less time for movies. Then again, you never know…

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)
Fitting choice to open 2013 with, don’t you think? This is a more accessible and to me far more enjoyable film than what Miike tends to put forth. The first half is decent enough talky set-up; it’s nothing mind-blowing, but it does what it’s supposed to. The second half is the real gem here though, featuring some of the most badass samurai action I’ve ever seen. Just tremendous stuff, and a great way to kick off movie year 2013.
4/5

All Good Things (Andrew Jarecki, 2010)
I’m not sure why this film has to exist, or why anyone should have to see it. It’s not bad or anything; in fact, there are scenes that are quite impressive, especially the ones focusing on the central characters’ relationships towards each other, which are more complex than what one first suspects. The actors all put in solid efforts, too. It’s just that the story as a whole, despite being based on true events, doesn’t really feel like it’s anything special. There is some awkwardness to the way it jumps around in its timeline. It’s a watchable movie, but by no means a must-see.
3/5

ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, THE SECRET OF THE UNICORNThe Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg, 2011)
Oh, this was a joy to watch. I grew up with the Tintin comics, so this had a lot of nostalgia value for me. It’s way more than just that, though. It’s a hilarious movie, with Captain Haddock providing the lion’s share of laughs, but pretty much all the humor is right on the mark. The animation is teriffic and offers such beauty that it made me wish I had seen it in theater. The action is cool and imaginative, with the astounding “long take” chase scene being just the crown jewel of a big old pile of gold. What I found most impressive was how well Spielberg utilizes the animation format, smartly employing angles, shots and effects in cool ways that would have been tricky to pull off in live action. All in all, this is a teriffic film. The 2015 sequel can’t get here soon enough.
5/5

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 31 January, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: August 2012

August has been an eventful month to say the least. Not so much movie-wise, but my apartment move is largely complete, so hopefully things will return to normal here at the blog soon-ish. In the midst of all the moving mayhem, I still found time to watch a couple of films, most of which were solid experiences. One of those middle-of-the-road months, with no films earning scores of 1/5 or 5/5. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

The Promotion (Steve Conrad, 2008)
A comedy starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly as supermarket employees competing for a promotion. This set-up easily leads to certain ideas of what kind of movie to expect. However, rather than a crude laugh-out-loud kind of film, this one tries for a somewhat more down-to-earth and relatable approach to its material. Perhaps the fact that writer-director Steve Conrad had previously written both The Weather Man and The Pursuit of Happyness should have clued me in. The Promotion might not have much of a real point to it, but it moves around its plot with a certain surprising ease and presents some genuinely funny moments. Plus, you can always count on Reilly to deliver a strong performance.
3/5

This Is Not a Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi, 2011)
If this is not a film, is it fair to judge it as one? Because as a film, I didn’t like it much. The parts where Panahi, forbidden from working as a director and stuck in house arrest, talks about his planned next movie are good, showing the passion and creativity within that he has been forced to put a lid on. For the most part, however, this is just a semi-dull documentation of a man stuck in his home. It doesn’t make for a compelling watch. That said, this is an important document for many reasons, and the more one knows about Panahi and his situation, the more one will get out of this one. I’m very glad This Is Not a Film exists, and the low rating should not make you think different.
2/5

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal (Boris Rodriguez, 2012)
Why is it that whenever a film has a really intriguing title, the film itself tends to end up below par? Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is a slasher-ish movie with some sporadic attempts at comedy, but it’s never really scary, funny, or interesting. The question of whether human lives can be sacrificed for the sake of art is a good one, but it was handled far more compellingly in Stranger Than Fiction. Eddie isn’t a terrible movie, but I can’t think of any solid reason to reccomend it to anyone.
2/5

Art School Confidential (Terry Zwigoff, 2006)
Remember the scenes in Zwigoff’s Ghost World where Enid has to attend summer art class and battle with a teacher who sees hidden meaning in everything and students with no hidden motives to share? This film feels like a spin-off of those scenes. As a tale of one young man making his way through art school, this movie works quite well. Max Minghella is effective in the lead, and the blend between comedy, satire and coming-of-age works. The subplot about a serial killer is an unwelcome distraction, however, and the movie is peppered with great actors who aren’t being used to their fullest potential. Still, while it’s not as good as Zwigoff’s previous efforts, Art School Confidential remains an enjoyable watch.
3/5

Open Water (Chris Kentis, 2003)
If the idea of watching two persons float in the sea for over an hour tickles your fancy, this is the movie for you. Open Water doesn’t manage to create much tension, and the characters are not interesting enough to care about. As such, this while film feels quite flat. Things pick up a bit towards the end, but it’s too little too late.
2/5

OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009)
Quite a step away from The Artist, that’s for sure. This Bond parody certainly has its charm, and a lot of it can be attributed to Jean Dujardin‘s effective performance. The gags are more hits than misses, it plays off the genre tropes in fun and clever ways, and great effort has been made to make the film look and feel like a Bond film from the 60s – 70s. It’s not a laugh riot like Austin Powers, but it’s still worth a look.
3/5

The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)
I had a hard time following along with the details of this movie. The general premise was clear enough, but how the film moved from scene to scene threw me off a bit. Maybe the fact that I didn’t find the characters interesting or worth caring about had something to do with it. I could also have done with less soundtrack dissonance. At least the acting was decent.
2/5

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in many ways, but much denser and more complex – for better or for worse. I was fascinated by the subjects discussed and covered, and enthralled by the way the film was shot. There’s a lot of impressive cinematography here for a movie that’s largely just two people talking to each other. Certified Copy is probably too much to be taken in entirely in just one viewing – at least for me – but I’m looking forward to revisiting it at some point. There is more to be had from this film, of this I’m sure.
4/5

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
It’s the same kind of kinetic, impressive and grandiose action film that we’ve come to expect from Nolan in this franchise. Most of what was good in the past two films is good here too. It’s a fitting conclusion to the series, and it’s among the better films I’ve seen this summer. Still, with a movie like this it seems more important to explain why it’s not a 5/5 than why it’s a 4/5. It is the weakest film of the trilogy. It’s overcrowded, with screen time being spread to thin between the various characters. Some decisions with regards to the story feel unnecessary, and while there’s nothing wrong with the action scenes and set pieces, they don’t quite pack the oompf that feels required for the follow-up to The Dark Knight. These are relatively small complaints, though. It’s still a really good movie, as expected. Now I’m eager to see Nolan try something new.
4/5

Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga, 2009)
Which film is more admirable: the one that does something new and intriguing, or the one that sticks to something familiar but does it so well that it still stands out from the pack? Sin Nombre belongs to the latter category. It’s a thriller about people from Honduras and Mexico trying to make it to the US. It’s also about street gangs: the threat they pose, and the allure with which they sway people to their ranks. The story may not present many surprises, but the movie is still a treat to behold thanks to Fukunaga’s more than capable directing, the tight pacing, and the fine performances, of which Edgar Flores‘ shines brightest.
4/5

Total # of new films seen: 10
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the month: The Dark Knight Rises
Worst film of the month: Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal

 
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Posted by on 1 September, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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Noble failures

I recently got into a discussion online where I made the case that reducing talking about movies to “good or bad” (or similar simplified judgments like a numerical rating) can be detrimental. It’s useful shorthand to convey your general feelings towards a film, but there is always nuances and various aspects that can get lost in this simplification process. An example I used was The Exorcist. I gave that film a 3/5 score, which is basically the passing grade on my review scale. It means that I found the film to be okay and worthy of my time. And while that’s all well and good, it doesn’t tell you any details or reasonings. It doesn’t say anything about how I found the special effects to not have held up very well, to the point where some scenes that were probably scary in 1973 felt more inadvertantly comedic to me when I first saw it in 2010. Nor does it say anything about how good I felt the performances of Linda Blair and Max von Sydow were, or anything else. But now you have some reasoning and detail to my opinions on the film. 3/5 doesn’t provide that. 3/5 is just a number, and a number isn’t much more than a number.

1/5 and 2/5 are also merely numbers. As scores on my scale, they fall below my passing grade. If I give a film these scores, it means I didn’t like them overall. But again, the whole truth isn’t revealed. There are films I’ve given these scores that I can still appreciate for different reasons. Maybe the premise of the story felt fresh and unique. Maybe it tried to do something different that hasn’t been done much before. Maybe it managed to do a lot with a limited budget. Maybe there was one or two aspects of the production I was really impressed with. Sure, these movies didn’t fully succeed with their intended goals and I did end up disliking them (or at least found them to be lackluster) overall, but good ambitions can be worthy of praise alone. There is something to admire about a film that tries and fails, in some ways moreso than a film that plays things safe and turns out merely okay. So as paradoxical as this may sound, there are some films I’ve given 2/5 that I’m happier were made than some films I’ve given 3/5. Even if I didn’t like them as much.

I use the term “noble failures” here to describe these films. Failure might seem too strong a word in some of these cases, but they did fail. They failed to make the passing grade on my scale. And as my scale is highly subjective, so is the use of the word failure here. A noble failure can still have made back its budget and more at the box office, or received critical acclaim, or been a good movie in other people’s books. I’m not talking absolute failures here.

So what are some films I would classify as noble failures?

Well, Dogtooth is one. I really didn’t like this film, chiefly because it didn’t say anything. I’ve heard it described as a political allegory, but that didn’t work for me. What’s the message here? That people who have always lived in alien oppresive conditions might turn violent and want to escape? This isn’t a revelation. The movie is peppered with shocking moments of violence and sex, and it’s all for naught. That said, if taken at face value, there are still some scenes that are vaguely funny. And it’s a polarizing film for sure, so others have obviously seen something in the film that I haven’t. I might have disliked it, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to people so they can form their own opinions on it. It is at least a unique film.

Richard Kelly‘s Southland Tales is nothing if not ambitious. Every time I happen upon discussions about this film, I’m reminded of individual scenes that were actually quite inspired and funny (the commercial with the cars copulating, for instance). And there is certainly plenty of things to laugh about in the trainwreck sense, such as The Rock‘s constantly nervous steepling fingers, Seann William Scott‘s nonsensical babbling about how pimps don’t commit suicide, and the random musical number. But the film overall is just a huge mess, with a plot that’s impossible to make any sense of and a bloated running time of 140-ish minutes. I enjoyed both of Kelly’s other films (Donnie Darko and The Box), but with Southland Tales his imagination could have used some reigning in. This is a case of where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

What’s the best ever use of an animal in a movie? For my money, it might well be the dog in the 1975 postapocalypse film A Boy and His Dog. This dog is awesome, conversing with his owner in voiceover and expressing so much character through body language and such. It’s really remarkable. Sure, the film as a whole is weird and awkward, but man, that dog! Worth seeing for him alone? Quite possibly.

Many people love Rian Johnson‘s sly Brick, a film noir with high school kids. I found it rather boring in the way it plays out, but the concept is a novel one, there are some teriffic lines of dialogue scattered throghout and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead finds exactly the right tone, hovering just a tad above the material. I’m glad I’ve seen this film, even if I kept glancing at the clock throught my watching of it.

Another film beloved by plenty is Children of Men. I found this one needlessly cold, keeping the characters and story at arms-length that made it hard for me to care about what was going on. But it sure is beautifully shot in all its dystopian grayness, with wonderful cinematography and some amazing uninterrupted takes. People who appreciate these aspects more than me should definitely see the film if they haven’t already.

Low-budget horror film My Little Eye from 2002 is one that could just as easily have gone in my post on films I’d forgotten, as the only thing I remember about it is that I really wanted to like it but couldn’t. In a sea of cheap shoddy horror flicks, this one at least tried to provide some scares, tension and an intriguing mystery, featuring a plot with a bunch of teens taking part in a Big Brother-style reality show. The film didn’t work, but the effort was there. Also notable for featuring an early pre-fame appearance by Bradley Cooper.

What else? Darren Aronofsky‘s debut Pi, which has similar atmosphere to his later films but none of the emotional investment. Rubber, the psychokinetic tire movie that toys with meta elements to limited success. The Tracey Fragments, an Ellen Page movie which uses a unique, if tiresome, shot-in-shot collage style to convey the fragmented mind of a teenage girl. And many other films.

As already stated, I didn’t like any of these movies, and yet I think they deserve better than to simply be labelled “bad” and swept under the carpet. They all bring something to the table and try to be good. Compare this to a film like Captain America: The First Avenger, that is so absolutely stubbornly determined to be merely “okay” that it doesn’t dare aspire to anything. I liked Captain America and was reasonably entertained by it, but I really would have been just as happy having never seen it. These other films listed here, though? I’m glad I saw them all. Even if they’re not very good.

Do you have any films you’re glad that you watched, even if you didn’t like them?

 
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Posted by on 2 January, 2012 in Misc.

 

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