Friday, February 16, 2024

Notes on Film: Let the Hate Flow Out

 by Anthony King

Stupid is as stupid does as I finally come to my senses.

After a pretty mediocre start to my 1994 month, things picked up. I had a few rewatches and started tackling those white whales. Here's what I've been watching lately.

I needed a win so I decided to fall back on a tried and true classic that would hopefully change the course of my month. Thankfully, Kevin Smith's Clerks did just that. Mallrats was the first Smith I'd ever seen. My parents let me rent it in 8th grade, and they never forgave me. Anytime I'd pick up a movie and ask if we could rent it: “Is it gonna be another one like that Mallrats?” In high school, my best friend Kevin worked at Blockbuster and he's the one that introduced me to Clerks. I immediately fell in love with it. I wanted to be like those guys when I grew up. I wanted to work a dead end job and bitch endlessly about how the world treats me so unfairly. (Seriously, I did.) Kevin picked up a PVT (previously viewed tape) at work and thus began the endless loop of Clerks whenever we were around a VCR. The last time I watched it was about a decade ago, but I knew it still held power over me. It still carries a boatload of originality and proudly wears a tag that reads “PIONEER.” It truly ushered in a new wave of independent film that spoke to a younger generation. Maybe that same influence wouldn't be apparent to a younger general movie-going audience of 2024, but I can't divorce myself from how it spoke to me in 1996.

I got into my list from last week and, as expected, I wasn't completely blown away by what I watched, although I still enjoyed myself. First up was Airheads. It's funny, don't get me wrong. But an older me, who was watching these three rockers for the first time, found nothing to relate to. My music career is long behind me, and I could see an Anthony from 20 years ago falling head over heels for this movie. But alas, I'm old and boring now. Then I threw on Above the Rim. For the first 20 minutes I thought I could've been watching the worst thing I'd watch all month. But as soon as I got past the sub-par acting, I started to really enjoy the story. And being a huge basketball fan in the '90s, I was able to harken back to the power I used to feel from movies and the sport itself. Aside from Bernie Mac as a crackhead and Marlon Wayons doing his thing, the acting is atrocious. There's no way around it. The soundtrack, of course, was killer, and the basketball was fun as hell to watch (although the editing during the Shoot Out was pretty abysmal). Capping off the list was The River Wild, a movie with which I had so much fun. I'm so glad I wasn't disappointed at all after the previous two movies. I totally buy Meryl Streep as white water expert. Kevin Bacon, as per usual, plays an incredible baddie. And why did no one tell me John C. Reilly is in this? For god's sake he's one of the main stars!
Speaking of my white whales of '94, I completely forgot to include Ernest Dickerson's Surviving the Game on that list. By far, this was THE movie I wanted to see back in sixth grade, but my parents poo-pooed the idea of their 12-year-old watching a movie about humans hunting humans. What a picture! Patrick said it best during our text conversation while I was watching: “They're all having an intensity contest.” Nothing compares to '80s and '90s Gary Busey, and when that man was on, he was ON. And John C. McGinley is always bordering excessiveness, but he takes it a mile past the line here and I AM HERE FOR IT. While I won't spoil it, obviously people die in this movie, but I was hardly prepared for the order in which they are dispatched. This is an incredible modern exploitation masterpiece, and I will be revisiting Hell's Canyon time and time again.
Along with Clerks, I also rewatched Dumb and Dumber and Forrest Gump this week. D&D is not a great movie, but it was such a crucial part of my adolescence. This was another one I hadn't seen in at least a decade and, whatever it may say about me, I still laughed my ass off. I realized so many of the conversations I had with friends during my teenage years began and ended with movie quotes, many from D&D. “Hey guys, Big Gulps, huh? Welp, see ya later!” “Excuse me. Gunman?” “Samsonite. I was way off.” How or why we included these quotes is lost in the nerdy past.
Forrest Gump was one I wasn't planning on watching again. I hadn't seen it since probably 1996, but it was such a huge part of the zeitgeist, I think I completely burned out on it. Everyone had the soundtrack and played it endlessly (which is why I hate classic rock now). Anytime an adult suggested we watch a movie, it was always Forrest Gump. I probably watched it 100 times in two years. It was everywhere, and I vowed to never watch it ever again. Including this year, as I was putting together my '94 list. But it was streaming in 4K, and I thought I'd just pop it on for a few minutes to remind me that I hate it now. That was a Thursday night, and both our boys and Bobbie were glued to the TV. And so was I. I drew myself out of my hypnosis at one point and realized it was almost 9pm on a school night, and both boys needed to still shower. We finished it the following night and Eben and I were sobbing messes by the end. Forrest Gump hits differently as a husband and father and adult. It's an incredible movie, and I can't deny it's one of my all-time favorites.
And that brings me to this week's topic. Why is it cool to hate on things that are actually good? It's easy to go against whatever big media conglomeration is trying to sell us. Disney and Marvel, for example. Now, I'm not a superhero guy in the first place, so I'm already in the anti-superhero boat. I also find it easy, though, to say, “I'm not watching whatever garbage you're spewing out this week because you're a greedy corporation.” Granted, a lot of what major studios put out on a weekly basis is crap, but before I even give something a chance, I shit all over it (usually just in my head). I was like this with Avatar, for example. But then I watched it last month and I was blown away. Forrest Gump seems to be another one. For me, I got burned out on it. But for many others, it seems that it's easy to hate Forrest Gump because it won a lot of awards, or it's popular, or whatever stupid reason could be conjured.

A lot of times I find myself hating on new movies without giving them a chance. Last year I watched more new movies than I ever have. And, to be quite frank, I walked away thinking I won't ever do that again. We don't go to the theater often, but when we do it's usually because my wife wants to see a new release. Most recently we saw Poor Things, a movie I had no interest in. I walked away having enjoyed myself but I won't ever watch it again. We saw Barbie last year, another movie I had zero in. Again, I enjoyed myself, but the longer it sits with me, and the more popular it becomes, I find myself leaning toward the negative side. I'm leaning toward the negative side, not because it's a bad movie (good direction, writing, acting, etc.), but because I'm sick of hearing about it. Two years ago we went to see Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. Again, I didn't want to see it. But this time I walked out of the theater with a head full of validation because I absolutely hated it. I have my valid reasons. But the more popular it got, the more people raved about, the more I seethed. Why?
I need to change this way of thinking. I don't have to hate the popular thing now just because that's how I used to be. More often than not, I'm wrong. Star Wars? Hated all of it. But I'd only seen two movies. And I loved them when I saw them. So a couple years ago we watched all nine and I'm a Star Wars fanatic now. Titanic is another Forrest Gump. It was so popular, and it dominated the culture, that I watched it with my mind already made up that I hated it. I never gave it a fair chance. But now I can go to Letterboxd and search “most popular” with the filter of “not watched.” Other than the throngs of superhero movies on there, I see movies – popular movies – that I want to see. Oppenheimer, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Call Me By Your Name, and Avatar: The Way of Water. I'm happy to say the only reason I haven't seen these movies is just because I haven't gotten around to it yet. And I'm happy about it. I can feel the hate leaving my body as I type these final words.

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