Writers' Note: Films We Love Despite the Haters
For this month's Writers' Note, BFB writers were tasked with selecting a movie that has been critically panned and explaining their love of it in spite of public consensus. Because they are not sheeple! And they can appreciate fine art without express permission from popular opinion! Read on for some BFB hot takes.
2010’s The King’s Speech is a movie whose reputation suffers from winning an Academy Award. Take a look at the top Letterboxd reviews and you will see why. It was going up against some heavy competition, including the other big winner that year – The Social Network. I like both movies. If I had to choose between which of these two movies would win a Best Picture Oscar, I would select The King’s Speech.
Thank you for continuing to read this entry. The crowd most often affected by this opinion is film lovers. David Fincher will always have his die-hard fans and the lonely origins of the social media giant Mark Zuckerberg resonate with so many. If it was about relatability, I would be alongside the defenders of The Social Network. I am more interested in the founding of Facebook than I am in British monarchs or the overtold story of historical moments in the build-up to World War II. For me, The King’s Speech simply wins in a battle of nitpicks.
The heart of The King’s Speech is a story of an unlikely friendship. In order for a national figurehead to overcome his greatest obstacle and ultimately his greatest fears, he has to become an “equal” with a commoner who does not have an abundance of respect for authority. Geoffrey Rush is charismatic and adds a perfect touch of assertive confidence to his role as the king’s speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Colin Firth (King George VI) received high praise from stuttering awareness organizations around the world for his realistic portrayal of the impediment. The screenplay was even written by a former stutterer, which adds yet another layer of frightening reality to the dialogue and the reluctance of the impeded to accept help.
The true achievement of The King’s Speech is that the cinematography, script, and editing work together to act as a stage for the actors to do their thing. The film's style is not always the way movies are shot, and even when it is, it can be done poorly. Director Tom Hooper and his team captured all the best work from the masters of the acting craft in this movie. It did more than enough to deserve its Oscar win.
Because the prompt is about a movie I like, I am not going to waste your time on all of my nitpicks of The Social Network. As I said, I like both movies. My personal favorite movie out of the 2010 nominees also did not win. The Oscars, however, are at their best when they are uplifting lesser-known movies (much like the BFBs) and use their selections to spread awareness of a worthy cause.
Out of all the movies on the list, The King’s Speech is the one I would have been least likely to hear of. I support the win. But if you don’t – if you prefer The Social Network, Black Swan, 127 Hours, True Grit, or any of the others – take heed of the words of Steven Spielberg before he read off the winner: “One of these ten movies will join a list that includes On the Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, and The Deerhunter. The other nine will join a list that includes The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate, and Raging Bull!”
Did someone say Will Forte and Domhnall Gleeson? In a movie? Together? Um, yes please!
As someone who gave A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018) five stars, I simply don't understand why it is loathed so much. The self-aware biopic stars Will Forte as Comedy Writer Doug Kenney during the rise and fall of the magazine National Lampoon. The film is comically dense with jokes that are so unbelievably witty that I want to personally shake Doug Kenney's hand. Unfortunately, I can't, so Will Forte will have to do (one day). My sense of humor is still somewhat juvenile, and the film successfully scratched all the itches in my silly little brain.
The cast also includes my ideal birthday party guest list with so many hilarious actors playing other hilarious actors from the era before; my personal favorite pairing is Seth Green as Christopher Guest. It seems that the main criticism of A Futile and Stupid Gesture was that Domhnall Gleeson's wig looked like shit and that viewers felt like it moved too slow as it spanned sixteen years (1964-1980), some of which were not very interesting.
On the contrary, I felt that the film was far much more fast-paced than other biopics; zingers fly left and right during every scene. With our deteriorating attention spans, I suppose it is subjective on what is considered boring and what isn't. For now, I shall wait on my handshake from Will Forte and A Futile and Stupid Gesture to receive the favorable reception it deserves.
Amanda Bynes is one of the greatest comedic actors of her time. No exaggeration. As tragic as the current state of her career is, the energy and charisma she brought to the screen in the early 2000s were unparalleled. She had her own titular TV sketch comedy show at 13 years old. 13! What the hell were you doing at 13? At her young age, she was wise beyond her years, and she was a force to be reckoned with.
In 2006, she released what I believe to be her magnum opus: She’s the Man. Now, I need to preface my description of this movie by saying that there is no way this movie would be able to get made by anyone outside of the LGBTQ+ community today. It involves cross-dressing and nuanced gender politics that teen comedy engineers in the mid-2000s were not quite thoughtful enough to address.
But I’m going to examine it from the lens of a Shakespeare adaptation, which it is. The movie is based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, one of his messiest plays to date, and involves impersonations, love triangles, etc. Except, this one is set in the high-stakes world of high school soccer (and athletic sexism).
Like 10 Things I Hate About You and Get Over It before it, the writing team (two of whom worked on 10 Things as well as Legally Blonde, shoutout to absolute legends Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith), uses its Shakespearean source to great effect. But it is Bynes’ performance that steals the show with her great timing, intuitive body language, and unique ability to make a throw-away line a quotable simply for its delivery. She and Channing Tatum, in his funniest performance to date, establish a really impressive banter and an engaging if somewhat toned-down romantic chemistry (PG-13 movies, man).
She’s the Man received a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes, and although it has become a cult classic for many who read the film as inherently queer-coded, it doesn’t seem to have much of a positive reputation outside the world of teenage girls who worshipped Bynes and watched it on repeat (me).
I really adore the movie, and it sneaks in a lot of good gags within its tropes. The restaurant scene is for many a highlight (Bynes’ reading of “when I close my eyes, I see you for who you truly are, which is UG-LY” should’ve won an Academy award) but I also go gaga for the fair sequence, the bathroom fight, and the incredibly silly soccer montages. I so badly wish it was rated R because I know it would’ve been even more absurd and provocative (an important combination that Bynes always finds the right mix of), but for what it is, She’s the Man rules.
A perplexed dream crash. Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012) is a gorgeous and intoxicating self-realization of vapid acceptance and moral-crushing peer pressure. Korine’s images serve not only as a hazy melancholy of beer, skin, and a consequent rabbit hole of criminal exercise, but sets all of those listed trajectories upon a candy-colored playground for its characters to operate and destroy each other.
I can see why people would initially lean away from something like this – a perverse exploitation show of objectified bodies and neon-lit summertime madness – but Korine’s commentary and liquid narrative on our vapid, hypnotic draw to self-realization and MTV aesthetic fun can’t be ignored that all these creative choices are done for a purpose. Korine mixed the nature of fleeting wholesome naivety of young life being thrust into the harsh, bare bones of what lays beyond the booze-filled, skinny-dipping rainbow.
The film really kicks into its hyper-cosmic stratosphere within its second half, as the main characters realize their celebration-filled fantasy wasn’t made for them. They feel discomfort when confronted with the criminal iconography and gangster lifestyle that was advertised as an idealistic holiday and the film quickly slides into a neon-lit, acid trip execution of a Nicholas Winding Refn movie. Or, if you prefer, a digital-era Michael Mann joint that makes for some of the most tangible, expressive 2010s pop photography you’ll ever bear witness to.
Korine sells a story that highlights the empowerment of materialism. It's a satire of the never-ending grind of a materialistic lifestyle and social media-influenced behavior. It questions the incessant need to feel important and gives meaning to the socially ineffective, which is perfectly encapsulated within the sequence of the character Alien (James Franco) delivering a brain-acid level monologue on his various vapid criminal-related possessions in order to impress. It's a sense of power that he holds close to himself: the amount of avaricious junk he’s got to his name.
Spring Breakers currently sits on an average of 5.3 at IMDb and a 2.8 on Letterboxd. Externally, I can understand why people would be turned off by its confronting imagery and visually confronting narrative style, but I confess, it’s all a part of the hell dreamscape, baby. The movie is Korine at his most reverie, which is rather telling because it is also one of his most human stories. So no surprise here, it’s an easy five stars from me. “Just pretend it's a video game. Like you're in a fucking movie.”
With such a stacked cast and camp premise, you would think that Penelope (2006) would be at least close to being a cult classic.
It stars Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catharine O’Hara, Peter Dinklage, and Simon Woods (AKA Charles Bingley in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice – imagine having a back-to-back slay like that). These actors break out their comedic and melodramatic chops and go absolutely buck wild with the movie’s ridiculous premise.
If you didn’t have the pleasure of stumbling upon this film on Netflix on your Kindle Fire at twelve years old like me, Penelope is a modern fairy tale of a girl cursed with having a pig nose. Yes, you read that right.
Only true love can reverse the curse which is no easy task when the world has ostracized Penelope (Ricci) since birth. Her mom (O’Hara) does the only logical thing: fake her infant's death and lock her in their mansion for the rest of her life. And if I was Penelope, I wouldn’t complain because her room was every child’s dream, indoor swing included.
Once Penelope turns eighteen, her parents decide it’s time to break the curse. After suitor after suitor flees the estate when they witness Penelope’s pig nose, only one person can save the day. James McAvoy — or um, I mean Max Campion.
Swaggering into Wilhern Manor with his greasy hair and borrowed suit, he intends to swoon Penelope just enough to get a picture of her for the tabloids. But this washed-up gambler is the only person who sees Penelope as a human being, so he abandons the mission and leaves Penelope wondering if she should keep letting everyone treat her like shit. It’s the classic "love yourself, accept yourself" coming-of-age dramedy, but stuffed full of more charm and personality than half the films with similar target audiences coming out today.
Penelope was a shared project between the UK and America (with a Canadian director and French cinematographer), and even at 12 years old I could sense the different tastes and techniques merged into a single project. And it works. The camera work continues to astound me, the editing is witty and fast-paced when needed to push a simplistic story along. The back and forth of the UK and American comedic styles playing along like some sort of tennis match is my sort of entertainment.
I’m convinced my positive view isn’t just nostalgia talking, because what other movie could make me this attracted to James McAvoy even while he looks like a rat dragged freshly out of a gutter? It has to be Penelope’s unique movie magic. I thank this movie for showing me how much personality can be inserted into a film. And for teaching me that rich people suck!
-Josh, Sophie, Lydia, Jack & Grace