From the Archives: 5 Unpopular Movie Opinions Explained

From the Archives: 5 Unpopular Movie Opinions Explained

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Maybe it’s the playful contrarian in me or maybe I’m just weird, but I’ve got a lot of unpopular opinions when it comes to pop-culture. I am the guy who loved the ending to Lost. I am the guy that adores Man of Steel; the guy who thinks that Ang Lee’s Hulk is incredible; the guy who not only enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but was happy to see the reins pass to Shia LaBeouf BECAUSE SHIA LABEOUF WOULD HAVE ROCKED IT. So yeah, I find myself getting into needlessly heated arguments about pop-culture, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In an effort to continue this trend, I’d like to take a few paragraphs to expound some on my most unpopular opinions, and I invite anyone to lambaste or applaud me as they see fit.image1-23

1. Hot Fuzz is the best of the Cornetto Trilogy.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World remains my favorite of Edgar Wright’s output, but when it comes to the Cornetto Trilogy (when did we stop calling it the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy?), Hot Fuzz is king. Wright has yet to make a bad movie, and The World’s End is evidence of his consistent growth as a humorist and storyteller, but Hot Fuzz is so brilliantly funny and infinitely rewatchable, that it takes the cake for me. Perhaps it’s because my youth was filled with more cheesy action films than it was zombie movies. Perhaps it’s because Nicholas Angel is the most spot on parody of the action hero archetype there ever was. Or perhaps it’s because unlike so many people I’ve spoken with, I’ve seen it more than once. I beg anyone who has only seen Hot Fuzz one time to revisit it. It may not become your favorite film, but I’d bet money that your opinion of it improves greatly.

While the characters in Shaun of the Dead are somewhat “real-world” folks who find themselves in a ridiculous circumstance, the characters in Hot Fuzz are all heightened caricatures existing in an extremely heightened world … the precise world in which films like Point Break and Bad Boys II take place. Yet everyone in this world is completely aware of the films upon which Hot Fuzz is riffing. This insane duality of homage, self-awareness, and pure recreation of genre is something that each entry in Wright’s trilogy aims for, but none achieve so sublimely as Hot Fuzz.


2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the best Indy movie.

George Lucas was hot off of a divorce, and Spielberg was looking to work darker. As a result, Temple of Doom captured the adventure serial in its purest form. Temple of Doomis gross, shocking, and downright scary. The humor from Raiders is there, but it’s not quite as schticky. From the opening MacGuffin chase to Mola Ram ripping hearts from insolent chests using Thugee magic, the funhouse madness never lets up for a second. Yes, Indy essentially kidnaps a small boy. Yes, the fact that this is a prequel invalidates Indy’s character arc in Raiders. Yes, the depiction of Indian culture would be deemed problematic by modern standards. But the rampant madness and borderline tastelessness is what makes Temple so fun for me. I will admit that I’m likely biased due to the fact that if was one of the few VHS tapes I had as a kid, so most of the film has been seared into the folds of my brain. At the same time, part of its appeal to me as a youngster was that it felt like something that I shouldn’t be watching. Mom and Dad figured it was just some family friendly adventure, but hidden under the mass appeal shell was a subversive and seriously messed up movie. My parents were pretty strict with my viewing habits, so it always felt like I was getting away with something when I watched it. My unabiding love for horror films was most certainly instilled into me by Temple of Doom (and Tremors), which is a gift that has never stopped giving.


3. Batman Returns is the best Batman movie.

Christopher Nolan was very successful in dropping Batman into the real world, but to me Batman is not a real world entity. I like my Caped Crusader steeped in fantasy, and on that front Batman Returns delivers in a huge way. Tim Burton has said that the original Batman was 60% his vision and 40% that of the producers. Batman Returns has got to be closer to 100% Tim Burton. While that isn’t really a good thing anymore, back in 1992 it was a very, very good thing. Add to that a script penned by Daniel Waters (Heathers) and you’ve got yourself a strange, dark, exceptionally adult movie. The tone was so adult-oriented in fact, that the studios pooped their diapers and yanked the franchise back into candy-colored kids territory as a result.

If Batman ushered in the era of the modern superhero film, Batman Returns gave us a glimpse of how artistically diverse the comic book genre can be. We have yet to return to the tone of Batman’s second mainstream adventure, but if you’ve ever got a hankering for it, the film holds up nicely. Danny DeVito is playing the role he was BORN to play, Christopher Walken does that thing he does long before it was that thing he does, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman remains not only the definitive version of the character, but one of the finest and most iconic film villains in cinema history. The backgrounds for each of the villains are expressly supernatural, which jibes nicely with Burton’s aggressively gothic tone. In fact, the image we now universally associate with Gotham City is derived from Batman Returns, as is the tendency to make our Batman films villain based. If I were to criticize Returns for one thing, it would be that the villains are so compelling, Batman himself is kind of sidelined. Even so, the fetishization of Batman’s drive to put on a costume and fight crime is birthed here, as is the duality between him and Selina Kyle. Frank Miller may have taken Batman and turned him into the Dark Knight, but Tim Burton gave him a unique pathos that has thematically underscored every superhero film since. Danny Elfman’s score is his finest work this side of Forbidden Zone. Did I mention this is a Christmas movie? It’s a Christmas movie!

Iron Man 3 Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2013

4. Iron Man 3 is the best MCU movie

The main criticism of Iron Man 3 is that it doesn’t do anything to further the bigger story, yet that is precisely what I love about it. It’s just a solid Shane Black actioner with Iron Man at the center. In the greatest Shane Black tradition it features “buddy” elements, a hero talking smack at his captors, and it even ends with a battle at a loading dock. Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is partially responsible for Downey’s career resurgence, and it’s clear that he knows precisely how to utilize Downey to his fullest. The script borrows elements from the Extremis storyline, weaving together the neural connectivity of Tony’s armor and a post-Avengers bout of PTSD to tell a story that may not further the MCU at large, but certainly grows Tony Stark as a character. He learns a lesson about the trappings of his ego, and the responsibilities that come with his heroism. Captain America once asked Stark what he is without his suit, and Iron Man 3gives a satisfying answer. The bait-and-switch regarding the Mandarin is so clever, and taught us all a lesson in the power of film marketing, while showing the world once again why Ben Kingsley is the best. And it’s just so damn funny.


1. The Artist deserved to win Best Picture. 

It’s too easy to say that it was a weak year at the Oscars, and while that isn’t necessarily untrue (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the smelliest of garbage), The Artistdeserved to win on its own merits. I’ll admit that a lot of the appeal for the film comes from the fact that it’s a novelty, but I see no reason why novelty should be regarded as a slight. Film by its very nature is a novelty – one that is constantly changing. In 2011 the dawn of digital cinema was really hitting its stride, as was the idea that theaters are no longer always the best place to catch a flick. The medium was shifting, and the creators had to shift within it (fellow nominee, Hugo, was thematically relevant for the very same reason). The Artist is a potent love letter to the cinema of old and a lesson in creative flexibility and growth. Short of a few artistic flourishes, it is indistinguishable from the films of the silent era, and has just as much charm. But it’s not content to simply ape olden style. Michel Hazanavicius (who deservedly won Best Director that year) plays with the form by shifting the diegeticism of the sound to make certain sequences into statements about an artist’s resistance to change. By taking a stylistic step into the past, Hazanavicius pointed toward the future of film, and made a delightful movie to boot. And that very last line is one of the most effective bombs ever dropped.

Alright, y’all. I’m off to go love Batman v Superman more than anyone else on the planet.

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