Category Archives: 1/10

Manchester by the Sea

manchesterNote: This is the second part of a review double-header!  Jesse sent two recommendations in a single shot so I’m reviewing them at the same time. Click here for the other review.

What Jesse said:

Two movies for you to watch: War Dogs, and Manchester by the Sea. Very different but excellent flicks. War Dogs is so absurd it will make you laugh and then wonder if the grownups really are in charge… also, it was funny ’cause it’s true (based on a real case). Manchester by the Sea was a pretty intense slow burn. Casey Affleck plays the main character. Watch out for the BAHS-ton accents. Family drama.

Mike’s verdict:

If you’re going to freak out every time you see a frozen chicken, I think we should maybe go to the hospital. I don’t know anything about this.

Judging by this quote alone, I should like Manchester by the Sea. Add the fact that it is packed full of awkwardness and I should really like it.  Awkward people just trying to exist in a world where all the little things are much harder than they should be; this is my favourite kind of movie by far. But let’s get things straight right up front: I did not like Manchester by the Sea and I am struggling for a reason not to give it 0/10.

Right from the beginning I was aggravated.  The dialog starts before the opening credits music has faded and it was annoyingly difficult to hear what seemed like an expository exchange.  It was a relief when the music finally stopped – little did I know that all the music in this film would be annoying, out of place, too loud or unnecessary.  It was never appropriate to the scene, nor even ironically inappropriate – it was just all wrong.  Music usage is a crucial aspect of film and when not done correctly it can be devastating even to an otherwise fantastic movie.

Of course, this is not an otherwise fantastic movie. Affleck is annoying before you even see his face. To be fair, he did start to grow on me by the end, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with the rest of the characters.  At first I wondered why his character would be so anti-social, but then it became clear; he has the most immediately unlikable family and friends imaginable. I can’t think of another film with so many genuinely unlikable characters.  None of them are relate-able as people. A good awkward movie is good because the awkwardness is familiar and understandable.  But all of the characters in this film are unpleasant – and they are definitely not helped by the awful fake accents that just make the dialog that much more painful to hear.

Thirty minutes in I wanted to stop watching. By an hour in I had checked the time remaining half a dozen times, and I really wanted to stop watching.  By and hour and forty-five minutes in I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to take anymore.  And then, inexplicably, it just ends abruptly without any resolution. Normally that would impress me, but this time it felt cheap; I had earned something more involved.

Maybe I’m out of practice. Maybe this is what passes for awkwardness in film these days.  In my day, we had people like Mark Duplass to show how awkwardness can be reveled in. I’d like to see him redo this film shot-for-shot with a better cast. The only actor that should stay in the Duplass version is Matthew Broderick. Yes, that’s right, Matthew Broderick is the single best part of Manchester by the Sea.  In fact, for his part I will give the film a whole extra point.

1/10


Ridicule

220px-Ridicule_posterWhat Jesse said:

[Unfortunately, I can’t remember what Jesse said about Ridicule.  He definitely liked it, and he was very indignant at my hesitation to spend an evening trying to keep up with subtitles. But at some point over the last year, while I was coming up with excuses to avoid watching the film, I managed to misplace the email with his thoughts. Oops.  Maybe he’ll send it to me again later so I can update this.  Update: Jesse re-sent his thoughts!]

Ridicule: I really enjoyed this French-language movie about the triumph of style over substance, or, how being witty and socially adept was the primary concern of bored French aristocracy in the 1700’s. Some pretty funny moments and amazing cinematography.

Mike’s verdict:

I am really not a fan of subtitles – for two important reasons. The first reason is everything that I miss while I am reading. Dialog in a film is usually important, obviously, but the visual is even more so – in fact, if it wasn’t crucial we’d all still be listening to radio. For me, the opportunity cost of subtitles is simply too high for anything other than documentaries.  The second reason is that subtitles are regularly plagued by errors. Unless written directly by the film writers, subtitles tend to introduce changes to the meaning of dialog, and often these changes are significant.

This is why I put off watching Ridicule, and as it turns out, I was right. Both of my concerns became reality during a painful hour and forty-five minutes.

Ridicule is supposedly about wit in late 18th century France.  I don’t know anything about 18th century France, but Jesse will agree that I know all about wit.  Wit is complicated.  Wit is precise.  It requires a high level of intelligence and vocabulary from both speaker and listener.  Most importantly, for a phrase to be considered witty, there needs to be agreement on the meaning of the words.  There can’t be ambiguity in any of it, unless the ambiguity is intentional.

And therein lies the problem. I have no idea if any of the characters are witty in French, but if they are then that wit was completely lost in the translation of the subtitles I had to read.

Not only was the subtitled dialog distinctly lacking in wit, I even found it incredibly difficult to follow the story. Actually, that’s an understatement – I literally have no idea what the plot was about.  An old man gets peed on. Some people flounder around a swamp to catch fish by hand. Someone steals a shoe and throws it in a fireplace. A guy hangs himself. All the while, people claim to be witty.  That’s all I got.

Maybe Ridicule makes sense to people who can make sense of French.  But it did not make sense to me, and I think the subtitles might have been written by this guy.

1/10


Gravity

What Jesse said:

Gravity was stupid but very entertaining. There’s only so much Clooney doucheyness a man can possibly endure and that movie pushed that limit to the brink.

Mike’s verdict:

Jesse got this one dead-on; Gravity is stupid. The story failed to suspend my disbelief in almost every way and at no point did I accept the progression of the plot as even remotely plausible. It’s one thing to have the hero be an expert that can make fantastical last-minute achievements to stay alive, it’s another thing entirely to have these achievements made by a bumbling idiot who just randomly mashes buttons. On top of this, add terrible dialogue and Sandra Bullock’s extremely annoying soliloquies. The whole thing is so bad that I barely even noticed the Clooney doucheyness.

As a film, my rating is 1/10. The story is just that bad.

That said, the cinematography in Gravity is absolutely stunning. The visualizations of Earth, the detail in the space stations and the actors fluid motions were fantastic. Even the final scene back on Earth looks great. The physics wasn’t even close to perfect but the most noticeable errors at least made things look good – this is science fiction after all. I don’t think I agree with James Cameron’s judgement that Gravity is “the best space photography ever done”, but I’ll admit it is the best fake space photography ever done.

Assuming a big enough display and the sound turned off, Gravity could be an engaging addition to the background of a party; particularly with the right music playing. But I would definitely not invite people over to watch the movie itself.