I like movies. It’s true! And I’ve watched quite a few of them in my day. My tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older, though, as tends to happen, and so there are movies I used to be into that just don’t do it for me anymore. Here are some of them, and the reasons I’ve outgrown them.
For the better part of a decade, this was hands down my favorite movie. That decade happened to coincide with my twenties, a time when I was full of angst and uncertainty about my role in a world I had realized couldn’t care less about whether I ended up successful and content or burned out and huffing paint in the alley outside the local 7-11. So many of the themes in Fight Club resonated with younger me, and some of them still do, but as a guy in his mid-thirties with a wife and a kid I’ve become the sort of bourgeois middle-class nobody the members of Project Mayhem feared becoming. It’s over. The aging process has won. I know I’m not a beautiful and unique snowflake. I know I’ll never be a rock star. I know I’m part of the same decaying organic matter blah, blah, etc. But I’ve also got two other lives that I care about far more than my own (that would be my wife and daughter), and if I have to work an office job that perhaps does not meet society’s definition of resounding success in order to provide for them, so be it. I no longer live just for myself like the aimless, angry youth of Fight Club, and I’m just too damn busy to wallow in misdirected angst like they do. Oh, and the ending of the movie is pretty ridiculous.
Yeah, I know, it’s the cool thing to hate on Zach Braff and his directorial debut Garden State these days so I’m not saying anything revolutionary here. Honestly, Garden State is not a terrible movie. It’s just a movie that takes itself super-seriously and at times its sincerity leads to some truly groan-inducing moments, like its characters shouting into the abyss or one character telling another that listening to The Shins will change her life. (All these years later and I think my life would be roughly the same if I had never listened to their brand of bland, inoffensive indie rock.) If you’re young and its themes of directionlessness and parental alienation resonate with you, then you could probably overlook some of the movie’s weaknesses. I did for a few years. But then you get older and you see some other films follow a similar template and you realize it’s just the slightest bit trite and self-involved and you’ve matured beyond both the characters in the movie and their particular state of arrested development. In other words, it’s a lot like Fight Club but without all the punching.
There are quite a few comedies that could go on this list, but Napoleon Dynamite is certainly the one I outgrew the quickest. It took mere months to go from “Holy cow, this is a hilarious movie and more people should watch it” to “It’s a pretty funny movie and I’m glad it’s gotten so widely circulated” to “OH MY GOD, STOP QUOTING THAT F*^@ING MOVIE ALREADY.” You could make the argument that that’s not the fault of the movie itself, but look at Office Space in comparison. It’s just as over-quoted as Napoleon Dynamite and reached a level of cultural saturation that became downright exhausting, and yet I’d still list it in my top five comedies of all time. Napoleon Dynamite just doesn’t have enough cleverness behind it to justify repeated re-watchings, let alone having to endure poor impersonations of its titular character by that guy in accounting who thinks he’s the funniest person in your office.
Here’s a movie that would have been really well-served by not having any sequels. When The Matrix came out, its combination of plot twisty sci fi and mind-blowing special effects immediately won me over, and just about everyone else who saw it. Do you remember the first time you got to that main plot twist and how much it kicked you in your junk? Man, that was cool. Then The Matrix Reloaded came out, and it didn’t really blow you away but the action was still pretty awesome so you gave it a pass. Then The Matrix Revolutions came out and maybe you even paid to see it on an IMAX screen like I did and it was a heaping helping of not very good at all, and by then the original was starting to look worse by association. Kind of like how the Star Wars prequels cast a pall over that franchise. Even more unfortunate was how many second and third-rate action movies ripped off the bullet time special effect to cover their own incompetence and how that cheapened The Matrix by association as well. Now when I catch a few minutes of The Matrix on cable, it’s sort of like “Oh yeah, that was pretty good,” and then I change the channel to a rerun of Chopped or whatever. I even bought a copy on Blu-ray a couple years back, and it’s still in its shrink wrap. I’m not sure it will ever leave that shrink wrap, at least not until I sell it to someone else for a fraction of the price at which I bought it and they’re like “Hey, why not? That movie’s worth a couple bucks, I guess.”
Any Michael Moore Documentary
I specify “documentary” because Canadian Bacon is still the greatest comedy of all time. Haha, I’m joking of course. But at least it’s a movie that’s up front about being a piece of fiction, rather than pretending to be something else. The problem I have with Michael Moore isn’t that I disagree with his politics, but that he does his politics such a disservice by being so dishonest in his presentation. There’s no lack of criticism out there about how he deceptively edits his films, fudges facts and figures, and puts his voice front in center in a manner that comes across as narcissistic and not typical of a “journalistic” documentarian. Most of that criticism comes from right-wing pundits with their own agenda, but not all of it. Stephen Colbert had it right when he said “reality has a liberal bias.” It’s just a shame Michael Moore doesn’t trust in using reality to make his case for him.