Even after the terrific amount of praise that poured in after Roger Ebert’s death, it still feels like we haven’t adequately celebrated the man who essentially defined film criticism. Since today would’ve been Ebert’s 71st birthday, I suggest we formally discuss the movies we’ve “hated, hated, hated,” as Ebert’s book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie is an essential part of any movie lover’s bookshelf. I cheekily broached this subject in Weeklings!, but let’s get serious about the beloved movies we totally hated. Here are my five.
1. Moulin Rouge: The summer of 2001 was a critical time for me. I was 14, consuming every single new movie with friends, and realizing, “I can hate popular things! I can!” Case in point: this screaming coloring book. Moulin Rouge is a medley of every song you never needed to hear again. It doesn’t want to entertain you. It simply wants to happen at you while you mistake this shrieking, kaleidoscopic night terror for entertainment. Baz deserves an extra lashing for abusing the delicate firepower of Kylie Minogue.
2. Silver Linings Playbook: Correct me if I’m wrong: This movie begins by acquainting us — harshly — with an out-of-control maniac who terrorizes his family with violent tantrums, purports to make his therapy and recovery process seem realistic, then essentially argues that what he really needs is a flighty girlfriend and a Little Miss Sunshine-like danceoff to fix his extreme problems. How… funny? What is funny about this? What is redeeming about a story that movie that wants you to take its protagonists’ pathology seriously before undermining it with a cure-all romance?
3. Being There: This movie has its detractors, but not enough that I don’t fume every time someone brings it up. From the minute the opening fanfare from Also Sprach Zarathustra plays as Chance the gardener (Peter Sellers) leaves his dead employer’s estate, you know this movie has big plans to be cute. A simpleton wanders his way into fame, fortune, and near-deification simply by being at the right place at the right time, offering dim dialogue that’s interpreted as wisdom by the lionizing public. It’s a fun idea — for a short. As a movie, it is endless, and the cutesy conceit wears thin immediately. The final shot is one of the most on-the-nose, headsmack-worthy bits of imagery ever put on film. Now I’m angry!
4. The Blues Brothers: This 1980 “classic” needs just three more things to be funny: 1) jokes; 2) about 45 minutes cut from the script; 3) actual charisma. Guys, there is no gag to the Blues Brothers. They just wear sunglasses. How did this become revered at all, let alone the supposed benchmark for SNL cinema? I also hate any comedy where there is essentially no female presence, and this counts because Carrie Fisher’s bits amount to meaningless sideshows. And for the 50th time, John Belushi was a misogynist prick, and that comes across in all of his boorish, self-satisfied caricatures. Team Jane Curtin for life.
5. Dreamgirls: Man, remember when Oscar nominations came out and Dreamgirls was totally shafted in the Best Picture category? I loved that day. This was such a sober rendering of the 1980s stage musical that you may as well have done away with the songs and just let Eddie Murphy scowl onscreen for 90 minutes. I honestly prefer the Sparkle remake over this, because although Jennifer Hudson gives it her all, Sparkle actresses Jordin Sparks, Tiki Sumpter, and Carmen Ejogo all do a better job of conveying the Supremes attitudinal power than a near-lifeless Beyonce.
All right, your turn. What do we hate? And happy birthday to the late, great, and beyond-the-valley fabulous Roger Ebert.