2008 Films People Hated But Which I Like

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2008 Films People Hated But Which I Like

Since everyone's done lists of their favourite movies of this year, I decided to do something a little different. I think the title of this post is self-explanatory. I will try to give a short explanation about why I like these films, but my reasons may not always sound concrete or convincing. But that's movies for you - inexplicable, incomprehensible, mysterious, subjective. If you should feel compelled to flame me for this, please do keep it civil though. Heh.


The Happening
If you read my review of the film earlier this year, I was very much in two minds about it. But after much thought, I began to appreciate what it was M. Night Shyamalan was reaching for with this kooky, quirky environmental horror-comedy flick (yes, I truly see it as a horror-comedy, not in a bad way, mind you). Sure, it doesn't quite work in some parts (feeding the animals at the zoo!), but as a parable about what happens when modern man is forced to go primitive, it's interesting. People are not only relegated to using primitive modes of transportation, communication, methods of protection, but something quite profound happens when the noisy modern world is silenced, and people begin to hear each other more clearly. I think The Happening is the most misunderstood film of this year.

Speed Racer
When The Matrix first came out, I called it "a lot of style but no substance." That was a decade ago. Now, I've learned to love The Matrix and stop worrying about style over substance. And I went into Speed Racer with a completely open mind. And was rewarded with a crazy, ecstatic, mind-bending experience that's not unlike getting into a washing machine and being swirled around in paints of different colours. Unlike, say WALL-E which pretended to have a serious theme about consumers' self-destructive tendencies, Speed Racer doesn't pretend to be anything but a kid's/family movie. Imagine if Uwe Boll made a videogame movie that only wants to be a videogame movie. Er, no wait, bad example. Anyway, because of the sheer sincerity of its intentions, and a whole new way of incorporating graphic design into film, this movie completely won me over. The next time you get stuck in traffic at night, pay close attention to everything around you, especially the other cars. Trust me, you'll start to understand the movie's aesthetics a little more. I know I did.

Sparrow (Man Jeuk)
Believe it or not, I have had people tell me they hated this Johnnie To film. They called it everything from "self-indulgent crap" to "a Hong Kong Tourism Board advertisement." I'm sorry, but did we see the same film? Sparrow is a musical without songs, the actors move as if in a dance, and it's To's endearing love letter to the city he loves. There's everything from French cinema cool to gangster noir and old-fashioned musical lilt, in this lovely and soulful meditation on home and freedom. This is Johnnie To pared down to barest, most essential minimum.

Hancock turned Hollywood superhero conventions on their heads. Some people regard the Big Twist as a cheat, one guy even claimed he predicted it way ahead. But check this out: those who thought they knew where the film would go (ie. programmed to expect certain conventions) hated the film, and those who were tired of those conventions loved it. There just hasn't been a Hollywood film this unpredictable, fun and entertaining for a long while (OK, expecting to be proven wrong here). After the Big Twist, I just couldn't tell where it was going, how it was going to end, and how much balls the movie would have. Here's a superhero movie that delves deeply into the whole idea of power, and one can only hope Alan Moore's original inquiry into power remains intact in the movie version of Watchmen.

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353haikuJanuary 1, 2009 12:47 AM

Sparrow was a great film. Was is as good as some of the other Johhny To classics? That is debatable, but I remember walking away from that screening with a big ol' smile on my face.

Collin ArmstrongJanuary 1, 2009 12:51 AM

Go Speed Racer! I loved the crap out of this movie. An apologist for The Happening as well. The first 30 minutes of Hancock had my hopes up... but the last 60 or so dashed them rather hard.

Niels MatthijsJanuary 1, 2009 12:54 AM

Heads up for the Sparrow reference, one of To's best, no doubt.

John AJanuary 1, 2009 1:33 AM

Sparrow is a beautiful film and is one of my favorites for the year. The pickpocket ballet at the end of the film is as stunning as any dance number out there.

Hancock is great. I for one loved the twist and the darkness of the second half compared to the first. You totally nailed it with the unpredictable comment. I'll watch Hancock multiple times which is not something I'll ever say about Iron Man.

I am also a fan of The Happening. I had a smile on my face the entire movie. It takes all the great aspects of what makes a good classic 1950s horror movie and twists them around into something modern.

Andrew MackJanuary 1, 2009 2:00 AM

Sure seems there is a lot of love for Sparrow in our family here The Visitor. Me thinks you just need to hang out with cooler people. I loved it as well. I have a soft spot for Speed Racer as well though I never saw it in the best of conditions and am regretting not getting at least a touch of a cotton candy headache from its hard candy shell in a cinema instead.

kevinJanuary 1, 2009 3:58 AM

I'm convinced the only way to act in M. Night Shyamalan movies is to pretend you have a concussion. Everyone sort of looks permanently dazed and uses phrases that normal people don't say (in English, at least). And yet I'll watch anything that presents Zooey Deschanel in lovely high def.

johnJanuary 1, 2009 6:21 AM

I too love Speed Racer. There's just something about the simplistic genuineness that I felt throughout the movie. I don't understand the hate for this film, but I'm glad to know there are others that like it.

Rhythm-XJanuary 1, 2009 6:39 AM

SPEED RACER is destined to be this year's "god damn it, I should have seen this in a theater" movie. The critical reaction it got compared to the orgasmic reception given to the good-but-not-great IRON MAN (which was redeemed by an unusually solid cast) and the positively abysmal INDY 4 (which was irredeemable) is an object lesson in why critics in the mainstream media are not to be trusted. SPEED RACER is thrilling and cinematic, a film whose very real flaws are born of trying too hard. It might just be a film that's too imaginative for the functionally retarded audiences and critics of today.

anton_esJanuary 1, 2009 8:43 AM

sparrow is brilliant. i'm not estatic about speed racer but it's not the load of crap some say it is. didn't see the happening but must say hancock did not turn any preconceptions i had about will smith as an "bad" superhero on its head, it confirmed it.

CuttermaranJanuary 1, 2009 9:01 AM

Speed Racer - Crap
Hancock- ok
Sparrow- Brilliant

momodotcomJanuary 1, 2009 9:25 AM

I'm actually in full agreement with this list...

Although, to be honest, I did watch Speed Racer and Hancock at the local dollar theatre...

ChevalierAguilaJanuary 1, 2009 8:47 PM

Anyone who hated Sparrow should not be allowed to enter a movie theater ever again.

AlephJanuary 1, 2009 9:02 PM

If Hancock had been dark and serious all the way through (or maybe the other way around, straight-up comedy), I would have liked it a whole lot better. Will Smith was quite brilliant in the role when it gets to the serious parts.

Sparrow was very disappointing but it's far from being a bad flick.

Never bothered with Speed Racer.

WotanJanuary 2, 2009 12:51 AM

Saw part of Speed Racer and didn't like it at all.
I haven't seen Hancock, it didn't look very interesting lol
Might check out Sparrow though :)

fuddufJanuary 2, 2009 10:35 AM

agree 100% on The Happening. Speed Racer had a couple of sequences which really blew me away, even though i found the whole movie kind of average. far from awful though.

IEDPartyJanuary 3, 2009 3:24 PM

People hated Sparrow ?

MilkywayJanuary 4, 2009 3:43 AM

Sparrow is my pick as one of VERY few best films of 2008 (along with The Dark Knight and Ip Man).

mahkiavelliJanuary 6, 2009 12:35 AM

Man, I really really really wanted to like "The Happening", but I couldn't get past the wooden acting and horrible pacing. I don't think I've ever been let down by a film more than I was with this one. I'm not even getting on the Shyamalan hate-train either - I LOVED lady in the water..