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Our Most Overrated Actors – Now Conspiring

the most overrated actors

Just because they are famous, doesn’t mean they live up to the hype. This week on Now Conspiring, we talk about the actors and actresses we consider overrated but not before playing a good ol’ round of Would You Rather.

We also discuss a little bit of what we did during our Easter weekend and our family traditions like ultra-challenging egg hunts.

Later on, we reply to all of your comments which were all mostly related to 13 Reasons Why and how it could negatively affect people suffering with depression.

Question of the Week: Who is the most overrated actor?

Go on…Our Most Overrated Actors – Now Conspiring

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‘La La Land’ Is Not Overrated Because You Hate It

la la land

La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and directed by Whiplash director Damien Chazelle, is a clear frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, and it will likely win. Weirdly enough, a lot of people across the filmgoing spectrum aren’t very happy about that.

The set up for the movie is deceptively simple: two dreamers living in present-day LA fall in love as they both struggle to accomplish their audacious creative goals. If that sounds a lot like Singin’ in the Rain, then you’re on the same page as the director. But as you watch the actual film, you’ll probably notice more material riffed from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) than anything else.

It’s a contemporary musical, essentially, with original music and some bold homage cinematography, especially toward the film’s vigorous “What if?” epilogue. And though many critics and audiences have gone head over heels for the film, myself included to an extent, there’s been a decisive backlash against the merits of La La Land and whether or not it deserves all the praise it gets.

Yes, people are calling it overrated, and these complaints will absolutely be exacerbated if the film continues to clean up this awards season, already cinching several key Golden Globes this past week.

Overrating is Overrated

la la land

Now, I’ve always been quite open about my stance on calling films “overrated,” in that I think it’s an empty criticism. For the most part, I’m reacting to the fact that I didn’t resonate with a movie that was demonstrably more effective for a wide group of people at a very specific time. That may not “last,” and the film may fade away despite its momentary fame (see films like Crash and Avatar). But that doesn’t invalidate the positive moviegoing experience genuinely had by many…even if some watchers cling to a popular opinion instead of what they they really think, which doesn’t mean a film is overrated. It’s just been overhyped. Propped up on what it represents rather than what it does.

You can make an argument, then, that La La Land is overhyped, but I would also disagree with that, as well. Though the film can be as negatively deconstructed as any other creative property, it’s still incredibly well-realized and well-made. Even if you disagree with some of its core messages and what the script intentionally tried to communicate.

From here on out, this post contains SPOILERS for La La Land

The Subtlety of Homage

la la land

Some of the criticisms of La La Land are definitely valid and meaningful observations. The idea that it might lift a bit too much material from movies like Umbrellas and Singin’ is a worthwhile concern, especially in how the final moments of the film are directly inspired by the former. Simply put, a film’s use of homage has to be backed up by originality and imagination in many other areas, which is where I think La La Land expertly makes up the difference.

See, the music of La La Land, while good, is not intended to be the film’s main hook. Sure, it’s catchy, but as you’ll notice, it’s not amazing. The singing and dancing portions aren’t perfect, and that’s sort of the point. Chazelle set out to present a fantasy movie with dreamy cinematography, noted by the very first scene/musical number, which is a literal dream sequence to kick things off. But a “dreamy” fantastical movie wouldn’t have worked without grounded, motivated characters.

The world of La La Land would have been a pretentious bore (much in the same way it’s wrongfully criticized) if the main leads were allowed flawless performances. The point isn’t to entertain with flashy perfection, but rather with likable showstoppers who suck us in to a believable world, a musical trick that’s a lot harder to pull off if you’re at all familiar with the legacy of Broadway.  La La Land presents a creative solution that might come off as sloppy work otherwise if you’re not already aware of the real talent from Stone and Gosling.

One example is when the two leads sing the reprise of “City of Stars,” and part of the way through, Mia messes up and laughs it off in the song. This one moment goes pretty far to encompass what La La Land is really prioritizing, and it’s not perfection.

Beginning and Ending

la la land

There’s also something to be said about how the film opens and how it ends: with a “Cinemascope” throwback and then a clear lift from Umbrellas, a timeless classic in the same celebratory vein. But this type of homage works because it fits the context of the movie, with aspiring talents who also compare themselves against the past. It makes perfect sense for someone like Sebastian (a movie buff established through his James Dean fixation) to fantasize his career, romance, and the struggle between the two within the backdrop of a familiar dream sequence.

When I first watched La La Land, I admit I was a bit cold from how the film transported Mia and Sebastian to their lives “five years later.” I found it quite convenient that both characters got exactly what they wanted, though the film presents it as a “Yeah, but at what cost?” By the end, both characters have given up their passionate, seasonal romance for their careers, and they seem bittersweet about it. But at first glance, it can be hard to reckon a message that suggests that giving up your love for others is what will lead to the exact success you want. It’s not very realistic, even for such a dreamy movie.

Thinking on this more, I’ve come to accept that La La Land traded its relatable character work in order to hammer the final message home more effectively, in that we would have missed Chazelle’s point if both or even one of the characters fell short of their goals. And the film’s more subtle explanation is that their amazing romance and support of each other is what pushed them through the impossible obstacles that kept them focused on getting what they each want.

Mia confronts Sebastian, for example, when he’s selling out his real dreams for momentary fame. If she hadn’t have done this, then perhaps the ending would have been more “believable” for us. Likewise, if Sebastian hadn’t traveled all the way to Nevada and demonstrated his love in the simple act of remembering even the obscure details of a girlfriend, Mia’s ending would have been the typical “I tried LA and failed” story.

Perhaps the movie makes you work a bit harder to accept all of that, but it hardly detracts from the film as a whole. If anything, it supports the case for La La Land being one of the more rewatch-able films of the year, despite the fact that it’s not even in my top 5, strangely enough. It’s still a movie I applaud, though, and will fondly revisit for years to come.

One last thing…

la la land

One frequent criticism of this movie that I do take umbrage with is the attempt to trivialize this story through a racial lens. That the movie is stuffed with “white entitlement” and “out of touch” elitism from Hollywood, which is supposedly why the movie is being so widely accepted by people in the industry.

My simple response to that is stop. I’m not white and I don’t live in LA, but I do have basic empathy. I can watch a movie with two leads who have harmless (and well-written) motivations that are shared by living breathing people in that very town, and I don’t have to cut down the purpose of this movie because it’s not something I directly relate with. For the same reason I can connect with Chiron in Moonlight through flawless filmmaking and writing, I can follow and hope for the best with Mia and Sebastian.

Is it so bad that Mia wants to become an actress? Should we stop making movies about people dreaming big and suffering to get it because of the connotations of appearance and privilege? Is it so bad that Sebastian wants to preserve music that’s quickly being forgotten, even if it’s not tied to him ethnically? The idea that he’s purported to be a white savior type suggests that his agenda is to “save jazz,” which is a projection of the critic, not something founded in the movie. Sebastian instead wants to celebrate a legacy in his own way, surrounded by others who do it justice and celebrate with him.

It’s just a shame that with a movie as technically impressive and crowd-pleasing as La La Land, we have to assign it so much baggage from other, lesser properties that actually commit these flaws, simply because we recognize a morsel of it and smell blood.

Wrapping Up

Despite my defense of La La Land, it isn’t among my favorite movies of 2016, though it lands in the top 10. It works the whole way through and has some tremendous moments, and I do want to shine a light on the great ideas here, rather than shout it down for its popularity. For many fans of musicals and movies in general, La La Land really is a must-see film.

Grade: A


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Snarcasm: Harry Potter Has Sucked This Entire Time

harry potter sucks

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

I wasn’t allowed to read the Harry Potter books when I was a child. And as a book-obsessed fourth grader who watched his friends read Prisoner of Azkaban during recess instead of playing four square  with him, this was one of the more sinister things my parents have ever done to me.

For that reason, I’ve never felt a part of the Harry Potter fandom quite in the same way I did with Pokemon, Pixar movies, and other fixtures of my childhood. Yet when I secretly watched my cousin’s DVD of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at age 13, I fell in love without even trying.

Years later, I’ve seen every movie a handful of times and have a very basic knowledge of the Harry Potter mythology. Just this past week I’ve started reading the first book and am about halfway done, but before I join the legions of book fans who evaluate the literary value of the adaptations, I want to speak out just once more as a movie purist (almost).

Which brings us to this week’s Snarcasm, based on a recommendation from the comments last week. In 2013, Witney Seibold of CraveOnline wrote a “troll” piece about Harry Potter just to “piss people off.” He says this outright in the subhead.

It’s decent armor because anyone who disagrees just has to shrug and say, “Well, he announced himself before trolling, so that’s somehow fine.” But we of the Snarcasm know better.

WARNING: Spoilers for the Harry Potter movies from this point forward.

Headline:

Harry Potter SUCKS!

In other news, Lord of the Rings is BASIC! Kendrick Lamar is BAD at Rapping! Expired Milk is DELICIOUS!  And other obviously wrong hot takes.

Look, to say with all-caps that Harry Potter simply “sucks” is just anti-intellectual. And it reeks of sensationalism before we’ve even gotten to the text.

Of course, there’s plenty to criticize with Harry Potter, and an article that attempts to start those debates is welcome. But when your headline and first few paragraphs are nothing but monologuing about how brave you are to say something outlandish and obviously wrong, intellectual integrity goes out the window.

Welcome back to CraveOnline’s Trolling, my dearest readers. This is a series of articles devoted to building up the things most people hate, and tearing down the things most people love.

He forgot the last part of that sentence: for oh-so-delicious clicks.

It is designed to spark thought and debate, and perhaps shake up the complacent geek status quo.

Debate? Sure. Thoughtful debate? Not even close.

A natural byproduct of this series will naturally be outrage and argument, so if you have hateful things to say, I wholly encourage you enter them into the comment section below. Be rough. I can take it.

In other words, there’s nothing valuable about this article. It’s trying to be dismissive in order to get a rise out of you. They believe that joking as trolls is somehow different from annoying, troll behavior. It’s not.

You may feel like going on the attack when I make the following statement: Harry Potter sucks.

“So I’m saying everything aloud to make it better.”

Seriously, this is getting boring. We get it, Witney.

He goes on to explain how it’s been some time since the last Harry Potter film released, and the buzz around the franchise has mostly subsided.

I’m not going to let it go so quietly. Based largely on the Harry Potter movies, I am going to dissect and analyze, in a very general way, what Harry Potter did wrong.

His idea of “dissecting and analyzing” boils down to a 4-argument slideshow that mostly just nitpicks (and not very well). Let’s begin.

#1 Harry Potter is a Murderer

harry potter sucks

What?!?! That sucks! You’re so right, Witney! The main character killed someone and that NEVER happens in fiction! Burn your books, everyone!

Think of Harry Potter’s story arc.

Well, someone has to.

He starts his saga as a put-upon 11-year-old boy who learns he is has magical powers, and was unexpectedly enrolled in a complex and dazzling school for wizards and witches. While at school, he learns that his parents were murdered by a wicked classmate of theirs, and it’s up to Harry (tracing shades of Hamlet) to avenge their deaths.

This is a lazy summation. Harry Potter is about a boy wizard who tries to prevent a powerful sorcerer from being resurrected. It has about as much in common with Hamlet as the trailer for Good Burger.

As the books and the movies progress, they get increasingly dark and turgid, characters die, and everyone mobilized for a great war with the evil classmate in question.

Evil classmate? At this point, Voldemort is way beyond that sort of modifier.

So the whole point of the story is to watch a sweet-hearted 11-year-old boy be whisked into an enchanting world, only to be primed for combat, to feel hate and fear, to watch loved ones die, and to ultimately commit murder at age 17.

There’s so much wrong with this statement, I’m about to revoke Witney’s Internet discussion license.

“The whole point” of Harry Potter is how friendship and love is more powerful than magic. Some people may have their own interpretations, but Rowling is quite clear about how this is framed. The dark elements of the story exist for two main reasons: to make the power of Harry’s love for his friends more believable and compelling, and because it’s a coming-of-age story set within a magical world. The story has to be dark for it to make any sense.

Harry is not “primed for combat.” He’s primed for defense. And ultimately, his “final” act is sacrifice, not brutally murdering Voldemort. Snape even says to Dumbledore that he’s been setting Harry up for “slaughter” because they both know Voldemort has to kill Harry.

harry potter sucks

Of course, Witney would know this if he paid any real attention to anything that has to do with Harry Potter. Or he’s just conveniently leaving it out because those clicks just look too darn good to pass up.

Aside from that, Harry’s cunning, wit, and luck is what helps him overcome many of the obstacles throughout the movies, and that’s what’s rewarded. His loyalty to Dumbledore in the 5th movie, getting over his angst and loneliness throughout the series, his realization that the government and media aren’t always right, and his acceptance of the burden that is fame and being “the chosen one,” are all key examples.

But no, let’s dumb it down by saying he’s motivated by “hate and fear” because…I’m not even sure where you got this?

This is not fun or magical or dramatic. It’s just dark and sad.

That’s your fault for mischaracterizing the entire story. And even with your own logic, watching characters “die” is actually quite dramatic. 

Harry is no hero.

Despite all of the heroic things he does, like sacrificing his life in the final book.

Hogwarts is no school.

Don’t let those classes and teachers fool you.

Harry is a brainwashed soldier who was intentionally psychologically damaged by his bootcamp.

harry potter sucks

Brainwashed? Harry spends the majority of these movies rebelling against his teachers and the Ministry of Magic because they don’t believe a thing he says. This argument is completely, bizarrely unfounded, as the students as a whole are consistently punished for taking unnecessary risks, misusing their powers, and being violent.

He may be depicted as heroic, but one can easily see the parallel between Harry and Gomer Pyle from Full Metal Jacket.  

Yes, “one can easily” see a lot of things, like a writer finishing his point with an obviously irrelevant comparison. I hope Witney starts “dissecting and analyzing” soon.

#2 Voldemort is a bad villain.

Now this is a common criticism actually worth debating. I think the Voldemort character is somewhat mishandled in the movies, but overall, his effectiveness as a villain is more subtle than I think people realize.

If our hero doesn’t quite cut the mustard, maybe the villain of the Harry Potter world can pick up the slack. Sadly, Voldemort doesn’t really have much to add to the proceedings either.

Well then pass the ketchup and turn on that there lawyer show.

Let’s take a look at his arc. He was found to be an immensely powerful young lad who was rescued from the Muggle world by Dumbledore, only to eventually flip out and go on a genocidal spree that is never fully explained (at least not in the movies).

Maybe not “fully” explained, but I would argue sufficiently explained. Voldemort very clearly has it out for the non-magic people of the world, as well as anyone who isn’t of pure blood. His arc makes more sense when you put it up against the other villains of the series who are influenced by him. Voldemort is a more understandable figure when you consider the beliefs of the Malfoy family, Severus Snape, and others.

Unfortunately for Witney, that’s too much dissecting and actual analysis for him to keep up with.

Along the way, Voldemort picked up hundreds of disciples who would obey his every command. Why do people follow this guy? He’s a slimy, pale, clearly evil noseless crackpot. 

harry potter sucks

Yeah, I bet he would only be dangerous if he was…hmm…maybe immortal or something? Oh, and super powerful. But since when do people follow leaders with power?

Again, even the most casual HP fans pick up why Voldemort is so influential. Prejudice in the wizard world (which we mostly see in Hogwarts) is a major theme of the movies. Of course someone who wants to capitalize on that prejudice would pick up followers seemingly out of nowhere, especially if he’s killing anyone who tries to stop him.

He has no charisma, no philosophy to sell, and only seems to rule his minions with threats of violence and death.

Even a fourth grader should be shaking their head at this. Voldemort has power and wants to use it to make the dreams of bigoted wizards come true. Respect through fear is also a very real thing, Witney. If an all-powerful wizard who can’t die threatened you to do something, I’m quite sure you’d go along with it.

We are never really given Voldemort’s motivations.

Wrong.

He’s just a bad egg from the start.

Wrong.

Yawn. Bad eggs are not rich or complex, and certainly cannot lend any texture to what is supposed to be the central conflict in the entire Harry Potter film series.

Not joking, guys. I absolutely do not want to know what kind of “texture” Witney is asking for here.

#3 What the Heck is the Function of Hogwarts?

Ah, we’ve arrived at the most common complaint lobbed at Harry Potter, mostly because answering it requires listening comprehension.

Because one of the first things Harry asks in the first movie is what people do after they go to Hogwarts, and guess what? This is answered.

Harry is a wizard, and goes to a wizarding school, which lies hidden in the remote hills of England. He goes there to hone his wizarding skills. He learns to mix magical potions, cast spells, and ride around on broomsticks. This is all very neat and fun and adventurous. But I can’t help but wonder: What exactly does a diploma from Hogwarts offer a young wizard?

If only the movies explained this all the time.

Even if they didn’t, these “fun adventures” are usually very dangerous and frightening, which motivates Harry and his friends to become more powerful. So of course, a diploma is more of a symbol of how these wizards can contend with the dangers of an even more dangerous world outside of Hogwarts.

harry potter sucks

The only other adult wizards in this universe are either shop owners or teachers. Some work for an ill-defined Ministry of Magic, whose function isn’t too clear either. Are those the only choices of employment once you graduate? 

You just said that all of the adult wizards in Harry Potter either run shops or teach. Now you’re saying they work for a mysterious wizard organization that you confess you know nothing about, despite how straightforward the ministry is in these movies.

Seems legit.

That said, we do meet many wizards with specific jobs and roles throughout Harry Potter, and even more are alluded to. Some use magic to keep the wizard world secret, others track down dangerous beasts all over the world, aurors act as magical police, Ron’s dad works with cursed muggle artifacts, and so on.

And this hardly matters, anyway. Rowling decided to keep the focus of Harry Potter on Hogwarts, rather than provide mounds of exposition in order to explain what will happen during a part of Harry’s life that the story doesn’t even explore. We still get clues and inklings of what exists beyond the school, but not so much that it would distract from the main story.

Why is it important to be a powerful wizard if you’re just going to work either as a retail wonk or a government clerk?

Well, Hogwarts doesn’t necessarily train its wizards to be “powerful,” just simply well-versed in magical abilities. Powerful wizards get the jobs I mentioned above, such as how one of the older Weasley brothers studies dragons.

The Hufflepuffs probably do a lot of the government work, I’d imagine.

If that’s all Harry has to look forward to, doesn’t his arc seem churlish?

He goes on to become an auror, you walnut.

harry potter sucks

Some of the wizards have no working knowledge of the “normal” world. Hogwarts, then, is painfully backward in their curriculum. Sure, there’s plenty of magic to learn, meaning classes in the sciences may seem a bit unnecessary, but where is the literature? The music? The sex ed? The three R’s? Do any of these kids ever do a single math problem? 

For beings who use magic to do everything, “muggle subjects” are quite unnecessary. This is somewhat alluded to by how amazed the wizards are by muggle things Harry takes for granted. Also, Hogwarts students don’t take any of these magic classes until they’re 11, so the rudiments of math, logic, and reading comprehension are probably focused on during their early education.

I feel bad for English kids who never get to read Shakespeare or Dickens. You learn to move things with your mind, but you never get to read David Copperfield. That’s a bad school.  

Right, let’s feel bad for kids who grow up with magical abilities. They’ll never know the joys of reading Gone Girl and watching Teen Titans Go. You know, unless they do all of that in the summer.

Besides, the wizard world has its own literature and even music more relevant to their culture. Ron mentions how The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a staple of his childhood that Harry and Hermoine compare to Cinderella. As for the rest of these weirdly specific subjects you mention, there’s certainly room for us to imagine that these children aren’t painfully ignorant of them simply because the story doesn’t waste time addressing it.

After all, there’s a reason Rowling doesn’t spend much time showing us what’s actually going on in these classes unless the teacher is doing something absurd.

#4 About Half the Movies are Just Bad

No, about half the movies are just OK. None of them are particularly bad, save for Order of the Phoenix, which is a bit mediocre.

harry potter sucks

That said, how does this mean Harry Potter sucks? This statement suggests Harry Potter only “half” sucks.

You didn’t even go to Hogwarts and you can’t do math…

The films based on the Harry Potter novels begin strong, and then take a dive somewhere around film #3.

A bold suggestion considering the third film is considered by many to be the best. But I’ll wait for you to explain yourself (for some reason).

The fourth is pretty good, actually, but the fifth through the eighth are, well, convoluted and badly filmed.

I really just want to end this Snarcasm right now.

Look, the Harry Potter films are far from perfect. And I have no qualms with anyone who simply dislikes them. But that’s just opinion, not a real analysis.

Here’s what I think, so take that for what it is: the films are consistently solid, with some highs and some lows. You can criticize all of them for many legitimate reasons, such as pointless, convoluted side plots and deus ex machina. But you also have to credit the films for bringing Rowling’s incredibly detailed and rigorous mythology to life. The cast is fantastic and ages well with the movie. The sets and effects provide some remarkable eye candy, especially with the wizard duels. The soundtrack is iconic, which the movie gets full credit for. And many of the performances are well above average.

The movies are perhaps the worst kind of literary adaptation, i.e.: they rely less on telling the story in a fresh way, and more on merely depicting what has already been fleshed out on the page.

This is idiotic hyperbole. The worst kind of literary adaptation is when you subvert the message of the books and make the source material seem worse.

We can agree that the movies mostly play it safe and just try to get the story out, not addressing what a truly good film this story could be. But that’s a fairly forgivable flaw for a studio that was tasked with bringing such a monumentally important book series to the big screen.

This means that the movies are not adaptations, but mere dramatizations of key plot elements from the books.

I’m seriously just repeating myself at this point: Witney, you’re wrong. The majority of everything you say either makes no sense or just comes off as intentionally idiotic.

The pace is too quick, the tone too dark, and the story too complex for most of the movies to work as actual dramas. Important stuff and unimportant stuff whizzes by without any sense of majesty or portent.

Finally, some fair criticisms that I actually, sort of agree with. But these problems are why the movies are not masterpieces. They don’t discount all of the positive aspects of this franchise that make it pretty good, if not great.

harry potter sucks

Is Harry Potter still enchanting and wonderful? For a short while at the beginning, yes. For the first two films, I had no complaints, and found them to be dramatic and fun and dazzling.

Really? Because I would argue Chamber of Secrets is one of the weaker films of the series, and it contains a lot of the complaints you were referencing earlier pertaining to Voldemort’s backstory. But hey, these are just your own words we’re talking about.

The world of Hogwarts and wizards is still a unique and enjoyable place to ponder, built on a complex and intriguing mythology, and seems like the type of place you’d want to visit or even attend for seven years. The series contains many flashes of adventure and fantasy that captured the world like no other fantasy novel. Eventually, though, the Harry Potter series climbed up its own ass and set up camp.

Witney, you’re wrong. The majority of everything you say either makes no sense or just comes off as intentionally idiotic.

 This is one of the laziest “hot takes” I’ve read in a while. It shows only a third-grade understanding of what’s being discussed, the text blatantly aggressive, and it contributes nothing to any real discussion about these films and what they mean.

In other words, it’s vintage 2013 clickbait.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Snarcasm: Well, Someone Has to Hate ‘Finding Nemo’

finding nemo hate

Snarcasm is a weekly series about the worst articles on the Internet, and how we can snarcastically deal with them. 

Now that Pixar has gracefully released the first trailer for Finding Dory, I thought it would be refreshing to dive back into the fun we had with Finding Nemo 12 years ago.

In fact, I tried to find negative articles and opinion pieces about the new trailer, but I surprisingly found no one willing to be that person (outside of your friendly neighborhood comment section).

So I suppose that means Finding Nemo was universally beloved?

Ha, of course not. And that’s not a bad thing! You’ll always find someone who dislikes a movie you enjoy. But that doesn’t mean their reasons always make sense.

finding nemo hate

Back in 2003, Stephanie Zacharek (writing for Salon at the time) wrote one of the most confusing movie reviews I think I’ve ever read. And preparing for this weekly series means I have to read a lot of junk to decide what gets featured, so I hope that sinks in. OK, I’m done with the sea puns.

Anyway, Stephanie recommended her readers skip Finding Nemo altogether with the tagline,

Pixar’s latest animation wonder — a shimmery, velvety undersea coming-of-age story — sure is beautiful. But why should we spend two hours looking at it?

…because it’s beautiful?

Also, that’s not the last time she finds a way to weave in the word, velvet.

There’s no question that Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” aglow with translucent sea flora and shimmering, iridescent creatures, is beautiful to look at.

Right, even by today’s standards.

Who wouldn’t be entranced by that corps of pink art nouveau jellyfish, twirling about in their deadly underwater ballet, or by the sight of painstakingly adorable Nemo himself, the movie’s hero, a brave little Halloween-colored clown fish with googly eyes and one shrimpy fin?

…Go on.

Every moment in “Finding Nemo” is magnificently orchestrated to tease a response from us

Oh, not this again. From Up to Inside Out, you’ll always find a film critic getting hot and bothered by the fact that Pixar uses emotion to its advantage. Then, a week later, criticize an action movie for being heartless.

and those who don’t fall for it are sure to be denounced as insensitive, blind to the magic of animation and, last but not least, pitiably unable to view the world through the eyes of a child.

So brave, Stephanie. Nothing gets a review started on the right note like defending your criticism with self-victimization.

But after years of cultivating the eyes of a grown-up, I like to think there’s something to be said for using them.

In other words, “All other critics are childish, but I’m not.”

“Finding Nemo” is lovely to look at — and time and again I found myself asking, “Who cares?”

I’d hate to go with you to the Grand Canyon.

It’s possible that “Finding Nemo” — and most computer animation in general, including other Pixar micro-masterpieces like “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters Inc.” — offer too much of a good thing. 

Too much beauty? Is that really the criticism we’re resorting to? That’s why people should skip this?

How much microscopic detail can the human eye absorb before it stops registering that detail altogether?

“Ah! Shield my eyes! If I can’t grasp it all in one moment, there’s no way I can appreciate this!

Wait, you mean I can come back to the Grand Canyon?”

I certainly noticed that the navy-spotted back of the stingray schoolteacher in “Finding Nemo” looks so velvety it seemed you could reach out and touch it.

The horror.

When the movie’s action took us above the surface of the ocean, I noted the multihued glimmer of that surface and dutifully scribbled in my notebook, “Lovely sun-gold on blue sea.”

You just complained that there’s too much beauty to love, so now you’re bragging about everything you caught that you think everyone else will overlook?

So, not only are critics childish, but audiences are moronic.

It’s all beautiful, all right. But before long I began to feel beaten against the rocks of that beauty

This has to be a prank.

“Finding Nemo” smacks of looky-what-I-can-do virtuosity, and after the first 10 minutes or so, it’s exhausting. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton, the movie is filled with bits of cleverness to keep the adults, as well as the kids, entertained.

Let me guess: the next line is about how you like the thing you just complained about.

And yes, I did laugh at the way the seagulls squawk “Mine! Mine!” as well as at the lobsters’ distinct Boston accents.

There we go. Nothing makes your criticism look as valid as a good old fashioned contradiction. Because if you reread those last few lines, you’ll see that she first complains the movie is exhausting, then she admits that it’s clever enough to keep you entertained.

But “Finding Nemo” works terribly hard for every scrap of charm or humor it imparts. 

Now we’re mad that the movie is a hard worker. Next, we’re going to tear it to pieces for giving characters dimension and rightfully avoiding a romantic subplot.

“Finding Nemo” is teeming with lessons for parents and kids alike: Kids, you can do great things even if you have the human equivalent of a shrunken fin! Parents, don’t shelter your kids from the world to the extent that they never get a chance to live in it! In between lessons, there’s lots of peril to keep things exciting.

“But none of this good stuff matters because I hate you.”

Seriously, does she like this movie or not? Because I’ve only read about two sentences with an inkling of criticism, but they’ve been offset immediately by the rest of her comments.

Peril always equals drama in the Disney version (Disney co-produces with Pixar), and if your kids can take it, or actually like it, more power to them.

Can you imagine if kids liked dangerous situations? I sure can’t. That’s why I’m the biggest fan of Powerless Rangers.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly traumatizing in “Finding Nemo,” and admittedly, if Marlin and Dory didn’t face danger at every turn, there would be no story at all.

“It’s traumatizing, but not traumatizing at all.”

But what we get is still a snoozer.

Clearly. Since you just talked about the useful life lessons, entertaining story, dramatic situations, and beautiful imagery.

But hey, maybe she’s about to explain why it’s a snoozer! (Spoiler alert: she doesn’t).

There are lots of grown-up jokes in “Finding Nemo,” including a 12-step gag and a caravan of aged surfer-dude stoner sea turtles, both of which are sure to make adults laugh knowingly, which is surely the least fun kind of laughing there is, although it counts for something.

In one sentence, Stephanie compliments the movie, gives that compliment a caveat, criticizes the compliment itself, and then says it counts for something. I’m almost impressed.

Also, she’s actually saying that the “least fun kind of laughing” is reference humor. You read it here first. Never mind that in order for her to get it across that she doesn’t like the movie, she has to belittle the things about it the you like.

And I do confess to being at least somewhat captivated by Gill (Willem Dafoe), the tough-guy king of the fish tank who takes Nemo under his fin.

I’m just going to say this one more time, for emphasis. There are more compliments in this review than criticisms. This is actually happening.

“Finding Nemo” sure looks technically flawless,

hopes raise

for those who are impressed by such things.

Am I reading a drama essay by Doug Funnie’s sister, Judith?

I don’t really know what’s involved in making a feature that’s as clearly ambitious as “Finding Nemo” is. I can’t tell you how many hours were spent getting the picture to look just so (I’m sure it was a lot), and I would never question how much raw talent the individuals who worked on it possess (I doubt it can even be measured).

Your ignorance is noted.

Will lots of little kids (and big ones) enjoy “Finding Nemo”? Absolutely. 

But…

 Is it an achievement? Without a doubt.

I have no words.

It’s all of those things, and less — the littlest fish in the sea masquerading as a whale, failing to take into account its conspicuous lack of warm blood.

How is this a comparison? OK, so she finishes the review here with the biting metaphor that Finding Nemo is basically a collection of small elements working together to “masquerade” as something bigger…but it’s hollow…or something.

Despite the fact that moviemaking itself is all about small elements working together to pull off an illusion. Maybe if this was Blackfish, Stephanie would find a reason to be glad this movie exists, but even then, she doesn’t even count the “lessons” she touted earlier as being very useful, anyway.

finding nemo hate

Can you see why this is one of the most confusing film reviews I’ve ever read? In it, Stephanie hardly criticizes the film at all and instead gives it vain praise like she’s one of Regina George’s underlings. Sure, her adjectives are pretty, and she found fancy ways to illustrate what works visually throughout the movie. But none of the ideas in this review give you any sense of whether or not Finding Nemo is worth seeing.

Since she gave the film less than 2 stars, however, that essentially means that she recommends you skip it. Despite all of the praise you read above, including the admission that the movie is an achievement that will be loved by children.

Nope! You need to skip this because…well, I’m not sure why.

I did a little digging into other movies reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek, and unsurprisingly, she’s pretty good at what she does. She was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in criticism at one point (although I think it’s fair to mention that she gave Hot Pursuit a passing grade, calling Sophia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon a terrific team).

hot pursuit
But “Finding Nemo” tries too hard.

I also dug through her reviews of animated movies, and it was pretty telling. For one thing, her criticism of Minions is identical to the line she uses in Finding Nemo, essentially stating that it’s “too much of a good thing.”

She did say that How to Train Your Dragon 2 (mostly) works, and she apparently loves the first one more than any other DreamWorks movie. But looking through her pedigree, it’s painfully clear that she just doesn’t have a thing for computer animated films, or at least the technical aspects behind them that make the movies even more impressive.

Obviously, this isn’t a big deal because this is just the opinion of one critic. My only complaint is that if you’re going to recommend that someone pass on a movie (especially one that’s universally praised), you better provide a better explanation for why.

And yes, that’s exactly what I said last week about Room. I think I’m starting to see a trend with these film reviews.

Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below! 

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Snarcasm: ‘Star Wars’ Is Overrated

star wars overrated

Snark + Sarcasm = what’s you’re about to read. This week: the legendary saga that everyone loves is terrible unless you’ve watched it. 

Here’s the thing about Star Wars. A lot of people like these movies, while some people don’t. Another group of people are indifferent. But the people who adore Star Wars are incredibly vocal about how much they love the films, and box office records prove they represent a large slice of moviegoers.

Of course, it should be equally fine when someone is vocal about disliking Star Wars. All’s fair in love and (Star) war. But you know what isn’t equally fine? Reading a troll piece by Piers Morgan on Daily Mail about how Star Wars isn’t just bad, it sucks. Oh, and it’s overrated, too.

Here’s the link, but please don’t click. In fact, don’t even read this Snarcasm piece if you really just want to have a nice day free of hair-raising distractions. It’s not worth it. If you do want to read a contrarian piece on why Star Wars might be overrated, here is a far superior read by Devin Faraci on the subject. I disagree overall, but at least he makes a good argument.

star wars overrated

But if you love train wrecks as much as I do, then let’s get started!

HEADLINE:

The Force Awakens? Sorry, but Star Wars has sucked for 40 overrated, overhyped, preposterous years

In the words of Heath Ledger, “And here. We. Go.” 

Last night, a very strange thing happened.

You realized you had a deadline due in less than a day? That would explain a lot.

I was lying in my Los Angeles bed when the earth moved in a way I haven’t experienced since a large quake knocked me onto the floor five years ago.

I’m guessing he’s referring to the 2010 Easter Earthquake that rocked Baja California and killed four people (injuring at least 100 others). If that’s the case, why is he even joking about this?

Only this time not literally, more virtually.

More virtually? Come on, even Daily Mail has to have at least one editor.

I was the unwitting victim of a televisual, cyberspace phenomenon; the single most exciting thing many Americans appeared to have witnessed since the lunar landing in 1969.

This is actually happening.

A news event so vast in its magnitude that grown men wept, women shrieked and kids bounced around howling like banshees.

Go on…

Journalists whom I otherwise respect began tweeting photos of their newsrooms in a state of collective paralyzation, hordes of frozen figures standing open-mouthed, ashen-faced and quivering around their monitors.

So you don’t respect journalists for talking about a news event that everyone cares about? You don’t respect journalists for liking something a lot? Scratch that, I don’t think anyone wants to be respected by Piers Morgan.

Twitter exploded.

What a nightmare.

Facebook erupted.

Aw, man!

And a national whooping delirium filled the air.

It’s just not fair.

‘Oh my GOD!’

‘WOW!’

‘That’s INSANE, man!’

‘AWESOME!’

‘THAT. IS. THE. COOLEST. THING. LIKE. EVER!’

Five things no one has ever said about something associated with Piers Morgan. Well, maybe “Wow! I can’t believe Piers Morgan likes himself so much!” Or, “Oh my GOD! Even Piers Morgan is allowed to write for The Daily Mail!”

There’s just one problem: it wasn’t.

That’s all?

I didn’t get it.

So, there’s two problems…

Any of it.

Hm.

I watched the exact same ‘thing’ as everyone else, and it left me feeling less enthused than a Jeb Bush rally.

Sorry? Are you trying to gain sympathy or something?

The trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which aired for the first time during ESPN’s Monday Night Football show, lasted just two minutes and 23 seconds. Time that I will never now get back.

Well, you watched a trailer for something that (as you’ll reveal later) you’ve never had an interest in. Sounds like you’re the one who needs to work on time management.

At the start, a weird-headed creature appeared and a voice asked: “Who are you?’ To which my answer was: ‘I’m Piers, and I’m already bemused.’

Why? So far, you’ve spoken nothing about why this is such a big deal for you, or how the trailer is getting on your nerves.

It got worse.

Yeah? From a voice asking, “Who are you?” Why is your complaint article lacking actual complaints?

A random person walking in the desert, another weird-headed creature, a second random person walking in the desert, more weird-headed creatures, myriad flashing lights, swords and flying saucers, and then the weirdest-headed creature of them all: Harrison Ford (the great man is so facially brown and craggy now I’m only surprised Matt Damon hasn’t tried to land on him.)

This is gibberish. What constitutes random for you, Piers? Should a trading card be hovering over the head of every character with their exact plot outline so you can keep up?

And using “weird” over and over again doesn’t do much to explain what makes them weird, or why you think it’s weird. Myriad flashing lights? Seriously? That’s the best you can poke holes at? Even CinemaSins did a better job trolling this trailer than you.

Not swords! Not…flying saucers? Where did those show up? Harrison Ford got old, so that’s bad? WHAT’S HAPPENING?

‘THE FORCE! IT’S CALLING YOU!’ commanded the announcer. Well, I’m not in, sorry.

Well, I don’t think the “announcer” was talking to you. So, apology rejected.

In fact, I’ve never been in when The Force has called. 

Ah, OK. So you just don’t like the movies. That’s fine—

I’m 50 years old and I’ve not watched a single one of the six Star Wars movies.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Don’t get me wrong. No one really cares. But…WHY ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT THIS? It’s one thing to criticize a franchise you don’t like. It’s another to poorly whine about a franchise you’ve never watched.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried.

Clearly.

But I’ve never got further than five minutes with any of them before hitting the STOP button, shaking the cascading cheese out of my TV set and going for a recuperative neck massage.

So, you tried to watch the sequels/prequels without any context? Why should we trust anything you say about anything?

As the decades have passed by, my distaste for all things Star Wars has developed into an oddly visceral loathing.

WHY? You’ve never watched the movies. Why do you care at all about any of this? Are you that offended by the fact that you don’t like something that’s popular? They teach you how to control emotions like this in preschool.

I only have to hear that dreaded theme music to feel the skin begin to peel itself off my flesh.

Now you’re bringing John Williams into this? One of the most celebrated composers of our time?

And don’t even get me started with the ghastly merchandise, which seems to pervade every store in the United States.

OK, I guess retailers should think twice before capitalizing on high demand because one guy is mildly annoyed when he strolls into the toy aisle for inexplicable reasons.

So I wouldn’t, frankly, know one end of a Yoda from a Jedi. The only Chewbacca I’ve experienced is the kind that I perform when someone treats me to a Monte Cristo No2. And Hans Solo sounds like something best reserved for the kind of Vegas bordellos we’ve been reading rather too much about in the last few days.

He’s still talking. Somehow, he thinks his opinion is so important, everyone needs to glean his ignorance of a pop culture franchise. To be clear, I’m sharing this more as a PSA of how not to write something for the Internet. For the world, really.

This, I realise, parks me firmly in the minority.

Trust me, we know how excited this makes you.

Online ticket sales of this 7th Star Wars epic crashed huge movie-goer websites like Fandango. It’s probably going to be a massive hit, regardless of what I think.

Yeah, maybe that should tell you something.

But, as with that pseudo-intellectual load of old thespian codswallop, Birdman, that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Star Wars sucks.

Actually, that’s exactly what makes you wrong. I also don’t like Birdman, but you know what? That actually doesn’t mean it sucks. Because far more people love it, and for good reason. I’m starting to think Piers Morgan is just channeling Anton Ego for kicks right now.

Also, we’re about 1000 words in, and Piers is yet to explain why Star Wars sucks. You know, the headline. Apparently, it just sucks because he hasn’t watched it. Compelling stuff, Daily Mail.

Don’t take my word for it,

Way ahead of you.

take the words of almost everyone involved in its very first incarnation back in 1977. Legend has it that when producer George Lucas first showed a rough cut of the original Star Wars to Hollywood associates and chums, hardly any of them liked it.

Because if there’s one thing we know about Hollywood, it’s that they’re never wrong.

They thought the plot was preposterous, the characters’ names utterly absurd, and as for the writing, this is what Sir Alec Guinness wrote to a friend from the set during filming: ‘New rubbish dialogue reaches me every day and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable.’

What Piers is forgetting, obviously, is that people didn’t know what to make of this movie when it first came out, as it was the first science fiction space opera to gain some traction with audiences. While Star Wars is nowhere near perfect, it was also dramatically different from anything else coming out at the time.

star wars overrated
Crowds gathering around the 1977 release of “Star Wars”

Sure, the dialogue was strange and the adventures were hammy. But this is a movie that is mostly praised for how it captivated our imaginations. And it was a great first attempt in its own right.

The critics, when it was released, agreed. ‘What’s stunning about it is simply how bad it is,’ wrote Salon’s Charles Taylor. Others damned it as lazy, cliché-d and tortured. At least that first movie had the benefit of novelty.

Ah yes, Charles Taylor, the same critic who hated Million Dollar Baby and loved Mission to Mars. Piers is clearly forgetting that Taylor is well-known for being against the consensus. That said, many, many more critics praised Star Wars than Piers is letting on, and I’ll actually provide links!

Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars

Hollywood Reporter‘s Ron Pennington predicted it would emerge as a true classic of science fiction.

Jeff Millar called it an immensely entertaining film.

Kathleen Carroll praised it as a mind-blowing spectacle.

Gene Siskel gave it 3.5/4 stars and said it had the best visual effects since Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I have about 70 other critics I can cite, but I think you get it.

The sequels have got increasingly worse (according to those who’ve actually endured them).

Piers, if you’re going to base your arguments around anecdotes because you don’t know what you’re talking about, can you at least spell them out?

Now, as we brace ourselves for the 7th instalment, the whole Star Wars genre has become synonymous with one gloriously British word: ‘Naff’. Naff, for my American friends, is a derogatory term deployed by rich, privileged people (think those who live upstairs at Downton Abbey) when they wish to convey a sense of something being stupid, lame, unpalatable, and quite shudderingly uncool.

What’s really funny about this is that Piers Morgan thinks people who love Star Wars are doing it to be “cool.” Also, Piers Morgan is implying he knows what’s cool.

Let’s be honest here: did anyone watch that Star Wars trailer last night and genuinely think it was fantastic?

Personally? I thought it was good. Though I liked the last trailer better.

Or were you all just caught up in a very clever, very cynical piece of marketing brilliance by Disney?

Which is…what, exactly? Showing us parts of a movie that look fantastic? Those masterminds.

One based on the old Tinsel Town maxim of: ‘If it worked 40 years ago, let’s just repackage it, pretend it’s brand new, and do it all over again.’

How would you know if it’s repackaged if you haven’t seen it? In fact, no one seems to really know what this movie is actually about yet, so it’s nonsense to make this accusation.

I, peering through my dispassionate, uncontaminated eyes, laughed out loud during the trailer and not for any good reasons.

Wait, that’s it? You just asserted that this trailer is just a repackaged version of A New Hope without any support or examples…just so you could sooner get to your weird, repetitive anecdote no one cares about?

The only Force it reawakened in me is one of even firmer resolution not to go and see this latest diabolical affront to my sophisticated celluloid senses.

Oh, I’m wildly thankful this trailer wasn’t catered to the senses of Piers Morgan.

You can stick this over-rated, over-hyped, fantastically silly nonsense up your R2-D2.

I guess it’s unsurprising that even his put-downs make zero sense.

Well, that was bizarre. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone do such a bad job at purposefully trolling something, save for every public appearance of Donald Trump. After reading all of this, does anyone really believe the guy wrote this because he actually believes a word he’s writing?

Morgan didn’t really criticize anything. Throughout, his disliking of Star Wars seems to be completely arbitrary and based on everything about the love for the movies, instead of the movies themselves. It’s clear he’s looking for attention, but is it too much to ask for at least a little effort when you want people to notice you?

star wars overrated

Ultimately, I disagree with the notion that anything is “overrated.” I think it’s a false criticism that boils down to disliking how much attention something has gotten. What you’re really saying is that the emotional response someone had while watching The Empire Strikes Back is invalid because you got hung up on technical flaws, despite the fact that landing an aesthetic that connects with audiences is the primary job of the filmmaker.

But saying something is overrated makes the person with said opinion feel better about their opinion, and they love that feeling of getting inside someone’s head and making them feel guilty for having a sincere, even giddy reaction to a movie trailer they desperately want to see.

No thanks.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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