Just catching up on a few from last year now—
Juno was one of the best reviewed movies last year and also a box office hit. Unfortunately, I hated it. Part of this is the problem of high expectations—when a movie is as talked about as this one was, you begin to expect it to be extraordinary and I didn't think it was. I did like all the performances, and thought the cast was very good (hey, any movie with JK Simmons and Jason Bateman is already off to a good start). It was just about everything else that annoyed me. First, there was an excessive cutesiness in all the details that drove me crazy. It was like a movie set in Quirky Town, where everyone has an offbeat name and super kitchy accessories in their homes and buildings (and yes, the semi-animated credits annoyed me too). The dialogue was often very clever, but I found it too clever. The glibness wore me down. And when it got to illustrating how cool Juno was, did we really have to have the by the numbers coolness traits? Into comic books? Yes. Present day teen whose music of choice is '70s punk? Of course. Horror movie aficionado, who can discuss the films of Dario Argento? Absolutely. Why, oh, why are we always given the same things when a writer or director wants us to know that a character is "different," but that's different in a supercool way? Couldn't she be different because she liked Victorian photography? Couldn't her music of choice be '70s arena rock? How about for once, a character impresses audiences because she loves silent movies? I'm so tired of the standard issue "I collect comics-I only listen to the music of Television-here is my Herschel Gordon Lewis VHS collection" coolness indicators.
I also was bothered by the way the script failed to create a world around the characters and their situation. The school wasn't a real place at all and for the majority of teenagers, their school is the most important place. I felt that the script kept dancing around the issue of social class but didn't seem to dare or have the strength to really get into that. And did I mention the cuteness? Yeah, I did, but I'll mention it again.
Hey, if you liked it, fine. In fact you're probably a lot smarter than me; I always worry when everyone else likes a movie and I don't. I wonder what I'm missing. In this case, I guess I missed a lot.
On the other hand, I loved There Will Be Blood. Again, the cast was great (yes, I know saying "Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the best actors working today" is somewhat like saying, "Ice cream is good," but nevertheless). It's a long movie, but I thought it was long by necessity, not long because of wasted time spent on beauty shots or meandering setups. I thought the ending was fantastic. My only complaint was that there was often too much music. There were times when I felt like screaming, "Shut up!!!!" It's not that the score was bad; if I was just sitting listening to pieces of it on my own, I probably would have liked it quite a bit. But there were too many moments where I thought what was happening on screen was clear enough but the music was invasive, pounding you over the head when the point was already understood. Silence can be very effective. Other than that, though, it was as good as advertised. I'm only sorry that I was missed it on its theatrical release and ended up watching it on my little computer screen. It would have been a better experience on the big screen, but unfortunately circumstances intervened, and I just didn't get there.