A Love/Hate Relationship with the Movies

When you love the movies as much as we do, complications are inevitable.  As a youngster, just dipping your toe in the waters of the cinematic ocean, you confidently answer the question, “What’s your favorite movie?” with an actual title.  Years later, there are too many to name.  Years after that, even your favorites, you admit, have good and bad parts.  You may still have an overriding favorite, but along the way you’ve discovered dozens if not hundreds of movies that you have both love and hate for.  For instance, yesterday TCM aired Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? I love Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Cecil… okay, I love the whole cast.  I hate the sappy screenplay.  I love the final speech, however, even though it’s sappy.  I hate the scene where Poitier schools his father, as if his father hadn’t seen ten times more than he ever has.  I love the silly scene of Tracy and Hepburn at the drive-in soda shop.  I hate the laughable portrayal of young people in that very scene.  You get the idea.  Love and hate.  Speaking of which…

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I love the scene in The Ruling Class where Peter O’Toole takes the Rorschach test (the inkblot test) and sees himself in every inkblot, since he thinks he’s God and God is in everything.  When asked what he would see if it wasn’t God, he says, “An inkblot.”  I hate how aimless the movie is by the second half, the way it drags out the stage play’s meandering third act, line for line, even though the first two acts already covered pretty much everything.  I love Peter O’Toole and the intermittent musical performances.  I hate the transformation to Jack the Ripper.  When he thought he was God, it was a lot more fun.  The Jack the Ripper section really drags.  I like the supporting cast a lot.  I hate how dull the film looks.  More like a tv movie of the era than a theatrically released one.  The sameness of the look and sets makes the film feel longer than it is.  I love Peter O’Toole.  Did I already say that?  Well, it’s worth repeating.

I love the opening of West Side Story, a lot!  I love how the camera pans over the city from far above and slowly makes its way down to a basketball court where we meet the Jets.  I hate the love story at the center.  That could be deadly since it is the center of the movie but I love Rita Moreno and George Chakiris.  I hate the drab interior design.  That dance is filmed in a gym but that doesn’t mean it has to be the most boringly filmed gym in history.  That’s okay though because the “America” number on the rooftop is awesome!   Richard Beymer.  Ugh.  Russ Tamblyn. Yes!  “I Just Met a Girl Named Maria.” Zzzz.  “Officer Krupke.” There is good!

I love every Marx Brothers movie when Groucho, Harpo, or Chico is onscreen.  When they’re not, no.

I love Henry Fonda, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, and James Cagney in Mister Roberts.  I hate that the combined talents of John Ford, Mervyn Leroy, and Joshua Logan couldn’t make it feel like anything other than a filmed stage play.

Spellbound: I love, love, love the Salvador Dali dream sequence.  I hate the insufferable psycho-babble about the dream sequence.  I love Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, and  Leo G. Carroll.  I hate the insufferable psycho-babble between Peck, Bergman, and Carroll.  I love the mystery at the center of the story.  I hate the psycho-babble about the mystery at the center of the story.  I think I’m noticing a recurring theme here.  Perhaps I ought to see a psychiatrist.

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I love everything that James Dean does in Giant.  I hate that the movie takes so much time getting to him.  I love how beautiful Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson all look, even in the middle of an arid cattle ranch.  I hate how, even in 1956, decades into advanced makeup procedures in the movies, the best they could do to make Dean, Taylor, and Hudson look old was powder in their hair and a couple of lines drawn under their eyes. I hate that the reason for that is that, in all honesty, they didn’t really want Dean, Taylor, and Hudson to actually look old.  I actually kind of love that they didn’t want them to look old.  I love how totally over the top the soap opera of this whole movie is.  I hate how over the top the soap opera of this whole movie is.  I’m so confused when it comes to Giant.

I love the theme song from Midnight Cowboy, Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me.   I also love John Barry’s score.  I hate the student art-filmish flashbacks, in black and white no less!  I love Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman’s performances and relationship in the movie.  I hate the dated hippy-drippy party scene.  I love the scene where they visit Ratso Rizzo’s father’s grave and Ratso pays his respects while also calling his father an idiot.  I hate the scene with John McGiver and the weird religious shrine in his apartment (but he’s great, as always).  I love the scene with Sylvia Miles in the beginning, right after Joe Buck arrives in New York City.   And I love the ending.  I just wish they’d left out all the pop-psychology of Joe’s screwed up childhood to try and “explain” him.  I really hate that about it.

I love and hate quite a lot about the movies, we all do.  But that’s a part of the passion of it all.  Who wants to be in love with something’s that’s perfect?  It’s better to be in love with something that’s messy, complicated, maybe even a little haphazard.  There’s a recklessness to artistic creation, a feeling of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.  My favorite movies are never ones I find perfect but ones in which the parts I love, I love so much they outweigh entire movies where I really don’t have a problem with any part of them but only like them so-so.  All That Jazz is another movie that I love and like so many movies I love, it has parts I don’t really like at all but the parts I do like, I absolutely adore.  It also contains a neat summation of this whole piece.  As Roy Scheider turns off a variety show hosted by Ben Vereen, he says to his lover, played by Ann Reinking, “I hate show business.”  She responds, “Joe, you love show business.”  “Oh, that’s right,” he says, “I love show business.  I’ll go either way.”

26 Responses A Love/Hate Relationship with the Movies
Posted By Steve R Burrus : May 13, 2016 4:27 pm

I semi-violently disagree with you o n your “I Just Met a Girl Named Maria.” Zzzz. YOU mght have slept your way thru the song every time it was sung in the movie but for me it was absolutely one of the most exciting musical highlights of the whole movie!

Posted By gregferrara : May 13, 2016 4:41 pm

Steve, if we agreed on everything, I’d never get comments. Every song in the movie is good, but I don’t prefer Maria. Of course the Zzzz is an exaggeration. Still, Officer Krupke rules!

Posted By Flora : May 13, 2016 4:51 pm

Re: west Side Story – love this movie overall, but if you are going to steal from Shakespeare, why not have the same ending? Why not have Maria die as Juliet died?

Grease – love the music numbers but hate the overall message of the film

Posted By Raven Thom : May 13, 2016 6:51 pm

Well, I must disagree in so far as “What’s My Favorite Movie” I have 2 co number 1′s The Graduate, and Casablanca.
I love every scene in both of them, and consider the Graduate as perfect as it gets. Every actor inn every scene, more great scenes than any other (for me) Casablanca is the beginning of “cliche’s” They weren’t cliche’s till Bogie said them. Does not get any better, again in my eyes and ears.
The Music in the Graduate… perfect! every song fits the scenes. Bravo Paul Simon!

Posted By Emgee : May 13, 2016 8:21 pm

I have a sort of love/hate for Spartacus. All the actors playing Romans are wonderfully wicked and therefor memorable.

All the slaves however are simply noble, that’s pretty much it, which gets tiresome. Sorry , Kirk.

The Bridge on the River Kwai: Too much Guinness, too little Holden.

Stalag 17: Sgt. “Animal” Stosch…..well, let’s say the right actor got the Oscar.

Posted By Chris Wuchte : May 13, 2016 8:49 pm

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” has not aged well. Even when I first saw it in the ’90s it felt stiff and dated to me. Hepburn and Tracy are great, as always, but the movie is trying to so hard to present the politics in a crowd-pleasing way that the movie ends up not saying anything.

For me, awkwardly inserted comic relief can kill a great movie. I need to revisit it and see if I still feel this way, but when I finally saw The Searchers years ago, I remember being put off by the weird swings to comedy in what, to me, should have been an intense, brooding film.

Posted By George : May 13, 2016 9:22 pm

“Guess Who’s” was considered dated when it came out. Critics pointed out that it looked more like a movie from 1947 than 1967. Part of this was the obviously phony background paintings and rear projection. But Tracy’s health didn’t allow him to do any location shooting, so all his scenes had to be shot in the studio.

Could be, though, that being an old-fashioned movie helped its message of racial tolerance go down easier. The movie was a huge hit, even in the South.

Posted By Doug : May 13, 2016 9:25 pm

“I love the theme song from Midnight Cowboy, Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me.”
If you want a treat, look up an album from the writer/original artist, Fred Neil, called “Bleecker & MacDougal” from 1965.

Posted By Doug Miller : May 13, 2016 9:35 pm

Great piece! Makes me want to watch (or rewatch) many of the movies you mention. Never saw “All That Jazz,” but now I have to. Forgot that I like Roy Scheider, because he was stiff in some later roles, but saw 30 minutes of “The French Connection” on TCM the other night, and he and Hackman were cracking me up. One of my love / hate movies is “White Christmas,” because . . . well, you know. But consider: this movie made an incredible amount of money, and it wasn’t because people in the 50s were boring. There is some great stuff in there. “They Call It Choreography.” If you don’t agree, then . . . “Krup you!”

Posted By Qalice : May 13, 2016 10:06 pm

This is a good game. Just to bring it up near the present, I love LOVE the cinematography of The Revenant. The acting is good. But I hate the script and the length and the suffering so, so much.

Posted By Frankebe : May 13, 2016 10:30 pm

Let’s face it—most Hollywood movies are written by hacks. That’s all. And they’re dumber now than ever. I guess that’s what you get when they take literature out of the curriculum…?

I most enjoy films with just enough story to hold things together and give a sense of motion, but other than that I prefer to see what a talented cast DOES with a story. My favorite Laurel & Hardy movie has this for a plot: L & H try (try!) to start their car. Funniest dang movie I’ve ever seen! Or I like movies with plenty of spectacle like the Melies movies—they are FILM, after all. And I think he’s gotten a bad rap about his stories. They’re really quite good!

Actually, I’ve taken to editing movies—so instead of always (and I mean ALWAYS) fast-forwarding through hated moments of otherwise good films, the scenes I can’t watch are just automatically deleted… heh…

Posted By adolphus roofenstein : May 14, 2016 5:37 am

fun post & comments … anyone interested in hearing how a genius interpreter can elevate a good song into a superb masterpiece should listen to the Sarah Vaughn versions of “Maria” … Nothing better …

of course officer krupke is the most fun song lyrically — & there anyone who likes it should listen to the broadway cast version with the uncensored lyrics!

i too love “all that jazz”, especially the whole opening of course — & the mother-daughter number, etc. … but it certainly has its excesses and over-reach , e.g. the nudie number, etc.

i like everything about midnight cowboy — & the warholesque party is one of my favorite parts , personally … well, maybe i’ll think of some new ones to add … in a bit …

Posted By Mitch Farish : May 14, 2016 2:48 pm

“I hate that the combined talents of John Ford, Mervyn Leroy, and Joshua Logan couldn’t make it feel like anything other than a filmed stage play.”

Boy! Mr. Roberts … What a piece of crap. If being a filmed stage play were the only thing wrong with it I might be able to watch it all the way through now and again. The truth is that Ford lost it in the ’50s (The Searchers is another “masterpiece” I can’t stomach), and Henry Fonda, star of the play, who Ford wanted in the part despite studio worries about his age, knew Ford couldn’t hack it anymore and told him as much, diplomatically. Hence, the infamous fight where Ford threw a punch at the star.

Fonda should not have been in it. Ford should not have directed. Only then would it have a chance to be good. Fonda hated it, and he was right.

Posted By Mitch Farish : May 14, 2016 2:59 pm

The best … excuse me … the only good performances in Mr. Roberts came from William Powell and James Cagney. Jack Lemon is terrible in his academy award-winning role. But then winning an Oscar is proof of mediocrity.

Posted By Doug : May 14, 2016 3:28 pm

Mr Roberts-read the book before seeing the film, and the book is solid. If the film only existed to give William Powell a pretty good final role, then that’s good enough reason for it to exist.
Having been a sailor, the life on board ship rang true, even if it is a filmed play. Read the book.

Posted By George : May 14, 2016 7:50 pm

Most movies are a mixture of good and bad (and average, OK and passable), as you might expect in a collaborative art form.

Only in the Internet’s world of bombast and hyperbole is every movie — and comic book and TV show — either a flawless masterpiece or a worthless piece of crap. (See Mitch Farish’s comments above about Mr. Roberts.)

Movies that are utterly great or totally awful are rare. Most are somewhere in between.

Posted By Matthew : May 15, 2016 12:01 am

I disagree that my favorite Movie has changed as I have aged. My Favorite Movie has been and still is ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. But I do agree with the Love/Hate Thing. Perhaps my biggest Love is that Capra left unnecessary but fun scenes in there. A prime example is the Pool Scene at the Dance. He probably could have cut right from George seeing Mary to him walking her home. But what a fun scene and one that got her out of her clothes, making the walk home more comedic. On the other hand, even after watching it over 300 times, I still hope Uncle Billy will not go over and talk to Potter every time I watch. Still, it is probably less of a hate and more of a knowing I have to go down in emotions, in order to come back up so high.

Posted By kingrat : May 15, 2016 12:29 am

PERSONA has so much that is great and that I love: the joined faces, Bibi Andersson’s monologue about the sexual encounters on the beach, the scene (dreamed or real?) when Liv Ullmann wanders into Bibi’s bedroom at night, for instance. But once the faces are joined, Bergman doesn’t seem to know where the movie should go. Or simply can’t sustain the incredibly high level of what has gone before.

SOME CAME RUNNING has some implausible casting: Sinatra as a small town boy from Indiana? Sinatra and Arthur Kennedy as brothers? But it has a well-directed carnival scene, the gorgeous study for Martha Hyer’s professor father, good performances by Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. Did we really need another hooker with a heart of gold? But it also has Martha Hyer, giving possibly the worst performance ever nominated for an Oscar, and she has zero chemistry with Frank. The film is probably the most misogynistic American film of the 1950s: women are either hookers or they are repressed virgins or frigid wives. Sinatra’s lecture on sexual morality to his teeenage niece is particularly revolting. A very divided film.

Posted By Doug Miller : May 15, 2016 6:20 am

JOHNNY GUITAR. Some tremendous style, some preposerous crap. One of the best shoot-outs ever. Plus Sterling Hayden as The Dancin’ Kid. Goofiest nickname ever.

Posted By Doug : May 15, 2016 12:06 pm

“The Loved One”-many great scenes, the best of which Rod Steiger as Mr. Joyboy describing his dream about his mother. I’ve heard that it was one of Steiger’s favorite performances.

Posted By tdraicer : May 15, 2016 3:34 pm

Too much Guinness in Kwai?

Mr. Roberts is crap?

I’m forced back to Twain’s “In matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.”

Posted By Emgee : May 15, 2016 8:07 pm

“In matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.”

You hear that a lot lately, and not just about movies, sadly.

Me, i’d rather go for “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Posted By George : May 15, 2016 8:32 pm

“The film is probably the most misogynistic American film of the 1950s: women are either hookers or they are repressed virgins or frigid wives. Sinatra’s lecture on sexual morality to his teeenage niece is particularly revolting. A very divided film.”

The Dean Martin character’s frequent references to women as “pigs” would not win any points for sensitivity today. The movie would now be considered “problematic.” Whenever a movie is called “problematic,” I immediately want to see it.

I don’t demand that every protagonist be a perfect, politically correct role model. I only demand that he or she be interesting. The flawed characters in SOME CAME RUNNING (who are not meant to be role models) are interesting.

Posted By George : May 15, 2016 8:45 pm

THE TRIGGER EFFECT, a very interesting movie from 1996, has an utterly riveting first half. Then it goes downhill. But I always recommend it, because I’ve never forgotten that first half.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : May 16, 2016 12:58 am

At least no one is posting comments in all caps with multiple exclamation points and links to reaction gifs.*

*Please do not take this observation as an invitation to do so.

Posted By Terry : May 16, 2016 7:10 pm

A movie that is absolutely the campiest, with the worst dialogue and some of the most over-the-top acting is one of my most beloved: Dark Victory. I haven’t a clue why I love it, why I cry at its completely sappy ending nor why I religiously watch it at least once a year, but I do.

On the other side of the coin, I can’t abide GWTW. I know it’s because the lead character is the most manipulative, simpering, self-centered individual on the fictional planet yet I do despair over the inability to periodically cheer when Rhett unwaveringly tells her he just doesn’t give a damn simply because I refuse to ever watch it again. Nice to see the clip of that scene repeated so frequently on television, though.

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