Disappointing Movies

  • Alien III (1992) and IV (1997) ... Might have to give these another chance, but I really felt cheated leaving the theater.
  • Ben Hur (1959) ... A blasphemous entry, I know. A huge, sweeping movie; epic in every sense. The chariot race didn't disappoint. But the film can't redeem Heston's awful performance, which flipped between wooden and histrionic without hitting anything in between. Worth watching once - after all, it's Ben Hur, fer cryin' out loud.
  • Fallen (1998) ... Didn't live up to any number of SF stories using the same theme.
  • Heat (1995) ... See below.
  • Independance Day (1996) ... My expectations weren't very high, so I guess this technically wasn't very disappointing, but it was still a letdown.
  • Jackie Brown (1997) ... See below
  • Johnny Mnemonic (1995) ... "Johnny Moronic". Didn't know Dolph Lundgren was in it until the opening credits. The man has never even seen a good movie.
  • The Lost World (1997) ... After Jurassic Park I really wished for more dinosaurs. Should have known more dinosaurs would lessen their impact. The few scenes that started out gripping dragged on for far too long.
  • The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) ... This movie absolutely rocketed to the bottom of my Coen Bros. list. A dull and heartless excercise in noir-bending, which I imagine has great appeal for folks that like to "get it" (which is cool if you're into that - I loved Shakespeare in Love, after all), but the movie doesn't have anything else to offer beyond beautiful cinematography and some good performances. It can't commit to comedy or tragedy, and it fails at both.
  • Magnolia (1999) ... See below.
  • Mission to Mars (2000) ... Boring and unengaging.
  • Mouse Hunt (1997) ... Watch the preview, skip the movie.
  • Photographing Fairies (1997) ... Our hero was wholly unsympathetic, and the ending was wholly unsatisfactory
  • Pi (1998) ... See below
  • Planet of the Apes (2001) ... See my review.
  • Red Planet (2000) ... See my review.
  • Ronin (1998) ... See below
  • The Score (2001) ... Norton. DeNiro. Brando (who I don't happen to like, but what the heck, he's a legend). Such an assemblage, such a disappointment. Almost added this to my "Bombs" series, but it wasn't quite bad enough. While the performances are fine (Norton was the standout, while Brando was surprisingly acceptable), the movie is excruciatingly dull. Angela Basset is wasted in a throwaway subplot. The Score itself, when it finally comes, is merely good. It needed to be absolutely fantabulous to redeem the rest. It wasn't.
  • The Sixth Day (2000) ... Disappointing because I heard this was Arnie's return to form after too many missteps. Just awful. And his performance was abysmal. Made me question my memory of finding him at least personable as an actor.
  • The Spanish Prisoner (1997) ... See below
  • Swimming With Sharks (1994) ... I'm sure in part my disappointment was due to this movie being described as "hilarious." It's far too mean-spirited for that adjective. Spacey was good, as usual, but any points the movie gained on that front were lost during the bizarro ending.
  • The World is not Enough (1999) ... "The Franchise is not Enough." Possibily the worst Bond movie ever (although I'd probably have to give The Man With the Golden Gun the title).
Author Comments: 

I can't believe how many DeNiro movies are on this list. And I like DeNiro. Ah well.

I have ranked this list from worst to best (such as it is). The ranking is a subjective blend of my disappointment factor and the overall quality of the movie.

*..oh, yes, *. Not that I don't know people that crazy/dense/annoying....But I really, really, hate to watch a movie about them. Obviously, he's nuts from the start, the machines look as if they're at least 10 years obsolete, and the ending is a clumsy kludge: it's as if the filmmakers had said "Hey, we're running out of film here...let's wrap it up quickly." Moan.

One thing I've been enjoying lately is plugging in Listology searches to see if the general trend is in favor of a particular movie or not. My latest effort was Pi. Unfortunately, so far you and I are the only ones that didn't like it. But there still aren't all that many lists in The Listology to choose from, so the sample population is small.

I liked parts of Pi, didn't like others, and overall was quite pissed off by the camera-work (nearly gave me a headache). It does have to rate for me as something along the lines of the "Worst Movie I've ever picked for a first date."

I was looking for something to reply to as a test of the new version, and found this! My worst first-date choice was The Fly (1986 version).

Totally agree with Independence Day. May have been the worst movie ever.

I never saw what the big deal about Heat was. Everyone talked about how great this movie was and that I should watch it. It was long and never really kept my interest. I think it was just an excuse to have Pacino and DeNiro in a movie together.

Yeah, seems a waste to make a three-hour movie to put them on screen together for one five-minute scene.

you talking bullshit!

Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this since you list Heat on your best movies of all time list. :)

I've heard that Robert Plant has referred to "Stairway to Heaven" as "that long, boring bastard", and that he refuses to play it in concert. I feel the same way about Heat (of course, I had nothing to do with it's production). It was slow. My involvement with the characters was nil. I thought the action sequences were flat. I liked the restaurant scene w/ DeNiro and Pacino, but that lasted for all of 5 minutes. Pacino's character drove me nuts (or maybe it was just his portrayal - I have loved some Pacino performances, and hated others). Val Kilmer was wasted.

It's not that I thought it was one of the worst movies ever (I don't), but I expected so much more.

(Having seen all the films except Fallen and Farries...)

I think the problem with most of the movies on your list is not that they were dissapointing, but that they were dissapointing after being slammed by the hype and media machine which created unrealistic expectations. Then again both those Alien sequels you listed and the Lost World really have no redeeming qualities. The first half of ID was one of the best films ever, the second half was laughable and a waste of time, from the point when Wil Smith clocked the alien.

The one exception, in my mind, is The Spanish Prisoner... I was not dissapointed and think it's one of the best 'rents' out there. Sure the hero is gullable, but the movie was well paced and well acted. I found it highly enjoyable as did the people I made watch it (mom, girlfriend).

While I agree with you up to a point, I think even without the hype I would have been excited by these movies, and still would have felt very disappointed by their execution.

As for The Spanish Prisoner, I do know folks that liked it, but my wife and I both couldn't stand it. Aside from my problems with the hero, I simply don't like Mamet's directing style. Where some find it subtle and clever (I've even heard the word "genius" batted around in association with his name), I just find it wooden. I have not once, during a Mamet film, forgotten I was watching actors on a set. With the exception of Steve Martin's, every line felt scripted. As for the big con, I thought there were way too many opportunities for our hero to do one little thing differently that would have brought the whole thing down like a house of cards.

That's interesting. My wife and I really liked it, liked it enough to rent it twice, even though neither of us is much of a Mamet fan.

It sounds like we were assuming a slightly different premise when we watched it, which made it really enjoyable for us. We were assuming that whatever "the process" was, it was so unbelievably valuable that even an extremely intricate con, with intense psychological profiling of the victim, would have been cost-effective. And so, anytime the victim did something that seemed random, or that played into their hands, they either 1) knew, based on his personality, exactly how he would act, or 2) had backup plans to handle that contingency.

From that perspective, it became a fun "conspiracy theory" exercise. ("Hey, that guy just made a casual, off-hand comment that furthered the con! He must be in on it!")

YMMV, of course.

Yeah, I can see where if you would approach it from a slightly different angle, the con would be more enjoyable. I found it interesting that you mentioned "intense psychological profiling" as a possibility for explaining some of the plot contrivances. Indeed, that was the only thing I could think of to explain the tenuous dependencies of the con. If I had been able to buy into that premise, it would have worked. But I wanted something meatier than "they know this guy soooo well" as an explanation. For me, The Game worked much better in that regard.

the only one i find slightly objectionable is Pi. i loved it, but then i saw it without hearing *any* of the hype... is that what ruined it for you or was there more? (and, did anybody find it slightly Eraserhead-esque?)

Well, I'm sure the hype contributed to my disappointment. But mostly I just couldn't get into the characters or plot.

As far as the characters go, I found our hero to be wholly unsympathetic. An unpleasant, unsociable, uninteresting, basket-case. Except for math-smarts, he didn't seem to have any redeeming qualities.

As for the plot, I understand there is often a relationship between genius and madness, but the makers of Pi seemed to have missed that (else that isn't where they were aiming). Instead, they seemed to suggest their particular problem was dangerous, madness-inducing, and draped in pseudo-mystical overtones. Like if you're going to try to solve chaotic systems, you will almost surely end up mad or dead in your easy chair. Didn't buy it.

The whole military-grade chip plot contrivance? HAH, I say!

And at the time I thought there were reams of plot holes, but I can't remember any of them, and I'm not going to watch it again to find them. :)

Salon has a pretty fair review here. It hits on a lot of points the bug me. Those points just seemed to bug me more than they did the reviewer.

Looks like I'm the exception; most folks liked it. However, I remain quite disappointed. Glad you liked it, though!

Hmmm, this is the second time you claimed to dislike a film, at least partially, due to an unsympathetic character. Do you find that films need a sympathetic character in order for you to enjoy them? Just curious...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I don't think it's a requirement for me, but it certainly helps. Perhaps I'm using sympathetic too broadly. I don't feel I have to like or personally identify with a character to like the work in which they appear, but I do have to find them interesting. If I find the the main characters of a movie to be unlikeable AND uninteresting then I will almost certainly not like the movie. In the case of Pi, our hero met those criteria. Perhaps I found him uninteresting because I found the plot absurd, and therefore his laboring within the confines of the plot was pointless to me. But I couldn't bring myself to care about his plight, nor his madness. Well-done migraine scenes, though.

Another thought . . . I do tend to dislike movies where our characters engage in self-destructive behavior that I, as a viewer, feel they could have avoided. I like a good tragedy as much as the next guy, and when the tragedy comes from unstoppable external events, that tends to work better for me just because it's easy to make believable. When the tragedy comes from internal processes or "fatal flaws", I don't usually go for it. Not because I think these situations are less tragic - quite the opposite - a good "fatal flaw" tragedy can't be beat. But I think these types of tragedies are very hard to pull off. I'm sure Pi was trying for this (one man's inability to stop throwing himself against the madness-inducing, unsolvable, all-kinds-of-mystical-overtones problem), but for me it failed.

In short, I like "self-destruction from within" as a theme, because that's usually the way it goes in real life. But it's rare where I find a movie that pulls it off to my satisfaction. I would love to come out of movies like these with a tear in my eye thinking, "alas, poor soul", but unfortunately more often than not I usually end up thinking, "gah, what a loser."

I ran across this thread again. Of course, I quite like Pi. A comment - Above, you mention:

"As for the plot, I understand there is often a relationship between genius and madness, but the makers of Pi seemed to have missed that (else that isn't where they were aiming). Instead, they seemed to suggest their particular problem was dangerous, madness-inducing, and draped in pseudo-mystical overtones. Like if you're going to try to solve chaotic systems, you will almost surely end up mad or dead in your easy chair. Didn't buy it."

I'm not sure that's quite it. The particular problem isn't too terribly important, I would argue. The character's troubles arise from trying to systemize reality and reduce it to its relationship to a number. He is trying to force chaos into a single, solid order, and this hybris is what drives his woes.

At least, that is the way I saw it. It needn't be a chaos problem. It could have been a 'scripture' that was assumed to explain reality (as in the parallel of the character exploring Jewish mysticism). Both characters are trying to attain a knowledge that will ultimately explain everything (and by extension, offer incredible power, though that is just a coincidence as far ast the main character is concerned). Both characters have the presumptive pride that they can do this. Neither are able to.

The entire film echoes greek tragedies rather strongly, and I can't help but believe that giving it a greek character as a title has more than a strictly mathematical significance.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Time and poor memory have softened me a bit on this one. Off all the movies on this list so far, Pi and Ronin are the two I'm most likely to try again. That bit of waffling out of the way, I'll waffle some more: I like your broader hubris interpretation more than my focus on the specific problem at hand (but hey, I'm a programmer :-).

Now that I've waffled, I'll justify my waffling . . . If you want more spirited resistance on movies I don't like, you've really got to hit me within a month or so of my seeing them. Now that I'm writing more about movies as I see them my memory should improve, but I do a much better job of retaining movies I like.

Of Pi I remember the fuzzy math, the bad military chip contrivance, and the fantastic migraine scenes. Hardly enough for me to mount a new offensive. :-) I promise to return to this discussion with fresh ammunition if I see Pi again. Now let me see if I can show a little more backbone in my response to your Jackie Brown post.

Yeah, "Mouse Hunt" was a classic case of the trailer being more entertaining than the movie.

I'm confused chump! You put Heat, Magnolia, Jackie Brown, and Ronin on a negative list. Either this is a complete mistake or you've had to much heroin. What exactly makes a good movie in your book? Well, go on, please elaborate.

Chump? I'll let that go.

See the conversation above for some notes on why I don't like Heat. I suppose I could go on at more length if I was willing to rent it again and write down my laundry list of complaints, but these days I don't have three hours to spare on movies I like, forget about rewatching that.

I've already trashed Magnolia here.

Jackie Brown was completely lacking in all things that made Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs great. Snappy dialog? No. Compelling villians and/or antiheros? No. Driving plot? No. Great performances from an outstanding ensemble cast? Well, it was quite a cast, but I found the performances strangely flat.

As for Ronin, all I heard about was how great the chase scene was. Found it dull. As for the rest, I finally found a Mr. Cranky review that I didn't read as tongue-in-cheek. Of course, he only gave it one bomb, which means he actually liked the movie, but that just makes the accuracy of his review more enigmatic.

Or maybe it's the heroin talking.

Now that I'm through ranting (my mood having been set by our previous misunderstanding), some things I liked about each of these:

I liked Robert DeNiro in Heat, Ronin, and Jackie Brown. I almost always like DeNiro.

Tom Cruise was excellent in Magnolia.

I liked both coffee scenes - the one from Heat and the one from Ronin (both the "catch" and the "ambush" in that movie).

But I remain disappointed in these movies overall. I wish it were otherwise. I had high hopes going in.

Alright, we've talked about Jackie Brown before, but I've lost where that was. You were asking for a defense. While I'm feeling like the film apologist today, I'll take a whack at it.

Above, you said,

"Jackie Brown was completely lacking in all things that made Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs great. Snappy dialog? No. Compelling villians and/or antiheros? No. Driving plot? No. Great performances from an outstanding ensemble cast? Well, it was quite a cast, but I found the performances strangely flat."

I'd agree with the first part of that paragraph. Jackie Brown lacked much of what made Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction great. Thank God he called it Jackie Brown, thus hinting the film is indeed not Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, but, in fact, an entirely different film altogether! ;)

I tend to believe that most people who disliked Jackie Brown simply had too many (not always too high of) expectations. Jackie Brown isn't about young, jive-talking gangsters getting into trouble, it is about two aging characters already in trouble and trying to escape. Jackie is in a mess, but not over her head, and Max is growing older and alone. The two character are incredibly different. Jackie is cool, while Max is frankly rather square (kudos for Quentin showing us this without turning him into a joke). Jackie has been bending the law, while Max has been involved with its enforcement. However, both are smart, both are comfortable with themselves (perhaps a bit too comfortable, as both characters are threatening to petrify into unchanging, static beings), and both are strangely attracted to each other. What of that attraction? At this point in life, can either really try for such an odd relationship? And can either even *trust* the other, as a false friend could quickly have dire consequences for either characer. This relationship is the film, and most folks going into the films simply were not looking for a film about a relationship, especially not one between two aging characters lacking color names, large guns, or even larger databases of popular culture lodged in their grey matter.

As to the performances, I loved them. A bit flat, but that was intentional and worked - two flat characters wondering whether to begin to curve and to venture rounding out.

There is more to the film that these two characters, and yes, Jackie Brown is no Pulp Fiction or Reservior Dogs. But it is a Jackie Brown, and a pretty damn good one at that.

Ramble over. I dug it. :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

One interesting, or perhaps better phrased as notable, thing about Jackie Brown is that it has a few characters that are boring, so boring in fact that they almost border on being dull, and stupid, almost ridiculously so, and that makes it realistic because in real life there are people like that. I realize that people don't normally go to movies to see dull people doing stupid things and given the vibrancy of the first 2 movies I can understand why it would be a letdown for some. I know this because it was a letdown for me.

But I really think that all he was doing was just trying something different. It didn't gel for most people which is fine. If only 2 out of every 3 movies he makes are as good as Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, that's fine by me.

It's interesting to think of Jackie Brown as a relationship movie rather than a crime movie. It never occurred to me to think of it as anything but a failed Pulp Fiction. However, I think QT has to take some of the blame for that. Sure, I carried in my own expectations, but he then fed those expectations with all the similarities (not to mention the trailer). I listed those in our other thread, but I'll copy theme here for readability:

My recollection of JB (which is admittedly hazy, since I really didn't care for it), is that it was an ensemble cast featuring mostly criminals. It was character- and dialog-driven, non-chronological, and with separate-but-converging plot lines. All very reminiscent of QT's earlier work, but weaker in every regard. The characters, edgy in the other two movies, seem tired here. The dialog/banter in JB doesn't have the snap as in the other two movies, and at times feels forced. The characters/dialog drive QT movies, and with those lagging, the slower pace was a detriment rather than an interesting stylistic change.

Maybe it was a different food, but the wrapping, taste, and smell were all too familiar for me to grant a clean mental slate.

Another factor working against me (or QT as viewed by me) relates to something I'm coming to realize about myself as a movie-watcher. You wrote:

As to the performances, I loved them. A bit flat, but that was intentional and worked - two flat characters wondering whether to begin to curve and to venture rounding out.

I've been considering why I don't like David Mamet and why I generally have a hard time remembering classic movies. It seems obvious now, but the two phenomena are clearly related; I have a hard time assimilating performances that are deliberately stiff (Mamet) or stagey (pre-1970, roughly). I tend to enjoy Mamet's scripts when he doesn't direct them, and I'm getting over my "old movie" problems, but I'm sure this hurt Jackie Brown in my eyes. The "flatness" of the performances were a problem for me, particularly Greir's since she needs to tie all the threads together. With her unable to do that (for me), I focussed more on the tentacles rather than the octopus, giving the movie the "Pulp Fiction Lite" feel I've been complaining about.

Hmm. More of an explanation than a counter-offensive. I must be getting soft. :-)

I loved Jackie Brown enough to buy it. I think it is a relationship movie. There is alot going on if you break it down. QT is saying something about the gun dealer's relationships with women in general, the status of a black man with a white woman...a crack black mama on the side. He's also saying something about he hatred of women when he doesn't actually care that DeNiro shoots Fonda. I think the line is "If ya had to shoot the bitch." Jackie Brown is WAY more complex then the other movies. Maybe it just isn't quite as violent.

Thanks for the feedback! There are two movies on this list I've come to believe I need to rewatch, and Jackie Brown is one of them (Pi is the other).

Hey, Jim! Just reading over your disappointing movies list. I've seen all of these films except Photographing Fairies and Mouse Hunt. And I'd have to agree with you about their "disappointing" quality on all except for Meet the Parents and The Spanish Prisoner and (possibly) Alien III.

Also I'll have to concur with the running sentiment that the buildup for the movie can ruin ir for you if you are expecting a lot.

I saw Meet the Parents on opening weekend. Knew nothing about it. Didn't have anything better to do so I went and saw a movie. This is very rare for me to see a movie on opening weekend. Laughed very hard. Pleasantly suprised.

I saw The Spanish Prisoner on video and had seen a few Mamet films before that. Heard it was really good. Had no idea where the plot was going. Hadn't read a thing about it. Again suprised.

Know Alien III I was disappointed in at first but I've went back and watched it a couple of times and it's actually a fairly solid film and provides a good portent of things to come for David Fincher. This movie is definitely worth a 2nd viewing.

I think the thing about Robert DeNiro is he makes so many darn films anymore. I swear he puts out one every 3-6 months. They can't all be good. For me it all started with Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein. Up until that point he only worked (I thought) with a few different directors and typically quality scripts. Frankenstein blew and DeNiro stocks plummeted (with me). He seems to have become less discerning. I think the best films that he is in anymore are the ones were he isn't (necessarily) a headliner. Obviously this is all speculation on my part.

Lately for any film that I think has even a decent chance of being good I avoid all reviews, discussion, opinion, etc. like the plague. Most of the time I will check Rotten Tomatoes to see what the majority of the reviewers gave it and leave it at that.

Another thing I do is ignore who's in it. Director, writer and (sometimes) cinematographer are the big three for me. Today's actors are so well payed and represented that most performances do not seem like performances and a good director and screenplay can make anyone look good.

Suffice it to say that just because a movie disappoints me doesn't mean I didn't like it. Magnolia, for example, I like but when I went to see that film I was really set to be blown away because of advance hype and the strength of Boogie Nights.

There are so many old good films which I haven't seen that I am more than willing to pass up the latest marginally decent film from today's top tier actors. Another thing I've noticed is that when I went to be entertained I'll see almost anything in the theater just to get out of the house but when I'm at home and I can either update my Listology posts :-) or watch a bad movies I'll just choose to surf the net.

Hey hey! Thanks for the post - lots to consider here.

I agree that hype/buildup is a killer. This hasn't been as big a factor for me since ditching TV, but it still comes into play when I have high expectations for a writer or director (less so for an actor).

You're right - Meet the Parents doesn't really belong here. I can't really defend it's placement here on anything but a "personal taste" level. I've moved it here.

I've already groused about The Spanish Prisoner in other discussions here, so I won't rehash those. Glad you liked it, though!

I must think more about when to put a movie here, or in "overrated", or "wish I appreciated."

Interesting list Jim, Let me start off by saying I have been disappointed in Movies but still have liked some of them. I have seen some of these movies and some you are just reinforcing my decision to stay away.

The ones I have seen that I liked and was not really disappointed in are Fallen, Ronin and The Spanish Prisoner. None of the three are great movies but they at least passed my litmus test of keeping my attention enough to care how they ended. Spanish Prisoner was very good but I am a sucker for Mamet and his dialogue. Prisoner might be his best. Fallen, I am not an avid Sci-fi fan so the plot kept me intrigued. Denzel is wonderful. Ronin was ok but I loved that Irish girl.

Magnolia, I was very disappointed but then I am not a big fan of this director. Jackie Brown was another big disappointment only because of its director. World is not enough, all I can say is I have no idea which Bond film this is...all the Brosnon one seem the same to me. I keep hoping for something better though. Pi is one i was disappointed but still liked. A noble failure. Heat was also disappointing but I liked. Too much build up too much expectations, still well done and very well shot movie

Yeah, "disappointed in" doesn't necessarily mean "hated it", although I didn't like any of the movies on this list. Indifference would probably be as much enthusiasm as I could muster for the better titles on this list were it not for the disappointment factor. :-)

As for specifics, I've ranked this list now, best to worst, and your picks fare pretty well. I'd consider giving a few near the top another viewing if I were strapped down in front of them.

BTW, The World Is Not Enough was the one with Robert Carlyle as the villian with the bullet lodged in his brain, deadening his sense of pain. He would have been equally menacing had the bullet killed him outright. I have to admit to liking the other two Brosnan Bond movies, even if they have blended together in my mind a bit. It's only fair, the Connery and Moore bond movies have each coagulated into distinct Bong clumps in my mind as well.

I am sure you have been anticipating my comment on your surprising inclusion of BEN HUR on your disappointing movies list, so here it is. From your brief comments on the movie in your list, you sound as if you, like so many others, watch the movie with a very limited viewpoint. The film is indeed the ultimate epic, and Charleton Heston is not exactly the best actor in the world, but I fail to see how the story doesn't make up for where he lacks. I personally don't watch BEN HUR for Heston, but for the story since I think it is incredibly satisfying. Judah's nemesis is amazingly and relentlessly venomous, like Iago, to him and his family. The plight of his mother and sister evokes the greatest of sympathies from me that I can't wait to see Judah find a way to exact his revenge against his former friend. I feel very much for the victims in this movie - they are innocent and wrongfully accused by people who know they are innocent - and I respond to them very sincerely. It is not like most movies today - I think the responses of the characters to their fate is extremely sincere, not the kind of manufactured conflict you get in most movies today. And, yes, the chariot scene is something, as is Massaba's painful death, Judah in the galley, the reuniting of Judah and his leprosy-stricken family (and the fact that he does not shy away from them, but still embraces them), and the great ending. The film is called BEN-HUR: THE STORY OF THE CHRIST, and this is where I find its greatest strength of meaning and message, as Christ finds His way in and out of Judah's life. And the crucifixion cleansing Judah's mother and sister of the wrongs upon them (and the sight of His blood mixing with the rain to cleanse the world), I think is a FINE FINE moment in movie history. I cry a lot at this film, just like I cry when I read or see a version of OTHELLO. What happens to the characters and their reactions to their fates are so gut-wrenching to me. I can't believe these strengths are not enough to avoid making this list.

Ah well, we disagree. While the full title of the movie is indeed Ben Hur: The Story of The Christ, the movie rests heavily on Heston's shoulders (after all, I think he appears in every scene) and is the worse for it. For example, I never got any sense of Ben Hur being moved by Christ in the few scenes where their paths cross. Heston does manage to convince me that he's grateful for the water on the first encounter, and that he disapproves of the Crucifixion in their final encounter, but that's about it. Maybe I'm missing something in my agnosticism, but I think it's more likely from your Othello comment that our tragedy gears don't mesh. I greatly prefer King Lear, while Othello leaves me cold (even though Iago is perhaps Shakespeare's most malevolent villian).

Regarding the Man Who Wasn't There, as you may well guess, I could hardly agree more. "...the movie doesn't have anything else to offer beyond beautiful cinematography and some good performances."


Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

After I wrote my comments, I checked Rotten Tomatoes and Listology to see what other folks thought, and I was stunned at the voluminous critical praise heaped on The Movie That Wasn't There. I saw your intentional omission from your 2001 list, so I knew we agreed. We are definitely in the minority in not liking it though. Ah well, different strokes, I suppose.

Of course, what would be really funny is if Rotten Tomatoes had been around since the mid-80s. You could have had a good laugh at how many of those very same critics slammed Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing when they first arrived.

The fact is that most critics blew it, dismissing the brothers as a joke. They realized their errors, hailed Fargo as a masterpiece (which it wassn't and isn't, even if it is pretty good), and have been slobbering all over themselves ever since trying to catch up...

The bandwagon rolls through Criticdom several times a day...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Even though Rotten Tomatoes hasn't been around since the mid-80s they have attempted to go back through and give Tomatometer Ratings to older movies using archived reviews for those critics that have them. If you search for Joel Coen you can see Ratings for what they were able to dig up including Miller's Crossing.

I disagree that people/critics weren't on to them from the start. I was lucky enough to see Raising Arizona (their 2nd film) in the theater and also Miller's Crossing (their 3rd film) and I remember Miller's getting a substantial amount of critical praise. I really think Miller's is when they flew on the mainstream critical radar. Blood Simple got critical praise too but mostly from those critics who paid attention to the fledgling (at that time) film festivals like Sundance.

In looking at their output I noticed that I've been been able to see all of the films in the theater except for Barton Fink and Blood Simple. Bully for me. :-)

Jim, sorry you were disappointed by THE SCORE. I hope this wasn't another case of me steering you wrong (I posted a mini-review here ). You found a movie starring DeNiro, Brando and Norton dull? It wasn't great, but...I guess I'm easier to please.

Fear not bertie, you didn't steer me wrong. I was excited about that movie when I first learned of the cast, well before it's theatrical release. Perhaps my excitement contributed to my disappointment. But I did find everything leading up to the heist proper quite dull. I do agree with you that the safecracking method was very clever, though.

Of the recent heist movies I've seen (The Score, Ocean's Eleven (both versions), and a Mamet heist movie with Gene Hackman the title of which escapes me (unless it was just called The Heist? If so you'd think I'd be able to remember that) my favorite of the lot is Soderbergh's OE.