How Did I Miss This?

Even better than the real thing

So, like, six weeks ago Noel Murray filed this amazing post to The Onion AV Club blog about the phenomenon of the “Good” movie — the movie that isn’t objectively great, and doesn’t really satisfy you the first time you see it, but endures for all eternity because it’s comfortable and pleasant when you stumble across it again further down the road, because your guard is down and your expectations are zeroed out.

The example Murray uses is “Music and Lyrics”, which had just opened theatrically; in the comments, readers break down the stuff that worked versus the stuff that didn’t, and dammit if I didn’t find myself thinking fondly back to the moments cited, and agreeing with some of the constructive criticism. (“Galaxy Quest” comes up a few times as an example of another movie that’s evolved into goodness, but I have to say my boy David Mamet is right on that one: It was a perfect movie to begin with, you just weren’t paying attention, sit down and watch it again right now.)

My own theory? Movies like “Music and Lyrics” seem better in retrospect because we’re further away from the experience of watching them go wrong the first time. There’s nothing more disappointing than watching the air go out of a movie that seemed to be working just fine three minutes ago; I am now accustomed to that moment in almost all of Tim Burton’s movies where the film seizes up and dies, because Burton got distracted at some point in the screenwriting process. Remember that scene in “Planet of the Apes” where Tim Roth gets angry and jumps around the set for about a minute? It is that about which I am talking.

And I liked “Grosse Pointe Blank” even more the second time, because I knew it wasn’t going to go off the rails, and I could relax into it. This also explains why people think the “Austin Powers” movies are good, despite every last one of them containing excruciating chunks of time in which nothing funny happens. You watch them now because there’s a good bit coming up later … or at least that’s the way you remember it.

Minor aside: Have you heard about Myers’ latest picture? He’s making a movie about a wacky Indian guru. I understand his follow-up will be a DV documentary in which he dry-humps the disinterred corpse of Peter Sellers for 100 straight minutes.

Perhaps I should sit down and watch “So I Married an Axe Murderer” again. Like, right now.

2 thoughts on “How Did I Miss This?”

  1. This speaks to our culture’s increasing impatience and intolerance for anything that isn’t perceived as perfect right out of the gate. These days, we are faced with so many choices in all aspects of life, entertainment included, that when a person pays the extortionary rates to see a movie in a theater, they demand that it be “great”. If it isn’t great, it must be worthless garbage, a waste of their time. “Good” just isn’t good enough anymore.

    A film is well-written, well-directed, and well-acted, but has a scene or two towards the end that maybe drag a little? “WORST. MOVIE. EVER!!!” There’s no patience for movies that are perhaps flawed but still contain worthy aspects. Hence the reason why ‘good’ pictures like Galaxy Quest bomb at the box office. If they aren’t ‘great’, ipso facto they must suck. There’s no possible middle ground.

    If they’re lucky, some of these movies can be rediscovered in the more tolerate waters of home video, but the majority just fade away into obscurity.

  2. Good lord, Josh Z! There is infinite patience for movies that are infinitely flawed. Have you heard how many bajillions of people paid to see “Wild Hogs”? There is even great critical praise for works that have huge, honking flaws — “Six Feet Under” comes to mind as a show I loathed to love. There is so much middle ground in films and TV these days that we push some of it above ground, if ya know what I mean.

    By the way, Norm, this is a great essay. Not a good one, a great one. The image of Mike Myers dry humping Peter Sellers’s corpse (“disinterred” — great flourish) will stay with me far too long.

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