If I had a nickel for every time somebody said of a film, “Well, if the critics hate it, that means I’ll like it,” I’d have at least $27.65.
I, however, generally agree with the critics and appreciate their words of wisdom. If they say a movie’s brilliant, there’s a reasonably good chance I’ll at least think it was good. And if they say a movie is horrible, I’ll agree with them approximately 102 percent of the time.
I listen to the critics because going to the movie theater is expensive, which explains why this cheapskate goes only once or twice a year. But time is even more precious than money, which means I don’t want to waste two hours watching a bad movie — whether it’s in the theater or at home — when I could waste two hours playing golf or learning to play Roger Miller’s “Do-Wacka-Do” on the guitar.
Of course, I can watch “Fletch,” “Better Off Dead” or “Life of Brian” over and over. I doubt those are critically acclaimed, but you’ve got to have a few guilty pleasures in your catalog of favorites. It just can’t be your whole diet.
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The problem is that too many of today’s movies are either too long, too stupid or too crammed with CGI effects, making it feel like you’re watching someone play a video game. I haven’t even liked a video game since Donkey Kong.
Movie selection is one of the primary sources of conflict with my wife, not far behind my fashion choices.
“You’re not wearing that in public, are you?”
“Well, not without my polka-dotted baseball cap. Duh.”
She decides she wants to see a movie based on the trailer or whether it has Tom Cruise in it. I think picking a movie based on the trailer is like going to a fast-food restaurant thinking the food is going to look like it does on the TV commercials.
“Man, this burger looked a lot bigger on TV.”
“I think the one on TV had meat in it, too.”
The critics, though — not the trailer or my wife or Tom Cruise — talked me into going back to the cinema this past Saturday. They’ve raved about the World War II drama “Dunkirk” so much that I agreed to pay the big money for the giant screen and fancy rocking chairs. No popcorn, though — this cheapskate’s gotta draw the line somewhere.
Again, the critics were right. This movie wasn’t gory or gratuitous, instead relying on brilliant cinematography and sharp sound to pummel you with intensity. It even clocked in at under two hours, but I left feeling like I’d just spent 24 hours eluding the Nazis. In short, it was worth it.
I don’t usually like war movies, even critically acclaimed ones. My grandfather, though, loved them, which I found interesting because I wouldn’t think most people who had their legs blown off fighting the Nazis in Tunisia in 1943 as a member of Darby’s Rangers would want to revisit that intensity. Then again, his idea of a great war was “No Time for Sergeants,” somewhat less intense than “Dunkirk” or “Saving Private Ryan.”
But I’m open to more war movies like “Dunkirk,” so long as the critics give it a thumbs-up. I might even watch the Oscars this year because “Dunkirk” ought to rack up. If it does, I might finally forgive the Academy for not giving Jerry Reed the Best Supporting Actor award for “Smokey and the Bandit” — for which I was too young to see the critics’ reviews at the time, but I can only assume they were stellar.
For links to two newspaper columns Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in 1944 about Chris’ grandfather, Cpl. Fred M. Dixon, visit Kudzukid.com.