Posts Tagged ‘Wall-E’

Oscarpalooza: Why is “Up” getting such good reviews?

In honor of Oscar weekend, NPI will be rerunning our reviews of the Best Picture nominees. Here, Josh wonders what all the fuss over Up is about:

I like Pixar movies as much as anyone else, but Up simply isn’t that good. It’s not that witty, the storyline is pretty basic, and the characters are fairly simple. Much of the interaction between characters—especially in the middle of the movie—is dull. Up is a decent adventure movie with very good animation and cute-looking characters. I could see how this is appealing for children, but I don’t understand the logic behind the reviews praising this movie as excellent for people of all ages: It has a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently number 16 (of all time!) on IMDB.  (Admittedly, new movies tend to get a boost, but this movie shouldn’t even be in the top 200.)

After the movie, I was a bit confused about what elicited the rave reviews. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon (one of the very few critics who wrote a negative review) helped me understand what sparked them in her claim: Continue reading

In Praise of the Oscars’ New “Best Picture” Voting Process

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Back in June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that the Oscar “Best Picture” field would be increased from five to ten. This change was partially brought about by claims that too many films that had a chance of winning best picture had been cheated by not even being included among the nominees. The Dark Knight and Wall-E were two examples from last year. Traditionally, comedies have also had a difficult time making the list of nominees, a problem that may be alleviated by expanding the list to ten.

While there were obvious benefits to expanding the list to ten, it was clear that there were shortcomings too. The traditional way of selecting best picture had been that each of the 5800 voting members would pick the top film among the nominees and the film with the most votes would win. Conceivably, with ten films up for best picture, a film with slightly more than 10 percent of the vote could win. If two films are front-runners, there is an incentive to vote for one of those two films so your vote “counts”, as opposed to voting purely based on preferences. Having preferential voting based on rankings would help to avoid this problem, among others.
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Symposium: Movies and Objectivity

In response to the excellent ratings and reviews of “Saving Private Ryan”, Tim claims that “These two scores represent a reasonable enough cross-section of viewers and critics to call this film great”.

Tim then issues me a question, asking, “It’s obvious that there’s not complete objectivity in film, and that no one film will entertain and enlighten all of its audience. The question for Josh, then, is whether Up is his Saving Private Ryan, or whether the film subversively manipulates the masses’ reaction to it.”

Up is not my Saving Private Ryan. I haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan so I can’t comment on the quality of it, but, like Tim, I think I probably would not appreciate it as much as other people because of a general aversion to war movies. Nonetheless, despite my not having a taste for it, it is possible for Saving Private Ryan to be a great movie but I believe this for different reasons than Tim. I reject the notion (promoted in slightly different ways by Tim and John) that movies are great because people think they are great. John takes a more subjectivist approach claiming that “Calling a movie “great,” whether it be Saving Private Ryan or Mindhunters, is ALWAYS a subjective judgment. If you enjoy a movie, then you think it’s a good movie.” Tim takes a more collective subjectivist approach, believing that we should look to the mass view of a movie based on viewers and critics to determine a film’s greatness. I reject both of these views.
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Symposium: The Function of Film

Josh’s complaint that Up merely made him feel good instead of forever altering his weltanschauung prompted me to consider a deeper question: What is the relationship between a film’s quality and the feeling it evokes in its audience?

This is a broad, intimidating, and largely unanswerable question—at least not within the space of this blog. I can only try to speak from my own, admittedly idiosyncratic experience with film.

The imposing opening question boils down to me like so: Can one be unentertained by a great film, and can one be entertained by a bad one?

The first half of the question is prima facie simple to me: No. Any film that fails the basic criterion of entertaining its audience falls short of the designation “great.” And yet I know of several films called “great” that I personally have not, or would not, enjoy. The first that comes to mind is Saving Private Ryan, which ranks 56th on IMDB’s “Top 250” and receives a score of 90, or “Universal Acclaim,” on Metacritic. These two scores represent a reasonable enough cross-section of viewers and critics to call this film great.

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Why is “Up” getting such good reviews?

I like Pixar movies as much as anyone else, but Up simply isn’t that good. It’s not that witty, the storyline is pretty basic, and the characters are fairly simple. Much of the interaction between characters—especially in the middle of the movie—is dull. Up is a decent adventure movie with very good animation and cute-looking characters. I could see how this is appealing for children, but I don’t understand the logic behind the reviews praising this movie as excellent for people of all ages: It has a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently number 16 (of all time!) on IMDB.  (Admittedly, new movies tend to get a boost, but this movie shouldn’t even be in the top 200.)

After the movie, I was a bit confused about what elicited the rave reviews. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon (one of the very few critics who wrote a negative review) helped me understand what sparked them in her claim: Continue reading