30-Day Film Challenge: A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate

Day 16
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Dead Poets Society (1989) by Dusty Somers

I used to be a sucker for Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society, excited by the film's themes of nonconformity, devastated by the tragedy that befalls one of the characters, and inspired by the iconic, desk-standing conclusion. This movie played me like a fiddle.

Now, all I see is a series of empty manipulations wrapped in the shiny packaging of Hollywood sentimentality. It's a film with no convictions other than to tread the safest, most predictable path where the dividing line between who is a good adult and who is a bad adult are drawn with a big, fat permanent marker. How ironic that it's ostensibly about nonconformity.

I will give credit to Robin Williams, who still turns in one of his most consistent and least grating performances here as an English teacher who inspires his prep school students through literature. And as damned manipulative and kind of corny as that desk-standing thing is, I might just get a little choked up watching it again.

But I'm not going to give this movie the chance.

The Departed (2006) by El Bicho

I am a big fan of Martin Scorsese. I don't just mean the obvious classics everyone loves, such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, but also stories outside his comfort zone like The King of Comedy and The Age of Innocence. His documentaries about the art form, A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies and My Voyage to Italy, are essential viewing. Even work that I find flawed, like Gangs of New York and The Aviator, have compelling aspects that make them worth watching at least once. My mistake was watching The Departed more than once.

The Departed is a remake of the 2002 Chinese film Infernal Affairs, transporting the crime drama from Hong Kong to South Boston. The story focuses on main characters Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), an undercover officer, and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a mole for gangster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), as they infiltrate the other's organization and work to keep their cover.

As I watched the movie opening night, I was swept up by the drama, performances, and direction and energized on the way out. Though I had a minor quibble with the final shot of the rat, I hadn't been this excited by a Scorsese film since Casino (1995). Then, after rewatching on DVD I noticed the story doesn't entirely make sense and suffers from gaping plot holes. Too many times, characters' intelligence is sacrificed to move things along or to create an interesting scene. Also, Nicholson's performance is distractingly over the top at times.

Worst of all, this average movie has been honored with Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, which anyone who has followed the Oscars knows was an attempt to give the Academy credibility for their previous embarrassments of not awarding those same honors to earlier works, like Raging Bull. The members of the AMPAS are responsible pushing my feeling about The Departed to hate.

The Saint (1997) by Amanda Salazar

"Hate" is a very strong word and I am not too sure that I detest this movie as much as the category is implying. For the movie that I used to love and now "hate" I would have to go with The Saint. This film is an interesting late '90s spy film, a precursor to the Bourne trilogy, just not executed as well. Val Kilmer plays Simon Templar, a master thief that disguises himself for every heist. When he gets involved with Russians to steal a formula, he runs into trouble because he falls for the woman (Elizabeth Shue) he needs to steal from .

I remember loving this movie when it first came out. I thought that Kilmer was so attractive, cool, and that this movie was so much fun. I specifically remember a hypothermia scene, where Kilmer and Shue have to get naked and lie on top of one another- hot. So when I found the film for purchase on DVD for three dollars, I was so excited and immediately got it. To my dismay, my memory of this film was not as good as I remembered. It is definitely outdated, corny, and the costume changes that Kilmer's character is supposed to be good at are just funny. It is not that I hate this film because I still proudly will keep it in my collection but it is nothing like I remembered, and I will try and hold onto that pure, ardent love of the film that I had years ago.

The Fly (1986) by Shawn Bourdo

Another difficult decision.  The term "now hate" is so strong.  There are very few films that I hate.  It's like all the "least favorites" on the list - tough decisions as to how I interpret them.  The 1986 remake of The Fly is an interesting fall from grace.  I chose this film because of how much I loved it when it first came out to how indifferent I am of it now.  I tend to stick with initial feelings about a film and if they are to change - it's usually because I've learned something new about the film and appreciate it more.  Rarely does a film decrease in my estimation. 

That's not the case with David Cronenberg's version of The Fly.  It's hard in some ways to put this film down here because Cronenenberg is probably in my Top Twenty directors and certainly in the Top Ten interesting directors.  His films operate of many levels and usually upon multiple viewings, I can take away more messages that are hidden under the layers.  He chooses actors in general that bring a certain intenseness to the roles and can convey multiple levels of feelings.

I had already fallen in love with the twisted worlds he had given us in The Brood, Scanners, and Videodrome.   In 1983, he made a thoughtful adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone - still to this day one of the best adaptations.  That mainstream film gave me hope for his remake of the campy The Fly.  Seeing it in 1986 once it hit VHS, I was really impressed.  The film played as a fine AIDS metaphor for the mid-'80s.  After Seth (Jeff Goldblum) and Veronica (Geena Davis) have their first sexual liason - Seth has the fatal accident with his teleportation machine.  As he turns into the Fly, he becomes more and more ill - less and less of a human - as AIDS patients were viewed at the time.  The transformations were creepy and the emotional end to the film really seemed to fit the story. 

After my first few viewings of the film - it became one that I liked to recommend to friends and strangers.  It was well received in its time but soon forgotten - as most horror films of the mid-'80s were.  It was strange and thoughtful and didn't really appeal to a mass audience.  But by the time Naked Lunch came out in the early '90s - I was a little less enchanted with Mr. Cronenberg.  I went back and viewed his earlier films only to remember my love for his work.  Until I got to The Fly.  Upon review - the worst part of the film is the chemistry of the two leads.  Directors seem to like making Jeff Goldblum into a scientist but it doesn't come off very well here.  As he transforms - I like where he takes the character but he's also hidden behind pounds of makeup.  The Geena Davis character should be our hero but I find her performance here also pretty one dimensional - even more so at the end as Goldblum is ramping up his acting.  And the AIDS metaphor hasn't aged well - for those watching today - it's hard to be back in that place and time and know the fear.  Seen without that - it becomes more about makeup and gross-out horror.  If you're going to go for that, it will never be able to compete with An American Werewolf In London

So this film I loved so much for its first five years of release - it's turned into a bump in the road in the great career of the director.  I don't blame him but I can't profess the love I used to have.

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