Goodbye Christopher Robin vs The Florida Project

Both of these movies are about how childhood can be both wonderful and dark. But the point of this post isn’t to review or contrast and compare. I’m just using this pair of movies as an example of why you shouldn’t let critics decide what you’ll enjoy.

As of the time of writing, Goodbye Christopher Robin has a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.2 on IMDB. The Florida Project has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.1 on IMDB. I watched both movies in theaters anyway. I liked Goodbye Christopher Robin better.

So, what does it all mean? Don’t trust critics? No, not exactly. If you read the reviews, pay attention to what the critics liked and dislike, and figure out whether you value the same things. Most of the reviews for The Florida Project rave about the actress who plays Moonee — how mesmerizing and authentic a performance she gave. Sure, I was convinced that she was an average 6 year old girl, but “authenticity” isn’t that important to me in a movie. If I want to see regular 6 year olds just be themselves, I can watch real children. I prefer my movies to have an interesting narrative or story arc, which The Florida Project lacked. It painted a bleak picture and did so the long way, leaving me wondering if the director was trying to show how bored the kids were by making the audience bored too.

On the other hand, critics who disliked Goodbye Christopher Robin mentioned how unlikable his parents were, or how the movie was a stiff period piece. But those things are the point: his parents aren’t sympathetic characters, and the historical context was important to the story. I love a good period piece. I like being transported somewhere that’s far removed from my everyday life. Somewhere with interesting characters who have complex motivations, not just “authenticity.”

In general, I think film critics are overly fond of the French style of movie making: so many pointless scenes of walking down the street, sleeping, eating spaghetti, shaving and staring off into space that it feels like your own real life. And then a sudden ending when the funding has run out — not at any natural stopping point in the story. Knowing this about critics, and understanding that these aren’t my own preferences, it makes sense for me to ignore ratings and just give movies a chance based on the trailer or summary. I’m guessing this is true for most people: that your tastes don’t line up with what the critics say. It almost makes me wonder why we even have them? I guess it made more sense for a time before Moviepass. Well, you don’t have to listen to them now — you can make up your own mind: it’s the same monthly price whether you watch one or both!

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Life-changing, indeed

I just read Marie Kondo’s “the life-changing magic of tidying up” in one afternoon. I think it’s one of the most touching books I’ve ever read, and even after memorizing her philosophy and putting her method to use, I would still keep a copy of this book on my bookshelf.

The introduction sounds a bit like an infomercial, talking up the (unproven) benefits of tidying, which are said to include weight loss, better looking skin, and even finding your purpose in life. It was a little off-putting (after all, I’m reading this book, so I’m already sold on the idea of tidying) but power through it. It does get better.

So, this isn’t a technical guide. It’s not one of these no-nonsense “10 steps to a cleaner house” sort of things. Where you get rid of X things every day or you clean K square feet. It isn’t antiseptic that way. Her book is more like a philosophy of life. Why won’t you need to tidy ever again? Because you’ll have gotten rid of most of your things. But the point is: you can clearly live without those things.

What drew me to this book was the premise that we should only have things we love. The things we own should spark joy, she reiterates throughout. She personifies things in what is perhaps a Shinto tradition. I grew up as an only child and did the same. I felt very sorry for the stoplights, doing their jobs throughout the night even when there were no drivers to benefit from their labors. It becomes much easier to let go of my things and to quiet the internal monologue (“but that was expensive” “I’ll wear it when it’s warmer out” “I could wear it around the house” “I could still need that someday” “I haven’t read that yet”) when I think about how my just things want to be useful to me and I’m shoving them into a dark corner of a closet to die slowly of neglect. That’s sad. Sadder than slavery and the holocaust combined. And it’s my fault. But there’s something I can do about it.

I can set my things free. I can give them a better life with someone who will appreciate them and use them. My things and their new owners can be happy together. The beautiful thing is that my old items won’t go to waste. They’ll go to Goodwill, or clothing swaps. They’ll be sold on the dozens of selling apps I have or given away on Yerdle. I only hope they will bring joy to someone else.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

A few disclaimers. I don’t like action movies: usually they bore me because I already know the outcome and I can’t tell what’s going on in the endless fight scenes anyway. I don’t like comic book movies. I can’t stand gratuitous violence in movies (e.g. anything directed by Quentin Tarantino). That being said, this is one of my top 5 movies of all time. Now that I’ve thoroughly contradicted myself, I’ll try to explain.

Let’s start with the flawless trailer:

For most movies, the trailer contains everything that’s worth watching. Not the case here. I wasn’t bored for a single second of the 129 minute run time. The movie didn’t try to cram a badly scripted romance in. It didn’t take itself too seriously: there were little inside jokes about spy and action hero movies. Mostly, it was a thrill. Watching Colin Firth kick ass. The spectacular fireworks scene. The police chase where Eggsy drives backwards. Like a Bond movie, but hilarious and better. They even one-upped Google Glass with unassuming horn-rimmed old man spectacles. (Which, incidentally, are much more attractive).

My one issue with the movie: I don’t think the last in the entrance exam for Kingsman was right. I agree with Eggsy’s choice — it should’ve been the right answer. Sometimes you have to defy a direct order from a superior because you know what they’re asking you to do is wrong. I would think Kingsman would value having that internal compass more than blind obedience to a (corruptible) superior.

All in all, it was good enough to watch again. In theaters.