2008 Films People Hated But Which I Like

Since everyone's done lists of their favourite movies of this year, I decided to do something a little different. I think the title of this post is self-explanatory. I will try to give a short explanation about why I like these films, but my reasons may not always sound concrete or convincing. But that's movies for you - inexplicable, incomprehensible, mysterious, subjective. If you should feel compelled to flame me for this, please do keep it civil though. Heh.

Ready?

The Happening
If you read my review of the film earlier this year, I was very much in two minds about it. But after much thought, I began to appreciate what it was M. Night Shyamalan was reaching for with this kooky, quirky environmental horror-comedy flick (yes, I truly see it as a horror-comedy, not in a bad way, mind you). Sure, it doesn't quite work in some parts (feeding the animals at the zoo!), but as a parable about what happens when modern man is forced to go primitive, it's interesting. People are not only relegated to using primitive modes of transportation, communication, methods of protection, but something quite profound happens when the noisy modern world is silenced, and people begin to hear each other more clearly. I think The Happening is the most misunderstood film of this year.

Speed Racer
When The Matrix first came out, I called it "a lot of style but no substance." That was a decade ago. Now, I've learned to love The Matrix and stop worrying about style over substance. And I went into Speed Racer with a completely open mind. And was rewarded with a crazy, ecstatic, mind-bending experience that's not unlike getting into a washing machine and being swirled around in paints of different colours. Unlike, say WALL-E which pretended to have a serious theme about consumers' self-destructive tendencies, Speed Racer doesn't pretend to be anything but a kid's/family movie. Imagine if Uwe Boll made a videogame movie that only wants to be a videogame movie. Er, no wait, bad example. Anyway, because of the sheer sincerity of its intentions, and a whole new way of incorporating graphic design into film, this movie completely won me over. The next time you get stuck in traffic at night, pay close attention to everything around you, especially the other cars. Trust me, you'll start to understand the movie's aesthetics a little more. I know I did.

Sparrow (Man Jeuk)
Believe it or not, I have had people tell me they hated this Johnnie To film. They called it everything from "self-indulgent crap" to "a Hong Kong Tourism Board advertisement." I'm sorry, but did we see the same film? Sparrow is a musical without songs, the actors move as if in a dance, and it's To's endearing love letter to the city he loves. There's everything from French cinema cool to gangster noir and old-fashioned musical lilt, in this lovely and soulful meditation on home and freedom. This is Johnnie To pared down to barest, most essential minimum.

Hancock
Hancock turned Hollywood superhero conventions on their heads. Some people regard the Big Twist as a cheat, one guy even claimed he predicted it way ahead. But check this out: those who thought they knew where the film would go (ie. programmed to expect certain conventions) hated the film, and those who were tired of those conventions loved it. There just hasn't been a Hollywood film this unpredictable, fun and entertaining for a long while (OK, expecting to be proven wrong here). After the Big Twist, I just couldn't tell where it was going, how it was going to end, and how much balls the movie would have. Here's a superhero movie that delves deeply into the whole idea of power, and one can only hope Alan Moore's original inquiry into power remains intact in the movie version of Watchmen.

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