I Could’ve Had a V8—A List of Unsatisfactory Movies

For those of you who didn’t watch Waiting to Exhale with your mom when you were ten years old, there’s a scene where one of the characters, Robin, is lying in bed after a very underwhelming performance by her lover, Michael. Not that Michael thinks it was underwhelming, mind you. Michael is all, “Who’s the man? Yeah, I’m the man.” To which Robin wonders, “Does he think he did something? Shit. I could have had a V8.”

The following list centers around movies that were supposed to be the shit and . . . were not. At least, not for me.

‘I Could Have Had a V8’ List

1. Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love won best picture in 1998, and it won over Saving Private Ryan. (Not to mention Oscar snubs like American History X and Gods and Monsters.) And . . . why? There wasn’t anything that special about this movie. It wasn’t that interesting. It wasn’t that funny. It wasn’t even that romantic. I’m all for comedic movies getting more attention at the Academy, but this is not the film I would have picked.

And as much as I love Dame Judi Dench . . . how long was she in this movie? Eight minutes? That isn’t really a Supporting Role, Academy. That’s an award for Best Cameo.

Oooh. Now, there’s a good new category.

2. Rosemary’s Baby

Unlike most of the other films on this list, I’ve watched this one recently, so I can remember exactly what I didn’t like about it. Mainly, that the movie was long, infuriating, and just generally unpleasant to watch. When I say that I almost turned the film off halfway through, please understand that this is not something that I consider doing lightly.

I understand that Rosemary’s Baby was hugely influential, and that’s fine. But honestly? I was expecting a whole lot more from one of the supposedly best horror movies of all time. I couldn’t sympathize with the heroine, and her husband actually disgusted my feminist sensibilities to the point where I could barely stand to watch him on screen. I made it through (and LIKED) A Boy and His Dog. It shouldn’t even be possible to enrage my inner feminist so much that I can barely stand to watch your film.

Only you, Polanski. Only you.

3. Transformers

The Official "Check-Under-The Hood" Pose. All mechanics learn this.

When the first Transformers came out, people were talking about it like it set off a new era of action movies. I read glowing reviews about this film, not just, yeah, this is a pretty fun action flick, go see it with your friends, but this is an incredible action flick. You have to see this movie.

So I saw the movie, and what I saw was a purely okay action film that was kind of uneven and boring for the first half of the film and kicked some ass in the last half hour. It wasn’t a horrible movie. But it sure as hell wasn’t anything special either.

And don’t even get me started on Megan Fox’s character. I’m not like all the other girls, okay? I know about cars, and I have daddy angst! That makes me deep!

Bitch, please.

4. Spiderman 2

Look, this wasn’t a bad movie. I didn’t detest it the way I detested Rosemary’s Baby, and it sure as hell was more interesting than Shakespeare in Love. But not unlike Transformers, it wasn’t the godamned messiah of superhero films, either. Actually, I always thought a good name for this movie would have been Spiderman 2: Jump, Petey, Jump. I mean, what else could they lay on the guy? Every scene I watched, another horrible thing was happening to our hero. I was just waiting for Tobey Maguire to give up and toss himself over a bridge, already.

Like I said, the movie’s not bad at all (Alfred Molina, in particular, is awesome) but I was never in love with it the way most people were. I can’t really condone remaking movies that were made less than a decade ago, but I am somewhat hopeful that the new Spiderman will at least be a little funny (and not a total angst machine) the way I seem to remember him being in the cartoon.

5. Lost in Translation

The indie movie of all indie movies . . . the film that showed the world how serious Bill Murray could be . . . the movie I expected to love with every bit of my film geek heart . . . and man, was I bored. Honestly. I didn’t care about these people. I didn’t care about their relationship. I ended the movie and went, Wow, that was a total waste of my time.

6. Avatar

Avatar is not a horrible movie, it’s not. It’s relatively entertaining, and it has some good action scenes, and it was an okay experience in theater. Avatar earned every special effects win it got at the Oscars. But a Best Picture nod? Are you kidding me? The acting was so-so . . . the women did the most of the heavy-lifting, while their lead actor did shit . . . the dialogue was mediocre at best, and the story is so old that you don’t even have to watch it to know exactly what happened. Did you see Fern Gully? Pocahontas? Dances with Wolves? You have seen Avatar. It is, in fact, quite possibly the most two-dimensional version of this story that’s ever been told. I’m honestly a little surprised that the military guys didn’t decide to pull out black hats and mustaches just for the hell of it.

And don’t even get me started on the unobtainium. For Christ’s sake.

7. Mad Max

My God, I was bored with this movie. I’m sorry. I’m all in for The Road Warrior, but I don’t get why everyone loves the first installment in this series so much—it’s uneven as all hell, and it is painfully slow. I spent almost the entire movie waiting for the revenge story I had been promised, and I might have been able to deal with the slow build if anything during that build had been remotely interesting . . . but it wasn’t. Honestly, I think I prefer Beyond Thunderdome to the first movie. Sure, it’s the most bizarre mismatch of the Lost Boys with Tina Turner that you’re ever going to find on film, but by God, at least it’s entertaining.

8. Coraline

This one’s a little tricky because I read this book long before I saw the film, and I could have easily saved it for a Worst Adaptation list instead of the V8 list. The reason it’s here instead is this: I honestly don’t think I would have liked this movie, even if I hadn’t read the book prior to seeing it.

I can deal with most of the changes that the movie made. Sure, Wybie’s entire character is solely made for the film and is, in my opinion, utterly unnecessary, but I can get over that. What I can’t get over is the fact that Coraline’s an annoying little shit. Everyone I have ever talked to loves this film, and I cannot understand why they don’t want to slap the little girl across the face. She isn’t precocious and relatable like she is in the novel. She’s a whiny and ungrateful brat who I don’t feel the least bit sorry for.

I get that this is wildly different material for an animated film, and I’m all for darker children’s stories (seriously, the book’s even creepier than the film, it’s simply superb) but this one isn’t dark or interesting enough for me to ignore the fact that the protagonist is a little spoiled snot who I can’t stand.

9. Dawn of the Dead 

I’m not sure it gets more blasphemous than a zombie enthusiast who doesn’t like the original Dawn of the Dead, but the truth of the matter is that I’m a story first, message second kind of person (I’m sure there are exceptions, but I can’t think of anything offhand) and this film isn’t about this band of survivors or even zombies, really—it’s only people are stupid; consumerism sucks; people are stupid; consumerism sucks, over and over and over again until I’m unconscious from pure boredom.

I’m not trying to say that movies can’t have subtext. Hell, I’m not even saying that they can’t have a Big Inspiring Message (or, for that matter, a Big Depressing Message). But I don’t like to be preached to, and some of Romero’s films come off to me not as stories but as sermons. And if you’re going to give me a sermon, by God, it better be the best, most exciting sermon of my whole freaking life. Which, Dawn of the Dead was not. I much preferred the first film in the series.

I should point out, though, that I do eventually want to try this again—perhaps when I get up the gumption to do an entire day and night long marathon of all Romero’s zombie movies. I suspect that I won’t like much after the first two hours, but maybe watching them in a row will tie them together for me in a more meaningful way.

10. Fargo

This is another one that I do actually want to try again at some point . . . I mean, so many people I know love it, even some people whose opinions I actually respect . . . but I was so underwhelmed by this movie. I mean, I didn’t hate it, exactly. It wasn’t a bad film. There were elements I liked—Francis McDormand, mostly, and . . . well . . . the wood chipper, of course. But I just didn’t really care about the majority of the film. I sat there, waiting to feel engaged with the story, waiting to be involved in a mystery or concerned for one of the characters or have some kind of emotional or intellectual reaction to the movie . . . but I felt so disconnected to the film that after it was over, I was totally numb to the whole thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever had quite such an apathetic response to a film, certainly not one as beloved as Fargo.

So . . .that’s it for now. Happy to have someone finally on your side? Enraged that I have completely ignored the utter brilliance of your favorite film?

You know where the comments section is.

31 thoughts on “I Could’ve Had a V8—A List of Unsatisfactory Movies

  1. Hang on…

    Coraline in the book ISN’T a whiny little brat? What kind of lesson is she supposed to be learning?

    I’d have thought that Coraline being a whiny little brat was essential to the story’s narrative arc. She’s tempted to this other world because she doesn’t appreciate the people in the normal world.

    • There’s a little bit of that in the book—wanting a world full of more excitement, of parents who pay more attention to her—but she’s far more well-rounded in the book, more spunky than selfish. It’s not what I would call a Lesson novel.

  2. I think the biggest barrier to enjoying Fargo is the Coen’s twisted sense of humour. They tell everyone that it’s based on a true story and everyone takes it seriously. The thing is though, saying “based on a true story” is a joke. As is much of the movie.

    The way to enjoy Fargo is to recognise that pretty much everything you are watching in the movie, no matter how tragic, is being played for laughs.

  3. 1) What’s a V8?
    2) Dawn of the Dead, out of all the Romero “of the dead” zombie movies I’ve seen, is the one I enjoyed the least. I preferred Land of the Dead, Day of the Dead was pretty awesome (hence why key elements are completely plagiarised in RE3:Extinction), and Night of the Living Dead is probably the best. The remake of Dawn of the Dead was better than the original because things actually happen in the remake.
    3) Spider-Man 2 is better than the original by virtue of giving Bruce Campbell a better cameo. However, another thing worth considering is this awesome scene where it looks pretty much exactly like a Evil Dead movie, complete with chainsaw….

    And yeah, I pretty much agree with all your choices asides from the two mentioned in my other two comments.

    • I forgot about this scene in Spiderman 2. I LOVE it.

      A V8 is a kind of tomato juice—well, technically V8 has all different types of juice products, but when someone says V8, they mean this little can of tomato juice. My Grams used to have them all the time. Never thought about other countries not having it, huh.

  4. I was pretty darn underwhelmed by Dawn Of The Dead, Lost In Translation, Avatar, or Spiderman 2 as well.

    I didn’t think the protagonists in Dawn were very fleshed out at all, and personally, if you’re going to do a slowly paced movie like that one, you need to have some interesting and/or likable characters to hold my interest. I thought Day Of The Dead had the most developed characters by a long shot, which is part of the reason it’s my favourite of the trilogy.

    Lost In Translation was a character piece, but I too just could not care about either character or their relationship, so it didn’t work for me. I didn’t even think they’re connection seemed all that deep.

    I had the exact same problems with Avatar that you did. Spiderman 2 was not my kind of action movie, I wasn’t that invested in Peter, and Mary-Jane is pretty much the poster girl for useless, bland, Mary Sueish damsel-in-distress love interests in superhero movies. Although to be fair, she’s not anywhere near as bad in that department as Lana Lang from Smallville, but that’s TV.

    • I like Kirsten Dunst in some stuff, but yeah, her Mary Jane isn’t terribly interesting. I’m hopeful that Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy will be more enjoyable.

      I did like Peter in Dawn of the Dead but he was pretty much the only character I cared about. Of course, to give some credit to the film: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth” is an awesome freaking quote.

      I definitely had serious character issues with Lost in Translation. I agree: in a character piece, it’s helpful if you like or at least sympathize with the characters.

    • Ooh, sorry about my terrible grammar in that comment. This is why I should get more than about 3 hours sleep per night.

  5. I have to the be only person on earth who hasn’t seen Avatar, and doesn’t really want to. There’s just nothing about it that screams “I have merit and value! I am fresh and entertaining! Watch me!”

    • I like parts of it. I think Avatar is a perfectly reasonable B movie (er, a B as in merit, not as in shlock fest) but I just didn’t find it that incredible. It’s an easy watch, but I’d have had a conniption fit if it had won Best Picture.

  6. ahhhhh this list
    I enjoyed Avatar, but didn’t think it was as amazing as everybody else seemed to think. The fx were beautiful and amazing looking, but the story was too simple for me. I think the purity in the message was probably very appealing to some people, but it wasn’t enough for me.

    I have to disagree with almost everything else though, especially Shakespeare In Love.

      • I was on a flight many years ago that seemed like the longest flight in history, in retrospect it was not long at all but i was 17-ish and dumb, and my airplane-life was saved by the airline showing Shakespear in Love. I also saw it in theatres, and I just absolutely love it. I feel like its really exciting, passionate and funny. I had a similar reaction to Quills…I felt like I was reading a book and it was a real page turner, rather than watching a movie-but in a good way. Does that make any sense?
        And by the way have you ever seen Quills?

        I know we did not mesh!! boooo

      • I should also add that I bawl my eyes out everytime I watch Lost in Translation. I think the movie is hilarious but it’s deeply depressing at times, and Scarlett’s character’s loneliness rubs off one me and I find myself sobbing. I watch that movie every single year, and I always get ready with tissues and I’m not even kidding. It’s a very cathartic movie for me. Another tear jerker is Life As A House…I purposely watch it so I’ll cry myself to death and then feel better later.

        Didn’t you think it was funny when the women was asking Bill Murray to rip “reeep” her stalkings off so not seductively and he was not turned on at all? I think that shit is a hoot!

        • I’ll be honest . . . I don’t remember a lot of Lost in Translation. It’s been years since I’ve seen it . . . like I told a friend earlier, I almost didn’t put it on this list because I barely recall anything that happened. But I do remember my reaction, which was exceptionally apathetic. I didn’t connect to the characters at all, certainly not like you did.

          I don’t know that Life as a House was a cathartic movie for me, but I did like that one. Hayden Christensen is a seriously hit or miss actor for me . . . more miss when you get right down to it . . . but I thought he worked in that film, and who doesn’t like Kevin Kline?

    • Shakespeare in Love was in reality even more terrible than Carlie thinks. It never pays to have Americans play Brits. They seem to be able to manage convincing American accents most of the time, but it’s exceedingly rare that an American can fake a convincing British accent. Of course it’s sucked for lots of other reasons as well.

  7. I was nodding my head through this whole list and doing mini-fist pumps of agreement until I hit Coraline and Fargo.

    Even if Coraline is annoying little shit (which I don’t 100% agree on), I think those type of characters can be fun if they’re treated right.

    I won’t be flipping any shit, but c’mon, Fargo. It’s so moody and makes you wonder about stuff like whether world is a few evil people scattered and mixed into the good, or whether there’s a little evil in all of us. And the accents are funny, yah?

    • Yah, the accents are funny. I will try Fargo again at some point . . . probably not any point soon, but some point. I feel like it could be one of those movies that I just missed something while watching. (It does, occasionally, happen.)

      But I just don’t think I would ever like Coraline, and I have no interest in trying it again. I agree that bratty characters—or at least characters that don’t quite realize what they have—can be done well, but Coraline really rubbed me the wrong way. Honestly, I was voting for the Other Mother the entire time.

  8. I’ve never seen Shakespeare in Love, Lost in Translation or Mad Max, so I can’t comment on them. I was completely indifferent toward Coraline. I’ve never read the book, though I’ve read some of Gaiman’s other stuff (American Gods is one of my favorite books). Considering my affinity for animated movies and all the praise Coraline received, I thought I’d like the movie a lot more than I did. As for Dawn of the Dead, I like it, but I do think it’s probably a bit overrated by the horror community.

    The other entries I disagree with to varying degrees. Transformers was good for what it was, although the sequel sucked so hard it made me forget that I actually liked the first film. As a guy, I enjoyed the lingering shots of Megan Fox’s body. And the film had a good sense of humor. In the theater I actually dozed off during the climactic battle scene at the end, although I had been awake for close to 24 hours at the time, so perhaps that isn’t too odd.

    I saw Fargo and The Big Lebowski when I was a kid, and I hated both of them. But I gave them both a re-watch recently and I really enjoyed both films a lot. I absolutely loved The Big Lebowski and couldn’t stop laughing, especially at John Goodman’s character. I still think Fargo is a bit overrated. There are several Coen Brothers movies I like a lot more, but it’s still a very good movie. Like one of the commenters above said, it’s essentially a comedy with crime-movie elements. The Coen Brothers want you to laugh at the accents and screw-ups. The Coen Bros. are an acquired taste, though. I used to think they were very overrated. Now I consider them among my favorite directors.

    I saw Avatar in IMAX 3D on opening night, and it’s one of my favorite theater experiences. It was my second favorite film of 2009 behind Inglourious Basterds (although, admittedly, that was a very weak year for movies). I actually agree with several of your complaints against the film. I, too, thought of Ferngully and Pocahontas while watching it. The dialogue, like all of James Cameron’s movies, was the weakest part. But the movie itself was insanely entertaining. It was the greatest eye candy ever. Whereas I’ve seen plenty of summer movies that are supposed to be fun and exciting and instead have me checking my watch every 10 minutes, thinking “When the hell is this shit ever going to be over?”, Avatar was a three-hour movie that felt like an hour and a half. I loved the over-the-top bad guy that looked like every G.I. Joe action figure I ever played with as a kid. I bought into the romance between Jake Scully and Neytiri. I was genuinely saddened when the bad guys blew up the giant tree and home of the Na’vi. The final battle scene was the best I’ve seen since The Return of the King. Needless to say, I loved the whole thing, even though I’m well aware of its many flaws.

    I think Rosemary’s Baby is the greatest horror movie of all time, and it’s one of my top-20 favorite films. I can understand you not liking it, though. Personally, I like my horror to be unpleasant and disturbing. I love the ambiguity of Rosemary’s Baby In the inevitable remake I’m sure they’ll throw all that out the window and show a baby with red horns running around killing people or some retarded shit (while also making sure it all fits within PG-13 guidelines.) Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon give excellent performances. I’m also pretty sure that Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson Family during filming, so that probably had an effect on the film being so, as you say, unpleasant.

    Spider-Man 2 is your entry that surprised me the most. I LOVE Spider-Man 2. It’s everything a superhero movie should be, imo. The scene on the train, when Spidey has lost his mask and the kid hands it to him and everyone tells him they’ll keep his identity secret, that scene MOVED me. And I don’t think I’ve ever been moved emotionally by any comic book movie ever. I was never even a fan of Spider-Man as a kid. Yet Spider Man 1 and 2</i are the best superhero movies I've seen.

    • I was a fan of Spider-Man and one of the best things I liked about it was that Spider-Man would take the mick out of the bad guys he fought. As a result, I found I preferred the videogame of Spider-Man to the actual movie. Removing Spider-Man’s quick witted jibes was a big mistake.

      • I’m with you on that. A big part of the reason I dug Spider-Man over other comics when I was a kid is that he always cracked so wise while kicking someone’s ass.

    • LOL. I agree—when they inevitably remake Rosemary’s Baby, they probably WILL do some CGI fangs or something. If they can do the makeup real well, I guess I’m okay with it . . . but I didn’t have a problem not seeing the baby, either. The horror in Mia Farrow’s face sold it for me. Acting was not one of my problems with that movie.

      I liked Spiderman 2 but I didn’t love it. I guess I feel the way about that movie that you feel about The Dark Knight. I really liked that scene that you talked about on the train . . . but how many times can a guy get unmasked? Mary Jane found out, Doc Ock found out, Harry found out, AND a whole train of people found out. Peter Parker needs some lessons in stealth.

  9. About Fargo – I wonder if people in North Dakota actually talk like that. It sounded more like Bob & Doug McKenzie. I’ve never been there so I don’t know. Better than, say, the accents in Drop Dead Gorgeous but still not authentic sounding. Maybe that are, though. As I said I haven’t been there.

  10. Since reading this list I’ve been wondering to myself what movies I think are the most overrated. The Dark Knight immediately comes to mind. I mean, TDK is a good movie. I like it. But everyone I know orgasms all over themselves talking about how amazing it is and how it’s one of the greatest movies ever. Personally, I don’t even think it’s the best Batman movie (that honor still belongs to Tim Burton’s 1989 version). I think I even prefer Batman Begins over TDK. Begins never reaches the level of greatness that TDK sometimes does, but I think it’s a more even and satisfying film.

    If The Dark Knight had ended when The Joker is thrown in jail, I probably would’ve given it five stars. It was excellent up to that point. But everything in the last 45 minutes diminishes my overall enjoyment. They completely waste a great villain like Two Face and make him seem like an afterthought. I hated the whole Patriot Act political commentary crap with Batman using phone signals to basically spy on the entire city. The scenario at the end with the two ferry boats was more unnecessary commentary and completely unrealistic. In a situation like that, people would be falling all over themselves to get to the detonator and push the button— especially when the other boat belongs to convicted criminals. The scene in the streets between Joker and Batman is essentially the climax of the movie, yet there’s almost a whole hour still to come and it makes the movie drag and feel way too long.

    I absolutely abhor 300, yet everyone else in the world seems to love it. I actually fell asleep a couple times in the theater while watching it, and I wasn’t even tired or sleepy going in. That movie just bored the shit out of me. I hated the look of it. I hated the CGI. I hated all the lame ass catchphrases that made up the entire fucking movie. I hated all the slow motion that Zack Snyder uses in every freaking movie. I hated the whole damn thing. When people in the theater started applauding at the end, I thought they were being sarcastic and just applauding because that shitfest was over. But no, apparently they loved it.

    Anchorman is another movie I find very overrated. A lot of people love that movie and think it’s hilarious. I don’t hate it, but it’s one of my least favorite Will Ferrell movies.

    The most overrated movie of all time, though, imo, is The Deer Hunter. I admit that the second half is very good, once it fast-forwards to their time in Vietnam and all the Russian roulette stuff. Christopher Walken gives an excellent performance. But the whole first hour of the film is nothing but fucking dancing!!! DANCING!!! I mean, I understand the director wanting to show the contrast between the characters’ lives before and after the war. They attend the wedding; everyone’s happy and smiling. That’s fine. Go ahead, show them celebrating and dancing. I don’t mind seeing that for about two or three minutes. But for an entire fucking hour?!?! Are you serious?!?! If it was John Travolta disco-ing it up á la Saturday Night Fever, I might not have a problem with it. But no, it’s boring ass ballroom dancing with music that makes me want to bore screwdrivers through both eardrums. I wasn’t even able to enjoy the excellent second half because I felt like I had just lost in Russian roulette after sitting through that first hour.

    • I should have read the whole thing before commenting…

      I absolutely abhor 300, yet everyone else in the world seems to love it. I actually fell asleep a couple times in the theater while watching it, and I wasn’t even tired or sleepy going in. That movie just bored the shit out of me. I hated the look of it. I hated the CGI. I hated all the lame ass catchphrases that made up the entire fucking movie. I hated all the slow motion that Zack Snyder uses in every freaking movie. I hated the whole damn thing.

      I’m with you on this as well. Of course 300 is doubly heinous because The 300 Effect has been used elsewhere (see the TV series Rome where they love doing 300-style slo-mo fights and explosions of blood).

      Anchorman is another movie I find very overrated. A lot of people love that movie and think it’s hilarious. I don’t hate it, but it’s one of my least favorite Will Ferrell movies.

      I liked parts of it. Parts were hilarious but were balanced out by really god-awful, horrendously unfunny parts.

      I haven’t seen The Deer Hunter although I’m familiar with the Russian Roulette bit because it’s been parodied several times including by The Simpsons.

    • Oh, I have to disagree on The Dark Knight. I mean, it’s not in my top 10 of all time, but I do love that movie, and I think it is the best Batman film . . . although not my favorite one (I THINK that’s Batman Begins but it’s hard. I pretty much love them all . . . although each for very different reasons).

      And it’s funny . . . I enjoy 300 but most people I know hate it. My only problem with that movie was the voiceover. Every time Faramir came on to tell us something that we could literally see happening on screen I wanted to hit someone in the face.

      I’ve never seen Anchorman or The Deer Hunter, though, so i can’t speak to those films. I must say . . . I wouldn’t have guessed the dancing 🙂

      • You think TDK is the best Batman film, but you prefer Batman Begins? Doesn’t that mean you think Batman Begins is the best Batman film? *scratches head*

        • No, I distinguish between “best” and “favorite”. As a whole, I think The Dark Knight is a better film, and I enjoy watching it. But it’s not one I can watch all the time . . . it’s a heavier film, not the kind of thing I want to watch when I’m in a remotely bad mood. Whereas I can watch Batman Begins as often as it pops up on TV, even though I think it has more flaws. Sometimes favorite and best are the same thing, but not always, at least, not for me.

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