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Bad Taste



Essays, Not Rants! 376: Bad Taste


I really like Iron Man 2. This is not a popular opinion; the movie is usually listed near the bottom of MCU movie rankings, especially when held up against its predecessor.


But I really like it all the same. I suppose there’s no accounting for bad taste.


Perhaps there’s some explanation for my deep affection for this much-maligned movie when the context with which I first saw the film is taken into account. The summer of 2010 saw my heart acting up with the symptoms of something potentially dire, but without any clear cause. This period of uncertainty was less than fun, to put it mildly, so a movie where the protagonist was dealing with his own chest-related issues struck a very personal cord. I’m fully aware of the film’s flaws, but my opinions of Iron Man 2 will forever be tied up with the circumstances when I first saw it.


I go on and on on this blog about how art is a two-way street, about how the viewer/reader/player affects the work almost as much as the creator. What one brings to the table inherently changes the final effect of the piece. My own medical issues, for example, have had drastic effects on my opinion of Iron Man 2.


In light of that, it’s hard to really provide a framework with which to declare a movie the best. Something I love may not work for you, and vice versa. I found Never Let Me Go to be profoundly moving, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who’d call it melodramatic schlock, just as there are people who loved 50/50 while I found it somewhat hollow. I still love (500) Days Of Summer, but what I like about has changed as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser).


Take the ending to The Last of Us. Without getting too much into it (because even six years on, talking about the ending still feels taboo), Joel has decided that there’s something that Ellie shouldn’t do and he’s going to do whatever it takes to ensure no harm befalls the teenage girl who’s become like a daughter to him. It’s a rampage, against a faction we’d been led to believe were heroic, culminating in the player – as Joel – shooting an unarmed man. Naturally, its response has proven it divisive. In the ensuing discussion, however, it became clear that players who had children of their own were more likely to sympathize with Joel’s choice than non-parents. The player’s own personal life informs their response to the narrative.


So is it a bad ending? I certainly read some criticisms of it, just as I read praises. While I’d say that it is empirically good, I do have to wonder if describing something empirically is even possible. There’s little doubt that it’s well-crafted and, I’d say, well-earned. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it; and it doesn’t matter how good it is, if you don’t like it you don’t like it.


As I said, there’s no accounting for bad taste.


I think we’re too hard on people who like stuff that’s not considered good, that there are too many pleasures we consider guilty. I’m sure we’ve all stories in one form or another that seem childish or shallow now, but once upon a time meant the world to you. I will forever have a soft spot for Lewis Carrol’s “Jabberwocky” and John Betjemen’s “False Security” since they were among my introduction to poetry, and two I took a real shine to years and years ago. Henry V is my favorite Shakespeare play, not because of the St. Crispin’s Day Speech or really any merit of itself, but because it was the first of his plays that I really dig into sixteen-odd years ago. Pretentious as it is, I want to say that Ulysses by James Joyce is my favorite book, not out of an adoration for obtuse literature, but from the delight of classes spent examining the book and finding meaning and, with all of that, falling in love with the work. I’m sure had I read it under other circumstances I would have dismissed it as being overwrought nonsense.


Secondhand Lions has a middling score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I absolutely love the movie all the same. I know that Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is far from a really great game, but it’s an absolute delight to play on the weekend with your brother and a couple beers. I don’t care what you think, Toto’s “Africa” is an absolutely stellar piece of music.


Maybe I’m too hard on people. I think Batman v Superman is an absolute mess, but y’know what, if you like it, good for you. We can talk until the sky falls about what’s a good piece of art and what’s not, but I think we’re kinda missing the forest for the trees. So long as the story made you feel something and isn’t hurting anyone else, where’s the harm in liking it? I enjoy watching bad movies, I love playing excellent games, and I’ll gladly go to bat for Iron Man 2.


After all, there really is no accounting for bad taste.

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I really liked Iron Man 2 as well. I loved Howard Stark's Walt Disney moments, and just thought that it was a great story of reconnection with one's family history. Secondhand Lions is also a great movie, despite what Rotten Tomatoes says.


Now, I do have quite the controversial opinion of The Dark Knight and particularly Heath Ledger's contributions to it. I don't like it and I really don't like the portrayal of Joker in it. I also feel that Heath Ledger's performance is lauded solely on it being his last major film. Nobody seems to acknowledge the mental toll the role took on him, and that in and of itself is sad and does admittedly contribute to my dislike of his portrayal.

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Now, I do have quite the controversial opinion of The Dark Knight and particularly Heath Ledger's contributions to it. I don't like it and I really don't like the portrayal of Joker in it. I also feel that Heath Ledger's performance is lauded solely on it being his last major film. Nobody seems to acknowledge the mental toll the role took on him, and that in and of itself is sad and does admittedly contribute to my dislike of his portrayal.


:kaukau: I really liked it when it came out, but then it didn't hold up upon second viewings when I noticed so many plotholes and contrivances for a movie lauded as the most realistic of all superhero movies.  Then people said that it was possibly the greatest of all time, and I just couldn't take it that far.  I'm in that camp that likes Batman Begins more for its more Batman centric, gothic story, and its more atmospheric depiction of Gotham.


By the way, Josh, I hope that whatever heart-related issues you had back in 2010 are fixed now.


But as to other opinions:

1. Iron Man 2 has a week villain, but so did the first one.  I actually really liked everything else.  It still held on to that initial joy of watching Tony Stark suit up.  The literal "suitcase" was one of the best moments in the whole series.  And like AZBlue, the moments where Howard Stark evokes Walt Disney planning EPCOT are treasures to people who are sentimental about the man himself.

2. I haven't seen (500) Days of Summer, although I saw a video by Youtuber Alex Meyers reviewing it and why he thought that it was the most important romance film ever made, because the two people don't end up together.  While I think that's an important lesson...I don't think that it's the only romantic movie with such plot and/or themes.  While I'll probably like it, I don't know if I'll adore it as others have.

3. Batman v Superman was a bad movie, but I gave it credit when it first came out for at least having a better idea of what it was supposed to be than Man of Steel, and it didn't go out of its way to mess up my favorite Superhero.  Less shakycam.  Bolder lighting.  A little more self-awareness that it was in the DC comic books world.  I find it odd how most people thought that it was worse than Man of Steel.  I thought that they were both bad, but the latter at least wasn't offensively bad.  And by that point, Superman had already been ruined for that universe, so it wasn't like there was anything that the movie could tarnish for me.

4. Haven't played The Last of Us.  I'm not a gamer.

5. I liked Secondhand Lions.  Though I haven't seen it in forever, it did have a good, distinct feel and story.  I found it memorable in much the same way that Babe was memorable.  There was a certain pinch of movie magic to it, that makes you realize you're watching a movie, but admire it all the more for that.

6. Here's an unpopular opinion: I actually thought that The Amazing Spider-Man was okay.  Not brilliant or anything, but it had a certain level of energy and eccentricity that reminded me of Batman and Robin, and what would later become Into the Spider-Verse.  I enjoyed the brand of comic-book logic that is unique to Spider-Man, and I did think that the universe it inhabited was distinctively his.  I also thought that it was cool that they killed Gwen, and I liked the final montage of his grieving, and then the ending.

7. I liked Superman Returns.



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I also feel that Heath Ledger's performance is lauded solely on it being his last major film.


Yeah I don't know about this. Dying prematurely didn't help Carrie Fisher, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anton Yelchin, or Paul Walker receive acclaim for their final roles. Ledger received acclaim because he took an iconic villain role (already made famous on film by Jack Nicholson no less) and made it entirely his own. He was terrifying, mesmerizing, very darkly comedic, everything that role needed to be for that movie. In my opinion, he did a fantastic job. Well deserving of the the praise he got for the role and I'm not just saying that because he died. (Or because I liked the movie, because outside of his performance I think its very problematic.)


It's fine that his take on the Joker didn't do it for you. But to say people only laud his performance because he died, well, I just don't see how you can get to that conclusion. I think it legitimately struck a strong chord with many viewers, myself included.

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