Iconic but awful

I had the unfortunate experience of having to watch The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with my wife during lockdown. Maggie Smith won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance and she did do an excellent job. Her ferociousness in portraying the main character was really in your face. However I felt really disturbed how that film played out. Not really to do with the story of the film which sounded interesting but the other characters and creepiness of some of the scenes are really inappropriate.

I found the entire Matrix franchise to be thoroughly intolerable.

Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But It became iconic because of it being a really bad movie.

I think I tried watching Giant twice. A big name cast in a (istm) boring soap opera. The sets looked fake to me, and I’ll give them a little slack, because Hollywood was still figuring out the “make look old” make-up.

The Bourne trilogy’s “shaky cam” action sequences are certainly iconic – and actually used much more sparingly in those films than is generally remembered – but damn I hate that technique. I wouldn’t say the movies are awful, but it makes for an awful movie going experience when you have to physically turn away from the screen to keep from losing your lunch.

A few comments.

They Live is exactly the movie it needs to be. It is a great movie. But, of course, that’s just my personal opinion, and tastes vary. I can very easily understand how someone watching it would conclude it’s an objectively bad movie and be genuinely confused as to how anyone could like it. It’s very stylized in a micro-budget kind of way, and if you aren’t familiar with, or just don’t like, that style, you’re almost certainly going to think it’s just plain bad.

I’m kind of surprised that no one’s pointed it out yet, but It’s A Wonderful Life is only accidentally iconic. It was a box office bomb when it came out, and was largely forgotten - including by the studio, which just plain forgot to renew the copyright. It accidentally entered the public domain, and as a very explicitly-themed Christmas movie starring one of the most iconic American actors ever and from a famed director, it entered heavy rotation on PBS stations and independent stations looking for cheap filler for the holliday season. It’s only iconic because, prior to streaming or even cable, when everyone only had a few TV stations to watch, everyone watched it every Christmas. It accidentally brute-forced its way into iconic status.

I’d agree that Avatar was not a very good movie, but I also don’t think it’s really iconic. It’s usually discussed in terms of how odd it is that a movie that had that big a box office also had almost no impact on broader popular culture. Oh, and on the “unobtanium” side-track, I agree that “unobtanium” actually makes perfectly good sense in-universe as a name geeky scientists familiar with the trope would give to such a substance if they actually found it.

I’ve often said those are the three most beautiful words in the English language.

I recently saw Network for the first time. How it could have taken me this long to get around to watching it I don’t know but wow, what an unpleasant surprise. To start with, I had no idea it was a (dark) comedy. I can remember when it won awards and have seen the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore” scene umpteen times and from that, I guess, thought it was high drama. Nope.

The bedroom scene with Fay Dunaway and William Holden is absolutely cringeworthy. In fact, I think old Bill was cringing while he did it.
Even Peter Finch (my sweet baby emeritus) couldn’t save it for me.

I’m sure my expectations and misconceptions colored the way I received it and I should probably go back and watch it again but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Just about any show that treated it characters as cardboard cutouts.

All in the Family: Archie Bunker makes a dumb racist statement and cut away to Michael or Lionel for a reaction shot. (The best shows were when the characters stepped out from behind the cutouts: Edith shows insight and explains to Michael why Archie is the way he is. Archie lays off a person for the wrong reasons and realizes it.)

MASH: The battle of us right-thinking good people versus those bad-thinking hypocrites. OF COURSE Hawkeye had to be the worlds best surgeon, and Frank Burns - maybe merely competent. The commanding officer HAD to be clueless.

I expect this level of characterization in “Dudley Do Right”, but anything that has pretensions to be iconic should be better.

ISTR a few eps in which, to catch a suspect, McGarret would order the whole island shut down- nobody in or out. I used to wonder if he really (irl) had the authority to do so.

Probably not since Hawaii did not (and, AFAIK, still does not) actually have a statewide police force.

I genuinely really like that one. I have it on DVD (which I no longer watch of course) :slight_smile:. I get where it might be a little long and clunky for some. But the creepiness, if that’s the right word and it might be, is part of the appeal. It’s a slightly uncomfortable film and Smith and Pamela Franklin bouncing off one another in person and at a distance is worth the price of admission for me. I think Smith deserved her Oscar and Franklin has to me always projected a sense of barely restrained, bubbling-under-the-surface-nutcase wide-eyed fanatic. Generally, not just in this film - something about those slightly insane-looking eyes.

The first one was mindless, escapist fun. The next two were based on the ridiculous premise that the first film should have been taken seriously.

Assuming it’s the scene I remember, it’s intended to show the stereotypical gender reversals not just in the office but in bed as well - Dunaway takes charge, gets off quickly and goes to sleep. Not sure it has the same impact now that it used to when powerful women in charge were still a novelty.

Aww, I love Rowdy Roddy. He’s a cutie! and the silly sci-fi, I love that stuff. ‘They Live’ - how is it ‘bad’??..as an 80’s movie, I enjoy it a whole lot more than the typical 80’s bilge. (the 80’s movies are so dated, 20 year old ‘teenagers’ with big frizzy hair, popped collars, sunglasses day and night!)…

My choice for Iconic But Awful is ‘An American In Paris’. A little of Gene Kelly goes a long way, and he is In Your Face prancing and stomping. He is, to put it bluntly, a creep, and too old for the part. I also don’t like the art direction or the music (even if it IS Gershwin) all that much. The overlong ballet! I don’t know why this one, because I love love love gaudy old Hollywood musicals, but this one leaves me cold. It yells ‘lookit me, lookit me, aren’t I one of the all time greatest movies ever made!’ and …no, for me, it misses ‘greatness’. It’s just too much.

Y’know, I’ve had a lot of discussions about this over the years, including a few on this board, and you’ve made the argument I’ve always made far more clearly and succinctly than I’ve ever managed. I think this is now my stock reply when discussing them. Thank you.

That’s fair enough. Maggie Smith was terrific no doubt. Even the vibrancy of her look combined with the needy dominant way of how she approached her job and controlled her students was captivating. The scene where she uses a projector to showcase photos of European culture which slowly descends into admiration of fascism was very powerful as was the scene where she proclaims her innocence at being reported to the headmistress. However the scenes with the art teacher and his relationship with the girls and the manipulation behind a romantic triangle grossed me out to be honest.

Gotta agree on Avatar. I’m an SF buff and something of an environmentalist. So I should have been the target audience and should have loved this movie. I didn’t. They Live, on the other hand, I thought was great.

I’ll call it awful. It takes a protagonist with great dreams to travel the world and imagination to be an innovative argument, saddles him with a failing family business, townie wife, and a gaggle of kids he clearly didn’t want, and the sends the inept angel Clarance to guilt-trip him into believing that he’d he’d had the audacity to follow his dreams or not be born the town would have become an apocalyptic wasteland and nobody else would have been romantically attracted to Donna Reed. It’s like a not-very-good episode of The Twilight Zone stretched to feature length.

The first film was visually stunning. The sequels and comic book philosophizing, however, were mind-numbing. How the stunning critical reaction to the sequels has been so forgotten that they’re actually making another one—presumably on the strength of Keanu Reeves’ recently renewed status as an action hero—is beyond me. It is like someone suggesting a sequel to Heaven’s Gate, or how we need a Godfather, Part IV to wrap up all of the loose ends.

Not to undermine your opinion but I’d suggest you watch it again with expectations based upon your corrected understanding of the film. The Max/Diana relationship is supposed to be flat and pointless because it is; they are literally playing out the roles that television has conditioned them to believe are how people live, and it is all Fay Dunaway’s character knows… Contrast that with Beatrice Straight’s diatribe as the cast aside wife (the shortest performance to win an Academy Award) and Peter Finch’s tragic turn as a broken man used by others to as entertainment to increase ratings or to push corporate interests on the public, only to be literally executed when he was no longer useful (live on television, of course, for the ratings).

The film isn’t intended to be laugh out loud funny although I do guffaw when Marlene Warfield’s revolutionary Marxist documentarian-cum-reality TV producer Lauren Hobbs screaming “You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass! I’m not knockin’ down my goddamn distribution charges!” And the criminally underrated Ned Beatty’s iconic speech, literally preaching the gospel of globalism is far more illustrative and chilling than any protest against neoliberal corporatism. Chayefsky is on record claiming he didn’t intend it as satire but as an actual reflection of what was happening, and if that was true he had a telescope into the future because essentially every trend in the film has come to pass from the selling of the news to corporate propaganda to race-to-the-gutter reality television causing idealists to sell out their values for residuals.

Not to suggest that your personal opinion is wrong but I’d suggest giving the film another go. I consider it to be one of the most brilliant films every made, and the flatness of the dramatic relationships is a deliberate choice in there to emphasize how emotionally and socially disconnected television (and now ‘social’ media) has made us from each other and society as a whole.


The sequel, Bogus Journey, was much better, really good, which is a real distinction in movie history to me. Maybe unique, if the Godfathers are considered to be equals. (Then again I don’t watch Marvel movies)

I love that guy. But I don’t know how much more wounded animal lopping I can watch him do - looking at you, John Wick. He’s done enough action hero stuff. There’s no shame in retiring with a rom-com or something in which he mostly sits down.