Unaccountably Acclaimed (by Critics, mostly)

Just thinking about a few artists/creative types who have been critics’ darlings that I’ve been baffled by. First on the list for me would be Albert Brooks - I might have chuckled once at something in one of his movies, but I’ve never laughed out loud, and never found him particularly witty (though he’s plenty dry, which may be why people mistake him for witty).

Musically, I never got Radiohead, and I tried, repeatedly, after so many people whose opinions I respected told me how great they were - to me, they sound like Pink Floyd, which is definitely not a good thing (IMO). Nirvana would be another one, though I can understand their success a bit more and might have thought they were some kind of saviors myself if I’d been younger when they came out (and consequently hadn’t already heard other bands mining the same territory for a decade previous to their ascendancy).

I could probably make a list that would take up a whole page of the thread on “great” writers, but a lot of the ones I would pick were written during a period when the style favored overblown prose and lengthy descriptive passages, but I would single out Thomas Hardy and Nathaniel Hawthorne as particularly nauseating reads. Anybody else?

Donnie Darko baffles me. It’s an incomprehensible mess of a movie, chock full of third-rate stoner metaphysics. Yet it’s somehow got a legion of fans who think it’s “like, totally awesome dude!”

I’ll second Radiohead. They’re boring, whiney and repetitive. But I’d also add the Killers to the list. They rehash every tired cliche of punk rock music from the last 20 years. These guys are the future of rock & roll? Pfft. Rock is dead, buried and decomposed.

As for books - I have never finished a book by Martin Amis. Usually I have followed Dorothy Parker’s advice and flung it with great force. Pompous, pretentious, misogynistic psuedo-hip drivel by the twitiest of London twits.

I said radiohead mesel in the last thread we had on this theme, and I thought it couldn’t be topped. I’m coming round to the idea, however, that there just may be a new sherriff in town when it comes to horribly overrated benefactors of critical groupthink - I’m talking about the naked emperor himself, Rufus Wainwright III.

I’m in a rush, so unfortunately cannot give this sad study in mediocrity the attention that it deserves - so let’s just stick to his voice. First time I heard it I thought it was some sort of grand ironic gesture - singer songwriter sings through his sinuses as he is too arch and cool to actually hit a note - It is so repetitive and goes on and ON and ON!!! He must have a vocal range of about one sixteenth of an octave. That he has hoodwinked the entire critical music press that he is the second coming of Cole Porter is a real headscratcher, it is baffling.

On top of this stinking sound, the guy puts out this appalling ‘my struggle as an artist in New York bohemia’ bullshit. Yeah Rufus, it must have been tough wrestling with your sexuality and doing coke with East coast trustafarians whilst your Dad was passing your demo tape round the Geffen board room. Get tae fuck son, your vocal chords are a disgrace to humanity.

Because a LOT of people watched it while stoned.

Seriously, it was a favourite of my roomies (along with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and I never got its appeal.

Brooks is not a gag comic. His stuff is situational; conceptual, to use an icky word. He subtly posits an overall-ridiculous situation, rather than going from belly laugh to belly laugh.

That said, Real Life is one of the single funniest movies ever made, and I feel pretty certain that Ricky Gervaise has watched it about a hundred times; Gervaise’s whole schtick was done first, and better IMO, in Real Life.

Cormac McCarthy. I thought The Road was at best mediocre. For a story in the post-apocalyptic genre, there are a million others that are better. The reason I don’t enjoy it, apparently, is that I failed to know before I read it how much of a Big Deal McCarthy is in the history of Great American Writers.

His writing has little regard for punctuation, and he elects to not use quotes for dialog. Throw in some garbage metaphors and some 10 dollar words and you have his latest novel.


After my first McCarthy, I described him to a friend as “McJoyce with a fake twang,” and I was done with him.

I thought the Killers, circa their first album, were a pleasant little rock band capable of cranking out fun, disposable singles. Then they decided they wanted to be Bruce Springsteen instead of Duran Duran. It was not a good move.

Watching the lead singer between his first performance on *Saturday Night Live * and his second was like night and day. On his first, he looked like a pretty comfortable showman. The second time around, he seemed painfully awkward. He just looked like he was trying SOOOOO hard to make sure that every gesture and inflection were EPIC and GRAND and showed how IMPORTANT the lyrics were.

I do not understand the fawning adulation for “Napoleon Dynamite.” I can’t think of anything more dull. Slow and unfunny with a thoroughly unappealing lead character.

For awhile critics were fawning over “rappers” such as Eminem and discussing them as if they were actual musicians…I could get really nasty but I’m restraining myself. I understand why the high school “rebels” go for it, but the critics?

Oh, I get his humor; I just don’t find it funny. Can’t remember if I’ve seen Real Life, though - I’ll give it a shot.

I always thought Ricky Gervais got his schtick from The Larry Sanders Show.

The raves over several Robert Altman movies perplex me (Gosford Park being the exception), but Prairie Home Companion, one of the best reviewed movies last year, was almost unwatchable to me.

I’m one of several people who’s dissed Lost in Translation as being a go-nowhere movie about two intensely unlikeable lead characters, though it has many fans here as well as among critics.

There’s plenty of hip hop that’s worthy of the same kind of critical praise as rock/pop music. Usually, though, the stuff on the radio isn’t it (much as Britney or N*Sync isn’t). There’s plenty of underground hip hop and “backpack rap” that’s every bit as challenging and musical as any indie rock act - The Coup, a bunch of Dan the Automator’s projects, Aesop Rock, even Busdriver - you just have to dig for it. I’m not a huge fan of Eminem, but he can freestyle like a mofo, and I’m impressed with his facility with language and ability to come up with unexpected rhymes.

I enjoyed Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (the only book of his I’ve read) as well as Lost in Translation, though I can understand why neither would be everybody’s cup of tea.

The White Stripes

I just can’t comprehend how anyone can like Jack White’s voice. And their latest single, Icky Thump or whatever, can barely be called music. I’ll grant that some of their songs show they actually have pretty good instrumental chops…but the final creation? Bleagh.



Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, but All The Pretty Horses is one of only two books that have actually changed my life. The other is * The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn*. Vive la difference!

I’ll throw in another vote for Radiohead. I just don’t get the fascination.

I’ll second the unreasonably acclaimed call for Albert Brooks. Oh, right, he’s not a gag comedian, but the real point is, he’s not a funny comedian. He makes comedies, but they are not funny. And comedians who are not funny are useless.

I don’t know Alien enough to defend it, but I just watched Gattaca again recently and I could answer almost every one of your objections from that article. Some were explicitly addressed in the dialog. The film is about prejudice and the hazards of it, especially in a utopian/distopian future where it’s institutionalized.

Alan Arkin’s detective was set on tracking down the innocent (of murder) Vincent because he was an in-valid, not the guilty (but valid) director.

It appears, with both films, your logic didn’t follow the film’s logic. That’s reason enough not to like a movie, but you seriously can’t understand why other people might like them?

The Replacements . On their indie records, they were just another undistinguished garage punk outfit. Once they went major label (Tim and after) they became as glossy as Phil Collins.
The Minutemen . Early 80’s punk band that many critics rave about, but all they did was throw together aimless jazzy chords and tried to pass it off as real punk rock.
I’ll agree with Rufus Wainright, and match you with Anthony and the Johnsons. He’s a piano playing singer-songwriter who I suspect gets most of his attention because he’s transgendered. I don’t care if he’s half man, half woman, and three-quarters badger; his voice is Tiny Tim-esque annoying and incapable of inflection and his piano playing ranks with 3rd graders playing “Chopsticks”.

I agree with Reality Chuck a thousand times over on Alien, which has manifest stupidities that apparently didn’t bother the critics, but which RC has pointed out. I thought It! The Terror from Beyond Space (from which it ripped off 90% of its plot) was far better, despite its handicapping small budget and other problems.
I agree that the stupid things ge points out in Gattace are pretty dumb, but I liked the film, regardless. They didn’t have me wanting to throttle the director.