The Contrarian Experiment

Last year I wrote about the notion of being an “Accidental Contrarian.” Delving into the idea – by some – that I go out of my way to like a panned film or criticize a beloved one, along with the weird trend of my fellow Northwest reviewers going against the mindset of the rest of the country now and again.

This whole thing percolated back up in the opening months of this year, when I found myself – mostly alone – in my appreciation of Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie, the sci-fi film that received a kicking by many and a shrug by others to a Metacritic score of 41%. This sparked an idea to begin logging whether or not my mindset was actually radical or if it was the natural random oddities that are bound to happen when you see a hundred-or-so new pictures in a given year.

Of course this is a two-fold path. There’s disagreeing with the critical community about a release and then there’s finding oneself on the other side of the general audience’s dollars. While a film’s success doesn’t innately speak to people liking it, box-office is a pretty fair barometer. Thus, I’ve jotted down the top five movies of 2010-2014 in terms of its Metacritic score and domestic gross and tried to uncover if my biases/grouchiness/contrarianism is in fact an overwhelming trait I am to bare.

To aid me with this project I enlisted the help of Mr. Mainstream himself; Brian “The Movie Guy” Taibl. The man loves a blockbuster as much as anyone I know and if he thinks a major Hollywood effort is junk, then I don’t see my own dismissal of it as a negative. Additionally, since I’m not one to grade a film or slap a star rating onto it, I went with the judgment means used at the ol’ Cinema Squabble podcast. I’m labeling them all theater, rent or skip.

So, how did it pan out on the box office side of things? Here’s the rundown.

2010

Toy Story 3 – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

Alice in Wonderland – BZ: Skip – BT: Rent

Iron Man 2 -BZ: Rent – BT: Rent

Twilight : Eclipse – BZ: Skip – BT: Skip

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 -BZ: Theater – BT: Rent

2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – BZ: Skip – BT: Skip

Twilight : Breaking Dawn – BZ: Skip – BT: Skip

The Hangover Part II – BZ: Skip – BT: Skip

Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides -BZ: Skip – BT: Rent

2012

The Avengers – BZ: Rent – BT: Theater

The Dark Knight Rises – BZ: Rent – BT: Theater

The Hunger Games – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

Skyfall – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

The Hobbit – BZ: Skip – BT: Rent

2013

The Hunger: Catching Fire – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

Iron Man 3 – BZ: Rent – BT: Theater

Frozen – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

Despicable Me 2 – BZ: Skip – BT: Rent

Man of Steel – BZ: Skip – BT: Rent

2014

American Sniper – BZ: Rent – BT: Theater

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – BZ: Skip – BT: Rent

Guardians of the Galaxy – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

Captain America : The Winter Solder – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

The Lego Movie – BZ: Theater – BT: Theater

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Well, this certainly isn’t helping my case. Of the twenty-five pictures listed above, I ended up being clearly more positive only once, where I claimed Harry Potter and the Deathly Halllows Part 1 to be a worthwhile visit to the theater. There were ten times where I went in the negative versus Mr. Movie Guy. That doesn’t particularly paint me as one with the paying moviegoer. Of course, ticket sales are down and people are always complaining about how Hollywood is drowning in sequels (of which there are 16, 17 if you count The Avengers), so perhaps I am more aligned with movie-lovers, just those that don’t, you know, actually pay to see them at your local AMC/Regal.

Maybe I’m more in-tuned with the supposedly snooty crews of Sundance Cinemas or Landmark. This is where I gathered the five best reviewed films of 2010-2014, that I was able to see, and once again charted my tendencies. The movies considered were as follows.

2010

The Social Network, Carlos ,Toy Story 3, A Prophet, Winter’s Bone

2011

A Separation, The Artist ,The Arbor, Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

2012

Zero Dark Thirty, Amour, This is Not a Film, The Kid with a Bike, Lincoln

2013

12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Before Midnight, Inside Llewyn Davis, Stories We Tell

2014

Boyhood, Mr Turner, Ida, Two Days, One Night, Tale of Princess Kaguya

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Alright!! Now, this is more like it. Of the twenty-five pictures gathered here, Gravity is the one and only that am not enthusiastic about. Even Boyhood, which spawned my original contrarian piece, I’ve had a rethink on upon a recent revisit. These are almost universally adored releases, but if I were yearning to go against the grain on principle, wouldn’t I be rambling on about how overrated these all are. These numbers are kind of surprising. With all of the Oscar hoopla I tend to find off-base, the thought sprung to mind that there was no way I agreed about the big ones with such consistency. The majority get irate at the Academy too though, especially in retrospect. Add to that my splitting on the money-making group, of which I recommend a theater as often as a skip, with five rentals to boot, and you might have to start calling me Mr. Positivity. I’m not saying every hit is something special. 60% recommendation is pretty damn solid for an alleged hater. I like some family films, others I don’t. Similarly, this goes for superhero cinema and action flicks.

Maybe I’m not the contrarian. Maybe you are. I mean, if you like Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I hope you’re considered the nutter.

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