The Academy of the Overrated Archives

American Beauty by D. B. Bates – December 24, 2010
Upon its initial release, three things about American Beauty stood out: Kevin Spacey’s fantastic performance, Conrad Hall’s breathtaking yet eerie cinematography, and Sam Mendes’s lyrical direction. I liked the film when I initially saw it, and it stuck with me enough to make it one of my first DVD purchases in 2000 (though it helped that the price was steeply discounted). Oddly, it’s a film I liked enough to own at the time but never contemplated rewatching in the intervening 10 years, until about six months ago. I thought, I haven’t seen this in some time. I’ll check it out and see how it holds up. The short answer: It doesn’t.

Mystic River by Matt Wedge – February 18, 2011
That’s why I was so shocked when I first saw Mystic River. It struck me as a stunning misfire from a usually reliable director with a good cast overacting like they were in a high school production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Even worse, Eastwood showcased bizarre flourishes and an over-the-top score, which he helped compose, that only further pushed the film into overbearing territory.

Se7en by Matt Wedge – November 19, 2010
At best, Se7en is a solidly constructed serial killer thriller. It’s just as ridiculous as the pulpy serial killer thrillers that came before it — it just sports more impressive technical achievements. It’s always watchable, but never does it transcend its clichéd script or make the characters come to life. Its critical and commercial success confounds me to this day.