Back before Matt and Ben and Bennifer and Ben & Gwyneth and “Ben & Matt” and Matt and Winona and the Sexiest Man Alive, there was a little movie called “Good Will Hunting”, starring that guy I remembered from “School Ties” and another guy who I didn’t remember from “School Ties”. It came advertised on a little flier I got in the mail. Would I like to attend an advance screening of this film?, the flyer asked. Well, sure, I decided, and I called the number on the flier and RSVPed.

I knew almost nothing about the movie, and absolutely nothing about what it was soon going to unleash upon us all. I took my friend Janice with me, and when it ended, I turned to her and said – I believe in these exact words – “So, that was crap, right?” As it turned out, Janice kinda liked it, and so did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and in fact, most of America. Who knew? What Miramax films so graciously gave me with that flier was more than a free movie pass. It was the opportunity to form an independent opinion. And when it comes to movies, that’s a rare thing.

A few weeks ago, I got a similar flier, and this one was for “Big Fish”, which I knew only slightly more about. One of the things I knew was that it was a Tim Burton movie. Even if he never directs another movie as good as “Pee Wee’s Good Adventure” – and all indications are that he won’t — he maintains my undying loyalty for that masterpiece alone. So I RSVPed for this one, too, and in so doing, I got a slight jump on the critics.

My spoiler-free review: eh. It was typical Tim Burton. Moments of fun and inventiveness weighed down slightly by Burton’s weak sense of story. I wanted it to be great, but it was just okay. It certainly wasn’t anything I’d heap bile and venom upon. Well, today, the movie got reviewed in the trades, and both bile and venom were heaped liberally. Did I miss something? Did I sit through the year’s biggest turkey thinking I’d merely had a so-so taco salad? I can’t help thinking that if I’d seen the movie after reading those reviews, I might’ve viewed it differently. I might’ve said, “Oh, yeah, I see what everyone’s talking about. This is junk.” Or maybe I would’ve risen to its defense: “The critics are wrong! This is a misunderstood classic!”

Maybe if I’d gone in knowing what the critical mass was going to be, I would have been able to form a strong enough opinion about the movie to debate it. As is, I don’t know what to think, and that’s no fun. I want to argue this. I want to be a Siskel to somebody’s Ebert. Instead, I feel like a Roeper, shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Gee, the costumes were nice.”

So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more fun to see a movie after you’ve heard what everyone else thinks, even if it sometimes ruins the film. If I’d gone into “The Full Monty” blindly, I probably would’ve thought it was a delightful little romp with a few good chuckles. But because I was expecting Best Picture material, I wasn’t just disappointed, I was pissed off. I guess I was mad at the hype, but I took it out on the movie. I told everyone I hated it. The same goes for “In the Bedroom”. What a piece of shit that was. Not really, but I still hold a grudge against all the people who claimed it was genius. And “Leaving Las Vegas”, too. No, on second thought that really was garbage. I guess.

I also saw “The Triplets of Belleville” this weekend. That’s that brilliant French animated film you’ve probably heard all the critics raving about. “Oscar-caliber!” they say. “A masterpiece!” “Truly original!” “A triumph!” Except it sucks. I mean, it was awful. Weird, creepy, confusing and boring as hell. It was one of those eighty-minute movies that lasts five hours. You feel older when it ends, and you’ve bonded for life with whomever you saw it with. It’s the worst French import since four-year-old singing sensation Jordy. If I had a choice between vacationing in Basra or seeing this movie again, I’d have to dig out my passport. The critics are wrong. “The Triplets of Belleville” is cinematic puke. No, it’s worse than puke. It’s puke that’s been licked up by a dog and re-puked on top of other puke. A pox on this film! A pox!

There. Now see how much fun that was?



Good: Attending an advance screening of “Big Fish” with Drew and hearing him blubbering like a baby all the way through.

Bad: Drew crying again at the next movie we saw – “Bad Santa”. (Oh, yes, he did.)

Worse: Seeing “The Triplets of Belleville” with him after that, and both of us falling asleep.

Good: Making chocolate chip cookies and cornbread for Thanksgiving dinner.

Bad: Danny complaining that my cookies didn’t have enough chips in them.

Worse: Danny complaining that my cookies didn’t have enough chips all night long.

Good: Realizing that Danny didn’t make anything himself, and that this supplied me with the perfect comeback.

Bad: Not realizing that fact until I was on my way home.

Worse: Eating my leftover cookies the next day and realizing that Danny was probably right.

Good: Clearing out of my old apartment for good and cleaning it as much as possible in one afternoon.

Bad: Being reminded of what it looked like when it was clean and empty and new.

Worse: Realizing how easy it would’ve been to keep it clean all the time I’d lived there and feeling like a total slob.

Good: Getting back my entire security deposit.

Better: Getting a picture of myself with my landlady before I left.

Best: Having to bend down for the picture when standing beside her and feeling tall.

Good: Going day-after-Thanksgiving shopping at Best Buy and Target.

Bad: Having to wake up at 5 a.m. to do it.

Worse: Spending more money buying things for myself than for people on my Christmas list.

Good: Discovering my new favorite song, “Deckchairs and Cigarettes” by the Thrills.

Bad: Playing that song so many times that it vaulted directly to #1 on my iTunes Top 25.

Worse: Seeing Robbie Williams’ “Mr. Bojangles” fall to #2. And then getting sick of that damn Thrills song.

Good: Finding a new place to put the couch in the new apartment, so that it’s no longer blocking the hallway.

Better: Clearing enough space so that we had room for a Christmas tree.

Best: That brisk pine smell and the glow of tiny lights.

Good: Getting to shop for Christmas tree ornaments.

Bad: Suggesting the 99 cent store as a good place to start, and then realizing that 99 cent ornaments are crap.

Worse: Going back to Target for the third time in four days to get some decent decorations.

Good: Finding somebody to see Avenue Q with when I go back east later this month.

Bad: Immediately finding someone else to see it with, too. Someone who doesn’t get along with the first person.

Worse: Trying to unite different groups of friends.

Bad:Not getting to play any Mario Kart all weekend.

Good: Still having four new racetracks and a bunch of karts to unlock on that game.

Best: … and knowing that once that’s done, Tony Hawk is still waiting for me.