writer + editor


>This post appeared on my blog, Looker, in 2005.

I almost never walk out of movies, but every now and then I wish I had. Last January there were two near walkouts: I endured the entirety of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic only because it seemed less painful than going back into the frigid winter air. By the time that ridiculous digital shark appeared, with poor Bill Murray gamely pretending to gawk at it, I knew I should have left. The other was Murder Set-Pieces, which I suffered through with Winnie, my indefatigable horror-movie companion; I stuck it out for her. (When Ben Kenigsberg definitively dubbed it “the lowest form of cinematic life” in The Village Voice, I felt vindicated.)

What else? Hurlyburly, a few years back, despite Sean Penn; once Anna Paquin started begging for it, I’d had enough. Leaving Las Vegas—I should’ve. Four Weddings and a Funeral? The honeymoon was over with wedding No. 1. Going way back: Bob Rafelson’s Man Trouble, with Jack Nicholson, Ellen Barkin, and Michael McKean? I saw it in Austin during a cross-country trek and stayed because it beat driving.

In fact, I remember the first movie I ever realized was bad: Treasure of the Four Crowns, in 3-D. This was 1983. I was 12, and saw it the weekend it opened in Manhattan at the RKO 86th Street (which is now a Duane Reade). More than bored, I was gravely let down, because movies weren’t supposed to suck. They couldn’t suck; they were movies. But Treasure of the Four Crowns sucked hard, and no amount of cheesy 3-D effects could hide that, even from a 12-year-old. I went home and found Janet Maslin’s review in that day’s New York Times. I remember the review because I kept it pinned to a bulletin board in my bedroom well into my teens, a reminder of the eternal disappointment of squandered cinematic potential.

Re-reading Maslin’s review now, for the first time in maybe 20 years, I’m surprised by a phrase that I once recalled word for word: “I didn’t see it all.” That is, she walked out. If only I had learned.