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Archive for the 'Heroes of Contentiousness' Category

Heroes of Contentiousness – That’s a Wrap!

For a long while now, we’ve been highlighting the most contentious films in our database, based on a special formula which is designed to find movies which a lot of people hated, a lot of people loved, and not too many felt ambivalent about.

Although the list can fluctuate, based on new ratings and new movies, here are the 25 films we’ve featured in the blog. The number in parenthesis is the FCQ: the Film Contentiousness Quotient. The higher the number, the more contentious the film. Consensus seems to have mostly settled around a few of the films we featured at the very beginning of this project’s life, such as Transformers (consensus = “crap”).

Stealing the show from Kubrick’s final film, RHPC wins the title as the most contentious film at Criticker. A masterpiece, or a hideously overrated waste of time? It might depend on what decade you were born in. The numbers almost couldn’t be closer: 658 ratings in the bottom tiers and 671 in the top. Now that’s contentiousness!

#2) Eyes Wide Shut (56.95)
#3) Stay (54.71)
#4) Across the Universe (52.69)
#5) 300 (51.63)
#6) Chicago (50.97)
#7) Team America: World Police (50.60)
#8) The Butterfly Effect (49.92)
#9) Bad Santa (49.69)
#10) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (49.61)
#11) I Am Sam (49.51)
#12) The Life of David Gale (49.35)
#13) The Mist (48.61)
#14) I Heart Huckabees (48.53)
#15) Dumb and Dumber (47.27)
#16) Empire Records (47.04)
#17) Brotherhood of the Wolf (46.45)
#18) Contact (46.30)
#19) Saw (45.16)
#20) Igby Goes Down (44.00)
#21) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (43.73)
#22) Girl, Interrupted (43.08)
#23) King Kong (39.58)
#24) Marie Antoinette (36.15)
#25) Transformers (33.73)

Of course, contentious films are being made all the time! Which of these recent films do you think is most likely to one day join the hallowed ranks of the Heroes of Contentiousness?

Future Hero of Contentiousness

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Heroes of Contentiousness #25 – The Mist

If contentiousness had a patron saint, it’d probably have to be Stephen King, who has as many defenders as incredulous detractors. He’s the first “grown-up” author many people discover and, even though his novels can be really great — intelligent, exciting, moving, terrifying — many will always associate his name with adolescence. It’s frustrating for his educated, adult admirers (of whom there are plenty) to engage with those who have decided he writes silly monster stories for 15 year-olds.

So, it’s fitting that the 25th selection into our Heroes of Contentiousness is a film based on one of his short stories. 2007’s The Mist was directed by Frank Garabont, also behind the massively popular adaptation of King’s The Shawshank Redemption. With an ensemble cast that features Thomas Jane and Marcia Gay Harden, The Mist opened to mostly positive reviews and a mostly successful run in theaters.

At Criticker, the film is one of those that has nearly as many “red” rankings as “green”. With a FCQ of 48.88, it’s one of the most contentious films in our database (FCQ = Film Contentiousness Quotient; details on the math here). The positive reviews tend to emphasize the screenplay’s intelligence and psychological terror, while others couldn’t get over cheap-looking production values and unconvincing characters.

We still haven’t seen this film, which disqualifies us from voting or offering our valuable wisdom. But what did you think? Was The Mist great or terrible?

The Mist

  • Great! (75%, 30 Votes)
  • Terrible! (25%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 40

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Allow battling Criticker users to influence your decision!
Knowlesey – “While some might say this film may only be remembered for the ending I feel it was a very strong film overall. Slow in some parts yes, but the characters, especially Mrs. Carmody, really draw you in and make you pay close attention. Some stand-out acting as well, obviously from Marcia Gay Harden, and I also thought Lauire Holden did a very good job. As for the ending, it’s fair enough to say it will shock you like no ending had before. Well worth watching and overall a great film!”

Dean Franz – “Yawn inducing siege film with all the usual clichés intact. What the hell happaned to Marcia Gay Harden? She used to be solid. I blame Darabont for ruining one of the five or six good actresses in Hollywood.”

Last time, Bad Santa was put to the vote. You liked it! We’re glad.

IT Clown Doll

Heroes of Contentiousness #24 – Bad Santa

“How dare you trash the image of Saint Nick! Beloved Santa Claus should be above mockery, just like Jesus and Mickey Mouse!” This seemed to be the gist of the blustery criticism which greeted Bad Santa when it became one of 2003’s box office success stories.

Bad Santa was director Terry Zwigoff’s first mainstream film, after his extremely successful projects Crumb and Ghost World. Starring a skeazy Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox as Mr. Claus and an elf who rob, con and generally do everything except bring Christmas cheer, Bad Santa was a huge success financially and a moderate one with critics. The Criticker user base, however, is split. It has a FCQ of 48.69 (Film Contentiousness Quotient — details on the math here).

Was Bad Santa a wickedly funny dark comedy? Or a mean-spirited trash heap with one joke (Santa isn’t nice)? Personally, I found the film’s concept not particularly clever and was worried it would be one of those “Oh My How Crude & Shocking” snooze-fests. But the performances were great and the jokes often hilarious. Besides, the sickeningly sweet Christmastime season needs all the darkness it can get. And it was John Ritter’s last role!

But let’s put it to the jury. What did you think about Bad Santa?

Bad Santa

  • Great! (62%, 21 Votes)
  • Terrible! (38%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 34

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Allow battling Criticker users to influence your decision!
HalfJapanese – “Terry Zwigoff and the Coen’s Christmas exercise in bad taste, booze and safecracking pays off immensely. One of the most memorable and worthwhile Christmas movies in years.”

Blake Leyden – “Dirty joke, bash on Christmas, dirty joke, bad joke, funny comment, dirty joke, dirty joke…there you have seen the movie.”

Last time, you voted on Team America: World Police, and gave it your seal of approval by an overwhelming margin.

Heroes of Contention #23 – Team America: World Police

It sounded like a project which was guaranteed success. The guys behind South Park, arguably the greatest television program ever, doing a puppet movie mocking America’s view of its standing in the world. Early reviews were extremely positive and I remember that I was already laughing before I arrived at the theater. It’s name was Team America: World Police, for the love of God! This was going to be the greatest movie ever.

It wasn’t. In fact, a lot of people hated it, resulting in a very high FCQ of 49.01 (Film Contentiousness Quotient — details on the math here).

So what happened? Well, a film that calls itself Team America: World Police and sets its climax in North Korea ought to deliver some scathing political satire, and this just didn’t do it. There were some funny scenes — the Montage song and “MATT DAMON!” are brilliant — but those were apolitical. And how many jokes can you make about Kim Jong-Il’s bumbled attempts at English? It’s ignorant to ridicule non-Americans for not speaking in a perfect American accent.

But what do you think? Team America undeniably had its share of laughs, and was a unique concept. But did it succeed in what it was trying to do?

Team America: World Police

  • Great! (72%, 23 Votes)
  • Terrible! (28%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 32

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And now, let’s hear from some Criticker users:

booksyouburn – “Once again, Trey Parker and Matt Stone combine intellectual satire with vulgarity on a level that defines film as art in its own weird way. And also once again, the songs in the film are more memorable than the action movie montage music that it parodies.”

Ytdadel – “One of the most overrated movies of 2004. The real cats and the AIDS song are the lone highlights. Anyone who actually takes this as a trenchant political satire is broken.”

Empire Records was put to your vote in the last installment, and we’re happy to say that by a nearly 2-1 margin, you’ve deemed it TERRIBLE. We agree.

Heroes of Contention #22 – Empire Records

Some films are shit, but have somehow managed to fool a lot of people into believing that they’re good. That’s my take, anyway, on Empire Records, a film from 1995 that should have been instantly forgotten, but has managed to scratch and claw its way to cult status. It has an unbelievably high Film Contentiousness Quotient of 52.82, which means almost equal numbers of users loved and hated it, with very few in between. Details on the math can be found here.

Ach, maybe I’m just being grumpy. The truth is I hardly remember even seeing this film, about a bunch of record store employees. Empire Records stars Liv Tyler and Renée Zellweger and has a soundtrack featuring the likes of the Gin Blossoms and Better than Ezra. Now if that collection of talent doesn’t inspire excitement, CHECK YOUR PULSE!

And when I hear the term “slacker” in any context, my chest hurts.

Anyway. You know what I think, but maybe I’m completely wrong. What do you think about Empire Records?

Empire Records

  • Terrible! (64%, 9 Votes)
  • Great! (36%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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And now, let’s hear from some Criticker users:
Neil Miller – “One of my favorite films of all-time.. a truly enjoyable portrait of the slacker counter-culture of the mid-90s.”

FitFortDanga – “Pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But strangely compelling in its absolute awfulness. Quite likely the blandest, shittiest soundtrack of all time. Toad the Wet Sprocket? Fucking hell.”

Last week, you voted on 300, and I’m pleased to report that


It passed your test with flying colors.

This Is My Boom Stick T-Shirt

Heroes of Contentiousness #21 – 300

A unique visual style does not by itself make a good film. That pretty much sums up the argument against 300, the 21st entry in our collection of contentious films. But perhaps a boldly unique visual style at least makes a film worth seeing. 300 was of 2007’s “event” movies, which you kind of felt obligated to endure, regardless of your interest level. It has almost equal numbers of defenders and haters, which explains its high FCQ of 47.62 (FCQ = Film Contentiousness Quotient: details here).

Style over substance? Definitely. An adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300 doesn’t bother itself too much with historical or visual accuracy. But that doesn’t matter to its legions of supporters — nor does the almost complete lack of a plot and possibly racist political undertones. But to many viewers, these shortcomings mattered a great deal. Critics, too, were almost evenly split about the film.

So let’s settle it. 300: great or terrible? I’m going to throw my hat into the latter category; I found it almost as tedious as it was offensive.


  • Great! (62%, 31 Votes)
  • Terrible! (38%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 50

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Here are a couple battling opinions from Criticker users.

krytonix: “Mythologized story of the 300 spartans. Despite the hype, it was still crap-my-pants entertaining and I was simply unable to look away at any point during this movie. I thought the simple yet emotionally evocative story and dialogue were enough for the stunning visuals to stand on. That’s all I was hoping for, and it fully delivered.”

Manhatta: “Another perfect adaption of a misogynistic, juvenile Frank Miller book. With added homophobia, as well. It looks just like the pages, and Gerard Butler gives a great Bill the Butcher impression, but the fight scenes got old quick, the rape scene was shameful, and everything else was tedious.”

Last week, you voted on Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, and Mr. Lucas will be pleased to learn that the final film in his much derided prequel trilogy has earned the Criticker community’s seal of approval.


And here’s our up-to-date list of the top 10 most contentious films at Criticker:

1. Across the Universe – FCQ 57.96 – Poll Result: GREAT!
2. Eyes Wide Shut – FCQ 56.05 – Poll Result: GREAT!
3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show – FCQ 53.21 – Poll Result: GREAT!
4. Stay – FCQ 52.7 – Poll Result: GREAT!
5. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – FCQ 52.43 – Poll Result: GREAT!
6. The Butterfly Effect – FCQ 49.94 – Poll Result: GREAT!
7. Chicago – FCQ 49.71 – Poll Result: GREAT!
8. The Life of David Gale – FCQ 48.95 – Poll Result: TERRIBLE!
9. Dumb & Dumber – FCQ 48.21 – Poll Result: GREAT!
10. Brotherhood of the Wolf – FCQ 47.9 – Poll Result: GREAT!

Heroes of Contentiousness #20 – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Leagues better than the first two prequels, but far inferior to any of the original Star Wars films … this puts the third (or last, depending on your opinion of continuity) chapter of Lucas’ epic squarely in the “Contentious” zone with a sky-high FCQ of 52.32 (FCQ = Film Contentiousness Quotient: details here).

There’s not much argument that Revenge of the Sith was easily the best of of Lucas’ much despised trilogy of prequels. The simple lack of screen time for Jar Jar Binks guaranteed that much. But this one also had true drama as opposed to cutsey kids playing laser tag in a radical, futuristic F1 race. Hayden Christensen met early criticisms of his questionable acting talent head-on by providing a decent portrayal of Anakin Skywalker’s descent into the dark side. And was that a faint whiff of political commentary I detected? Lucas, you dog!

But it didn’t convince everyone. The dialogue (particularly all the hilarious romantic scenes) was awful. And the CGI, while improved, was still pretty bad. But what do you think? Did George Lucas redeem himself with Revenge of the Sith or not?

Revenge of the Sith

  • Great! (57%, 25 Votes)
  • Terrible! (43%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 44

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Here are a couple battling opinions from Criticker users.

Filligan: “The best of the Prequels, definately. McGregor is sadly unimpressive, but Christensen is surprisingly not! It’s dark and moody, like Empire, and the lightsaber battles are superb fun. I thought the score was Oscar-worthy, too.”

the_phil: “Ugh. Lucas left himself far too much to do, and Anakin’s downfall is tedious, moronic and far, far too easily achieved. Add terrible dialogue, a dire performance from Christiansen and you are left with a very bad taste in the mouth.”

Last week, we put The Life of David Gale to the vote, and are pleased to announce an all-too-seldom verdict of terrible! This one wasn’t even close.


And here’s our up-to-date list of the top 10 most contentious films at Criticker:

1. Across the Universe – FCQ 58.72 – Poll Result: GREAT!
2. Eyes Wide Shut – FCQ 57.17 – Poll Result: GREAT!
3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show – FCQ 54.97 – Poll Result: GREAT!
4. Stay – FCQ 53.6 – Poll Result: GREAT!
5. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – FCQ 52.32 – Poll Result: Pending!
6. The Butterfly Effect – FCQ 49.84 – Poll Result: GREAT!
7. The Life of David Gale – FCQ 49.33 – Poll Result: TERRIBLE!
8. Chicago – FCQ 49.07 – Poll Result: GREAT!
9. Dumb & Dumber – FCQ 48.79 – Poll Result: GREAT!
10. Saw – FCQ 48.67 – Poll Result: TIE!