Going to the movies is such a pleasure of life. Making it a night, even more. Grab some dinner, rush to finish it, pay the check and bolt to the theater. Whether it was a life-altering event or a complete waste of time, one thing is for certain: it’s pretty fun. A group of strangers all gathering in one room to experience the same thing and all experience their own thing is part of what art is about. But for me, what can alter everything in a split second is when the final credits roll and the unimaginable happens, the audience claps. It could be in my Top Ten Most Hated Things. I get embarrassed, I blush, I put my head in my hands. But this is totally my own thing. People enjoyed the film and are celebrating it. Perhaps they couldn’t help but clap, as though it was a natural reaction (like I only did once while watching Margot at the Wedding, which for the record, I was alone watching in my bed and not in a crowded theater). However, I have never experienced the opposite, when a crowd of people vocalize their extreme distaste for a film and begin to boo and hiss at the screen. Perhaps this is also something they cannot help, their knee-jerk reaction. Last week it was announced that Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest stylish-noir Only God Forgives was booed after it’s premier at Cannes, a film festival famous for its boos. What a phenomenon! To so much despise a movie that when it is over the audience boos, out loud, instead of in their heads which I probably have done. Movies, like anything else in the art world (or the world for that matter), can be polarizing. Let’s take a look at some of the films that received the ultimate un-praise. With some you might agree wholeheartedly while others might take you by surprise.
1. Taxi Driver
It’s hard to believe such a classic could receive such a reception. To be fair, the film wasn’t booed directly after the screening but rather, when it was announced to have won the Palm d’Or, which is like way worse in my eyes. According to this newspaper clipping, Martin Scorsese was present on the French Riviera but not but not in the room at the time of the announcement. He and DeNiro must have been sipping Sidecars and drafting the treatment for Raging Bull.
2. Antichrist / Melancholia
Lars Von Trier can’t seem to get it right. I almost feel sorry for this dude as he has become a prime example of what to do to get your film booed at Cannes. Step One: Title your film Antichrist and pump it full of sex and blood. Step Two: Write an apocalyptic script about a rogue planet destined to collide with Earth and be sure it is full of doom with very little aspects of redemption. Step Three: Sympathize with Hitler. Okay, so basically the third step will do the trick. Even Kirsten Dunst is like WTF.
3. Only God Forgives
Ahh, Ryan Gosling. The handsome man from The Notebook, the tragic hubby in Blue Valentine, the charming teacher in Half Nelson. His looks alone prove he can do no wrong. And in Drive, the ultra-stylized 2011 noir with a killer soundtrack, Gosling solidified his role as Hollywood’s mysterious man. But director Nicolas Winding Refn swapped out a stuntman for a boxer, L.A. for Bangkok, and ended up with an acid-tongued, suffocatingly macho piece of work that had audience members hissing. I haven’t seen it yet but am more than willing to give it a chance. Winding Refn has yet to offend me and Gosling’s baby blues do anything but.
4. Marie Antoinette
It is difficult for me to think a negative thought about Sofia Coppola let alone a nasty word or phrase like potentially not her best work. And so I will compromise and say that maybe it wasn’t as politically thoughtful or the most perfect casting (Kirsten Dunst again!) but it was visually provoking and sounded amazing. The movie dealt lightly with French history and the Cannes Film Festival is in France, so there’s that. And perhaps if a French director downplayed major moments in American history, I might boo. Or I might just keep Shazamming the songs soundtracking each scene and be like: This Is Awesome.
5. The Brown Bunny
Like Sofia Coppola, I enter this with a bias. Besides the fact that some say I resemble Vincent Gallo, his first feature film Buffalo ’66 was filmed in my beloved hometown of, you guessed it, Buffalo, NY, where Gallo was born and raised. In the most famous/infamous scene in The Brown Bunny, Chloe Sevigny administers oral delight to Vincent Gallo. It’s thought perhaps that was what the Cannes audience was booing. Roger Ebert called it “the worst film in the history of Cannes” stating that “one day I will be thin, but Vincent Gallo will always be the director of The Brown Bunny.”
6. Wild at Heart / Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
David Lynch is for sure a provocateur. I mean, what is Mulholland Drive about anyways, seriously, email me, and try not to use the word experience. Lynchians might take pride in the fact that two of his films received boos at Cannes, that the very act of booing could be the opening scene to the very movie the audience is booing—or something.
7. Taking Woodstock
Every director is allowed to have a lull. Like Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading or Tarantino’s Grindhouse, and the aforementioned Sofia Coppola, the humble Ang Lee can have a bizarre moment. According to reports, the boos on this one were subtle but audible and people were mostly confused above all else at the strange portrayal at the late 1960s epic musical event. The New York Times thought it “lacks the passion of Mr. Lee’s finest films.” It was a minor setback for Lee and three years later when Life of Pi premiered, all was (deservedly) forgotten.