When a film fails to be as impressive at it presumes it will be, it is pretentious. A film can seek to be impressive in many telling ways. However, the gossamer of visual effects, the clout of celebrity, or a miscalculated promotional campaign, can fail or work against the visionary objective. Such is the case of the following films. All ten depict the inequity of expectation with an adverse end result.
10. Tokyo Tribe
If you have had the pleasure of watching Himizu, Tag, Cold Fish, Why Don’t You Play in Hell, or Love Exposure –then you know Sion Sono is one of the best subversive filmmakers working in Japan today. However, if you have only seen Tokyo Tribe, you would have never guessed. Unlike your typical yakuza film, Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe is a dystopian rap opera based off of seinen manga.
As promising as this sounds, the film doesn’t quite live up to the hype. One of the major failings is the rap opera aspect. Because the concept design is largely influenced by antiquated urban streetwear, the setting became an alternate Japanese present–urbanized by the integration of Hip Hop culture. However, a majority of the cast is inexperienced with the genre –and that is plainly evident.
Though Sono made sure to include some Japanese Hip Hop artists such as KOHH, the leads simply do not have the musical prowess to warrant 116 minutes of bad rap. Even when most are eminently talented in so many other regards. Because the rap is such a force in this film, it also has the potential to be rather offensive. The rap seems to mainly be put in place in order to establish Tokyo Tribe’s urban setting. A setting animated by gratuitous violence and disappointing misogyny.
That being the case, it would seem that Tokyo Tribe’s urban credit is provided through classic appropriation of Hip Hop culture. I.e. Black culture. What’s worse, there isn’t much incentive to defend the film in this charge because it is so busy, boring, and insufferable. T
okyo Tribe is another shame in the sense that Japan does have an underground rap industry that is essentially being neglected and misrepresented by this film. Furthermore, Sion Sono has proven that he can make far greater films than this convoluted hyper masculine cartoon.
The Japanese rap opera concept is actually pretty fantastic in theory, but if it’s not done properly; it can be detrimental to the cross cultural augmentation of Hip Hop culture. Beyond that, the film is pretentious because it is more concerned with performing urban culture than it is with actually making a good story.
9. Don’s Plum
In regards to R.D. Robb’s 2001 Don’s Plum, the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire tried so desperately to propel this film into obscurity is hardly baffling. The film is an independently produced black and white drama about a group of rowdy teens doing rowdy things in a Hollywood diner. Their conversation is aimless, drifting from fat jokes to masturbation, without any charm or appeal.
The characters are all wildly unlikable and offensive (except maybe Amber Benson’s character who gets booted from the table for being a good person). You can tell that everything is improvised, and nothing insightful can be garnered from the endless string of pointless dialogue. R. D Robb’s film reads as a pretentious student film that aspires to be some hybrid of Slacker and American Graffiti. There is a lot of wasted potential here.
Especially considering the lofty cast. The premise is exceedingly simple and manageable, yet the film struggles to come up with any sort of true identity for itself. It is clear that R.D. Robb expected Don’s Plum to follow in the superior footsteps of other single setting films, like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, but it seriously lacks the dialogic witticism intrinsic to the success of those greater films.
This is particularly evident in the bathroom mirror scenes, in which people reveal their “true selves,” which are all embarrassingly heavy handed. They epically fail in their quest to be introspective in a film so devoid of any sense or intuition. Despite many active efforts to suppress the film’s release, R.D. Robb pathetically defied contractual obligation for the sake of his wanting vainglory. What he was fighting for remains to be elusive.
8. Suicide Squad
David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad is easily the most embarrassing facet of the DC Extended Universe, and is also the most mainstream film to be so ubiquitously recognized for its unwarranted pretension.
Like most of the super hero pictures produced by Warner brothers, Suicide Squad was given a generous budget and huge promotional hype. However, the hype makes the film all the more embarrassing because it is just not as cool as it thinks it is.
Admittedly, the soundtrack is pretty fun and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was very well received. Besides that, the film is a complete flop. The pacing was a particular issue. The film was obsessed with exposition. Most of the film is preoccupied with the promise of excitement, and yet it never follows through.
The central conflict feels incredibly forced, and the film does not progress in a way where character or story development can appropriately attest for itself. Ultimately, what is most laughably pretentious about Suicide Squad is how juvenile the film is, especially when it presumed to be something far more mature.
7. Eat Pray Love
Ryan Murphy’s 2010 Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts pertains to a restless woman’s wanderlust, which leads her on a journey to “find herself” through her global travels. What is most frustratingly pretentious about Eat Pray Love is its use of Eastern exoticism in lieu of any palpable philosophical enlightenment. Most find the context immediately silly and alienating.
In that same Epcot “It’s a small world after all” reverie, Eat Pray Love follows a white woman who is so dissatisfied with her privilege that she feels the need to go on an absurdly expensive expedition of introspection. Though one might say that we are all inherently self serving, the character of Elizabeth Gilbert takes the cake for such superior self-indulgence.
To add salt to injury, the film is so convinced of Gilbert’s charm and accessibility that disparate viewers have little to appreciate outside of the western proclivity to romanticize the East. That being the case, the film suffers from its dependency on its endeavoring paradise complex with the foreign “other.”
If one can suspend their resentment for the monstrously ungracious main character, as well as submit to the ridiculous racist reverie, Eat Pray Love may be enjoyed –despite its place beyond the pale of pretentious conceit.
To appreciate Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), it may be most operative to clarify that there was no formal screenplay in the making of this movie. Considering this, there is already some suggestion of pretension in von Trier’s self ordained authority. To direct an entire cast and crew through the impulse of his sole imagination, the film must depend on the good faith of the von Trier visionary.
Consequently, the film has a rather deliberative pacing where the effort of innovation feels burdensome to any anticipating viewer. Furthermore, it is not ubiquitously decided that von Trier mastered any holistic sense of cohesion in the whimsically conceived diegesis.
The film’s main story arch follows a family as they prepare for a rogue planet to collide with Earth. Though that is a correct summary, it is also the contrived justification behind a two and a half hour phantasmagoria of bourgeoisie misery.
In his fancy, von Trier makes constant excuses to implement beautiful images into a terrain of boring nihilism. If the film’s intent is to perpetuate a melancholia in the viewer, then it is beyond successful.