Duke & The Movies

Film Criticism


Model videochat in Bucuresti Studio Videochat

videochat studio in Bucuresti Videochat

Written by: Sam Fragoso on September 27, 2012

September 27, 2012 | 28 comments | Featured

My first experience with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was in the autumn of last year. I wasn’t entirely won over. I had seen bits and pieces of Allen’s oeuvre prior to the 1977 classic, and perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. While delighted and charmed by the romantic tale it was slightly unsatisfying.

We’re now back in autumn, and since last November I’ve seen Annie Hall a total of 10 times – and it has become my favorite film. Interspersed with romanticism, wit, and heartbreak, I’ve yet to witness a motion picture deliver the familiar story of two people falling in and out of love with as much care and affection.

I mention Annie Hall because it’s a prime example of my emotions towards a piece of art evolving over a series of repeated viewings.There haven’t been many occasions when my opinion of a particular film radically altered. However, I write here now knowing that my stance on a certain film has, indeed, changed.

For those unaware, in attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival I published (to my knowledge) the first negative review of Rian Johnson’s latest endeavor Looper.

That column was met with a flurry of blind rage once linked to Rotten Tomatoes. The comments, which are now at 167 and counting, ranged from grammatically incorrect death threats to incoherent ad-hominem attacks.

The vile messages left by those few individuals who spend far too much time obsessing over the positive critical percentage of a movie didn’t bother me as much as their intolerance for criticism. Although few critics on the infamous website will actually defend their opinions in the comment section (I can’t blame them), I went ahead and spoke out against my indignant detractors.

In response, I wrote I was inclined to see Looper once more because of my unabashed admiration of Johnson’s 2006 modern-noir masterpiece Brick. After the unmitigated hostility towards my review continued with seemingly no conclusion, I started to contemplate the concept of opinions and how film critics seem to authoritatively wield them. One’s opinions, no matter the subject matter, should never be definitive. Especially when it comes to something as dense, enigmatic, and multi-faceted as cinema.

And so last night I re-watched Looper with an open mind, hoping that I’d be satisfied and that my past criticisms would go by the wayside. Much to my surprise, my wish was granted. After two hours of being immersed in the atmospheric dystopian future Johnson had created, my initial opinion that the film failed to emotionally connect vanished. That’s not to say all my past criticisms are now invalid. But what I realized toward the back half of Looper is that I deeply misread some of the ideas and images on the screen.

Rian Johnson’s third directorial effort is not a Sci-fi film, it’s a human one. Yes, the characters operate in a world in which time travel is possible and a miniature Magneto-esque individual rules society. However, younger Joe’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dream of paradise in France, older Joe’s (Bruce Willis) devotion to his lover, and Sara’s (Emily Blunt) commitment to her supernatural child are bound together by palpable emotion.

For every action there is a reaction. Through Looper Johnson perpetuates the philosophy that where we derive from influences who we are and what we’ll become. Even when the film spirals out of control, echoing the rhythms and designs of futuristic masterworks like Blade Runner and Minority Report, Looper always remains both intellectually stimulating and mystifying.

This will not be the last time a piece of filmmaking that will ignite polarizing responses upon repeated viewings. Nor would I want it to be. Film has the unique ability to evolve and devolve — influence and mold what we think and who we are. Some of my favorite films have become my favorite films by virtue of re-watching them. Imagine the vast amount of great works you or I may have missed out on if not for our practice of giving thoughtful films another chance?

For the record, I have no regret for my initial negative review of Looper. I have faith that what I wrote was a honest representation of how I felt towards the film at that moment. Writing about the movies isn’t easy and does not come natural. Being true to yourself should.


There are 28 comments for this post.

  1. Ryan McNeil on September 27, 2012 10:40 am

    You know how so many people think I’m trying to be a dick when I say “watch it again”…?

  2. Sam on September 27, 2012 11:18 am

    I’ve always understood your sentiments, Ryan. This is just an occasion worth noting because of the amount of disdain people projected towards my original review of the film.

    But yes, I had thought of your now iconic slogan … “watch it again” …

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Flying H on September 27, 2012 3:16 pm

    I am often frustrated by the inability of others (sometimes myself) to perceive someone changing their opinion about something, as well as the inability to accept criticism(still usually myself)

  4. Sam Fragoso on September 27, 2012 3:50 pm

    I suspect that’s an issue most of us suffer from.

  5. Nick on September 27, 2012 5:38 pm

    First off, I haven’t even seen “Looper” ONCE yet. But soon…

    In any event, I can tell you that watching “Somewhere” a 2nd time last year was one of the most revelatory movie-watching experiences I’ve had in the last few years. Everything that it did just came into focus and it knocked me off my feet. I’ll never forget it.

    That said, even though I didn’t particularly like it the first time there was SOMETHING about that stayed with me, that made me keep returning to it in my thoughts and which ultimately led me to the re-watch. Any time I don’t have that lingering sensation with something I didn’t like the first time, the re-watch has never done me much good.

  6. Sam Fragoso on September 27, 2012 6:08 pm

    The thing with Looper … Rian Johnson directed it, Brick is brilliant, and while I didn’t care for the film the first time around, there was certainly something to come back to and watch again.

    When you see the film this weekend or whenever, I think you’ll get a better understanding of what I’m attempting to articulate. I still haven’t seen Something.

  7. Julian on September 27, 2012 10:36 pm

    While there are reviews/opinions i may take into consideration more than others i don’t take anyone’s opinion as absolute fact,including my own. And generally, if while reading a review it starts to feel like the writer is stating his opinion as fact(or that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong) i tend to take it less seriously.

    And yeah, RT seems to attract fanboys a lot. Personally negative criticism of a movie i like doesn’t bother me. I think if someone finds themselves raging over a review, i think they should take a step back from the computer and blow off some steam.

  8. Sam Fragoso on September 27, 2012 11:51 pm

    Hopefully my reviews read as open minded observations and opinions.

  9. Andrew on September 28, 2012 7:08 am

    Looper, for me, does what all great science fiction stories should do: it poses big moral questions about social issues, contemporary or otherwise, within a framework of nonsense. Time travel, high-tech weaponry, hover bikes, and telekinetic mutations are just window dressing in films like this, details that make the world Johnson builds feel more alive. They’re Looper‘s pulse; its questions of ethics, morality, and self-absorption are its heart. Consequently, it’s another 2012 release I’d like to talk to my father-in-law’s rabbi about, which I may do– he seemed bemused enough to discuss Cabin in the Woods with me.

    But that’s neither here nor there. I think for me, Looper is a reminder of what Johnson can do when he’s in full control of his production. The Brothers Bloom is a step back from Brick, a film that announced Johnson’s arrival in frame after perfect frame; that sophomore effort is “fine” but saggy, more concerned with the mechanics of its heist than with the central relationship between the eponymous brothers. Looper feels much closer to Brick in the way that the plot and narrative click so well and feel so vibrant. Everything in the film feels vital, leading right into Joe’s final bold decision. His action recalls, for me, acts of sacrifice ranging from today– think of Brian Wood, a Vancouver man who swerved from an oncoming car to save his wife and unborn child’s lives at the cost of his own– to over seven decades ago, when Righteous Gentiles risked their lives to shelter Jews from the machinations of the Third Reich.

    So I guess suffice it to say that you saw something better in the film the second time around. For me, it’s an easy favorite in 2012, and may end up being one of the top 3 movies I couldn’t have faced this year without. Put more broadly I just think that the value of the rewatch is indescribable, and I think scenarios like this are precisely why. For my own money, I didn’t much care for my favorite all-time film– Oldboy– at first blush, either. I only came to love it as much as I do after numerous rewatches. I think there’s a lesson in that. Movies speak to us, but we also have to be in the right state of mind to listen. There are many movies I’ve reversed my opinion on after a second screening due entirely to being in the wrong mood during my first screening. (Though interestingly there aren’t as many movies that I’ve rewatched and formed a negative opinion of. Usually it’s the other way around.)

  10. Sam Fragoso on September 28, 2012 8:59 am

    Movies speak to us, but we also have to be in the right state of mind to listen. … I’ve seen movies that I didn’t like the first time and disliked even more upon repeated viewings (PROJECT X and THOR being the two most recent examples).

  11. Dad on September 28, 2012 9:12 am

    Does this mean you will be watching “Mean Streets” again – we know how much you enjoyed that…..

    In life, there are time you have to let put your ego aside and be open enough to change your mind. Great job Sam…..


  12. Sam Fragoso on September 28, 2012 11:04 am

    I’m sorry Dad, I can’t imagine watching Mean Streets again … but you never know. Thanks for reading.

  13. Max on September 28, 2012 7:35 pm

    While it wasn’t the best viewing experience (some kids had laser pointers on the screen during important scenes), I wasn’t blown away by Looper either. It had some really awesome ideas, but I’m not ready to say its one of my favorites of the year yet.

  14. Sam Fragoso on September 29, 2012 5:06 am

    A kid had a laser pointer?

  15. CinemaFunk on September 29, 2012 8:30 am

    Films need to patina sometimes. They change as our minds change and gain new experiences. Johnathan Rosenbaum said that he now likes Showgirls because it is really a biting comment on Hollywood.

    Even Ebert realizes that his opinions change, thus, he explains his reasoning his Great Movies books.

    I’ve always considered the fact that films don’t change, we do. That is why I don’t like rating a movie. Is a film always going to be 4 stars? Should we keep changing the rating as times goes on? Granted, very few people return to movies they see, it’s better, in my opinion, to leave numeral ratings out of criticism.

  16. Sam Fragoso on September 30, 2012 12:03 pm

    I understand your objection to numerical ratings, but a lot of people seems to go by that. That said, I’m hoping everyone reads rather than just looking at stars.

  17. Nate Dogg on September 30, 2012 8:05 pm

    I Saw this movie today………..

  18. Sam Fragoso on September 30, 2012 8:07 pm

    Did you like it?

  19. CinemaFunk on September 30, 2012 8:33 pm


    Perhaps if I gave ratings people would stop leaving comments on whether I think they should go see a movie? Then again, why write a 500+ words if all you really have to do is give them a fraction.

  20. Sam Fragoso on September 30, 2012 9:05 pm

    I couldn’t possibly tell you.

  21. Nate Swagoso on October 1, 2012 3:39 pm

    Yes. I did enjoy this movie, thanks for asking sir Samuel

  22. Sam Fragoso on October 1, 2012 6:17 pm

    I’m glad Nate Dog.

  23. Eric on October 2, 2012 7:47 am

    First of all, congrats on getting on RT! Impressive stuff, man.

    Second, more power to you for responding directly to the fanboys. I would ignore them myself, though admittedly I would probably take a peek at the comments at some point..

  24. Sam Fragoso on October 2, 2012 8:28 am

    Haha, I appreciate your support Eric.

  25. Tom Clift on October 2, 2012 9:15 am

    Good on you! Not just for taking the RT trolls in stride, but also for being willing to give the film a second look. Although I am a wee bit disappointed too; I loved the film and was very much looking forward to arguing with you about it!

  26. Sam Fragoso on October 2, 2012 10:30 pm

    Sorry my friend. We’ll have to talk other films.

  27. Duke & The Movies :: Looper on October 7, 2012 8:38 pm

    [...] Here’s the follow up article — re-watching Looper. [...]

  28. » Movie Review – Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (Mini Review) Fernby Films on February 5, 2013 5:32 am

    [...] To Watch and To Re-Watch [...]

Write a Comment