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The Dumb Reasons We Automatically Dislike Movies — and Why ‘The Wolverine’ Should Worry

Joal Ryan
Movie Talk
July 11, 2013

So, here's your list: You avoid movies that are blue, literally. (Sorry, "Avatar.") Or look muggy. (No dice, "Body Heat.") Or make Brad Pitt grow his hair out. (Seriously, you will suffer the severed head in "Se7en" before you check out "Troy" or "World War Z.")

But, wait, it gets worse: You have not watched "Lawrence of Arabia," not even a little bit, because though you approve of Peter O'Toole's hair, it's set in the desert (which, yes, you understand, is the point) and you don't like movies set in the desert, where, should a storm roll in, it'll get muggy.

Is this ridiculous? Of course, it's ridiculous. But ridiculous, even arbitrary movie deal-breakers, are also real.

In his takedown of "Identity Thief," a comedy most critics didn't like, Rex Reed distinguished himself by attacking Melissa McCarthy for "being obese," "tractor-sized" and a "hippo." Long before that, Reed trotted out "female rhino" and "clunking blob of varicose-veined ectoplasm" to slam Gwyneth Paltrow's plus-sized self in "Shallow Hal," and assigned "fat" to Jonah Hill in his review of "Moneyball," so clearly we have a pattern. (In fairness, Reed did think "chubby" Hill was "perfect" in the actor's 2011 Oscar vehicle.)

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The late Pauline Kael had a thing about seeing a movie twice; in fact, she just wouldn't do it. Ever. (Also, Robert Redford claimed Kael slammed his movies because he declined her offer to discuss his career over drinks, but that's not irrational, that's just mean, and in a specifically meaner way than Reed is mean.)

Director Peter Bogdonovich said critics trashed his career-defining (in a bad way) musical "At Long Last Love" because he showed them a cut that opened on Cybill Shepherd, his then-girlfriend, and "they [the critics] hated her and me particularly."

Less famously, although more voluminously, there are comment threads in which people confess to not liking Tom Hanks (Tom Hanks!), and posts owning up to "near-irrational hatred of musicals" (and Westerns and superhero movies and...)

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Danielle Belton, editor-at-large of Clutch Magazine, wrote an essay for her Black Snob blog about her random, unexplainable distaste for Taye Diggs (Taye Diggs!). More than five years later, she hasn't marched back from her Diggs disdain, and, when pressed, added some movie-specific items to her hit list.

"I have a complete at-sea prejudice," Belton tells you. "...I still haven't seen 'The Abyss' because of my strong dislike."

Terrence Malick movies are a touchy subject — they bring out Belton's issues with nature. Make that — Belton likes nature but she dislikes movies with "excessive" nature shots. (Her take on "The Thin Red Line": "Are we going to get to the battle of Guadalcanal, or are we just going to look at trees?")

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"I think the desert is pretty boring, too, if I'm being honest," Belton confesses, and when she notes she's never watched George Clooney's "Three Kings" for the very reason that it takes place in the desert you understand because, well, you've never watched the 1999 movie for that very reason, too.

Alonso Duralde, film critic of TheWrap.com and cohost of the movie podcast Linoleum Knife, admits to having "a problem with entrails." You understand this as well, especially after Duralde describes the source of his glitch: an Italian zombie movie in which a "torrent of intestines" vacated a woman. ("They were unraveling the entire garden hose out of her," Duralde says.)

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And then there's vomit.

According to Ron Glassman, a fear and phobia specialist, vomit is the No. 1 deal-breaker for movie audiences. (Violence, especially against women and children, resides in second place, per Glassman, illustrating that must-not-see criteria are not always irrational.)

"There many people who have to self-edit or self-filter what movie they see," Glassman says. "They ask, 'Is that scene in the film...?'"

Since you inquired, yes, there is a vomit scene, and a rather notorious one at that, in the 1986 Jack Nicholson satire "The Witches of Eastwick." It's more like a vomit set-piece, really, and Glassman says he's heard of people who not only walked out on the film, but afterward cut cherries out of their lives.

You run a new one by Glassman: an aversion to mutton-chop sideburns, the kind sported by Hugh Jackman in the "X-Men" movies, and, as of July 26, "The Wolverine." You have this, ahem, friend who's never really taken to the Marvel Comics franchise because she's never really been taken by the mutton chops.

Is that one too silly? Too irrational? Too out-there?

Even 30 years into his career, Glassman says, "Once a month, I still get something I've never heard of."

Which means, you suppose, you're perfectly normal ... in a perfectly irrational way.

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