Films I Quit Watching

Earlier this month, I decided to watch Makoto Shinaki’s The Place Promised in Our Early Days. People recommended that I watch his film 5 Centimeters Per Second, but I’ve yet to find a copy. After getting thirty minutes into The Place Promised in Our Early Days, I stopped watching it. The annoying narration, ambivalent storytelling and bizarre twist left me irritated. Also, the film exacerbated my bad mood.

The experience reminded me of the few films I didn’t watch to completion. I’m sure some of my readers have a good number of films they didn’t get around to finishing. Perhaps they lost interest and forgot the film to the point where they’d have to start over and didn’t feel up to it. Also, life happens. Sometimes we have to put our film on pause in order to deal with something else for a while.

I’ve made it a point to stick with every film I start watching. No matter how bad, no matter how busy I get, no matter what other external circumstances get in the way. I’ve never walked out of a movie theater before the credits roll and I have a 99.9% competition record on the films I start watching. However, a few films slipped through the crack. Some film I regret not finishing, but others I left with a sigh of relief.

Excluding the aforementioned The Place Promised in Our Early Days, I’ve only willfully abandoned one film with great pleasure: Step Up 2: The Streets. If you could embody everything I am not into one film (that isn’t named Crank: High Voltage, which I watched in its entirety), it would be Step Up 2. Urban, hip, edgy, popular, fun, cool. And all that terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible music. No thanks.

My reasons for leaving had to do more with the fact I was with a group of friends who forced this film on my after I said in no uncertain terms I did not want to view this film. I roughed it for a while, heckling the film in an attempt to evade entertaining suicidal thoughts, and then left a bit before the halfway mark, joyfully celebrating my release from inhumane torture.

Oddly enough, earlier the same day with the same group of friends we started watching The Mummy but we quit about halfway through to go do something else and we never finished it. All my other friends had seen it, of course, and so they didn’t feel the need to finish it. They were a bit surprised I hadn’t seen it, but I was too busy going through cinemaphillia puberty in those days, above watching such populist dribble.  The first hour amused me and I might return to it someday, but it’s not high on my list.

I abandoned Inland Empire about two hours into the film, frustrated by the lack of any semblance of narrative coherence. In retrospect, I wasn’t ready for Lynch at the time. This too took place during my early forays into art cinema, and Lynch requires a bit more of an open mind than I had at the time. It’s a film I intend to revisit in the future as I’ve since gained an appreciation for Lynch’s bizarre style.

Mean Streets is the film I most regret not finishing in the moment. In this case, I get the opportunity to blame someone else. While I was watching the film, Corey Atad started bugging me to join him in this newfangled thing called Google Hangout. I should have finished the film first, but I figured I could hang out with him for a bit and then finish off the movie.

But with Mean Streets expiring from Netflix instant in the next few hours, I’d doomed myself to not finishing the film. Once you get into a good conversation with Corey, you can keep going for hours. Around two in the morning we finally quit talking and I found I couldn’t access Mean Streets on Netflix Instant anymore. Alas. I enjoyed it enough that I look forward to going back and rewatching the entire film.

Other than that, I’m fairly certain that I’ve finished every film I’ve started watching (at least since I started watching movies “seriously”). It’s possible that a few titles have escaped my mind, but I have distinct memories of leaving these films that make them stand out to me a lot more than similar films I watched to completion.

Are you consistent about finishing films? Are there films you didn’t finish that you regret not watching to completion? Are there other films you have no regret abandoning?

© 2012 James Blake Ewing

  • There was one film I did walk out on in the theater. It was Big Momma’s House. It wasn’t funny and I walked out probably somewhere in the third act. That was terrible. I always make sure that whatever film I see, I finish it. For a long film that has an intermission. Depending on the running time and enthusiasm, I either watch half of it on one day and then go back to it the next day. I don’t think there’s a film I haven’t finished. There’s probably a few but they were probably terrible films I don’t regret ever finishing.

    • I don’t think I could blame you for walking out of a film like that…of course I’d wonder what got you into that theater to begin with.

      • I have no ***king idea. There was a time when Martin Lawrence was funny. That film was the indication where he wasn’t funny anymore. I was just like… “uhh…” throughout the film. I wish I had my money back for that piece of crap. In fact, there’s a lot of movies from my teen years to my early 20s that I wish I had my money back.

        • I can sympathize with time ill spent at the movies in my teen years. I didn’t see a whole lot of movies then, but I had a knack for picking terrible films.

  • You might find this strange (well, maybe not) but I have finished every film I ever sat down to review. Not quite so patient with films I’m watching for my own enjoyment, as I’ve pulled the plug on such films as THE OTHER GUYS and THE SPIRIT for being aggressively dull. It’s also not uncommon for me to get a movie in from Netflix and let it sit on my desk for a week before deciding that, while I’m sure it’s a great film, I just don’t care (sorry HUGO and ANOTHER EARTH).

    I’ve only walked out of two films: SLIVER with Sharon Stone and RULES OF ATTRACTION with a masturbating Dawson. It’s not that fine a line between “sexy” and “rampant douchbaggery,” and both of these films crossed it with such gusto, I couldn’t stand it any more.

    • I figure that people would finish every film they review on principle (I have heard of some cases where people don’t, but I think that only a very small amount of reviewers do that).

      I could see someone quitting The Other Guys or The Spirit. I enjoyed both of them, but I could see how they might turn some people off.

      You didn’t miss much with Hugo. I liked Another Earth, but it’s a particular kind of sci-fi, more slow moving and ponderous, which isn’t for everyone.

      I’ve certainly thought of quitting more than a few films for being unnecessarily obscene. Dogtooth is the big one that comes to mind.

  • In past couple of years I have to struggle with myself to continue movie which I find unsatisfying, most of the time I am not on a good seat position in cinema to run out so I sit there and wait until the disaster finishes (wondering why isn’t everybody getting out), but there have been at least five movies which I exchanged for unplanned walk (even though I am aware that there is a certain possibility that it might turn better towards the end).

    I watched David Lynch’s movies for years and loved them, and when it came to watch “Inland Empire”, with all credit that he had and Laura Dern’s presence, I had to stop it after little more than half an hour because I felt that somebody is playing a joke upon me 😀 mixed with feeling almost disgusted (by emptiness, awful camera, atmosphere).
    Movie which I finished but with jumping through DVD is “Burned after Reading”. Even though it had good parts and the story itself was not bad, I couldn’t hear any more of word “f***” from protagonists. (not that I am purist)

    The thing is that most of movies which I watch in cinema are on various small-scale festivals in my town, with lots of “art” and “author” movies, and the probability that you will meet (simply put) boring and uninspiring movie which is playing with viewer’s patience is not so small. Maybe me getting older has also its share?

    and thank you for inspiring posts 🙂 One of my faves, “La Double vie de Véronique” led me to your blog some half year ago and I’ve been enjoying in reading since then.

    • Glad you’ve been reading all this time! I must be doing something right.

      Burn After Reading is one of those films I came close to quitting, especially since I was watching it with my Dad and we kept commenting on when the film was supposed to be funny.

      Arthouse film can be trying on your patience, but in most cases I actually find those more engaging than more traditional films because I’m not always sure where they are going and that can lead to some really interesting and bizarre surprises. Just the other night I watched The Skin I Live In, which starts of very, very slow, but once the film gets going, it completely had me with the bizarre, unusual and brazen twists along the way. I’ll take a film like that, which requires a little faith and patience to a film that’s so paint by the numbers I can mutter the cliche lines and call the next story beat right before it happens.

  • You stopped watching a Scorsese movie to talk to me? You must be crazy.

  • I’ve never quit watching a film I haven’t seen before. Maybe when I was 12 or something, but definitely not in the last few years. “To the bitter end,” I always say.

    Interestingly, at the moment I was about to turn Inland Empire off (the first time I saw it) and finish watching it another day, it got interesting suddenly and I stuck through it till the end, and didn’t regret it. Definitely revisit when you see more Lynch.

    • I’ll probably tackle Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, maybe Lost Highway as well, before I revisit Inland Empire.