Friday, May 9, 2014

Too stupid or too smart?

Have you watched a TV show, gone to a movie, seen a play or read a book that has won awards or received much critical acclaim and nominations, only to wonder what others saw that you didn't?

It would be dull if everyone liked the same things, so that isn't the issue. You couldn't pay me to watch Duck Dynasty, but leave me alone if I'm watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory that I haven't seen before.

I recently read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, (  Click here for Amazon description ) but not because it had accumulated a list of honors. A friend asked me to read it so we could discuss it. I didn't dislike it, but I can't really recommend it either. For me, it seemed the author couldn't decide if this should a non-fiction history of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, or a fictional murder mystery based on fact. It was too heavy on detail for the former and lacked closure on the latter, but that is only my opinion. I did learn a few interesting facts along the way.

The bigger the award, the more hype a novel or play will receive, understandably so. Last night I saw the play August: Osage County. I had not seen the movie, read a synopsis or any reviews. A friend picked this for our evening out.

I won't give any details that could spoil viewing the play or movie. All I will say is that it was 3.5 hours that felt like a mere 7 or 8. I can take black comedy. I can take swearing. I can take a sad drama. What I can't take is not caring about any character. Not one, not at all. There wasn't a redeeming quality to any of them. Did I mention this lasted 3.5 hours? The swearing was profuse, mostly the F-bomb and its variations, but even the C word was used. That one made me cringe. I hate that word. I don't know what other dramas were in the running in 2008 when this won a Pulitzer, but I do wonder what the panel saw that I did not.

I've read that an author, editor or publishing house can buy their way onto prestigious best seller's lists. A restaurant can claim they were voted as having The Best Burgers!!! without revealing that the voting panel was made of friends and relatives who have invested in the business. I know I am sounding cynical but truly, prizes and claims of excellence might lead me to try something because it caught my attention, but I'm not falling for anything. I like what I like and expect you feel the same way.

How do you feel when something with critical acclaim gets a so-so or failing mark on your personal grading system? I once thought that my friends and I were too stupid to see what the critics were raving about, but now I think maybe we are too smart to swallow the hype.

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