Lotta Horse Love

Awards Circuit‘s Joey Magidson has posted reactions to last night’s War Horse hinterlands screenings, and only two haters have popped up so far. Most of the reactions to the 146-minute film have been highly positive so maybe it’s pretty good after all.

The best positive review is from @emailjnm: “This was a masterpiece. This should be one of the top two or three during Oscar season. All the hype we were hoping for was well-deserved. Outside of the first 30 minutes being a tad ‘eh,’ the rest of the film is the best I’ve seen [from] Spielberg in years. Some of the greatest scenes I’ve seen in his career. I’m going to go as far as to say that it’s my second favorite Spielberg film after Schindler’s List.

“Truly exceptional. Do see it. Walked out of cinema into the falling snow…lovely!” (from @raeofdawn…but what’s falling snow got to do with anything? Unreliable viewer, too impressionable).

“Fantastic, awesome, a must-see” (from @PensNucksDenver — any person who uses “fantastic” and “awesome” in the same sentence or word group is clearly lacking in discipline and discrimination).

“Holy double-hell, War Horse is freakin’ amazing!” (from @ScoreKeeperAICN….”holy double hell”? Did he actually mean to say “ding-dang, deedly-dee, deedly-doo jiminy creepin’ hotcakes with hot butter and maple syrup!”? Possibly a fool for Spielberg or a low-thread-counter, or both.)

From Hater #1 (@2denniskelly): “Am I the only person who basically hated War Horse? It was nothing more than manipulative and predictable Oscar bait. Move along.”

From Hater #2 (@guany): “This was AWFUL. Nothing but Oscar bait. I’m very disappointed.”

42 thoughts on “Lotta Horse Love

  1. Mr. F. on said:

    Good to see the clear, cogent reasons why the “haters” didn’t like it. “It will appeal to the Academy!!!” Yes, I think we’re all totally surprised by that. Brilliant analysis.

    And why am I not surprised you didn’t feel the need to editorialize about their no-thought, no-information Tweets like you did the pro-War Horse comments?

    Oh yeah. That’s right.

  2. You tell ‘em, Jeff! You tell those middle class people living in Colorado who were excited to get to see a Steven Spielberg movie early that they suck at summarizing their opinions on film in 140 characters or less! It’s their job, after all! … Wait, they’re just, like, schoolteachers and shit? Oh, dear.

  3. Mr. F: here are my thoughts (with spoilers):

    It is such a shame that with a cast of this caliber, there is not one noteworthy performance in the film. Every single character is one-dimensional: the wide-eyed kid and his goofy sidekick of a best friend; the tough yet fragile mother; the drunk and constantly disappointing father; the “evil” landlord and his entitled son; the blue-eyed, blond haired Captain who promises to return the horse; the arrogant and competitive Major who leads his men to a massacre; the lovable grandfather and his sickly granddaughter; the “evil” German soldiers who shoot horses with no remorse, accompanied by the one sole “good” German who cares for the horses and eventually sets them free; the kind Major who plays his generosity close the chest. I guess Arestrup gives the best performance, but he’s not getting nominated.

    I cannot believe that Michael Kahn actually edited this? Not only was the pacing dreadful (especially for the first 30 mins), but many of the cuts themselves are cheap. The first 5 minutes of the film is a series of fade-ins and fade-outs, and there is one especially egregious edit from goes from a close-up of Watson’s knitting wool to the family’s crops. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. On that note, when I wasn’t laughing, I was rolling my eyes. I don’t know if I’ve ever rolled my eyes more at a film.

  4. There are a lot of problems with Spielberg’s direction too. Not only was the tone all wrong, but he made a lot of lazy decisions. I don’t know how many more sweeping pans around the horses I could have stomached. The first battle sequence, in which the British calvary ambushes some Germans is basically the polar opposite of the horror in the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. I was actually laughing at images of a German soldier getting slashed by a sword and knocking over a kettle of boiling water as well as two clueless Germans inside a tent before it gets torn away. Between this, the orgasm/terrorism flashback in Munich, and everything about the latest Indiana Jones, it appears that he’s lost his touch. And it really is too bad.

    As for John William’s score, it is nothing to write home about. While that main theme we all know from the trailer is beautiful, it loses all of its emotional impact because of how many times it is used. Like, 80% of the score seems to be that one track. Everytime the horse does something “inspirational”, that track plays. Joey stands up–cue music–Joey walks–cue music–Joey runs–cue music–Albert rides Joey–cue music–Joey finally ploughs–cue music, etc. By the time they finally get to the war, that theme did nothing for me…. and that’s when it should have the most impact!

    Happy now?

  5. Wells to guany: Thanks for posting. Where exactly did you see it, and how did the people in the room seem to respond to it as it played? What was the buzz afterwards as people left the theatre?

  6. Also, it should be worth noting that I’m both haters. I just have different handles on the Awards Daily comments and Twitter.

    I just want to make it clear that I’m apparently the ONLY person who doesn’t care for the film… which puts me in an awkward spot.

    I look forward to hearing what the critics have to say about the film, because it seems clear to me that these screenings were trying to avoid them.

  7. Wells:

    I saw it in Bellevue, WA.

    The vibe in the room was pretty positive. A lot of gasps, “ahhs”, and other audible reactions. A woman sitting behind me was particularly involved.

    However, four people walked out during the first hour.

    As for the buzz afterwards, only a couple of people were talking to the surveyors. All of them older (50s at the least), and they all seemed to love it. I would say that most people loved it or at least liked it, but I heard a couple comments during the film and after, mostly regarding the predictability of several moments.

    I have no doubt that this is going to be very successful, both at the box office and with the Academy.

  8. And I can’t believe I forgot this….

    There are two core problems with War Horse. The first is that we are told on several occasions by multiple characters that Joey, the War Horse, is special, amazing, brave, etc. However, we are never actually shown anything from the horse that warrants this admiration from the humans. The only time during the film in which I actually believed it was the very beginning when Albert, who is enamored and fascinated with Joey, gains the horse’s trust and teaches him how to ride and plough among other things. Albert, however, is a lonely child who lives on a farm and apparently only has one friend. So it makes sense that he would be obsessed with Joey.

    The other problem is that the story itself has no plausibility nor believability. In the hell that was World War I, this horse would have been shot dead on multiple occasions without anyone batting an eye. So many moments ring false, including a brotherly encounter between a Brit and German as they work together to free the horse in no man’s land, or when dozens of British soldiers pool their money together so that Albert can buy back Joey at the end of the war. Why do any of these people care? Why should they? It’s not realistic. Another ridiculous scene is when about 30 or so German soldiers are retreating due to an oncoming British tank, which then decides to turn right and chase the horse instead and back it into a corner… because God knows that is how one wins a war.

  9. “The other problem is that the story itself has no plausibility nor believability. In the hell that was World War I, this horse would have been shot dead on multiple occasions without anyone batting an eye.”

    To quote Garry Shandling when his date goes “I’m suuurrrrrrre” when E.T. rides across the moon: “It’s not a documentary, honey.”

  10. I’ve always wondered why the Winklevii never just went to Zuckerberg’s dorm myself.

    THEY DID and he didn’t answer the door

  11. Funny how the only two bad reviews Wells could find were actually from the same person. Wells must be sooooooo disappointed.

  12. It was fantastic until the last ten minutes or so when the story shifts to the year 2118 and the horse’s dead yet preserved corpse is re-animated by a small group of spindly, translucent-skinned beings who listen attentively to the horse’s verbal pleas of absolution and vindication.

    Dammit, Steven!

  13. Something like 1.5 million men died in the Battle of the Somme and neither side gained any considerable ground. Great about the horse though.

  14. Goddamn it, I actually work in the building that houses the Bellevue theater where Guany saw it…if only I’d seen Wells’ initial post, I could have gone down there yesterday and easily weaseled my way into a seat.

    Shit.

  15. Simmons and now “guany” in Washington. Wells is reaching to find the opinions he wants to hear.

    The Arestrup character and the presumed framing device he’s part of looks worse than any glossing over or complete ignorance of WW1 atrocities.

  16. Guany, in the interest of fairness, how much do you weigh? How tall are you? In tune, on the vibe? Clueless mouthbreather?

  17. “E.T. was about an alien, so everyone has a suspension of disbelief right from the very beginning.”

    As opposed to a film where the main character is a horse. I remember discussing how unrealistic The Black Stallion was with a pony, why, just last week.

  18. Isn’t the horse a giant metaphor for a glimmer of hope in the madness of war, or something? I don’t think anyone is actually supposed to assume this is what WWI was actually like. It’s a story with the war as a backdrop. Guess what: Leo and Kate weren’t on the Titanic, either.

  19. Guany is getting some shit in this thread, but does anyone really think he’s wrong about this movie? His review makes it sound like the appeals-to-older-rich-people and sentimental non-movie-buffs movie it’s always come off as in the trailers.

    This is going to be the movie the entire family can agree to see during the christmas holidays and all will love it passionately and enthusiastically on the walk back to their car. And by spring, it’ll seem like it came out a decade ago.

  20. And by spring, it’ll seem like it came out a decade ago.

    I don’t know about that. The King’s Speech isn’t forgotten, even if people in the Oscar-sphere would like to deride it. Social Network is all but a distant memory to the general public. I know people last year tried to sell TSN as the movie of “now” but the movies this generation loved was Inception and Black Swan. TSN isn’t even rated higher on IMDB of all places. I just don’t believe the general public is as fickle with opinions as the online community of bloggers and fanboys are.

  21. If Fincher, or the Coens, or Scorsese, or any other major American director brought this movie out, people would be going “WTF is with is this vulgar, sentimental Oscar bait bullshit?” But Spieldberg gets a life-time pass, for some reason.

    “It’s a story with the war as a backdrop. Guess what: Leo and Kate weren’t on the Titanic, either”.

    Well, geez, if its as effing good as Titanic I take everything back.

  22. Apparently, some guy named Chris Stuckmann saw the early screening of War Horse last night, and today has posted a rave online video review on YouTube … available here. The video was on THR for awhile, but seems to be missing now.

  23. “The King’s Speech isn’t forgotten, even if people in the Oscar-sphere would like to deride it. Social Network is all but a distant memory to the general public. ”

    You have something to back these two statements up, Rashad?

  24. Higher imdb rating, higher flixster rating, made almost 200 million more worldwide, sold over 10 million more in dvd sales (according to the-numbers.com), and won the Oscar. Despite all that, just talking to people. A lot of the “hype” around TSN turned people off and they didn’t see the big deal about it. Younger people don’t see what makes it the film of a generation, older people don’t give a shit about young asshole billionaires, and then the third act just putters out. There’s a culmination to an achievement with TKS. In TSN, you’ll have people say that a “payoff” is part of its charm, and that it doesn’t give that moment on purpose, but the reality is no one is hurt by it. Zuckerberg becomes a billionaire in his early 20s, the Winklevii each got 65 million on top of being wealthy already, and Eduardo was paid about a billion dollars (!!). What was lost here in this movie? A freshman friendship which normally never lasts, and some made up girlfriend, who Zuckerberg didn’t even seem to care about.

  25. Just got home from the Bethesda screening.

    The movie starts pretty slow – I wasn’t “feeling it” for the first half hour.

    The war scenes are graphic and realistic – think Saving Private Ryan in WWI trenches instead of on Normandy Beach. Lots of carnage, dead horses, etc. This is not a children’s movie at all.

    As someone above said, I think one thing that will hurt the film’s chances is that there is not one awards worthy performance in the film; the horse is the star of the movie. But I did enjoy Tom Hiddleston (he played F Scott Fitzgerald in MiP).

    Misgivings aside, I loved it. I have no doubt it will be nominated for BP, direction, cinematography, sound categories, and score, but I see no acting noms, and that will be the film’s achilles heel as far as BP goes.

    The movie was well received by the audience. I overheard some complaints about the excessive violence as told to the surveyors after the film – women were saying it is too violent for children, and I pretty much agree that this film is for mature kids, say 12 and up, and not for impressionable little ones. Seems like a bit of a marketing problem for Dreamworks…

    Oh, and there is snow in the late scene where boy and horse are reunited in France (probably why somebody mentioned it above).

    Best Spielberg since SPR.

  26. I, too, went to the Bethesda screening. The war scenes are well done but there isn’t any carnage. It’s not graphic at all! The violence is totally bloodless even as bombs land and swords slice through Germans. It’s almost cartoonishly unrealistic, like The Mummy or something. It’s PG-13 war.

    So the terror, the settings, the epic scale of the war scenes are great. But the actual violence is noticeably unrealistic. But you do see the (rather non-bloody) aftermath of dead humans and horses, as JR says.

    (Oh, and in general I didn’t like the movie. Couldn’t stop rolling my eyes.)

    Did you think the screening was dim? I noted the Sony 4k emblem and the double image coming from the projector indicating a 3D lens (Three Musketeers is being shown in that room at other times) so I was wondering if it was a recurrence of that Sony 4k brouhaha from the spring. Or I was just looking for it and was seeing things.

  27. By “distant memory to the general public,” Rashad actually means his streaming, shaky-cam copy cut out on the part where the Winklevii knock on Zuckerberg’s dorm room door.

    I’ll give him a little credit (although I’m not sure why)– I think he, unlike D.Z., actually attempts to watch the occasional movie he comments on.

    The hilarious editorializing of the War Horse supporters’/enthusiasts’ Tweets is absolutely vintage Wells. He made up his mind that he was going to hate this film years ago.

  28. @Glebe:

    My comments about the violence and carnage are directed at the issue of marketing the film to children. The film is inappropriate for youngsters, but perfectly fine for mature teens and adults (although some of the women sitting around me were clearly bothered by the war scenes, and Joey in the barbed wire). Doesn’t it seem like a marketing dilemma for Dreamworks / Disney?

    Also – several characters introduced in the film die; unlike most war movies, the deaths in this film are more personal, less abstract.

    The screening perhaps did seem a bit dim; I sat about 5 to 7 rows from the front (on the left aisle), and it also seemed that the sound was coming only from the speakers at the very front of the theater – i.e., I did not feel ‘surrounded’ by sound, and the sound seemed very ‘dim’ at the very start of the movie (could barely hear the John Williams score at the very start, but they either turned it up, or my ears adjusted, not sure which).

    I thought it was an odd choice of theater and location for this screening. I would never otherwise choose to see regular movies at that theater; this is a lousy, small screen / small theater “urban” cineplex.

  29. Kaned, I own it on blu. I do not remember a scene where they knock and no one answers. All I remember in the deposition was that he ran away when they saw him once.

  30. I won’t see this because in general I hate films about horses. They’re always so damn sentimental. And I love horses. They are exceedingly vulnerable and sensitive creatures and they’re always exploited, by horse-racing morons or here by war-making devils. You might as well make films about kidnapped children to pull the same strings, like Mel Gibson did (not to mention his torture porn proclivities).

  31. Rashad

    None of that, other than these “conversations” you claim to have with other people, prove your original point.

    And I don’t believe you talk to anybody in your daily life other than DZ.

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