Back when I used to pay for most of the movies I saw (either by going to the theatre or renting them), not finishing a film was a rare event: in roughly fifteen years of avid theatre-going, I only failed to complete one movie in theatres, and that was because extreme nausea—unrelated to the movie—drove me to the theatre bathroom (where, fortunately, nothing happened). But now that I see most of my movies via my cable subscription package and that demands on my time have seemingly grown exponentially, not finishing films is infrequent, but not as rare than it used to be: Every two months or so, I lose patience with a film, jam the fast-forward button to 16x and let it go to the end without feeling particularly guilty about it. However: When, every January, I draw up my list of the worst films of the year, is it fair to nominate only the films I’ve seen to the end, or should this list be drawn from the ones I never wanted to finish?
Given those considerations, here is the 2014 Did-Not-Finish list, and reasons why:
The Clockwork Girl (2013, Canada): Canadian-made animation film? Sure! But there’s a limit to the cheapness of the animation I can tolerate, and The Clockwork Girl quickly exceeded them. To put it simply, the aesthetics of this film are ugly beyond description, and the crude animation did nothing to help … to say nothing of an unpromising beginning. After five minutes, I just gave up. Too bad; I hear that the original comic-book miniseries is worth picking up.
Manborg (2011, Canada): I have a high threshold for cheap SF movies, but this one is so cheap (with a reported budget of $1000 Canadian dollars) that it quickly went past my intolerance point. I could have handled humdrum cinematography, but Manborg is seemingly delighted by its low-fi VHS aesthetics, and the first ten minutes of plot (“Nazi vampires”??) presaged nothing good about the rest. After ten or fifteen minutes, I fast-forwarded through the rest, saw no improvement in visuals and nothing intriguing from a narrative perspective.
Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010, Canada): My threshold for cheap SF movies may be lower than I thought, because I only made it through the first twenty minutes of Beyond the Black Rainbow before reaching terminal exasperation with its languid pacing, limited sets, synthetic scoring, few actors, low imagination and overall cheapness. I’ve seen far too many of those seventies-inspired films to last me a lifetime already, and hit the fast-forward button. What I saw afterward made me increasingly glad that I did, as the story seemed to veer from dystopian prison escape drama to a straight-up wilderness slasher. (Reading the Wikipedia plot summary only reinforced this conviction.)
Coriolanus (2011): “I don’t have the patience for this” doesn’t necessarily mean “this is bad”: In this case, stopping Coriolanus ten minutes in is not a judgment on the quality of the film (which looks excellent and well-made) but an acknowledgement that watching an entire film in Shakespearian dialogue (without subtitles!) would tax my feeble current mental capacities well beyond their breaking point. By the time I sit down to watch movies these days, I’m tired and looking to relax: English is not my first language, and asking me to decipher Elizabethan English for two hours is far more than I am willing to give. I may revisit this film later on; as a measure of respect for the movie, I did not fast-forward through the rest and may give it another shot … when I feel up to it.
Much Ado about Nothing (2012): See comments for Coriolanus above, almost word-for-word: High-quality movie, but Elizabethan English breaks my brain these days. I did not fast-forward through the rest of the film: I also intend to revisit this one eventually.
And now, for the 2015 list:
Turbo Kid (Canada, 20×1): It turns out that despite my best intentions, I have a really limited patience for ultra-low-budget faux-retro science-fiction films. Turbo Kid got good reviews from a variety of sources, but I only made it ten minutes into the film before being exasperated by the production values, conscious call-back to the eighties and dull post-apocalyptic plot. I fast forwarded through the rest; did not see anything worth reconsidering. Worth pondering: A substantial number of my DNF films or 2014-15 have been low-budget Canadian science-fiction films.
The India Space Opera (Canada, 201x): A documentary about the Indian space program? That sounds fascinating! Unfortunately, the primary focus of this documentary seems to be the world of difference between poor Indian citizen and the otherworldly ambitions of its national space program. After 15 minutes of what seemed to be repetitions on the same theme, and an almost-complete lack of any Indian space program footage in favour of man-in the-field interviews, I had enough, stuck the fast-forward button and saw that the ending was building to a crescendo where the Indian space program gives aspiration to an entire nation. Great message, but did we really need two-and-a-half hours to make it?
Manglehorn (201x): Al Pacino in a serious dramatic role? Hey, why not? That ought to be worth a video on-demand rental. But as Manglehorn goes on (and on, and on, endlessly), my wife and I quickly felt stuck in small-town Texas, and grew thirsty for escape. After forty-five minutes of this, we looked at each other, shrugged and shut down the TV, never to return. The film is now freely available on Netflix, but I see no reason to get back to it.
2016, surprisingly, had no DNF. I did see Carol in two chunks six months apart, but cobbled everything in a single review. In fact, I removed a movie from the DNF list in 2016: Child 44, which proved to be just as dull as its boring beginnings suggested.