Some said it changed cinema. Others said it was a technical achievement that fell far short in the story and character departments. It’s the latter group that had its say on New Year’s Eve, as ‘Gravity,’ Alfonso Cuaron’s visually sweeping examination of an astronaut trying desperately to get back to Earth, was the top vote-getter in the Times’ fourth-annual “most overrated movie of the year” poll.
The Sandra Bullock-led “Gravity” narrowly edged out “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” the Forest Whitaker vehicle about race and the White House across several decades of American history. The margin of victory was half of 1 percentage point -- 31.9% to 31.4% -- with many voters also indicating they believed that the Daniels character study, which some naysayers said was overly sentimental, didn’t deserve the accolades showered on it.
The movies far surpassed third-place finisher “The Heat,” which drew 11.4% of the vote, and the remaining three contenders, “The Purge,” “Captain Phillips” and “All Is Lost,” all of which received less than 10% of the vote.
Both of the “overrated” winners were major hits at the box office: “Gravity” took in $253 million in the U.S. -- plus an additional $398 million around the world -- to become one of the biggest-grossing fall movies of all time. “Butler” was also a smash: Though it hit in the dog days of August and was considered by some an art house release, it garnered a whopping $116 million.
Both are also award-season contenders: “Gravity” is considered a front-runner for the best picture Oscar while ‘Butler’ was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild’s prestigious cast award.
The latter fact is something of an anomaly in the “most-overrated” poll. In past years, the poll was topped by action tent poles such as “The Avengers” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” not critical and award-season voices.
Defenders of the films can take solace, at least, that the most-overrated movies this year were overrated by taste-makers.