Halfway through watching "Les Miserables" last Saturday, I couldn't decide what bothered me more: Russell Crowe's flat delivery or my fruitless quest to make sitting in the front row feel less like visiting a sadistic masseuse.
Crowe's performance could only have been improved by better genes or a more demanding vocal coach, but in a shorter film, my back pain at least could have been mitigated. At 2 hours and 37 minutes, however, "Les Miserables" felt like my spine was being detained at Guantanamo.
Don't get me wrong, it's a supremely well-made film. The art direction will undoubtedly receive an Oscar nod, and with the exception of Crowe's cawing, the ensemble cast sounded amazing, especially considering they sang on-camera instead of lip-synching to a studio recording.
On the other hand, editors Chris Dickens and Melanie Ann Oliver should be strung up by their toes for releasing such a bloated behemoth. The film is about as long as the actual Broadway show upon which it is based. But without an intermission, it feels like more of a slog than the quality of the production deserves.
Unfortunately, "Les Mis" is on a distressingly long list of recent films that soar past two hours without blinking. Counting previews, seeing any of the following is, at a minimum, a 21/2-hour commitment:
• "This Is 40" (2 hours, 14 minutes)
• "Flight" (2 hours, 18 minutes)
• "Skyfall" (2 hours, 23 minutes)
• "Lincoln" (2 hours, 30 minutes)
• "Zero Dark Thirty" (2 hours, 37 minutes)
• "Django Unchained" (2 hours, 45 minutes)
• "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2 hours, 49 minutes)
• "Cloud Atlas" (2 hours, 52 minutes)
Of course, long films are nothing new -- "Gone With the Wind" (1939) and "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) approach four hours -- but quantity doesn't equate to quality. Movie tickets have become exceedingly expensive, but that doesn't mean we need longer films, just better ones.
I'll give directors the benefit of the doubt to a point, but they have to earn every minute past two hours. Some of these films did, but by the time "Les Miserables" ended, my vertebrae weren't inclined toward generosity.
What are your thoughts? Are longer films better, or do they bother you, too? Do you hate me for bad-mouthing "Les Miserables?" Email me, but please, keep it short.
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.