Tuesday, February 10, 2009

He Said: Worst of 2008


I celebrated the best film’s of 2008, and I meant every word I said. There was a lot to love during the year.

But let’s face it—there was a lot of shit, too.

Here—in as little detail as possible, so I can I spare my readers (and especially myself) from continued pain and suffering—is a list of the year’s worst movies. With special added categories to boot…

The Bottom Ten (From Best[?] to Worst):

The year’s saddest bad film because it was so well-meaning. Any film that attempts to expose the horrific military policy that has been employed during the Bush administration (and which will hopefully be corrected in the Obama administration) is admirable in principle. But the execution here is so dreadful, so over-the-top, so ham-fisted, that I walked out of the theater shaking my head.

Ick. To be honest, the title is not wrong—I stood (or sat) still during the movie. So still that I think I fell asleep for a little while there. I mean, I must have missed something if I couldn’t piece together what wooden Keanu Reeves had to do with unfortunate victim Jennifer Connolly…and that huge 50s-style spaceman dude? What the hell was all that? I think I missed something…or there is a piece missing from the filmmakers’ brains.

Yes, this is a tie. First and foremost because I can do whatever the hell I want on this Worst List (!) Second, what makes both films so reprehensible is essentially the same thing: a lust for graphic bloodshed so intense that I felt like I was watching porn. Once was enough…but no, Hollywood had to greenlight two of these things.

Oh, boy. What a disaster. I hated every second of this ridiculous, pointless, soulless sequel to what was actually a strong first film. The action sequences are boring. The child actors are pretty bad. Prince Caspian himself is reprehensible. And the studio agrees—Disney has now opted out of the Narnia movies, leaving the entire enterprise in limbo. Bye, bye, Franchise.

Part of me wonders why I even need to pick on a movie that was forced into theaters to make a quick buck, and then failed to even make that quick buck, and left good actors like Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, and Michelle Williams hanging out to dry, and was basically so ridiculous that it was ignored. So I thought to myself, “should I really stick this on here to prolong the pain?” And then I remembered—this movie prolonged my pain. I think this was indeed the most incomprehensible movie of the year, a film so pointless that I wonder why it was even made in the first place. Then again, they still made Day the Earth Stood Still, too…

Mamma Mia!/What a piece of shit!/My, my, how did I not vomit?

Oh, yikes. I didn’t get to talk at length about this one when it opened back in July. I kept wanting to, but for some reason I could never bring myself to relive the horror. So here we go…this is the second-worst-directed film of the year (the first will appear later). There is an obvious visual transition that must take place when bringing a Broadway show to cinematic form, and Mamma Mia! is a prime example of how not to do it. The lighting is so harsh that I kept worrying that the heat would set the film’s transparently awful sound stages ablaze right in the middle of a scene. Pierce Brosnan reminded me of one of those crazy people who auditions for American Idol and you think, “Does this person really think they can sing?” Meryl Streep is so game that she throws herself into the performance…and the direction is so hapless and dreadful that she is hung out to dry—musical numbers go on and on with Streep frantically dancing all over the set with the camera just sitting stationary, following Streep’s manic movements. The film is visually static and ugly. Story-wise, it is obviously a complete joke. The fact that I still can’t the music out of my head is either a credit to the catchiness of ABBA’s music, or an acknowledgement that this film has cursed my soul. Not sure which.

Obviously, Patrick Dempsey has a death wish. Every successive film he headlines is made solely to piss me off, and take me one step closer to hurting him. In this film, Pretty Boy plays a womanizer (!) who reforms because he’s always secretly loved his best friend. Unfunny slapstick and hackneyed romance follows. Ick.

If there weren’t a surplus of horrifically awful motion pictures this year, Vantage Point would have been a shoo-in for the top spot. As it currently stands, it must settle for third place. Really, as brilliant as Alejandro Gonzalex Inarritu and Guillermo Arriaga are, they must be partially implicated for this catastrophe, since the film is essentially a rip-off of the style the two Mexican geniuses started with films like Amores Perros and especially Babel.

In a nutshell, a bunch of respected actors prance around as if they know what’s going on in this wannabe-mind-blowing international intrigue plot. It only gets funnier as it goes along…

Now this is the worst-directed film of the year. What a horrible year for female directors…to be honest, there really isn’t ever a good year for female directors, but what a raw deal when two of the year’s worst films—Mamma Mia! and this horrific pile of garbage masquerading as a “Celebration of Women”—came from female directors. And the thing is, I don’t blame the directors. I blame the studios in Hollywood who seem to relegate female directors to “Chick Flicks,” most of which have no business being made, and nearly all of which wouldn’t be enjoyed by any intelligent woman I know. It’s a wonder an intelligent film made by women and about women, like Frozen River, could be made at all, let alone garner two Oscar nominations.

The only reason a studio tapped a woman to direct The Women is because that woman is Diane English, former TV producer extraordinaire, who once created Murphy Brown. But she cannot direct a film. Plain and simple. Not that she has great material to work with, either…the screenplay here is a hodge-podge of rotten female stereotypes so thick that I couldn’t bring myself to care on ounce about any one of them. Meg Ryan...boring. Annette Bening…desperate. Eva Mendes…catty. Debra Messing…annoying. I am not describing the performances of the actors, mind you, but the roles they are given to play. It’s shameful. The only sign of life in the whole film is Jada Pinkett Smith’s sassy gay character, but therein lies yet another cliché…plus she is only given 10 minutes of screen time (or less), thereby ensuring that the film is only remotely watchable for a mere 1/20th of its running time.

I’ve gone on way too long here. I shouldn’t have. Forgive me.

Was there ever really any doubt? I mean, come on…there may not be another film to match this level of utter atrocity for another decade. Let us pray that there isn’t.

I pitched an idea to my two boys for a fun spoof movie we could make called The Occurrence. It would consist of the boys, their sister, and their friends running around acting like idiots, pretending that the wind was the lethal villain. That was our spoof idea…and it is also the exact plot of The Happening. Really. That’s all that happens. It’s enough to make a person want to kill himself. Oh, wait, that happens in the movie, too. Maybe the characters are onto something…

The only reason M. Night Shyamalan has a another film on the way is because he was already contracted to direct it before The Happening was released. The only reason he may still get to work in Hollywood after that is because his next film, The Last Airbender, is an anime adaptation that will be beloved by geeks. It’s different enough from the usual M. Night bullshit that it might save the dude’s ass.

We’ll see…but what we won’t see is another original M. Night Shyamalan film for at least another three or four years. And for that, I am thankful.

It deserves a spot on this list, but I just wasn’t sure where to put it. Maybe it would go between Made of Honor and Vantage Point. Not sure. But whatever the case, it deserves its own space here.

I’m not sure Clint Eastwood has made a worse film. The Oscar talk surrounding his lead performance was a complete joke. Eastwood has dedicated this portion of his directorial career to remind audiences that even though he is a craggy old white guy who made a living off revenge pictures and westerns, that he has a Liberal Conscience He Wants to Present to the World. And that’s okay. It worked well in Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. It did not work very well in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. It was mildly annoying in Changeling. And it is downright arrogant in Gran Torino. It’s a movie where Eastwood gets to play Dirty Racist Harry, but have him turn over a new leaf in the end. It’s a movie that celebrates manly violence and revenge, but also wants to shove a sanctimonious anti-violent message down our throats. It’s a film where the script is Forgiveness-By-The-Numbers, the acting is nearly universally atrocious, and the only indication that this was indeed a Clint Eastwood film is the masturbatory love of dark, shadowy compositions.

Oh, and by the way, Eastwood sings the theme song at the end. Yep.

Oh, they came so close…here they are, separated into special categories.

The worst comedy of the year was probably:
MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL, which was so terrible that I actually felt like it was even a waste Dane Cook’s comic talent. Amazing.
The rest, in alphabetical order:
THE FOOT FIST WAY,which started with utter brilliance and then tanked in the most astonishing way



…And there would have been more, but even I refuse to watch some stuff.


the WIZARD, fkap said...

Great Work! What a great list.... And, yes, of course I remember our lengthy debate over The Happening. But, I completely understand your reasoning.

I'm mildly surprised with your dislike of Wanted. I'm certain you've read my comments on K.'s Top Ten list. I better re-watch that movie, because you guys are likely correct.

Finally, I'm shocked by your Special Horrible Mention of Gran Torino.. I've not seen it yet, but it was so highly praised by man critics, usually making their Top Ten and often mentioned as best Picture.

K McKiernan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K McKiernan said...

J is wrong about two movies. He slams The Women and Mama Mia in ways that are just not befitting a gentleman.

Ok, he can be a gentleman and still get this wrong. Are those two films spectacular. Hell no. But do they deserve a spot on the worst list when he then relegates films like "My Best Friend's Girl," "Fools Gold," "Drillbit Taylor" and "Foot Fist Way" to Runner Ups. Pleaaaaaaaasssseeeee.

Mama Mia is fun. I loved the overlit, bleached to sparkling sunshine cinematography, and apart from Bronson's laughable singng, I enjoyed myself.

And as far as The Women, yes, stereotypes abound, but it was fun enough, touched on enough truths, and had an interesting device (not one man shown in the entire film).

Much like J criticizing critics who hammered 7 pounds and Hancock, J is going off on these two films because its the easy thing to do--to ride people and films where certain things are expected real hard.

Mama Mia and The Women are not great, but they are not bad. And certainly, not the worst.

J McKiernan said...

Wizard, thanks for the continuing support. Yes, I do remember the "Happening" debate...it was one of the most lively exchanges that took place on this blog last year. And I am happy to commemorate it with the top spot on this list!

Yes, I read your comments on K's Best List and have been meaning to add my one-and-a-half cents (comparing "Doubt" to "The Village"? Excuse me? And what's this thing you have for M. Night Shyamalan, anyway??)

I saw what you said about "Wanted," and...I can understand the attraction. It has a very brash attitude...it flaunts its intelligence with a raised middle finger. So, I get the appeal, in a way.

But when I cut through the surface crap, all I saw was bloodlust masquerading as profundity. It annoyed me. And as it stewed inside me for the months after I saw it, the feeling only intensified. I started out merely annoyed, but have ended up loathing the film. Terrible after-taste.

And about "Gran Torino"...people like to praise Eastwood simply because they operate on autopilot...Eastwood is supposed to equal 'Great Movie.' But no one loves Clint like the Academy...and there's a reason the film didn't garner a single nomination.

Of course, you tend to disagree with me on these things, so I await your dissent. And that's okay...but I do find the film's story completely generic, the acting just awful, and the arrogance of Eastwood's Quasi-Liberal Conscience a little bit annoying.

J McKiernan said...

As for what K said, she remembers--as I do--the heated discussion we had about "Mamma Mia!" and "The Women" when we revealed our lists to one another a couple weeks ago. But I stand by it...especially "The Women," which took a revolutionary concept and turned it into mindless, hapless drivel. I took that film as an act of complete disrespect to women.

"Mamma Mia!," on the other hand, is what it is. It is truly terrible...but obviously it is so jubilant in its awfulness that it's easy to enjoy it. I put it at #5 simply because it was the original Beacon of Badness for me this year...it needed to be commemorated with a high spot on the list. And if you reallllly watch it, it is truly awful on every level. But I don't fault anyone for liking it, if that makes sense. Probably doesn't, but oh well...

Love you, K... ;)

the WIZARD, fkap said...

Hey guys..... Have either of your seen the original The Women (1939, directed by George Cukor)?

Like this year's pale remake, the original had not a single man on screen. And, other than Cukor, not many behind the scenes, either. Although the story is by Clare Booth Luce, F. Scott Fitzgerald actually rewrote the screenplay without credit to preserve the aura of an all female work.

Another fun fact, all animals in the movie were female!

Here's the rub in comparing the two movies: Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. What can you say. These two women are still in a class by themselves.


P.S. Mamma Mia was terrible. I've enjoyed its terribleness three times now... so far, with more to come.

MadMike said...

I hated Mama Mia so much I went out and bought the Blu-Ray version. I, like Wizard have watched it three times with more to come.

I also loved Gran Torino. I enjoyed the musical score and I have always been a sucker for the underdog and this plot speaks directly to that theme. Besides, I really like Clint Eastwood:-)

J McKiernan said...

I can get the love for Mamma Mia!, especially if you simultaneously acknowledge just how horrible it is. K has yet to acknowledge that very simple fact, I think just to piss me off.

I can't understand the love for Gran Torino. It strikes me as so full of its own virtue that it can't possibly be an effective movie experience. Real emotion comes out of good drama, and good drama comes out of genuine perspective. Watching Gran Torino, it didn't seem to come out of anyone's natural perspective. It seemed like a pretty banal message movie, not very well made and absolutely horrifically acted. Its badness blew me away.