Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reed ’Em & Weep: The Worst of 2011

Not Contrarianism, But Genuine Dislike:
(if I hated ’em, you should, too)
In a list, the worst:
American: The Bill Hicks Story
Battle: Los Angeles
The Resident
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

These are the worst because they represented such colossal wastes of potential—on paper, I could see these movies working (maybe)—
Or else were hyped way out of proportion to their actual values—
Or else it was a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” where I just can’t see what everyone else is marveling over (that, or maybe it’s the blows to the head I’ve taken over the years…).
Or else they were just BAD—I mean of absolutely no redeeming Ivanlandic value: boring, stupid and without entertainment value. These films made me angry because they were a complete waste of my time.

With The Worst, I tried to stick to those flicks released in or near 2011—no need to pick on Mr. No Legs again—and I didn’t include those unmentionable movies that I turned off after 15 or 20 minutes: that just doesn’t seem fair—who knows, it could have turned out great!

[There are flicks I no love that I despised while watching until about an hour in (and now I see how awesome that first hour is, knowing that the movie pays off), for example, Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street.
Until about, say, the 65 minute mark, I hated this movie—then something clicked, and I LOVED it:
Everything started making perfect sense, and the performances, especially those from the godlike Edward G. Robinson and eternal sneering badboy Dan Duryea, became brilliant.
That said, there is no reason I can think of to go and have a second screening of Your Highness….]

But enough yapping about perfect examples of cinematic magnificence, onto the crap!

The Resident (2011)—Hammer Films’ “big comeback” is worse than the company’s zero-budget dreck from their early-1970s low point, like The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
Review HERE

Inception (2010)—Maybe if I’d seen this over-hype postmodern tribute to Philip K. Dick in a theater, I might have been impressed, but the dialog was flat-out exposition, and it’s impossible for me to see Leo DeCraprio as anything but a petulant and constipated pinch-face.
Review HERE

Rubber (2010)—A smarmy waste of potential that has utter contempt for the genre and for its audience. Awful, just awful.
Review HERE

Somewhere (2010)—THIS won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival? WTF?!?
Sofia Coppola better get back to adapting contemporary novels—writing about “what she knows” ain’t cutting it anymore. Somewhere was nowhere.
I love what Carson Reeves writes on Somewhere at his awesome website Script Shadow:
“When you’re asking people to pay ten bucks for your movie, a cohesive storyline is required. Or a goal. Or a purpose. Or a point. Somewhere is a film that feels cobbled together from random dailies and rehearsal takes.”

American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)—I’m a big fan of the late comedian, and am already familiar with his life and routines—there was very little new this documentary had to offer me—and the cutesy animated bits were actually quite distracting.

Meanwhile, I was surprised at how little of Hicks’ stand-up was actually presented. I got the feeling that the legal or financial rights to a lot of footage was unavailable, like his performance on the late-1980s Impact Video Magazine.

And how was this documentary for someone unfamiliar with Hicks and his work? Well, the Missus of Ivanlandia had only heard a handful of the comedian’s routines before seeing his, and she, too, was very disappointed.

Another reason to include this mediocre movie on the worst list is because its existence will prevent a better, more comprehensive documentary on Hicks from being made for a long, long time.

Monsters (2010)
Skyline (2010)
Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Wonderful effects ruined by cruddy scripts—
I most certainly love alien invasions, spaceships, monsters, mass destruction and colossal loss of human life in my movies, but these flicks made me gnash my teeth in frustration:
Their scripts were all willfully stupid, with unrealistic dialog that was beyond cliché, and without fail the characters were so unlikeable (or underwritten), I was constantly praying for their deaths.

Yes, the effects are stunning—but their exquisite quality and detail only further points out how little the filmmakers cared about the scripts of their movies,
and that’s why I would like to take all the effects-heavy moments (about 30 minutes from each flick, I guess), then edit/intercut them together; except start one of the films completely out of sequence—keep the films’ original music and sound effects, but lose all but the most rudimentary dialog. Trim it to 75 minutes (not including any credits), then have American-International release it and title it “Invaders From the Fifth Dimension”—

Lemme tell ya, as incomprehensible and post-modern as that mish-mosh I’ve conjured up might be, it would be a lot more fun than Monsters, Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles as they are now.

Dogtooth (2009)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
And these two are The WORSTEST of 2011!

Everywhere else in the blogosphere and beyond, these two movies were loved more than a drowning man loves oxygen, and for the life of me, I cannot see why. Did I see the same movies those other critics did? Do I not get it because I didn’t take enough “film theory” classes in college? Or is it because I haven’t sublimated my own personality to jibe with whatever “zeitgeist” is happening?

I’d heard and read good things about Dogpoop and Uncle BoreMe, and on renting them, I wanted to like them—I want to like every movie I rent! I do not get joy out of seeing a bad movie.

But these movies? Oy.
Dogtooth’s idea-free imitation of David Lynch was 25 years too late to be relevant; and Uncle Boonme was molasses-paced quasi-beatific religious hokum

Whatever subject matter contained in either film could have been presented more effectively in a 10-minute short—self-conscious and pretentious ambiguity (which both flicks WALLOW in) is more welcome in a short film: in a feature-length pic, it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

Here’s what I wrote about Dogtooth in February 2011:
I fucking HATED Dogtooth. Art school wankery, through and through.
Antonioni-Lynch mashup cheered on only because the young leads are
easy on the eyes.
Had they been fat grotesques, that beautiful reality would crush the
pretentions of this Greek snoozefest.

C’mon, guys! Ted Post did this back in 1973 with The Baby, AND he hit
plenty more relevant socio-economic points while he did it.

Art movies that are enigmatic on purpose are, in my opinion, LAZY.
Jeez, man, either go the distance and be like Stan Brakhage (a GOD, I
might add), or at least be willing to focus and tell a story.

And ambiguity is delightful at times… but almost throughout all of
Dogtooth, I felt a smugness emanating from the film. I really cannot
put my finger on it. It was like they were screeching nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH!
I mean, I really this flick is a con, an example of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Of course, maybe the joke’s on me: Dogtooth get’s 93% from the Rotten Tomato-meter!

And more recently, here’s what the magnificent Phantom of Pulp wrote about Uncle BonghitMe at his very recommended site:
It's on top of my Worst of 2011 list because it was an interminable bore. It got praised by professional critics and ended up on some 'Best' lists. Well, it ended up right here on a different list. Seriously, if this film had been in English instead of Thai, it would have been crucified for the steaming turd it is.

Mr. Phantom, I couldn’t agree more!


  1. I too missed INCEPTION in the theatre. Rented the Bluray, tried, but could not get past the 30 minute mark. Looked impressive, but the air of self-importance was cumbersome. Not compelling, despite all those fancy dream effects. By the way, I wanna mention a movie I really HATED: "Book of Eli." How dare they plunder the post-apocalyptic genre of its tropes and do what they did with that dreck. Ptooie! Can't recall how you felt about SUPER 8, but I liked the first 30 - 40 minutes or so, and then...garbage! I recently saw ATTACK THE BLOCK, also about some teens saving the world. It was so so, but certainly better that what SUPER 8 ended up being. You might want to check out THE HORDE on NF. Solid, well done zombie flick. Not hugely innovative, but uses a clever device of having too groups that hate each other having to team up against the undead. And how did you rate PONTYPOOL, speaking of zombie flicks? Snoozer or bruiser?

  2. Inceptiod was the most inadvertently funny flick I'd seen in years.
    Never got around to Book of Eli (had no interest); and I was VERY disappointed with Stupor-8. However, Attack the Block, Pontypool and The Horde are on my list of "To Be Watched"...

    1. Disagreements abound! I loved BOONMEE, liked INCEPTION (my favortie of Nolan's films, which usually leave me cold), sorta liked DOGTOOTH (though I fully understand your reservations about it). Note: I saw all of these theatrically.

      As you may recall, however, I too hated RUBBER. I hated watching RUBBER, in fact, as much as it hated us for watching it.

    2. David: Thanks for writing!
      BTW: I've gone and read many of the positive reviews for Uncle B. (including yours), and I'm unmoved. For whatever reason, I do not see what you see in that movie.