There are so many reasons why I don’t make a “Worst of” list at the end of every year. Most of the reasons come back to my belief that a “Worst of” entry should be considered a “Fuck you.” It should be a statement of condemnation reserved only for the most detestable dreck that would never have existed in a sane and decent world. The kind of irredeemable crap that everyone involved in its creation should be ashamed of.
Every year gives us another truckload of indefensible shitpiles — 2012 offered us The Devil Inside, Gone, That’s My Boy, One for the Money, The Apparition, etc. — yet so few critics (or even the Razzies, for that matter) think to mention them when the time comes to list the year’s worst. Case in point: This list from Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. Don’t get me wrong, Hitchcock was not a good movie, but the year’s worst? Get the fuck outta here.
This brings me to the second big reason why I don’t write “Worst of” lists at the end of every year: Because (with the sole exception of Gone), I didn’t see any movies that were so godawful. It’s my policy that if a film offers absolutely no chance that it could possibly be good, I don’t dignify it with my time, money, or coverage. I really do try to only see good movies. And sometimes I fail.
This is always the hardest list for me to write because it means weighing the greatness that could have been against the failure that was. This isn’t a list going from bad to worst, this is a list going from least to most wasted potential, unearned praise, and false promises. These are my choices for the year’s biggest disappointments.
10. The Hunger Games
I just don’t get it, folks. I can’t understand how this derivative action/romance tale acquired such an enormous fanbase. I can’t understand why a movie with such garish costume design and hopelessly inept camerawork turned out to be one of the year’s most hyped and profitable films. Not that the film is completely without merit, of course — the cast did a fantastic job with what they were given — I just don’t think it’s “$686 million worldwide gross” good, that’s all.
9. The Lorax
I don’t care if the film beautifully emulated the trademark visual style of Dr. Seuss. I don’t care if the two lead characters were named in tribute to Dr. Seuss and his wife. I don’t care if Danny DeVito was perfectly cast as the namesake character. The fact remains that this film took the Once-ler’s character arc and compressed it into an awful three-minute musical number. The entire point of the book was pushed to the wayside so the movie could show crazy hijinks and more terrible songs, all of it revolving around a boy and his paper-thin love interest. In other words, somebody really missed the fucking point.
8. The Raven
This could have been a fantastic and macabre piece of historical fiction centered around the mysterious final days of Edgar Allen Poe. God knows John Cusack’s impersonation of the man was good enough for it. Instead, we ended up with a half-assed Sherlock Holmes ripoff that undermined its own “true story” premise at every turn. Few things in cinema are more pathetic than a mystery thriller without a brain, especially with source material this rich. Also, the film includes a love interest played by Alice Eve, whose career could merit its own spot on this list.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t begrudge Denzel Washington’s nomination for this film. I just wish the guy didn’t waste his charisma on such a wretched protagonist.
I can’t believe that I’m apparently the only one frustrated by this character arc that keeps resetting every fifteen minutes. Moreover, how could anyone root for a man who’s trying to avoid jail time for a crime that he totally committed? I won’t deny that a lot of talent went into this film — and it really shows — but for the protagonist of a character drama to be so impossible to cheer for is inexcusable.
This one just breaks my heart. It’s mind-boggling how much ambition and creativity went into this movie, and I appreciate that it explores the prominence of advertising in modern society (A relatively under-discussed topic in cinema. Can’t imagine why.). Alas, if it wasn’t for the mesmerizing visuals, the brilliant symbolism, and the occasional moment of cheeky humor, I would have ranked this film a lot higher.
The premise is half-baked, the plot is a steaming mess, and the film never stops to think about what a world without advertising would actually look like. In the hands of a decent screenwriter and a more experienced director, this might really have been something special. As it is, this film is a failure of massive proportions.
Though I’ve met a lot of people who claim to like this film, I’ve yet to hear a single coherent argument in its favor, aside from “It looked really pretty!” Yes, I will gladly admit that this film is gob-smackingly beautiful. It’s the only reason this film isn’t in the top three on this list.
The brilliant cast was wasted on idiotic characters. The film promised an epic story and only delivered one plot hole after another. The filmmakers asked bold questions but never found the effort to actually think of some answers. All the behind-the-scenes secrecy led to this film becoming one of the year’s most anticipated films, but the rampant hype and viral marketing turned out to be pure masturbation. And then the filmmakers had the nerve to tack another viral promotion onto the film after the end credits. Yeah, how about NO FUCKING WAY.
It’s not like we asked for much. The film, after all, is about Abraham Lincoln killing vampires. That premise is just campy and silly enough to be awesome, especially in the hands of such an insane action director as Timur Bekmambetov. The film also had a solid cast, a much-ballyhooed newcomer on scripting duties (who also wrote the film’s source material, by the way), and the clout of producer Tim Burton.
Alas, this film tried to present itself as a straight biopic of the 16th president, which turned out to be every bit as stupid as it sounds. The movie flip-flopped between period drama and escapist fantasy, undermining the schlockiness that might have redeemed this picture. Of course, the grimy visuals and the godawful 3D post-conversion didn’t help matters. Put simply, this film couldn’t even pass the low bar it set for itself. Pathetic.
3. Silent House
In her auspicious debut last year, Elizabeth Olsen proved herself to be a lovely and talented up-and-comer. I don’t mind admitting that I developed a bit of a crush on her, and I was greatly looking forward to her next feature. I was even more intrigued to learn that her next film would be a horror movie presented as a single long take.
I was not disappointed by Olsen’s performance, nor was I disappointed in the sterling execution of the film’s gimmick. No, I was disappointed that both were wasted on this contrived and non-sensical story that was never scary or entertaining at any point. So much talent was wasted on such a godawful story, and that’s always heartbreaking to watch. Speaking of which…
2. Red Lights
Every time I talk about this film, I always have to answer the same two questions. The first is “Who’s in it?” The second is “And you’re telling me it’s bad?”
Yes, not even the cast of Cilian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen (Seriously, girl, why do you do this to yourself?), Sigourney Weaver, Toby Jones, and Robert DeNiro could save this picture. All of them are utterly wasted for various reasons, most of which have to do with the piss-poor development of their respective characters. Still, I’d say that the greatest disappointment of them all was Rodrigo Cortes. After proving himself a bold and talented filmmaker with a unique visual eye in Buried, Cortes ruins all of that with this film’s ugly visuals and self-defeating narrative.
This was and still is one of the year’s most hyped pictures in certain film circles. It remains so popular among indie horror geeks that a sequel is currently underway. For my part, I can understand the appeal of an ambitious and ballsy horror anthology film built around nostalgia for an obsolete medium. I’ll even admit that the special effects were great for such a microbudget production. But I cannot understand the appeal of this movie.
This film actively punished me for watching it. The shaky-cam and the glitching didn’t just make the film unwatchable, it made the film physically painful. Moreover, the film suffered all of the usual drawbacks inherent to the “found footage” genre — unlikeable characters, a story that lacks any kind of resolution, rampant plot holes, etc. — only to multiply it by five short films and a bridge.
This film was so bad that I may never see another “found footage” movie again. It made me so nauseous and so frustrated that I would rather spend two hours hunched over a toilet, puking my guts out, than sit through it again. As such, there’s no film more deserving for this #1 spot.
The grand finale comes tomorrow. Hope to see you back here!