I thought I was going to hold off on putting out any ‘Year in Review’ posts until we’d formally closed out 2011, but, looking at my slate of movies from now ‘til New Years, I just don’t see what’s going to crash my Worst-of-the-Year picks. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? By some reports, it’s overlong and a little dull, but no worse than that. The Iron Lady? But how bad can a Meryl Streep movie really be? Only Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close looks like it has any potential to be a game-changer, but no matter how overwrought and emotionally manipulative it turns out to be, I just don’t see how it plumbs the depths pioneered by the material on this list. (Though I reserve the right to change that opinion.)
I was expecting to have a hard time figuring out what to include, in the way that it’s difficult to give an answer when asked who your five best friends are. But crap will out, it seems, even more readily than quality, and it seems that I’ve been fortunate enough this year to have only seen five films truly deserving of inclusion in the record of the year’s least inspired productions.
A final note: My list is, of course, based entirely on films that I myself saw. Cars 2, Green Lantern, The Smurfs, The Help, The Change-Up, most especially Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star — all had the potential to be mind-numbingly, offensively awful, and I, shamefully, did not give them the opportunity to depress me.
So, here we go:
Dishonorable Mentions: The Sitter, 30 Minutes or Less, J. Edgar, Midnight in Paris
The Sitter and 30 Minutes or Less were both slapdash, perfunctory efforts to cash in on the raunch comedy bubble, but neither had nearly enough disregard for their characters and their audiences to qualify them for this list. Formulaic and trite, to be sure, but I laughed a couple of times and didn’t emerge from the theater feeling any stupider. Astute readers will point out that I also didn’t hate J. Edgar when I saw it, and they are correct; its Dishonorable Mention comes from the fact that, for a movie directed by one of America’s most important living directors and featuring its biggest movie star as a seminal historical figure of the recent past, there are certain expectations, and J. Edgar failed to meet them. Midnight in Paris is also Dishonorably Mentioned because, as explored more fully in my article on Woody Allen, half of it is a really good movie, but the other half is really bad.
#5: In Time
2011 was the year the Justin Timberlake decided that he wanted to be a movie star, and the one where the few of us who went to see In Time discovered that he wasn’t one. The movie follows the conventional plotline of the Hollywood dystopia, with Timberlake playing a proletarian living in a dystopian world who discovers that it is all, in effect, a massive conspiracy to keep a few people living forever while everyone else dies young. Naturally, he sets out to bring down the system, which is represented by professional douchebag Vincent Kartheiser (known as the watery Pete Campbell on “Mad Men”). The premise is interesting, but the filmmakers make the Faker mistake and try to turn the movie into a grand statement about class and the evils of capitalism rather than focusing on telling a truthful story; even worse, the movie’s not even well-made enough to qualify as a Faker. Disappointing on multiple levels.
#4: The Hangover, Part 2
The first Hangover was a fantastic film, mostly by virtue of daring to break cinematic convention and tell a different kind of story; it traded on its novelty to become a huge hit when it came out in 2009. What does it say about Hollywood that its response to a movie that was all about freshness and novelty was to immediately pump out a sequel? Nothing good, that’s what. What does it say about us that we collectively gave them a nearly $600 million subsidy to do so by buying tickets to said sequel? Something much, much worse. THP2 is a clone of the first movie, but transposed into Bangkok and with every element bloated by an extra fifty percent. Even the concluding revelation is almost identical. I lauded Sherlock Holmes 2 for playing up the friendship — okay, we can say bromance — between its main characters. There is no such positive feeling in this movie.
#3: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
Breaking Dawn follows in the pioneering tradition of The Deer Hunter in opening with an interminable wedding scene, then succeeds in becoming progressively more boring afterwards. I went to see it to try to understand just what it was about these films that made women go mad about them. Apparently, they like watching emasculated men not fight with each other and fret about how to treat bland women who seem to exist only so that these men can continue to not fight about them. Actually, I’m not even sure you could term this a ‘story’: it has no discernible conflict, has no beginning, middle, or end in the traditional sense, and the only transformation in character comes in their literal transformation from a human being into a vampire. Basically, you get to spend two hours watching the characters invent stuff to be angsty about. If that’s your thing, you may respectfully disagree with my analysis here.
#2: The Three Musketeers
I described this movie as ‘inane,’ ‘soulless,’ and ‘utterly lacking in intelligence,’ which remains the most succinct way that I can think of to describe The Three Musketeers. Narratively lazy and, like The Hangover Part 2, totally uninterested in suggesting that its characters like each other at all, 3M substitutes gigantic, plush airships and anachronistic vulgarities for any sense of fun. It’s boring, tired, and insulting in equal measure.
That said, it could never approach the noxiousness of the bottom movie on this list…
I was so incensed by Melancholia that, after seeing it, I immediately fired off an invective-filled email to my friend Will, purporting to be excerpts from a review that would remain unwritten. Here are some of my thoughts on the movie:
“A loathsome piece of crap.”
”Melancholia is a movie about the world ending — and when it does, by God, is it a mercy.”
“Some critics have trumpeted Melancholia as an artistic triumph, but this is great art only in a world where masturbation qualifies as great sex.”
“The worst movie of 2011, and possibly the current millennium as well.”
Melancholia is a Faker if there ever was one, a movie purporting to offer some sort of insight into the nature of our lives and our world but ultimately trading only in facile condemnations of human existence. Critics have made reference to its having beautiful imagery and drawn attention to Kirsten Dunst’s performance. That may all be true, but even if it is, it does nothing to mitigate the fact that this film is philosophically bankrupt and intellectually dishonest. There is no doubt that Lars von Trier has a vision. Unfortunately, it is only of things that he has decided that he wants to see.