Some movies you just want to punch in the face.
There’s a big difference between a movie you don’t care for and a movie that is truly appalling.
You forget the movies you don’t care for. You never forget the ones you actively despise.
Some you see coming from a mile away (Oh look, its Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Hi. How ya doin’?) while others sneak in and, with the help of a great trailer or a normally reliable star, fool you into thinking it might be worthwhile.
So with the Oscar race taking a holiday pause, I thought we’d take a break ourselves from talking about the really good films of the year. Instead, let’s spend some time punching five of 2012’s most excruciatingly poor films in their smug, entitled pie-holes. Sounds fun to me. Be advised, there are spoilers ahead.
We’ll begin with a few films that just missed my top five but deserve dishonerable mention.
Act of Valor: If you want to honor the Navy Seals in a movie by casting real Navy Seals in it, perhaps you should consider teaching them to, you know, act so they don’t completely embarrass themselves.
Everything and Everyone: I would feel guilty putting this on the main list considering it’s a totally unheralded independent film making the festival circuit rounds. But make no mistake, this movie should be called Everything and Everyone Sucks.
Dark Shadows: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp quirk their way through yet another pointless, story-less movie that seems to have been art directed to within an inch of its sad, little life.
Anna Karenina: Keira Knightley’s lip quivers manically throughout a stylish but, ultimately, brainless example of how not to make a period film. When your set design is the best thing about it, that isn’t a good thing. And Jude Law’s make-up is unforgivable.
Paranormal Activity 4: For the love of all that is holy, just stop. Stop. Making. The. Same. Film. Over. And. Over. Again. Seriously, the well is dry… you’ve made enough money. Now stop.
The Vow/The Lucky One: I swear I can’t tell these two movies apart. They were both terribly romantic. No, sorry. I meant to say they were both just plain terrible.
Everything starring Tyler Perry: Wow… just wow.
Next Page! The five worst movies of 2012. In no particular disorder, I assure you…
If a movie has Nicole Kidman squatting over Zac Efron to urinate on him, and that’s not even the most unfortunate thing in it, you know you’re enduring cinematic hell.
From Kidman and John Cusack’s ridiculous no-touch sex scene (which literally climaxes when a stain appears in his trousers — which I’m guessing was Dark Matter) to Matthew McConaughey’s violent, race-baiting bondage sexcapades, this movie moves from one utterly grotesque scene to the next until it ends (mercifully) straining for some profundity.
I can’t decide if this is simply laughable or just plain sad.
Of course this was going to be here. It’s mathematical. Stupid concept begets stupid execution. Aliens are invading Earth. Where’s a better place to begin than close to a naval fleet? During naval week? When there are lots of weapons and ships that can easily thwart their plan.
A half an hour into this junk, it was painfully clear to me that there would be no higher intelligence from either the aliens or the script.
I did have one moment of pleasure from the film. When I realized that we were going to watch the game being played (with projectile peg-like bombs instead of the pegs from the board game) I laughed/barked out loud, which made the audience I was with laugh out loud too. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the reaction the filmmakers were hoping for.
Total Recall (2012)
What kind of brain trust remakes a wildly popular film (even to this day) and decides to suck every ounce of fun right out of it?
Apparently, it’s the same brain trust that didn’t notice that Kate Beckinsale’s hair was out acting her in every scene, Bryan Cranston’s hairpiece was out acting him in every scene, or thought that any audience member would be bothered to care if Jessica Biel’s uniformly uninteresting character lived or died the hundred or so times that chestnut kept coming up.
More than anything, I wish that the brain trust would learn that just because you slap an old name on a film doesn’t mean that people will flock to it. You might also have to, I don’t know, make a film in the spirit and equivalent quality of the original.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Oy vey! The title alone tells us that we should expect to see imagination, brio and style running wild. After all, anyone hoping to see a history lesson in a movie where Honest Abe battles rejects from Twilight has more issues than Time magazine.
So why in God’s name does this movie want us to take it so seriously? Except for one exceptional and (finally) silly chase sequence which finds the future 16th president chasing a Vampire by running on the backs of stampeding horses, this is pure, unadulterated refuse.
I will say that I enjoyed seeing Benjamin Walker (War Boys) on screen until I realized this dreck would not serve him well at all. Better luck next time, Ben.
That’s My Boy
An Adam Sandler movie being the worst of the year… Wow, that’s so unusual. This movie, which you don’t watch as much as you withstand, manages to treat the sexual abuse of a teenager by his teacher as heroic and cool. And from there it gets worse. Much worse.
I can’t believe that functioning adults woke up in the morning to make, or that a huge media conglomerate spent money to produce something so irredeemably vile and juvenile that it makes an audience want to shower afterwards just to remove the stench coming from the screen.
This is, without a doubt, the worst film I’ve seen in all of 2012. So there, several punches in the face to That’s My Boy. I doubt it had any affect. How can you damage something that was already brain dead?
But what about you, dear readers. I’d love what was the worst film you’ve seen? Comment and tell us which films you’d like to punch.
First, BriOut — great column — entertaining and informative catnip for movie queens! Here’s my Question for Bald Naked ManHunt:
We all know that there are certain Oscar bait movies that are geared to awards season and released in December. When the nominations come out, these are heavily favored, especially those films featuring former Oscar-winners. In the Oscars, pedigree matters as much as in dog shows.
What bugs me is that entire “not-Oscar-worthy” genres are snubbed: horror and comedy come to mind. But what about great work in bad movies?
And what about performances? I have noted some great individual performances in bad movies, like Timothy Olyphant in The Crazies, or Ben Foster in 30 Days of Night, or Steve Zahn in The Perfect Getaway.
This year I absolutely loved some great performances in bad movies, like John Hurt in Wrath of The Titans, Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Michael Caine in The Dark Knight Rises, Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect, and especially Tadanobu Asano in Battleship. If it were any other “war movie” he’d get a nod.
Is it that the Academy members just can’t stomach a movie like Battleship being called “Oscar nominated”?
So after my rambling — here’s the question. Were there any performances this year that you thought were award-worthy, even if the movie itself was FAR from it?
I have to say that I love this question.
Yes, the Academy only consistently honors the best films of a certain type… namely, Oscar bait. Only prestige projects and somber, serious examinations need apply.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to every category.
Norbit, one of far-too-many perfectly awful Eddie Murphy movies, got a nomination for Make-Up. Pearl Harbor, a bad movie that’s only useful as a time capsule to when Josh Hartnett was relevant, received a nod for Visual Effects. Madonna is the director of an Oscar nominated film if you note that the critically lambasted W.E. got the nod for Costume Design.
So bad movies make it in all the time. Just not in the top categories.
Sadly, though, great performances in bad movies or great movies outside the Oscar wheelhouse are snubbed all the time. For instance, I don’t expect two absolutely great movies of 2012, The Grey and The Cabin in the Woods, to get any recognition on Nomination Day. I wish the Academy would do something about their genre blind spots, but I’m not holding my breath.
Now, on to your main question. Is there a deserving performance in any of the films I listed as the worst of the year? Yes. Are there award worthy performances from this year that don’t have a prayer of getting close to Oscar’s embrace. Absolutely.
Before I dig into 2012, I have to highlight a movie that exemplifies this strange phenomenon flawlessly. From its structural mess of a screenplay to an almost amateurish lack of focus on little things like character development or tone, it was clear that the movie Alpha Dog (2006) was not going to be a player in any award sense.
But it featured a trio of performances that I thought were so effective that I found myself hoping (against hope) that they would somehow make it into that year’s race.
Justin Timberlake and Anton Yelchin were nuanced, vulnerable and heartbreakingly real in both their individual performances and in their on-screen relationship with each other. And it is because they danced so well together that when the film reaches its tragic first ending (it felt like there were sixty-seven of them), I was weeping like a baby. And I don’t baby weep in a movie theater. They were that amazing.
Then you have Ben Foster playing a crazed, violent meth addict. He was so ferocious, demented and just so damn entertaining to watch that, for large stretches of the movie (which is mostly awful, I reiterate) I wished that the whole thing were about him.
Those three make Alpha Dog the champion of the rare awful movie, award-worthy performances genre.
Moving on to this year, I thought Eva Green was wicked, captivating and a hell of a lot of fun in Dark Shadows. The movie needed more of her relish (and it also needed to be less stupid) but when she’s on-screen, the whole thing sings.
I think Snow White and the Huntsman is about as award worthy as industrial waste, but I do know that Charlize Theron was magnificent in it. Her performance really and truly surprised me. This is a somewhat weak year in the Supporting Actress category so I wonder why she isn’t making more of an impact.
And talk about surprises, I did not think Channing Tatum did anything superlative in Magic Mike (although I did like the movie), but I think his performance in 21 Jump Street was easily one of the comedic highlights of the year. By the time his undercover cop yelled, “F**k you, Science!” in a fit of drug induced bravado, I knew I was watching an actor making something really special in a genre no one ever thought to put him in. Good on you, Mr. Tatum.
By the way, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. Go ahead. Pelt me with your rotten tomatoes of descent. I don’t care. I stand by the film, awkward plot construction and all.
The answer to the last trivia question – Name the shortest performance, in terms of screen time, to ever win the Oscar for Best Actor…
David Niven from the film Separate Tables. On screen for a whopping fourteen minutes. A close second was Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.
Thanks to everyone who participated. The winner of this week’s BriOut ShoutOut is…
Two in a row for you, EK. Nicely done.
To get your BriOut ShoutOut next week, be the first to correctly answer this week’s trivia question.
Name the only editing team to ever win back-to-back Oscars for Best Editing. Also, what films did they win for?
Fun or serious questions about the award season? Send them in to get answers. You can pose them in the comments section, email me at BriOutAE@gmail.com, or tweet them to @BriOutAE and I’ll get right to work. Answers will appear in next week’s column.