December 30, 2008

Other Lists

So with the Top Tens on the horizon - how about a few other lists? Like a bottom ten, for instance, or a ten auteur flicks that failed, or a ten worst film moments in 2008?

Consider that for worst it's best to avoid stuff that's obviously atrocious like Mamma Mia or Mummy 3 or, really, 90% of Universal's output. What's the point, really, of going after those targets? Better choices are things like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Defiance or, gasp, Valkyrie...

For failed auteurism, factor in the heartbreak of movies by filmmakers you couldn't wait to see their next film and then, their next film was. . . Pineapple Express? Or stuff that played like self-parody like Spirit or Paranoid Park or that Harmony Korine movie about Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe.

And for ten worst film moments. . . the last fight in Revolutionary Road - any five minutes from Mamma Mia - the 2001 steps in Wall-E?

Go get 'em.


Anonymous said...

The worst moment I can remember is "Religulous" and its use of a jokey pop song over what should have been powerful footage of a woman how drowned her kids. Said it before, sayin' it again: That takes a truly special breed of asshole.

It's hard to pick out a single worst moment in "The House Bunny," my pick for worst movie of the year. How 'bout the scene where they decide that they should dial back the glamour, but not entirely 'cause gosh wasn't that airhead blonde really good with fashion?

Oh, and there's Will Ferrell rubbing his nuts on John C. Reilly's drums. The endless vomiting in Four Christmases. The craptacular use of '70s-era special effects in Twilight. The ridiculously abrupt ending of Babylon A.D.

Jared said...

I missed a lot of the truly execrable stuff this year. I only made time for what I really needed to see and now that the year's over all I can really think about is Synecdoche, New York and how much I want to have it on DVD so I can pore over it constantly getting new things out of it.

I don't think anybody has a right to make a bottom ten list until they've seen Punisher: War Zone though - that's a bad movie I can't shake.

Walter_Chaw said...

I've seen Synecdoche five times now - three in quick succession - a weird thing about it is that it gets shorter each time. Not easier, you know, but shorter somehow. Funny thing, too, is that you never really get immune to the fucking thing.

theoldboy said...

"that Harmony Korine movie about Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe" is hovering around number two or three in my Top Ten.

Ian Pugh said...

10 awful moments in no particular order:

- The hurt/heartfelt monologues delivered by Kevin Smith's transparent avatar at the end of Zack and Miri Make a Porno

- Joan Baez's rambling paean to Michael Moore in Slacker Uprising

- The epileptic car chase in Quantum of Solace

- The last shot of Kung Fu Panda, as the dumb ennobled oaf gains a second father figure after murdering the competition

- An American Carol: "Enjoy your Fourth Amendment rights... in Hell!"

- CGI Edward Norton and CGI Tim Roth pound the shit out of each other in The Incredible Hulk

- Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson pound the shit out of each other in The Spirit

- German fades into American English in Valkyrie

- The self-defeating interview segments in Frost/Nixon

- Will Smith's thousand-mile stare in Seven Pounds

dennis said...

The middle act of The Signal was probably my single least favorite extended moment of the year. The first act was reasonably promising, and then the second filmmaker comes in and mucks it up with an embarrassingly ill-judged brew of sardonic satire and unabashed misanthropy that had me grating my teeth. The third act was just stupid, but I'd take that over the hateful slop that comprised the middle act.

rowland said...

How about underrated/underseen?

Mad Detective
My Blueberry Nights
Speed Racer
You Don't Mess With the Zohan, funnier and more exuberant than the mediocre likes of Role Models, Tropic Thunder, Get SmartBaby Mama, Step Brothers, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

What's the big deal?

Shotgun Stories
Man on Wire
Tell No One
Tropic Thunder
Diary of the Dead

Dan said...

Come to think of it, this year's crop of films featured more cringe-inducing moments than the previous years - or is it just me?... Here are a few of mine that come to mind:

* Quantum of Solace: Any scene in which Olga Kurylenko had speaking lines.
* The Day the Earth Stood Still: El Keanu's dialogues with that damn kid.
* Iron Man: the hero comes to the rescue of some poor Middle-Eastern village.
* Changeling: The 17th time Angelina yells out "I want my son back!!..."
* Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: the scene in the jungle quicksand
* Rambo: the wimpy pacifist finally reaches breaking point and 'heroically' smashes a guy's face in with a rock
* Rendition: Jake Gyllenhaal's character suddenly realizes torture isn't OK after all
* Sex and the City: The Movie: the moment where you suddenly remember that this movie is over two hours long, which means you're not even halfway...

Ryan said...

Really didn't see that many movies this year compared to the last couple of years, but here's some moments that made my brain hurt:

- Kristen Bell shriekingly trying to reconcile with Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall by crying and giving him head... uncomfortable, to say the least

- the same moment in Iron Man that Dan mentioned

- seeing Speed Racer opening day while a woman in front of me repeatedly told her four-year-old to "sit (your) fucking ass down!"

- the weird extended scene in the middle of Indy 4 at the Russian base in the jungle... it seemed be 45 minutes of going back and forth between two tents while various well-known actors took turns staring blankly into the glass MacGuffin

- James McAvoy trying to convince us that he's a tough guy in Wanted

- Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly trying to out-retard each other in any given scene in Step Brothers

- Elizabeth Banks' post-coital smiles of ecstasy while laying on top of bags of coffee beans in Zack and Miri, complete with a soundtrack selection that seems to be a Sixpence None the Richer B-side

- although I loved it, the last 20 minutes of Synecdoche drove me mad, as it was an 11:30 showing in South Philly with a group of patchouli-smelling hipsters who gradually became louder and more obnoxious as the movie progressed, coupled with the fact that I had to get up at 5:30 the next morning

jer fairall said...

Worst moment?

How about Ben Stein's tour through a Nazi death camp meant to persuade you that Darwinism = genocide?

Runner up: "Knowledge was their treasure."

Anonymous said...


oh and the worst moment in the day the earth stood still was:
'it's leaving.'
'no, he's leaving.'
they share a smile.

Walter_Chaw said...

Y'know - enough people that I respect liked the Korine flick to cause me to reconsider disliking it. I never was quick to get hip to Harmony. Another look's probably in order.

Funny thing? I had completely forgotten about Speed Racer - that makes all three lists, don't it?

Monkey slapstick is pretty much a guarantee of "worst moment" in any year. I'd second the "what's the big deal" list intention - mine would be pretty boring, though, mostly the ones we're supposed to be grooving on.

My worst moment is, probably, the moment that Will's heart starts beating in his girlfriend's body. Anything that makes you gag in two different ways deserves some kind of recognition.

jer fairall said...

Y'know - enough people that I respect liked the Korine flick to cause me to reconsider disliking it.

Likewise. Didn't exactly *dislike* it, but was primed to love it and certainly didn't end think it was all that. Was reminded of Roger Ebert's review of The World According To Garp, which he compared to watching a puppy chase it's tail for two hours. Cute, but what's the point? I lost patience sometime around "the pope stinks!"

More overtly overrated, I thought, were Standard Operating Procedure and Redbelt. The former was an example of the two things that annoy me most about documentary films (pre-Expelled and Slacker Uprising, at least): an over reliance
on talking heads and numbingly literal visual cues (I was reminded of the Simpsons spoof of Behind the Music, frankly). The latter, for me, suffered from Michael Clayton syndrome: a genre film that acted like it was too good to be a genre film. Blah.

Most underrated? Shine a Light, I gotta say. Also, Be Kind Rewind.

Chapter 27, My Blueberry Nights and Hamlet 2I liked better than most too, I think.

I can't really explain why I liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall now, but it may have had something to do with that blow job scene that Ryan mentioned tipping the scale in favor of it for me. Surprisingly gritty, I thought, even for a raunchy sex comedy.

Iron Man, Tropic Thunder, Son of Rambow, Cloverfield and Vicky Christina Barcelona were all well regarded near-misses for me in about the same way that Mister Lonely was, though I certainly didn't resent the time I spent watching them. Likewise, The Happening, which I gotta admit kept me modestly entertained in all of it's glorious stupidity.

Bill C said...

Finally saw FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, and have to ask: what was the point? And I love Kristen Bell (or maybe I just love her as Veronica Mars), but she was all wrong for it.

I think SHINE A LIGHT was a dud, but really have no desire to beat on it. If Marty needs to jerk off between masterpieces, more power to him.

Jaden Smith is an appalling screen presence and is really at the centre of the vortex into which the DAY THE EARTH redux does a downward spiral. Its squandering of Jon Hamm would be enough to condemn it.

Biggest disappointment: INDY 4. Be careful what you wish for.

Best TV show? "Mad Men". It actually invades my sleep.

Ian Pugh said...

Kyle: These days, I suspect that a cab ride from Ritz Five to the UA Riverview might provide an environment more conducive to proper movie etiquette. Having spent a goodly amount of time and money at that theater during college, I have to say that this news was... disconcerting.

Rachel Andelman said...

Its squandering of Jon Hamm would be enough to condemn it.

That would be a good list: the most egregious examples of cast-wasting in movies. Let me nominate Rachel Weisz in Definitely, Maybe; Bobby Lee in Pineapple Express; Catherine Keener in Hamlet 2, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Stop-Loss; Helena Bonham Carter in Sixty Six.

Also, films whose stars should not star in anything again: Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights; Michael Stahl-David in Cloverfield; Gabe Nevins in Paranoid Park; Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.

Biggest disappointments: Hamlet 2; Reprise; Stop-Loss; The Animation Show 2008. (This is the only short I recall even liking.)

Best film of the Year: Let the Right One In. Because if it's about Swedish vampires you don't have to worry about your Oscar prospects.

Worst film of the year: Sixty Six, House Bunny be damned. If you think Michelle Williams with Michael Showalter is unrealistic, you can't even imagine what it's like to watch Bonham Carter pretend to be married to Eddie Marsan. Plus, the protagonist is a miserable piece of snot, which pretty much describes the film proper, that is,until it gets into all that unbearable cheap uplift. The. Worst.

Ryan said...

Ian, I'm guessing that comment was directed my way... yeeeeah, what a fun piece of news that was. Maybe it was the fact that he thought he was going to see Fight Club II: Return of Project Mayhem and ended up watching Forrest Gump II: Still Gumpin' that set him off. Guess the love generated from the World Phucking Champions hasn't been properly extended his way. I've actually never been to the Riverview; I live in Wilmington, DE and there's a bitchin' Regal's right around the corner.

Another moment that made me want to punch something: that idiotic boat chase in Quantum of Solace. Basically Bond chasing (or being chased, or taking turns chasing...?) faceless henchmen in a marina that appeared to be about the size of a decent swimming pool, and seemingly ending the sequence by steering the thing in a different direction. What the hell...

Ian Pugh said...

Shit, sorry about that, Ryan. Guess I'm still recovering from awards season.

jer fairall said...

Best film of the Year: Let the Right One In

High five on that one.

And if we're nominating best *scenes* of the year, my vote goes to the second to last one in the aforementioned.

Jared said...

I've seen Synecdoche five times now - three in quick succession - a weird thing about it is that it gets shorter each time. Not easier, you know, but shorter somehow. Funny thing, too, is that you never really get immune to the fucking thing.

I think the one thing I will get out of waiting for the DVD is getting to see the movie in a different state of mind. I was going through a slew of health problems coupled with a nasty depression in the final quarter of the year and it made my identification with Caden a little too close for comfort. A couple of times I had to do a double take during the movie because I looked at the screen and saw myself. Now that I've seen Benjamin Button I can't help but second Ebert's suggestion of Synecdoche, New York as the alternative to that film for thinking adults.

And how is "I'm sorry I abandoned you to have anal sex with my homosexual lover Eric" the most heart wrenching line in any movie all year? Charlie Kaufman is really the only screenwriter I know of who can wrench incredible depth and meaning out of any set of words. Shapes to fill lacks I guess.

Berandor said...

Sorry to take from the list of films that are not allowed, but the worst moment for me was sitting in the theatre in Mummy 3 seeing CGI yetis score a touchdown. Because even a retarded dog would know not to do such a scene. Inexplicable, inexcusable, in-whatever. Mummy 3 was bad, but that moment... ugh

Disappointing moment was me seeing the film poster for Redbelt, where (at least in Germany) you see the protagonist triumphant after the final confrontation. Great choice there, ad people. Not!

Redbelt would also be my most disappointing film of the year, despite Indy 4's awful suckiness. Redbelt should be really up my alley, the philosophy is wonderful, the acting, and I expected great things after reading Vern's review. But the film never really drew me in. Maybe too cerebral? Maybe it's what Jer said, that it didn't want to be a genre film despite being one. Right now I'm too tired to say for sure.

By the way, is it just me or was 2008 not such a great year for movies? Speaking as someone who didn't really think Dark Knight was all that, and as someone who lives in a country where many of your smaller films have not come out [yet] (Synechdoche, NY, Let the right one in, etc), I don't recall going to the movies as often as I would have liked, instead often looking at the list of films and going, "nah". I mean, I went to see Mummy 3.

On the other hand, Iron Man was fun, Wall-E was great, hmm... I'm probably forgetting a few films right now.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Burn After Reading, guys.

And yeah I loved the swedey vampires too, though it got a bit unfocused in the second half (all that stuff with the woman *turning* especially - ehh).

Bill C said...

I need to give BAR another look. It kinda irked me; the Coens have this habit when they can't think up a funny character of creating a really profane one, and Malkovich made my skin crawl in that regard. I also missed Roger Deakins (even though I like Emmanuel Lubezki), and overall found it hateful in a way that left me feeling a bit battered--and this is coming from someone who's never held their misanthropy against the Coens.

I dunno. Maybe, hopefully, it'll grow on me.

jacksommersby said...


Thank you, thank you for citing Jaden Smith's godawful performance in the godawful "Seven Pounds". No way in hell would any director -- not even Uwe Boll -- cast this kid if daddy weren't Will Smith. I usually give a little leeway for a child performance, but his was so off-the-charts atrocious that someone should've made a citizen's arrest.

Oh, and The New Republic's excellent critic Christopher Orr has a very entertaining Best/Worst list.

Walter_Chaw said...

Goddamnit - that scene with the football playing yetis... goddamnit.

Jaden-Smith was in the sci-fi redux, right, not Seven Pounds? Did anyone, by the way, see the connection between Defiance and Red Dawn? Almost makes me like Defiance.

Burn After Reading feels like the director's cut of Blood Simple to me and its attendant commentary track. If you're going to fuck me, at least use lube.

Arlvy said...

Now Walter has seen "Hunger" is there any chance of a review? It's my number one film of 2008 and it seems largely overlooked.

DaveA said...

I wonder why you feared the response to your top10s, Bill. I think the consensus was pretty much expected? Sure, even I didn't expect Cloverfield making Walter's Top5, but that's fine with me...

Being stuck in Germany, I haven't seen most of the movies in the lists, so I can't really comment on them. I am surprised though that the Coen's aren't even honourable mentioned; BAR would have easily made my Top 10 in any year.

Otherwise, I've almost seen nothing in 2008, maybe ten flicks or so. I must confess my time is increasingly eaten away by TV shows, and I'm not sure this is a bad thing.

So, anything to look forward to in 2009? I'd say Antichrist, since I think it's about time L.v. Trier gets back to the genre he does best.

Berandor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Berandor said...

Great top 10. In Germany, like DaveA, and I have seen almost none of the films on the lists (Wall-E, Dark Knight, Cloverfield, Hellboy II). However...

we already had the Dark Knight discussion some time ago, so I won't bring it up again. But Hellboy II is definitely not Top 10 material.

I mean, shouldn't a film be at least a little cohesive? Hellboy II was like del Toro having half a dozen ideas for nice set pieces and then, instead of trying to bring the ideas together and maybe changing or leaving out a few of them, simply filming them in a random order before calling it a movie.

Wonderful, wonderful imagery with almost no weight to it at all. How you can invent something like the giant tree man and its demise and make it boring, I don't know, but I know now that it's possible. Or maybe boring is the wrong word, and a better expression would be "making it painfully obvious that this moment has not been earned, nor deserved, nor has it any place in or by the movie that preceded it."

It was a jumbled mess, that movie. A beautiful, heart-wrenching, jumbled mess. For every thing it got absolutely right, it got two things wrong.

dougla_1 said...

Best worst movie moment(s) avoided: "The Spirit"!!!! I had a bad feeling about that from the trailer. Thank you for your review Walter. Having not seen the movie, Miller's spirit (his own work on the pages) can remain top shelf, even if he has no clue what he has.

jacksommersby said...

You're absolutely right, Walter, about my mistakenly writing "Seven Pounds" instead of "Day Earth Stood Still".

Rachel Andelman said...

Hey, Walter--

Awesome Defiance review. I'd only add that the film's 2008 release date is ironic two ways. First, the year marks the death of the man who answered the bad-ass Jew question nearly fifty years ago; second, it's the year where the figure of the Mossad agent reached such a level of ubiquity that it demanded to be satirized by no one less than Adam Sandler. (I mean, a Mossad agent is a main character on my mum's favorite anagram show. Come fucking on, you know?)

Seriously, I'd really like to understand what these filmmakers think they're doing, beyond egging on the Marty Peretz demographic.

Ian Pugh said...

I don't know, Berandor--I'd say that del Toro has a pretty firm grasp on what he's doing. Hellboy II is another fairy tale, this time about the difficulty in accepting that we may be defined by our most accursed flaws--our greed, our self-destruction--and, subsequently, our attempt to find some sense of wonder and compassion from within those confines. What have we abandoned in our long-suffering quest to the top of the evolutionary heap? Can we get it back? In the end, with Hellboy serving as our unwilling Antichrist (not to mention Nuada and Krauss present to remind us of the toll paid for honor and knowledge), there's just as much crushing pressure in being labeled the Destroyer as there is in being labeled the Creator.

The characters in Hellboy II are allowed to live out their dreams and desires, to express their pent-up feelings with demonstrative clarity (Hellboy's desire to ingratiate himself with humanity; Liz's love for Hellboy; Abe's love for Nuala), but only after they have been granted the knowledge that their actions will trigger Armageddon. Del Toro's saying that there's something genuinely damning about the beauty of love, because we can't really see it until we know just what we're willing to sacrifice for it... but I can't help but see these gestures as an expression of some timid step forward.

Berandor said...

I saw the ending more as a clean-up. See, Nuala sacrifices herself and we won't have to deal with her brother being still around, nor with her in later movies. I mean, as soon as their connection was shown, I expected that, and saw the love story between her and Abe only as an artificial way to get me to care for her unavoidable death.

Mike A. said...

Although it definitely isn't the best movie of the year, Neil Marshall's Doomsday is the movie that I most often find myself stopping to think about. It's definitely alongside Hancock as most underrated and misunderstood mainstream picture.

Its viral-video resolution fully explains Dark Knight and Cloverfield's respective marketing campaigns and youtube aesthetics. Marshall's thesis seems to be that, if chaos is an unstoppable virus, then viral video is our means of aligning ourselves to that chaos, for better or worse.

The 'happy' ending of Cloverfleid isn't that the characters had a good day. It's that we were given the opportunity to relive their good day in the fragments of a videotape that the government failed to repress.

There's a definite connection there to the cannibalism in Doomsday and Dark Knight. Sol's "the hounds are hungry! It's feeding time at the fucking zoo!" compared to the Joker's "we'll see how loyal a hungry dog really is." It's not wonder that Joker records his broadcasts with cheap DV in a meatlocker.

The theme of the year seems to be that we're constantly chewing on the remains of the 50s, the 80s, the medieval period, - of everyone who failed before us. That if we're all going to die soon, then it's time to collaborate on a mixtape of our greatest hits.

(You can probably find an explanation there for why Indy veers off course into its regressive nostalgia jungle once the atom bomb strikes. And isn't The Dark Knight a remake of Burton's '89 Batman in several of the Joker's key scenes?)

What I like about Doomsday is that it's the most unabashedly joyful of these glorified 80s internet memes. Instead of lamenting the state of the world, it makes something like a manifesto in a meatlocker. It's the one movie where the Joker wins completely.

Anonymous said...

Ian, can you explain Gran Torino to me?

Jared said...

Can someone fucking explain why Cloverfield is good to me? I've read Walter's review a million times and I still do not understand why it's some profound statement because they're taking cellphone pictures of the creature. I saw it for free and wanted my money back. The terrible acting, endless queazycam (the character shooting did not have Parkinsons'), and cheap monster effects (one of those movies where you don't see that much of the monster because they're trying to be suspenseful, but the effect is laughable and they're trying to hide it). Of course what do you expect from the idiot who created "Lost" (someone please explain to me why that abomination has such a following) and the idiot who's last film was the David Schimmer vehicle "The Pallbearer" over a decade ago. They're moving on to rape Star Trek this year, goodie. I will take Godzilla 1998 over this movie. I just forgot about this as my year's worst since it was from the beginning of the year, at least Punisher: War Zone had Dominic West; albeit a Dominic West showing utter contempt for the project he was involved in.

Also, since Ian listed it as a year's worst I'd love to have a discussion about Slumdog Millionaire. Maybe I just fell for it? I think the Bollywood dance party finale almost makes any movie officially unhatable. I would've even spared half a star for Cloverfield had it ended with one.

Berandor said...

One great thing about Doomsday is that we could get awesome sequels. I mean, we haven't seen the whole area yet, have we? So in addition to Mad Max punks and knights, there could be a harbor town of pirates, a mining town with mutants, some ninjas, and in a steel plant the people became robots!


Anonymous said...

The Punisher: War Zone is a very interesting throwback. It's an '80s Stallone movie, only with '00s technology. Blows that bullshit like "Wanted" out of the fucking water; it's so violent, angry and completely fucking stupid that it nearly placed in my top ten.

However, its status as a solid guilty pleasure is completely undone by the fact that it has legitimately terrible villains. Not even good bad; just bad. The film screeched to a halt everytime they were on screen.

Jared said...

Just for the sake of consistency. I hated Wanted. Office Space didn't need bullet time...or gore...or Morgan Freeman.

I think War Zone would've offended me less if I didn't like the Thomas Jane/Jonathan Hensleigh version of the story so much and really wanted to see that story go further.

Anonymous said...

Hey, man, don't get me wrong, I think "Punisher: War Zone" is an impressive movie in a lot of ways and most of them are not favorable, but I found myself grooving to it all the same. The Thomas Jane version is an actual good action movie.

BLH said...

Does anyone care the slightest bit about the Golden Globes on Sunday?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Sean Penn will win his second statue for Best Actor. One more and he'll be able to trade them in for his choice of the Timex calculator-wristwatch or the Casio mini-keyboard.

dougla_1 said...

Jared, I agree with you on "Slumdog Millionaire." My 14 yrs old nephew asked what was with the "Michael Jackson, 'Thriller' dance number at the end!" He was clearly not amused. I explained to him it was a tribute to Bollywood movies of India. I pretty much grew up on a staple of Indian movie (oh yes with all the singing and dancing every 15 mins for even the most mundane of "tragedies.") My early childhood was in Trinidad and my cinema paradiso was literally almost in my backyard. I could piss on the wall of the cinema house through the chain linked fence of our yard. There, I saw the spaghetti westerns (the awesomeness of Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"), "Our Man Flint" (cooler than James ;)), "Rosemary's Baby," enough Bud Abbott and Lou Costello films to fill my smiles for several lifetimes, and a healthy dose of Indian movies (the "shrieking" music still echo in my mind.) I was a little shrimp dick of a kid then, but man have I grown up now! LoL.