The Ten Worst Films of 2010
2010 was a good year for film. Not one of the best in recent memory but a very good year nonetheless. On the other hand, 2010 can lay claim to birthing some of the worst films in recent memory. In that regard, this worst list contains some pretty, pretty bad stuff.
Personally I often find people's worst lists much more interesting than their best lists. It can be of great insight to see what films rubbed people the wrong way, offended their sensibilities or simply filled them with violent anger. Sure, lists like these can be repositories of unsightly snark but a worst list done well can be valuable, insightful and entertaining.
With my list I have endeavored to offer a cross section of films, from titles that I simply shouldn't have seen in the first place as they obviously weren't to my taste, to titles from respected filmmakers that resulted in profound disappointment. I'm also offering a bonus few films at the end of my list that are by no means bad but simply in my opinion incredibly overrated (again, I state that I see value in mentioning these things). These titles will most likely be seen on many other critics ten best lists. Let's see how deep the crud got in 2010 shall we...
10: I'M STILL HERE (Dir: Casey Affleck)
Whatever his reasons were Casey Affleck effectively rendered his film impotent and redundant with the revelation that it not only was a hoax but for the most part actually painstakingly staged (multiple takes included). With this knowledge, watching the film became a bizarre ordeal. As the film itself addresses the hoax question within its narrative we end up with not so much a meta-comic, Kaufman-esque examination of celebrity but rather an indulgent wank of epic proportions. Essentially though, the reason it is on my list is that it is incredibly boring. Full stop.
9: IRON MAN 2 (Dir: Jon Favrau)
One of the more interesting disappointments of 2010 was Favrau's follow-up to his sensationally entertaining earlier film. The most significant problem with Iron Man 2 is not its incredibly flat middle-act but rather its bizarre insistence at setting up a world beyond the film itself. Most likely at Marvel Studios request, a large chunk of this film is about setting up a mythology that will obviously be continued in other upcoming Marvel films (The Avengers, Thor etc). While in and of itself this isn't a problem it does result in a heap of unresolved tangents and irrelevant scenes. Sam Jackson's character is basically present simply to pay off story threads in other films that are yet to be made. This annoyed me no end as it made Iron Man 2 an unsatisfying film in its own right. A flat, joyless experience ultimately.
I'm not sure there is more I can say about this film that I haven't already said. Seeing it at a sold out MIFF session with most of the audience in stitches then spending the following week overhearing several people in lines citing it as one of their favorite films of the festival gave me one of those uncomfortable 'parallel universe' feelings. You know the feeling, where you are sure you saw a completely different film than everyone else. I am forcing myself to believe in that theory as the only alternative means the majority of viewers are undiscerning and enjoy horrifically generic, badly made crud. Let's settle for the parallel universe theory on this one.
It is possible in a few years time we will look back at this as the career nadir of Tim Burton after which he began to make interesting and worthwhile films again. It is possible... but unlikely. Alice In Wonderland is a commercial autuer film at its worst. Missing the point of Lewis Carrol's original work this film turns into a generic Hollywood hero journey stamped with the Burton trademark aesthetic intended to give it some kind of artistic gravitas. Burton has been sliding for years but this was finally him hitting the ground with a thud. As far as I am concerned he may as well stop making movies and just tour the world with his art exhibition because he seemingly has nothing new to offer. In many ways this was the most depressing film I watched this year and in tandem with his ACMI idolisation I truly felt like I was shitting on everyone's parade.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be putting a Solondz film on my worst films of the year list I probably would've kicked you in the nuts for talking crazy. This was an unexpected disappointment for up until this film I was a total Solondz apologist. I appreciated Storytelling and very much liked Palindromes - not to mention his masterpiece Happiness. Life During Wartime on the other hand is a film showcasing an artist who has begun to look back rather than forward. This is a film that attempts to relive past glories. Scenes from Happiness are replayed with new actors but rather than being interesting in a meta-textual way they just come off as desperate and void. Jokes are replayed and the film ends on a jarringly abrupt note resulting in the film feeling less like a complete work and more like an epilogue worthy of a DVD extra. Solondz needs to do something mighty special to get me back on board.
My first review of this film resulted in a wordless review simply because I was speechless after watching it. Upon reflection I could've been more descriptive in my disdain for this film. This humourless film was one of the many examples of stunt casting we saw this year that has left us with the distinct impression that it takes more than a superstar cast to make a good film (Grown Ups is like The Expendables of comedy). A film seemingly designed simply to let a bunch of actors who are friends in real life hang out for a couple of months while getting paid. Strictly for fans of Cop Out.
"Old Dogs is like a dodgy hot dog. Its full of random bits of anus and sawdust. Thrown together with no regard for anything or anyone other than making a few dollars. I'm saying this as someone who quite likes hot dogs too but this is the hot dog that has sat around for weeks and is suddenly discounted just to get it off the shelf. In fact this hot dog has been dropped on the ground and licked by a rabies infested dog that chose not to eat it. This analogy could go on quite a while so I should probably move on."
My proudest writing moment of the year?
3: COP OUT (Dir: Kevin Smith)
About 20 minutes into this film my friend and I simultaneously turned to each other, with our mouths agape in disbelief, we entered into a rare moment of non-verbal psychic communication. 'What the hell was going on??', we silently asked each other. Kevin Smith railed against the critics for all their disparaging comments but really he deserved a slap across the face for even attempting to defend this bad, bad film. Taking the prize for being one of the most technically incompetent Hollywood films I have seen in years, it also plunged me into a day long quest to find out who could possibly enjoy a film such as this. After some time on the IMDB message boards I discovered exactly the type of person that enjoyed this film and Kevin Smith is more than welcome to hang out with that crowd all he wants.
2: SEX AND THE CITY 2 (Dir: Michael Patrick King)
In any other year this would have pride of place at number one for it is not only the worst film (if we are talking about a 'film' in the traditional sense) I have endured all year but simply one of the worst films ever made. At some point in one's very distant memory Sex & The City had some edge, intelligence and purpose but that all was violently erased as this sequel premiered. Sure the original film wasn't great (in fact it was quite bad) but it had a cringe-inducing functionality that at the very least knew its target market. This sequel is nightmarish in every respect from its overt racism (beneath every oppressed niqab wearing Muslim woman is a western consumer waiting to get out) to its bizarre turn into a surreal form of anti-feminism (women's liberation through materialism?). It's a plotless mess, lacking in any definable conflict with a fashion sense that looks like a parade of cirque de soliel offcuts. It took me 3 separate viewings to make it through to the end as I couldn't watch more than 40 minutes at a time without becoming literally nauseous (I am not exaggerating. The use of the word literally is in its correct context). I've seen a lot of films in my life and this is genuinely one of the most intolerable.
Probably the single most provocative cinematic experience I have had all year. Sure, fans of the film will be amused that I was so annoyed by Trash Humpers but mere provocation does not make a film worthwhile. In fact I will go to the mat arguing that Trash Humpers is not actually a film. Korine himself has declared it more an artifact that would just as well be projected onto a toilet bowl. As video art it has some kind of value but as cinematic experience it is void of any merit whatsoever. Trapping an audience in a theatre and asking them to watch this from start to finish is akin to shitting in someone's face for 80 minutes straight. I have seen Trash Humpers appear on several critics ten best lists recently (including one I respected up until the moment she declared it the number 1 best film of 2010) and I feel sorry for those critics. Korine has pulled the biggest practical joke of his career on those critics and fooled them into thinking this piece of junk is post-modern art. I am 100% positive that if I screened the exact same film to them without Korine's name on it they would storm out after 15 minutes in fury.
BONUS OVERRATED DOUBLE FEATURE
I'm sure there are many people who are fuming simply because I am mentioning this film in the presence of an article such as this. I should make it clear: Winter's Bone is a very, very good film. It is a fascinating work that I appreciate greatly. It also is a film that completely left me cold. Not only that but the love and admiration that has been showered upon it has baffled me. I recognise the artistry at work in Winter's Bone but it doesn't particularly stand out to my eyes as a masterpiece or the single best film of the year (it has topped multiple critical top tens). Usually I can identify something in films that get this level of adulation even when I don't feel the same way but honestly Winter's Bone is the biggest cinematic mystery for me in years. Obviously I just don't get it.
Middling Polanski is still great filmmaking but be sure that this is still middling Polanski. For a large period of the 90s, paranoid cinema was my bread and butter and The Parallax View is still one of my favorite films to this day so I understand completely what Polanski was up to with The Ghost Writer. While admirers found the climax to this film deliciously understated and rich with resonance, I personally found it undercooked and hammy (the food allusions here are completely co-incidental). I admit Polanski soaked his film with creeping menace but in the end The Ghost Writer is nothing more than a well-made, souped-up film version of an airport novel. It's a minor work from a great master and while it shows Polanski's suspense chops are still alive I think a few too many critics got a little over-excited about his return to the genre and elevated this film a little higher that it may have deserved.