Thursday, July 5, 2007

My Angry 10

Damian has posted a list of his bottom 100, and it's a good list as far as lists for the worst movies ever go. So I tried to follow suit with a bottom 100 of my own. Man, it's hard. I only got about 30 bad movies. Why so hard? There are plenty of crappy movies out there. But I couldn't find 100 movies that were completely awful. So devoid of anything that I would list them as the bottom 100. Even in the worst movies, I find something that I liked, a performance, a scene, a line... something. The truth is, it's a lot harder coming up with a bad 100, than a good 100. But it's not hard for me to come up with my Angry 10. Movies that when I see them they make me furious for reasons I will go in to below. So here they are, ten movies that make my blood boil.

Titanic My hatred of this movie began soon after I saw it. My first reaction to it was that it was a special effects masterpiece but James Cameron has no business trying to retell history. And at the heart of this history is a story told so many times, it's ridiculous. A rich girl falls for a poor boy. She shows him culture and he shows her how to let loose. And how many times did I hear people defend this movie saying "yeah, that story is pretty cliched" or "yeah, Cameron isn't very good with dialogue." Then why on God's green earth did it win almost every Oscar possible? Last time I checked, the best picture award was awarded to a movie that was near flawless in every category. And the best director award was given to a director who could pull performances from actors never seen before. I didn't see any of that in Titanic. If there was a technical director award to be given for the Oscars, no doubt James Cameron has won it several times over. But as a true director of drama? Not a chance. And the arrogance that James Cameron displayed after this movie came out soured me on his whole career.

Good Morning, Vietnam: Under proper direction, Robin Williams can deliver a pretty good performance. As proof, I offer The Fisher King, The World According To Garp, Insomnia and Good Will Hunting. But when a good director lets Robin "do his thing" the result is this movie. How can we for one moment get caught up in the drama of the Vietnam war or the heroic role that Adrian Cronauer served during his time there when Robin Williams continues to annoy with his constant bickering. Okay, I get it. You do impersonations. I get it. You're goofy. I get it! Unfortunately, Barry Levinson didn't learn his lesson, for he let Williams off his leash again with the movie Toys. Another good story destroyed by Mork.

Cars Pixar is running on fumes and there is no better evidence of this than Cars. The laughs are few and far between and the story is lifted directly from Doc Hollywood. There needs to be something more to their movies than cute and cuddly chotchkies. And Pixar better turn it around soon because the 'wow' factor of 3-D animation is fading and the simple story lines aren't cute anymore

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Why aren't more people crying fowl over the career of Tim Burton? This is the guy who began with bright, beautiful and creative stories like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beatlejuice and Ed Wood and is finishing his career as the remake... er.... sorry... re-imagining King. Tim Burton came out on Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, saying that he didn't like it because it wasn't true to the book. Never mind that the original script was written by Roald Dahl and Gene Wilder gave his best performance to date. Gene Wilder came out on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and said that the only reason Burton was remaking this movie was for money. Burton answered with a resounding 'yes' saying that that's why he's in business. I think somewhere in there Burton thought he was making a good point. This movie offers nothing more to the original than cartoony performances led by Mr. Cartoon himself Johnny Depp. Here's an idea, let's take a dark, complex character and turn him into a Michael Jackson wannabe. Lest we forget, there's also the soundtrack from Elfman which pales in comparison to the original and sets so busy they take away from any drama that the original captured so well.

Every Kevin Smith movie since Dogma Remember when Kevin Smith was a judge at Sundance? Remember? Remember when Kevin Smith was making thoughtful movies with a sense of humor like Chasing Amy and Dogma? Remember? Now Kevin Smith has created a nice little place for himself in the film hall of fame as the guy who created "the thinking-mans Porkys" over and over again. Don't know what I'm talking about? Watch Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks II, or better yet wait for his upcoming Zack and Miri make a Porno.

Pearl Harbor Like Titanic, I can't stand it when history is being told on the big screen by lesser directors. I mean, Michael Bay was fresh off of Armageddon, why shouldn't he direct one of the most historical events in American history? Sheeesh. Not only did Michael Bay give false characters even falser courage, he tried to give the Japanese a heart. Maybe they had one, but who the hell is Michael Bay to tell me so? And for the record, Franklin D. Roosevelt would have never used his handicap to make a point. The cherry on top was that Bay and Bruckheimer tried to market this as the action movie of the year. Have our war heroes ever been treated with such disrespect? Stay with bad action flicks Bay, and keep the hell away from my history.



A History Of Violence
I have been a longtime fan of David Cronenberg and have admired his career up until this movie. This is Cronenberg trying to be David Lynch and the result is disastrous. The middle-America acting is fake, the sex scenes are laughable, the violence too violent and William Hurt hits eleven on the overacting meter only to slightly edge out Maria Bello. But that's all fine with me. So Cronenberg delivers a bad movie, so what. Only everyone has praised him for it. This is the movie that puts Cronenberg on the map. Not The Dead Zone, not Videodrome, not The Fly not eXistenZ. It's a movie where Cronenberg is not Cronenberg. And nothing makes me more angry.

Crash Can there be any better example of how out of touch L.A. is with reality than this movie? Wow, race relations are bad in Los Angeles? Really? Paul Haggis said that this story came from a dream he had. Well he must have been sleeping while Grand Canyon was playing on the TV, because Lawrence Kasdan told this story over 15 years ago. And he did it with a much lighter hand. And the fact that this movie went from relative obscurity (a very early DVD release) to win the highest Oscar shows that any movie is a contender if you put enough money behind the marketing of it.




Something's Gotta Give
Congratulations Nancy Meyers. You made both Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson deliver dogshit performances. Two of our finest actors now have a permanent blemish on their careers thanks to you. Unless of course, you want to burn this film. And if that's the case, let me find the lighter fluid.

Elephant Gus Van Sant at his laziest. Elephant is nothing more than a 30 minute idea stretched into feature length. Loosely based on the Columbine shootings, this movie focuses on an average day in a high school, only it ends in mayhem. The long scenes are used to capture the monotony of every day school life in contrast to the horror that is looming, but to me it's just a device Gus Van Sant uses to stretch out a mediocre idea instead of filling it with real depth. Van Sant also casts non-actors to further capture the reality of what we are witnessing. It's a good idea, only he puts them in horribly cliched scenes. Teenage girls finish their lunch and then make themselves lose it in the bathroom like clockwork. And we never understand why the two boys are driven to the violent conclusion. Because they're gay? Geez. Next you're going to tell me they weren't breast fed by their Moms. We should demand a little more from the director who gave us Drugstore Cowboy.

20 comments:

Adam Ross said...

I don't think I've seen a recent movie divide people so dramatically than "A History of Violence." I've met and read quite a few people who say it was their favorite movie of the year, and an equal amount who say it's one of their most hated movies. I liked it quite a bit for all the reasons you listed.

I'm with you on Cars. I think the biggest problem was having to believe in this world where cars are people, which was never a problem with "Finding Nemo," "Toy Story," or even "The Incredibles" because all of those acknowledge the real world.

pacheco said...

Elephant is Van Sant at his laziest? What about GERRY?! That movie made me furious. "Umm, some guys walk in a desert...for an hour and a half...."

Cabiria also made me go insane. Talk about junk.

Piper said...

Gerry? Cabiria? Wha?

Bob Turnbull said...

Cars isn't my fave Pixar film, but I really enjoyed it and must say I'm still perplexed by the dissing it's received in many corners. I had no problem believing in the world of cars - because it set it up early on that there wasn't a relationship with the "real" world in this case. And then it stayed true to that.

As for the contention that it ripped the plot off Doc Hollywood, well, I 1) haven't seen that, so it ain't an issue for me and 2) can't imagine it's more than just the outline of the plot since there's so much that is specific to this story (the bookends of the racetrack, how he got stuck in the town, the individual characters (Luigi, the tractors, etc.). But I may just be rationalizing...The animation was gorgeous and it just put a smile on my face.

I also quite liked Elephant (and Gerry for that matter - sort of trance like), though I absolutely understand your criticism. I'm a sucker for tracking shots and long takes, but was occasionally pulled out of what was happening by some of the acting. I didn't quite get the gay nazi influence, nor did the girls throwing up look like anything more than a cliche. But there's that dream like quality to much of it that is fascinating to me...

Regarding Titanic and, ugh, Crash, I couldn't agree more. I've reconciled myself to the fact that awards like the Oscars don't necessarily mean much and that I should just watch for the fun of it. And I'm fine with that. But Crash winning actually pissed me off.

* (asterisk) said...

I disagree that Elephant is "Gus Van Sant at his laziest". That honour almost certainly belongs to Last Days, in which he seemed to shoot just 25 minutes of footage from three different angles and then tack it all together to make a film. Load of shit. I actually didn't mind Elephant.

The movie that makes me angriest of all? The Piano, as you can read in this post.

I didn't mind Pearl Harbor, from a purely cheesy entertainment point of view.

But I am largely with you on A History of Violence. Though I'm not a big DC fan anyway, the hype was too much.

I'm with you on Crash, too. Dull and contrived.

Sheamus the... said...

Eastern Promises looks pretty awesome though...but so did violence.

Piper said...

Bob,

My problem with Cars is not with the debate on "cars living in a car world." I'm not really bothered by that any more than I'm bothered with rats in a kitchen or fish talking or toys coming alive. It's a cartoon so anything can happen and should.

The premise of Doc Hollywood is that this hotshot doctor on his way to California takes out the fence of a judge in a small town. He has to stay in that town until he fixes the fence and gets his car working again. While in that small town, he is befriended by all these people and he learns a valuable lesson about not being such a big shot.

You can dress it up any way you want with different characters and small sub plots, but it's the same story.

Piper said...

asterisk,

I never did see Last Days and didn't really care to because it did feel very much like Elephant. Glad I passed on it.

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Fuksa: Creative Generalist said...

Being a Kevin Smith fan, I will definitely agree with you on your point about every movie since Dogma, although Clerks II was closer to being good than many of his other recent films.

brian said...

This angry top 10 is one of the best things you've written. Not because I agree with all of them, but because you put yourself out there.

I thought Cars was passable entertainment. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory paled to the original but the song and dance numbers were entertaining. The Fly is Cronenberg at his best, but History of Violence was pretty good in my opinion. You said "the violence was too violent" and yet you put Taxi Driver in your Top 100. Explain.

Garrett said...

Jersey Girl is a classic.

Piper said...

Brian,

I guess in that statement what I was saying was that the contrast to sweet middle America and these ultra-violent scenes (I remember the blatant cutting away to the guy in the diner who had his nose shot off) was just too in your face. I got the message that was being said without it being said so loudly. Cronenberg was making a statement about this violence by showing us ultra-violent scenes. It felt a bit preachy and to me, it's an argument that has been made many times before.

Taxi Driver on the other hand made sense in that you knew that Travis was eventually going to come to some kind of violent climax with something. And to me the message of Travis being an unlikley bloody savior was a much more interesting idea.

brian said...

Travis Bickle, Bloody Savior.

brian said...

I looked at Damian's 100 Worst List and was relieved to see that none of my 100 Best were on the list.

Damian said...

I agree with Brian, Piper. This is one of your better posts... not because I necessarily agree with all of your choices but because you've taken a tremendous risk in writing it (it's always gutsy to criticize something harshly, especially in the move world) and you've done so with passion and conviction.

I also like the moniker of "My Angry 10." As always you continue your habit of accurately labeling your lists. You don't say that these are necessarily the "worst films you've ever seen," just that they're the films that make you the angriest. This is, for you, a vry personal list and by highlighting the subjective nature of it you automatically address most of the arguments that people could direct at you if you happen to include one of their favorite movies. My "Worst Movies" list is drawing some heat for this very reason: i.e. that I have flat-out said that I think the titles I mention are movies that I not only dislike but think are just "bad" films. This moves my list somewhat from the realm of the subjective into the objective and several people have responded, and understandably so of course, with equal passion and conviction calling me on my choices. It can be a big hassle and you've wisely avoided it in the creation of your list.

Anyway, I'm not prepared to say that any of the titles on this list are my favorites. I did think Crash and A History of Violence were good movies. Cars and Good Morning, VietnamI enjoyed. Charlie and the Chocolate factory was indeed a disappointment. Something's Gotta Give was fair. I agree that Kevin Smith has gone downhill since Dogma (his best movie IMO) but I haven't disliked anything he's made yet. Titanic is certainly overrated but I don't think it's a bad movie. Elephant I have not seen yet and Pearl Harbor... well, I'm pretty sure you know how I feel THAT particular film. ;)

Bob Turnbull said...

"You can dress it up any way you want with different characters and small sub plots, but it's the same story."

True enough Piper, but I don't quite see why that negates it as a stand alone film. Critique Lasseter's lack of imagination as far as an original plot, but I still thought there was enough warmth and humour to be a fine addition to their catalog. Having said that, I do wonder if I may have felt differently about it had it been a story I was more familiar with...I guess it comes down to the fact that the subplots and characters weren't enough for you, but were for me.

I'll chime in and agree with the others who have praised your post. It really is a great title to it and I'm wondering if I should include an "Angry Ten" in my own Worst Hundred I'm struggling to put together (struggling in a fun way of course).

Piper said...

Thanks everybody for the praise.

Bob, don't get me wrong. I'm more mad at Pixar phoning in these movies. They are becoming formulaic. And Pixar is too young in this business to become so. I love animation and am very happy that they have re-invented it. I just don't want them to blow it.

And I think that maybe John Lasseter should stay the head inspiration and maybe stop directing.

brian said...

Ed Wood was great.

That was So Close to cracking my top hunny.

Piper said...

Ed Wood

Great, great film. Wha happen to Burton man?