The 10 Worst Films of 2010

Sometime during the first week of January, I’ll post my picks for the top 25 films of 2010.  But for now, I’m going to go ahead and post the much more fun list, my picks for the 10 Worst Films of 2010.

10)  Knight and Day — Tom Cruise gets creepier with each film.

9) Robin Hood — Sorry, but that “I declare him to be an …. OUTLAWWWWWW!” line can only carry a film so far. 

8 ) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps — Money may never sleep but Lisa Marie did.  Shia LeBouf as a financial genius?  Plus, any film that so completely wastes the talents of Carey Mulligan deserves to be on this list.  The Other Guys got across the exact same message and was actually entertaining.

7) Eat Pray Love — Finally, a film that tells us all how to find peace, enlightenment, and happiness.  First off, have a lot of money.  Secondly, be Julia Roberts.

6) Solitary Man — A superb performance from Michael Douglas can’t disguise the fact that this is yet another entry in the “Men-Just-Can’t-Help-It” genre of film. 

5) Hereafter — This is, quite frankly, one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen in my life.  And I’ve seen a lot of boring films.  This is also one of those films that attempts to convince you that it’s a quality production by making all the actors look as crappy as possible.  Seriously, did they just pump collagen into Jay Mohr’s face?

4) Clash of the Titans — Zeus must be turning over in his grave.

3) Chloe — Great director (Atom Egoyan), great cast (Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried), terrible movie.  I’m still trying to understand how this one came about.

2) The American — An homage to the French New Wave that fails because it is neither French nor new and there’s also a notable lack of waves.

1) Love and Other Drugs — What makes this film the worst of 2010?  The beginning, the middle, and the end.

The Oscars: The Visual Effects SemiFinalists

The Visual Branch Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Scienes (yes, you can say it five times fast but can you say it five times fast while eating a pop tart — I think not!) has released a list of the 15 semifinalists for the 2010 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

And here they are:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Last Airbender
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Shutter Island
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Unstoppable

This list will be narrowed down again to 7 semifinalists and then in February, the actual nominees will be announced.

Looking over this list, there’s a few bright spots.  I don’t think anyone’s surprised that Inception made the cut but it’s still good to see it there.  I’m also happy to see that there’s at least a chance that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World might get some love.  Same thing with Shutter Island.

As for the rest of the list — well, it’s pretty much what you would expect to see, isn’t it?  Clash of the Titans?  Really?  I have to admit that I don’t remember the film all that well but didn’t the special effects kinda look like …. well, crap?  I can only assume that the voters were overwhelmed by the raw charisma of Sam Worthington.  Prince of Persia was a little better but still, for the most part, the effects were routine, dull, and predictable.  Hereafter featured an impressive tsunami but otherwise, the visual effects were pretty much limited to making the afterlife resemble a poorly lit office of the DMV.

As usual, I guess what’s really interesting about this list isn’t what’s listed as much as what’s not.  I would happily replace both Clash of the Titans and Price of Persia with Splice and Skyline, two mediocre films that were distinguished by impressive f/x work.

For that matter, even the Social Network featured Armie Hammer acting opposite himself.

I’m also disappointed to see that Black Swan was left off the list.  In typical Darren Aronofsky fashion, they did indeed come close to going over the top.  The fact that they didn’t is exactly why they deserve to be honored.

(I found this list of semifinalists on but I’m not including a link because the site is run by an elitist dumbfug who apparently thinks that she’s the end-all/be-all of Oscar commentators.  Yes, she’s a commentator and not just some grubby little blogger like the rest of us.  Or, as she once put it — “I know the game.  Hell, I am the game…”  When I call someone a toadsucker, that’s the type of person I’m talking about.)

The National Board Of Review: I Give Up!

The rather enigmatic National Board of Review announced their selections for the best films of 2010 today.  The NBR is traditionally considered to be the first precursor to how the actual Oscar race will shape up.  Typically, those honored by the NBR are, at the very least, nominated by the Academy.  Strangely, nobody seems to be sure just who exactly makes up the membership of the NBR.  As far as I can tell, it appears to be a collection of film professors and cable tv executives.  It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the NBR is actually some sort of Illuminati conspiracy or MK-Ultra experiment designed to keep American filmgoers from thinking for themselves.

Anyway, as I look over this year’s award winners, all I can say is that I give up.  If my reaction to Avatar indicated to me that I’m totally out-of-step with mainstream opinion, then the current Pavlovian acclaim of the Social Network proves it.  I will never be a part of the mainstream and it’s not by choice.  It’s just I am apparently thoroughly incapable of understanding how the mainstream brain works. 

So, that’s what the National Board of Review taught me today.  I am destined to always be alone, railing against the dying of the light.  Thank you for the insight, assholes.

Anyway, here’s this year’s award winners:

Best Picture: The Social Network (Don’t get me wrong, the Social Network is a good movie.  It’s just not that good.) 

Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network (I am so sick of hearing that this is Jesse’s “breakthrough” role.  Jesse’s breakthrough was in Adventureland, long before the mainstream ever decided to embrace him.)

Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year (Haven’t seen it yet)

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter (Another movie that I will see when it opens later this month.  Still, Bale should have been nominated for American Psycho back in the day.)

Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (Yay!  This award gives me hope.)

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3 (yay!)

Best Documentary: Waiting For Superman (Yes, my favorite movie of the year —Exit Through The Gift Shop — was totally ignored.)

Best Ensemble Cast: The Town (Bleh.  So I guess that would include Jon Hamm, who gave such an amazingly bad performance in this film?)

Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone (Another yay but you know all the mainstream is going to offer her is a role in a Twilight rip-off and maybe a Maxim cover shoot.)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network (Fuck Aaron Sorkin and his elitist, sexist, technophobic script.)

Best Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling for Buried (which I didn’t see, mostly because I’m claustrophobic and the movie is called Buried.)

Ten Best Films Of The Year (in alphabetical order):

Another Year

The Fighter

Hereafter (which sucked!)

Inception (yay!)

The King’s Speech (I’m actually really looking forward to seeing this)

Shutter Island (kinda bleh but enjoyable)

The Town

Toy Story 3

True Grit (another one I can’t wait to see)

Winter’s Bone (yay!)

Yep, you read that right.  No awards for such presumed favorites as James Franco and 127 Hours, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  But you better believe they found room to honor a shallow, pandering film like Hereafter.

Finally, here are the Top Ten Independent Films of 2010, according to the toadsuckers at the National Board of Review:

Animal Kingdom (yay!)

Buried (Now I guess I have to see it)

Fish Tank (yay!)

The Ghost Writer (yay — kinda)

Greenberg (bleh)

Let Me In (another kinda yay)

Monsters (shrug)

Please Give (yay!)

Somewhere (going to see it when it opens down here, Sofia Coppola is my role model)

Youth in Revolt (shrug, it’s neither bleh nor yay)

You can read the full list of winners at The Wrap.

Anyway, in order to show just how exactly I feel when confronted with mainstream thought and opinion, here’s an old picture of me with a tampon stuck up my nose.

Film Review: Hereafter (dir. by Clint Eastwood)

Hereafter is a very serious film about a very serious topic, death.  Following three separate but ultimately connected stories, the film attempts to explore death and the question of what happens after death from three different angles — intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.   I really wanted Hereafter to be a great film.  So did the film’s makers, which is precisely why Hereafter fails.

The intellectual consideration of death is represented by the character of Marie (Cecile De France), a French journalist who, at the start of the film, drowns in a tsunami and is, for a few minutes, clinically dead.  Before she is eventually revived, she has a classic near-death experience: the bright light, the people waiting to greet her, the whole deal.  After this experience, Marie is compelled to investigate whether or not there truly is such a thing as an afterlife.  As she does so, Marie finds herself shunned by her resolutely secular friends and grows increasingly distant from her skeptical (and rather condescending) boyfriend.

The emotional response to death is represented in the story of twin brothers, Marcus and Jason (played by Frankie and George McLaren).  The two boys live in London with their drug-addicted mother and share a strong (and, to be honest, kinda creepy) bond.  Jason, while simply trying to return home with some drugs for his detoxing mother, is roughed up by some bullies and ends up running out into the middle of the street.  Naturally, since this is a movie, Jason is hit by a truck as soon as he steps off the curb.  Jason is killed and Marcus is taken away by social services and put into a foster home.  Marcus continues to carry Jason’s cap with him and soon starts tracking down local English psychics in an attempt to talk to his brother again.

Finally, the spiritual aspect is detailed in the film’s most interesting story.  This story features Matt Damon as George Lonegan, a psychic who can speak with the dead.  After years of being a minor celebrity, George burned out and went into a self-imposed exile.  He now works at a factory while his brother (Jay Mohr, who looks incredibly puffy in this movie) keeps trying to find ways to convince George to get back into the business of talking to dead for fun and profit.  After George reluctantly gives a reading to Richard Kind, he finds himself being dragged back into his old life.

 A lot of viewers and critics have compared Hereafter to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2006 masterpiece, Babel.  Both films follow three separate but connecting stories and both films are concerned with the theme of death and how it connects us all.  As well, Babel featured Brad Pitt in a serious role and Hereafter features Matt Damon.  The main difference, however, is that Babel was a great film but Hereafter is basically an uneven mess.

Whereas Babel featured three strong stories, Hereafter features 1 compelling story (that would be Damon’s) which is compelling solely because Matt Damon is a talented enough actor that he can apparently perform miracles.  He’s probably about as likable as he’s ever been in the role of George but he also wisely plays the role as being just a little bit off.  Even though the film makes the mistake of never really going into the details of just what exactly caused George to give up being a psychic, Damon is so good in the role that you’re willing to take him at his word that he had a good reason.  Probably the highlight of the film (and one of the few sections to really inspire any sort of real emotional response) is an extended sequence where Damon befriends and the manages to alienate an insecure, single woman played by Bryce Dallas Howard.  Damon and Howard have a scene that involves eating while blind-folded that manages to be both powerfully erotic and wonderfully romantic at the same time.  If the entire film had been about them, Hereafter would have been a much better movie.

Unfortunately, we’ve got to slog through two other stories. 

Cecile La France gives an excellent performance as Marie and the opening tsunami scene is truly terrifying.  For someone like me, who cannot swim and risks having a panic attack if she even stands near the deep end of a swimming pool, the tsunami scene was almost impossible to watch.  I had to put my hands in front of my eyes and watch the scene through my fingers.  However, once she drowns, Marie sees a vision of the afterlife that — as a harbinger of things to come — is rather dull.  I mean, with everything that can supposedly be done in movies today, the best that Hereafter can give us is a bland white light.  Once Marie returns to Paris and starts her investigation, La France remains a sympathetic presence and the film actually does a pretty good job of showing just how condescending most supposedly “liberal” men are whenever a woman starts to stray from the established orthodoxy.  But, unfortunately, her story is just never that interesting.  Marie decides to write a book about the afterlife.  As a writer myself, I have to say that there is nothing more boring than watching someone else write.

As for Marcus, I was shocked just how little I cared about him or his attempts to contact his brother.  I come from a very close family and I have a very strong bond with all three of my sisters and, among them, I am notorious for crying at any movie that deals with that sort of sibling bonding.  Yet I sat through the saga of Marcus and Jason without shedding a tear and I felt terrible about it.  I really wanted to cry.  I really wanted to have some sort of emotional response to the story but I just never believed it.  I hate to say this but honestly, a lot of this was due to the fact that the McLaren twins are such bad actors.  Director Clint Eastwood has said that he specifically cast them because they weren’t professional actors and therefore, they wouldn’t introduce any false “sentimentality” into the mix.  But dammit, it was a sentimental story.  Sentiment is not necessarily a bad thing and just because something is sentimental, that doesn’t make it false.

So, what exactly went wrong with Hereafter?  The film opens strongly with a terrifying tsunami and the final 30 minutes are also undeniably touching (if also a bit contrived).  It’s everything that happens in between those two points that ruins Hereafter.  Director Eastwood, obviously looking to avoid that dreaded curse of being sentimental, keeps the whole film very low-key and realistic.  Other than the opening tsunami, there are no big wow moments but to be honest, isn’t that what movies are for?  If you’re going to make a movie that specifically shuns the wow moment, you better have something compelling (a perfect script or an entire cast giving a compelling performance as opposed to just a handful of them) to take its place.  Hereafter doesn’t and, as a result, the movie drags.  This, honestly, has got to be one of the slowest, most boring movies I’ve ever seen.  If director Eastwood’s westerns and actions films can all be seen as homages to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, I think Hereafter must be an homage to some of Andy Warhol’s intentionally dull films.  Whereas Warhol, at the very least, gave us Joe Dallesandro to look at, Eastwood gives us Jay Mohr.  It’s not a fair trade.

I don’t know how much of Hereafter should be blamed on Eastwood and how much should be blamed on the script written by Peter Morgan.  Here’s a quote from Morgan that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s quite spiritual material, and quite romantic, too. It’s the sort of piece that’s not easy to describe and in the hands of different filmmakers could end up as wildly different films. Quite unlike some of my other material, which I think there were only certain ways that you could shoot it. It’s really not just another boring Hollywood movie with the same old boring Hollywood actors, although I see the point that the public and sick of paying $10.00 to see a movie with same old faces and the same gramma of story telling.”

And to that, all I can say is “Shut up, Peter Morgan!”

This is not spiritual material as much as it’s just a bunch of vaguely New Age platitudes being delivered by a mainstream screenwriter who apparently doesn’t have the guts to come down either firmly for or against an afterlife.  This is the type of feel-good BS that leads to thousands of people every year giving up their life savings to some fraud who claims he can deliver messages from beyond.  Morgan’s script goes out of its way not to actually define the afterlife.  Is it heaven or is it Hell?  Is there a God?  Do the worthy go to Heaven?  Are souls saved?  Or are they just ghosts who are waiting for us to be willing to let them go?  These are all questions that would have been considered by a good film but Hereafter doesn’t consider them.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  It pretends to bring them up but only so the movie can shrug and go, “I guess nobody knows.”  And to that I say, either take a position or don’t expect everyone else to pay money just to listen to you duck the question because you’re too scared of alienating mainstream critics or audiences.

(Myself, I do believe that those who love us are always with us in some way even if I don’t believe in a literal afterlife.  And while I know that answer might seem vague, you should also consider that I’m not the one spending millions of dollars to make a movie celebrating that vagueness.)

Morgan’s script also make its a point to incorporate real-life events into his contrived narrative.  As a result, the London Subway bombings and the Thailand Tsunami are both used as convenient plot points in much the same way that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button used Hurricane Katrina.  I felt it was ghoulish when Button did it and, the more I think about it, it’s equally ghoulish in Hereafter.  It’s hard not to feel that the film’s saying, “Too bad all those real people died but what’s important is how these events impacted the lives of a bunch of fictional characters.”

Hereafter’s main problem is that it simply tries too hard to be great.  You get the feeling that every scene and line has been calculated to make you go, “Wow, what genius!”  As a result, even the scenes that work still somehow feel very dishonest.  The end result is a very insincere film about some very sincere concerns.