31 December, 2010

Recycled: My Worst Films of the Year 2010

[Author's Note: There are times I go on a bit when I comment on someone else's blog, but waste not, want not. This was original posted to the BBC's Kermode Uncut blog. Mark Kermode is one of the UK's top film critics, he has a weekly BBC Podcast with seasoned radio presenter Simon Mayo. Kermode is sometimes referred to as (academically) Dr. K. In his video blog, he refers to Let Me In: "The most utterly redundant remake of the year, I've already Let the Right One In, why would I let you in?"]

I loved Dr K's remark about having already Let The Right One In, but it perhaps presages the remake's possible sequels, Let Me In Too, and Look Who's Letting Me In Now.

While I ordinarily would simply thank Dr K for taking the bullets for the rest of us, even the dullest of cinematic spidey senses would have warned us off these. I did consider seeing the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, knowing it would be a car wreck, but with that compulsion that makes you glance at the accident on the other carriageway as you drive by. Luckily I was unable to fit in a viewing before feedback from Dr K and others quashed that masochistic urge (the "original" is my favorite horror film).

I also find it much easier to make a bottom five list than a top five. If I really enjoy and love a group of movies, I find ranking them pointless. A worst list is easier because gauging a level of hatred is more straightforward.

The Road - I know it was extremely well made, acted, directed, etc. (not to mention stupefyingly worthy). But I just couldn't get past how utterly stupid its unspecified disaster and its aftermath seemed to be. What could possibly destroy almost all nature whilst leaving man alive? Did it also destroy all the outlet stores which would have provided an unending supply of fresh clothes for the surviving population rather than forcing them to wear homeless chic? Did it involve monsters (there's a mysteriously dead forest with trees knocked over and a boat that has somehow been put on dry land)? How boring does a film have to be for me to spend my time thinking of such questions? Mad Max Beyond Thunderingly Dull.

The Other Guys - I've actually enjoyed some of Will Ferrell's movies but I completely understand if you don't, and I'm not ever going to argue the pretty weak points. The films where his schtick works for me are the one's where he plays an over the top, arrogant caricature, usually abetted by the great John C. Reilly. Here he plays a low status schlubb (it's more of Steve Carell character), and it just doesn't work, and nothing else does either. Dr. K was very generous about Mark Wahlberg's comic potential, and I agree it's there, but it's as much on display here as it was in I (heart) Huckabees (which is saying so little, an electron microscope might be handy).

44 Inch Chest - Great cast squandered in lifeless predictable exercise of east end gangster talky artiness, Revolver for the middle aged. Stagey is the key word as the performances might have been electrifying if performed live on a stage in a way that might have lifted the material, but instead dull dull dull dull dull, had me pining for Harold Pinter's turn in the film version of Mojo, and that's not a good thing.

Alice in Wonderland - Great casting and art direction, no script or direction, and a fundamental ignorance of the source material (hint: the title is a lie, and the poem about the gruesome creature is the Jabberwocky, not the Jabberwock creature itself). Helena Bonham Carter furthers her resume/CV in hair acting (I see that she wears a hat in The King's Speech, so I'm hopeful).

Robin Hood - I was going to give this a miss (the Trailer had me imagining Gerald Butler intoning This Is Sherwood!), but something Billy Bragg said in his interview with Dr K and Simon made me briefly think it might be interesting. It was that Bragg had had a conversation about Forest Rights with Crowe implying some of that had possibly been integrated into the film. As a New Forest resident where these ancient rights are still practiced (and enshrined in modern law from the 1870's), I was intrigued enough to ignore my misgivings. I'm not blaming anyone for my bad decision to follow this tenuous thread, I'm making this comment long enough without delineating what a mess the movie is. It is enough to hate this film for making the Kevin Costner version look good.

Due to the economy, I was unable to see more bad films, so I'd like to list a few most disappointing movies:

Made in Dagenham - Formulaic cliche ridden script given the best airing possible by fine cast. To describe it as this year's Full Monty or Brassed Off, skips over the fact that it is a paint-by-numbers conflation of the two. There's the third act lurch into melodrama provided by the up to then unnecessary subplot, and the 11th hour argument between the lead couple which serves for one of those transportation related chasing reconciliation moments that have me convinced that the British can only express love through mileage. Well intentioned, good message, fitfully enjoyable, but very creaky (I pitied Rosamund Pike who manages to make her rubbish patronizing slightly posh middle class women need liberating too speech touching). I've no problem with the language, but Wooley's argument about accuracy kind of falls apart when they've invented an ensemble of sassy composite characters. Sadly, like much of this sort of output of British film industry, I enjoyed it the way you supportively enjoy your child's turn in the school play, in the knowledge that it's all a nice effort but doesn't stand adult scrutiny. Oh, bless.

Green Zone - Formulaic conspiracy thriller, might have worked if its topicality sell by hadn't expired in 2004. Rory Bremner covered all the same material before and within a year after the invasion 2003. Very well executed, just obvious and tedious, Jason Isaac's 'tache notwithstanding (perhaps he could have a tonsored acting competition with Helena B-C).

Inception - if only I had steered clear of the hype, I might have been less bored. Pretty much an excuse for an elaborate overlong multilayered action set piece, convoluted is not the same as clever. Its notions of dream world are restricted to the fantasies of city planners and Bond villians, not a hint of Dreamscape or Imaginarium in sight. I might have been able to suspend my disbelief in its easily pick apartable premises had the wafer thin characters moved me to care in any way. And even giving its due for its ambition and how well executed it is, I hated the sophomoric cheesy pseudo philosophical are they really? final shot, which could only appeal to those who thought the Matrix was deep. In fact, while I don't mind others declaring it the best movie of the year, I'd nominate that last few seconds of Inception as the Worst Movie of the Year.

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