Worst Films of 2010

Here’s an article that’s always fun to write. My film-savvy younger brother, my extremely patient lady, and I vigorously talk about this all year, watching every “bomb” we can get our hands on and discussing levels of suckery in order to fill out this cinematic void of a list. Sure, it’s a bit of a masochistic project, but you can’t deny tradition. I’ve been filling out a “Worst List” for years now, and with so much pooh out there, there’s more material than ever to consider. I decided to wait a few months into 2011 for some films to get released on DVD, ones that I felt might make the list. Boy were my instincts right on (I’m talking about you #1)! A few dishonorable mentions before we get started: Just Wright, The Runaways, Jolene, Marmaduke, The Fighter, Frozen, The Eclipse, Unthinkable, and Grownups barely missed the cut. Without further ado, the Worst Films of 2010.

1. Love and Other Drugs (dir. Edward Zwick) – Maybe the worst movie of the last decade. My hope in humanity diminished greatly watching this train wreck of incorrigible Oscar baiting (thankfully even the Academy didn’t bite), a film that shamelessly tries to mix comedy and social commentary and fails so badly neither even feels part of the same story. Gyllenhaal tries to be charming but comes across as relentlessly smug, while Hathaway looks completely lost in a ridiculously derivative plot that literally goes nowhere. Imagine the worst impulses of the romantic comedy mixing with the pretentious/self-righteous posturing of a “relevant” issue film. This is Up in the Air, re-imagined by Paul Haggis’ evil twin.

2. The Last Song (dir. Julie Anne Robinson) – As my boy Joel McHale would say, “It’s Miley!” I dare you to watch this umpteenth entry in the Nicolas Sparks/my dad is dying/I don’t want to but must fall in love with the wrong guy/bullshit.

3. City of Your Final Destination (dir. James Ivory) – Droll, monotonous, plodding, tiresome…yeah, I got nothing else. 2+ hours of rich people whining, populated by passive male characters and passive-aggressive females trying to transcend their suffering lives. Maybe this is one of those films “I’m too young to get”, but that excuse only goes so far. The outright melodramatic hackery on display can’t be denied.

4. Skyline (dirs. Colin and Greg Strause) – Laughably bad, inane, and clumsy. Really the worst genre film to come along since Battlefield Earth. This is almost worth watching for the mind-boggling stupid final scene, if you can get that far. Almost.

5. Sex and the City 2 (dir. Michael Patrick King) – A brazenly racist, sexist, and derogatory film dressed in high fashion and coated in spray-on tan. Just make this black eye on American pop culture stop.

6. Dear John (dir. Lasse Hallstrom) & Letter’s to Juliet (dir. Gary Winick) – An Amanda Seyfried double-bill from hell. Each is terrible in their own way, but the former falls nicely in line with my #3 film’s analysis, while the latter is a special type of sun-drenched turd, shoving a faux-Shakespearean romance down our throat until we gag on the syrupy discharge.

7. The Kids Are All Right (dir. Lisa Cholodenko) – The most controversial choice on this list since it obtained a number of high-profile Oscar nominations, but this is bad Lifetime television posing as social comedy. There’s an arrogant quality to the performances, writing, and direction that not many critics have discussed, a smugness that permeates through every scene in disturbing ways. By the end, I hated each one of these people and didn’t care one ounce about their situation. That many people have found viable substance here is insane.

8. Legion (dir. Scott Charles Stewart) – I love action films, but not this much. Paul Bettany as a stoic angel with machine guns protecting an idiot human population from other angels. Enough said.

9. Valentine’s Day (dir. Garry Marshall) – Shove it low-concept Hollywood!

10. Alice in Wonderland (dir. Tim Burton) – I think Tim Burton has officially drifted off into a fantasy land all his own, where lame stabs at auteurism like Alice in Wonderland are important pieces of art. So much potential wasted for unnecessary aesthetic pomp and circumstance.

– Finally, just in case you were wondering, I did see the abysmal Twilight: Eclipse, but figured I’d leave that one alone because everyone knows it sucks, and those tweens won’t listen to me anyway. Until next year.

The Siege (Zwick, 1998)

Art imitating a nightmare reality, unknowingly representing a true future. Set in a pre-9/11 NYC, The Siege follows F.B.I. agent Anthony Hubbard (Denzel Washington) and his counter-terrorism unit as they attempt to uncover a number of deadly sleeper cells in New York City. Zwick’s film also involves the C.I.A. (spook Annette Benning) and the military (General Bruce Willis), blatantly revealing how each arm of the government can unmask and undermine the other in this modern War on Terror. The Siege has a traditional and unrewarding screenplay but reveals moments of eerie transcendence, fluctuating between 9/11 style sequences of mass panic and quiet, reflective ones of government officials feeling impotent to the threat. Edward Zwick defines mainstream directing, letting his actors discover their unchanging character roles and live exactly as they should within this environment. However, The Siege dares (probably because no one could have imagined anything so bad in real life) to have epic terror sequences spelling out the gruesome human toll such attacks can have, and now have had on New York City. As Denzel approaches a bus with countless passengers taken hostage, we can see the determination and the confidence in his eyes, believing he can get those people to safety. When the bus disintegrates into a ball of fire, he knows and we know the real deal has hit the streets of America. It’s a haunting image of fiction which has become an all too familiar reality.

Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006)

While on screen Leonardo DiCaprio flat out demands the viewer’s eye and without his Danny Archer, a conflicted South African mercenary turned diamond smuggler, Blood Diamond would be little more than a bogus Hollywood expose of social ills occurring thousands of miles away. His Archer is complicated, flawed, and unpredictable, a great anti-hero and foil to Djimon Hounsou’s Solomon Vandy, a noble fisherman in search of his kidnapped son in Sierra Leone circa 1999. A civil war rages between the seldom seen and ineffective government troops and the viscous rebel forces who needlessly slaughter villagers and journalists alike (one would think even America would take notice after a whole bus full of foreign writers are killed). Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Courage Under Fire), Blood Diamond rightly emphasizes every important moment on these two men, Archer’s crafty will to live making an obvious compliment to Vandy’s quest to find his son, who has been brainwashed into being a child soldier for the rebel army. But this long, sometimes tedious film relies too heavily on it’s actors to push the story along, slowly adding to a falseness in narrative, outweighing the good intentions the filmmakers clearly had in bringing this sordid and brutal conflict into focus. More to the aesthetic point, the booming score heightens just at the right moments, the tears fall just in the right places, and only a few scenes ring true (the moment of truth between Vandy and his son is heart-wrenching mainly because of Hounsou’s acting skill). Which brings me back to Leo, who continues to amaze me with his adept ways of expressing sadness and grief without shedding a tear. He’s a craftsman who I’d follow into any story at this point. I think he’s the best we’ve got right now, and it’s a testament to his acting chops Blood Diamond works at all.