Saturday, April 19, 2014
Return of the project post
Remember way back when, a time before I was reviewing everything I see, a time before life made me a busy little fellow who had trouble even posting on a regular basis?
Back in that long ago time, I used to write what I now think of as "project posts." They were posts that involved the parsing of data and the compiling of a lot of arcane details from my own viewing history, and often from cinema history at large.
I miss those.
So, without further ado, here's one:
Revisiting my worst films of the year
I recently became kind of fascinated with the bottom 100 films I have ranked on Flickchart. As I've been catching up from falling a year behind on entering my films (I'm now up to last November), I've been adding some truly terrible movies ... and wondering how protective I need to be of that bottom tier of movies. When I entered the godawful Uma Thurman vehicle Motherhood yesterday, and it landed only 14 spots from the very bottom, I wondered: Does a person need to be just as protective of the bottom part of their list as the top? How truly terrible does a movie need to be in order to flirt with "worst of all time" status?
That's not directly what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about today is another kind of "worst movie," the worst movie from a given ranking year. Now that I've been compiling this list in Flickchart for about five years, and all my movies have had multiple chances to duel it out and figure out where they truly belong in my overall spectrum, I thought it was worth revisiting how those movies I've crowned as the turkey of the year have fared within the whole body of films. Which worst movie is truly the worst? And which is the best?
I've been ranking my films from best to worst since 1996, meaning I have 18 movies that I named the worst when my ranking deadline for that year passed. So forthwith, an examination of those 18 awful films, and what I think of them now.
Before and After, directed by Barbet Schroeder
That year's ranking: 43 out of 43
Current Flickchart ranking: 3654 out of 3814
Thoughts: This turgid family drama about how far parents will go to cover up the crimes of their children is still something I view very negatively, but it suffers more from being melodramatic than truly being poorly constructed. It does star Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson, so that has to count for something.
Speed 2: Cruise Control, directed by Jan de Bont
That year's ranking: 39 out of 39
Current Flickchart ranking: 3584 out of 3814
Thoughts: Speed 2 was a victim of an injustice that will likely never be redressed. I watched it on an airplane where I hadn't paid for the headphones, so the sound was off. I'm not even sure if I watched the whole thing. Yet I counted it as a watched movie that year, and it has been grandfathered in. I will likely never watch it again to give it a fair shake, but I suspect I have been compensating by giving it the benefit of the doubt in certain Flickchart duels.
Almost Heroes, directed by Christopher Guest
That year's ranking: 58 out of 58
Current Flickchart ranking: 3758 out of 3814
Thoughts: At the time I remember I was simply horrified at the ineptitude of this frontiersmen spoof/comedy, especially given the natural appeal of its stars (Matthew Perry and Chris Farley) and pedigree of its director (Guest). Time has not been particularly kind to it either, as it's still down in the doldrums of my Flickchart. It's truly woeful.
Wild Wild West, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
That year's ranking: 57 out of 57
Current Flickchart ranking: 3807 out of 3814
Thoughts: This is the poster child for my current "Is it really that bad?" concerns. Wild Wild West is a perfectly abysmal movie, a miscalculation in nearly every sense of the word, yet there are probably parts of it I sort of like, which makes its total ghettoization on my chart sort of suspect. For some reason I buried this one deep and left if there. I suspect it may end up being the lowest ranked on Flickchart among movies I saw during their release year.
The 6th Day, directed by Roger Spottiswoode
That year's ranking: 58 out of 58
Current Flickchart ranking: 3799 out of 3814
Thoughts: If there's a movie I remember hating almost as much as I remember hating Wild Wild West, it's the Arnold Schwarzenegger cloning movie The 6th Day. My single snapshot memory of why it's so bad is this scene where Schwarzenegger is falling off a building, and the way he's falling is filmed so poorly that it looks like he's falling sideways. It's really bad. Worse than Wild Wild West, I'm sure.
The Musketeer, directed by Peter Hyams
That year's ranking: 73 out of 73
Current Flickchart ranking: 3738 out of 3814
Thoughts: What I remember most about this wire work remake of Alexandre Dumas' tale is how everything on screen -- literally everything -- is either brown or gray. In my review of this movie I described star Justin Chambers as "a blander Chris O'Donnell," which is really saying something. Yeah, this movie is no good.
Bad Company, directed by Joel Schumacher
That year's ranking: 80 out of 80
Current Flickchart ranking: 3637 out of 3814
Thoughts: Nowadays I feel like I was probably too hard on this movie, if only because I kind of buck the trend of hating on Joel Schumacher that has gained even more steam than it had back in 2002. It's certainly a very generic action movie that is not very good. I probably penalized it more for the bizarre pairing of Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins than anything that actually happens in the film.
Dreamcatcher, directed by Lawrence Kasdan
That year's ranking: 58 out of 58
Current Flickchart ranking: 3776 out of 3814
Thoughts: Now this is a terrible movie. Like some of the other movies listed here, this Stephen King adaptation has a few moments and ideas that are almost executed effectively, but its overriding ridiculous is just guffaw-worthy. It's the third lowest of the ones I've looked at so far.
Troy, directed by Wolfgang Peterson
That year's ranking: 59 out of 59
Current Flickchart ranking: 3739 out of 3814
Thoughts: There is simply no way Troy is as bad as I'm remembering it to be, and as bad as I still rank it to be. I do remember really disliking it, though, as it was not one of those films that made it to the bottom of my list because there happened to be nothing worse. I really hated this movie, and so did my friend who went to see it with me, so we must have been on to something.
Saw II, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
That year's ranking: 73 out of 73
Current Flickchart ranking: 3645 out of 3814
Thoughts: My relative leniency on Saw II is a case of one great scene somewhat salvaging it, at least in retrospect. The cold open before the credits in Saw II is really, really scary -- in fact, it may be my favorite moment in any Saw movie. That just tells you how awful the rest of the movie must be if I ranked it this low in 2005 -- and also how poor the rest of the Saw series is.
Lady in the Water, directed by M. Night Shyamalan
That year's ranking: 77 out of 77
Current Flickchart ranking: 3794 out of 3814
Thoughts: It was a very tall task to displace the execrable Art School Confidential from my bottom spot in 2006, and it took the worst movie Shyamalan has made (which is saying a lot) to do it. This movie is just plain laughable, with nothing to redeem it -- and I will admit that despite all of his flaws as a filmmaker, Shyamalan does have at least one moment in almost every film that's worthy of respect. Not this one.
Captivity, directed by Roland Joffe
That year's ranking: 82 out of 82
Current Flickchart ranking: 3772 out of 3814
Thoughts: The term "torture porn" has rarely been more on the nose as in this movie, whose moral world view nearly makes me queasy. The strangest thing about this movie, known for its controversially graphic ad campaign, is that it's directed by Roland Joffe, erstwhile of The Killing Fields and The Mission.
An American Carol, directed by David Zucker
That year's ranking: 87 out of 87
Current Flickchart ranking: 3759 out of 3814
Thoughts: I'd be lying if I didn't admit that some percentage of my hatred for this movie has to do with its right-wing politics. However, if it were a well-made satire of a liberal hero like Michael Moore, I would still be able to appreciate what it does right. But one of the creative talents behind my beloved Airplane! has been blinded by his shift to the right into no longer having any idea how to construct a laugh. This movie is pathetic.
The Final Destination, directed by David R. Ellis
That year's ranking: 113 out of 113
Current Flickchart ranking: 3769 out of 3814
Thoughts: The returns in the Final Destination series didn't start diminishing until the third movie, but then they fell off the table. This fourth entry was completely inept, I thought, which is why I ranked it lower than 112 other movies I saw that year -- a new record for me. The hatred is still reflected in my Flickchart ranking.
Furry Vengeance, directed by Roger Kumble
That year's ranking: 109 out of 109
Current Flickchart ranking: 3793 out of 3814
Thoughts: Quite possibly one of the dumbest comedies I have ever seen. You remember this one -- it's the one with Brendan Fraser fighting all the animals. The only reason we even watched it was because we were both off work after having our first child. And because we like squirrels. We like squirrels a little less after this movie.
30 Minutes or Less, directed by Ruben Fleischer
That year's ranking: 121 out of 121
Current Flickchart ranking: 3792 out of 3814
Thoughts: And right next door to Furry Vengeance -- one better, as it were -- is probably the most mean-spirited "comedy" I have ever seen ... or at least the most mean-spirited comedy I haven't liked. Everyone in this movie was an asshole, and I felt like one while watching it. Terrible.
Cosmopolis, directed by David Cronenberg
That year's ranking: 119 out of 119
Current Flickchart ranking: 3786 out of 3814
Thoughts: A boatload of incoherent, pretentious crap.
Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
That year's ranking: 128 out of 128
Current Flickchart ranking: 3663 out of 3814
Thoughts: The main reason I designated this movie my worst of last year was that I found absolutely no point whatsoever for its existence. Its violent, nihilistic existence. The presence of some artistic intention is why it has the relatively generous ranking of #3663.
Having done this, it's interesting to consider how much I've generally clung to my initial impression of these films, ranking none of them higher than #3584. Even the best on this list (Speed 2: Cruise Control) has only 230 movies that I've seen that I consider worse than it. And certainly, the initial impression is really all I have to go on, as I have not watched any of these films a second time, for probably obvious reasons.
What I wonder, though, is whether the memory of it being a bad movie or the memory of my having ranked it last for the year is the stronger component in the way I duel these movies.
I wish I could tell you that I would re-watch all these movies to see if my hatred of them holds up, but even I -- who am willing to get involved in almost any cinematic project -- value my time more than that.