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David Poland

By David Poland

The Worst 10 Of 2006

Of course, as I point out in the column… and want to point out again… I managed to avoid the Bloodraynes, Beerfests, and The Marines. Still, the list goes on…
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Y ou can live with bad and you can live with pretentious, but the combination is deadly. Steven Shainberg had the good taste to hire Robert Downey, Jr. to play The Man Upstairs in this film. But pretty much every other decision involved was a misstep. Doing a Diane Arbus film that isn’t really about Diane Arbus

42 Responses to “The Worst 10 Of 2006”

  1. Goulet says:

    The Marine is awesome! Guilty pleasure of the year, at least for fans of flicks like Commando/Road House/Hard Target etc.

  2. Eric says:

    The criteria here seems to be movies that simply failed to live up to their own promise. That’s really subjective, but it’s how I find myself evaluating most things these days, too.

  3. Eric says:

    The one problem that’s occurred to me with a system like that, though, is that it tends to punish ambition and forgive mere mediocrity.
    (I really need to stop thinking reconsidering my own words once I’ve hit Post.)

  4. Crow T Robot says:

    LOL — I guess the temptation was just too much for you, Dave…
    “It certainly isn’t top five worst material. And as I wrote in my first review, I put it ahead of all but X3 as far as big summer movies to date.” – 6/28/06

  5. jeffmcm says:

    Mostly a good list, with two movies on it that I like:
    Running Scared: I didn’t see that this was particularly ugly or unpleasant; it was hyperactive and hypervisual, yes, but those aren’t necessarily bad unless they’re at the service of nothing but cheap thrills; this movie was at the service of a fairy-tale morality tale, and even though Paul Walker dragged it down, and the ending was stupid, for the most part it was pretty strong work IMHO. The ‘comic’ child-molestation scene was horrifyingly surreal, not intended to be funny.
    Hostel: I don’t know how one could say ‘the cinematography is what you need to be watching’ since the cinematography was fairly cruddy; it sounds like the movie you’re describing is an all-flash-no-substance thing like Michael Bay’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I also don’t think a horror movie needs to be crap-in-your-pants scary to be successful; I consider there to be a wider range for what consitutes the horror genre, and this fits comfortably into it as a creepy ‘imagine yourself in this horrible situation’ kind of movie. Sure, it could have been funnier or scarier, but I was satisfied with what it was.
    My personal bad movies not mentioned in this thread were Flyboys (can’t get enough disparagement), Lady in the Water, Saw III, and When a Stranger Calls. In order, absolutely incompetent and evil, stupid and self-indulgent, boring, and really boring.

  6. Melquiades says:

    I managed to not see almost all of those, but I did enjoy Mission: Impossible 3 and Superman Returns. Especially M:I-3.

  7. anghus says:

    you’re spot on regarding Superman Returns, or as i call it:
    Heavy Lifting Man Has A Kid and Uses his Powers to Stalk his Ex.
    What a shitbag of a movie.

  8. EDouglas says:

    Well, I totally agree about You, Me and Dupree…that’s the only one on my list. Don’t understand all the hate for Fur. I mean, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t even good, but terrible? Not really. Just not worth watching unless you wondered what Robert Downey Jr. would look like in a Lon Chaney biopic.
    jeff, you’re still dead to me until you realize the greatness of Flyboys.

  9. bipedalist says:

    I’d like to know what you mean by “self-indulgence”.
    Yes, My Super-Ex Girlfriend, what a stinking pile.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    I think I can live with that, Edouglas.
    Is this your review?

  11. jeffmcm says:

    Oh yeah, it has your name on it.
    Can’t really argue with you except to say that almost everything you say is wrong…happy new year?

  12. EDouglas says:

    Yeah, that’s it.. not one of my better-written reviews I’ll admit. (I had to insert the word “majestic” in the first sentence when I realized I was quoted in the TV ad.)

  13. T.Holly says:

    Worst movies of the year were Miami Vice, A Prairie Home Companion and Zen Noir. Fur had good atmosphere, Superman had the cool Christ thing and MI:III had China.

  14. EDouglas says:

    “Can’t really argue with you except to say that almost everything you say is wrong…happy new year?”
    What? You’re not even going to start a blog to take my review apart ala:
    I’m highly disappointed.

  15. EDouglas says:

    And just to annoy jeff further:
    like Flyboys, this wasn’t in my Top 10, 20 or even 30, but I did like it enough to see it twice.

  16. Eric says:

    Ugh. Putting aside how awful that particular movie was, how do you have the time to see a movie a second time when you liked at least thirty other movies this year more?

  17. Blackcloud says:

    “The criteria here seems to be movies that simply failed to live up to their own promise. That’s really subjective, but it’s how I find myself evaluating most things these days, too.”
    “The one problem that’s occurred to me with a system like that, though, is that it tends to punish ambition and forgive mere mediocrity.”
    Ditto and ditto, Eric, but once you recognize A leads to B, you accept it and move forward regardless.
    I don’t think I saw a movie this year that was truly awful, but I saw plenty that failed to live up to their own promise. In other words, movies whose reach exceeded their grasp, sometimes so much that they fell flat on their faces.
    By my reckoning, Open Season and Monster House were “worse” movies, but they don’t make the list because they’re, well, inconsequential. They’re too slight to bother with.
    I don’t hate any of these movies. None annoyed me the way some movies have the last decade (I’m looking at you Matrix 1, Two Towers, and American Beauty). Indeed, there are elements in all that I liked. But a 50 is as much an F as a 20. My list, then, isn’t a list of the worst movies. Rather, it’s a list of the movies which most failed to achieve what they set out to achieve.
    1) V for Vendetta
    2) Dead Man’s Chest
    3) SR
    4) The Fountain
    5) M:I III
    6) Da Vinci Code

  18. Cadavra says:

    I already mentioned PULSE and MARIE ANTOINETTE on another thread, so let me add APOCALYPTO and BORAT (not funny, people, wake up), and reaffirm that I’m apparently the only person on the planet who liked SUPER EX-GF.

  19. Jonj says:

    The worst two-and-a-half hours I spent at the theater this year: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” I found those sea urchin-infected pirates more disturbing than anything in “Apocalypto.”

  20. Dr Wally says:

    Allow me to defend Superman Returns. A canny politician’s debating trick is to start off by seeming to agree with the other side, so i admit that yes it has flaws, yes the middle section of the film drags, yes it’s too long and yes Kate Bosworth was miscast (Rachel Mcadams would have been better). In blockbuster terms though, this movie tries harder and flys higher than sterile cut-to-pattern franchise entries like X3, Pirates 2 and MI3. It’s aiming for more, so of course it gets things wrong. The shuttle/747 rumble is a new action high, Singer peppers the film with some terrific grace notes (the bullet in the eyeball, the revelation of the scary tattoo on the back of the head of Luthor’s thug). Spacey is fantastic as Luthor, a far meaner customer than Hackman’s portrayal. And in an age when we’ve become jaded towards CGI and spectacle, many of Singer’s visuals here really do inspire awe, especially if viewed in IMAX. It’s telling that the violence in this year’s other blockbusters feels cartoony and inconsequential, but the scene where Superman gets beaten up by Luthor’s henchmen actually bloody HURTS to watch, and the scene with the piano hurtling across the room actually drew gasps in the screening i attended. Could it be because these moments actually count for something? I love the movie and will have no problem seeing it on any BEST OF list for the year. Empire magazine called SR ‘the best popular entertainment since the Rings trilogy closed’ and they’re not wrong…

  21. Eric says:

    I gasped at the piano bit, too, but only because it was such a collosal mistake to give the kid powers.

  22. Rob says:

    Hell yeah to the torturous Dead Man’s Chest, and I’d throw in Basic Instinct II, Running with Scissors, Keeping Up With the Steins, and Trust the Man.

  23. Clycking says:

    SUPERMAN RETURNS was a bomb because it failed to satisfy the single dramatic need that any Superman movie must: how to challenge Superman (as Dave mentioned). It needs this to form a basis for tension when characters are in trouble, and to provide a story arc for Superman himself.
    The first SUPERMAN film did this brilliantly, by pinpointing the one thing Superman couldn’t do: be in two places at once. By rigging mass destruction in one place and the death of Lois in another, it excites tension by asking Superman “which?” (because we know he can’t save both), and offers a brilliant character development in the answer. Even after this, it throws up a second crisis: save his love, or obey the rules of his forebears?
    SUPERMAN RETURNS did not have this. The “climactic” moment, when Superman attempted to destroy the crystal landmass, was boring because it was the only thing Superman must have done. There wasn’t any choice involved! By doing this, they reduced Superman to a deus ex machina — the same problem with THE MATRIX RELOADED, I might add, because most of the “tense” scenes lose their tension; we’re just waiting for Superman to save them.
    And when Superman isn’t around to save them? Adding ANOTHER deus ex machina isn’t the solution. I groaned when they decided to save Lois by adding a deus ex machina when they already had a deus in Superman. Make no mistake about what that boy is, even if he is cute , innocent, and (the worst creative choice) HAS NO CHARACTER ARC. Come on, if you want him to have superpowers, the logical hinge of the story should be about his dealing with those powers. But no, he basically stumbles around the film doing nothing but stereotypically Hollywood kids’ stuff until that “major dramatic moment”.
    Must I still say that SUPERMAN RETURNS was a bomb?

  24. Blackcloud says:

    “Empire magazine called SR ‘the best popular entertainment since the Rings trilogy closed’ and they’re not wrong…”
    If the bar is set low enough it doesn’t need to be flown over, stepping will suffice.

  25. jeffmcm says:

    Edouglas, mentioning that you liked Lady in the Water doesn’t annoy me, it’s just another nail in the coffin of your movie taste :)
    That said, I sort of liked My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Not a lot, but a little.
    Back to Flyboys, the movie doesn’t really merit a point-by-point deconstruction. I can only repeat that for me, it failed on every possible level: it was a string of video game scenes strung together by weak anecdotes, plus it tries to make war look like fun, which is just about the gravest sin a movie can commit for me these days.

  26. Tofu says:

    When the “worst” film you have seen all year long is Dead Man’s Chest, then you must have had one fantastic year at the movies. Honestly, this is the year where very few of the summer entries let me down.
    Mission Impossible 3 was equal to the original in a variety a ways. Same for X3 to X1. Da Vinci was a nice romp when you abandoned the hype. I’ll be damned if F&F3 and Vice weren’t the best eye candy of the year.
    That said, Cars & Superman aren’t lending themselves to repeat viewings in any shape or form. Their lack of presenting any twist on any concept helped to not scare anyone away, yet left nothing to grasp after the first viewing.
    Did Little Miss Sunshine strike anyone as old hat? As in a movie that has been done dozens of times in the late 90’s (Look at how QUIRKY we all are!) but this time had the superior marketing push?

  27. Tofu says:

    It should also be noted that Lady in the Water shouldn’t even qualify as a movie.

  28. lawnorder says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to step in here and defend RUNNING SCARED. I would hardly say that RUNNING got spanked. I’m not sure that 9 million is accurate for the world wide release (Box Office Mojo doesn’t always cover every international territory) – but that being said, the DVD has kicked major ass. The film debuted on DVD as the number 4 best selling disc for the week (which is pretty effing good, taking into account how many box sets and other crap it outsold for that period – and considering how weak the U.S. box office was). It’s also done over 30 million in domestic DVD rentals, and that’s not including pay TV and airline sales, etc. All that revenue for a film that cost about 16 million to produce and was already in profit from the financier’s presales. I don’t think New Line spent more than five million to distribute from the complete and total lack of visibilty upon its release. It’s no secret that Russell Schwartz had nothing but contempt for the film (which evidently you share, Dave). The film, despite being ignored and now trashed by you on your worst of 06, rates a solid 7.5 on IMDB, a B on Yahoo and Box Office Mojo, a 4 out of 5 on and a current 68 percent users score on Rotten Tomatoes – hardly the across the board ratings of a major dud. Admittedly, most critics hated the film, with a few respected critics going to bat for it (Ebert, Variety, Andrew Sarris, Mick La Salle, Armond White – who put it on his top ten list). The real fanbase for the film, guys like Nick Nunziata at CHUD who also put it on his year’s best list, understand what it’s going for. I think the film was a ballsy move by Kramer and I give him major points for not following up THE COOLER with another “sensitive” character piece. There actually is a lot of subtext to be found in RUNNING if you’re willing to look for it, between bloodlettings, and if nothing else, it’s amazingly rendered in terms of style and innovative camera work. As for Kramer’s career, he’s been spanked real hard – which is why he’s in preproduction on a large scale film about immigration in Los Angeles for the Weinstein Company – and Harvey Weinstein, as well as Tarantino, are huge fans of RUNNING SCARED. I’m actually a friend of his cinematographer, so I have the up to date scoop.

  29. Oh God, American Dreamz was pathetic. As I’ve said before, it didn’t surprise me to read that Paul Weitz had never watched an episode of “American Idol” when he made this movie. If he had he might have actually made a television show that was realistic. And he couldn’t even watch an episode of “The West Wing”! That is the quietest White House I’ve ever seen. All the performances are bad, too.
    But it was the tv show that got me angry. Weitz should have done the research, and by not he opens himself up as a disgrace.
    There is no way in hell that an “American Idol” type show would be the most watched program IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Nor, would the season finale of said most watched program in the entire would be put to air with only one commercial break.
    And then there’s the setup of the program, which makes no sense at all. As somebody who used to watch Australian Idol (and the Fantasia series of American Idol), I know a thing or two about how these shows work and American Dreamz got every last detail wrong. All of it.

  30. Sam says:

    When we say a movie doesn’t live up to “its own” promise, are we really talking about the movie’s promise, or the promise of the marketing?
    And when we say a movie is too slight to bother with, while taking on a “big” movie, what makes a movie too slight? If a movie is sufficiently underdeveloped, it need not be criticized? Is it production budget that defines the line? Is it the size of the marketing push?
    I don’t think either of these lines of reasoning lead anywhere sensible. Review the movie, not the marketing, not the size. If I’m going to spend 120 minutes watching a movie, I want to know if it’s worth watching. If it’s a good movie but fell short of the potential it had for greatness…so what, it’s a good movie. If it’s a bad movie, but impressive for its limited budget…so what, it’s a bad movie.
    There is some sense, I suppose, in opening weekend reviews telling people whether the movie matches up with the advertising. But a final judgment — a thumbs up/down, a star rating, or whatever less categorical summation a reviewer cares to use — shouldn’t depend on those things. In a year or three or ten, the marketing won’t matter. The movie will.

  31. David Poland says:

    I don’t know who you are actually speaking to, Sam. But for my part, I look to the film to tell me what it is promising, in the language of that film.
    Trying to put together the overall theme of Babel means looking at Babel… same with Children of Men or Borat or Little Children or Deliver Us from Evil or Jesus Camp or whatever.
    I do think that marketing influences too many critics now, in part because it is unavoidable, even before we see films early. So a movie like A History Of Violence is chased by the marketing, which was all about the violence and never tells us that the movie is metaphoric in many ways. When expectations of violence are met, too many critics just took that as the entire message and saw the metaphor as exaggerated silliness. Frustrating to me. But I had the advantage, as critics who saw the film in Cannes did, of seeing it before the hype.

  32. Sam says:

    I wasn’t addressing anybody in particular, but the comments that triggered my own was Eric’s (“The criteria here seems to be movies that simply failed to live up to their own promise. That’s really subjective, but it’s how I find myself evaluating most things these days, too.”) and Blackcloud’s (“By my reckoning, Open Season and Monster House were “worse” movies, but they don’t make the list because they’re, well, inconsequential. They’re too slight to bother with.”)
    I just hear a lot of the evaluations of movies that are relative to prior expectations, and that doesn’t strike me as fair. If you’re all jazzed up for Movie X, and Movie X is a good movie but not great, don’t fault Movie X for it. Be honest about it being a good movie that isn’t quite great. And don’t give schlock a pass just because you expected schlock and you got schlock, but it was slightly better schlock. Schlock is schlock.
    Critical opinions that factor in expectations that come from marketing or personal bias aren’t much use. Your take on the reception of A History of Violence is a great example. The movie is the movie. I think most people who saw it found it difficult to take on its own terms, because most awareness of the film (seemingly) came about from editorials on the violence, pro or con. As I think you are saying, I don’t buy that the movie is wholly a metaphor, nor wholly exploitation. Confused moviegoers might have had a better chance of figuring it out themselves if their expectations hadn’t been set by a whole lot of people that didn’t get what it was.

  33. Blackcloud says:

    Sam, I could have put “Monster House” and “Open Season” at spots 7 and 8, but they’d still have been lower than the “better” movies that were higher up. I think they’re worse than my worst movies becaues they’re lame. They’re not very good, but beyond that they have no great flaws to criticize
    I watched “V for Vendetta” again last night, and this viewing confirmed my choice of it as the worst movie of 2006. It’s actually well made and has some decent performacnes. I picked it as the worst because it is also as dumb as a box of rocks. The promise it does not live up to is the promise of its own ideas. The premise itself is ridiculous, but then so is a farmboy blowing up a space station, so that doesn’t much bother me. The ideas, though, are just cliches, and badly recapitulated.
    The US no longer exists? Fine, what about France? The Wachowskis conveniently forgot that Britain belongs to the EU, of which there is not a single mention in the movie. What about the monarchy? The relationship between Sutler and the people V kills is never clearly delineated. He’s guilty because they are, or they’re guilty because they are. Which is it? Did he give the orders for the plague to be released? V says so, but he’s a hostile witness. The thing with the lesbian actress is laughable. Why does the government hate all gays? It clearly isn’t from religious motivation. Maybe they read the Koran? It’s certainly not a very competent totalitarian regime. Otherwise, it might have tried to find out where the masks came from. Memo to the Wachowskis: totalitarian governments are usually quite good as snuffing out threats to themselves. That’s what makes them totalitarian governments.
    V for Vendetta is stupid, and stupidity is a far worse sin than mere badness. It’s ill-conceived and executed even worse. It takes the Wachowskis’ dime-store philosophizing and transforms it into a facile critique of modern democratic government. They act as if they’ve just figured out the solution to all the world’s problems by reading Marx, or Plato, or Rousseau, or whomever. You expect that attitude from sophomores (that’s why it’s called sophomoric). They’re very naive and juvenile. Literally so. What’s the Wachowskis’ excuse? Or as Matt Feeney said in his analysis of the movie, “Underlying V for Vendetta is yet more magical thinking about that evil omnipotent genius, George W. Bush.” One which enchants only the magicians.
    That, Sam, is what I mean when I say a movie failed to live up to its own promise. And I’d argue that at that level it’s impossible to consider Open Season worse than V for Vendetta. Which is why I don’t.

  34. jeffmcm says:

    I agree more with Sam: because even if a movie like V for Vendetta is indeed dumb and doesn’t live up to its own promise, it still is well-made on the level of cinematography/editing/production design/whatever. When you compare that with the dozens of movies that are insultingly dumb _and_ poorly made _and_ boring (for example, say, When a Stranger Calls), you have to be honest and admit that a mediocre-to-bad movie is still superior to a across-the-board bad movie.

  35. Blackcloud says:

    But Jeff, don’t you think the same thing happens in reverse? Take a movie that isn’t very ambitious but succeeds at its modest goals. You like it. Then take a much more ambitious movie which doesn’t quite succeed at all its aims, but because it tries for more and gains more, you think it’s a better movie, even though you like the other movie more. Don’t you think that happens? I think it happens all the time. The movie I enjoyed the most this year was Casino Royale. But on my top 10 (not actually that many), it’s only third, behind The New World and The Queen. I think they’re all equally sucessful, but the first two tried for more, and that’s why I have them higher.
    I agree this is all very subjective. Such is the nature of aesthetic judgement. I haven’t seen When a Stranger Calls. Maybe it would be higher than V, maybe lower. I’d also say that for the most part movies are competently made, so you have to use other criteria to discriminate between them.

  36. jeffmcm says:

    I had a lengthy answer written out and then Typekey erased it. Is there something I’m not doing right?
    Anyway, in my book artistic ambition is _always_ a redeeming feature, even if the movie ends up still a failure. A given movie by a crazy,erratic, uneven filmmaker is, for me, always going to be better than any given routine slasher movie or Scary Movie sequel.

  37. Stella's Boy says:

    I understand that some people have a problem with V For Vendetta’s politics, but due to its other strenghts I can’t understand someone believing it’s the very worst film of 2006. It’s extremely well-made and features a few excellent action sequences. The acting is good. I didn’t love it, but even if the story is silly, that alone is not enough to lower it to the rank of worst of the year. I have seen movies far more ambitious that are far worse (Bobby).

  38. Blackcloud says:

    I don’t have a problem with V for Vendetta’s politics. I have a problem with how it is about its politics. As Roger Ebert might say.

  39. Stella's Boy says:

    Oh well in that case…

  40. Sam says:

    I appreciate what you’re saying, Blackcloud. And I can’t claim that I follow my own rules 100%. I just think that in the grand scope of things, I see a lot less fair criticism and a lot more reaction to preconceptions than I’d like. I think that’s somewhat different than what you’re describing anyway, so thanks for clarifying.

  41. Blackcloud says:

    Sam, I fully agree that there are cases where people react to their preconceptions more than they do to the movie itself. My number one example? “The Phantom Menace.” But that’s a discussion for another day.

  42. Blackcloud says:

    Sam, I fully agree that there are cases where people react to their preconceptions more than they do to the movie itself. My number one example? “The Phantom Menace.” But that’s a discussion for another day.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima