Thursday, March 02, 2006


Stinkers of 2005.

Including the 11
movies I screened at the Portland International Film Festival, I saw 45 in all last year. Of those, I went in thinking maybe five were likely to be subpar. Thanks to Metacritic, I can pretty much avoid the Giglis of the world. And yet even with that, a few of the so-called "good" movies were stinkers. I know art's subjective, but I'm sticking with my appraisals: these stunk; avoid them.

March of the Penguins (Metacritic* score: 79) - In one sense, this movie didn't stink. It was actually remarkable that director Luc Jacquet and his crew got any footage at all--the emperor penguins they filmed live on the harshest, nastiest, coldest spot on Earth. Presumably, they weren't imported back to a sound stage in Paris for the filming.

Then again, I'm not totally sure. Everything else about this "documentary" felt totally contrived and manipulative, from the dulcet toddy of Morgan Freeman's slick narration to the overwrought anthropomorphizing of the penguins' plight, to what seemed, frankly, like false facts. It's called a documentary, but that's wrong--it was a childish tale of love, inspired by true events.

Star Wars, Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith (Metacritic score: 68) - Critics generally agreed that the final installment of the Star Wars franchise was the best of the latter-day three. The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter declared it "brilliant consummation to a promise made a long time ago, far, far away, in a galaxy called 1977." (For which he should be fired and barred from all theaters in perpetuity.) It was marginally better than the overtly racist Jar Jar Binks installment, but only because Jar Jar has been muzzled. Let us sample from the buffet of dialogue, as one example of the deeply disturbing flaws in this film:
Anakin Skywalker: Master Windu, I must talk to you.
Mace Windu: Skywalker. We have just received word that Obi-Wan has destroyed General Grievous. We're on our way to make sure the Chancellor returns emergency powers back to the Senate.
Anakin: He won't give up his power. I just learned the terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.
Anakin: You are so... beautiful.
Senator Amidala: It's only because I'm so in love.
Anakin: No, it's because I'm so in love with you.
Amidala: So love has blinded you?
Furthermore, any movie with these names does not deserve serious attention, nevermind your nine bucks: Mace Windu, General Grievous, Count Dooku, Darth Sidious, Captain Typho, Commander Cody , Sio Bibble.

Need I go on? I won't: the beast is dead, may it rest in pieces. (Anthony Lane provides one of the most amusing dismantlements of a movie I've ever heard, should you wish to hear more piling on.)

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Metacritic score: 76) - This was apparently a film school project that someone recovered from the trash. I have rarely seen a movie that had less to do with actual human behavior than this (Star Wars excepted). It is about a bad artist who is trying to capture the attention of a local art gallery with her painfully personal art. Which is also the description of the director and this film.

The Chronicals of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Metacritic score: 76) - (Hmmm, I'm beginning to wonder if there's a correlation between movie titles and quality.) I have several problems with the film, but they're trifling in comparison to my overall aversion to this project. The CGI was amateurish, and Aslan (the lion standing in for Christ) was terrible (especially compared with Kong, who appeared at roughly the same time). The movie was clunky and the kids were for the most part unengaging.

But what was really bizarre was the tale itself, which I recall loving at age 8. It's like the American dream's evil opposite: four kids of apparently royal bearing come to save the world for beings unable to do it themselves. But not just that they were incompetent and needed a good moral king--they were literally unable to do it without that moral king, thanks to some magic curse, or something (like the fairy tale's KGB). So in ride a bunch of kids, the oldest about 12, to slay big baddies. They each one instantly become great fighters, and legions of extra-human beings worship them as sovereign. It is a seriously psychedelic premise, one the entire world overlooked because of the beloved children's novel that, apparently, also charmed them when they were eight. That's no excuse.

*That's an aggregate of all the reviews Metacritic tracks, usually 20-40 for nationally-released movies, scaled from 0-100, where 0-40 are "generally negative reviews, 41-80 are "generally favorable reviews" and 81-100 are "universal acclaim."


fred said...

Hmm. I actually liked "Me and You..." maybe because it was so---bizarre. Or maybe it was that this carried the whole movie: ))<==>((

'Penguins' worked well as a way to entertain children and get them interested in learning more about penguins. Really, there are few 'nature documentaries' that I've seen (and beleive me, I've seen enough) that aren't contrived or outright fraudulent (these scenes, whether actual or created...) while always anthropomorphizing their subjects.

Sure, "Sith" sucked. But then again, what did you expect? But I can't believe you didn't have that amazingly bad "Elizabethtown" to your list. My god--my wife actually said to me while we were watching it (on DVD thankfully) "I've never not watched a movie all the way through. But...."

Man that was a gawdawful bad movie...At least the parts about the characters you understood in "you and me" made sense in their own context--hell, even "Sith" had a convincing narrative. "Excrementtown" was the ultimate example of the "Just one damn thing after another...." school of plot development.

iggi said...

'Alexander' is the biggest stink bomb i've seen as of late...i would have walked out if it hadn't been showing in my own house.

iggi said...

just read that article...this is a great bit:

"Did Lucas learn nothing from “Alien” and “Blade Runner”—from the suggestion that other times and places might be no less rusted and septic than ours, and that the creation of a disinfected galaxy, where even the storm troopers wear bright-white outfits, looks not so much fantastical as dated?"

df said...

Just about everything Lane writes is funny, but put him in front of a truly bad movie and his review is usually the funniest thing I read all week - he is great.

zemeckis said...

hey iggi dont knock 'alexander' it was directed by a three time acadamy award winning genius.

trivia question: what other director has won three director oscars? no cheating on these 'puter thingy's. clue if you wanna one

Jeff Alworth said...

Let's see...Marty Scorsese? Oh, that's right, he's won none. I dunno--Frank Capra? Hitchcock would be my second guess.

Jeff Alworth said...

Here's a further quiz: which director(s) have the most nominations without a win? For the extra bonus credit, there are three tied for second. Name them.

For extra, extra credit, name the number of nominations for the directors in this category (most and second most without a win).

zemeckis said...

capra, check. hitchcock?!?!? duhh! none!!!

no clue on the others, though marty is probably in there somewhere.

is my namesake in there for the 'back to the future' saga?