I know that naming the worst films of the year is a pretty bilious exercise -- all you're going to do is tick people off. People dig what they dig, everyone's entitled to their opinion -- but, at the same time, when you see a lot of movies, you see a lot of bad movies -- and when you see a lot of bad movies, some of them aren't just maddening but infuriating. Also, this list is nothing but ammunition for arguments -- which is, of course, why we love them. With that in mind, here's my highly subjective, completely biased listing of the worst films of 2006 -- again, in no particular order after #1.
"So, in his first movie in years where Gibson can't defend his love for blood by hiding behind Christ's robes like a naughty child behind his mother's skirts, what do we get? Bloodshed, brutality -- and boredom. In Apocalypto, the ineptitude of the action sequences is almost enough to drown out how bloody they are, and vice-versa. When a character is, say, killed by a panther, you simultaneously find yourself nauseated by the level of effects brought to bear (you witness a jaw dislocated by the panther's bite depicted with almost pornographic attention) and startled by the clumsiness of other filmmaking choices (including a lunging panther-puppet so unconvincing, it's like a 30-year old refugee from the Jim Henson second-hand bin). ... I keep coming back to the violence in Apocalypto, but then again, so does Gibson. And it turns out the Emperor's still naked even when he's covered in blood. Apocalypto is a career-ending flop, and easily the worst movie of 2006."
3) Marie Antoinette
(From the Cannes review.) "
History can't say for certain if Marie Antoinette, confronted by the idea that France's men and women were starving, actually said "Let them eat cake." After watching Marie Antoinette, I kept picturing Sofia Coppola offering up a big plate of icing -- not even cake -- for audiences, pink, creamy costumes and music and sumptuous visuals with nothing under it to give the sugar-shock immediate buzz of the movie any real weight."
"It's hard to assess the performances in Marie Antionette -- Dunst's wigs are far better-developed than her character. There are a few standout turns from the other actors -- Rip Torn's booming-voiced King, Steve Coogan's helpful-but-hesitant Austrian Ambassador to France and Jason Schwartzman's easily-befuddled but essentially decent Louis. Of course, every time we get a scene that looks like it's moving towards actually being about something, Coppola then shows us another montage of eating, fashion or a musical sequence. The musical sequences incorporate modern songs like Siousxie and the Banshee's "Hong Kong Garden" or Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"; it's a pretty artificial device, and it just strengthens the shallow, surface feel of the film overall.
4) Pirates of the
"Capt. Jack Sparrow is a great example of how Hollywood likes to turn garnishes into main courses. Depp stole the first movie, but only because his hands were full with the burden of carrying it. Capt. Jack is too slight in nature and too broad in execution to be the center of any film, although we certainly get plenty of him. I liked Depp's shtick the first time around -- actually, I thought it was funny and sly -- but now Capt. Jack is like Kramer: He shows up rolling his eyes and we're expected to howl with laughter.
Still, show me two men sword fighting on a rolling waterwheel as it careens through tropical scenery and I'll pop to attention and smile; the stunt sequences in the film are all tops, and director Gore Verbinski still gives every shot an oak-and-velvet sheen. Maybe -- just maybe -- Dead Man's Chest feels limpid and overlong because it's just throat-clearing and set-up for the third installment, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Perhaps that explains why we got such brief glimpses of a confusing multitude of new characters. Perhaps that's why there's an after-credits 'surprise' that feels like a cockroach in a fortune cookie for all the 'fun' it provides. Maybe we're just supposed to pay Disney for the privilege of watching a slow, lazy set-up and wait agape for the big finish. And yet, I doubt it: If At World's End is any thing like Dead Man's Chest, it'll just be a further demonstration of how, tragically, modern moviemaking is turning into an ongoing demonstration of how more and more means less and less."
(From the full review.)
'I saw Eragon, knowing it was not a good idea to do so. If you can't say anything nice about a film, don't say anything. Certainly don't compare it to a mix of The Lord of the Rings, Dragonheart and The NeverEnding Story. (Watching Eragon felt like watching Dean Venture's mental breakdown -- Yes! Most obscure refrence possible!)"
6) Bobby/The People Versus John Lennon"There are a lot of things I get tired of -- people who spit in the streets, swearing in front of kids, waiting for the cannibalism to break out on Jericho. And one of the things most likely to make me roll my eyes back in my head is the tiresome, never-ending self- congratulation of the Baby Boom generation. Yes, yes, we get it -- you were really special, you truly were. If by 'special,' you mean 'numerous and annoying and in love with your own mythos.' I mean, I saw Bobby at Toronto; I fell into a bored, listless coma, snapped to attention only by the musical-hallucination number (and God, I wish I were kidding) featuring Ashton Kutcher in a bad hippie wig saying 'No, you shut up. ..." over and over to an orange. To an orange. I got up and walked out, figuring that anyone with a shred of self-awareness would recognize it for what it was -- yet another round of Hollywood's aging leftist dinosaurs, Liberalsaurus Rex, dislocating their own shoulders to pat themselves on the back."
(From the Editor's Desk, Nov. 29: Bobby and the Boomers.)
7) A Prairie Home Companion
"Talking with some other friends at a brunch, A Prairie Home Companion came up -- they'd rented it, and discovered that, as they said, "11:30 at night is not a good time to throw on A Prairie Home Companion." I actually suggested that there was never a good time to throw on A Prairie Home Companion -- which, to me, feels like the most expensive Hee Haw episode ever made, featuring multi-millionaires playing 'jes' folks' and the tiresome, soporific drone of Garrison Keillor, America's least funny humorist. And now, of course, Robert Altman is dead. And I hope to God that the Academy -- maudlin and mortal as they are -- don't choose to commemorate his passing by larding attention onto what may be one of Altman's least deserving films. I don't think that you do people any favors by turning them into saints; Implying that every film anyone's ever made was an unparalleled masterpiece denies their life the richness of struggle and effort and inspiration -- and really, is Quintet as good as M*A*S*H? Is Pret-a-Porter as good as Short Cuts? No, and I think that Altman would be the first to suggest that some of his films worked better than other; to me, that means he never quit trying -- and that, to me, is the measure of an artist, and a human. We don't get to pick the last thing we do, because we don't know what that'll be; we can choose what we do next, even in the face of death. And so that's what I'm going to think of today when I think of Robert Altman -- his choices, his efforts, his unceasing forward motion."(From the Editor's Desk, Nov. 21: Altman's Last Gig.)
8) Little Man
9) Death of a President
"Never mind that Range and Simon Finch's screenplay takes an interminably long time to set up and -- pardon the phrase -- execute the central idea of the film. More damning is that for all the dramatic and artistic possibilities in the idea, the film executing that idea is a damp squib, a slow-paced obvious murder tale. Death of a President plays like a mix of the worst parts of C.S.I. (blood, guts, tech-babble) and Ken Burns (long-winded interviews, easy sentiment, visual stasis). Nor does it work as satire or commentary -- it's loaded with too much tedium to be shocking, and watching the film's clanging, wooden attempts at political allegory or cultural analysis is cringe-inducing."
10) Snakes on a Plane
"But, even knowing as little as I do about dairy production, I do know you can't make cheese overnight. (Yogurt, sure; try it!) So-bad-they're-good movies are not born, they're made -- a slow process of time turning trash into treasure, thin trails of camp growing through the idiot mass of a bad movie like a blue-vein mold that adds flavor to a nice Stilton. Showgirls; Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; Plan 9 from Outer Space. None of these are good movies, but they've endured in part because the people making them thought they were making good movies, and that hint of high-minded delusion makes all the difference. The people behind Snakes on a Plane were trying to make a bad movie, and in that they've succeeded.
There are a half-dozen things that could have made Snakes on a Plane a better film: A tighter third act, casting an actor opposite Jackson to play the witness with even a hint of charisma, an ending that satisfies our dimwit thirst for movie justice, giving the designated sacrificial lamb characters even a line of dialogue before they get fanged to death. Yet it feels like after the pitch meeting casting Jackson and crafting the promo plan, everyone let out a big sigh of relief at how this baby was going to sell itself and quit working. Snakes on a Plane has an irresistible title and an impressive promotional campaign -- but pitches aren't plots, and marketing isn't moviemaking."