With the Academy Awards right around the corner, the time has come for me to unveil my own personal worsts and bests of 2008 in cinema. Naturally, we'll start with the bad and work our way towards a brighter tomorrow. I haven't seen The Hottie & the Nottie, so you'll excuse its exclusion, but I have endured following timeless works of art:
TOP 10 WORST MOVIES OF 2008
#10 - AMERICAN TEEN
American Teen, the beloved documentary hit of the Sundance Film Festival, was a critical darling for probing deep into the lives of high school teens, revealing stunning, lurid, intimate information such as that teens sit around having stilted conversations about nothing interesting, stir up insipid drama and idle gossip, go to lame parties, go to the prom, get into college, and graduate. Holy shit, thanks American Teen, how fucking fascinating! I didn't know any of that! I needed to spend 95 minutes watching a fucking documentary about it!
#9 - YES MAN
#8 - PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
It's a nebulous line between what makes a good brainless action movie ala Transporter 2 or Rambo and what makes a bad one ala Transporter 3 or Punisher: War Zone - I've seen 'em all, I'm as close to a scholar on the subject as anyone I know, and even I struggle to identify what the magic touch is - but a solid rule of thumb is that if I feel a stark relief when the credits roll that I no longer have to watch the movie, then what I've just watched was not good. Punisher: War Zone isn't offensively awful, exactly, it didn't make me angry, but outside of a few moments of gore it's remarkably sedate in the face of its own nonstop loudness, failing to present a single remotely interesting character, fight scene, or action scenario.
#7 - THE SPIRIT
The Spirit is Frank Miller making a movie ripping off the style of Robert Rodriguez adapting Miller's graphic novel in Sin City (which is kind of weird if you think about it, like if Tolkein was still alive and made a bad fantasy movie ripping off Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings). But what Miller doesn't have is an eye for filmmaking, and he delivers in The Spirit the limpest and blandest cops 'n' robbers superhero tale of the decade; what it might look like if you accidentally smeared feces all over Sin City then made a Xerox of the Xerox of the Xerox of the Xerox of that original shit-smeared film - and this is coming from someone who didn't even love Sin City.
#6 - THE READER
The latest, laziest, and most offensively brazen hitchhiker on the Holocaust chic bandwagon, The Reader is the most sickeningly mawkish melodrama I've seen in years, making Crash's Oscar-baiting look understated and subtle in comparison. About half of all critics proceeded to fawn over it nonetheless; burn these critics' estates to the ground and salt the earth.
#5 - COLLEGE
Here's how you make a College: take equal parts Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and Superbad. Mix all three together thoroughly. Now completely miss the point and remove every single element that made any of these films likable and funny in the first place. Congratulations, you made one College.
#4 - THE HAPPENING
Yes, M. Night Shyamalan's latest disaster is a step upward from Lady in the Water, but much in the same way as drinking a bucket of piss would be a step upward from drinking a bathtub of diarrhea and vomit. The story of earth's plants revolting against humankind could be a lot of fun, the stuff of B-movie legend, but M. Night just couldn't resist and had to try to make it a straight-faced, deadly-serious parable about the environment, resulting in the worst horror film and (largely thanks to Mark Wahlberg's hideous, wide-eyed overacting) best unintentional comedy of 2008.
#3 - THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE
More like, The X-Files: I Want to Borelieve. Or, The X-Files: I Want to Leave the Theater. Or, The X-Files: I Can't Believe I Paid Money For This. Or, most straight-to-the-point: The X-Files: Proof that Sometimes a Dead Series Should Stay Dead and No One Needs to See Its Decomposed Corpse Humiliatingly Shambling About, although I admit that last one's a little big for a marquee.
#2 - DISASTER MOVIE
I already typed my 1,000 words on Disaster Movie, I decline to type any more, except to reiterate that, yes, Aaron & Jason truly are the worst.
#1 - BABYLON A.D.
Discounting the eldritch abomination that is Manderlay, not since Dreamcatcher and Van Helsing have I hated a cinematic experience with such ferocity; truly, thoroughly, and unequivocally detested every second of a film with the ire that I would normally reserve for someone who ass-raped my cat. Yes, Disaster Movie presents less competence in the basic fundamentals of using cinematic language such as sets, continuity, and acting to construct a film, but it's Babylon A.D. that is horror packaged in a celluloid reel, such a mind-numbingly deafening, stupid, contemptible, nonsensical experience that I can't imagine how a studio actually had the courage to release it.
If I was a studio head and someone presented Babylon A.D. to me and said "Here's my film!", I would douse the master reel in kerosine, light the flame, run electromagnets over all the hard drives with the footage on them, burn the sets to the ground, track and destroy every script, and hire professionals to erase the paper trail showing I was ever associated with the film's production. Showing Babylon A.D. to enemy combatants could classify as a war crime under the Geneva Convention. If Barack Obama said he liked Babylon A.D. I would have voted for John McCain. Babylon A.D. couldn't be any worse if it was a flaming harpoon carrying the AIDS virus shot from a cannon through your heart. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that it's not a well-made film.
TOP 5 WORST PERFORMANCES OF 2008
#5 - Diego Luna, MILK - I'm as pro-gay as can be; I support the complete, unconditional, and unequivocal legalization of gay marriage and gay adoption and gay anything else in every city and county in the country, and I not only voted against California's Proposition 8, I actively campaigned against it. I say this to make the significance of it clear when I say that Diego Luna's whiny, prissy, screeching, crying, pissy, giggling little queen in the otherwise solid political biopic Milk made me feel virulently homophobic.
#4 - Renée Zellweger, APPALOOSA - Little did I know that Renée Zellweger has super powers! The power to immediately snip the balls off of what up until her stepping onscreen had been a solid Western and turn it into a weepy fucking chick flick!
#3 - Thandie Newton, W. - Thandie Newton's bizarre, grotesquely over-the-top portrayal of Condoleezza Rice would be perfectly at home in Saturday Night Live. But it's not in Saturday Night Live, it's in a dramatic biopic of George W. Bush where everyone else is playing their roles straight as an arrow, and it couldn't be any more out of place if it was Ace Ventura spouting his catchphrases at the ghetto in Schindler's List.
#2 - Natalya Rudakova, TRANSPORTER 3 - Sorry, no, I prefer it when my action movie romantic interests with all-English dialogue can speak English.
#1 - Mark Wahlberg, THE HAPPENING - Legendary bad acting. Wahlberg vacantly delivers all his dialogue like he's literally in a green screen void with no clue what the movie is about, no context for any of the lines he's saying, no idea who or where the other characters will be, and has been the given the lines for the first time ten seconds earlier, and the plot, settings, and other actors were all added around him in post-production. Should be shown in acting classes as a cautionary tale. Makes Hayden Christensen in Episode II look like Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York.
TOP 5 WORST MOVIE MOMENTS OF 2008
# 5 - "I HAVE DOOOUUUUUUUBBTTTT!!!!!", DOUBT - I didn't like Doubt's blunted Oscar-baiting even before the final thirty seconds, but when the film has the chance to go out with a modicum of dignity after a conversation between Meryl Streep and Amy Adams quietly underscoring Streep's doubt about her campaign against a suspected pedophile priest, Meryl Streep literally looks up while bawling and cries to the heavens that "I HAAAVE DOOOOOUUUUUUUBTTT!!!!!" while the camera cranes out until we fade to credits in a way that finally gives Episode III's legendary Darth Vader "NOOOOOO!!!" a twin sister. A genuine cringe-inducing moment.
#4 - Samuel L. Jackson gives a booming villainous world domination speech while wearing a Nazi uniform and torturing a kitten, THE SPIRIT - Frank Miller, uh, isn't fond of subtle villains.
#3 - I'm Fucking Matt Damon "parody," DISASTER MOVIE - Just... just fucking watch.
#2 - Vampire baseball, TWILIGHT - About ninety minutes into Twilight, the Cullen vampire clan realizes that their movie is merely kitschy and hasn't yet achieved true awfulness, so they drag Bella out to a baseball field during a thunderstorm where they show her "vampire baseball." Vampire baseball. VAMPIRE BASEBALL. What's worse is that the movie explains that they can only play during thunderstorms because the vampires are so strong that otherwise the sound of them hitting the baseballs would be too loud and reveal their identities to the town, and actually treats this as a serious revelation without a hint of humor or irony. What's worse is the following three-minute music video-styled vampire baseball montage. What's even worse is that the Twilight novels have been at the very top of Amazon's best-selling books list for like four months now. If there is a god may he douse America with nuclear fire and hurl the charred remains into the depths of space, never to be heard from again.
#1 - The credits roll, BABYLON A.D. - Listen, I know it's hypocritical for me to ask for more of a movie I hated, but as much as I hated it, I expected it to have the fucking decency to CONCLUDE somehow, rather than just panning up to the sky and rolling the credits at a moment so arbitrary it made No Country for Old Men's ending look like Return of the King in comparison. The difference is that No Country's ending had a point, Babylon A.D.'s has no point. And when the credits rolled, the horror of what I saw overtook me, my head swam with the awfulness of this ungodly hate crime against cinema, my heart grew heavy, and I wept.