Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2009 Kraemer Movie Awards Part I — The Worst

I won't waste time with a lengthy intro. You guys are smart; you know the drill. These are the worst goddamn movies I saw in 2009. For the record, I have not seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Ugly Truth, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Miss March, Old Dogs, Bride Wars, Halloween II, All About Steve, or Land of the Lost, and this list only includes theatrically-released pictures, i.e. no American Pie Presents: The Book of Love or Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. I hate protracted preambles almost as much as I hate these movies, so let's get on with the show.



Okay, so I think we can all safely agree now that Michael Mann was replaced by a pod person at some point between 2004's brilliant Collateral and 2006's awful Miami Vice. His commitment to reality which once gave us the brilliantly intense gunfights of Heat has come full circle to yield some of the nastiest visuals I've ever seen onscreen and perhaps the dullest imaginable depiction of a real-life bank-robbing master criminal. Oh, I'll give it to him: the flat lighting and grainy digital photography is realistic. Why, it looks just like a home video shot on a store-bought camcorder by your grandma!


Oh good, an origin story. Because superhero cinema doesn't have enough of those. *makes jerking off motion*


File this one under "First World Problems." Our protagonist, the unfortunately named Ryden Malby (seriously, say it out loud, it's fucking ridiculous), graduates from college and has to work service jobs for a couple months before being handed her lifelong dream position at LA's top publishing firm. Throughout this ordeal she is unconditionally supported by her family and best friend / romantic interest. Wow, that's some intense drama right there. I only watched this because said best friend / romantic interest is played by Zach Gilford, who plays my favorite character Matt Saracen on my favorite TV show Friday Night Lights, but it turns out that watching a favorite actor debase themselves in an indefensible shitpile is just kind of depressing.


Of all the films on this list, this is, while not the most incompetent, easily the the most insidious. A swelling tribute to the greatness and singular compassion of white people, The Blind Side boils its teenage interpretation of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher down to a sickeningly condescending cypher, a hulking, idiotic man-infant for Sandra Bullock's ghastly southern matriarch to save with her sass and her charm and her wisdom, at one point even reading the po' black eighteen-year-old a preschooler's bedtime story before he goes to sleep(!!). The movie aims for the heart of white suburban America and septuagenarians everywhere by giving Oher no personality whatsoever beyond mumbled, demure compliance, carefully avoiding a single moment of actual tension or emotional resonance, and even making its football scenes limp, lifeless, predictable timesinks. Needless to say, it was an enormous box office hit.


I'll say straight up that this may objectively be the second worst movie on this list. It's truly, truly awful; a dizzying mess of horrid dialogue, horrid action scenes, horrid storytelling, and acting somehow even worse than all that. It doesn't even have the decency to feature any music or settings or iconography from the video game series it's supposedly based on! But it plummets so far into "so bad it's good" territory that it actually becomes perversely enjoyable partway through. No, not nearly as brilliant as my all-time favorite bad movie, Dungeons & Dragons, but still goofy and absurd enough that there's no way I can rank it any higher (lower?) on this list. A big part of this is due to the awesome performance of Chris Klein, who we'll discuss again momentarily.


A childish and stupid anime is against all odds converted into an even more childish and stupid live-action American movie. You wouldn't think they'd be able to stupid up Dragon Ball, but it turns out that reimagining Goku as a sexy teen is just the fucking way to do it.


When I reviewed Knowing nearly a year ago I commented that it was "definitely an early contender for my bottom ten movies of 2009," but that "a barrage of shittiness at year's end may allow it to wriggle free." Well guess what? Nope. Not even close, in fact. This movie is a real piece of shit that's just gotten worse and worse as I've replayed it in my mind over time, and I think I'm ready to officially declare its ending one of the top five worst I've ever seen in my entire life, the kind of plot twist that makes you regret that the plot twist was ever invented. It's the motion picture equivalent of pulling off your hot date's panties to reveal a big purple vein dick.


Now this one's a heartbreaker. In 1993 Harold Ramis directed a masterpiece called Groundhog Day — and make no mistake, it is a masterpiece, standing toe-to-toe with virtually anything on AFI's top 100 — and now, sixteen years later, he directs a film that misunderstands the very building blocks of comedy at such a basic and fundamental level that it only just marginally rises above Aaron Seltzer & Jason Friedberg's "_____ Movie" series. Absent any structure or meaningful punchlines all you can do is try your damndest to be amused by the antics of Michael Cera and Jack Black, but it's tough to laugh at even the funniest dude on Earth if he isn't given anything funny to say or do.

The Final Destination, Sorority Row, & Friday the 13th

Terrible, terrible, terrible! And yes, all three made money at the box office (although Sorority Row admittedly made less than the other two). Sure, it's a bit of a cheat to list all three together, but why the fuck should I waste three slots on my beloved list on three separate movies that all suffer from the exact same lack of any creative spark whatsoever and the exact same barrage of vapid, talentless "actors" and unimaginative violence and eye-rolling sudden-loud-noise scares? We see the exact same shit a dozen times a year, sometimes packaged under other names like Prom Night or Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and god almighty do they all suck. I understand there are actually horror buffs out there who primarily watch this shit, which I find mind-boggling, because how could you maintain fandom in a genre that's 98.5% feces? (Pardon me while I hide my fantasy novels.)

But in all fairness I should note that, while not exactly a good movie, My Bloody Valentine 3D is actually surprisingly watchable as go slashers, with clever kills and probably the only five-minute 3D full frontal nude scene in the history of mainstream theatrical releases. Hell, it came shockingly close to being a fresh tomato. So it's cleared of all charges. Not these other pieces of shit, though. No way.


This is it. This is the Terrible American Movie, the end point, the reckoning. Screen I Love You, Beth Cooper at the next G8 Summit and no one on Earth would question for a moment the entire rest of the world simultaneously nuking us into a flat plane of dead ash. If you plan to watch I Love You, Beth Cooper then you must first securely lock away any and all knives, ropes, and pills you may own because you will desperately attempt to kill yourself immediately afterward. Wracked by sobs, shivering in horror at the cold and cruel eternity that could have gathered all its dark and evil energies to commit such an atrocity as bringing this movie into existence, your voice will crack as you cry "why?!!" at the heavens, seeking answers that will never come. The only question remaining is whether or not a space-time continuum that could have produced I Love You, Beth Cooper was ever worth saving in the first place, and the only certainty left is that nothing will ever be good or pure again.

What's particularly bizarre about this mind-blowingly miscalculated attempt at recreating the John Hughes teen films of the 80s is that its director Chris Columbus actually once worked directly with Hughes, filming Hughes' script Home Alone back in 1990. He even brings in Ferris Bueller's Alan Ruck — Cameron Frye himself! — to play the main character's father and apparently to make my brain start to bleed out my ear. What happened? Has Chris Columbus lost all his talent? Did he ever have any talent in the first place? All I know is that this is the only time in my life that a movie was so profoundly unfunny that I actually began to feel physically nauseous during its duration. Not only are literally all other comedy movies funnier, but so are the vast majority of webcam YouTube videos and cereal box blurbs. I Love You, Beth Cooper makes American Pie Presents: The Book of Love look like a timeless fucking masterpiece.



An Education isn't bad enough to make the cut for my top ten worst, and I certainly don't have the patience to do a top twenty, but there's simply no way I couldn't talk about this movie one more time. That this mechanical, by-the-motions, completely unspectacular coming of age drama has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Best Picture nomination is some serious Twilight Zone shit. Sure, Carey Mulligan gives a respectable performance if you can ignore the fact that she's about a decade older than her sixteen-year-old character, but beyond that the movie is a turgid bore. I'm completely positive that if you took this exact script and set it in America, changing only the city names and the accents, it wouldn't have gotten a tenth the hype and attention.


#5 - Christian Bale, PUBLIC ENEMIES — I know for a fact that Christian Bale can give a vibrant, spellbinding performance. I've seen American Psycho. So I'm going to go ahead and blame director Michael Mann for interpreting FBI agent Melvin Purvis as a mask-faced plank of wood with all the personality of a door. No performance in this movie was particularly energetic but Bale was a black fucking hole.

#4 - Quinton Aaron, THE BLIND SIDE — Apparently, teenage Michael Oher couldn't do anything except avert his eyes from and mumble his compliance to any white person in the room. Absolutely appalling. The only thing missing was a "yessa massa" or two.

#3 - Channing Tatum, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA & Kristin Kreuk, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI — Pardon my two-for-one cheat, but these performances are pretty much identical, 2009's true brother-sister duo, each perfectly mirroring each other in absolute rice cake blandness. Watch Channing Tatum see his best friend get blown up, or watch Kristin Kreuk see her father murdered before her eyes, and their facial expressions of dismay identical to that of yours when you see that your yogurt has expired. Emoting? Who needs it!

#2 - Matthew Goode, WATCHMEN — Nevermind the novel's insistence that he's an immensely charismatic golden god superhero figure, which would have actually made the ending shocking; apparently, Adrian Veidt is a lanky, creepy, thickly-accented German who might as well have "villain" tattooed on his forehead. This performance came perilously close to sinking the entire movie.

#1 - Chris Klein, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI — Now this performance is something special. Something unique. Something immense. I spent days wrestling with whether to list this as the worst performance or the best supporting performance of the year, but the undeniable fact is that this is the worst acting of 2009. But it's also spectacular. The director seems to have carefully instructed Klein to perform every line, every gesture, every look with one motivation and one motivation only: "FUCK. YOU." And how! He sneers. He leers. He delivers every horrible line like he believes he's coining a classic catchphrase that will be quoted for decades to come. Without Klein the movie would be unwatchable, with him, it's essential. Thankfully, some kind soul has uploaded this performance to the internet, and it's something I do not recommend you miss.


#5 - Wolverine examines his claws, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE — I saw X-Men when I was fourteen years old and I still specifically remember thinking that Wolverine's claws looked really, really good. Now, nearly a decade later, we get a close-up of the same claws as Wolverine examines them in a bathroom and the CGI looks so, so, so bad that the audience I saw this movie with was cracking the fuck up, which I haven't seen happen at a special effect in years. How did this Reagan-era CGI slip into a 2009 big-budget summer blockbuster? How does that even happen?

#4 - Jenny receives the banana, AN EDUCATION — Okay, so sixteen-year-old Jenny is dating an adult man, and in one incredibly bizarre and out-of-nowhere scene he hands her banana and tells her to fuck it so her virgin vagina is loosened up for them to have sex for the first time. I'm dead serious. This actually, literally happens. I immediately went online when I got home from the theater to find out if I imagined this scene in some kind of nightmare, and sure enough, I wasn't the only one who felt brainfucked by it.

#3 - Michael Oher learns to tackle, THE BLIND SIDE — You see, according to The Blind Side, Michael Oher is a gigantic, mentally challenged toddler who can't do anything by himself. He fumbles around at football practice like a blind deaf sack of shit, bringing humiliation onto himself and his people, until Sandra Bullock storms out onto the field and tells him to pretend that the quarterback is her, his adopted momma, and he has to take down anyone trying to hurt "her." Instantaneously, starting with the very next play, Michael Oher is a football prodigy who can block anything and anyone. That's so nice how the movie diminishes any hard work and practice Oher put in down to the condescension of a sassy southern white woman.

#2 - Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN — The ultimate good robot and the ultimate evil robot finally do battle after two and a half hours of build up and Optimus Prime tears Megatron apart in about fifteen seconds with the ease that you or I would shoo a fly. Thanks for wasting my time, Michael Bay. Asshole.

#1 - The ending, KNOWING — I don't have the energy to think about this ending any longer. I just don't. So I'm just gonna copy and paste this directly from my Knowing review:

"It's difficult to explain how much I hated this movie's climax and ending ... but it's about as shockingly bizarre, random, and incongruous with everything that's led up to it as if Se7en had ended with Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey growing gigantic ala Power Rangers and doing battle with flaming broadswords. Watching the final act of Knowing I was trapped halfway between choking back laughter and cringing in embarrassment; it's quite possibly the worst ending of the decade.

The film climaxes with the revelation that the girl who wrote out the numbers had the information planted in her mind by aliens who can read the future and have foretold the world is going to end on October 22nd, 2009. They have come to Earth with a fleet of crystalline spaceships to take one human boy and one human girl away in each to repopulate new planets, and Nicolas Cage's son is one of the "chosen." He flies off on the spaceship, a solar flare destroys Earth, and the movie ends with Cage's son and a girl being beamed down onto an ethereal far-off planet and running towards a giant tree. No, I am not fucking with you, this is actually how Knowing ends."

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