And the Loser Is…

This week, my favorite blogger Atrios over at Eschaton posted a list of the ten worst movies he's seen. Commenters went nuts - everyone had their favorite worst films to add - and so I got to thinking what I'd put on that list. Unlike Atrios, I haven't seen The English Patient, and I have nothing really against The Talented Mr. Ripley, but there's plenty of other movies to fill the top ten spots… so here's my list.

1. Dances with Wolves. This tops my list for one of any number of reasons. Here's just a few:

First, it took me four tries to watch this movie. I fell asleep the first three times before I even got halfway through it.

Second, it's appalling. I mean, yeah, I'm glad they made a movie where people are actually speaking Lakota (though they're all speaking the women's form of the language, so to a Lakota speaker, I'm told, it sounds rather odd), but I just don't see why this movie got hailed as a Fabulous Wonderful Amazing Movie About Indians. Because all this is is the same old shit - excuse me, but it is - about the Indians being tragic and dying off, and the only people who survive at the end of the movie, who get to ride away while the cavalry closes in are, of course, the white folks. It's ok, though, because they're good white folks, and they'll tell the other white folks all about the Indian culture that died out. It's ok. So yeah, it's sort of different from the old Westerns, where all the Indians died and that was a good thing. This time, all the Indians die, and that's a bad thing. But they all still die. And movies like this are why I get students in my classes who don't realize there are still Indians around today. The day Hollywood actually gets over its Vanishing Indian fetish, y'all are invited to a party at my house. Don't hold your breath, though. Some movies get it right - mostly movies by Indian writers or directors like Sherman Alexie or Valerie Red-Horse, who are, go figure, pretty damn aware that they haven't vanished; there's also Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. Oddly, these movies just don't get the same kind of major distribution that Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, or Little Big Man get. Gosh. Odd.

Third, in spite of Bull Durham, which really is a fine film, I just can't stand Kevin Costner. He's so absolutely in love with himself, and this movie is nothing if not one giant Ode To Me. Ode To Big, Noble, Colonial Me. Ick.

Fourth and finally, I also hate it because I have to watch it about once a year. I teach this movie in class, and it's always one of the best units, because most of the non-Indian students come in saying "What a great movie!" and it's the perfect way to discuss their own stereotypes about Indians. Unfortunately, that also means I have to watch it again, each damn time…

2. Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace. I loved the original Star Wars movies. Well, ok, Return of the Jedi was not so hot (damn Ewoks!), but the first two, especially The Empire Strikes Back, were fun. I saw the first one in the theater at the age of seven, and my mom had to take me outside during the trash compactor scene because I was way too scared. Still, I loved it. So I was excited when Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace came out a good twenty years later, even though I'd heard it was kinda disappointing. I was prepared to like it anyway. But I couldn't. I tried to like it. But it sucked. It was racist, in more ways than I can count (but Jar Jar Binks is the place to start counting). And the story itself flat out sucked. And I can tell you why, too. The further George Lucas is from the movies, the better they are. Letting that man write a script is the entertainment equivalent of letting George W. run the country. He writes dialogue as if he's never heard people actually talking before. It doesn't help that the kid who plays Anakin could make a rock look animated. Yeah, Natalie Portman is hot, but just rent Beautiful Girls instead.

And yes, Episode Two: Something That Has To Do With Clones is even worse. I only saw it because we have HBO and I have insomnia. Even then it wasn't worth it.

3. Forrest Gump. How in the world did this movie get so big? Oh, right. Because its message is that if you sit down, shut up, and stay quiet, life will be like a box of fucking chocolates. All he ever does is follow directions and orders, and the one time he's finally about to say something that actually comes from him, not from his mother, girlfriend, or sergeant, when he's standing in front of the crowd at the Vietnam War protest… the mike cuts out. Why? Because the point of the movie is: Things will be okay so long as you do what they tell you. That, in a nutshell, is why I hate this movie.

4. Ghost. Saccharine. Awful. Patrick Swayze. Whoopi Goldberg. Demi Moore. If I think about it any more, I'm going to start to cry. I can't believe I watched this.

5. Amelie. Like Forrest Gump, part of what made this so awful was the hype. Everyone told us how great it was, so we rented it. And we hated it. Damn, but that girl is annoying. She's like one of those insipid girls you knew in high school, who were so irritating that you couldn't figure out why they were actually popular, but they were, because even though they were so irritating they also managed to look so cute and helpless that other people just wanted to help them out. That's Amelie, right there. She's stupid and childish and so is the movie. In my humble opinion.

6. Shanghai Surprise. This movie may be the reason that Sean Penn dumped Madonna. Whatever else you want to say about Sean Penn, the man can act. Whatever else you want to say about Madonna, she cannot. In possibly the worst bit of casting ever, she plays a prim missionary nurse. Needless to say, she does it atrociously. Another tribute to my adolescent lack of taste, as I paid to see this in the theaters.

7. Breakin'. And here's my dark, shameful secret: I've seen Breakin'. And I've seen Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo. And I saw them in the theater. Hey, the main character looked kinda like my chorus teacher, and my chorus teacher was cute… No, there's no excuse really. The movie's major cultural accomplishment is that it introduced breakdancing to white folks, but I don't think it did breakdancing any good to be associated with something so… so… bad. Though Breakin' II: Electric Boogaloo probably deserves the award for the best name for a sequel ever.

8. True Romance. OK, some people whose opinions I respect - namely, The One And Only - like this movie. I did not. I just didn't see the point, and the whole Elvis-talking-to-him-in-the-bathroom thing was just ridiculous, and not in a good way. I even had a crush on Christian Slater and I still hated it. I saw it in the theater with a friend, and the only reason I didn't walk out was because I thought she was enjoying it. Turned out she stayed for the same reason. Damn.

9. Purple Rain. This is the only movie on this list that I'd willingly watch again, because if you watch it with friends who also lived through the early '80s, I bet you could come up with some great drinking games. (Unfortunately, if you Google "purple rain drinking games," you just get a lot of recipes for a drink named Purple Rain, so you're on your own.) I've seen it twice since it first came out, and each time, I was shocked at just how bad it is. I mean, the storyline is awful, but that's not surprising - it's a movie intended solely to promote a rock star, so who needs a plot? Besides, I love Morris Day and Jerome. I'd watch this movie just for them. What shocks me is how god-awful the production values are. It looks like a home video, except with less sex than you'd expect from Prince's home video. And the dialogue - ouch. It's George Lucas bad. It literally makes me flinch.

Finally, the one movie I haven't seen, but which deserves, without reservation, to be on this list:

10. Dr. Seuss' The Cat In The Hat. Leave my Dr. Seuss alone, damn you! Even seeing the trailers makes my head hurt and makes me want to hurl things at the screen. Dr. Seuss is sacred. You don't mess with Dr. Seuss. And you certainly don't do this to his wonderful work.

Also, the title is just wrong. I mean, grammatically, you need an s after the Seuss' - Dr. Seuss's, not Dr. Seuss'. The man ain't plural, people. But what's really wrong is using the man's name in the first place. This is not Dr. Seuss's Cat In the Hat. This is nothing even remotely close to Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat. This is a travesty. The New York Times, not without reason, called it "A vulgar, uninspired lump of poisoned eye candy that Universal has the temerity to call Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat." Word.

There you have it. That's my list. I'm sure I've forgotten any number of fabulously dreadful films. And admittedly, many of these movies are not recent. This is because, when I was fifteen, I utterly lacked taste and discernment, and could not tell that, say, Karate Kid II just wasn't worth two hours of my time. These days, you couldn't pay me enough to sit through Kangaroo Jack or Dude, Where's My Car, or Stuck on You, and I'm only willing to put one movie on here that I haven't seen.

But hey - why not make your own list? Send it to me if you want and I'll post a follow-up with your favorite bad movies next week.

Why should you? Because everyone needs a reason to procrastinate this time of year. Go on. You know you want to.


4. December 2003


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