The Readers Strike Back, Part II

Two entries ago, I gave you my ten worst movies. Then, we had three top tens from the readers. This week, two further reader entries spare me from trying to write fellowship applications, a dissertation, and an original entry for the website - thanks!

My fabulous friend Franci, who just got a well-deserved job offer from a great academic program and who's overdue for being in a place where she's appreciated, sends in the following:

Ten Worst Movies of All Time:

1. The Blair Witch Project -- Everyone who saw this before me told me that it scared them to death. I thought it was stupid, poorly scripted and NOT scary. Recently, I've been thinking about it, and it seems to me that the villain here was the old Puritan concept of the Devil in the Wilderness/Woods. That landscapes not settled and farmed and peopled and urbanized are intrinsically evil. All of the friends who found the movie scary are urbanites. I grew up in the country--ou in the sticks country on the reservation--so I see woods and wild things as natural and beautiful. Urban streets are scary to me.

2. Dances With Wolves -- Being an Indian and Lakota, I say that this film got everything wrong, and in almost every case insultingly racistly wrong. When Kevin Costner made a guest appearance on The David Letterman Show, Letterman messed up the introduction. He said, "Now I want you to welcome the actor who did such a fine job on the academy award winning movie, Dances With Elves." So, since then, I have disparagingly referred to this movie as Dances With Elves.

3. The Searchers--that John Wayne 'classic' piece of crap that insults Indians in every way possible and still gets rave reviews from everyone under the sun except NDNS.

4. The Missing--the remake of the above film, now playing in theatres. Over fifty years after the original was made, this one makes all the same insulting moves that the original made.

5. The English Patient--the most boring film ever made. Sitting around watching cars rust is much more fast paced and interesting.

6. Barbarella--Jane Fonda's youthful error made before she became a feminist and an anti-war activist.

7. to Infinity -- Any film starring Madonna. Any film starring the latest bubble brained bimbo such as Britney Spears. Any romantic sappy ass comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandy Buttocks--ah, scuse me, that's BULLOCK, Sandy Bullock, or light weight actors of that ilk.

I'd be hard pressed to disagree with any of these, even though I've never seen The Blair Witch Project. I've heard enough about it to trust that it was bad. Except that I find Barbarella to be so bad that it's good again. Wall to wall shag carpeting in space ships? Loved it. Not the way it was intended to be loved, I suspect, but I love it nonetheless.

Also, Franci's list - specifically, her mention of "the most boring film ever made" - reminded me of another bad movie - Riding in Cars With Boys. It was so bad I pretty much blocked it out of my memory until recently, when I was playing "Scene It" with The One And Only and his family. They showed a scene from that movie, and I was reminded of how I sat and watched it (late at night, on HBO), because I think Drew Barrymore is terribly cute and the movie sounded interesting, and I kept watching it and watching it and watching it because I kept thinking, OK, it's got to get interesting soon... and I kept watching until the credits rolled and I was still waiting.

Then, my brother wrote in, with his own list.

1. Star Wars, the Phantom Menace. I actually watched this twice, at the movie theater, in the same night (yes, I even bought 2 tickets). I was so impressed by the visual details - every nook and cranny of the screen filled with cgi details. The city scene - amazing! Of course, it helps to have some recreational drug use to assist in this visual orgasm.

Over the next week, however, it kept replaying in my mind and distilled itself into what a movie really is - plot, dialogue and acting. And they all suck. Ewan McGregor, one of my generation's finest actors, sucks in this movie. I could have done a better job. Well, if I had a real director. Sir Alec probably ignored everything Lucas said and did it his way, but now Lucas thinks he's the man and has a delusion of directorial competence. And everything is meant to sell toys. That's the sad fact - the movie is a vehicle for product placement and merchandising.

The movie can be best summed up by the scene where little dipshit meets queen I-really-can't-act. While in the Floating Arab's lair (he's a taxi driver, right!), he sees the queen. She's surrounded by a halo of filtered light from a Prell commercial, cut to l.d., and he says "Are you an angel?"

Who wrote that line?!? Why can't someone pay me lots of money to come up with such terrible dialogue? And the acting (and, it follows, the directing) of the scene is absolute crap. This kid would be obnoxious enough in 30-second ad for toys-r-us, but we have to watch him carry an entire movie (what was it, 5 hours?).

Finally, the worst part, for me: the racism that is present throughout the movie. I don't believe it to be trivial that Joseph Campbell died before this movie was made (lucky guy!). Lucas has taken the idea of myths and archetypes, which is what helped previous Star Wars movies work, and reduced it to racial stereotypes.The Chinese who are trying to win the trade wars. Uncle Jar-Jar the freed slave. And that floating bug who's the slimy Arab wheeler-dealer. What awaits us next? Well, I for one haven't seen the attack of the clones, though I may subject myself to it on dvd. All I can say is, THANK GOD FOR LORD OF THE RINGS!!!

1b. McHale's Navy. The best place to watch the worst movies is on an airplane. You're mindnumbingly bored. If you try to walk out, you won't get far. And if you brought your own headphones, it's free!

Tom Arnold is having a renaissance of sorts, and certainly his work in Austin Powers should not go unnoticed, but you simply must watch this movie to get a sense of how truly awful he is. No ordinarily terrible actor could have managed to make this movie; they would have pulled the plug very early on or found a replacement. No, Tom's dim star wattage is just enough to make this turkey fly. The saving grace is that every second that David Alan Grier is on-screen, he's hilarious. But as I write this I wonder if that's just a relative thing....

3. Rocky and Bullwinkle. Another airplane gem. Maybe they edited out the funny scenes for the flying audience, to avoid a riot.

A friend of mine is always keenly aware of the interaction of talent and medium. William Hurt and Bruce Willis manage to get into some great movies with their limited acting skills. "Great agents," is what my friend always says. Kurt Russell is an actor who's talent is always perfectly matched to the movie - they always stink. Then he mentioned Robert DeNiro. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, The Godfather (Part II), The Deer Hunter, Goodfellas, Wag the Dog, even Heat. Has the man ever done a bad movie? Have his movies always been on par with his talent level?

Well, my friend had obviously never seen Rocky and Bullwinkle. It's terrible. Awful. The jokes aren't funny. That annoyingly cute and effervescent woman is annoyingly cute and effervescent. You don't care about what's going to happen, because you know that the awful torture of the moose and squirrel that you're fantasizing about isn't going to happen on screen. Rocky and Bullwinkle meet Itchy and Scratchy. That would be interesting. This one is absolutely terrible. Did I mention that before? It's actually omitted from some De Niro filmographies. The only one we had left on our list was Robert Duvall. What about Meryl Streep? Has anyone seen Marvin's Room or Music of the Heart?

There you have it.

What have I learned from this process? Three things. 1. Nobody I know liked the Star Wars "prequels," and for very good reason. 2. Nobody I know liked Dances With Wolves or Kevin Costner, or, if they did, they won't admit it to me. 3. Many people don't have the patience to actually think about crappy movies long enough to come up with all ten. And who can blame them? The movies suck. Why spend time trying to remember the worst hours you've spent in a theater?

And on that note, we'll put an end to this particular series of top tens. Go on, think about something else. Like your favorite movies ever. Because I know I'll be doing that list sometime in the near future too....


28. December 2003


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