Great Moments in Mediocre Films 2009 | Sarah Boslaugh

film_blind-side.gifSandra Bullock gives perhaps her best performance ever. 



Let’s be honest: Just as with people, most films are a mixed experience. Sometimes a bad, mediocre, offensive or otherwise less-than-splendid film contains a scene or characterization far superior to the rest of the work, and it would be a shame to overlook such achievements simply because of their surroundings. It’s sort of like a Nobel Prize winner who refuses to bathe: you’d hate for society to refuse this person’s contribution just because it comes in a somewhat offputting package.

The Blind Side | One of the more deliberately offensive films of 2009, or didn’t director/screenwriter John Lee Hancock realize that he was reducing his ostensible subject, a talented athlete named Michael Oher, into a mere object to be manipulated by the rich white family who takes him under their wing? But Sandra Bullock gives perhaps her best performance ever as (for once!) a grown-up woman who knows her own mind, and there’s a nice bit at the start of the film taken from Michael Lewis’ book of the same name featuring none other than Lawrence Taylor, pride of the New York Giants.

World’s Greatest Dad | Basically a conventional and tedious film about a dysfunctional suburban family, including a teenager (played by Daryl Sabara) so offensive you want to throttle him. Oh, right, he does that to himself. But in the film’s opening sequence, Robin Williams, playing a high school English teacher and unpublished author, gives the finest representation of literary desire ever committed to celluloid. Some people dream of scoring the decisive touchdown in the Super Bowl or hitting the winning home run in the World Series; for Williams’ character the prospect of giving readings at Barnes and Noble is bathed in the same heavenly glow and accompanied by similarly buxom babes and substantial bags of cash.

Antichrist | I guess I’m just not sophisticated enough to see why Lars von Trier’s attempt to work through his apparently crippling depression should command my interest. But the opening sequence, shot in black-and-white slow motion, is stunningly beautiful—it’s just not clear what it’s doing in this movie.

Me and Orson Welles | As an actor, Zac Efron has two strengths: looking cute and I forgot what the other one was. He’s not a bad casting choice for the remarkably uninteresting character of Richard Samuels, the "me" in the film’s title, but expecting him to carry a feature film not built around singing high school kids is like expecting Rudy to start for the Minnesota Vikings—for real, not in the movies. But the film is worth seeing for the performance of Christian McKay as Orson Welles, a role he honed while touring in a one-man play entitled Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles. Note to Zac Efron: Some legitimate theater training might be in order if you plan a post-adolescent career.

The Girlfriend Experience | I’m Steven Soderburgh and everything I do is cool! Even crappy, handheld video I shoot under the pseudonym "Peter Andrews" starring two of the least talented (albeit attractive) non-actors in existence! OK maybe not so much, but I did include one really clever touch with a subplot starring film critic Glenn Kenny as an escort critic (movies, prostitution—what’s the difference?) of less-than-sterling integrity. What’s really funny is that he’s the best actor in the movie. | Sarah Boslaugh

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