Worst Films | Joe Bowman

film-happening.jpg1. The Happening






2008 was a curious year for bad movies. Quite a few of the usual suspects of terrible cinema (Eddie Murphy, Jessica Alba, Mike Meyers, Roland Emmerich, Tyler Perry) were met with a refreshing cold shoulder from the American public, eliciting a glimmer of hope that those individuals’ heinous contributions to the film world might actually be their last. How could I not be enthusiastic to read that Disaster Movie tanked at the box office? And yet, how could my elation really persist with the knowledge that both The Happening and Beverly Hills Chihuahua grossed around $30 million in their opening weekends? 2008 was too solid of a year in regards to film for me to actually waste time seeing how bad Jumper really was, but whether it’s the morbid curiosity within me or just a case of bad judgment that I endured these crapfests, I bring you the Ten Worst Films of 2008. Dishonorable mentions include Drillbit Taylor, Garden Party, Hamlet 2, and Humboldt County. On the more respectable platform, I refused to include Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York due to the fact that I walked out of it (extraneous circumstances were at work, but I still thought the film was close to unwatchable). City of Men, I’ve Loved You So Long, Revolutionary Road and Jellyfish, all dreadful in their own right, could have easily been placed in the 10 slot, but what list of the great misfortunes of 2008 would be complete without Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?

1. The Happening

In the same way a director like Paul Thomas Anderson showed signs of the greatness he would display in There Will Be Blood in his earlier films (I think all his prior work is fairly marginal), M. Night Shyamalan has been promising his audience a debacle as heinous as The Happening ever since he made Unbreakable. It’s the epitome of his high-concept/low-execution capabilities, and he takes poor Mark Wahlberg, who worked so hard at a successful transition from cheesy rapper to respectable actor, into the annals of hell with him. Additionally, no mention of The Happening should be without a slap to the face of "actress"/"singer" Zooey Deschanel, who seemed to have forgotten that she was supposed to be playing an adult. I’m totally envious of the lucky ones whose misery while watching the film was spared by spurts of laughter.

2. Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!

In unintentionally depicting gays as shallow, racist, narcissistic, misogynistic nymphomaniacs, Another Gay Sequel might as well have been made by a group of Proposition 8 supporters. Way to set queer cinema and politics back at least 40 years.

3. What We Do Is Secret

What We Do Is Secret is as punk rock as Avril Lavigne and, combined with Shane West’s limp performance, makes its subject Darby Crash look just about as worthless. It’d be easier to swallow the suggestion that Crash’s legacy was unfairly overlooked when Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon the day after Crash’s suicide if the film itself had provided a reason why he would have even deserved one.

4. Funny Games

Had Warner Bros. dropped Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot, English-language remake of his own Funny Games into 2000 screens across the country where the film could have pointed its judgmental fingers at the right people, it wouldn’t have made this list. Instead, delegating it to the arthouse theaters whose patrons would have either seen the original or been privy to what Haneke was doing defeated any acceptable purpose and exposed Haneke as a lazy, self-congratulating filmmaker as opposed to the grand master who brought the world The Piano Teacher and Caché.

5. Filth and Wisdom

I’m hardly the first critic to remark that Madonna’s directorial debut is neither filthy nor wise, or that it could have benefited from a healthy dosage of both. Let’s just say I’d rather attend a marathon of Body of Evidence, Shanghai Surprise and The Next Best Thing than ever see Filth and Wisdom again. I never expected she could be worse behind the camera than in front of it, nor that she could possibly make her ex-husband look like Martin Scorsese by comparison.

6. Cloverfield

Rooting for the monster and wishing the violent deaths of every single character in a film shouldn’t be such a joyless affair. Any opportunity to say anything about the medium or the genre is squandered by its wretched screenplay in which a bunch of douche bags roam through the evacuated New York City to save some girl. Allow me to join the ranks of Internet geeks in expressing my deepest disappointment to hear that director Matt Reeves will follow up this fiasco by butchering a remake of Let the Right One In.

7. The Wackness

Just like the kids in middle school, you can always tell the losers by the ones who think they’re hot shit. Ben Kingsley, who showed up in at least five films this year including The Love Guru, embarrasses himself as a pot-smoking psychiatrist who befriends a lame wigger kid. The Wackness is the sort of film that makes a cynic like myself long for Diablo Cody.

8. The Unknown Woman

A sleazy, Eurotrash Hitchcockian thriller like The Unknown Woman would have been a helluva movie if Brian De Palma, Paul Verhoeven or Dario Argento would have made it 30 years ago. As it stands, at the helm of cheap sentimentalist Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), it’s an oversaturated melodrama that does nothing more than continue the director’s romanticized rape fantasy he begun with Malèna. If you believe Tornatore actually sympathizes with his tragic beauties Xenia Rappoport or Monica Bellucci, ask yourself why he seems more at ease when they’re being violated than when they’re supposed to be redeemed.

9. Nights and Weekends

Whereas all the other "mumblecore" films of 2008 (Frownland, Baghead, Team Picture, Yeast) showed a grasp of milieu and tone, Nights and Weekends meandered its way through unrewarded annoyances. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a director whose films are as irritating, indistinguishable and crummy as Joe Swanberg’s.

10. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Seeing George Lucas and Steven Spielberg push Indiana Jones against the pinball machine like Jodie Foster in The Accused on South Park pretty much summed it up.

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