Tuesday, December 15, 2009

15 Films of the 00s I Could Not Stand


(Unfortunately, no mustache can redeem this film.)

I tweeted this list already, but I'd like to re-do it here, with the opportunity for some slight expansion.

15. Capote (Bennett Miller, 05) Just so much worse than In Cold Blood (or Infamous, for that matter); also, Philip Seymour Hoffman was ridiculous trying to act short.
14. Munich (Spielberg, 05): besides the worst sex scene in a serious film ever, Kushner's script is confused, not ambivalent, about vengeance. No one seems convinced that they're really having an ethical crisis and not just a bad day—least of all Spielberg. Only bright spot: Mathieu Amalric.
13. Gangs of New York (Scorsese, 02) chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz was way off; would have preferred Leo and Daniel Day-Lewis getting it on—that would have been an intriguing film.
12. Oldboy (Park, 03) I never understood the excitement; all the revelations at the end were duds and the action was paced poorly, often mistaking mere brutality for energy. Come to think of it, that mistake defined most of the filmic output of the decade.
11. Half Nelson (Fleck, 06) What happens when you make a film about a cynical, directionless protagonist: you get a cynical, directionless film.

(Nice cannon placement; still a terrible film.) 


10. Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2002): Why would anyone ever want Adam Sandler to date Emily Watson? She had a better boyfriend in Breaking the Waves.
9. Master & Commander: The Fart Side of the World (Weir, 03) First time I ever rooted for the French in a naval fight.
8. The Departed (Scorsese, 06) 151-min long films based on 97-min source material shouldn't win Oscars for Best Editing. Maybe for Most Editing.
7. AI: Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg, 01) Spielberg's effects and humorlessness siphoned off the humanity and the uncertainty that Kubrick might have given it.
6. Ray (Hackford, 04) Worst biopic of the decade: an extremely crowded field but this one wins hands-down. Parody would have had more pathos.
5. Waltz with Bashir (Folman, 08) You might think extreme arrogance and reflections on the fragility of life wouldn't mix. And you'd be right.
4. Pan's Labyrinth (del Toro, 06) It's sad when the director is more of a child than the girl who's carrying his film. For contrast, Spirit of Beehive.
3. Irréversible (Noé, 02) The experiment with temporality didn't redeem the noxious pointlessness of the film; without its rape-scene sensationalism, what?
2. The Lives of Others (Donnersmarck, 06) This I actually have a full-blown argument for, or rather, against.

(That look expresses how I feel about this decade's output from Clint.)


1. Million Dollar Baby (Eastwood, 04) I didn't like the film, but the placement is more a reflection of a decade's worth of Eastwood's vacuous middlebrow screw-turning; also I blame him, and this film, for Haggis—so consider Crash (Haggis, 05) included in this spot too.

17 comments:

Richard said...

Ha!

I liked Capote. Thought Hoffman was great; didn't care he wasn't short.

Gangs of New York I thought was overrated but not unenjoyable.

Many of the others (that I've seen) I have little quibble with (and completely agree with the odious Million Dollar Baby). However, I loved both Punch-Drunk Love (it may or may not help that I've studiously avoided Adam Sandler's other movies) and Pan's Labyrinth (seriously, this is a marvelous movie; I've never understood the detractors on this one), and can even offer up a spirited defense of AI (I think it's quite underrated).

Stephen said...

so basically you don't like hollywood. i'd like to see the 15 films you liked.

Stephen said...

p.s. you're very wrong about oldboy. the action sequences were amazingly awesome, especially the long take horizontally-moving camera fight. you must just not have a taste for martial arts movies, which is fine. and the revelations at the end were genuinely surprising and a bit of a mindfuck, actually. tremendous movie.

Andrew Seal said...

Well, I suppose the easy explanation for my hatred for Pan and AI is that I just don't like children! Just kidding--I don't know, I should probably express this in a real post, but I find the way fantasy and "tough truths" (or "realism") are mixed in both these films (and, for that matter, in Slumdog Millionaire, which just missed this list) is extremely problematic. The spectacle in both films is just so excessive that I feel the "tough truths" they peddle--mortality, loss of innocence, etc.--exist merely to prevent the film from floating into some realm of sheer imagination (a fate which I wouldn't be bothered by, actually). The dialectic between fantasy and reality in both films is, I feel, sporadic, unstructured, and rather simplistic.

But it's quite possible that I'm just missing something important in both--I would like to hear your spirited defense!

Andrew Seal said...

Stephen,
I guess we'll have to disagree about Oldboy, but I don't have anything against Hollywood, just against movies that are egregious wastes of money. And I will be posting not just 15, but an entire top 50(!) but at the end of the year.

zunguzungu said...

I watched Munich recently (after Inglourious Basterds made it necessary) and agree on every point. That sex scene is vile and the entire movie is so overdetermined by contradictory ideologies as to do the exact opposite of what good political fiction does; instead of clarifying the issues at stake, it substitutes spectacle and pathos for insight.

By the way, just to add to the vitriol, my thoughts on Synecdoche NY:

Synecdoche, New York might be the most facile movie I’ve ever seen. It would be the thing left over if you took everything that was good out of Rushmore and replaced it with dishonesty. It is a sophomore college student who’s never been hurt, always thinks it’s the most clever person in the room, and has never had to notice how meaningless both of those things are. It thinks post-modernism is cutting edge and that representing representation is a meaningful thing to do. It is a self-indulgent and solipsistic masturbation to a poster of solipsism and self-indulgence, and it thinks this is an accomplishment. It says “do you see what I’ve done here?” as if ironically mocking its own pretensions. But it is pretentious. It is dull. It thinks wretchedness is art, but it’s not even art by that standard. It still thinks it’s cool to say “fuck” nonchalantly. It could learn a lot from the worst Woody Allen movie ever, but it won’t. It doesn’t understand that Kafka and Dostoevsky were real people who wrote about real people; it thinks they are brand names. Instead of a plot, it has deus ex machina, and instead of deus ex machina, it has a McArthur genius grant. Instead of characters, it has clichés. It’s an argument for why white people should not be allowed to use magic realism. It uses a monstrous caricature of homosexuality and an unselfconscious misogyny as tropes for life’s unfairness. It thinks selfishness is noble and its consequences, tragedy. Its jokes aren’t funny, so it tries to pretend that this is what it was going for. It thinks there’s something deep about the idea that people are going to die, and something genius about dwelling on it. Years from now, it won’t even look back and realize what a horse’s ass it was being. It is a bad movie.

zunguzungu said...

Also? Can I get some hate for "Funny People?" That movie was reprehensible.

Andrew Seal said...

Ah, fortunately, I haven't seen Synechdoche or Funny People. I have no doubt they would have been extremely strong competitors, though.

Richard said...

Yeah, I remember when that post first appeared, Aaron. And while I think you raised some good points in it (the caricature of homosexuality, for one), I didn't agree with most of it, but it's not like I could have argued. Your hate is visceral. (I didn't love the movie, unlike, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is one of my favorite movies of all time.) (Meanwhile, I've been both astonished and edified to find all that you manage to eke out of the Apatow flicks.)

Andrew, the problems you named with the movies I liked better don't really add up a "can't stand it" assessment. So I can only conclude there was something more visceral at work.

Richard said...

Which of course is fine! I'm just saying I'm not going to be writing up my defenses, is all.

Stephen said...
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zunguzungu said...

I'm actually comforted by how few of the movies you revile I've actually seen. A victory of sorts.

Nick said...

The Fart Side of the World? I didn't like it either, but there's no need to throw childish insults.

Also, it's a bit unfair to lump Million Dollar Baby together with Crash. Do you realize how much work went into making Crash that bad?

I was surprised that you didn't mention Charlie Kaufman at all. For me, the biggest disappointment of the '00s was watching Kaufman navel-gaze more and more until he imploded in Synecdoche.

Stephen said...
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Stephen said...
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Stephen said...
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Stephen said...

"eternal sunshine of the spotless mind" was the best movie of the decade, by far, in my book. and it was definitely about real people and written by a real person. and it's pretty ridiculous to compare "rushmore" to "synecdoche." i enjoyed the former a lot more, but they are apples and oranges, and "rushmore" is about the loss of innocence, and about self-centeredness and childishness, and about creating one's own world in order to get away from the real world. that's all fine and well and definitely reflects wes anderson as a person quite clearly, but it has nothing in common with "synecdoche, new york." "synecdoche" is, literally, infinitely more ambitious than "rushmore." furthermore, "synecdoche" is, i strongly suspect, a very honest look inside charlie kaufman's head, just as godard's movies are honest looks inside his head and woody allen's the same.