The Ten Worst Movies – 2016

1. Backgammon – There are plenty of examples of people making movies based on their experience watching other movies rather than their actual experiences. The 90s thrived on such things. But it’s at least slightly more rare to find a movie based on someone watching too much philosophical spewing elitist theater.



The house in which it takes place is obviously some rich relative’s barely used summer home on the coast of Maine. So there is inherent production value. Despite this, Backgammon inexorably feels like a high school production. There are three of the worst performances you’ll ever see. There is an unshakable, uncomfortable feeling that everyone is playing someone much older than they actually are. And that it is all being manipulated by someone they have been conditioned to look up to, an infallible figure that is telling them that yes, this is definitely how you make a movie.


Abundant pretension is layered throughout every word that is spoken, to the point where you know they mean for some of it to be satire of such speech and thought, but it becomes so indistinguishable from anything else anyone says because nobody ever talks like a person ever would. So the caricature of a pretentious lout just seems like the most annoying person in a basket of annoying people.


It might seem as though hundreds of movies like Backgammon get made every year, and how could this one stand above (below) all or any of the others. But that’s because you are only reading about it. Watching it, or really, just listening to it, to what their supposed humans say to each other, seeing how someone in charge or maybe everyone involved thinks humans live, is nearly impossible to endure. There is never an interesting idea posited, a funny quip uttered, a pleasing acting choice or camera movement or lighting design. It is a thorough exhaustion of awful notions, all put together without once making any obvious technical mistake. It is terrible in conception rather than execution, which generally gets lumped in with a difference of opinion. Like not liking a Michael Moore movie simply because of its politics or a Quentin Tarantino one because of a fundamental opposition to violence. But somehow Backgammon forces its way past such subjective terms and emerges as the most neutrally forgettable production of the worst words ever assembled.


Reason to watch it anyway: Watch this guy forget how to use a towel because a camera is on him. He can’t stand in a doorway, he can’t sit at a table, he cannot even put a shirt on like a person anymore. That camera totally got in his head and never let go. If he was playing an alien trying desperately to fit in he might get an Oscar. But also the humans would have found him out and killed him by the third scene. So Best Supporting maybe.




2. The BFG – It’s difficult to discuss all the infinite flaws of The BFG without intoning Steven Spielberg’s name. But that runs the risk of letting it off the hook as simply his career worst. Clearly, as the 2nd worst movie of 2016, it is far worse than that.


I don’t know enough about Roald Dahl to speak on it, but maybe The BFG was also his career worst. It was far from his last work and he did write Matilda afterward, so at least, if there are connective lines to be drawn, they do not necessarily spell doom for Spielberg.


The blame matters little though, in a case such as this. Nothing is going to be learned. It’s not as though no one will allow Steven Spielberg to make another movie. Or could stop him. Not will they be preventing any more Roald Dahl books from getting adapted. Maybe even by Steven Spielberg. This kind of lightning just couldn’t strike twice.

And here I’ve gone two paragraphs lamenting The BFG as the 2nd worst movie of 2016 without telling you why. It does seem beyond the point though. Maybe we should all just wallow in this terrible turn of events. Here, drink some of this bubbly liquid that totally will not turn the rest of the movie into a field of farts.


Reason to watch it anyway: This pains me to say, but there isn’t one. Even The Terminal has that living in the airport montage that is pure Spielbergian cinema. But this has nothing. Please don’t watch it and allow yourself to remember Steven Spielberg for his relative masterworks like War Horse and 1941.


(John Williams does do the score so maybe there’s a reason to listen to it.)




3. Mercy – Netflix is pretty proud of its content, putting it front and center when you turn it on, making it play automatically if you take more than a second or two to read the description. And with all the stand up specials and Adam Sandler vehicles popping up, that isn’t going to work out most of the time. But certainly you wouldn’t want to dismiss it all out of hand. You’d miss great documentaries and confusingly entertaining episodic endeavors (previously know as television.)


And so I cannot dismiss it when they present one of the worst movies of the year, despite the fact that it never played in a theater, as far as I can tell. (Obviously, it didn’t deserve to, but that doesn’t generally stop anything.)


Mercy is never clear about what is happening, mostly because it wants to obscure its final twist, which is among the dumbest you’ve ever seen. Like, you might even suspect it while you are watching, but you will talk yourself out of it, because it is too dumb. Even now, after having read this, you will think well, maybe it could be that, he did say it was very dumb, but no, you will shake it off, because it is still too dumb. You’re ashamed for even considering it. But you are probably right. Because even in its ludicrous dumbness (something it is definitely not aware of) it isn’t all that mysterious. You’re more likely to be surprised because you checked out of paying any attention to the preceding dullness than any clever wrangling of plot points the movie has done for you. You’re even more likely to be surprised by anything that happens that you understand because so often the picture and sound are so muddled, you should probably rewind it if you want to know what’s going on, but not only will you not because you don’t care, you know if you did, it would still be basically unintelligible.


I’m sure Netflix has a very advanced formula for choosing the movies it not only makes available to us but for what it puts its name on. Turns out though, that even math is not infallible. Especially when it comes to poorly executed backdoor religious thrillers.


Reason to watch it anyway: It’s that guy who looks like a young Josh Brolin! It’s still weird, even though he isn’t playing young Josh Brolin, obviously. Just another career ruined by Labor Day.




4. Norm Of The North – In the beginning of Norm Of The North, Norm catches a seal and proceeds to tell it why he isn’t going to eat him. He explains that he can speak to humans. That he just instinctively started dancing like a human. And also seems to have grown a Walkman from his ears. Never mind that a polar bear that doesn’t eanorm-of-the-north-trailert will die. Never mind that the ‘human’ Norm speaks is English, with all the contemporary slang necessary to make jokes in kids’ movie these days. Never mind that all his friends and relatives speak the same language and yet ostracize Norm because of it. Never mind that Norm’s dancing, meant to give the human tourists a show, causes the humans to bring him out of the arctic and into society rather than flood the area with scientists and the media. Never mind all of these things. The only important thing to know about this story Norm is telling is that it puts the seal to sleep.


You could shrug most of this off by saying it’s a cartoon and for children and you just have to go along with it. But there are so many animated movies being released now and most of them do not feel the need to abandon all the usual things that govern movies and storytelling. They also aren’t content with some of the worst voice acting, the dullest visual style and the lazy meta half jokes in years. The world has stopped putting up with cartoons existing outside of the normal standards. Even Trolls and Angry Birds had more developed standards than this (to varying degrees of success.) There’s no reason to accept such garbage, whether you’re protecting the children or not.



Reason to watch it anyway: You miss Rob Schneider? I can understand that. It’s just this probably isn’t the way back. He does make one unbelievabl;y homophobic joke that you won’t believe made it into the movie. And not because it’s funny.




5. The Darkness – It begins like the obligatory establishing scene for an amusement park ride. There’s sweeping shots of a beautiful location followed by painful exposition and cringy family dynamics. There’s even wasted star power meant to distract you from all the awful things they just have to fit into the few opening minutes.


But then there is no ride. There is just all of the same stuff minus the nice location. They are all transported to a generic suburbia where children are such jerks it takes a million years to determine whether it’s just their autism acting up or they are being possessed by vengeful indigenous spirits with incredibly dirty hands as weapons.


There is a lot of typical possession movie nonsense in the middle, but mostly that is botched as well, with lots of familial strife that ultimately means absolutely nothing because the Indians are just like “white people problems, yawn.” But you’re barely reminded of the origins of the spirits, since a Mexican mother-daughter team is dispatched to fight them, which probably only makes them more angry, but we’ll never know, that’s not something they’ll bother showing.


And in the end, the spirits cause their own demise as much as anyone beats them, creating a porthole from the possessed kid’s bedroom directly to the one place they can be defeated. Turns out they just wanted their special rock collection back. Not like, revenge for genocide or anything. They even re-sheet rock the wall they burned on their way out.


Reason to watch it anyway: Paul Reiser is Kevin Bacon’s boss who is a terrible role model, coaxing Kevin Bacon into cheating on Radha Mitchell (yes, all these people were in this movie!) and just generally being a walking exaggeration until one lucid scene in a parking garage that is one of the best acted scenes you might have seen all year. Like actors might be learning this monologue for auditions, which might even work until they’d say what movie it was from and just get blank stares in return.




6. Beyond The Gates – At first glance, this might seem like the sort of movie that would be happy to be called one of the worst movies of the year. Its treacly neo-80s packaging appears to be celebrating that falsely ironic worship of select pieces of a period now distilled into squishy keyboard sounds.


But Beyond The Gates, while it does revel in those notions (as well as slightly more specific ones like low budget, shameless horror and VCRs) isn’t aware of its badness. Not entirely anyway. It really seems to think it is paying long overdue homage to VHS games, and then, somewhere down the line maybe, VHS in general. There is hardly a trace of irony involved, which is nice, but quickly forgotten when everything is handled so poorly. From the obvious (acting) to the obligatory (dialog idolizing VHS and lamenting its loss) to the obscure (you’re meant to get some thrill out of seeing Barbra Crampton speaking lifelessly from a 4:3 screen.)


There’s nothing to like about Beyond The Gates, except for maybe a passing hope for the notion behind it. Ultimately though, it can’t help but be awkward, plodding and devoid of any sense whatsoever. Just like the VCR games it is trying to honor.


Reason to watch it anyway: Chase Williamson seems content to employ his considerable (if not overwhelming) talents in unheralded niche quasi-horror movies. And perhaps this should have us appreciating him more than we would if he were just some mildly funny lab tech in anything of a grander scale. But it could make you sad that he’s wasting himself on such things, so this could really go either way.




7. Ice Age: Collision Course – There was a time when an Ice Age movie was a very promising entity. The first two are among the better animated features of the modern age. The third has dinosaurs. Then clearly something went wrong. You could make a great case for they just should have stopped there, but that isn’t quite enough of a justification and I think you know that.


I suppose it can never be fully explained what causes an otherwise fruitful franchise to crash out of the sky. But you can seeice-age-collision-course-trailer the root of Ice Age: Collision Course’s problem right on its poster. “Kiss Your Ice Goodbye” it says. This ad line appeals to exactly no one. It’s not funny to the overtly intended audience of small children, in fact it may even repel their parents from bringing them in some cases, especially if they’ve been asked to explain it. It doesn’t appeal to the secondary audience of those parents for the same reasons. It doesn’t appeal to any adult unaffiliated with children because it’s a dumb joke that doesn’t really even make any sense in context of the movie. I mean, these characters have been supposedly dying out for more than a decade now, unless they are saying perhaps that this will be the final Ice Age, but that wouldn’t matter either, since we will never believe that if this does end up being the last installment, that it was anybody’s choice but the audience that never showed up for it.


Reason to watch it anyway: There’s a really good joke in one of the Scrat sequences, but that’s hardly surprising and you could just watch the trailer for it.





8. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – There wasn’t a lot to like about the first My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was mostly overwrought ethnic caricature, eye rolling and sighing and of course one note jokes where the punchline is a country of origin. The good news is all that is back again, even though its been fifteen years and those jokes were hopelessly old to begin with. But what little might have worked the first time around, namely the crux of the plot, the romance between Toula and Ian, is now a weird and awkward reunion of actors who don’t remember their parts, which is odd considering at least one of them was always supposed to essentially be playing herself. They don’t seem to have ever met before, never mind have been married and living together and raising a child ever since.


The central joke this time of course is that Toula is the same as the rest of her family that tortured her all her life. We know this already though, as a result of depressing masquerading as joke ending of the first movie. Worse yet, Toula is back working at the family diner she struggled so strenuously to escape in the first movie. So not only is this Toula apparently meeting her husband again for the first time, she’s taken other steps backward in her life as well. You might think this is some kind of It’s A Wonderful Life parable playing out, showing Toula what would have happened if the events of the first movie didn’t happen. It’s no wonder she’s taking all this out on her poor daughter Paris, who is rebelling a lot earlier more effectively than Toula ever did.


The wedding in question this time is of Toula parents, who haven’t been married all this time due to a technicality, and so we are treated to a barrage of tired how terrible marriage is jokes from everyone, which I guess given the Toula/Ian situation are fairly warranted.


Reason to watch it anyway: Nat Wolff’s brother plays the daughter’s prom date and you can glimpse the same sort of thing that ought to have made both of them stars already. As if the Beatys and Fondas and Fannings didn’t already prove this to be genetic.




9. Darling – It’s much easier to identify when a movie fails if it’s trying to be a regular movie and can’t make that happen. You’ve seen Happy Feet, and while it’s weird and dumb and cloying and not good, it’s still better than most movies. You know Norm Of The North is worse because you’ve seen a bad version of the movie it is hoping to be, and it can’t even manage that much.


But when a movie isn’t making even the tiniest bit of sense, it sort of removes itself from the running of being labeled worst. It’s experimental maybe, so maybe it should exist on another plane. It doesn’t want any part of this one and can’t be judged alongside the pedestrian regular movies. You don’t even get it anyway. Only a few people will get it and this movie is for those few people. Except don’t call it a movie, please. Is what the people who made Darling would say. It doesn’t even want to be put on the same plane of existence as those comic book things or children’s nonsense built by Hollywood factories.


Unfortunately for Darling, it is a movie. It played in theaters right alongside other (most likely independent, but still traditional) fare and now it’s on Netflix right alongside The Hunger Games and Do Over. Unlike those things though, Darling is devoid of humor, of story and of anything remotely human. There is bulging eyes and non-sequitur screaming, there is a looming demon (I guess) and an unbroken cycle that suggests Darling could potentially go on forever. Or at least leaves room for endless pre and sequels. Thankfully, Darling will consider itself above such things.


Reason to watch it anyway: If you didn’t get enough of actors forgetting how to perform regular human tasks from Backgammon, Darling has some more for you, including one scene in which titular Darling doesn’t seem to know what water is.




10. Lights Out – I was already angry with Lights Out for stealing its title away from a movie that deserved it more and really could have used it: Don’t Breathe. So when it began shruggingly not awful I started to accept that I was being unfair to it.


But after that initial few minutes, the opening kill or however it is referred to in genre trope terms, Lights Out takes a precipitous dive into nothingness. And I don’t mean that as a metaphor, like a black hole of inept filmmaking. I mean literal nothingness, where a movie that has one idea refuses to take it beyond that initial opening. The thing that’s killing people never finds new ways of doing so. The people getting chased (but rarely ever killed) by it know the basic way to fight against it, but never come up with any new ways of combating it. In fact, mostly they are saved by accident.


Lights Out wants you not only to fill in its literal darkness for it, creating your own scary monster in the shadows before it ruins those notions by showing it to you anyway, it also wants you to conjure your own situations and resolutions. It gives you next to nothing. Like tossing you out into the wilderness with no food or clothes or tools to get either and then expecting you to not only survive but to recreate society as you had come to know it. It is unreasonable and impossible and more than that, just plain annoying.


Reason to watch it anyway: There’s this one moment where somebody uses their key fob to turn some headlights on and temporarily get away from the shadow ghost or whatever and everyone in the theater went crazy for it. And it is good but using a key fob cannot be a movie’s crowning achievement. . It only serves to remind you that nothing has happened and that the movie you are watching is totally uninterested in coming up with clever solutions or even clever problems.






Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ~ Out Of The Shadows – Racially stereotyped humanoid animals and disembodied brains are actually the highlights.


The Disappointments Room – Obvious jokes aside, because no one was expecting anything from this anyway.


Ratchet & Clank – There is so much death in this animated definitely for children’s movie and not the nice kind. So there’s even less reason than usual for it to be this excruciating.


Gods Of Egypt – Complaining about the whitewashing of this story is wrong because you just called it a story.


Dirty Grandpa – Put this cast together a thousand times and you wouldn’t get this bad a result ever again.





The Most Surprising(ly Good) Movies – 2016


1. Paterson – It was the year 2000. I was going to throw a Steven Spielberg themed party. Everyone was pretty excited. Then my roommate’s film school friends came over and were told about it and they made sour faces in unison. They said, “Why don’t you do like Jim Jarmusch?” I said, “Because I want everyone to stay awake.” They did not show up.


Since then, Spielberg has made some less than perfect movies. Jim Jarmusch has mostly made the same movie and mostly I have not seen it. Until 2016, I still would have had much the same reaction to such a suggestion. But with Steven Spielberg turning in not just the worst production of his career but of pretty much anyone’s, it wasn’t going to be difficult for Jim Jarmusch to finally emerge victorious in this contest no one else knows has been happening for more than a decade and a half. In fact, as I write this, I still have not seen his documentary from 2016, Gimme Danger. But I know it’s way better than The BFG. So he didn’t even have to try that hard. But he did. And he made what I and mostly no one else would say is the best movie of his career. This is his Straight Story. In the punny way but also in the straightforward way (which itself is punny, I’m afraid.) It’s his most accessible. And not even he could force a wooden performance out of Adam Driver (although Scorsese came pretty close.)


Paterson can be annoying in typical Jarmusch ways. But his penchant for nothing is happening and probably never will works far better than it ever has before. Perhaps because he is trying to show us what I suppose he thinks is a normal life.


Brett Ratner’s best work is obviously The Family Man and my theory as to why is that he was telling a story that was essentially his worst nightmare: waking up from a nonstop playboy life with a family in the suburbs. Perhaps the same thing is at play here. Jim Jarmusch doesn’t have as much to fear from being a bus driving poet with the greatest wife and the worst dog, convincing himself his crumbling city is the best because some famous people lived there once. But he’s still playing around with a life of which he hasn’t to this point shown any glimpse of wanting to be a part. And that may be why it all feels a thousand percent more authentic than any of the stylized boredom he’s been handing us for years.




2. Complete Unknown – It’s not at all that this looked to be bad in any way. But I saw the trailer a lot and then never noticed it playing in any theater anywhere (it apparently did, for 38 days in 63 theaters) and then forgot all about it until it showed up for free on Amazon Prime. Even had I known the specifics at the time, these were all bad signs.


Michael Shannon is a good actor, I’m not dumb enough to dispute that. But I’ve never really grasped what it is that everyone else sees in him, why everyone wants him in every movie they make even if it’s just to play some invisible Life magazine photographer. But I get it now. And there were some other movies in 2016 that would lead me down the same path, but his reactions to the bizarre but totally relatable circumstance of Complete Unknown are always surprising and subtle and perfect and true. Then comes the improv/con artist scene with Danny Glover and Kathy Bates and this movie ascends to heights I couldn’t have imagined.



3. Criminal – I like Kevin Costner. But I’m not here to defend his continued existence. Criminal certainly did not seem to be some sort of sleeper comeback mission for his career. The trailer is normal enough until you briefly glimpse Ryan Reynolds. Are they switchng Ryan Reynolds’ body and or mind with someone else’s? Again? How many times can this happen? There must be serious side effects to this procedure. Is Kevin Costner starring in an action movie? Was that Tommy Lee Jones? Is it 2016? Is David Bowie really dead? Is the villain a South American Fisher Stevens? What is happening?


“They thought they knew what they’d get. But they were wrong.”


That’s how the trailer for Criminal ends. So I mean, I could have just believed them.

But I didn’t. I was just like you except in that I saw it anyway. And was subsequently treated to some efficiently understated action and one of the creepier home invasions there’s been. And most surprisingly, what is maybe Kevin Costner’s finest performance. I know, you’ll say the bar wasn’t so high on that. I won’t bother pointing you to movies you liked, that he was good in, that doesn’t matter now. I’m not saying they cast the perfect person. Clearly they did not or they’d have gotten someone who could have opened a movie better, like anyone. But there’s little disputing he does a fine job of executing a strange character, with another character stuck inside his brain clawing his way out. The struggle between the two is something you’d have no business expecting out a movie like this no matter who was starring in it. That it’s Kevin Costner only intensifies that consternation. Which can mean either amazement or dread. Which is perfectly applicable both for your feelings about Criminal as well as the content of Criminal itself.



4. Standoff – You’ve scrolled by this on Netflix a hundred times already. It’s just some stupid movie some international shadow figure used to write off the million dollars he made from some intentionally confusing financial scheme. Oh, is Laurence Fishburne in it? Nice try, movie. I see Thomas Jane there with him and I know he only does terrible VOD movies now for reasons unclear to anyone who has seen any of them because while yes, they are all terrible, he is always great. So anyway, you assume Standoff is one of those terrible things and if you were daring enough to press play (or accidentally hover over it and have it start playing automatically) you’d be proven right. Because those first few minutes so crucial to the life of a Netflix movie are exactly what you imagine when you see the cover/poster/whatever we call the digital equivalent of such things now. Even Thomas Jane is kind of bad in those first few minutes. And Laurence Fishburne is nowhere to be found. Oh, it’s one of those ones where the big famous actor is just bait to draw us in but he only showed up for a day or two of shooting and we sit around like dummies watching Thomas Jane and his wife for an hour before that star shows up.

But then the wife is gone and there’s Laurence Fishburne, trudging along, shooting at kids, busting into Thomas Jane’s house and it settles on you that this movie is called Standoff and within seven minutes you are in said standoff and it’s just going to be Laurence Fishburne and Thomas Jane yelling at each other and trying to outwit each other and making each other laugh reluctantly and making you laugh not reluctantly and then sometimes shooting at each other and you finally come to realize you should have given some of those other Thomas Jane movies a chance.


Except you probably should just quit while you’re ahead.



5. 국가대표 2 / Take-Off 2 (aka Run-Off) – This Korean sports movie sequel has a wonderful trailer. I didn’t understand much of it, but I knew I had to be sure and see it when it finally came around. But before that, I also knew I had to track down the first installment. I tried and failed to find a video store in Koreatown that was still open and carried it, I tried and succeeded to find it online only to have the copy crap out on me halfway through. I signed up for OnDemand Korea only to find that while it was available there, it (understandably) had no subtitles. Then I found it on YouTube, where I swear it had not existed before (and might not now), and finally watch all of Take-Off, the story of the underdog Korean Olympic ski jumping team.


It was terrible.


So now I was no longer looking forward to Take-Off 2, obviously. But I’d already invested so much time in this rollercoaster. So I went. And it was everything you would want in your underdog Olympic story. Plus, as a bonus, it had nothing to do with the first Take-Off. Which of course meant I had completely wasted all that time and effort watching the first Take-Off. But that didn’t matter anymore. Because Take-Off 2 was here to erase all those sour memories.



Anthropoid – A great spy movie with a fantastic ending and one of the worst titles in history.


The Legend Of Tarzan – The trailer was so frustrating. Why does everyone know who Tarzan is like they’ve seen all the movies?!? But this movie has really great answer to that.


Remember – This movie tricked me and that may make me dumb, but that isn’t the only reason it makes this list.


The Finest Hours – Casey Affleck ought to be the favorite for two Oscars this year. And his half of The Finest Hours is only slightly better than the other half.


Me Before You – You’re laughing but you didn’t see it so shut up.




The Most Disappointing Movies – 2016

1. The Nice Guys – The only way The Nice Guys wasn’t going to disappoint me was if Ryan Gosling had reached out of the screen and handed me a shrimp melt.


He didn’t. And yet, The Nice Guys is still a good movie. It’s just not what other people are telling you it is (or were at the time anyway, they don’t seem to bringing it up very often in 2016 roundups.) And it’s a shame for more reasons than just I didn’t get a great open faced cheesy seafood sandwich handed to me by a great actor. It was also one of the very few major release, non-animated, original comedies of 2016. I say very few because there must have been some but I can only think of Neighbors 2, which, as a sequel, doesn’t even count.

Shane Black employs most of his usual but fool proof tricks and it’s not as though I’m in any way tired of them. There’s not a bad performance to be found. There are weird bad guys. There are kids in actual danger. There’s even Christmas, although far more subtly than is typical for his movies. They just all feel like individual characteristics rather than fluid parts of a whole. Making The Nice Guys a perfectly agreeable thing to behold. But Shane Black usually gives us more than that. Like, shrimp melt more.

Oh! I thought of one: Dirty Grandpa! Which you’d say doesn’t count because it wasn’t funny, but I’m sorry, that wasn’t ever a part of the criteria.



2. Ghostbusters – As a white American male, I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on this movie (or anything) when it was released. But it’s a new country now and all the rules have been rescinded. Or maybe the old rules are back? Whatever it is, I know I can finally say bad things about the all female remake of Ghostbusters.

Unfortunately, it won’t have anything to do with the female cast. That would have been pretty satisfying.

Paul Feig does the same things wrong every time, letting his actors play around and then not deleting that footage or at least quarantining it within the confines of end credit outtake sequences. So its not at all surprising how off the rails the comedy attempts in Ghostbusters go. But usually he has a cohesive story happening around these painful interludes.ghostbusters-2016

It’s not all bad, of course. The opening is great and Leslie Jones was shockingly not yelling everything. Kate McKinnon is funny, if not quite as much as this movie’s champions would have us believe. But both Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are muted versions of themselves. Their entire feud/friendship story goes away for basically the entire run time only to get a line or two after the hapless and mystifying battle scene.

Worst of all might be its nostalgia for Ghostbusting gone by. The cameos are mostly worthless, and the plot follows the original sequel in all the worst ways. 2016’s documentary Ghostheads makes an accidental revelation that may be the most illuminating reason any gendered reboot of Ghostbusters could never work. In it, Dan Aykroyd explains where the idea came from, namely his own family’s devoted interest in the occult. It came from a personal place, as outlandish as it became. And you can’t recreate that, no matter what gender you are.



3. The Magnificent Seven – Maybe this is the one they should have remade with an all female cast.

As it stands it is a complete waste of Denzel Washington, who does essentially nothing until the last few minutes when he beats a sickly Peter Saarsgard, which wouldn’t have been an interesting fight on his best day. It is a waste of nearly everyone else around him too, as such ensembles tend to go, I guess. But when you have a blueprint for it (two of them, in fact) there’s really no excuse. When you add in the attempt to diversify the cast that then gets ignored, then it’s just silly.


The action of the last third or so is extensive and mostly unrelenting, but there’s nothing visceral or surprising about any of it. And not just because we’ve seen it (twice!) before.



4. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – You’re probably wrong about the first Jack Reacher movie. This one is what you say about that one. Boring, overly serious and not even good at the basic thing it needs to be: its action.

Christopher McQuarrie’s fantastically efficient car chase and climactic shootout this time give way to Edward Zwick’s barely competent machismo and 50s TV action choreography. Werner Herzog’s Zec was bizarre and threatening; Robert Knepper is barely present and interchangeable. And for all the unnecessary hate Jai Courtney has received throughout his brief and hardly impactful career, he certainly had more charisma than the banal lout that takes his place in Never Go Back. Holt McCallany should have been a formidable opponent and his casting as a disposable lower level boss is strange.


I’ve since read a few Jack Reacher novels (though not any upon which either movie was based) and they’re not great, as you might expect. But they do not make Reacher out to be an indestructible straight faced juggernaut who only has dumb strained lines to say to people.



5. The BFG – Steven Spielberg hasn’t been a given for great or even good the past ten years or so, but I couldn’t ever suspect there wouldn’t be one not awful thing about anything he ever touched.

So about two thirds of way through The BFG, with a wedding to get to and nothing at all redeeming having happened yet, I started thinking about walking out. This might sound like a perfectly reasonable idea to you, especially if it was your wedding. But The BFG is a Steven Spielberg movie. I’m not going to run down all the movies he’s made that should illustrate how impossible that should seem. I don’t have to run down any such list. You know it. Without even looking it up, you know it. You might not even care about movies and you know it (although in that case, I don’t know how you got here and thank you.)null

But I didn’t walk out. And that’s when it got worse. Steven Spielberg rewarded my loyalty by turning his already putrid kids movie into a literal fart festival. Suffice it to say, you have your reasons why 2016 was the worst. I have mine.



X-Men: Apocalypse – It was always going to be down hill after Days Of Future Past, but I don’t think any of us could have imagined it would be more of a sheer cliff.


Queen Of Katwe – Seems like everyone was disappointed by this because it really felt like it was going to be a classic, at least in the Disney sports movie section.


Hail, Caesar! – Coen Brother whimsy should be what we all aspire to in everything we do. So when this falls flat it’s like saying we’ve all be doing everything wrong forever.


Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Hours before seeing this, I actually suggested to someone that Ang Lee could maybe win Best Director. I should be committed for this.


Miles Ahead – In the history of cinema, if you’ve spent a decade trying to get a movie made, rarely has it ever been a triumph to actually get it done.

Top Five Wasted Efforts – 2016

1. John TollBilly Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk


John Toll has two Oscars. He won them in consecutive years. He’s shot some of the prettiest movies (and TV) in history and has absolutely nothing to prove to any of you. When he signed on to shoot Ang Lee’s new experimentally formatted movie, he was probably pretty excited about it. For someone so thoroughly experienced, this groundbreaking venture might have been enticing even without the cache of Ang Lee being attached. Being among the first to shoot in color or Cinemascope or 3D or HD or whatever technological advancement isn’t necessarily always going to garner accolades, it probably leans a little toward the opposite even, because nobody likes change and our eyes are just about the least open minded part of our bodies. So how then could shooting Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in 128fps 3D be a wasted effort?


Well, mostly because what John Toll signed on for originally was not Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, but an (as yet unnamed) entirely different project that would have reportedly been a more intricate and effects heavy.


Instead John Toll, triple nominated double Oscar winner, American Society of Cinematographer’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, is stuck working out the kinks of a revolutionary new cinematic format on a droll drama that feels like a high school play where everyone in the class had to be included regardless of their abilities. He had to figure out that he needed five times the lighting as he normally might, which was extra annoying since he simultaneously discovered that he needed to shoot real locations because the picture would not hide most of the tricks regularly employed by Production Designers to mask the fact that the whole thing is being done on a set. All of this coming at the expense of time he could have been shooting something slightly more conventional, but infinitely more influential and/or important. Something good. Something that anyone saw. Something that anyone who saw it wasn’t stunned at the fact that the theater they were watching it in hadn’t turned off their motion smoothing setting.




2. Oona LaurenceBad Moms


From originating Matilda on Broadway to playing little Pennsatucky on Orange Is The New Black, Oona Laurence has already shown the capability and versatility that makes her the envy of actors three and four and five times her age. She was Jake Gyllenhaal’s typically movie-advanced child in Southpaw last year and filled the typically forgotten love interest proxy role in Pete’s Dragon in this one. But the best performance on her young (but extensive) career is in an otherwise forgettable and blunted supposed shock comedy, Bad Moms. In a movie filled with cartoon versions of people who never existed in the first place, all in the service of dangerous laughs for safe people, Oona Laurence’s Jane is an already anxiety ridden child now in the throes of her parents’ separation and is probably losing her mind. The movie really should be about her, but toonahen I guess the title would have to be changed since a movie called Bad Moms is obviously about mothers who want to have their own life outside of motherhood once in awhile but still love their children and will do outlandish things for them.



3. Stunt TeamHardcore Henry


Stunt people risk their lives every day. And for movies! It’s crazy. So really, most stunt teams are wasting their effort by the definition as I have laid out here. But they love it and they’re like magicians or con artists or something, incredibly protective about their jobs and how they do them. So it isn’t a waste, not to them; they’d probably be jumping off buildings and crashing cars on their own if they didn’t have the movies. And what a nightmare that would be for the rest of us.


Singling out Hardcore Henry then seems so speak fairly negatively of the movie, if I‘m saying these crazy people were crazier than the rest of their ilk. And I am. It’s an awful thing. But that isn’t all of it. The stunt team on Hardcore Henry had a few other outstanding circumstances. First of all, they did it in Russia. There’s no stunt union governing the safety of their members there. There’s barely any laws at all unless you’re trying to be gay or Ukrainian. Second, it’s generally freezing. And here you are jumping around on and off moving vehicles with not quite as much blood in your extremities as there usually is. But neither of these is something particularly exclusive to Hardcore Henry. What makes this stunt team somewhat singular is the fact that they were also largely responsible for operating the cameras.


If you haven’t heard, Hardcore Henry is entirely recorded from the point of view of Henry himself. You never see his face because his face is the camera. Which means what Henry does, the camera operator must do. Which in turn means the camera operator is jumping around on and off moving vehicles with little to no organized supervision and not as much blood in the extremities. And in order to do this, the camera operator has to wear experimental head gear that not only impairs vision but is significantly heavier than the regular head one is used to carrying around. Even a head as big as a stuntman’s might theoretically be. (After all the swelling, I mean, not that they are egotitsts.)


Any behind the scenes footage from Hardcore Henry will tend to look extra insane. But only as insane as all those Jackie Chan end credit sequences. There we can see a person we recognize who for all intents and purposes does not need to be putting himself in such danger. But what cannot be seen is the monstrous effort put into even creating the environment in which men in Daft Punk helmets are doing awkward parkour in and around very dangerous materials. All so we could watch a live action version of a thing we’ve become inured to as a result of the infinitely less dangerous act of animating a video game.



4. Nigel Booth and Mark CoulierZoolander 2


The original Zoolander was never given a chance, with a(n intended) release date of September 14th, 2001 it was then delayed for two weeks, you know, until everybody was over it. It’s not that Zoolander was ever going to be a blockbuster, but it took a very long time to find a significant audience. That audience was never significant enough to warrant any sort of sequel, but such a long lay over seemed preposterously egregious. Even in this time of reviving most everything that has ever existed. So you might think anything involved with a sequel to a box office failure fifteen years after the fact would qualify as a waste. And you wouldn’t be wrong.


But the fact is, they made a Zoolander 2. And there was a larger percentage of the world’s population excited about that notion than were the original. Whether that is because it was now a known commodity or because there is a direct correlation between that percentage and the percentage that has no memory of September 11th, 2001 is not something we can definitively research (not because it would be impossible, but because the funding is understandably unavailable.)


I suppose the biggest waste in all this falls on the person who came up with the idea to call it Twolander because other more powerful people decided against that and it is very unfortunate. But the second biggest waste involved with Zoolander 2 is the extensive make up effects and prosthetics that so many of the jokes rely upon. Jokes that mostly don’t work, but that’s just most of the jokes in Zoolander 2. It certainly has nothing to do with the quality of the work. Some of them are even designed as literal throwaways, where a character will tear off the prosthetic and toss it aside, which is the entire joke. I guess. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where a joke begins and ends in Zoolander 2. Or if they begin at all.



Ava DuVernayThe 13th


The 13th is obviously not a waste of a movie, as the naming of the director in this light might imply. It is a fairly staid documentary though, which might have more to do with it going straight to Netflix than any sort of nobility and/or freedom of information that seems to be the assumption.


There’s not any reasonable disputing the importance of the information provided. That it isn’t so interesting as a movie is beside the point, I suppose. Plenty of people make bland movies out of interesting subjects. Even people who have done great work before. There is an element of blowing a chance to make this particular subject essential viewing beyond the basics. But that isn’t the true wasteful part.


Towards the end of The 13th, the movie shifts dramatically into a warning, which at this point is fairly standard stuff for documentaries. If there isn’t something to scare us with it’s almost as if there isn’t a reason to make it in the first place. But more than that, it turns into a political platform. By the end it becomes an unabashed Clinton campaign commercial though, and besides just being bizarre and making the movie an instant time capsule, it clearly was a waste of effort, knowing what the election results turned out to be. One could argue that maybe more such documentaries could have turned the tide just enough, and no effort could have been a wasted one, nor will it ever be, but watching this on November 10th as I did, it couldn’t have felt like anything else. I can’t imagine what watching it on next November 10th might be like. No matter what side you’re on or even if you’re without one, you’ll have to turn it off at that point, it will be laughably obsolete by then. And for a movie to qualify as important in any way, any such reaction probably has to be avoided above all else.

Nominations! (2016)

As usual there are plenty of movies yet to be seen and so many more that never will be seen without your suggestions and advice. Also as usual, some nominations are obvious red herrings, some are less so, but most are not. Go here for the ongoing list of what I have seen.

(Also also as usual, not all awards are represented here as many do not warrant multiple nominees.)


The Tommy Lee Jones Screentime Award (for amassing the most screentime of the year):

  • Tom Hanks (A Hologram For The King; Sully; Inferno; Ithaca)
  • Ethan Hawke (Regression; The Phenom; Born To Be Blue; Maggie’s Plan; In A Valley Of Violence; The Magnificent Seven)
  • Anna Kendrick (Mr. Right; Get A Job; Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates; The Accountant; Trolls; The Hollars)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Sea Of Trees; Free State Of Jones; Kubo And The Two Strings; Gold; Sing!)
  • Teresa Palmer (Knight Of Cups; The Choice; Triple 9; Lights Out; Hacksaw Ridge; Message From The King)
  • Natalie Portman (Knight Of Cups; Jane Got A Gun; A Tale Of Love And Darkness; Jackie)
  • Michael Shannon (Complete Unknown; Frank & Lola; Midnight Special; Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice; Elvis & Nixon; Loving; Nocturnal Animals)
  • J.K. Simmons (April And The Extraordinary World; Kung Fu Panda 3; Zootopia, The Meddler, The Late Bloomer; The Accountant, La La Land; Patriot’s Day)


The Victor Fleming Award (for excellence in directing multiple projects in the same year):

  • Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day)
  • Mike Flanagan (Hush and Oujia: Origin Of Evil)
  • Jim Jarmusch (Gimme Danger and Paterson)
  • Pablo Larraín (Jackie and Neruda)
  • Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special and Loving)
  • Gavin O’Connor (Jane Got A Gun and The Accountant)


The Freddie Prinze, Jr. Award (for the best acting in the worst movie of the year – male):

  • Zac Efron (Dirty Grandpa)
  • Paul Reiser (The Darkness)
  • Ray Romano (Ice Age: Collision Course)


The Dina Meyer Award (for the best acting in the worst movie of the year – female):

  • Lily Rose Depp (Yoga Hosers)
  • Kristen Stewart (Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk)
  • Elodie Yung (Gods Of Egypt)


The Tatum O’Neil Best (Female) Child Actor Award:

  • Royalty Hightower (The Fits)
  • Soo-an Kim (Train To Busan)
  • Oona Laurence (Bad Moms)
  • Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys)
  • Ida Rohatyn (Maggie’s Plan)
  • Claudine Vinasithamby (Dheepan)


The Justin Henry Best (Male) Child Actor Award:

  • Julian Dennison (The Hunt For The Wilderpeople)
  • Sunny Pawar (Lion)
  • Harvey Scrimshaw (The Witch)


The Nicolas Cage Uneven Performance Award [for the biggest gap in quality between two different performances in the same year (the good one is always listed first)]:

  • Chloe Grace-Moretz (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and The 5th Wave)
  • Abby Lee (The Neon Demon and Gods Of Egypt)
  • Wayne Pére (Free State Of Jones and Miracles From Heaven)


The Peter Sellers Multiple Role Award:

  • Sharlto Copley (Hardcore Henry)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals)
  • Tilda Swinton (Hail, Ceasar!)


The Sean Connery Best Cameo Award:

  • Anna Camp (Café Society)
  • Billy Crystal (The Comedian)
  • Bradley Cooper (10 Cloverfield Lane)
  • Sterling Jerins (Paterson)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Central Intelligence)
  • Snoop Dogg (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping)
  • Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters)


The Casey Affleck Worst Cameo Award:

  • Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters)
  • Kevin Conroy (Yoga Hosers)
  • Jennifer Garner (Mother’s Day)
  • Robert Loggia (Independence Day: Resurgence)
  • Ozzy Osbourne (Ghostbusters)
  • Ally Sheedy (X-Men: Apaocalypse)
  • Michael Sheen (Nocturnal Animals)


The Alfred Hitchcock In Front of the Camera Award (for the least intrusive appearance by a movie’s own director(s)):

  • Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound)
  • Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon)
  • Perry Blackshear (They Look Like People)
  • Johnny Ma (Old Stone)
  • Chris Renaud (The Secret Life Of Pets)
  • Taika Waititi (The Hunt For The Wilderpeople)


The Quentin Tarantino In Front of the Camera Award [for the most intrusive – not to mention annoying – appearance by a movie’s own director(s)]:

  • Mike Birbiglia (Don’t Think Twice)
  • Ben Falcone (The Boss)
  • Paul Feig (Ghostbusters)
  • Max Landis (Me Him Her)
  • Kevin Smith (Yoga Hosers)


The Drew Barrymore All Grown Up Award:

  • Kara Hayward (Manchester By The Sea)
  • Max Records (I Am Not A Serial Killer)
  • Morgan Saylor (White Girl)


The Martin Scorsese Best Use of a Song Award:

  • Peter Atencio for “Father Figure” by George Michael (Keanu)
  • Tim Burton for “Run, Rabbit, Run” by Flanagan And Allen (Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children)
  • Damien Chazelle for “I Ran” by the pool party band (La La Land)
  • Josh Fox for “Bizness” by tUnE-yArDs (How To Let Go And Love Everything That Climate Can’t Change)
  • Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg for “Back In The New York Groove” by Ace Frehley (Weiner)
  • Pablo Larraín for “Camelot” by Richard Burton (Jackie)
  • David E. Talbert for “Ain’t No Woman Like The One I’ve Got” by Four Tops (Almost Christmas)
  • Nitesh Tiwari for “Haanikaarak Bapu” by Aamir Khan (Dangal)
  • Ben Wheatley for “S.O.S.” by Clint Mansell / Portishead (High-Rise)


The Andy Garcia Impossible Shot Award:

  • Robert DeNiro and Leslie Mann get pregnant (The Comedian)
  • Charlie Plummer – pavement toss (King Jack)
  • Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston – tea kettle catch (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them)


The John Woo Best Shootout Award:

  • Peter Atencio (Keanu)
  • Jacques Audiard (Dheepan)
  • Peter Berg (Patriots Day)
  • Sean Ellis (Anthropoid)
  • Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant)


The William Friedkin Best Car Chase Award:

  • Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: Civil War)
  • Ariel Vroman (Criminal)
  • Andrew Stanton (Finding Dory)
  • Taika Waititi (Hunt For The Wilderpeople)
  • Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life Of Pets)


The They Live Best Non-Martial Arts Fight Award:

  • Paul vs. Harry (A Bigger Splash)
  • Billy Lynn vs. Hajji (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)
  • Geeta vs. Jassi (Dangal)
  • Alex vs. The Blind Man (Don’t Breathe)
  • Healy vs. Michigan (The Nice Guys)
  • Kwon Soo-Tae vs. Red Name Tag (Proof Of Innocence)


The Die Hard 2 Icicle Award (for best use of an otherwise benevolent object as a weapon):

  • mouse (The 5th Wave)
  • belt (The Accountant)
  • lamp (Criminal)
  • locket (X-Men: Apocalypse)


The Cast of Nazis from Raiders of the Lost Ark Award (for worst performance of (an) actor(s) in scenes with special effects):

  • Cara Delevigne (Suicide Squad)
  • Chloë Grace Moretz (The 5th Wave)
  • Callum Keith Rennie (Warcraft)


The Talking Pig Award (for the two movies most alike released in the same year):

  • Batman vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War
  • The BFG and Pete’s Dragon and A Monster Calls
  • Christine and Kate Plays Christine
  • Florence Foster Jenkins and Marguerite
  • Me Before You and The Fundamentals Of Caring
  • Miles Ahead and Born To Be Blue


The Mulholland Falls Award (for movie that failed most miserably at being as shocking as it hoped to be):

  • Arrival
  • Bad Moms
  • Batman vs. Superman
  • Dirty Grandpa
  • The Girl On The Train
  • Les Innocents
  • Manchester By The Sea
  • Suicide Squad


The Mulholland Falls Syndrome Award (for the biggest disappointment from the most promising ensemble cast):

  • Dirty Grandpa
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Suicide Squad


The Cecil B. DeMille Award (for best portrayal of oneself)

  • Anna Faris (Keanu)
  • Ringo Starr (Popstar: Never Stop Stopping)
  • Martha Stewart (Bad Moms)
  • Ben Stiller (Don’t Think Twice)
  • Sigourney Weaver (Finding Dory)


The Godfather Best Sequel Award:

  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Rogue One
  • Take Off 2


The Jaws Worst Sequel Award:

  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
  • Jason Bourne
  • Ice Age: Collision Course
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
  • Ride Along 2
  • X-Men: Apocalypse


The Breathless Worst Remake Award:

  • Ghostbusters
  • Pete’s Dragon
  • Pride And Prejudice And Zombies


The Kevin Costner Worst Accent Award:

  • Luke Bracey (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • Adam Driver (Silence)
  • Rebecca Hall (Christine)
  • Martin Henderson (Miracles From Heaven)
  • John Malkovich (Deepwater Horizon)
  • Chris O’Dowd (Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children)
  • Wayne Pére (Miracles From Heaven)
  • Forrest Whitaker (Arrival)


The Meryl Streep Award for Best Accent (Female):

  • Lily Rose-Depp (Yoga Hosers)
  • Judy Davis (The Dressmaker)
  • Scarlett Johansson (Hail, Ceasar!)
  • Ruth Negga (Loving)
  • Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys)
  • Rachel Weisz (Denial)


The Jon Voight Award for Best Accent (Male):

  •  Zac Efron (Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates)
  • Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Ceasar!)
  • Jared Harris (Certain Women)
  • Toby Kebbell (Gold)
  • Kurt Russell (Deepwater Horizon)


The Jon Voight Best Impression Award:

  • Daisy Coleman of her mother (Audrie & Daisy)
  • Robert Downey Jr. of himself as Tony Stark circa 1991 (Captain America: Civil War)
  • Dakota Johnson of Rebel Wilson as Robin (How To Be Single)
  • Natalie Portman of Jackie Kennedy (Jackie)
  • Parker Sawyers of Barack Obama (Southside With You)
  • Rachel Weisz of Deborah Lipstadt (Denial)


The Still Unnamed Worst Impression Award:

  • Ralph Garman of Al Pacino (Yoga Hosers)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Edward Snowden (Snowden)
  • Jared Leto of Randy “Macho Man” Savage (Suicide Squad)
  • Jon Lovitz of Howard Cosell (Mother’s Day)
  • Usher Raymond IV of Sugar Ray Leonard (Hands Of Stone)
  • Robb Skyler of Howard Cosell (Hands Of Stone)


The Gary Oldman Chameleon Award (for the most unrecognizable performance by an otherwise recognizable personality):

  • Bill Camp (Jason Bourne)
  • Suzanne Cryer (10 Cloverfield Lane)
  • Oscar Isaac (X-Men: Apocalypse)
  • Ted Levine (Bleed For This)
  • Gabrielle Union (Birth Of A Nation)


The Hamlet Best Production Within A Production Award:

  • Burying Jack (Don’t Think Twice)
  • “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” (Green Room)
  • “No Dames” (Hail, Ceasar!)
  • secret ballet (Holy Hell)
  • The Chance Of Possibility (I’m Not Ashamed)
  • The Invitation video (The Invitation)
  • Money Mon$ter (Money Mon$ter)
  • Nocturnal Animals (Nocturnal Animals)
  • La Pasion de la Pasion (The Secret Life Of Pets)
  • “The Riddle Of The Model” (Sing Street)


The “I’m Not The Bad Guy” Award (for the line so bad, it just had to be repeated):

  • “What else is there?” (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)
  • “Kelp cake” (Finding Dory)
  • “Help me get one more.” (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • “I can take care of you.” (Loving)
  • “Is this who I am?” (X-Men: Apocalypse)
  • “Soory aboot that.” (Yoga Hosers)


The This Is 40 Award (for supporting cast member(s) most deserving of a sort-of sequel):

  • Jane (Bad Moms)
  • Dana (The Boss)
  • Erwin Kim (The Edge Of Seventeen)
  • Mayor Bradley (Ghostbusters)
  • Tad (Green Room)
  • disgruntled cowboys (Hell Or High Water)
  • Janet (The Nice Guys)
  • scuba cops (Sully)


The Rosemary’s Baby Creepiest Moment Award:

  • home invasion (Criminal)
  • Destiny’s bucket (Finding Dory)
  • red lanterns (The Invitation)
  • Doss stares at Dorothy (Hacksaw Ridge)
  • meeting Rama (Lion)
  • The Twins show their faces (Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children)
  • waking Aurora (Passengers)
  • flies (They Look Like People)
  • Black Phillip speaks (The VVitch)


The Citizen Kane Unseen Ending Award:

  • Indignation
  • The Invitation
  • La La Land
  • Miss Sloane
  • Remember


The Passenger 57 Award (for the plot most thoroughly ruined by its trailer):

  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Miracles From Heaven
  • Money Mon$ter
  • The Nice Guys
  • Sing!


The First Annual Jesse Heiman Award (for excellence in background action):

  • guy sitting between Annette Benning and Elle Fanning at the dinner table (20th Century Women)
  • freshman girl in the bathroom (I’m Not Ashamed)
  • guy driving the car two back from the girl who starts the first song (La La Land)





Awards! (2015)

For nominees and explanations, go here.


The Tommy Lee Jones Screentime Award (For amassing the most screentime of the year):

Ryan Reynolds (The Voices; Woman In Gold; Self/less; Mississippi Grind)


The Kevin Spacey Must Have the Best Agent Award (For appearing in the most top ten movies of the year):

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight and Anomalisa)


The Marlon Wayans Award (for appearing in two or more of the worst movies of the same year.]:

Jeremy Irvine (Beyond The Reach and Stonewall)


The Freddie Prinze, Jr. Award (For the best acting in the worst movie of the year – male):

Thomas Jane (Vice)


The Dina Meyer Award (For the best acting in the worst movie of the year – female):

Anna Kendrick (The Last Five Years)


The Anna Paquin Best Child Actor Award:

Jacob Tremblay (Room)


The Nicolas Cage Uneven Performance Award [For the biggest gap in quality between two different performances in the same year (the good thing is always listed first)]:

Tom McCarthy (Spotlight and The Cobbler)


The Peter Sellers Multiple Role Award:

Tom Noonan (Anomalisa)


The Sean Connery Best Cameo Award:

Josh Peck (The Wedding Ringer)


The Casey Affleck Worst Cameo Award:

Carrie Brownstein (Carol)


The Alfred Hitchcock In Front of the Camera Award (For the least intrusive appearance by a movie’s own director(s)):

F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton)


The Quentin Tarantino In Front of the Camera Award [For most intrusive – not to mention annoying – appearance by a movie’s own director(s)]:

Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)


The Drew Barrymore All Grown Up Award:

Liam Aiken (Ned Rifle)


The Martin Scorsese Best Use of a Song Award:

Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda for “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks (Minions)


The Andy Garcia Impossible Shot Award:

through the bathroom door (Self/less)


The John Woo Best Shootout Award:

Michael Mann (Blackhat)


The William Friedkin Best Car Chase Award:

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)


The They Live Best Non-Martial Arts Fight Award:

Max (and Nux) vs. Furiosa (et al) (Mad Max: Fury Road)


The Die Hard 2 Icicle Award (for best use of an otherwise benevolent object as a weapon):

building(s) (Avengers: Age Of Ultron)


The Cast of Nazis from Raiders of the Lost Ark Award (For worst performance of (an) actor(s) in scenes with special effects):

Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys)


The Talking Pig Award (For the two movies most alike released in the same year):

Montage Of Heck and Soaked In Bleach


The Mulholland Falls Award (For movie that failed most miserably at being as shocking as it hoped to be):

Goodnight Mommy


The Mulholland Falls Syndrome Award (For the biggest disappointment from the most promising ensemble cast):



The Cecil B. DeMille Award (For best portrayal of oneself):

Miley Cyrus (The Night Before)


The Godfather Best Sequel Award:



The Jaws Worst Sequel Award:

Taken 3


The The Man Who Knew Too Much Best Remake Award:

Mad Max: Fury Road


The Breathless Worst Remake Award:

Point Break

The Kevin Costner Worst Accent Award:

Garrett Hedlund (Pan)


The Meryl Streep Award for Best Accent (Female):

Bel Powley (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl)


The Jon Voight Award for Best Accent (Male):

John Boyega (Star Wars: Episode VII ~ The Force Awakens)


The Jon Voight Best Impression Award:

Anthony Ingruber of Harrison Ford as William (The Age Of Adaline)


The Still Unnamed Worst Impression Award:

Melissa Rivers of Joan Rivers (Joy)


The Gary Oldman Chameleon Award (for the most unrecognizable performance by an otherwise recognizable personality):

Richard Jenkins (Bone Tomahawk)


The Hamlet Best Production Within A Production Award:

Mosasaurus show (Jurassic World)


The “I’m Not The Bad Guy” Award (for the line so bad, it just had to be repeated):

“Be a good man.” (Chi-raq)


The This Is 40 Award (for supporting cast member(s) most deserving of a sort-of sequel):

Kill Club (Dark Places)


The Rosemary’s Baby Creepiest Moment Award:

post rape snuggles (The Tribe)


The Citizen Kane Unseen Ending Award:

Slow West


The Passenger 57 Award (for the plot most thoroughly ruined by its trailer):



The Ten Best Movies – 2015

1. The Hateful Eight – “Show don’t tell” is a great suggestion most movies could stand to take more seriously. And I’m sure plenty of people would lump Quentin Tarantino in with all the people making those movies. But Quentin Tarantino movies, at least the last few, have found a middle ground. A new, elevated middle ground. One in which he can do both.


Epic and sprawling and yet pressure cooked within one location for so much of it, The Hateful Eight is an exercise in doing everything. Which wouldn’t mean much if it wasn’t all done so well. Michael Madsen’s delusional vanity, Samuel L. Jackson’s smug holstering of his weapon, Demián Bichir’s mumbling. Kurt Russell’s hurt feelings. The list of perfect acting moments is endless. I’d never understood the world’s fascination with Walton Goggins until The Hateful Eight. And of course nobody will ever get over Tim Roth in this. And that’s not even everyone!


“Show and tell” ought to be the next vague rule bandied about in film schools and overpriced seminars. Unless you’re talking about narrating things yourself, Quentin Tarantino, then you should stop doing that.



2. Mad Max: Fury Road – I don’t like the beginning or the end, and Max talks way too much, but there has been nothing, there is nothing and there will be nothing like the rest of it.

mad-max-fury-road-jumpingYou know this, you witnessed, and it was a lovely day. Probably days. Because nobody only saw this once.




3. Steve Jobs – I heard somebody say, “It’s very good, but it’s not a movie.” Which isn’t a conversation I want to be a part of, but I do wonder if that means Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf isn’t a movie either. Or Twelve Angry Men. Or any of the millions of versions of Hamlet. And those are just examples based on other things that aren’t movies.


Truly an odd caveat to give this whatever it is.

Steve Jobs

Because if it had been a play, and then now a movie, we might be talking about how it beat The Revenant for Best Picture. (And asking what was Spotlight? Was that that one about Batman on stage?) Instead it is already a largely forgotten original piece of work about a contemporary genius and all the terrible things that go along with that seen through three tiny portholes of space and time and really I don’t know what a movie is, I guess.



4. Creed – I heard the second trailer gave something major away and I successfully avoided it. Which was no small feat. And while I felt good about that, I never could have imagined what plot point I was missing. For while the plot point itself isn’t such a surprise, the fact that they’d put it in a trailer is (that’s not true, really, I don’t trust trailers at all and it’s weird we all just sit there like the one thing we don’t want to know isn’t going to get thrown at us at any moment.)


And while one moment like that can’t make an otherwise dull movie great, it can elevate a perfectly executed genre sequel to heights we couldn’t reasonably have expected (which is silly, Rocky won Best Picture, and deserved to as much or more than most other Best Picture winners, so really we shouldn’t have been so shocked.)




5. The Tribe – Even the best movies are lucky to have one scene powerful enough to resonate long after the credits roll. This one has (at least) three and all without the benefit of spoken dialogue.


But there is plenty of dialogue. You just have no hope of understanding any of it. And while that might lead to some simplifying of plot points, it also leads more forcefully to a permeating sense of dread, because how are you going to predict anyone’s behavior if you never know what they are saying to each other?


6. The Revenant – What’s my problem with The Revenant, what’s it doing all the way down here with the Ukranian silent film and the superhero sequel you’ve convinced yourself you hated?


I think you are losing sight of the fact that it’s the 6th best movie of the year, but OK, there is a lot of Malick-ian imagery that seems useless. Maybe that’s your favorite part. You’re wrong, but that’s to be expected.


We can all agree though that the action, when it happens, it unparalleled, whether it stems from the dizzying cinematography or the seamless realism of the effects. Probably both. Plus, the best grunt acting ever captured on whatever they record sound on now.


7. Avengers: Age Of Ultron – That party scene could have gone on forever and nobody ever fought anybody again and the world lived happily ever after and this would still be one of the best movies of the year. You might argue that it’s the rest of it that ought to keep it from being one.

But for all the weirdness (Thor bath) and digital noise fighting, these are all still full characters in an ever expanding universe and their management is impressive even when it isn’t always cinematic (it usually is though.)

Add to all of this one of the better villains in any movie, never mind superhero movie, and you get something that transcends all the production problems you read about ahead of time and allowed to invade your perception of it.


8. Anomalisa – When I first saw this is was the second best movie of the year. The second time, it was the third. Now it has dropped to eighth place and I haven’t even watched it again. Soon it might be on the worst list.


But there will always be moments that feel as though they’ve been stolen from my mind. Charlie Kaufmann has a patent on doing that, and I assume it works the same on you as it does on me, although maybe I shouldn’t, considering how uninterested everyone seems to be in this.

Jennifer Jason Leigh gave us two insane and disparate performances this year and we aren’t saying enough about either, especially considering that there aren’t even supposed to be such roles for women. Never mind two for the same one.


Lesson: do not explain the word anomaly to someone named Lisa in your movie, it’s a recipe for commercial failure.


9. Minions – We look back at things like HR Puffnstuff or the early 90s NickToons and wonder how on Earth the world didn’t notice how crazy and weird it was. And that is how people will look back at the Minions in twenty and thirty and forty years. The Despicable Me movies are very good in no small part for being off kilter and slightly dangerous, especially in the hypersensitive regime of kids programming we are currently living under. Cutting the Minions loose from that formula could have easily forced them into an easily digestible construct, theoretically elevating them from crazy nonsense background noise to front and center characters we might recognize from everything else we’ve ever seen.


Instead, Illumination turned up the crazy nonsense while simultaneously making them front and center characters and the result has got to be the weirdest movie to ever make a billion dollars.



10. Ballet 422 – Until this year, I’d never seen a Frederick Weisman documentary, but I imagined all of them whenever I’d hear about one coming out that I would inevitably miss in the two theaters it might play in and then never be able to find anywhere else. But watching this, I felt like I was finally seeing one. And it was everything I had always imagined. Unintrusive documentation of a process I knew nothing about and more importantly cared nothing about until I was presented with it in this seemingly but not t all staid and droll format.


I would not watch Ballets 1-421, but I do wish they’d been made. Because it seems as though you could look forward to the next one coming out even without any previous or subsequent interest in ballet or dancing in general. And that’s all fine and good enough on its own to make this list, but then comes the ending to Ballet 422, which must be the best twist ending in documentary history. And yet it’s still treated as totally normal, so much so I had to go back and make sure I’d understood it correctly, not because the movie did anything wrong in presenting it, but because it didn’t make any practical sense and opened up a whole other world we weren’t watching the whole time, but easily could have been and would never have known the difference.

Ballet 422




45 Years – Best Actor and Actress talk ought to begin and end here.


In Jackson Heights – I don’t want more three hour meandering documentaries. I just want more of this one.


Blind – The more Charlie Kaufman movie of 2015 than the Charlie Kaufman movie of 2015.


Room – There are two sides to everything.


The Martian – Based on a future true story.