1. For Your Consideration – You could say that we got exactly what we should expect from Christopher Guest this time out. But there aren’t many people out there who could give me a carbon copy of previous work and not make me angry. Christopher Guest is one. (Unless, of course, he decided the model he wanted to follow was Almost Heroes.) But this seemed antiquated in a different sense. As if he’d regressed beyond his own origins, forgotten not only his own movies, but every other movie made in the past fifty years or so. And I’m not even sure that’s going back far enough to make For Your Consideration relevant. It may not be possible. A Mighty Wind tempered my expectation for comedy from this format, but at least a vast majority of the performances were still magnificent. Here, only Jane Lynch comes away flawlessly, and hers was a terribly small part. If he put one of these out every year, like Woody Allen, you might be able to overlook this as a misstep, like Scoop. But to have spent four years waiting just for news of the subject, never mind the actual release, only to be rewarded with a vaudevillian mess, is the epitome of disappointment.
2. Idlewild – That late August release date was the first thing to tip me off that maybe this wasn’t going to be the Oscar-worthy triumph the trailer made it seem like it could be. At least Golden Globe-worthy anyway. They do love their musicals. But I thought maybe that was a result of America proper not being ready to embrace two ridiculous, albeit popular, rappers as movie stars. But don’t ever say the studios don’t know what they’re doing, because if ever there was a big budget period piece to bury during back-to-school days, this was it. You know how that OutKast album with all the x’s was basically like two solo albums by the group’s participants packaged together? Seems they really like that format because except for the flashback scenes establishing Percival and Rooster as life-long friends, I really don’t think they speak to each other. You keep waiting for their two dull stories to mesh and the closest they come is putting them both on stage during critical points. Oh, and did I mention the animated talking flask? Probably not, since it’s impossible to make it fit anywhere when talking about this movie.
3. Tenacious D in The Pick Of Destiny – Everyone who thought Jack Black alone was enough to carry a movie was proven wrong this year (twice, with Nacho Libre.) And I guess maybe I was one of those people, but it’s more than that. Because there’s a difference between ridiculous non-sensical semi-plots and Dude, Where’s My Car. And this was way way way too close to the latter. That’s two sort-of musicals in a row now. The albums are probably much better.
4. Lucky Number Slevin – There’s manipulative editing and then there’s lying by omission. And Lucky Number Slevin‘s pants are on fire. Someone needs to tell whoever the moron is that wrote this that it ceases to be a twist ending when you simply withhold any and all information that might have tipped said twist off. And hey, there are few better people to bring in to conveniently explain your story than Robert Forester, but a monologue by a cameo in the final minutes of a movie is generally known as lazy, not clever. No movie made me angrier at the makers this year, and now I can’t go to the Lower West Side of Manhattan for awhile because I might look up and see those two stupid buildings where those two stupid mobsters living across the stupid street from each other are and it’ll make me angry all over again.
5. Babel – This is sort of a retroactive disappointment. A disappointment more with the accolades this movie has since received than the expectations I had before seeing it. But even though 21 Grams seemed like somebody with Alzheimer’s edited it, I was expecting something. Turns out, the editor’s union must have had a really good discrimination lawsuit planned, because that editor is back and he isn’t getting better. If the point is something as banal as “we’re all connected,” maybe pick something slightly less rare than that red stone Leonardo DiCaprio wanted so bad in Blood Diamond as the thing that does the connecting. Because otherwise your point is lost. Otherwise, it really is just coincidence and nothing in movies is less interesting than coincidence. It’s almost as lazy as the thing that guy did with Lucky Number Slevin. And you know what that does to me.
(The Lady In The Water, Night Watch, Thank You For Smoking, Poseidon, The Santa Clause 3)