Thursday, December 31, 2009

The worst movies from this decade that you saw because they were critically acclaimed

My mom points out that this is a much more useful idea for a list than the more common "worst movies of the decade." She explains:

I don't need a decade-end list of the very worst crap that you saw and I didn't see. I'd rather make a list of the worst movies that you, the movie reviewer, gulled me into seeing. What did you say was good that I wasted my time and money on?
She has her list at the link.

I haven't been watching many new movies this decade, but here are the ones I saw and was baffled by the amount of praise they received:

1. Lost in Translation
2. High Fidelity
3. I Heart Huckabees*
4. Waking Life
5. Away We Go* (blogged)
6. A Scanner Darkly
7. Fahrenheit 911*
8. Amelie*

* Movies with an asterisk received mixed reviews, but many critics gave them effusive praise.

I just saw Lost in Translation last night. That's probably the movie with the biggest gap between the critical reception (Metacritic's aggregation of reviews gives it an extraordinary 89 out of 100) and my enjoyment of it.

Now, on the positive side, here are some excellent movies from this decade that fully deserved their critical acclaim:

1. The Pianist
2. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
3. Capturing the Friedmans
4. Sideways
5. About Schmidt
6. Ghost World

Happy new year!


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I perceive that you're not a fan of Richard Linklater's Rotscoped (is that the term?) movies. I am. And also of PKD's novel A Scanner Darkly, so I liked that one for two reasons.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I think Lost in Translation got extra praise because of how well the actors did in it compared to how they might have been expected to do. Also because it had Scarlett Johansson, critics love her.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...


word verification: ovent: "1. an event that's over; 2. an event that's too much for you; one you wish had not occurred"

Unknown said...

You need to visit Japan to better appreciate Lost in Translation. I know people who hated it. Then after they moved to Japan, they grew in love with it.

Fantastic film.

summer anne burton said...

Amelie is my favorite movie of the last decade, and Lost in Translation is up there. I liked, to one degree or another, every movie on both of your lists except for A Scanner Darkly (made me ill) and Sideways (I thought that movie was boring).

My #1 pick for the criteria of bad-but-critically-acclaimed-so-I-saw-it would be There Will Be Blood. I hated that movie so much. But that's not a very popular opinion. I also would put Synedoche, NY (Roger Ebert's #1 of the decade!) up there. I found it disorienting, narcissistic, and ugly.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I didn't like There Will Be Blood either. It seemed obvious, boring, and designed to feed popular prejudices.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Dad: It's not that I disliked the rotoscoped animation; it actually somewhat redeemed those movies for me. It's more that Slacker is one of my favorite movies and the first Linklater movie I saw, and I've been disappointed with his other movies that I've seen (the other one being Dazed and Confused). (I haven't seen, and would like to see, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.)

I didn't like the fact that Waking Life seemed to be modeled after Slacker's unconventional structure but without the clever continuity. In Slacker, there's always a segue from one scene to another to compensate for how disjointed the movie is overall. In Waking Life, Linklater feels free to cut from one scene to another with no apparent connection.

Also, I watched Waking Life thinking it'd be the perfect movie for me because of the philosophical themes and the Slacker connection (not just that Linklater wrote and directed it but also the structure of the movie). Since then, I've realized that I tend to dislike entertainment that tries to be explicitly philosophical. (I feel similarly about another movie in the first list, I Heart Huckabees.) Movies aren't good vehicle for straightforward philosophy. There's usually no occasion to even present a philosophical theme, and on the rare occasions when philosophy is directly dealt with, it's boring or glib. The scene in Waking Life where one character talks to another character about free will in a cafe is remarkably pointless: why would I want to see a movie that rehashes the standard discussion of free will that can be found in any philosophy 101 textbook and doesn't add anything to this discussion other than cool animation? (Another example of the problem with overtly philosophical movies is The Matrix Reloaded.)

Freeman Hunt said...

I had completely forgotten about I Heart Huckabees. Oh, that really was horrible. I almost couldn't bear to finish it. Philosophy-lite for the celebrity set.

Ann Althouse said...

!. Didn't you have "Fog of War" first before?

2. "I think Lost in Translation got extra praise because"... because it was directed by a woman ... who had a family halo around her.

3. "Waking Life" disappointed me too -- and like you I love "Slacker" -- but aren't you forgetting the cool stuff about death?

Ron said...

I much prefer Lost in Translation to My Dinner with a big margin.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you'll understand Lost in Translation when a little more of your life gets behind you, you look back, and despite holding a high level of general satisfaction you find yourself pining for living nights.