Saturday, August 16, 2008

Worst. Movies. Ever.

I've seen quite a few stinkers and snorers since joining Netflix last December, but none come close to my all time worst:

1. Love Story (1970)
Okay, if you've only known Ryan O'Neal as the giant, lumpy Ted Kennedy lookalike he's become, you may be surprised to learn that he was once a bona fide hottie. But he started his career by stepping in this steaming pile of sentimental crap. He plays Harvard undergrad Oliver, a spoiled rich kid, who is smitten with Jenny (Ali McGraw) because she talks fast and has crooked front teeth. Seriously, she's the most unlovable character ever; a wide masochistic streak is the only explanation.

Oliver defies his rich daddy in order to marry Jenny, because they love having snowball fights. OF COURSE, SHE'S GOING TO DIE! (Mercifully, most of us have fallen asleep by then.) She admonishes her beloved, whom she calls "Preppie," (awwww) to be a merry widower, and croaks with all the delicacy and finesse of Carol Burnett. This cheesy, soap-opera-esque tearjerker finally ends, and Ollie quotes dear Jennifer's weird and decidedly untrue philosophy that "love means never having to say you're sorry." He walks away across Havahd Yahd, wishing he could bonk her with just one more snowball.

CUE THE ENDOCRINOLOGISTS! We need insulin, stat!

And yet, it is almost fine art compared to...

2. Flashdance (1983)

A welder-by-day, exotic-dancer-by-night, Alex (Jennifer Beals) wants to join a prestigious ballet company. (Ironically, we would later learn that Ms. Beals did virtually none of the dancing; in fact, the dance sequences are badly edited and hideously choppy because there were actually four professional dancers used.) Luckily, doe-eyed Alex is unencumbered by parents, siblings, children, or much of a plot. She is supposedly a devout Catholic, but this is never reconciled either with her part-time stripping gig or her pre-/extra-marital hijinx. Her best friend-slash-mentor is a little old lady whose relationship to Alex is never explained.

In this seemingly endless music video interrupted with occasional dramatic scenes, Alex seduces her welding boss, Nick (Michael Nouri), who may or may not still be married, but who never had a chance. Why? Because Alex's clothes cannot stay on. First she doffs her coat at dinner to show Nick that she is barely wearing a bib over her little ta-tas. And later, back at her home-slash-studio that is big enough for hobby welding and dancing, she takes her little bra off while wearing a fetching off-the-shoulder sweatshirt and sets it delicately aside, the way a teenage girl might do with her retainer. And that's the real audience for Flashdance: it is female adolescent wish-fulfillment at is squirmiest.

What Flashdance had going for it was a monster score: "What a Feeling" by Irene Cara, and the now-iconic "Maniac" by Michael Sembello pushed this teen girl-fantasy pap over the outfield fence to become a date classic and despite all odds, a hit. It was just a painfully bad movie, yet again, a barrell of monkeys compared to my choice for All Time Worst Movie:

3. The Hours (2002)

Slow doesn't even begin to describe the pacing. Glaciers have crossed continents faster. I vaguely remember that three stories were told concurrently. Three women of different ages, and from different time periods, all affected by the novel "Mrs. Dalloway," and all struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, repressed sexuality. Yes, it's a rollicking 10-12 hours of cinematic joy.

In one vignette, Laura (Julianne Moore) is a miserable 50s housewife; I think she's a lesbian, but it's the 50s, and that's not allowed (I could be wrong: maybe she wants to be a circus acrobat, or a stripper-slash-welder), so she just bakes one cake after another. Clarissa (Meryl Streep) seems unable to get past her crush on her best friend and former lover, a troubled poet who is also gay and in the end stages of AIDS. Whee! But the center, the star of this cinematic carbuncle, is Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf. We are supposed to understand that she is coming to some revelations about her life and her relationship with her husband. But... it's just a whole lot of brooding, quiet scenes with Nicole looking pensive, probably unhappy about her gigantic prosthetic nose. What Nicole and Julianne share is the ability to cry -- on cue, and seemingly endlessley -- without blinking. There is a WHOLE lot of crying-without-blinking in this movie.

One reviewer claimed, "Nicole Kidman gives a beautifully controlled, heartbreaking performance as the troubled Ms. Woolf, conveying a veritable cauldron of seething inner emotions through a strangely unchanging, passive and emotionless exterior." Really? I missed that completely. No cauldron. My friend Angie described it as, "The Hours of My Life I'll Never Get Back."

I admit that I like movies that make me feel good. I like happy endings. I like it when characters triumph over adversity. I like linear plots, developed characters, well-paced action. What a throwback, eh?

Well, that's my top 3 Worst Movies Ever. I'm assuming a) mainstream and b) national distribution. Did I miss your favorite Worst?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with you on Love Story. We saw it last year as part of a "Classic Films" season - we had free tickets and were the only people in the cinema. Plus, there was the bit where the doctor tells her husband she's dying but not her!!