Sure, they’re getting lauded with accolades now, but this year’s Oscar nominees haven’t always been renowned for award-caliber filmmaking excellence. In this week’s Roundtable, we take a look at some of the worst movies made by the Oscar-nominated actors and directors from the Class of 2013.
Specifically, we’re looking at the following people, but you can feel free to expand your criteria to other Oscar categories in the Comments.
Best Director: Michael Haneke, Ang Lee, David O. Russell, Steven Spielberg, Ben Zeitlin
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhané Wallis, Naomi Watts
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, Jacki Weaver
One of my most hated movies of all time is ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine‘, starring one of this year’s nominees for Best Actor, Hugh Jackman. It wasn’t that Jackman was terrible in it. (For the record, I still think he was the perfect choice to play everyone’s favorite irate Canadian mutant.) It’s that everything else around him in that film is so cringe-worthy. You know a movie has to be bad when: a) Taylor Kitsch is supposed to be playing a charismatic character, b) the producers themselves couldn’t even agree on how they wanted to go with the movie, and c) you have to watch ‘Jonah Hex’ right afterward just to wash away some of the stench. The coup de grace is what the movie does to Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds). For lack of better words, it’s a swift kick to the nut-sacks of Marvel fans everywhere. If I ever had to make a Top 10 list of movies I wish I could unsee, this one would be on it.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
It was only a few short years ago that Bradley Cooper (now an Academy Award nominee!) starred in a cheerfully titled little movie called ‘The Midnight Meat Train. Say it out loud a couple of times to really let that sink in: ‘The Midnight Meat Train’.
I have fairly terrible taste in general, so I’m pretty much the target demographic for a goofy splatterfest with “meat train” in the title. Sure enough, this Clive Barker adaptation sloshes around plenty of the red stuff, what with Vinnie Jones carving up a bunch of poor schlubs and stringing up their carcasses in subway cars like so many sides of beef. For a flick this gruesome and sopping with blood, it’s actually kinda boring. There’s no real room for suspense since Vinnie Jones just quietly walks up to his victims and butchers ’em eight seconds later. I can’t say that I was all that invested in the sprawling, centuries-old mythology behind the midnight meat train either. Bradley Cooper plays a photographer who becomes obsessed with all that lore, and I guess you’re supposed to be horrified when his hardcore vegetarian starts grabbing bloody chunks of meat and licking his fingers clean, except… well, no, that’s about as uninspired as everything else in the movie. I don’t know if you really need someone to tell you “Sorry, The Midnight Meat Train really isn’t very good,” but on the off-chance you do, then there you go.
I couldn’t finish ‘The Terminal‘. After ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’ and ‘Minority Report’, Steven Spielberg subbed for Lasse Hallstrom at the last minute on ‘Catch Me If You Can’, found that audiences still liked it when he made films with a little zip, and must have thought he needed one more “light” film with plenty of scenes at airports. So, he bought the rights to Merhan Nasseri’s true story, and voilà!, he had an entire movie set at an airport (complete with an endless number of product placement opportunities). The movie is unbearable. Tom Hanks did better work on ‘Bosom Buddies’. I just have this image in my head of him sleeping between two airport seats, then slipping through and hitting the floor. Over and over I see this image. It haunts me. I think there’s a laugh track too. If there isn’t a laugh track, I’m amazed that there isn’t one. In fact, there should be.
There’s little doubt that Denzel Washington is a great actor, having been nominated for six Oscars, two of which he brought home (Supporting Actor for ‘Glory’ and Best Actor for ‘Training Day’). However, Denzel’s talents were definitely not on display in the 1995 misfire ‘Virtuosity‘, where he plays a cop on the trail of – get this – a computer virus! What could have been an interesting twist on the cop-versus-serial-killer genre turns into a by-the-numbers affair that almost (but thankfully didn’t) sunk Denzel’s career. But let’s not be too hard on Mr. Washington for deciding to do this role. After all, his nemesis in ‘Virtuosity’ was played by Academy Award winner (and three-time nominee) Russell Crowe.
‘E.T.‘ is considered one of Steven Spielberg’s enduring classics, but it’s ripe for a re-evaluation. Stripped of nostalgia, the film is a trite and maudlin movie about a lonely boy who finds friendship with an alien that looks like a sack of shit with a penis for a head. Spielberg desperately tries to evoke what he sees as the lost magical world of childhood, but all he does is shove a handful of clichés around a few key sequences. Who can forget the scene where the main character abruptly gains telekinetic powers to free dozens of frogs who are about to be dissected, or the scene where E.T. turns the color of bird-droppings while scary men in radioactive suits prod him? John Williams’ “Let me tell you what to feel all the time” score serves to cheapen the proceedings even more. If you want a true evocation of the magical world of childhood, go see ‘Labyrinth‘ and leave Spielberg’s masturbatory spewings in the trash heap, where it will find kinship amongst the legendary long-buried landfill made up entirely of ‘E.T.’ cartridges for the Atari 2600.
It should go without saying that ‘Hulk‘ is the worst movie that Ang Lee has directed. That’s too obvious, right? What a giant green turd that is.
My next pick may be a little controversial. Director David O. Russell’s ‘The Fighter‘ was a very popular, critically-embraced film that scored several of its own Oscar nominations (including Best Director and Best Picture), and even won a couple of statues for the very broad, showboating performances by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Personally, I thought that the movie completely sucked on every level.
After making several complex, daring, challenging films that were unfortunately not big box office hits, Russell apparently decided that he needed to sell out to Hollywood in the most blatantly pandering way he could, and the best way to do that was to direct the safest, most conventional and clichéd sports movie anyone had ever seen. If I told you that ‘The Fighter’ began life as a spec script for ‘Rocky 37’ with some of the character names changed at the last minute, absolutely no one on Earth would question it. I remain utterly baffled by the acclaim that the movie received. It has absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from any other formulaic sports picture ever made. The film is so shamelessly calculated and bereft of any artistic worth that it can only signal a filmmaker who has given up any pretense of caring about the movies he makes anymore. Even though I was a huge fan of Russell’s ‘Flirting with Disaster’ and ‘Three Kings’, I just can’t force myself to muster up any interest in seeing ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.
What are your picks for the worst movies made by this year’s Oscar nominees? Tell us in the Comments.