As they bask in all the acclaim and recognition, let’s not forget that many of this year’s Oscar nominated filmmakers and thespians are also responsible for some genuine cinematic garbage. What’s the worst movie made by one of this year’s nominees?
The same year Bradley Cooper made his breakout film The Hangover, he also co-starred with Sandra Bullock in one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Lucky for him, All About Steve came out three months after The Hangover, so he was a big enough star to survive this painfully unfunny, massively stupid, and unendurably boring so-called comedy. I had the great misfortune to review the Blu-ray back in early 2010, and it received the lowest rating I have ever given a feature film: 1/2 star. Even that was generous. I called it “sheer torture,” “horrendously awful,” and “cringe inducing.” Cooper is likable enough as the titular Steve, a hunky TV news cameraman who so infatuates the creepily quirky, batshit crazy Bullock that she relentlessly stalks him across the country, but even his considerable charm can’t make this agonizing film watchable. Just thinking about it now makes me slightly nauseous.
Spike Lee is one of the most important filmmakers in history, a gifted storyteller who draws audiences into the world of his characters like few others. He works within a studio system to generate discussion about some fundamental truths about American society and how we treat each other globally. Sometimes such heightened aspirations falter, especially when a film is made as a direct response to Clint Eastwood’s (successful) Second World War movies (Flags of Our Fathers and Jetters from Iwo Jima) that were criticized by Lee for lack of representation. Miracle at St. Anna is meant to be a rousing tale of African-American heroism, but instead devolves into a simplistic, highly problematic representation of the same stereotypes Lee fights against.
Unlike his Bamzoozled, where such over-the-top admonition of racial prejudice was weaponized, in St. Anna the story is so hamfisted, the characters so poorly drawn, and the behavior so abhorrent and conforming with Jim Crow-like expectations that one can’t help but wonder if Lee was blinded by his ambition. It’s the nadir of an otherwise remarkable run. While not every film can be a true masterpiece (like, say, the tragically underloved Crooklyn), it’s equally fair to say that among the jewels are indeed a few turds, none as repellent as this one.
I haven’t yet watched Vice, but Amy Adams has been good to great in every film I’ve seen her in. However, I cannot ignore the stinker Leap Year. I kid you not, I was once forced to watch this movie on a loop in waiting room, and I hated every single scene. I think it looped over twice, and I couldn’t decide which part of the movie I disliked more, the New York scenes or the, uh, many Irish scenes.
M. Enois Duarte
Of all the movies nominated this year, Vice has to be the biggest surprise because the comedy comes out of nowhere and features amazing performances from the ensemble cast. What impressed me most was the humor feeling very mature, restrained and thoughtful, which is the complete opposite of everything I would expect from Adam McKay. For years, I’ve despised McKay’s films and have never understood his appeal. His comedies are trash in my book, pandering to the very basest juvenile and callow side of ourselves. Basically, I can’t narrow his worst to one because I find all his movies horrible, including The Other Guys, and for the longest time, thought of him as a complete one-note hack. However, the director suddenly made reconsider those harsh judgments when seeing The Big Short. And now after Vice, I think McKay is gaining my respect as a filmmaker of thoughtful, sophisticated comedy.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Green Book is nominated for an armful of Academy Awards, and actor/producer/writer Nick Vallelonga may walk away with two statuettes of his own before the evening is over: Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. A few years before bringing some approximation of the story of his late father Tony and jazz pianist Don Shirley to the big screen, Vallelonga played Vinny in Jersey Shore Shark Attack.
Yes, that’s a real movie. Even more terrifyingly, I not only watched it of my own free will but even listened to the audio commentary.
Jersey Shore Shark Attack is pretty much what you think it is: a head-on collision of MTV’s Jersey Shore with a SyFy Original shark horror/absurdist comedy. Only instead of Pauly D, you get Pauly Balzac, and instead of The Situation, you’re treated to The Complication. Get it?! These double-digit IQ guidos are the only things standing in the way of the Shore being devoured by a herd of albino bullsharks. There’s also a nefarious real estate developer, the mayor trying to protect tourist dollars as the Fourth of July approaches, a subplot with a whole bunch of preppies, yadda yadda yadda…
The strangest thing about Jersey Shore Shark Attack is that after the first fifteen minutes, when most of the Jersey Shore gags are out of the way, the movie’s played surprisingly straight. You still have these same obnoxious characters, and the dialogue’s been guido-ized, but the bulk of the movie is otherwise more or less indistinguishable from any man-versus-nature flick from the ’80s. Some of the riffing on Jaws lands, but its sense of humor is generally one swing and a miss after another. The action is too incompetently staged to get any adrenaline pumping. Its half-hearted stabs at character relationships fall entirely flat. Its basic cable origins keep it from being the off-the-rails exploitation flick it could’ve been.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, no, Jersey Shore Shark Attack really isn’t all that great a motion picture.
Is it too soon to call out Alita: Battle Angel, starring Green Book nominee Mahershala Ali? The movie hasn’t opened yet and I obviously haven’t seen it, so maybe there’s a slim chance it isn’t as bad as it looks, but those trailers… Yeesh!
I’m sure I’ll catch some flak for complaining about this again, but star Christian Bale’s billion-dollar-grossing mega-blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises was a huge let-down from its two, much better predecessors. The movie is dull and incoherently plotted, and feels like everyone involved was merely going through the motions of completing the trilogy so they could put all that Batman nonsense behind them.
Melissa McCarthy has made a bunch of bad comedies, unfortunately. The unpleasant and unfunny Identity Thief is probably the worst of them. I didn’t hate the Ghostbusters reboot as much as some people, but even once you clear away all the blatant misogyny surrounding its backlash, the movie was very sloppy and not particularly good or funny.
What are your picks for the low points in the careers of this year’s Oscar nominees?
As a reminder, here are the nominees from the top five categories:
- Christian Bale
- Bradley Cooper
- Willem Dafoe
- Rami Malek
- Viggo Mortensen
- Yalitza Aparicio
- Glenn Close
- Lady Gaga
- Olivia Colman
- Melissa McCarthy
Best Supporting Actor:
- Mahershala Ali
- Adam Driver
- Sam Elliott
- Richard E. Grant
- Sam Rockwell
Best Supporting Actress:
- Amy Adams
- Marina de Tavira
- Regina King
- Emma Stone
- Rachel Weisz
- Alfonso Cuarón
- Yorgos Lanthimos
- Spike Lee
- Adam McKay
- Pawel Pawlikowski