Oh sure, they may be basking in the acclaim of their latest hits now, but this year’s Oscar nominees haven’t always starred in such award-worthy movies. In fact, many of them have made a lot of crap. As we prepare to watch the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend, let’s remember how far some of these nominated actors and actresses have come in their careers.
For reference, here are the nominees:
- Steve Carell, ‘Foxcatcher’
- Bradley Cooper, ‘American Sniper’
- Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘The Imitation Game’
- Michael Keaton, ‘Birdman’
- Eddie Redmayne, ‘The Theory of Everything’
- Marion Cotillard, ‘Two Days, One Night’
- Felicity Jones, ‘The Theory of Everything’
- Julianne Moore, ‘Still Alice’
- Rosamund Pike, ‘Gone Girl’
- Reese Witherspoon, ‘Wild’
Best Supporting Actor
- Robert Duvall, ‘The Judge’
- Ethan Hawke, ‘Boyhood’
- Edward Norton, ‘Birdman’
- Mark Ruffalo, ‘Foxcatcher’
- J.K. Simmons, ‘Whiplash’
Best Supporting Actress
- Patricia Arquette, ‘Boyhood’
- Laura Dern, ‘Wild’
- Keira Knightley, ‘The Imitation Game’
- Emma Stone, ‘Birdman’
- Meryl Streep, ‘Into the Woods’
There are so many possible picks for this week’s topic. Do I go after Michael Keaton for starring in ‘Jack Frost’? Or Meryl Streep for ‘She-Devil’? Oh no, those would be too easy and too obvious. Instead, let’s take this opportunity to rake Laura Dern over the coals once more for her choice to placate pal David Lynch by appearing in the truly awful ‘Inland Empire‘.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of Lynch, but what the hell he was thinking with this movie is still anyone’s guess. I’d like to say its plot is impenetrable, but in honesty it’s simply non-existent. I suppose one could say that Dern gives a decent enough performance, but since we have no idea who her character is or what her purpose is in the movie, that’s still out for debate. To add insult to injury, the movie actually fooled some critics’ organizations into praising it and nominating it for awards, but I’m guessing that if you asked any one of them to explain the film, they’d just give you one of those snarky “You just didn’t get it” responses that critics love to give when they don’t understand a movie any more than you do. The late Roger Ebert was noted for calling one of the ‘Transformers’ movies a “horrible experience of unbearable length.” That phase perfectly describes my feelings about ‘Inland Empire’.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Ah, May 2006. Blu-ray was still a few weeks off on the horizon. HD DVD had just launched. Karl Urban, of all people, was the most heavily represented actor in high-def media. New releases were so scarce that reviewers would eagerly chomp at basically anything coming down the pike, up to and including ‘Doom‘. An adaptation of a video game that was already twelve or thirteen years old by that point (timely!), ‘Doom’ stars The Rock as a space marine who trudges through endless dark corridors in the hopes of bumping into the two or three demons in the entire flick. It’s basically a $70 million version of a SyFy Original Movie, devoid of any real intensity, characterization, storyline, competent acting, or, well, generally anything but empty, underlit hallways.
Three things stand out to me about ‘Doom’. First, there’s accidentally quotable dialogue like The Rock’s bellowing of “Big. Fuckin’. Gun. Awwwwww, shit!” Second, there’s an attempt at replicating the First-Person Shooter experience on the big screen, which is somehow eerily accurate yet howlingly ridiculous at the same time. Finally, there’s 2015 Best Actress Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike, braving this apparently perilously cold Czechoslovakian set without a bra. Though Pike has starred in her share of dreck since then, her best work more than makes up for the likes of ‘Johnny English Reborn’, ‘Wrath of the Titans’, and, sure, even ‘Doom’.
There are plenty of uninspiring movies spread across these nominees, but one standout has to be ‘Shutter Island‘. I read the Dennis Lehane novel before seeing the film, and in both cases, found some intriguing settings and flashbacks wasted on a mess of a story. Worse, it all goes bad so quickly that the second half is a complete a chore to get through as a reader or a viewer.
Mark Ruffalo can’t really be held at fault, though. His character becomes a throwaway in a story that needed Hitchcock to salvage it. Really, ‘Shutter Island’ is like something the Joey character on ‘Friends’ would have gone for as his big break.
I know the popular opinion is that Michael Keaton has never turned in a better performance than the one he delivers in ‘Birdman‘. I know the box art and the media quotes call it things like “One of the best films ever.” But you know what? They’re wrong. ‘Birdman’ is a terrible, terrible movie. I don’t know why I sat through the entire thing. I kept waiting for it to wrap up in a way that would make the drudgery before seem brilliant and clever. But it didn’t. Whatever this movie has to say is so obvious that there was no point producing this film full of scenes that feel like a two-hour litany of screaming and misery.
I can’t figure out what people see in this thing. Is it just the long takes? There is nothing interesting, amusing or thought-provoking about this film. After it ended, I ran the garbage disposal and a chunk of anchovy flew up and smacked me in the face. That was still more pleasant than watching ‘Birdman’.
Chris Chiarella (Sound & Vision)
Props to Ms. Witherspoon for her apparent return to ‘Walk the Line’ form, in ‘Wild’. This, after she specialized in movies clearly produced to dependably evacuate male audiences from theaters year after year. It’s hard to pick (or even watch) just one, but I’ll go with ‘Four Christmases‘. Apart from her looking downright weird (that’s not an insult, she just didn’t look fully human), the movie’s so painfully unfunny, it’s enough to make anyone a Scrooge.
Bonus crap-points for fellow 2015 nominee Robert Duvall in a supporting role!
Steve Carell: ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone‘ – One of the unfunniest comedies of all time.
Bradley Cooper: ‘All About Steve‘ – Also Sandra Bullock’s worst movie.
Benedict Cumberbatch: ‘August: Osage County‘ – A cluster of a convoluted and emotionally manipulative drama.
Michael Keaton: ‘Herbie Fully Loaded’ – Co-starring in a post-‘Mean Girls’ Lindsay Lohan movie is definitely a career low.
Eddie Redmayne: ‘Les Misérables‘ – The only thing more miserable than his performance was the music itself.
Marion Cotillard: ‘Nine‘ – Cotillard can do no wrong, but Rob Marshall is the worst.
Felicity Jones: ‘The Tempest‘ – Julie Taymor actually made a movie that was received worse than ‘Across the Universe’.
Julianne Moore: ‘The Forgotten’ – A thriller worth forgetting.
Rosamund Pike: ‘Die Another Day‘ – Post-‘GoldenEye’ Brosnan Bond films are worthless.
Reese Witherspoon: ‘Four Christmases‘ – A made-for-TV movie that somehow got to the big screen.
Robert Duvall: ‘The Judge‘ – A movie whose badness you could have judged from the trailer.
Ethan Hawke: ‘The Purge‘ – A good concept ruined by terrible execution.
Edward Norton: ‘25th Hour‘ – Even spike Lee can ruin a great performance.
Mark Ruffalo: ‘54‘ – I feel bad for anyone who showed up in this cliché.
J.K. Simmons: ‘Young Adult‘ – Yet another great actor fooled into starring in an awful Jason Reitman film.
Patricia Arquette: ‘Boyhood‘ – Forced to play a flat and one note character.
Laura Dern: ‘Little Fockers‘ – No actor can ever redeem him- or herself after appearing in this.
Keira Knightley: Any ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ movie that doesn’t carry ‘Black Pearl’ in the title.
Emma Stone: ‘The Help‘ – Manipulation and cliché packed into one terrible Disney movie.
Meryl Streep: ‘Into the Woods’ – Seriously, what the hell happened to her character in this trainwreck of a musical?
‘Evan Almighty‘ – A sequel absolutely no one wanted, especially not original star Jim Carrey, who didn’t bother to show up, leaving former supporting character Steve Carell to take over the lead.
‘The Hangover Part II‘ / ‘The Hangover Part III‘ – Honestly, the first one wasn’t particularly great. The sequels just needlessly pound the same jokes into the ground. Bradley Cooper’s character is an insufferable douchebag in all three.
‘Star Trek into Darkness‘ – I’m sorry, but no, scrawny white British dweeb Benedict Cumberbatch is not Khan. That’s just fucking lame.
‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ – I liked both of Christopher Nolan’s first two Batman movies. Honestly I did, but this muddled fiasco was a disaster on almost every level. The script is a haphazard mess. Marion Cotillard plays a (Spoiler Alert!) diabolical villain whose master plan and motivations make no sense at all.
‘Nine Months‘ – After establishing some indie cred in movies like ‘Short Cuts’ and ‘Safe’, Julianne Moore tried to cash in as the romantic lead opposite Hugh Grant in an exceedingly stupid and unfunny rom-com by Chris Columbus, which had the further misfortune of being released just after Grant’s sex scandal with hooker Divine Brown.
‘Die Another Day‘ – Sure, Rosamund Pike looks extremely hot as the evil henchwoman Miranda Frost, but this is one of the worst (if not the worst) of all the James Bond movies.
‘Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde‘ – Oh, Reese Witherspoon, did you really need the money that badly?
‘Red Dragon‘ – Edward Norton takes over the lead in Brett Ratner’s needless and shitty remake of the far superior ‘Manhunter’.
‘Rumor Has It‘ – I don’t even remember Mark Ruffalo being in this movie, but IMDb says he was. It’s so terrible I’ve mostly blocked it from my memory.
‘The Ladykillers’ – The Coen brothers’ greatest folly and worst movie. J.K. Simmons is one of several fine actors swallowed by this mess.
‘Little Nicky’ – Patricia Arquette is in this misguided Adam Sandler flop, in case you’d forgotten. (I had.)
‘Inland Empire‘ – I’ll echo everything Shannon said above. The saddest part of this woefully embarrassing waste of three hours is that Laura Dern actually gives several distinct and all very good performances in it.
‘Gangster Squad‘ – Because Luke already mentioned ‘The Help’ and I haven’t bothered to watch either of the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ movies with Emma Stone. This cartoony gangster flick is pretty bad too, though.
‘Mamma Mia!‘ – Oy vey. Meryl Streep, please stop singing. Please. Stop. Singing.
‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace‘ – That’s Keira Knightley playing Natalie Portman’s handmaiden and decoy. You already know why this movie is terrible without my needing to remind you. It’s so sloppy that the credits even misspell her name as “Kiera.”
Now it’s your turn to tell us what other crapfests you’ve seen that starred this year’s Oscar nominees.