Friday, November 2, 2012

What is the Worst Movie You've Ever Seen?

Hello Friends!

Sorry for the absence. Work has consumed my life, but once again, I am renewing my commitment to post more often.

Today, I have a question for you. A very serious question that demands a real answer.

What is the worst movie you've ever seen?

Think about it.

Not a film you've heard about, not film you fell asleep half way through, not a cheesy zombie film you half watched while you browsed the internet. Not a film you walked out of. Not a film your friend and his dog made made in the backyard. And no crappy student films either.

Think of the most uninspirired film you ever sat through in an actual theater, or similar setting. Think of a time when you walked out of a theater and thought, "I can't believe how bad that was." Cast your nets wide, people. It can be any genera, indie, studio, new or old. It can even be a film you knew was going to be bad before you walked in.

If you take the question seriously, you'll begin to realize how difficult this question is to answer. Sure the 3rd or 4th installment of most franchises are awful. Pretty much every film geared towards teen and tween girls is vapid and predictable. There are lots of movies that suck, dozens come out every year, and we inevitably sit through a few of them. But most bad movies are forgettable. So, which one is the worst?

Of course, the very nature of this question is controversial. For every movie you hate, there are 100 people who love it. And, as with all art forms, the idea of best and worst is purely subjective. But, I feel like films have a bit more flexibility. Crappy scripts, poor direction, and bad acting can sink even the most promising films. Think of Baz Luhrmann's Australia

I have been watching films my entire life, like most people my age. But beyond that, I went to 7 years of film school starting when I was a 14. I've sat through Citizen Kane well over two dozen times, and I have written hundreds of papers, easily, thousands of pages, on the subject of film. So, I have been cocky in the past, thinking I had seen it all, the good, the boring and the weird. Have you seen *W.R Mysteries of the Organism on 35mm, 13 feet high? I have, twice.

But I, like every red-blooded American, love guilty pleasure films. I will pay to see any Marvel, Pixar, or Disney film, and defend even the worst of them to the death. I also love cheesy 70's films, and wont hear a word against Barbara Streisand. So I try not to judge the taste of others.

You can check the internet, but unlike with the best films ever made, which draws a general consensus, the worst films are a source of great debate. There are, of course B-movies, which inevitably make some worst film lists, but were designed for a very specific audience. Older low budget studio films, with their outdated humor, and often cringe-worthy cultural themes also turn off modern critics. So how can we judge the absolute worst film with over 100 years worth of options?

The Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen

Recently I saw a film, that I think is quite possibly the worst film of all time. With a respectable budget of $35 million dollars, big name actors, studio distribution and marketing, this was not some unknown film that got swept under the rug. It played on nearly 3,000 screens, and made about $56 million  dollars at the US box office and almost double that internationally. It was rated a 6.6/10 on IMDB and by current Hollywood standards, was a successful production. It even received a People's Choice, and Rembrandt Award nomination.

When we think of bad films, our mind automatically wonders to flops like Dude, Where's My Car and anything Eddie Murphy or Lindsay Lohan has done recently. But bad, doesn't necessarily mean a flop. When I think of a bad film, I think of disingenuous, vapid, and cliche. Bad movies, in my mind, are defined by intellectual laziness and a purposeful lowering of the proverbial bar.

The film I am talking about, the worst film I have ever seen, is Friends With Benefits Directed by Will Gluck, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Obviously this film came out a while ago, and I am a late on the draw, however my points will remain valid.

For those of you who have not seen this movie, good You have saved yourself from disenchantment potent enough to last a lifetime. And those of you who did see it, 50% of you were dragged to it by a significant other, or family member and probably didn't pay much attention. I am not sure what to say about the other 50% who willingly paid for, sat through and seemingly enjoyed this steaming pile of putrid garbage.

For those of you who haven't seen it, I offer this honest synopsis. Mila Kinus and Justin Timberlake are successful yuppies living in New York City and Silicon Valley respectively. Both are damaged, and lonely, but reluctant to commit after getting out of bad relationships. After Timberlake's character moves to NYC to join Kunis's company, the two begin a 'no-strings-attached' sexual friendship. However, their causal relationship begins to shift as they spend more time together and get a glimpse into each others' world.

This film sounds like any other crappy romantic comedy from Maid in Manhattan to anything starring Katherine Heigl. So, what makes this particular film so bad?

The simple answer to that is, Friends with Benefits represents everything that is wrong with modern films. It relies heavily on cliches that define the phrase, "beating a dead horse." The lack of nuance, and subtlety in this film is remarkable. From the secretly vulnerable, work-a-holic young woman to the kooky mom and sick father, to the trendy music and the painfully predictable end of film reconciliation.

Beyond that, the acting is abhorrent. Mila Kunis does this strange New York accent and works really hard to come off as aloof, and cool. Justin Timerlake gives puppy-dog eyes the whole time, and rattles out lame quips, which is supposed to be endearing, and somehow help you forget that his character is really just some whiney, billionaire, playboy with the world at his fingertips. The characters come off as glorified versions of Kunis and Timberlake's celebrity personas, and it's exhausting.

I have never been a huge fan of Justin Timberlake, I was too young and too impressionable during N'Syncs height of fame to see him as anything other than the curly haired bleach blonde personally responsible for the 90's most embarrassing moments. But in this film, he exits the realm of general nausea and into something far less forgivable.

He utters his lines in a half-joking manner which is a regulation way to soften the blow of bad writing and even worse acting. He's winking at the audience the entire film and its an hour and a half of unapologetic self congratulation and self satisfaction in a role so shallow he actually utters things like, "I'm done with this whole relationship thing."

Mila Kunis on the other hand, isn't a bad actress. Black Swan proved that she has a niche as the exotic, (but not too exotic), unconventional girl. In this film, however, she works way to hard to convince the audience that she's an insatiable whore. Her character is a not-so-vailed portrayal of the male fantasy and Kunis plays into it with a 'deer-like in headlights' obliviousness. She's stumbles over her lines, and regurgitates them with out any comprehension of what is coming out of her mouth.

I am going to resist the urge to get into the piss-poor direction and lazy writing, because I would be forced to go scene by scene, since each line, and each setting is more ridiculous than the last. It's impossible to choose just one horrible moment. Though the 'impromptu' flash mob dance number is painfully 2000-and-late.

Critics have generally agreed that this film is 'funny,' but I found absolutely nothing about this film even slightly amusing. The humor is rauchy for the sake of being raunchy, and I don't know anybody who talks or behaves like the characters in this film.

But what it comes down to is that this film was not designed to say anything, to comment on anything, or to make the audience think about anything other than Mila Kunis in black boy shorts. It was designed to be consumed and disposed of, like so much of our culture. Worse than that, everyone involved in the film seems to know this, and yet, they give themselves a collective pat on the back.

Now that I have defined the worst movie I've ever seen, the question now becomes, so what?

Friends with Benefits is hardly the first offender, but with films becoming more difficult to market, with movie ticket prices skyrocketing, and with the ease to which people can simply download movies off the internet for free, I am disheartened that films like this are allowed to exist. What are people like me, and you, who actually spend money on, and love movies, to do?

How are people like me, who desire substance, no matter how dim, and commitment, not matter how small, to the craft of filmmaking, supposed to defend an industry that refuses to do anything to save itself from complete implosion? The people a movie like Friends with Benefits appeals to, are not the types of people who feel any loyalty movie industry. They are the consume and throw away type people, who will take a free download over a $15 dollar theater ticket every time.

I don't mean to suggest that every film has to be a life changing experience or even a good life experience. But is an honest attempt too much to ask for?

But the most disheartening thing about this film, was the over all positive reviews from some of the country's most respected critics. Did they watch the same film I did? Because all I saw was the most uninspired piece of cinema ever. And not a single one of these 'professionals' stood up and called bullshit on this film. So I am here to do just that.

Friends With Benefits is the worst movie I have ever seen.

What is the worst movie you've ever seen? Give it a review in the comments below.

*W.R Mysteries of the Organism is quite a good film, just incredibly weird.