Monday, January 8, 2018

Top 5 “Rotten” Movies of 2017

I usually conclude my yearly wrap-up posts with a list of my favorite films that received a “rotten” score from Rotten Tomatoes, but I’m forced to do things differently this year. I’m a few days away from seeing my final films of 2017, so my Top 10 Films of 2017 list is forthcoming.

Now, unlike most years, where I list my 10 favorite “rotten” films of the year, I’m only listing five this year. I saw the same amount of good, bad and ugly movies in 2017 as I did for any other year, so either the movies are getting better, or critics are getting softer. Hmm. (Note: I’m using the Rotten Tomatoes scores each film had on December 31, 2017.)

Honorable Mention
The Snowman
Rotten Tomatoes score: 7%
If you have an interest in making films, you need to put yourself through one movie like The Snowman every year. Think of it like a star quarterback rewatching game tape of a really bad game they played. A lot can be learned by occasionally focusing on what not to do, and The Snowman is a magnificent disaster of everything to avoid while making a film.

There’s no spinning it – The Snowman is damn awful. Seemingly everyone involved with the film is talented, yet it somehow turned into one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years. The director has blamed the studio, saying they inexplicably decreased the number of shooting days while they were shooting, leaving roughly 15 percent of the script unfilmed. If that is true, it is baffling to me that the studio would even bother marketing and releasing the film. But, alas, they did. And there’s a lot to be learned.

5. Suburbicon
Rotten Tomatoes score: 28%
Rarely is it so easy to pinpoint where a movie veers off course, but George Clooney made it easy for us with Suburbicon. The film is clearly two movies in one. Movie 1 is an effective, twisty home invasion/revenge thriller set in ‘50s suburban America, written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Movie 2 is a well-intentioned but confusing social commentary on racism in ‘50s suburban America, written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Both movies have the potential to work, but not together. Noting those faults, I still attest that Suburbicon was unfairly shit on by critics. Hell, Oscar Isaac’s quick turn as an inquisitive insurance investigator was worth the price of admission alone.

4. The Bad Batch
Rotten Tomatoes score: 41%
For some of The Bad Batch, the film felt like it had nowhere to go. Which is probably why, at 118 minutes, the movie could be 30 minutes shorter. But there was a lot to appreciate about Ana Lily Amirpour’s dystopian-set survival flick. Creating such an immersive world on a $6 million budget is a good place to start. And capturing universally great performances is another. I wish I had seen this one on the big screen, though. Lyle Vincent’s trippy cinematography deserved a large canvas.

3. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 49%
Dan Girloy’s second film may not have been as visceral as his debut, Nightcrawler, but there were some worthy things to take away from Roman J. Israel, Esq. Colin Farrell’s against-type performance, and Denzel Washington’s hyper-intelligent, rambling work made the movie worth it. But I get it. There was little in Roman J. Israel, Esq. we hadn’t seen before, and given the talent involved, it felt like Gilroy could’ve dug deeper and delivered something more meaningful. But I enjoyed my time with the movie all the same.

2. Downsizing
Rotten Tomatoes score: 51%
I didn’t like Alexander Payne’s Downsizing as much as The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, who called it the best film of the year, but critics came down too hard on this one. As we often see in gimmick movies, Downsizing presents a fascinating and unique idea (that people can choose to shrink themselves in order to start a new life, and better the environment), but doesn’t do as much with that idea as it could. I thought the film ran long, but was fine. And Hong Chau owning the third act made for a great, unexpected arc.

1. Song to Song
Rotten Tomatoes score: 43%
There is so much value to be found in a master filmmaker bending the medium in refreshing ways. Terrence Malick’s last three films, To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, and Song to Song, have no conventional plot. Instead, they are moving poems of human behavior, shot through a dreamlike lens. Song to Song often seems like a film that doesn’t know what it wants, which is a perfect way to capture the emotional confusion plaguing all of the characters. I understand that some are frustrated by Malick’s shifting narratives, but if you let go of filmic convention for two hours, you can be exposed to something wholly unique, and worthy of discussion.

24 comments:

  1. I saw The Snowman image and I was like, hell no! Luckily you kind of said all the right word about it but no, I don't think it's a good example on what not to do.. is a very sad and pointless example how a lot of money was wasted on something that didn't deserve it.

    The fact that they didn't film 15% of it was baffling to me because all I saw, in terms of the script, was so awful, that more of it, would have made it even worse. How can you leave out 15% of the script and still make a movie where you can pin point the killer from the moment the killer appears on screen? It's not just bad acting, it's bad writing because the movie didn't do anything to hide it, or disguise it. I just, I hate that movie so much!

    Haven't seen any of the other movies though, so no idea if I will agree but I think I would enjoy Downsizing.

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    1. I honestly think if Alfredson was given the full shooting days, and enough time to properly edit it (Thelma Schoonmaker is the credited editor!), then the movie would’ve be somewhat better than awful. But who knows.

      I will hold firm on the idea that budding filmmakers can learn from The Snowman. Don’t begin shooting unless you have a completed script, don’t schedule more days than you can afford, make sure each editing cut has intention, record proper ADR… things like that.

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  2. Song to Song is the film that I really want to see as I'm also interested in The Bad Batch as I think it looks like a sick, fun film.

    I love Alexander Payne as I'll see Downsizing when it comes on TV as I'll must maintain extremely low expectations.

    There is something to be said about The Snowman as I'm there was a good film made but something went off as there is something that every aspiring filmmaker needs to do. Watching bad movies is helpful in knowing what not to do.

    I'll cite Aloha as an example of what not to do where halfway through the film in which Bradley Cooper is meeting Rachel McAdams and John Krasinski as he gets to know their family. They talk about the eldest child and immediately, you know what is happening and you realize what has been revealed and it completely deflates whatever chance of drama that Cameron Crowe wanted to create. I also learned in not how to write characters and make them be these figures of idealism which is also what made the film so unbearable to watch.

    I also think filmmakers should watch Paint Your Wagon as an example of how not to make a western or a musical-western. Man, that film definitely hurt the musical for a while. At least it made Clint Eastwood realize what not to do as a filmmaker.

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    1. Yes, exactly. I fully agree with this. We can learn a lot from mistakes, namely our own, but others as well. In every film class I took, the professor designated a little bit of time to watching and discussing objectively bad movies made by credible, talented filmmakers. If you understand how and why something didn't work, then it can inform your work for the better.

      Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on Song to Song. It's a gem.

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  3. Hey, man, I saw Suburbicon, and I stand by what I wrote in my review.

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    1. Right on. Definitely agree that Isaac was the saving grace of that film. If only he had been in it more!

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  4. Nice picks! I have to say - I tried so hard with Song to Song, but Malick's shifting narrative lost me unlike any other film he's done, including The Tree of Life. Still, Gosling was gorgeous to look at. It was like a dream date with him condensed into a movie. Instead of anything artistic or poignant, he makes the movie worthy for me but not much else. :P

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    1. Thanks! Oh, I totally get anyone's dissatisfaction with Song to Song (or other Malick films). I just wish more people would give the film a chance, like you did. It has always seemed silly to me when people shit on a movie they haven't seen. So I'm glad you gave it a shot!

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  5. The only one of these movie i have watched is The Bad Batch. I actually liked that one more than most people i think. It was a weird and original movie with some good performances. It was strange to see Jim Carrey suddenly pop up and never say a word. I didn't even know he was in it before i watched it. Another 'rotten' movie that i kind of liked was Jungle. It's a pretty generic lost in the wild type of movie, but Daniel Radcliffe actually shows that he has some acting skills outside of Harry Potter and made the movie worth watching.

    But my favorite 'rotten' movie of the year has to be xXx: Return of Xander Cage. It's as far from a good movie as you can get, but i would be lying if i said i didn't have a blast watching it. I love me some big, dumb action movies when they don't take themselves seriously, and this movie doesn't have a serious bone in it's body. Just don't watch the movie sober and alone. I imagine that would be a painful experience.

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    1. I loved Carrey popping up in The Bad Batch as well. I also didn't know he was in it. Great surprise there.

      Love your words about xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Hey man, we HAVE to have those movies. That's kind of why I do this post every year. There's no shame in enjoying something that doesn't take itself too seriously. No shame in having fun with a flick!

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  6. The only one of these I've seen is The Bad Batch, which was....something. I give Suki Waterhouse credit though, I expected her to be terrible and she was leagues better than Momoa who has more experience than her.

    I read The Snowman this year so I'll probably have some wine and see how they managed to fuck up that movie.

    I do legitimately want to see Downsizing and Suburbicon, I'm just waiting for the DVD.

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    1. Is The Snowman a good book? Because I heard it was very good, but that movie... holy shit. It's not that it's "bad," it's that it feels like it was written by someone who just learned how to speak, and edited by someone who just touched a keyboard for the first time. It's a thing of disastrous wonder.

      Downsizing and Suburbicon (and Roman J. Israel, Esq.) are perfectly fine to watch at home. There's nothing about them that demands to be viewed on the big screen, you know?

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  7. You know during my lengthy journeys through Oscar Isaac gifsets on tumblr I saw a gifset of him being adorable on the set of Suburbicon, hugging Julianne Moore, smiling at people behind the cameras, being friendly and being so handsome - even with that mustache - that I felt like I was about to faint. And I thought, man, it must have been horrible for Clooney's ego having this younger, insanely talented and lovely guy around. And now I read Isaac is not in it much? Well, I am not surprised :)

    "Colin Farrell’s against-type performance" having seen him this year as kind soldier in Beguiled and whatever the fuck he was in Sacred Deer I'm intrigued what you mean by that :)

    I saw Bad Batch for Momoa and I agree there was very little plot there. But the cinematography and the world-building was fantastic and Carrey and Reeves played against the type in a very fun way.

    Snowman....Fassbender needs new agent and good face cream because Good God.

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    1. Isaac's work in that movie is so clearly above and beyond everyone else. He's just the man.

      Farrell's character in Roman J could have easily been yet another greedy, scumbag, hotshit asshole lawyer, but instead, he's the opposite, which was refreshing.

      Fassbender...sigh. The thing is, I still dig a lot of what he's doing. I've appreciated his work in Alien: Covenant, Song to Song, The Light Between the Oceans, Steve Jobs and Macbeth, but he has all this other crap mixed in as well. Very odd decisions. To say nothing of the fact that most (all?) of the movies I did mention just now are far from great. He's such a talented, proven actor. I just can't believe he doesn't have the best roles at his disposal. And his only slated release is yet another damn X-Men movie? Christ.

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  8. All the bad things I've heard about The Snowman have actually made me so curious to watch it just to see it for myself. Kind of the like the Star Wars Episode 1 of crime thrillers.

    I still really want to see Song to Song, just based on the cast. Sometimes I just like to watch actors doing things, and this feels like it could be just that. Like when you watch a movie and feel like you could kind of just watch that character live their life for a bit longer. Not sure if that's what it actually is like, but that's my impression.

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    1. That's exactly why I decided to sit through The Snowman (in the theater, no less haha). When something is that bad but has such talented people, I have to try and unpack what went wrong. It is a phenomenal disaster.

      And you're spot on about Song to Song. While far from my favorite Malick, the characters in the film just are, you know? I need to see it again, actually.

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  9. Haven't seen any of these yet. Still I plan on seeing The Snowman because what the hell? Or, more in line with what you were saying, we've got to watch some bad stuff every now & again to help us appreciate the good stuff.

    Of the others, I'll likely see them all at some point. Roman will almost definitely be first since my home is a Denzel hotspot. He's one of those actors I don't have to explain the plot to before getting my wife to watch. Usually, when I suggest movies I have to give a verbal synopsis and let her decide if she wants to watch it with me or not. With him, it's just "Hey, let's watch Denzel's new movie."

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    1. Haha, I know exactly what you mean about The Denzel Effect. A few actors have that viewing power over my girlfriend as well. I enjoyed a lot of Roman. I hope you two both like it!

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  10. So far I've only seen The Bad Batch and The Snowman. I thought The Bad Batch had it's moments, but I something felt off for me. Like the whole feature film only gravitated around a few trippy images inspired by a Burning Man acid trip.

    As for The Snowman, well, it's just tragic. But as you said, it's worth the watch even just for the reminder of everything to avoid while making a film.

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    1. That's a great way to summarize The Bad Batch. Very well intentioned, very original, but just too... much. Had it been 90 minutes (as opposed to 118), I think that would've done wonders for the film. But who's to say.

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  11. I'm still staggered to see how poorly received Song to Song was by critics! I reckon it's up there with his best, and I don't say that lightly. And I was mixed on the two films that preceded it.

    Good call on The Snowman - I was a little worried you were going to mount a proper defense, but it's definitely works as an example of what not to do..

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    1. Hell yeah about Song to Song. I can't wait to watch that one again. And I'm glad you saw my overall point on The Snowman!

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  12. I wanted to watch The Snowman when I read they were filming it, then a friend when to watch it and prevent from going. I saw the trailer and I felt that yeah, it could be a mess. I do still have to watch Song to Song (you know I love Malick and the cast/musicians so I hope it doesn't disappoint) but I'm a bit concern with Fassbender... haha Honestly, I love his acting but I feel like since Shame I feel like he's not getting new roles where he can show his true talent. Would be nice if Paul Thomas Anderson or someone like that decided to team up with him.

    Need to watch The Bad Batch and never heard of Roman J. Israel, Esq.! (See, this is why your blog is needed... so I can discover those things). I loved Nightcrawler so much, and having Farrell who is one of my faves and Denzel, I think it would be a good thing to watch.

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    1. *then a friend went to watch it and prevent me... sorry about the mistakes!

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