Unlike my top ten films list, my bottom five were rather easy to select; but probably more controversial than most lists. When I hate a movie, I actively despise it and the more praise that gets heaped on it—if praise is forthcoming—the more solidified I get in my position on the film. This year is probably where I found myself the most at odds with the general consensus. Three of these choices are highly touted, but they did not work for me at all. So, if you disagree with me, that’s cool. Just don’t @ me.
#5: The Oath
The setup for this film had comic potential: the United States enacts a loyalty oath that will separate the patriots from the traitors. In the midst of the upcoming deadline to sign the oath, a family gets together for the holidays, and familial trials begin once the politics of the oath—and various other subjects—are brought up at the table. In theory, this is not only a relatable setup, but one that had potential for some real precise political humor and satire. Instead what we get is barely comedy and fields the jokes to the lowest common denominator possible. This is a shame considering the talent on the screen. It simply did not come anywhere close to making good on its decent concept.
#4: I Feel Pretty
This comedic conceit is tired and has been done much better in the past, yet none of them are quite able to get past the identity politics inherent in the narrative. I Feel Pretty and Shallow Hal are fairly tone deaf when it comes to dealing with female body image. What Women Want is early-2000s thinly-veiled misogyny. The upcoming What Men Want looks promising, but may well fall short. At least it will be punching up instead of down. Amy Schumer got raked over the coals for presenting herself as the “ugly duckling turned beautiful swan” trope in the film and I think it was a reasonable charge to be made. However, more than any of that, it was less funny than all the other films I named…even The Oath. That is quite the achievement.
#3: Avengers: Infinity War
I admit, I am tired of the superhero formula. Dress the films up with various genre clothing all you want, but the narratives continue to hit the same marks time and again like clockwork. With the Avengers films, they make up for lack of story by upping the hero count and the quick cut, CGI French Royale with extra cheese. The superhero narrative, however, stays the same. “Oh, but they killed half of the characters!” you say. This is true. But did the story earn that ending? I contend it didn’t, and that it was just glorified fan service. While this article could have gone harder on Infinity War, I think it sums up nicely my issue with this film and why it ultimately left me bored and empty…and why it probably made me like Glass more than I expected.
This movie had so much promise. Look at that cast! That trailer! Those creepy miniatures! The promise of the exploration of familial trauma! Oh my! And for the first 30 minutes, I was on board. Ari Aster was in control and I liked where he was driving me. And then, it happened: a moment in the film that not only foreshadowed the remaining runtime of the movie in total, but showed Aster’s cards way too soon. From that scene, on, I knew exactly what was going to take place on the screen, no matter how much I wished to be wrong. And it hit every clichéd branch on the way down from the heights it had reached in its beginning scenes. Sure, Toni Collete played increasingly unhinged mother well. She’s a great actress. They under-utilized Gabriel Byrne. And the most catastrophic element of the film was its absolutely totalizing literal ending. Any good subtlety it had earned up to that point, any metaphorical themes it drew out, all of it was burned in a pyre of exposition and brutal second-hand cinematic mimicry.
#1: Bird Box
This film made The Happening look like Citizen Kane. The fact that it dared this feat and succeeded at it means that it rightfully deserves my ire more than my #2, which I had actively hated most of the year. Plus, somehow, the writers and director were able to make Sandra Bullock forget how to act. That was just insult to injury. At least I enjoyed watching the train wreck that was The Happening. This was just pure slog.