PG Cooper’s 20 Worst Non-2014 Films Watched in 2014

Posted: January 5, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

With the year’s end at hand, I’ll be once again doing a countdown list of the best non 2014 films that I saw in 2014. However this year I’ll also be doing a list looking at the worst non 2014 films I saw in 2014. Previously, I had avoided lists like this because I watched some really questionable films in past years, films that I should never have been watching in the first place. This year however, everything I watched made sense and it’s understandable why I saw it. Most of the films here are either former Best Picture nominees, misfires from acclaimed directors, or supposed classics I just don’t agree with.

20. Shakespeare in Love (Watched November 11th)shakespeare_in_love

Truth be told, there are worse movies I could have put in this spot, but this one represents something important. Over the last few years, I’ve grown increasingly tired of the fluff Oscar bait films that usually are able to sneak a Best Picture nomination and sometimes a win due to being an “adult” film that is at the same time totally unchallenging and digestible by a wide audience. These are also the kind of films that get Oscar wins due in larger part due to excessive campaigning than by the film’s own merits.  Shakespeare in Love is like the prototypical version of this kind of film. Not only is the film totally lacking in substance and completely unremarkable, but it actually is pretty inept in its own right. The central romance that film hangs all of its drama on is completely hollow and the melancholy ending the film attempts comes from out of nowhere. I also think the film shows a complete misunderstanding of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by only taking reference to the surface romance without acknowledging the more deep rooted tragedy. The costumes and sets are about the only thing I can say are genuinely good about this film without adding some sort of caveat. There are more aggressively bad films I saw this year than this, but Shakespeare in Love embodies a type of filmmaking I’m so tired of it had to be here.

19. Auntie Mame (Watched December 25th)auntie-mame-movie-poster-1958-1020182960

This is one of the last films I saw all year and the last I saw to make this list. This is an extremely disjointed and unfunny comedy which looks at a series of misadventures undertaken by the title character after adopting her nephew. It’s a very strange film, with an obnoxious tone and generally seems to not understand basic human behaviour. It also runs almost two and half hours, which feels very long due to a lack of a strong narrative or any funny jokes. Anyway, the film is a jumbled mess, and despite Rosalind Russell throwing herself into the role, she can’t save the character from becoming grating. Auntie Mame is at least a memorable film, but not for admirable reasons.

18. Chariots of Fire (Watched May 12th)chariots-of-fire-poster

The Best Picture winning Chariots of Fire is best remembered for the Vangelis music and the running scenes. Those two elements are pretty good. The rest of the movie is a boring, boring slog that totally failed to hold my attention. It’s a stiff and lifeless film with boring characters and an unexciting pace. The film is not outrageously bad or anything, but, outside of the score and the racing scenes, is just tremendously dull. I’ve read many praise the film so I may give it another shot at some point, but at the same time the idea of having to sit through is not really something I wanna think about.

17. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Watched April 20th)seven-brides-for-seven-brothers-movie-poster-1954-1020273934

Stanley Donen has never struck me as a great filmmaker, but his films are generally very entertaining and well-made, which is why it’s surprising he put out a misfire like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in his prime. The film looks at a mountain man who takes a wife (after knowing each other for an afternoon) and how that inspires his brothers to go take wives too. It’s a very thin and stupid plot which becomes straight up disturbing when the brothers just invade a town and start kidnapping women to be their wives. Of course, these women fall in love with their captors, because it was the 50s and shit like that was quaint. Anyway, it’s a stupid and uncomfortable movie which is only somewhat redeemed by some inspired dance numbers.

16. The Spirit of St. Louis (Watched February 28th)spirit_of_st_louis

I was excited as hell to discover Jimmy Stewart had made a film with Billy Wilder, especially in 1957, when Stewart was doing some of his most accomplished work and when Wilder was at his prime. Unfortunately, rather than making an energetic comedy or some dark drama together, the two collaborated in telling the very dull story of Charles Lindbergh’s nonstop flight from New York to Paris. The fact that Lindbergh genuinely accomplished such a feat is impressive, but that does not mean it makes for exciting cinema. All of Lindbergh’s obstacles are solved and overcome with the greatest of ease and there is little to no excitement to be found, despite the heavy special effects. The film tries to flesh out Lindbergh’s character with some flashbacks, but they ultimately don’t add anything to the film. Neither Wilder nor Stewarts work is terrible, per say, but the story they’re working with is entirely uninteresting. It’s a shame this forgettable mediocrity is the only thing they ever worked on together.

15. Blood Work (Watched February 9th)blood-work-movie-poster

Clint Eastwood went through a period of making unambitious and relatively uninteresting crime thrillers in the late 90s and Blood Work is sort of the culmination of that thread. Eastwood stars as a detective who gets a heart transplant and returns to tracking down a serial killer who alluded him. Clint himself is pretty miscast in the lead too. I think the impression is that his character used to be a hot shot detective who loved the glory and thrill of his work, but that doesn’t really come through Eastwood’s grumpy, no nonsense demeanor. Outside of that, there really isn’t much to say about this one. It’s a predictable and uninspired film which is also pretty amateurishly made and lacks any excitement or suspense. The fact that this was made just a year before Eastwood’s brilliant Mystic River is fascinating.

14. The Frighteners (Watched October 14th)the-frighteners-movie-poster-1996-1020196408

Months before Peter Jackson disappointed mass audiences with his conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy, he disappointed me personally when I sought out this much loved 90s horror comedy. I’m a fan of what Jackson did with Braindead, but The Frighteners is just a mess. Jackson constantly throws cheap gags and excessive style at the audience hoping something will stick and things rarely do. The writing is also pretty lazy and the films attempts at legitimate horror are completely misguided. There are moments of enjoyment to be found in The Frighteners, but these moments are buried in a sea of unfunny jokes, lame looking ghosts, and unconvincing horror. I will say Michael J Fox’s lead performance goes a long way, but on the whole this is a juvenile and annoying film which is too flawed in too many areas to be saved by a few disparate positives.

13. Hello, Dolly! (Watched July 28th)hello_dolly_ver1

This musical is set in New York of the early 1900s and looks at a matchmaker who’s ready for love. The primary problem with Hello, Dolly! is that the central romance is totally unbelievable. I don’t believe for a second that Barbara Streisand’s Dolly is in love with Walter Matthau’s Horace and given that’s damn near the only bit of plot this movie has, things begin to crumble quickly. Dolly seems more like a woman just interested in having a safe cash flow, whereas Matthau is totally miscast as his charming grump demeanor does not play in a lavish musical. Rounding out the cast is Michael Crawford who plays an irritating fuckwad I wanted to strangle. The musical numbers may be well produced, but even they aren’t very memorable or interesting.

12. Bad Lieutenant (Watched April 14th)bad-lieutenant-movie-poster-1992-1020189836

This early 90s Abel Ferrara film is generally held in high regard by literate film critics as well as masters like Martin Scorsese, and I don’t understand why. Though this film has the pretensions and tone of something serious and artistic, I found this to be little more than perverse trash designed solely to shock and sicken its audience. Scenes like a nun being raped while juxtaposed with images of the crucifixion do not come off as poignant, but juvenile. Even the lead character is one dimensional, despite the small bits of nuance Harvey Keitel is able to squeeze out of the part. All told, I found this a sickening and painful viewing experience, which also managed to bore me in spite of its grotesque extremes.

11. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (Watched June 5th)Star_Trek_The_Final_Frontier

The original six films in the Star Trek series with even the lesser entries still being pretty solid films. The Final Frontier is the exception to the pattern. Though there is the germ of a good idea cinematic exploration of pain and the role of God in the universe) this is a horribly misguided film which fails in almost every way. The writing is horrendously sloppy, the comedy is dumb, the direction lacks any sense of tension or urgency, and even the production value is subpar. Even the good ideas the film has are either totally squandered or end up lead up to empty battles. The film is also full of stupid scenes, like Uhura’s infamous “fan dance”, the sexual tension between Uhura and Scotty, and Kirk, Spock, and Bones’ campfire rendition of “Row Row Row Your Boat”. Because, you know, that’s what I want in a Star Trek film. This is unanimously considered the worst film of the Trek series, and rightfully so; it’s terrible.

10. Valhalla Rising (Watched March 23rd)valhalla-rising-movie-poster-2009-1020554869

I’ve defended Nicholas Winding Refn in the past, but this is one effort I really can’t get behind. While Valhalla Rising is a beautifully shot film, the whole effort is let down by a complete lack of story or character. Even Refn’s violent style falls short due to some horrendous looking CGI blood. Refn’s films have often been accused of being style over substance, but those efforts still worked for me due to engaging characters and plots (even if they were simple) and a masterfully well-executed style. Neither are the case here. There isn’t really much more to say. I found this film boring and dumb, and I hope my deeper Refn viewing proves more fruitful.

9. Around the World in Eighty Days (Watched February 17th)affiche2

The third Best Picture winner on my list, Around the World in Eighty Days sees a rich British socialite (David Niven) wager he can travel around the globe in eighty days or under. You’d think the film would have a fun sense of adventure, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Nothing interesting actually happens throughout the journey and any obstacles that arise are pretty easily solved and while the film’s production is clearly a big one, Michael Anderson doesn’t have the skill or ambition to really utilize this in interesting ways. A lot of money is clearly put in here, but none of the set-pieces are very interesting and while there is a parade of famous faces, no one actually adds any value to the work. I might have been less harsh, but at almost three hours, this thing tries my patience and I was relieved when this thing finally ended. Funny thing is the films ends on a genuinely neat title sequence from Saul Bass, but at that point I’m so exhausted that I barely care.

8. Ichi the Killer (Watched November 22nd)Ichi-the-Killer-dvd

Many have been shocked by the violence of Ichi the Killer. Personally I was shocked by how terrible a film it was. I really enjoyed Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins and was thus looking forward to Ichi, but found the film to be an aggressively unpleasant and frustrated viewing experience. The film constantly throws empty style and violence at the viewer hoping something will hit and it rarely does. More often than not, the film just comes off as stupid, particularly the wacky ending. I can’t even give the film points for being shockingly violent as the CGI effects utilized in many of these scenes is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Too comedic to be scary, too violent to be funny, too weird to be understood, and too uninteresting for me to care.

7. One Night of Love (Watched June 20th)one-night-of-love-movie-poster-1934-1020456056

The story of an aspiring opera singer and her romance with her singing coach. This is one of those films made during the sound era which seems to be relying on the novelty of sound as a means of success, which is a bit odd given that the film came out about six years after the advent of sound. The only real draw to the film seems to be the opera numbers sung, which don’t sound very special to me. The actual story is a tired and boring one, made worse by one dimensional characters, particularly the lead, who is an annoying brat who throws a fit whenever things don’t go her way. Beyond, this is just a weak film and while it may not be the worst thing I saw all year, it might be the most forgettable.

6. Grease (Watched July 19th)MPW-39958

Grease is one of those really famous films that people would always be surprised when I said I’d never seen. Well, I finally rectified that this year and I can’t say I was missing much. This is an incredibly obnoxious movie which continuously throws over the top characters and empty musical numbers at the audience without ever giving anyone a second to breath. Despite the wall to wall noise, there really isn’t much of a plot here and the characters are not only simplistic, but aggressively irritating to boot. I’m also really not a fan of the music here, and while the numbers seem well-choreographed, they’re still boring since they’re not actually advancing a story. Bottom line, Grease is a vapid and pointless two hours made only slightly bearable by some of the actors.

5. The Producers (Watched November 19th)large_eFSfTosTwNKfrllxkwfo0gqNWZP

I can’t say I love Mel Brooks, but I enjoy most of his movies and this early effort about a pair of producers deliberately staging a flop pay to try and pocket the budget money seemed a fun idea. This is the cinematic equivalent of Brooks screaming into the camera for an hour and a half hoping the audience will life. The opening credits of the film consist almost solely of screaming and even an actor of Gene Wilder’s talent only has two purposes: to look nervous, and to scream hysterically. It gets annoying fast, and while not all of the jokes involve obnoxious screaming, none of them are ever funny. What isn’t annoying is just stupid and pointless, and I spent most of the running time scratching my head wondering why this comedy is so well revered. It’s just a stupid movie which annoyed me to no end and while I almost placed it lower, that “Spring Time for Hitler” musical number is pretty damn catchy.

4. Under Capricorn (Watched January 3rd)under_capricorn

I’ve seen a few lesser Hitchcock films, but I never could have imagined the master of suspense could direct a film this dull. There’s nothing wrong with Hitchcock leaving his comfort zone, but this period melodrama is just a boring story that no amount of admittedly well-executed long takes is going to fix. The characters and plot are totally uninteresting, and I found the film really garish visually. That may just be from the presentation I saw mind you, but the imagery just looked awful and really affected my experience. Outside of that, there isn’t much to say about Under Capricorn. It’s a tedious affair which has thankfully gone mostly forgotten in the time since seeing it.

3. The Greatest Show on Earth (Watched November 16th)greatest_show_on_earth_ver2

The final Best Picture winner on my list, and the film that may have surpassed Driving Miss. Daisy as my least favourite Best Picture winner of all-time. Despite featuring tons of circus antics and colourful performers, The Greatest Show on Earth is a boring and lifeless movie which plods along aimlessly for two and a half hours. Scenes go nowhere, the characters are flat, the drama is non-existent, and any attempt to have a serious moment is laughably off. The central plot line seems to be one woman having to choose between two suitors, but she flip flops so constantly between them that I couldn’t care less. Outside of that, the film is composed of a bunch of standard circus fare which might be fun to see live, but is pretty stale on film, particularly when nothing inherently cinematic is actually happening. That’s the thing with The Greatest Show on Earth; despite being an over-bloated and star-studded production, the ultimate sin here is that very little actually happens, at least until the third act, and by then it’s a real case of too little, too late.

2. The Music Man (Watched August 5th)download

The final musical on my list, and the second appearance from director Morton DaCosta (Auntie Mame). I don’t hate musicals, but I do dislike the kind of musical The Music Man is. One where there is hardly any plot, weak characterization, and empty and bloated musical numbers which go on endlessly while simultaneously going nowhere. The basic premise of a con man scheming a small town out of their money is a fun one, but the film very quickly diverges into schmaltzy nothingness. I also highly disliked Shirley Jones character, who is built him as an intelligent and independent woman, but then throws herself at the con man despite the fact that he’s a selfish, lying asshole, and she knows that about him. Additionally, while the music numbers show seem decent choreography, DaCosta puts no effort into crafting cinematic and exciting scenes through the cinematography and compositions. And the thing is, most musicals have pretty good choreography, and you can watch any one of those instead. I’m thankful to this movie for inspiring the monorail bit from The Simpsons, but that’s about it.

1. Wavelength (Watched February 24th)wavelength

A running theme in the last few films on the list has been lack of things actually happening. I’ve never seen a film that embodies this idea as thoroughly as Wavelength. The film is only made of one shot which slowly zooms into the picture in a room, where different filters are placed on the image and a high pitched noise plays over the soundtrack. Every so often, a few characters wander onto the screen, but nothing they do is if any real significance. So basically the film is forty minutes of starring at a wall while listening to a terrible “score”. It’s simultaneously a boring and irritating film and I loathed the entire experience of watching it. Some have defended the film for being some sort of artistic statement about viewer limitations, but so what? There’s nothing to actually care about or enjoy here, it’s just a strange and surreal assault on your senses and had it not been part of my film class I never would have wasted my time with this thing in the first place. This is the definition of pretentious filmmaking.

Comments
  1. Caz says:

    I watched Bad Lieutenant for the first time this year as well and found it shocking and was surprised so many people hold it in high regard! I won’t be watching it again, but great performance from Keitel.

    By your list your really not a big fan of musicals at all are you?

    • PG Cooper says:

      I don’t dislike musicals, what I dislike are the fluff musicals that think they can get by without characters, plot, or real conflict are essentially just a series of big bloated dance numbers. Unfortunately, I saw a lot of those in 2014.

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