The Movies We Hated In 2012

My colleague Hillary Weston and I see a lot of movies. Sure, we both loved a bunch of movies this year, such as the delightful Moonrise Kingdom, the biting Bachelorette, the lovely Beasts of the Southern Wild. But there were a few that we downright hated. While we don’t always agree on which movies were, in fact, the worst, here’s a brief list of the films from this year that drove us into fits of fury.

Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s sort-of-prequel to Alien left me with more questions than answers. For example, why did they hire Guy Pearce to play an old man instead of, I dunno, an actual old person? Would that automated surgery machine take my health insurance? What’s Michael Fassbender’s daily caloric intake? (It must not be too high.) What I did take away was this: there is no way that this has anything to do with Scott’s original masterpiece other than casually tossing around “Alien prequel” will gain a lot of buzz. I couldn’t have explained the plot of this movie five minutes after leaving the theater, and I had thankfully forgotten Prometheus until I decided to come up with the worst movies I’d seen this year. So there you have it, folks: Prometheus is completely forgettable until you try your best to think of things that are horrifically bad.—TC

To Rome With Love

Oh Woody, how I love thee. But just because you have spent your entire career putting out film after film—back to back every year for what seems like an entire century now—doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be so sloppy. Honestly, I doubt he even liked it, as even Allen’s character felt like someone doing a bad impression of himself. (Larry David, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell have all played better Woody Allens.) And don’t even both trying to find anything intelligent or redeeming about the women that populate the picture. Ellen Page’s boyish waif seductress was, to borrow a term in just about every one of his movies, "a pseudo intellectual" who was both manipulative and hollow; Greta Gerwig was an oblivious and passive goof who was supposed to be an intellectual but looked like an witless idiot; Alison Pill’s character was about as bland and lifeless as the canvas pants they wrongly put her in; and even the brilliant and beautiful Judy Davis had absolutely nothing to work with. The whole Penelope Cruz hooker storyline was absurd and a narrative bore, the Roberto Benigni "comedic" meditation on celebrity and the ego was unbearable to watch, and the father-turned-opera-singer sideline was no better than this Flintstones episode. By far the best part of the film was when I left to get a jumbo box of M&Ms and had to spend five minutes searching for the candy attendant. —HW

Silver Linings Playbook

There’s at least one movie released every Oscar season that everyone but me seems to like. This year, David O. Russell’s choppy mess of a movie fills the Little Miss Sunshine slot. Furthermore, this is the first movie that has ever forced me to leave the theater early. What did I hate most? The over-the-top quirkiness of the script? The propensity for each character to explain his or her madness rather than convey them with their actions? The fact the last thirty minutes are better than the first hour-and-a-half, at least according to every person I know who claims I cannot judge it solely on the first two-thirds of the film? (Go watch The Godfather and try to tell me the same thing, folks.) I’ve never been so grateful for Jessica Chastain, who will surely quash Jennifer Lawrence’s shot at an Oscar next spring. —TC

Lola Versus

After seeing Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones’s sophomore effort, I recall writing down a few initial thoughts: "This movie has little to no genuine feeling. The dialogue was trite. The characters were like posed mannequins in an Anthropologie window attempting to tell a joke." And the worst part: even the wonderful and talented Greta Gerwig as Lola and a score by Fall On Your Sword could not save this shallow attempt at an anti-typical romantic comedy. The filmmakers are both young, intelligent people who have lived in New York for years, but I have to wonder: have they ever spoken to other humans? Every moment was contrived and two-dimensional, and it was filled with pathetic portrayals of wallowing that weren’t even accurate save for the lovelorn title character’s affinity for binge drinking and sleeping with people she would later regret. Lola chastises herself, saying "I know I’m slutty, but I’m a good person," even though it’s made clear that her ex was the only person she had slept with until they broke up, and then she sleeps with two other guys. Even the sparse scenes with her ex have absolutely no chemistry, and neither character exhibit qualities that would make you root for them not to wind up alone. All in all, it’s a film that apparently takes place in New York, but not a New York you’ve ever seen. —HW

The Dark Knight Rises

Here’s the thing: I knew I would hate this. But I had to see it, because to completely avoid the movie blockbuster of the summer would prove my own ineptitude at being a blogger. (And, as a blogger, it is my duty to share my opinions.) Christopher Nolan finally wrapped up his dour Batman trilogy with an overwrought political epic complete with as many of The Christopher Nolan Players as possible. Christian Bale brooding? Check. Tom Hardy being gay-question-mark? Yup. Marion Cotilliard for no particular reason? Uh huh. And leave it to Nolan to even strip away all the fun from Catwoman, who, as played by Anne Hathaway, is more like an old, unenthused tabby who only occasionally gets to ride some stupidly overdesigned motorcycle. Don’t get me started on the fact that it took a good forty-five minutes for Batman to actually show up; it was less of a superhero movie and more of a chance for Christopher Nolan and co-writer/brother Jonathan to an Oscar-clip monologue to every single character. —TC

The Paperboy

I don’t know why I expected more from the guy who interpolated shots of incestuous rape with images of bacon sizzling on a griddle in Precious, but I can say without wavering that The Paperboy was not just my least favorite film of the year—it’s also the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I’m all for a piece of well-made trash, but no amount of scrubbing would reveal a diamond under those layers and layers of shit. It’s misogynistic, homophobic, exploitative all around, and relies on the popular opinion that the South is a cesspool of murder, rape, racism, alligators—things that can only take place down there. And something must be said when Macy Gray delivers the best performance in a cast made up of Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, and Scott Glenn. —TC

John Cusack Developing Film About Rush Limbaugh

John Cusack is developing a film about right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Rush, in which Cusack will also star, his production company has confirmed.  

The AP reports that the script is almost finished and development is expected to begin next year. It is not clear whether Cusack will play the starring role of Limbaugh or someone else in his inner circle. (I could see Patton Oswalt pulling off Limbaugh better, honestly.)

I suppose this could be Cusack’s version of W. — the Oliver Stone film in which Josh Brolin portrayed the frailties and fractured manhood of President George W. Bush. There’s no end to the made-for-TV drama in Rush Limbaugh’s life, from his prescription pill addiction to his multiple marriages to getting publicly rebuked by President Obama this year after calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" on his radio show. One has to wonder why John Cusack is compelled to find the humanity in this person who everyone else would just as soon slither away into the Palm Beach surf.

In any case, here’s hoping Cusack doesn’t mind cigars.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Celebrate Boss’s Day Like a Boss With These Cinematic Honchos

It’s that time of year again: Boss’s Day. (What’s that, you ask? When is Employee’s Day? Everyday is Employee’s Day! Now shut up and get back to work, you peons!) (Yes, one could say I am blogging like a boss today.) To celebrate, here’s a list of the best bosses in movie history. "Best," of course, is a relative term, but hey, this is the internet and all I know is that I’m the boss of listicles today, so deal with it or you’re fired. 

1. Sigourney Weaver as Katharine Parker in Working Girl

2. Dabney Coleman as Franklin M. Hart, Jr. in 9 to 5

3. Diana Rigg as Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper
diana rigg

4. Christopher Walken as Max Shreck in Batman Returns

5. Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada

6. Bette Midler as Sadie Shelton in Big Business

7. Michael Keaton as Captain Gene Mauch in The Other Guys

8. Garry Marshall as Walter Harvey in A League of Their Own

9. Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon in Dick

10. Harvey Keitel as Matthew "Sport" Higgins in Taxi Driver

11. Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker in In the Loop

12. Anthony LaPaglia as Joe Reaves in Empire Records

13. Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail

14. Maggie Smith as Mother Superior in Sister Act

15. John Cusack as Rob Gordon in High Fidelity

16. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Nicole Kidman Gets Sexual in ‘The Paperboy’—But Refused to Say the N-Word

The Paperboy, the new film from Precious director Lee Daniels, is a searing, character-driven thriller set in the southern Florida backwater, and features some dirty, smoldering, and messily spot-on performances from Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, and Macy Gray (yes, even Macy Gray). But it’s Nicole Kidman’s sexed-up performance as a desperate woman trying to prove her husband’s innocence and release him from death row. Last night Kidman was honored at the New York Film Festival where The Paperboy, which opens in limited release on Friday, was screened for an eager audience. We caught up with the actress to discuss the film, how far she slipped into character, and her affinity for white patent-leather high heels.

How did you find your way into the character? How did you even begin to imagine her?
Well, I just thought, “Thishas to be authentic.” And I really needed to find my way in. So Lee said, “You should meet with some of these women that I know.” You know, women that were in love with men in prison and were sort of obsessed with them. I met with five different women that Lee had arranged, and that was how I kind of found my way in. At one point I freaked out to myself, and I thought, “This isn’t me. I’m not going to be authentic in this role!” One of the ladies said, “No, you can, you go, girl!” And she kind of gave me the confidence. Then I kind of just let it flow out of me, and I sort of went with it. I didn’t censor myself in any way—I just went straight into the character. And I didn’t see her as crazy, because I see very few people as crazy, so…[Laughs]

But, for me playing her, she’s a woman who is very damaged and is terrified of intimacy and of being close with someone. I suppose, the way in which she deals with Zac’s character, she knows he’s following her around like a puppy dog, but at the same time she’s not going to ruin him. Because if she lets him really fall in love with her, and if she lets herself, in some way, give in to him, and softens towards him, she’s going to ruin his life forever. What she says to him—“You don’t want me. Trust me…”—that, to me, is unconditional love. And her destiny, she feels, is that kind of like with [her husband]. That’s where she’s headed. It’s almost like a death wish. For me, that’s tragic, it’s very sad. And that’s where I came from with her—I had a lot of compassion for her. The reason I wouldn’t step in and out of the accent and the character the whole time was because I felt like I was going to be judging her. And if I just kind of stayed in it, I was very much, I thought, incredibly free to follow the instincts that were there. Which is how Lee works. You come on set and nothing is blocked out; Lee’s just sort of like, “Show it to me!” I never spoke to John Cusack through the shoot as “John.” It was always in character. At the end of the film, he came to my trailer and said, “Hi, I’m John!”

Are there physical things that you did? Like thinking about the hair, the walk?
Well, Lee was obsessed with the butt! He wanted my butt to be bigger, and I was like, “Okay, I can do that!” And I think that physically, I just wanted to find the sexuality of her. The director also triggers things that can ignite emotions and other things for you. And I think for me, the freedom of her sexuality was really important, and from the point I was in Lee’s hands, I didn’t really want to be saying “no” to anything.

Wasthere anything you actually refused to do in this provocative film?
Not really! No, yes, there was one thing: saying the n-word. I just didn’t feel like it was right for the character. And obviously, I have a son who is African-American. It just wasn’t right. The other thing I try to do as an actor is fulfill a director’s vision—that’s what you’re hired to do. And I have opinions and ideas, and I’m there to stimulate, hopefully, and ignite things in the director. But, at the same time, I’m not there to stop him. I really try, with every director,never to pull them off their vision. You’re there as a muse sometimes, you’re there as their conduit, and you’re there to create a character—together.

Can you talk about your character’s “Swamp Barbie” look?
Limitations are a great thing. There was no budget for the wardrobe. Everything was so authentic, and the costume designer was fantastic. I walked in there, and there were those white shoes! Lee has a thing about shoes! And as soon as we scuffed them, I was like, “These are the perfect shoes!” And after that, we just started trying stuff on, and Poloroiding and showing to him, and he would say, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” The costumes were really from that time period, and found down in New Orleans. Lee said I was also going to have to do my own hair and make-up, because we couldn’t afford a make-up artist! And I was of like, “Oh, God!” But I just went into the bathroom, and did the mascara and thick eyeliner like that, and put on this hairpiece that I had.

The important part of being an actor is learning not to shut down, not to say no, and being completely free and open. As you get older, you get a little more frightened—particularly now in this day and age, you know, there aren’t many opinions. It just makes me think, “Screw this!” I just want to push through it, and never stop myself from being brave and fighting through my own insecurities. I want to be in places I’ve never been to before and feel discomfort at times, and feel challenged, and feel ripped open. And it’s very, very hard to find those roles. It’s very hard to find those people that are going to do them with you. I do not want to get to an age, at this point in my life, where I am scared, or running scared. I much prefer to be pushing through the next few decades, giving it all I’ve got.

John Cusack Is No Longer A Young Man

The only real experience I had with John Hughes movies is that people say I look like Duckie. I have mixed feelings about that. 

But for many, his movies, such as Sixteen Candles and Say Anything (however not Pretty In Pink) his movies were totems of teenage lust, specifically for loveable John Cusack. 

A sign of the times changing: Yesterday I went to a screening of The Paperboy, Lee Daniels’ tremendous new pulpy film which opens October 5. It stars Zac Efron (no longer a boy!); Nicole Kidman (!!!), Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack as a very bad man.

Cusack is pimply, overweight and balding. He also does a damn fine job as the murderer Hillary van Wetter. Oh, and in one scene, he jerks off through his trousers as Nicole Kidman imagines what the completion of an act of fellatio might feel like on her face.

Everyone should see this film, if only for this sequence, and if only because it seems salutary to remember that even the angelic shayna punim of John Cusack eventually plumps out and his eyes, once so fawn-like and innocent wilt in the whithering heat of this dessicated aging world.

John Cusack Running Fast & Loose With Edgar Allan Poe

The odds are long that anyone in Hollywood will ever make a decent Edgar Allan Poe biopic. Big screen depictions of the troubled scribe have habitually favored the image of Poe as a “mad genius,” and rather freely combined the author with any number of his celebrated literary creations. But despite the vivid strain of intrigue and macabre that runs through his work, Poe’s life was basically that of a serially-employed writer with a drinking problem and a tragic love life. Although not without a certain boozy romance, it’s got nothing on The Cask of Amontillado. So it should come as no surprise that the latest Poe-pic is no more interested in historical fact than its cinematic forebears. The Raven, which THR reports will star John Cusak, is a thriller in which Poe spends his final days chasing after a serial killer. No biopic at all, it sounds far more akin to, say, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Barf.

God knows what this animal will look like. It’s to be directed by James McTeigue (he of the famous haircut known as V for Vendetta) from a script by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare (she of Ghost Whisperer and unfortunate-name fame). If the credits aren’t enough to put you off, the unimaginative title isn’t encouraging either. IMDB has the name already in use 16 times—though admittedly they’re not all Poe-related. And then there’s that Lou Reed album about Poe, also called The Raven, although I’m pretty sure nothing can ever be worse than that. Sorry Lou!

John Cusack on ‘2012’ & Being an Everyman

For two decades, John Cusack has been everything to everyone. A lovestruck teen in Say Anything, a hopelessly romantic hitman in Grosse Pointe Blank, and strung-out puppeteer in Being John Malkovich. His latest role has him as another relatable man caught in extraordinary circumstances, as a part-time limo driver outrunning the end of the world in Roland Emmerich’s disaster opus 2012, out Friday. We sat down with the star to talk about Roland Emmerich’s mad genius, and what it’s like being the Everyman.

How do you feel when people call you an Everyman? I’ve been called worse, but I’m not the best person to ask about that. I think it’s a compliment if it’s sort of a leading-man type compliment. You get the audience to sympathize with you … it’s kind of a cool thing to be an “everyman” I guess.

Did you ever see yourself as a lead in an action movie? No, I didn’t see that one coming at all.

What was it about the script that surprised you? I hadn’t seen the last movie that Roland made. I’d seen The Patriot and some of the earlier ones so I didn’t know what he was up to, but it was written with a lot of care and the script was surprising because it was almost like the climax and the action was at the beginning of the movie, and it kept topping itself, and you kept learning more and more about the characters, so it actually got more intimate as it got bigger in a strange way. It was surprising, and it navigated through all the clichés.

What is it about Roland Emmerich that allows him to keep making these movies? He’s a director that’s getting better and learning, so it’s not like he’s peaked out and is just doing the same thing. He’s always trying to press the envelope, in terms of the digital effects of what he can do, but then he’s always very honest about learning. He always says that the special effects are only going to be as a good as the story and the acting. So we spent as much time on the script as we did with every stunt, whether it was the kids and their close-ups or any of the humor moments or painful moments. There’s not many directors right now who work on that high of a level with complete control. Most directors would just read the script and they would have a heart attack or go mad just trying to master the technical aspects.

Lloyd Dobbler Lives! ‘Say Anything’ at 20

I like Say Anything, though I don’t have the sustained, ooey-gooey affection for it that some do. I think I first saw it at a difficult age where I was apt to misprize any film that wasn’t either a) a bold formal experiment, or b) directed by Robert Bresson. That said, the film’s 20th anniversary — which Fox is commemorating with a deluxe Blu-Ray out next week — is sufficient incentive for me to want to revisit it. It was Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut after all, as well as John Cusack’s last teen role (The Grifters was just around the corner), and features what I’m sure Lili Taylor hates to hear is still her most memorable screen role to date.

In the Los Angeles Times today, Sam Adams pays a nice tribute to the picture, digging up a few choice tidbits about the film that, if nothing else, were news to me.

● John Cusack did not want to accept the role, having already completed 8 Men Out, and thinking that it was time for him to transition into more adult roles. Co-star (in both pix) John Mahoney encouraged him to reconsider.

● Ione Skye could not relate very intimately to the part of poor, straight-laced valedictorian Diane Court, having grown up both a lousy student and the daughter of psychedelic folk icon Donovan.

Say Anything was one of the last clutch of films that Pauline Kael reviewed before the end of her tenure at The New Yorker. She liked the film, particularly the scene in which Lloyd (Cusack) narrates the history of his failed romance into a tape recorder.

Whether or not it’s one of my favorites, it’s hard to deny the film’s enduring popularity. In no way is this just another teen throwaway. I’ll be keen to see where it is in another 20 years.