As I said in my top twenty of 2013 article, I consider 2013 a thoroughly poor and miserable year for cinema, at least going by the films I went to see – I just don’t have the time or inclination to travel far from my crappy home town, a town which has two cinemas that both show exactly the same films, to see something, which means I probably missed out on some really good stuff. In my list of all the films I saw this year, for the first time ever, there were almost as many films below an average scoring [5.5/10] as above it. Lack of spark and originality ran rampant as films seemed to be ever-more tailored to teenagers, and stupid ones to boot, yet with a distinct lack of joy or indeed any kind of emotion except being bludgeoned into submission. Even more than last year, professional-standard film-making seemed to be less and less frequent as an inability to point a camera at something and keep it steady was evident everywhere. No longer is the dreadful shakycam/ hyper-fast cutting style, where you can’t see what’s going on and may actually get a serious headache or feel sick, restricted to action films: it’s insidiously spreading into other genres, even ones such as the musical where you really wouldn’t expect it. Several times throughout this year, I’ve come out of the cinema not only ill, but also feeling a bit worried about cinema, at least of the commercial kind.
Though overall I don’t think the films in question are quite bad enough to be in the bottom ten, I’m going to begin this article by saying to a certain Richard Linklater [spoilers]:
Thanks very much for ruining the idealism and charm of your wonderful films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and turning one of my favourite screen couples into a pair of [sometimes this applies to both of them, sometimes not] dislikeable, potty-mouthed, lying, cheating scumbags who were unrecognisable and whom I hated, with your cynical and poisonous Before Midnight, a film which I’m going to pretend never existed.
And I’m also saying to Peter Jackson:
Stop. You’re badly tarnishing the brilliance of your Lord Of The Rings trilogy with your Hobbit films.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on, and this will be a controversial list with many readers, but I’m sure you all know me by now…..
10/ ABOUT TIME
About Time was actually reasonably pleasant viewing at first, even if two things were obvious early on: that this film was nowhere near as original as writer/director Richard Curtis made out, and that he had no intention of following his story’s own logic. In fact, he gets so lost in his time-travel caper that it soon became clear that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing and was just using the fantastical aspect to push his view of the world onto people – basically that it’s wonderful and everyone is wonderful too. The final third really is sick-making rubbish, and worse than that it just goes on and on, but then the whole thing has the worst elements of Curtis horribly exaggurated, from the so-called humour consisting almost entirely of someone saying something sexual or someone being embarassed, to the same old characters who never actually feel like real people. Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve can be refreshing, and there are nice moments in this film, but they get increasingly drowned in the cringe-inducing tedium and I came out of the film wanting to hit someone, which I’m sure isn’t what Curtis intended.
I don’t like to use the word ‘boring’ when talking about a film, because a slow film can be as enjoyable and rewarding as a fast film, and while I’m the kind of person who generally prefers to look at cool visuals rather than listen to people rabbiting on, I can certainly appreciate good dialogue. However, I found Lincoln [which is a misleading title, since the film just covers four months of his life] a pretty boring experience. The actors all do a fine job, but Daniel Day-Lewis is wasted in a role that allows him to do little more than segue from one interminable tirade to another, while the incredibly limited script is little more than a series of long-winded speeches, overly-emotive outbreaks, and preachy sermons. Steven Spielberg seems totally passionless in his directing, and the whole thing drowns in its worthiness and has the feel of a dusty old history book, which actually makes it worse because it seems like its portrayal of Lincoln [who was actually a racist] is accurate. It’s not. It’s just more dumbed-down white-washing of the sort that we really should be past now. Spielberg has made his worst film.
8/ WORLD WAR Z
About two thirds of this lame zombie film, a kind of moronic cross between 28 Days Later and Outbreak, consists of random one-second shots of…well…stuff happening. You can just about make out hordes of crappy CGI zombies, a few humans trying to run away, and that’s about it. World War Z is the first of several films on this list that made my eyes sore and almost made me feel sick due to the way it was filmed. Of course director Mark Forster gave us the worst James Bond film ever so you’d expect the filming to be crap, but this is a pretty bad movie overall, from the numerous plot-holes to the astonishingly cheap look of the sets to the re-shot final third which not just feels like a different film but also looks like one due it being obviously shot on different film stock. I mean for God’s sake, why on earth do something like that if you’re not going to do it properly? Thanks to the unaccountable success of this rubbish, we can now expect more shoddy PG-13 so-called zombie films like it. Maybe one day the movie-going public will see sense and only zombies will watch them.
7/ LES MISERABLES
Imagine if some people decided they liked some songs from a musical, filmed themselves singing them and sent them to someone who strung the footage together, and you get a feeling of the horror that is Les Miserables. Even when my anger abates at seeing such an inept version of a stage musical I loved greatly, I reckon I will still find myself shaking my head at the totally bizarre decision to film such an epic story mostly in close-ups, and it doesn’t even do that with any skill because the camera keeps wobbling, though when the camera does decide to show more than two people in one shot and pull back, the sets are astoundingly cheap-looking [as is the whole film] and unconvincing. Along the way it botches nearly every great moment from the stage show, and even brings in dreadful ‘full’ shakycam for scenes when people are fighting or running. Though not the worst film on this list – it’s still a superb story and the music still soars even if not all the cast sing too well – this is one of three films this year I thoroughly hated and for a few days felt like giving up on cinema this year. Tom Hooper, you’ve ruined the musical for me so much that I don’t even want to see it on stage again. Thanks.
I’ll enjoy a dumb horror film more than most – give me some suspense, some jump scares and a bit of the red stuff- and the chances are I’ll be reasonably content for an hour and a half. However, Texas Chainsaw is so incredibly stupid it just insults the viewer. It wants us sympathise with a family who cut up, torture and eat innocent people, while wanting us to hate the Mayor and the town that killed them off. The majority of the film takes place 39 years after its opening scene, and the main character should be around 40, yet she’s around 20, while Leatherface seems amazingly agile for someone around 60. Leatherface runs through a crowded carnival but doesn’t cut anyone with his chainsaw, a van with a cut tire flips over, and a whole load of other stupid stuff happens until a horrible ending comes along which I just couldn’t believe, which has said main character suddenly forgetting that Leatherface killed her good friend and boyfriend, and now loving him because he’s her cousin! An insult to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic, and we finally have a Chainsaw film that is worse than The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Oblivion is basically bits from a whole load of other science-fiction films including Moon, Wall-E, Total Recall, Planet Of The Apes, The Matrix, Star Wars, Vanilla Sky, Twelve Monkeys, Dune, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running stuck together in a stultifyingly soulless, bland manner. That’s all it is. The script may throw information and twists at you with increasing speed, but all of it is second-hand, and it ends up being thoroughly wearing and incomprehensible. I detest this dishonest kind of film, the kind of film that pretends it’s smart but is actually no more intelligent than Texas Chainsaw. Of course, if Oblivion had actually been fun, then I could have almost forgiven its total lack of originality, but it’s also astoudingly dull, almost entirely lacking any kind of spark or life or indeed heart, and this is with some admittedly impressive production design which is wasted on such an atrocious script, dull direction and shoddy acting. Joseph Kosinski should give up on science-fiction – after Tron: Legacy and this he’s proved he has no feel for the genre – but it seems like he’s going to do more.
4/ THE HOST
I was willing to give this a chance. Okay, the Twilight films were awful, but it was possible that writer Stephanie Meyer had improved, and it was even possible that the Twilight Saga didn’t adapt very well to the screen. However, within minutes it was obvious that this was also a load of tripe, and is now total proof that Meyer is a dreadful writer. “They’re only aimed at teenage girls” some may say about these films, though they didn’t much turn out for this one, and in any case it’s my belief that if a film is good enough you should able to at least partially enjoy it regardless of who it’s targetting or its genre. This is a thoroughly lazy, boring [I’ve used the word I don’t like to use a second time, and I’m going to use it again soon] mess that avoids all attempts to get interesting, and it’s also depressing because it does little with its intriguing premise and wastes the talents of the fabulous Saoirise Ronan. There’s only one film called The Host worth talking about and it ain’t American.
3/ THE COUNSELLOR
O Ridley how far you have fallen? What was your last good film? Kingdom Of Heaven? What was your last really good film? Thelma And Louise? I wouldn’t say Gladiator, because it looks worse with each viewing. As far as I’m concerned, the director of Alien and Blade Runner is gone – I mean Scott’s films aren’t even visually impressive any more. Prometheus was a total and utter mess of a movie, but it was far more enjoyable than the dire tedium that is The Counsellor. The writing of Corman McCarthy has led to some good films, but he clearly can’t write an actual screenplay, though one wonders if the novel of The Counsellor was any good in the first place. The characters are totally implausible, their dialogue extremely forced – if you’re going to have your characters rambling on for ages at least make it seem they would have said this stuff, something Quentin Tarantino usually made sure of – and consisting largely of the giving of advice and sexual matters. and there is an amazing lack of tension in a story which seems like it should at least create a modicum of suspense. Add to this the completely unconvincing settings and a total lack of any style [I reckon Scott slept through this one] , and you have the most boring [there we go, third time!] film of the year. Ridley, just stop, please.
2/ YOU’RE NEXT
This pathetic attempt at a slasher movie [with elements of The Strangers], by people who clearly have no business being either behind or in front of the camera, made me feel totally disheartened about the horror genre and film-making in general, though I guess in a weird way it’s uplifting, because it shows that any talentless idiot can make a movie and get it released with a bit of luck. The first few scenes aren’t too bad, despite the porno movie quality acting [a scene at a table was just excruciating to watch], but as soon as the animal-masked killers enter the house, You’re Next became almost unwatchable viewing for this critic, truly horrendous film-making. It seems like an epileptic is trying to film everything with one small camera but can’t keep up and is desperately trying to record everything that’s going on by waving the camera at what he thinks is the action. I realise that this may be more a case of personal reaction than anything else, but I had to close my eyes during some of this film, because it was making them ache with the constant jerky motion. Then again, the killings I did look at the screen for I wasn’t allowed to enjoy properly due to the filming. Some have said that this film is in part a comedy, and I suppose that’s the only way to accept characters constantly doing stupid things [yes, I know it’s a horror film, where folk often act like idiots, but this one just goes too far with it], murders occuring that aren’t heard in the next room, totally idiotic twists and thorough ineptitude on every level, but as I was watching, I just yearned for the comparatively good film-making of a Friday The 13th movie.
1/ MAN OF STEEL
So here we come to it, and to be honest I was dreading writing about this film, because it would bring up all the anger, fustration and hatred I felt when coming out of the cinema after seeing Man Of Steel. Do you know what the first thing I did was when I got home? I put on Superman: The Movie, so I could feel some joy and exhiliration. Now it the belief of some that values and standards are lowering and lowering in our society, and as sure proof of this I offer you Man Of Steel, where a character who is supposed to represent the best we can be is turned into somone not only kills on-screen but is willing to allow as much collateral damage as possible to defeat the villains. Instead of the glorious escapism of the original [indeed, of all the other Superman movies, even Superman Returns, which has more heart in one second than all of Man Of Steel], we have a stupid attempt at grubby realism [remember, this is Superman, not bloody Batman], which means that not only does the whole film apparently have to look like the camera lens could do with a good wash, but goddamn shakycam is in almost every scene, even simple dialogue scenes. Maybe it was supposed to give the impression of a documentary, or maybe the director and cameraman just didn’t have a clue what they were doing? Now the latter is something which I find hard to believe because up to now I’ve rather liked Jack Snyder as a filmmaker [with the exception of the odious 300], but honestly, just look at that endless final battle scene, where it’s not quite so much the horrendous Playstation-style effects that are the main problem but than the baffling choices of close-ups and long-shots which suggest a director very drunk…or maybe trying to be Jean-Luc Goddard. The most common technique throughout is to show something in long shot, then zoom quickly into it, I mean how amatuerish can you get?
The script is barely coherent and along with the images lamely rehashes elements from Transformers, The Avengers and others, the storytelling goes out of its way to avoid any emotion and any sense that we may actually want to like these characters, and the film even gets bad performances out of Amy Adams and Michael Shannon, while it’s all accompanied by a thoroughly dreadful score by the barely talented Hans Zimmer [whose style and sound is spreading throughout Hollywood like a virus and destroying the art, heart and soul of film music] that does nothing for the movie whatsoever. I remember first hearing his main theme on YouTube and wondering if it was some kind of demo which would be aurally and musically developed in time, but no, that was the main theme, but then even John Williams would have found it hard to be inspired by Man Of Steel. It’s a horrible, horrible film, and an insult to Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Richard Donner, Christopher Reeve [thank god he wasn’t alive to see this] and all those who can be credited with the legend of Superman.