The Oscars allegedly honor the best in the movie business – that’s what they say, anyway, and we’ll go with it for now. But very few people start off great out of the gate; in a business that everybody’s dying to break into and the next paycheck is never a guarantee, most of the industry’s finest make questionable choices at some point. And when they finally hit the pinnacle of their careers, that’s when smartasses like me show up to remind them of said choices. Here are ten that we can’t necessarily blame them for taking money to make, but we can warn you never, ever to subject yourself to them. Besides, Oscars are all anybody’s talking about at the moment, so we might as well have some fun with it.
10. Man of the House, starring Tommy Lee Jones.
Jones, in full-on hardass mode, plays a Texas ranger forced to go undercover as a cheerleading coach in order to protect five witnesses who just happen to be bubble-headed cheerleaders. He is made to move in with them, and hilarity does not ensue. Note to movie producers: If a script contains a gag in which someone shoves his hand up a cow’s asshole, do us all a favor and just don’t make the movie. Even if you are hiring the director of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
9. Forrest Gump, starring Sally Field.
Because fuck Forrest Gump. That is all.
8. Revolutionary Road, shot by Roger Deakins (Best Cinematography nominee for Skyfall).
Deakins is a cinematographic god who has helped make the Coen brothers what they are today by consistently bring the best visuals to match their wit, but that doesn’t mean you should see every movie he’s done. While he and Sam Mendes had great success with Skyfall, their prior team-up featured Titanic costars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as unhappy newlyweds, something nobody wanted to see (in broadly stereotypical terms: guys never wanted them to reteam at all and girls didn’t want them to reteam unhappily). Especially during a mortgage crisis and financial meltdown, a movie about how married people who own their own homes are in fact tragically oppressed by societal roles was not the right way to go.
7. Tooth Fairy, costarring Seth MacFarlane (writer of the lyrics for Best Original Song nominee “Everybody Needs a Best Friend”).
Getting MacFarlane on this list wasn’t easy; as much as he irritates some people, he hasn’t done that many movies. But he was in the one where Dwayne The Rock Johnson becomes a tooth fairy, and that’ll do it.
6. The Twilight Saga: New Moon, scored by Alexandre Desplat (nominated for Argo).
He’s looking at you, Beavis. He’s going “uhhh, I like what I see”
I’ll give this to the second Twilight movie: it actually tried to be cinematic about a book in which nothing happens and the ending is achieved by a character predicting what the ending will be. And Desplat, a talented composer, doesn’t exactly get a chance to shine working on part of a series for which mediocre pop songs are a soundtrack staple. But how can we not put a Twilight film on this list? Shockingly, it isn’t even the worst Kristen Stewart movie herein.
5. The Ring Two, starring Naomi Watts.
Japanese director Hideo Nakata was considered a master of modern horror when he gave us Ringu and Dark Water, so we were all hoping that his foray into Hollywood would really show them what scary is. In a way, he did: “scary” is how easily that horror franchise was killed in this lackluster sequel, which fails to understand that having a disembodied spirit possess a child with the intent of finding a new mommy makes it inherently less scary than when it’s floating around out there on the airwaves and killing people in seven days.
4. The Ladies Man, costarring Reginald Hudlin (producer of Django Unchained).
The Ladies Man may not be the worst Saturday Night Live spinoff movie ever, but it’s certainly the most egregiously awful one I’ve ever actually sat through. From Tim Meadows’ offensive caricature of the black man as stupid sex machine to Will Ferrell’s mincing closet-case and Julianne Moore’s cameo as a horny clown, this is as textbook a case you can get of “wrong choices made.” Except maybe for Meadows – one can’t really blame him for wanting to be the lead in something, since it’s not too likely he’ll have the chance again. Especially if casting directors see The Ladies Man.
3. Surviving Christmas, starring Ben Affleck (producer of Best Picture-nominated Argo).
Choosing which Ben Affleck movie to put on this list is like deciding what to put on your plate at Hometown Buffet – you want to mix a little bit of everything, combining mediocre offerings to get that flavor just right. The obvious choice would have been Gigli, but at least the cameo scenes by Al Pacino and Christopher Walken in that one provided momentary amusement. Surviving Christmas was just awful to begin with, starting from the premise, in which Ben Affleck goes to his childhood home, finds another family living there, and pays them to not just put up with him for Christmas, but pretend to be happy about it. Maybe he should have similarly bribed the audience.
2. Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton (nominated this year for Best Animated Feature Frankenweenie) and costarring Anne Hathaway.
Renaming Wonderland as “Underland” is the cleverest thing this unimaginative cash-grab has going for it, which is a problem when you’re trying to capture the spirit of Lewis Carroll. Did I say trying to capture? I meant “spitting on the grave of.” The Mad Hatter doing a pop-and-lock dance routine at the end sums up so many of the bad choices made, but giving him an origin for his madness and an accent that leaps back and forth from Scottish to English was already an iffy sign. And are Disney adaptations of Alice always doomed to amalgamate the Duchess, Queen of Hearts and Red Queen into one being? They’re different freakin’ characters, or should be, just as the White Queen is meant to be elderly and borderline senile. As for the finale involving Alice and the Mad Hatter battling the bad guys with swords, I will give it that it’s not the worst iteration of Joan-of-Arc fairytale revamping. That would be our next entry…
1. Snow White and the Huntsman (nominated this year for Costume Design and Visual Effects).
2012 featured a Snow White movie starring Phil Collins’ daughter and featuring a Bollywood-style musical number, and it still was not the worst take on the tale to make it to the screen in a 12-month span. Universal’s version featured an untested director of commercials who wowed ’em with a concept reel, then numbed us to sleep when he lengthened it out and cast Kristen Stewart, who seems so bored onscreen it feels like she had an affair with the director just to liven things up. It was so bad Bob Hoskins actually retired from acting afterwards, and the central dilemma of the movie – will Snow White choose the prince or the huntsman of the title? – is never, in fact, resolved.