Ten Movies I Hate


Apropos this post on Traumdeutung, I thought I'd post ten movies I hate. This was actually really tough for me, and I had to spend most of my intellectual energy during Contracts section thinking about this. I generally like most movies. That is to say, if I go to a movie in a theater, it's rare that I don't leave entertained. It's also pretty seldom that I rent a movie I don't like, on some level. It's possible that I'm just preternaturally good at selecting movie's I'm likely to enjoy (I DO read a lot of reviews), but more likely it's that I just enjoy watching movies. I love going to the movie theater; something about being in a dark cave with the image filling my vision and big theater sound greatly enhances my ability to suspend disbelief. I almost always enjoy a movie as I'm watching it. It takes hours, even days, to regain my objectivity and assess my experience.

I tend to enjoy movies I watch at home less, because I can't invest my entire being in the film. I'm still very aware that I'm a guy sitting on a couch in an apartment watching a movie. The phone rings. I get up to get a snack. I shift positions on the couch. My roommate enters or leaves. I get bored and start screwing around on the internet and watching out of the corner of my eye. But given that I can distract myself, I have a tough time calling a movie bad even if I lose interest. After all, it's not like I didn't find other ways to entertain myself during the time.

So I had to sit and really think about movies I even just dislike, let alone hate. It took about fifteen minutes to just come up with three movies that I didn't like. Eventually it came pouring out, though, and I came up with thirty I dislike, which I culled down to the ten I disliked the most. So even though this is "Ten Movies I Hate," it's more "Ten Movies I Quite Dislike." The criterion for making it on the big list if it was a theater movie was how I felt leaving the theater. If I was disappointed, or otherwise felt I hadn't gotten my ticket price's worth in value, I didn't like the movie. Similarly, for a home movie, if I wound up on the internet or reading a book or something 2/3 of the way through the movie, I didn't like it. So here we go. 10 Movies I Hate. Bear in mind that this list is both over-inclusive, since I had to struggle and pad the list with some that I merely dislike, and underinclusive, since there are a lot of forgettably bad movies that I couldn't remember even having seen. In no particular order:

1. Manos: The Hands of Fate
I had a rule, setting out on this excursion, that I would only include one movie that I'd seen through Mystery Science Theater 3000. After all, you can't go into a show like that expecting diamonds. On the other hand, my excuse for allowing even the one was that I knew that that one would be Manos. Manos is the worst movie ever made. There is no excuse for it. You can't watch the entire thing in one sitting; you need to take lengthy breaks and drink lots of fluids. The actors can't act, the story is vague and slow and doesn't really go anywhere, the sound production is so terrible that more than half the dialogue is completely incomprehensible, and the content of the film is repugnant. It's something about a dark lord (Manos) with a bunch of wives, who might be dead, and a family winds up in his evil... shack in the desert. And he has a henchman named Torgo, a classic movie monster whose scary feature is his huge knees. In the end, there're a lot of women dancing around in their underpants, then everyone dies bloodily. There's no understandable reason why these things are happening, but you're just happy to see that there's no one left alive to talk at you, so it must mean the movie's over. Don't watch Manos, it's not good, and it's not "so bad it's good." It's soul-crushingly bad.

2. Star Wars: Episode I
I didn't mind Episode II, insofar as I liked the second half, so it met the "leaving the theater happy" criterion, though it did so on a technicality. I thought Episode III was serviceable. I spent the first half of Episode I expecting it to get awesome any minute now. I spent the rest just wishing something would happen to make the movie okay. But no. Nothing. I won't go on. The badness of Episode I is the deadest horse that's ever been beaten. I wouldn't even have included it if I hadn't been looking to pad this list to ten entries. I mean, I really didn't like it, but I don't have anything unique to say about it.

3. Total Recall
Poor Phillip K. Dick. On the one hand, he died far too young. On the other hand, at least he didn't live long enough to see his stories turned into utterly terrible sci-fi action movies. Total Recall is based on a Dick short story called "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale." Total Recall is also one of those action movies, peculiar to the period from the late-80s to the mid-90s, which you can only enjoy if you have no soul. It's the kind of movie where car chases occur in which the hero mows through hundreds of innocent people, and we're expected to just ignore their gruesome deaths because, damn it, he's gotta get the bad guy! This is also the movie where I reached a startling realization: Everyone loves Arnold Schwarzenegger (well, not everyone, especially now, but you get my meaning), and yet he has never made a good movie. Ever. Really, go look. This leads to another question (which I bugged my co-workers with at the stacks a couple of years ago): What other stars can you think of who are famous for making movies but have never actually been in a good movie?

4. Blade Runner
I have seen this movie so many times. So many times. Probably a dozen. For a long time I was convinced this was a good movie and the only reason I didn't enjoy it was because of a defect on my part. But now I have attained film self-actualization: This is a bad movie, and I don't care what anyone else thinks. Yes, it's stunning visually. But god damn it, they cut out every interesting aspect of the book, they butchered Dick's subtle and insightful religious message to replace it with a goofy allegory, and they did it in a way such that you have no idea what the hell is going on or why things are happening the way they are. And this isn't intentional/artful confusion, this is bad screenplay/poor editing confusion. This was the first Dick work to be butchered when transferred to screen, but it wasn't the last. After Total Recall there was Minority Report (which I avoided) and Paycheck (a serviceable action movie. Nothing painful, but idea-free). If there's one thing that can be said for the recent spate of Dick's work being turned into movies, it's that it seems to have grabbed the literary world by the lapels and forced them to take notice of him. The local pretentious book shop here, which pointedly does not have a science fiction section, stocks a selection of Phillip K. Dick books in the Literature section, the only representative of the genre other than Kurt Vonnegut. So good for him. I'm still not seeing A Scanner Darkly when it comes out, though.

5. Breakfast at Tiffany's
This one might be a bit controversial, but it's definitely one that I genuinely hate, not just one I kinda dislike. I've read the novella. I love the novella. This movie is a travesty. It takes an engaging tale of a spirited young woman, told by an interested but ultimately unengaged third party, and turns it into a cliched romance. Even ignoring the fact that her love interest in the movie was gay in the book, the movie has the wrong feeling from start to finish. And it gets off on absolutely the wrong foot by giving us Mickey Rooney, whom I hate to begin with, playing possibly the worst Japanese stereotype set to mainstream film. Ugh. I still have nightmares of him saying "Mee-suh Go-Right-Ree! I must protest!" Probably enjoyable on its own, but in light of the book it's irredeemable.

6. Gone with the Wind
Yes, it has some great lines, but they're buried under a big four-hour mound of bullshit nostalgia for the glory days of the Old South coupled with the longest break-up in movie history. This movie is one of the great perpetuators of the Lost Cause mythology that allowed segregation, Jim Crow, and the disfranchisement of African American's in the South to continue unabated for a century after the Civil War ended. I'm unable to enjoy this movie because I spend the entire time I'm watching it dissecting every part of it that serves as propaganda for a truly repugnant racial, social, and economic ideology that should have been discredit long ago. And it doesn't help that the entire last two hours is spent watching Rhett and Scarlett fight. On several occasions while watching this movie I screamed "Just tell her you don't give a damn already and walk off into the mist! Why must you torment yourself, and me, by staying with that shrew!" A film desperately in need of an editor.

7. The Corporation
Hey, speaking of agitprop, The Corporation has it coming from the opposite direction. I'm much more sympathetic to leftist arguments than rightist ones, but I still don't like being lied to, and I really don't like being lied to for two and a half hours. Yes, corporations do a lot of bad. At the same time, they do good, too. And I don't mean good in a figleaf charity to cover up their evils way sense. I mean that corporations, and capitalism generally, is a very effective way of ensuring that a variety of goods are produced in enough quantity to satisfy both people's needs and their wants. The thesis of this movie is that corporations are the evil creation of evil people designed to wreak evil upon the world. The creators, in short, commit the error of assuming bad faith on the part of their targets. Now, they make quite a few valid points. They also make a lot of invalid or screwy points, and they generally fail at answering the question "so what should I do about this?" The two answers hinted at, and they are only hinted at, are "unite and overthrow your corporate overlords!" and "some weird thing in India where people pass seeds back and forth, and I don't even think it's relevant to the point they're making, but an Indian woman insists that this is cheaper and far more efficient than what corporations do and who are we to doubt her?" This is the only movie I've ever seriously considered walking out of, but I was in the middle of a packed row and I didn't want to disturb people. Nonetheless, this is a movie I genuinely hated. I also didn't much like that Enron documentary from last year, but mostly because it was boring and did a poor job of creating a coherent narrative. But you want to know what propaganda documentary I really did like? The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Clearly biased, but it has some amazing and unique footage.

8. Akira
Amazing visually, but the plot was utterly incoherent. And not on purpose; they had to cram a 3000 page comic book into a three hour movie, and on top of that the screenplay was written before the comic book was done, so they just had to wing it for the last hour. Good insofar as it was the thin end of the wedge in terms of bringing Japanese animation to an American audience, but its importance can be overstated. After Akira it was still years before Japanese animation and comic books built a large enough audience in America to be considered mainstream, and a lot of unsung heroes of localization invested and lost a lot of money trying to bring this stuff over before it became popular. Back on topic, though. Akira was pretty but incoherent. It also gave the false impression that all Japanese animation is sexual, ultra-violent, and incomprehensible. Not (necessarily) so.

9. Ghost in the Shell
This entry is padding. Again, I couldn't think of ten movies I genuinely hate, and, while Ghost in the Shell and Akira are, as you may have noticed, different movies, I tend to lump them together in the same category as vastly over-rated early Japanese animation imports. One distinction between GitS and Akira: Akira is at least based on a good comic book. Ghost in the Shell's comic book alternates between action that's too complex to convey in the comic medium and pages upon pages of incoherent high school-grade techno-philosophizing. I didn't really mind the Matrix 2 all that much, if only because I'd already been inoculated to its peculiar brand of pseudo-philosophical nonsense by Ghost in the Shell.

10. Mission to Mars
I include this because it's the absolute worst regular mainstream movie I've seen, but at the same time it's highly entertaining. I was laughing throughout, which was embarrassing in a crowded theater. From the painful product placement (they stick a Pennzoil sticker on the outside of the Mars lander, they find an air leak in the shuttle by opening a packet of Dr. Pepper and watching where the droplets are sucked out) to the laughable take on genetics at the end, I was kept in stitches the whole time. So it's probably not fair to call this a hated movie, but it sure was bad.


And here's my Big List of Movies I Didn't Like. I figured this didn't fit very well into the main post, so I decided to post it as a comment. It only contains movies that I remember disliking as I was watching them or leaving the theater. Perhaps if I watched them again my opinion would change. It's both over-inclusive and under-inclusive. So here it is, with comments as appropriate:

1. Manos
2. Little Women (to be fair, I was about twelve when I saw this, in theaters)
3. Episode I
4. Battle Beyond the Stars (I liked it as a kid. I hated it when I went back and watched it again a year ago)
5. Total Recall
6. Blade Runner
7. Breakfast at Tiffany's
8. Russian Ark (To be fair, I had a massive hangover when I saw this one)
9. Gone with the Wind
10. Around the World in 80 Days (The Jackie Chan one)
11. Pitch Black
12. Hell Boy (Sorry, Dianna! Maybe if I read the comic books I'd have a better appreciation...)
13. Helsing (the previous four came from the magical Summer a year and a half ago when I tried to watch every single blockbuster movie that came out. I kept it up into mid-July, then quit in exasperation. 2004 was a hellish year for good movies, especially that Summer)
14. Most Leslie Nielsen movies (That one Godfather parody, that one spy movie parody...)
15. Mixed Nuts
16. That Enron Documentary
17. The Corporation
18. The Brave Little Toaster
19. The Grinch
20. Jurassic Park III
21. Robot Carnival
22. Angel Cop
23. Akira
24. Ghost in the Shell
25. Batman and Robin
26. Mission to Mars
27. Dead Poet's Society
28. Without a Paddle
29. Darkman
30. Showgirls

How could you not like brave little toaster? It's a story about a toaster, zach, a toaster who's trying to find his boy! It's the classic coming of age story!!!

I'd forgotten about this post until just now.

12. Nonsense. I don't read the Hellboy comics despite the fact that a near-complete set lives in my house. I've tried but not been all that interested, actually, so I have to regard the comics and the movie as independent phenomena (of which the movie is much more enjoyable).

30. My old housemates had a sort of continuing mass hysteria over Showgirls. They collectively loved it. It didn't matter who actually lived in the house at any given time, there was always somehow a majority of Showgirls fiends. Chief among them was my friend Jeff, who also loved Settlers of Catan and would, every time he built a settlement, turn on his sultry Crystal Whatserface voice and call it "a real nice settlement". It never failed to crack me up.

My friend Alex from Oregon really likes Showgirls, too. He has the deluxe boxed set. He also has the distinction of being the only person I know to have memorized every line of dialogue in the movie "Clue." It's scary.

I suppose also, to be fair to Hellboy, it was the first movie of three that I watched in one day. When I don't have much to keep me occupied (like school), I sometimes go on theater binges. I watched Hellboy, followed by Mean Girls, followed by Helsing all in one day. I started getting odd looks and sarcastic comments from the ticket seller. On the other hand,I came out of the day liking Mean Girls, but disliking Hellboy and hating Helsing. Of course, I now recall that the chair I sat in for Hellboy was notably uncomfortable. Maybe that was the problem.

Oh! I should put Helsing on my list.
31. Helsing.

Brette: The Brave Little Toaster was pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel, made the worse by its child-friendly advertising. And I don't recall the toaster coming of age at all. He just relocated from the abandoned cabin to the boy.

Also, how the hell freaky must that be? Finding your discarded electronics have returned to you? Also, I haven't seen the movie in years; was there any explanation for the peculiarly strong feelings of affection between the boy and his toaster?

As you well know, I'm applying to film school and i'm easily appalled by bad films. So to my consternation, Showgirls is a roundtable topic in one of my Film Quarterlys, an otherwise very respectable scholarly magazine. I can't believe more than 5 people wanted to write in depth articles on (mostly) it's unappreciated worth. Lastly, a movie that would make my list is Constentine (or however it;s spelled) for ruining the Hellblazer comics for me. Oh, and L"Avventura, which noboby denies is as about exciting as watching paint dry, but everyone agrees is a masterpiece--what gives?
Ok, this is the last lastly, don't bother rewatching Russian Ark... it had nothing to do with your hangover

I read a hilarious MiSTing a while ago of libertarian pro-gun activist Jon Lott's paean to Showgirls, and to Elizabeth Berkley in particular. If you're not familiar, a MiSTing is a weird off-shoot of internet fan fiction where people make fun of bad fan fiction by inserting commentary by Mike, Joel, and the robots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 into them. It is, in itself, a form of fan fiction, but very self-aware and of a somewhat higher quality than most of the fan fiction out there. John Lott is famous for using specious data to oppose gun control laws, and for defending himself in internet discussions using sock puppets (he'd create fake accounts with fake names, then use them to praise himself and agree with his points). This hasn't prevented him from becoming a minor player in the right-wing book and article publishing business, and he's gotten a few editorials published in the New York Times despite being, frankly, a charlatan.

I missed Constantine (thankfully) and haven't seen L'Avventura. Russian Ark I will be happy never to see again. It's great to have a gimmick, but it's not so great when you have no ideas for your movie beside the gimmick. And a lot of costumes.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on November 21, 2005 11:42 PM.

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