Note: I’m no longer in L.A. The rest of article remains the same.
I’m still in L.A. and I’m trying to figure out how to get to the Museum of Death, but, in the meantime, since I am in the home of the American film industry, I decided to list off the ten absolute worst films of all time. Now, I watch a lot of movies that would be considered “bad” by normal person metrics; exploitation, Eurotrash, old horror, the entire Something Weird filmography, so my threshold is different from most people’s.
That means that, for me to consider a movie legitimately bad, it has to actively offend me. In that way, I’m no different from Roger Ebert or Gene Siskel, who award “zero stars” to films which are not “bad” in the traditional way, but offend whatever moral code they prescribe to. Of course their ideas of morality and justice are different from mine in a lot of ways, so I’ve actually enjoyed many of their “zero star” films, among which include the mondo Africa addio, the futuristic race car splatter classic Death Race 2000, the rape/revenge flick I Spit on Your Grave and the Bob Guccioni produced Caligula. Hell, Quentin Tarantino said rather enthusiastically that one of their “zero star” films, the slavery drama Mandingo, is the only exploitation flick ever produced by a major Hollywood studio. And you best believe that Taraninto’s inclusion of Mandingo fighters in Django Unchained had little to do with attempting to be historically accurate and more to do with paying homage to the 1975 film.
So, what are MY “zero star” films? What films are so stupid, awful and offensive that I would award them a grade of zero if I were to write film reviews for a major newspaper? Read on and see!
10.) Crash (2005)
Not to be confused with David Cronenberg’s 1996 film of the same name, which is about sex and car crashes and based upon a work by J.G. Ballard, the 2005 film, which was directed by Paul Haggis, is one of the most idiotic, pedantic and in your face treatises ’bout dat racism.
It’s hard for me not to like a movie where a big time rapper says, “dawg, there’s a dead Chinaman under your car”, but somehow, this movie managed to elicit that response. It’s just an Altman-esque pastiche of interweaving stories, all of which involve major Hollywood actors yelling lines where they say a bunch of generic “racist” stereotypes. There is almost no real acting involved in any of it and the stories are so damn stupid and predictable, that you wonder if this wasn’t intended to be a made for TV special. For instance, Matt Dillon plays a racist cop, who then saves a black woman. Why is he racist? He just is, ya know. Did saving the black woman’s life make him un-racist? I dunno, maybe.
9.) Dead Man Walking (1995)
This two hour anti-capital punishment propaganda film was directed by Tim Robbins and stars Sean Penn and big boobed commie pinko, Susan Sarandon. Sarandon is the nun and tries to comfort Sean Penn, who is a neo-Nazi about to be killed on death row for murdering someone. At first you think Penn is a bad guy because he killed someone, but then you realize he’s also a human being, so he deserves sympathy. Sarandon tries to drag this sympathy out of the victim’s family. Why would she do such an obviously inappropriate thing? I dunno, because he’s got blood and veins and eyeballs and bones and feet and hands and skin. Oh and he said he’s cool with Martin Luther King, Jr., so he can’t be all bad.
8.) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
It’s hard for me to really hate this movie since it’s pretty entertaining, but the message from antiquated, ’60s liberal Stanley Kramer is so dumb and obvious, that I feel the movie doesn’t have a right to be so fun to watch. Sidney Poitier is a black doctor who wants to marry a white woman played by Katherine Houghton. Houghton’s San Francisco dwelling, liberal parents, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, are challenged by the notion of their white daughter marrying a black man.
Eventually everything works out, but what’s really grating is the notion that the only challenge the movie presents is skin color, which the white liberal family (and, to some extent, the black family) needed to “overcome”; their fairy tale narrative involves a woman marrying a doctor, not say, a member of the a Black Panthers. And while, I’m not saying every black person is a member of the Black Panthers or is some kind of shifty, shady character who whites distrust, I am saying that I highly doubt liberal parents care THAT MUCH about skin color and skin color alone, with something like the Watts or Detroit riots fresh on their minds. Be honest here; is the black/white divide based purely on skin pigmentation and on one group of people simply not liking the other because of it? Is that REALLY the issue here? Who knows; maybe it was more relevant then and parents really did say, “you’re bringing home a b-b-black?!”
7.) Forrest Gump (1994)
I have a feeling the lovable retard, Forrest Gump, as portrayed by Tom Hanks, is really supposed to be the everyman. Don’t think for yourself, just let yourself be guided through life and everything will work out fine. On the other hand, if you do think for yourself, you will die of AIDS. Nowadays, given our modern zeitgeist, Forrest Gump might be remade with the roles of Gump and Jenny switched.
6.) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Considered an all time classic of American cinema, in which quiver-voiced James Stewart stands in front of the evil, mean-spirited, probably Republican senate for twenty hours and doesn’t back down until they decide to build a camp for boys. What the camp is for, I’d rather not guess. Apparently not wanting to spend tax payer dollars on this camp rather than a dam is what is considered “political corruption” by the standards of even then liberal Hollywood. I’m not a huge James Stewart fan; I often times find him to be more annoying than charming, but he’s been in some classics, such as Hitchcock’s Rear Window, The Man Who Knew too Much and Vertigo, George Cukor’s comedy classic The Philadelphia Story and Capra’s very own It’s a Wonderful Life, but this overly long, preachy, one-sided pile of propaganda is not one of them.
I scrolled through six IMDB pages of 8 to 10 star reviews before I found this two star review from an IMDB user named “lutheranchick”, who writes:
This film is a study of a Good Guy, who wants funding to start a national boys’ camp for the “Boy Rangers”, going against the Bad Guys, who want to build a dam on the same land only for their own selfish interests (not hydro-electricity or anything, you fool). You may ask why taxpayers would want to pay for a camp only a few of the nation’s boys could live near; you may ask why the camp couldn’t be built on a different piece of land; you may ask why a private organization should get federal funds; you may ask if there were any issues that constituents would have found more pressing. Well, apparently that’s because you’re one of the Bad Guys too.
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
5.) Bamboozled (2000)
I really despise Spike Lee and his race baiting bullshit. As much as I enjoyed Do the Right Thing, I DO NOT feel that Mooky “did the right thing” by throwing a garbage can into the window of the pizza shop, and neither do several of my otherwise, sympathetic liberal friends who will run mental gymnastics to rationalize how “that’s not what Spike Lee meant.” Sorry kiddos, Spike done think you haven’t self-flagellated enough.
Bamboozled is basically a loose remake of the 1976 Sidney Lumet classic, Network, only it’s loaded with old-timey, black racial stereotypes. This is apparently to send a message that not much has changed and blacks “iz still enslaved to the white man” (well, actually Jewish man according to Spike Lee, but now he’s relegated to saying “white” instead of “Jewish” because we taught him what’s what when he complained about how Jews control Hollywood… only 61% of Hollywood, sheesh). I actually like old-timey looking stuff, such as old toys, post-cards and cartoons, that have stereotypes of blacks and Asians, not to mention old Nazi propaganda with the hook nosed, Jewish ogre guy, so I guess I got the wrong message out of the movie.
4.) Every white teacher in an inner city school movie ever except for The Principal
Whether it’s Blackboard Jungle from 1955 or Dangerous Minds from 1995, the story is the same. A white teacher/principal/superintendent from the suburbs comes to an inner city school and learns that, for this bunch, education is the last thing on their minds. At first the teacher is cynical because, gosh darn it, these kids JUST can’t be taught! But, through patience and teaching things on their level, in a way they understand, we can turn around this depressing situation.
Of course, in all of these, there will be the bad apple who just can’t be reformed because these movies have to have an ounce of realism. That’s why the only teacher movie I like is The Principal with Jim Belushi, where the bad kid is played by Michael Wright, who was later in the HBO prison show Oz and he’s REALLY bad. He ties a kid to a rope by his feet and drops him through the glass ceiling. Someone that homicidal can’t be reformed.
3.) American History X (1998)
I read somewhere that Edward Norton slammed in the pits of the early ’80s D.C. hardcore scene. So, it’s not surprising that, just like Ian McKaye turned the hardcore scene into a humorless, PC cesspool, Edward Norton allegedly imposed his vision onto director Tony Kaye, or at least that’s what I’ve read. I don’t know if, without Norton’s meddling, American History X would have been as good as the far superior Romper Stomper; it’s for damn sure not nearly as fun as Graydon Clark’s 1989 film, Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate. The point is a lot of people really like American History X. The typical defenses for the movie are that it’s “powerful” and “bold” and “the performances are good.” Well, yeah, Norton and Edward Furlong do a good job. But at what? A guy I went to college with named Kip told me that the movie “tricks you into being racist.” What he meant was that, during the scene where the skinheads challenge the thugs at basketball, they dramatically pump up the music when Norton’s character takes the winning shot in order to make you feel like you’re rooting for him. Wow, you’re racist now.
Basically the movie is a litmus test to see if you were duped by this stupid ass after school special. Typical story, kid’s dad is murdered by blacks, becomes leader of neo-Nazi group, meets good black guy in prison, realizes not all blacks are bad – he was given six years in prison for dropping a TV during a robbery? Why WAS he committing a robbery? Yeeeahhhh – and then is no longer racist. Of course the movie’s “big” scene is when Edward Norton curb-stomps someone who is trying to steal his car. The car thief is black, Norton is white and has a big ol’ swastika tattooed on his chest, so, because he’s a mean, ol’ racist, Norton stomped the guy’s head into a curb. Did Mr. Dindu-Thuggalicious deserve to have his head stomped into a curb? No, of course not. A couple bullets to the chest would have sufficed, as they would for the thugs in Detroit who twice stole my car.
2.) Schindler’s List (1993)
Am I so callous as to deny the world’s most successful filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg, his props for making such wickedly awesome films as Duel, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Raiders of the Lost Ark? No, that would be foolish. Those are great films in the action/horror/science fiction genres. Hell, I even enjoyed Amistad solely for the violent opening scene where the slaves have the revolt and kill a bunch of people. Spielberg, for all his child pandering bullshit, will put R worth violence on the screen. Hell, the heart ripping scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was cause enough for the invention of the PG-13 rating. Actually that makes me wonder if there is a conspiracy; rather than have his audience diminished by an R-rating, Spielberg gets a whole new, not quite R-rating invented for him?
Anyway, somewhere along the line, Spielberg decided to do the Holocaust in three acts. Filmed in gorgeous black and white – and with a gorgeous set of bouncy tits somewhere in the middle of the movie – with all of the movie’s budget clearly on the screen, Spielberg tells the tale of how Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson), the Nazi with a soul, saved 200 Jews from the gas chambers. Schindler’s foil is Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), the evil, scary, “mwahahahaha”, Jew-killin’ super villain. Stanley Kubrick complained that the movie focuses on the 200 Jews who were saved and not the 6,000,000 who were killed, but I think the real problem with the movie is that it’s basically a typical three act adventure story with every single Holocaust trope driven into your face for three obnoxious hours before it has an emotional orgasm of “I COULD HAVE SAVED MORE JEWS!!! I’M NOT AS GOOD AS I THOUGHT I WAS!!! THIS IS THE PART OF THE MOVIE WHERE EVERYONE IS SUPPOSED TO HOLD EACH OTHER AND CRY!!!” Of course, every tear jerking, white guilt fest needs to have its “crux” moment and, just like American History X had its curb stomping, Schindler’s List had the little girl wearing the red coat atop a pile of dead bodies. That way you know, with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, that the Nazis weren’t just bad; they were REALLY bad!
1.) Higher Learning (1995)
John Singleton started out okay with the 1991, “you killed mah BABY!!!”, ghetto drama, Boyz n the Hood, then followed with Poetic Justice, which I haven’t seen, but there’s a reason why Singleton was eventually forced to direct crap like 2 Fast 2 Furious or the Shaft remake, and I believe the problem starts with Higher Learning. Basically Higher Learning is like a Spike Lee film for retards. Like Lee’s films, it has a whole bunch of characters doing a bunch of stuff and then it somehow comes together in the end. Unlike Lee’s films, the characters are one-dimensional caricatures, whose plot trajectories leave one with the basic conclusion that “whity iz the devil.” I mean, Lee’s films do the same, but they, at least, seem deeper.
Higher Learning takes place at a university, hence the clever title, but all that is learned is that Ice Cube is an asshole, which is okay, because he’s black, and he bullies Michael Rapaport, who, after banging a Kristy Swanson, who cries “rape” in the middle of sex and then becomes a lesbian at the guidance of Jennifer Connelly, turns into a neo-Nazi at the guidance of Cole Hauser, and goes on a shooting spree at the end. Omar Epps, Tyra Banks, Jason Wiles, Laurence Fishburn, Busta Rhymes and Adam Goldberg round out the cast.
The thugs beat up the Nazis of course, because blacks are the heroes and whites are not only the villains, but also don’t have enough “street” to know how to REALLY fight. Adam Goldberg has a gun pointed in his face and jumps around and whimpers because Jews are pussies. The other white guy, Jason Wiles isn’t bad, but he’s naive of the black situation, just like every well-meaning white guy. And Tyra Banks gets shot at the end because someone needed to get shot by the evil, gun-toting neo-Nazi, so why not make it her?