The Washington Post covers Rotten Tomatoes’ round-up of the year’s worst movies and what makes it fun to read is not just the list of what-were-they-thinking horrible films but the quotes from the reviews by the critics who suffered through them. My own pick for the worst film of the year is featured on Rotten Tomatoes along with the choices from Ben Mankiewicz, Roger Ebert, and others invited to participate by the RT editors.
Maybe it’s just a case of new year’s optimism but for me the good news from this article is less about the lousy movies (what did we expect from Paris Hilton, Uwe Boll, or those “Epic Movie” people?) that it is about the good work done by the critics who reviewed them. The movies may have been a waste of time but the reviews, as quoted on Rotten Tomatoes and in the Post, were not. Anguished, maybe, even angry at times, but often funny and always clever, thoughtful, and game.
It doesn’t take a critic to know that a movie is awful, but it can take a critic to help us understand how and why it is awful. The movie may not be fun to watch but the critic can make explaining why it is not fun to watch a lot of fun to read and, on a good day, we will learn something, too. And I give extra credit to the intrepid souls who make the effort to see the “cold opens,” the films that are not shown in advance to critics because the studios are certain they won’t get a single good review. They’re better prognosticators than they are film-makers; several of those cold opens ended up on the worst list including the dead last, “One Misssed Call,” which did not get a single good review.
I usually don’t mind seeing bad movies. The really horrible ones can be easier to watch than movies that are just dull and mediocre. My son and I used to joke that the motto of our movie-going club was “just because a movie is no good is no reason not to see it.” He has generously accompanied me to some legendary flops, including Catwoman and Battlefield Earth. It is often easier to write a good review of a bad movie than a good review of a great movie, and the Post article reminds us that terrible movies often inspire some very well-written complaints.
All of this is a good way to get ready for the first releases of 2009. The big prestige movies of December, released in time for awards consideration, are inevitably followed by the January left-overs. We normally don’t see much worth recommending until mid-February at the earliest. So this round-up of last year’s worst movies as reviewed by some of the best critics is a timely reminder to sharpen my metaphorical pencils and get ready to do my best to make reading about bad films as entertaining as I wish it had been to watch them.