10. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
9. The Art of Getting By
8. Magic Trip
6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
5. Red State
4. Like Crazy
3. Straw Dogs
2. Jack and Jill
1. Sucker Punch
The lowlights of 2011 were rife with sexual assault, so I guess it’s fitting that the year closed out with David Fincher’s Girl With a Dragon Tattoo—a film too competently crafted to make my worst list, yet deeply troubling all the same.
Whatever queasy uncertainty one might have felt during the over-aestheticized forcible attack on Rooney Mara, pales in comparison to dunderheaded former film critic Rod Lurie’s inexplicable remake of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs . After an almost 40-year reign as the undisputed heavyweight champion of sickening rape and revenge sequences, Peckinpah’s insanely upsetting 1973 id-monster finally got a glossy, lobotomized do-over.
Reconfigured to make an asshole Hollywood screenwriter the unlikely hero of a Cro-Magnon rural South, Lurie’s Straw Dogs obliterated Peckinpah’s moral gray areas as an icky, crowd-pleasing Blue State revenge fantasy. A pampered liberal sans socks who likes to recycle takes on a gang of drooling, backwoods rednecks, and wins! Cue the triumphant score, and more jokes about global warming! Seeing the new Straw Dogs was like watching a movie I love often in spite of myself, remade for single-issue morons who bookmark the Huffington Post.
Our national ideological divide was equally ill-served by Kevin Smith’s Red State . Smith kicked off last year by hijacking the Sundance Film Festival with an annoyingly time-wasting P.T. Barnum routine, openly insulting all in attendance, loudly announcing his intention to change the face of American filmmaking.
Laughably, Smith’s Red State went direct-to-video instead, carried over into profit only by the director’s shrewd tactic of attaching jaw-droppingly exorbitant personal-appearance fees onto the picture’s box-office tally. (I know some poor schmucks who paid $90 to see this movie in exclusive engagements. Nobody gouges their fans’ wallets quite like Kevin Smith.)
It is a dire film—a paranoid pothead “what if” conspiracy fantasia conflating Fred Phelps and Waco, touching upon a dozen hot-button issues without having a single thing to say about any of them. Red State is all empty shock value and crass exploitation.
Sundance offered more than its share of bummers, even beyond the Kevin Smith sideshow. Overhyped festival favorites such as Like Crazy and The Art of Getting By proved 20-something solipsistic navel-gazing knows no bounds once you have a digital camera in your hand. As far as I’m concerned, these two didn’t even count as movies. They’re just self-pitying Tumblr posts with a budget.
A friend joked that “the leading cause of conservatism amongst young people is documentaries about the 1960s.” Alex Gibney and Allison Ellwod’s Magic Trip most assuredly won some converts to the Grand Old Party, barfing up a metric shit-ton of unfocused home movie footage from Ken Kesey’s over-sold bus trip and allowing the results to play out in what felt like real time. A journey chronicled in hyperbolic prose by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test became thunderously banal, history just got smaller.
Speaking of history, I promised to withhold my review of Stephen Daldry’s gob-smacking Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close until the picture opens locally in a couple weeks. So for now let’s just ask, when the crew outfitted Tom Hanks for a money-shot green-screen CGI moment, plummeting directly into camera from the World Trade Center as the tower collapses behind him, wasn’t anybody who went to work that day willing to raise their hand and suggest this just might be slightly tacky? Yes, 10 years is a long time. But perhaps not long enough to turn a massacre into cause for some more Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock Oscar-grubbing kitsch.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely