As 2011 draws to a close, the natural tendency is to reflect on events of the past 12 months. Did we accomplish everything we'd hoped? Did we end the year in a better place than we started? Did that terrifying rash all over our genitalia clear up on its own, or should we finally see a doctor?
For folks in the lucrative movie reviewing biz, this is the time of year when we find ourselves banging our collective heads against the wall in order to come up with our annual "best of" lists. It's an excruciating exercise, not just because ranking what we saw in cinemas in 2011 is often a chore slightly less enjoyable than a latter-period Nicolas Cage movie marathon, but because whatever we come up with is inevitably challenged by everyone who takes umbrage with your leaving their particular favorite off your ultimately meaningless list.
So more fun, for me anyway, is documenting the lesser lights of last year's offerings. Being older and feeling the hoary spectre of death hovering over my every step, I don't go out of my way to see every stinker out there, but I see enough. And like every other year, 2011 offered plenty to choose from.
In no particular order, because crap is crap.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
There's no greater testimony to the ineffectiveness of the critical community than Breaking Dawn - Part 1's $144 million opening weekend gross. The movie's runtime is just three minutes shy of two hours, and all but 15 of those minutes are a fat lot of nothing. There's a wedding, which you probably already knew about, and a honeymoon which ranks with your basic After School Special in terms of sexiness. To be fair, Bill Condon doesn't have the...strongest source material to work with. But come on.
Just Go With It/Jack and Jill
There was a time, back during the Clinton administration, when an Adam Sandler movie could be depended on to provide a few healthy laughs. As he's gotten more successful, however, Sandler's chucked his uneven, anarchic sensibility for fart and fat jokes (often in the same scene). Using a person's homosexuality as a punchline may -- may -- have passed muster when you were too young and stupid to know any better. I know, comedy's subjective and all, but if you're actually laughing the second time a guy gets hit in the groin in a movie, perhaps you should stick with pro wrestling.
In case you hadn't figured it out by now, I may be dodging some low-hanging fruit in favor of singling out the higher-profile targets, and they don't come much higher than two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks. Certainly at one point, perhaps before the days of Bosom Buddies wine and roses, Hanks understood what it was like to be a struggling actor. The passage of 40 years has apparently wiped these memories clean. Lost your job? No education? Underwater on your mortgage? Nothing a positive attitude and swapping your gas-guzzling SUV for a scooter can't solve. And don't worry about those tuition bills; in case you hadn't heard, college these days doesn't cost anything.
Oh, and Julia Roberts is in it. So there's that.
Machine Gun Preacher
Gee, if only more evangelical trailer trash would just take up arms and go solve problems namby-pamby NGOs like UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders were too chickenshit to handle on their own, wouldn't the world be a better place?
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But how can this be? Everyone from The New Yorker to Time magazine calls this one of the year's best movies, with no less an august organization than the Hollywood Foreign Press conferring a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. I don't know what to tell you. My actual review may or may not appear here in the next few days, but my first words upon leaving the War Horse screening were, "Did Spielberg have a stroke?" Certainly his capacity for schmaltz is well-documented (go watch the end of War of the Worlds again), but this is the first family-friendly war movie I've seen since Transformers: The Motion Picture back in 1987.
But really, who wouldn't want to see a feature-length version of Paul McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" video?