Year-End Movie Survey, Question 3

What were the two or three worst new movies you saw in 2005?

That's a difficult question, because there were so many mediocre movies in '05. So if I could change this category from "worst" to "most annoying," hands down I'd pick Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man. Between the German auteur's self-indulgent omniscient narrative on meshugenah activist, Timothy Treadwell, and Treadwell's preschool banter on...I'll be honest, I checked out so many times during the film, the ski bum may as well have spoken Wookie. Seriously, I wanted to off myself throughout the screening, but then I thought of Zach Braff's Garden State and decided that there are worse creations in this world (or, at least, better reasons to commit hari kari).

To call them the worst would be misleading, meaning they obviously weren't inept or anything--I see so relatively few films, it's rare that I see anything that actually strikes me as inept--but the two that annoyed me the most were A History of Violence and Last Days, while the biggest letdown was Broken Flowers. I was a big David Cronenberg fan through most of the '80s. I think The Dead Zone is one of the most underappreciated films of the past 25 years (considered, I believe, to be a regrettable bid for commercial success by many of his admirers), and The Fly was great as allegory, as romance, and as science-fiction. Dead Ringers was masterful too, but something deadening started to creep into his films at that point (non-fans would say it was there from day one), and they all seem to be such joyless affairs now--not his choice of subject matter, which has always been grim, but in their delivery. And then there's William Hurt...Last Days is another variation on Truffaut's famous remark that cinema should be about either the joy of making movies or the agony of making movies: Gus Van Sant, like Todd Solondz and Todd Haynes, makes films that are about the agony of watching movies. Whatever you think of Kurt Cobain, and I don't think I harbor especially protective feelings about him myself, it's sad to see his story hijacked for somebody's obscure art purposes. (For a much smarter, more nuanced, and, God knows, much more lively meditation on Cobain, I'd recommend Imperial Teen's "You're One" from their first LP. There are similarities to Van Sant's movie--Cobain is never explicitly named; it's written from a gay perspective--but the Imperial Teen song feels like a work of empathy, of understanding. Last Days feels like a sterile film-school thesis, and it goes on for several lifetimes longer.) Finally, Broken Flowers was disappointing for exactly the reason I'd expect from Jim Jarmusch: he takes what was modulated just perfectly in Bill Murray's performances in Rushmore and Lost in Translation, adds another two or three layers of anomie, and nullifies Murray right off the screen.