Combustible Celluloid

What Happened to Me in the Dark, Part II

Choosing 2002's Worst films

by Jeffrey M. Anderson

Some critics have pointed out that 2002 had just as many good movies as any other year, but that the bad movies have grown worse and worse.

Indeed, some of 2002's worst films were flat-out intolerable. I'm not for censorship of any kind, but I honestly wouldn't mind if some of these so-called films were burned beyond recognition.

The reasons for this are many, but it boils down to the numbers. Box office results are tallied and reported in every major publication and TV broadcast -- and they're very simply wrong. They take into account only the biggest films, released on the greatest number of screens. When producers see these erroneous numbers, they green-light more films (and sequels) to reflect the kinds of films that supposedly made all this money.

And the circle gets smaller and smaller.

No one pays any attention to the fact that some movies put more butts in the seats per theater, movies like Spirited Away and Far From Heaven. Until a per-screen average box office count takes the place of the gross count, things will continue to get worse.

Now, I didn't see every bad movie made this year, but I saw plenty. The worst trend in 2002 was unfunny drag comedies like All the Queen's Men, Juwanna Mann and Sorority Boys.

Another annoying trend was the return of the video store-geek Tarantino rip-off movie, Knockaround Guys and Who Is Cletis Tout?

Just as painful is sitting through a comedy that's not funny, as in: Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights, Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, Lucky Break, Serving Sara, Showtime, Stealing Harvard, Sweet Home Alabama, and Teddy Bears' Picnic.

Or these big-budget blockbusters that can't even hide the contempt their producers feel for audiences: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Ice Age, Men in Black II and Red Dragon.

Some critics have been trained to praise anything that plays in an art house theater, or anything with a serious message. Let me set the record straight and suggest that the following were just plain awful: American Adobo, Behind the Sun, Big Bad Love, Borstal Boy, Breaking the Silence, Children of the Century, Les Destinees, Fidel, His Secret Life, Pumpkin, Mad Love, The Mystic Masseur, Satin Rouge, Sex With Strangers, Some Body, Very Annie Mary and The Way Home.

Not to mention the big movies that tried and failed to score some Oscar buzz, like Evelyn and The Four Feathers.

Most critics tend to trash sci-fi and horror films as members of a "lesser" genre, and these did nothing to help that image: Feardotcom, The Time Machine and Wes Craven Presents They.

One movie, New Best Friend, was bad enough that it might qualify for Showgirls-like cult fame.

But the two that left me feeling the most drained, the sickest, and the most utterly defeated tie for the Worst of Year award: The Master of Disguise and Swept Away.

As the new year dawns, I've already seen one more that deserves a spot on next year's list: Kangaroo Jack. Let's pray it ends there.

(See also the year's best.)
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