TOP TEN WORST FILMS OF 2017
Darren Aronofsky is a director I really like and admire, but “mother!” is the first film of his that I have genuinely disliked. I get the fact that it is a biblical allegory that morphs into an eco thriller, but personally I prefer allegory to be used as another layer of a film rather than be the whole point of the film. By that I mean that I like a film to still tell a story and make sense if an audience member does not pick up on the fact that it is an allegory for something else. Done like this, I find the use of an allegory to be very clever and rewarding. “mother!” has none of this. If you do not understand that its really about creation, religion and how we are destroying the world (among other things), the film makes no sense at all. In fact, it turns out to be a series of increasingly disturbing scenarios that ultimately frustrate a viewer. Personally, I got what the film was trying to say, but was annoyed that the film didn't make sense in any way in regards to telling a base story. I also was not a fan of the way the film was shot either. Having Jennifer Lawrence in either constant close up from the shoulders up, or being followed from behind by the camera, became visually boring as it was so repetitive. Now, while I really disliked this film a lot, out of all the titles on this list, this is the only one that I want to revisit.
9. THE GLASS CASTLE
Even though I only watched this a relatively short time ago, I actually remember little about this film, except for the fact that I hated it. I remember thoroughly disliking the parents in the film, played by Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, due to their ridiculous and selfish outlook on life. The performances by these talented actors were also very average too. Brie Larson's performance was also very flat, and for a film that is meant to be filled with emotion, I sadly felt nothing. Seeing as this film came from both the director and star of the very impressive “Short Term 12”, makes “The Glass House” even more of a disappointment.
8. THE SNOWMAN
Out of all the films on this list, “The Snowman” was the one that I expected to be on the “best of” list instead of here. In fact, I thought it was a shoe in to make my top twenty of the year. Coming from a brilliant and classy director such as Tomas Alfredson, whose last film was the stunning “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, with Michael Fassbender as its main star, based on an apparently very good book by Jo Nesbo, not to mention the film was executive produced by Martin Scorsese......surely “The Snowman” couldn't be anything other than cinematic gold. Then the trailers started to come out, and the film looked so impressive. A good old fashioned crime story told by a talented group of film makers. Well, something went wrong, very wrong. Almost from the opening minute of the film, it just feels totally off. The movie doesn't flow. Scenes that end up adding nothing to the story, go on forever, while scenes that would help explain elements of the plot or motivations of the characters, do not even exist. Something that baffled me though was that a line from the trailer and used extensively in the marketing of the film, failed to appear in the film at all. It's the “you could have saved them, I gave you all the clues” line. This made me go back and re-watch the trailer once I had come out of the film, and I then found out that a huge number of scenes from the trailer were missing from the finished product. These didn't appear to be minor scenes either, with a major character being chased, a cabin being set on fire, and Michael Fassbender's character clearly in the midst of mental torture as he is crying on his knees.........all not in the finished film. Another problem is the killer's identity is so obvious as well. Director Tomas Alfredson came out in the press “before” the film was released and admitted that “The Snowman” did not work and blamed it on a lack of time to shoot the scenes needed to make a coherent story. When a director comes out and pans his own film before it has been released, something has gone seriously wrong. Sadly, “The Snowman” is an absolute mess, with the only shining light being Dion Beebe's impressive cinematography.
As this film came out right at the beginning of 2017 (it was released on January 1st here in Australia), I must apologise for my lack of memory of it. I do have a distinct memory of rolling my eyes at the film a lot and being bewildered by some of the things that happen in it. While the film was marketed as some sort of space romance, it was anything but and the leads, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, lack chemistry of any sort. The whole film was just misguided, with terrible CGI to boost. From memory, which as I have said already is severely lacking, I also think it was far too long. The fact that the film is about a man who deliberately wakes another passenger from her hibernation sleep, thus condemning her to death, just because he is lonely is so ridiculous. Hated this film. I will say that I watched this with my wife, who was much more forgiving to this absurd film.
6. INGRID GOES WEST
This one may actually be a good film, as I even saw it in Guillermo del Toro's top ten of 2017, but it was a film that was just not made for me. The topic of the film was about social media, and the extreme lengths people go to just to get a “like” for one of their posts or photos. It was about living a phony existence with no real friends just to appeal to a sea of online “fans” and “friends”. Personally, I am not on social media and in fact, despise it and its constant presence in our lives these days. So while I am sure this film was hitting all the right notes, as I saw the film during a sold out session at MIFF who were constantly laughing, for me all I found was sadness that this is were society is right now. I just could not look past my own views on social media, and even though the film was critical of it, I just could not invest into the story at all. So I say if you are interested in “Ingrid Goes West”, then make you own mind up about it, rather than use its inclusion on this list as a determining factor, as my views on this subject create a very negative bias towards the film. Either way, for me, I could not stomach this film.
5. VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Luc Besson used to be one of my cinematic heroes but right now the glory days of “Leon” and “La Femme Nikita” look to be long gone. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is kind of a passion project for Besson in that it is something he has wanted to make for ages. Before the film was released he stated that it was going to blow “The Fifth Element”, his last truly great film, out of the water. However he did not deliver on this hyperbolic statement. While at times the film looks great, sadly it has no soul. The whole thing is almost totally CGI to the point that you could almost call this an animated film. There are scenes in this film that look more like a video game, than anything cinematic. However the worst aspect of the film was the casting of Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as the lead characters Valerian and Laureline. Their performances are so flat and basic, looking like they are bored in this fantastical world, but even worse is their total lack of chemistry, which for a romantically linked couple is kind of a killer. I actually have a theory, unsubstantiated mind you, on how they ended up with these actors in the lead; knowing just how expensive this film was going to be to make and how much of the budget was going to have to be spent on the special effects, that the film makers decided to get bargain basement actors hoping for some sort of miracle pairing, but if that was the case, it did not work at all. Also the film is miles too long, making the whole thing even more boring and a struggle to get through. With each film I hope that Besson will get back to his character driven action thrillers, and that a glint of his old genius will show through, but “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” was yet another disappointment from this once great director.
4. A DOG'S PURPOSE
My kids loved this film so no doubt they will hate me for adding it to this list but I just could not stomach “A Dog's Purpose” at all. The idea of having a dog, constantly being reincarnated into other dogs after it dies, narrating its thoughts for the entirety of the film, is one of the most misguided ideas I have seen in a film for a while. While it is meant to be cute and heart-warming, not to mention funny, I personally found it cringe inducing. Lets not even mention the scene where the dog digs up the body of the recently deceased cat, the family's other pet, all in the guise of comedy (oops! Think I did just mention it). I should also mention the very serious accusations about the mistreatment of animals during the making of this film which are incredibly troubling and sad to hear. Even without these accusations, “A Dog's Purpose” is a total dud.
3. RULES DON'T APPLY
I never had much interest in seeing this film, Warren Beatty's take on the Howard Hughes legend. After Martin Scorsese's masterful “The Aviator” I didn't think another film could do any more with or any better on Howard Hughes. Then I went to see a film and the trailer for “Rules Don't Apply” played before it and it intrigued me and it looked like a beautiful film, in an old fashioned way. Boy, I should've stuck with my initial decision not to see this film because it was terrible. It had no idea what it wanted to be about, nor what tone it wanted to take. While initially about a young ingenue who comes to Hollywood and falls in love with one of Howard Hughes's limousine drivers, that storyline essentially gets dropped about half way through the film to focus on Hughes himself. The film just never works, and even the performances struggle to make an impression. Lily Collins looks beautiful but to have her character just disappear from the plot for a large chunk of the film, it felt like a cheat forcing an audience to commit and care about her story from the start. Also compared to Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Hughes, Beatty comes across as a bumbling comic idiot. The film also drags forever, and feels much longer than it is. Avoid this film at all costs.
Julian Rosefeldt's “Manifesto” started life as an art exhibition, and as far as I am concerned, it should've stayed in that format and never turned into a feature. The film sees Cate Blanchett perform as thirteen different characters while reciting monologues, drawing inspiration from the musings of twelve people from history. The manifestos come from artists, architects, dancers and film makers to name a few. Doesn't that sound like a fun night out at the movies??? Well it is not! It is so damned boring! Granted, going in I knew that this was probably not going to be for me, and being a fan of Blanchett, I was there only for her, but if you do not have an interest in what is being said on screen, it is hard to even care for the performances no matter how good they may be. Anyway, for a 95 minute film, it felt like it went three hours and this was the most bored I was in a cinema during 2017.
Sadly the worst film that I saw all year was an Australian film called “Rabbit”. It is meant to be a psychological thriller, but for mine, there was nothing thrilling about this film at all. It was filled with amateurish acting, poorly shot scenes, and a script that just made no sense at all. It literally felt like I was watching amateur hour as opposed to watching a film made by professionals. I get the feeling that the director, Luke Shanahan, is a fan of David Lynch and has attempted to make a film the borders on the disturbing, in a way that Lynch does but it just does not work. The whole thing is a silly mess, and scenes that are meant to come across as bold and shocking are anything but. What made it all worse was I saw the world premiere screening of the film at MIFF with the cast and crew in attendance, so I was actually feeling embarrassed for them while watching “Rabbit”. I am also pretty sure that I was sitting next to the family of a crew member and as such I did not want to show my utter displeasure while watching the film. However that is what I felt and I bolted out of the cinema when the credits began. I must say that I have seen some very positive reviews for “Rabbit” too, surprisingly, but I guess every viewing of a film is subjective to the audience member watching it and for me, this was the worst film I saw in 2017.