The Ten Most Culturally Poisonous Films of the Decade
I’d originally planned to put together a list of the ten worst films of the decade, before realizing that it was an all but futile endeavor. There are 200 films, easily, that might qualify for the top ten, and there was no way to really put together a list collaboratively, either. We’ve all seen terrible movies, but usually, only the reviewing critic has seen them, so we could hardly get together and debate the merits of Larry the Cable Guy (for the record, I’d have probably named Captivityas the worst of the decade, on account of the fact that it made me angrier than a Bruce Banner backseat hate fuck).
Instead, I thought it’d be more valuable to look at the decade’s most culturally poisonous movies — those films that shifted the Hollywood landscape for the worst, that established negative trends, or that made people that I don’t like happy. Not all of these movies are horrible (though most are); they simply made it possible for more bad movies to exist and helped to lower the collective Hollywood IQ.
10. High School Musical: Is it criminal to give tween chicklets a little eye candy and some really heinous manufactured pop music? Of course not. As long as it stays where it belongs, on the Disney channel, and away from the rest of us. The problem with High School Musical is that it got too big. It spawned the careers of Ashley Tisdale, Vanessa Hudgins, and Zac Efron. It allowed a bunch of candy-ass teenagers into our multiplexes. And Efron is on the verge of being taken seriously as an actor. We can’t let that happen, folks. And it is thanks, in part, to the success of High School Musical that a Footloose remake is in the works, and that Hollywood saw fit to remake Fame (and, perhaps, the reason why there’s a Saved by the Bell movie in development). But there’s something even more insidious lurking beneath the High School Musical phenomenon , and that’s director Kenny Ortega, who is not only in line to direct Footloose, but also directed Michael Jackson’s concert movie, This Is It. And by direct, I mean: Insert himself obnoxiously into the picture and kiss Michael Jackson’s ass.
9. Napoleon Dynamite: I didn’t hate Napoleon Dynamite when it was released in the summer of 2004. It was aimless, meandering, and fairly pointless, but it had an unfamiliar quirk about it, and Jared Hess reeled off a few good lines. That is, until six months later, when many of those lines became obnoxiously over-quoted catchphrases that slowly began to replace the Swingers catchphrases that had, at one time, dominated cubicle banter. Exasperated “Gosh!“‘s were passed around like the drunk accountant at the office holiday party, and by the following year, every single morsel of Napoleon Dynamite’s dim originality had been beaten to a pulp by the machinations of pop culture. The unexpected box-office success of Dynamite, moreover, paved the way for years of quirky indie comedies featuring nerdy losers: Eagle vs. Shark, Film Geek, Adventures of Power, and even Hamlet 2. Even good movies — Juno, The Foot-Fist Way, and Kabluey — were being unfairly compared to Napoleon Dynamite, as the movie had somehow become shorthand for indie comedies about pathetic outcasts. Though there have been far too many Napoleon Dynamite-like movies made since 2004, we can at least be thankful that it was something of a one-hit wonder for both the director (Jared Hess) and the actor (Jon Heder), who are both still worm-holing their ways back into obscurity.
8. 300: Love it or hate it (I’m of neither persuasion, though I lean toward the hate side), Zack Snyder’s 300 has been largely responsible for a whole new brand of motion-picture stylism - it’s really quite unbelievable now how many pitches are now being tossed to studio heads that contain the phrase — “in the style of 300.” Quite frankly, putting aside Snyder’s Watchmen, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet, and the influence of 300 is likely to dog us well into the next decade. Here are just a few movies coming out soon, or in development, that are expected to be “in the style of 300: Moby Dick, Moses, Vlad Dracula, Clash of the Titans, Excalibur and War of Gods. It might have been visually stunning the first time around, but let’s at least hope that subsequent movies “in the style of 300” bother to wrap some substance around that visual stylism.
7. The Polar Express: Thanks to success of The Polar Express, which was a very bad movie, by the by, Zemeckis’ motion capture technique has become the technological wave of the future, at least for Zemeckis, who has had enough pull to keep rolling out these ugly-ass mo-cap flicks. Not content to ruin Beowulf and A Christmas Carol with his hideous animation technique, which involves recording movement and translating that movement onto a digital model, we can we look forward to more motion-capture monstrosities in the next decade, including a mo-cap version of Yellow Submarine, The Nutcracker, most likely an adaptation of the Stoneheart Trilogy and yes — a sequel to Roger Rabbit. Thanks, but no thanks, Zemeckis.
6. The Ring: Decent movie, actually. But you know what wasn’t good? The Asian horror remakes that followed in its wake: Dark Water, The Grudge and The Grudge 2, The Ring 2, The Eye, Mirrors, Shutter, Pulse, One Missed Call and Bangkok Dangerous. It also launched the career of director Gore Verbinski, who would go on to direct Pirates of Caribbean (Yay!) and it’s two sequels (boo!). Oh, and now he’s remaking The Host (bastard) and Clue (asshole).
5. Diary of a Mad Black Woman: It’s not like Diary of a Mad Black Woman spawned a new subgenre or anything. What it did was make Tyler Perry the most prolific director in Hollywood — he has become his own subgenre. Thanks to the massive and unexpected success of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, we’ve been treated to two Tyler Perry movies a year for four years, in addition to two television shows with 100-episode commitments. Tyler Perry is an industry, and that industry is facile African-American dramas replete with racial stereotypes, contrived situations, rampant misogyny, come-to-Jesus exhortation, and another fucking black man in a gender reversal fat suit, because that never gets old. They’re phony, infantile movies that actually exploit Christianity for cash. Tyler Perry relies too much on broad, crude comedy; he’s a misogynistic egoist; he’s entirely too melodramatic; his Christian messages are too heavy-handed; and he’s a poor writer, a hack director, and a terrible actor, to boot. But thanks to Diary of a Mad Black Woman, we’re going to get a semi-annual opportunity to watch his movies for years to come.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: There’d been a few horror remakes before Michael Bay’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but this is the movie that found the formula for disposable horror remakes that would dominate the rest of the decade. Take an ’80s horror title, throw in some forgettable teenage meat, cut them up, and voila: You’ve got yourself a $35 million dollar opening weekend on a $20 million budget. In fact, Texas Chainsaw Massacre made over $100 million worldwide on less than a $10 million production budget. So, it was only inevitable that we’d see in the coming years remakes of Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, House of Wax, The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th, The Omen, When a Stranger Calls, The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left, The Fog, The Uninvited, The Hitcher, Black Christmas, and Sorority Row. Thanks, Michael Bay!
3. Twilight: The essence of why Twilight has been culturally noxious was demonstrated a few months ago on our Seriously Random List of The 11 Reasons Why the Twilight Phenomenon Scares the Living Shit Out of Me. But it’s not just the feral, giggling teenage mall goth girls waving around their virginity like a lasso, but something far worse: Twilight Moms — crazy ladies living out some misguided wet teenage fantasy, often through their own daughters. But the Twitards and their Moms, who think that Stephenie Meyer is the motherfucking Charles Dickens of the 21st century, are just half the cultural damage that Twilight has wrought. It’s also spawned an entire market of trashy vampire and werewolf novels, “True Blood,” “Vampire Dairies,” and seemingly dozens of movies now in production about vampires, werewolves, and whiny fucking teenage girls being fought over by vacuous pretty boys. With New Moon succeeding to the tune of $270 million and counting, and two more sequels in the works, the damage isn’t done yet. We could be feeling the effects of Twilight for another decade to come.
2. Saw: The original Saw had some modest entertainment value, mostly for its ability — at the time — to make you wriggle in disgust. But I daresay, nothing good has come from Saw’s wake, and way too much has come from it. I speak of the entire torture porn genre, which thankfully (but for the Saw series) has mostly flamed out. But before it did, we were introduced to entirely too much sadistic horror. Eli Roth has, so far, built a career out of it. And we also have Saw to thank for Captivity, I Know Who Killed Me, Turistas, Rob Zombie’s films, and even The Passion of the Christ. So, thanks for that, James Wan.
1. Transformers: Ah, Michael Bay again! The first Transformers wasn’t hideous. It was mildly enjoyable for what it was — a bunch of robots beating the shit out of each other in such a way that nobody could tell what the hell was going on. But it is thanks to that film’s huge $700 million in box-office receipts that our childhoods are being poked, diddled, molested, punctured, and raped. You can thank Transformers not just for its monstrously awful, bloated sequel, but for G.I. Joe, and for half of the next decade’s slate of movies based on toys or board games. Here’s just a sampling of what we have to look forward to in the next few years because of Transformers: Movies based on Monopoly, Risk, Battleship, Stretch Armstrong, Clue, Bazooka Joe, Ouija, Candy Land, Barbie and even a Viewmaster movie. Yes — a movie based on a Viewmaster! And these aren’t small movies for niche audiences — they’re massively budgeted, blockbuster spectacles that will crowd out everything else in the summer. Because it won’t be just Risk and Monopoly. It’ll be Risk II and Monopoly III competing with a fourth and fifth Transformers movie. It’s terrible board game and toy adaptations for years, maybe even decades, to come. And if that’s not bad enough, we have Transformers to thank for Megan Fox.
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