By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 11, 2013 at 11:00AM
Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week's question:
Q: What is your least favorite movie by your favorite director?
The critics' answers:
"The difficulty I am having with this question is in offering a 'least favorite' rather than a 'worst' film by my favorite director, which itself is a designation open for fierce internal debate. For example, among Howard Hawks's films, of which I suspect my recent list may have had something to do with this question, I can only cite a notorious and obvious worst, 'Trent's Last Case' (1929), whose only print Hawks wished to destroy after its extraordinarily belated American premiere in the mid-1970s. However, its failures, which resulted from unexpected technological limitations -- 'Trent's Last Case' was conceived, planned and even begun as a sound picture, with re-shooting as a silent film commencing quickly following Fox's determination that it had failed to purchase the project's sound rights -- are instructive enough to make it interesting, and for me, a poor candidate for this survey. A more interesting response, I suppose, might be made for a director's whose every film I admire, such as another all-time favorite, Robert Bresson. In his case, the films that spring most to mind (bracketing his experimental 1934 short 'Les Affaires Publiques') are 'A Gentle Woman' (1969) and 'The Devil, Probably' (1977), though again both are strong by any metric other than Bresson's larger body of work. So, let me conclude with another filmmaker, Clint Eastwood, who both I consistently rank among my personal favorites and who has made films that I don't care for that much (see 'The Rookie,' 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' and 'The Changeling'). Among Eastwood's more minor achievements and outright misfires, my "least favorite" remains 'Flags of Our Fathers' (2006), which I still consider the perfect storm of murky visuals, clunky flashbacks and middle-brow award-baiting -- or Spielbergianisms, in a word."
"Wes Anderson has yet to make a 'Django Unchained' or ' Intolerable Cruelty,' but 'Bottle Rocket' is my least favorite of his films. The storybook characters, expert camerawork, and attention to detail that make him my top director would come soon enough, but his debut has only flashes of each. I still like the film a great deal and give it a B+ or A-, which I expect is way higher than most of this week's responses would receive."
"Being that my favorite filmmaker is Robert Bresson, a director whose oeuvre is as close to cinematic perfection as there ever has been, my answer to this question feels like a little bit of a cop out, and actually rather dull. Given the common line of evaluation on the Bresson oeuvre, and the tendency that comes with that to separate the first couple of films from the main brunt, I'm going to nominate 'Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne,' a film which suffers purely by virtue of being an early work. I’m actually very fond of the film itself, but it wasn’t really until Bresson’s follow-up, 'Diary Of A Country Priest,' that the filmmaker’s familiar stylistic pattern became clear, and for this reason the earlier film stands out to me."
"That would have to be Roman Polanski's 1972 film, 'What?,' which fell between his excellent version of 'Macbeth' and 'Chinatown.' It's not hard to believe that the title may have been derived from the initial reaction of the producer because the film is so dull, confounding, and silly it's difficult to figure out what exactly Polanski was going for. It could have easily been titled 'Why?'"
"Great. Now I have to pick my favorite director. It's probably a quadrangle of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and Satoshi Kon. Satoshi Kon never made a bad movie, and Orson Welles never made a dull one, so I guess it's down to Alfred Hitchcock's 'Topaz,' and John Carpenter's 'Village of the Damned.' It seems like sacrilege to say that Alfred Hitchcock ever did anything wrong, and sure enough his spy saga 'Topaz' has flashes of his usual brilliance -- particularly when none of blasé stars are onscreen -- but it's a meandering motion picture with an overly complicated plot that has little to do with the personal lives and obsessions of the heroes, so I just can't recommend it to anyone. And 'Village of the Damned' has a handful of good performances, but Carpenter's reworking of the original horror classic shifts the anxiety from 'What if your child wasn't your own?' to 'Aren't kids kind of desensitized these days?' which isn't even remotely as scary. I can find the good in a lot of John Carpenter's other so-called duds, but 'Village of the Damned' never seems to work no matter how I look at it."
"As someone who doesn't really do the hierarchy thing, I don't have one clear-cut favorite director. Now that my status as a special snowflake is established and I have my cookie, I'll select Steven Soderbergh for today's purposes because I think he's swell and I've only ever disliked one of his pictures. That one is 'The Good German,' which bugs me for an odd and uncharacteristic reason. The fact that Soderbergh wanted to shoot a picture set in the 1940s on the backlot with period-appropriate equipment but with the freedom to explore subject matter not allowed by the censorship standards of the day? Great. Long live auteurism and formal experiments. The problem is with the adaptation process from the source novel. Soderbergh and writer Paul Attanasio run into the same issue as Robert Altman and Leigh Brackett on 'The Long Goodbye' (coincidentally, also my least favorite Altman picture): an apparent seething contempt for the source novel that bleeds into every aspect of the movie. In both cases, there's a nastiness and (whether witting or not) self-sabotage, making the movie extremely unpleasant to watch, that feels as though the filmmakers are telling anyone who liked the book to go fuck themselves. That said, two points need to be made: these are the only times I've ever felt that way about a book-to-movie adaptation (in general a book is a book and a movie is a movie, and the twain shall meet coincidentally, not by necessity), and I still love both directors. But, man, if you ever have about three hours and want to see a purple-faced man shatter windows with curse words, just ask me about 'The Good German.'"
"This is a very easy one. My favorite filmmaker is Terry Gilliam, and while I don’t think it’s a good movie I even enjoyed the Gilliam parts of his otherwise compromised 'The Brothers Grimm.' But I despise 'Tideland.' I had to force myself to get through it just to be able to say I have seen it."
"For me it's got to be 'Robin Hood' by Sir Ridley Scott. He's hands down my favorite director and while everything, on paper, sounded like a 'Robin Hood' origin story would be a win, it missed the mark in every way possible. Quite ironic for a film about history's most famous archer, dontcha think? Anyway, usually his 'Director's Cut' makes up for what was lacking in the theatrical release but that didn't help one bit. It just made things even more drab and painful to watch as the overlong boring blur of a story was now 'overlonger.' This question is unfortunately rather timely as I now feel this way about Sam Raimi's emotionless and bland 'Oz: The Great and Powerful.' Pity."
"Martin Scorsese's 'Boxcar Bertha.' Roger Corman let so many great filmmakers cut their teeth, but there's so little in this well-crafted but tawdry exploitation piece that Scorsese didn't already bring with him as an experienced cutter and cameraman. There are some flourishes that I love -- I still remember a snap-zoom-out years later -- but I still can't help but be glad Cassavetes shook some sense into Scorsese when he saw it."
"Perhaps a typical answer but it's Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof.' A film that for me personally lacks the energy and invention of his other works, a visual representation of all of his worst qualities."
"It really is a shame that one movie like this, which if on another filmmaker's filmography may stand out as their best work, would by default be my least favorite of a bunch. That's unfortunately where Quentin Tarantino's 'Death Proof' falls when taking a look around at the other films he's been responsible, and it's not because 'Death Proof' is a bad or unenjoyable film by any means. I absolutely defend it against those who criticize it as the weaker or "less exciting" half of 'Grindhouse,' but when you line it up against the likes of 'Pulp Fiction,' 'Reservoir Dogs,' 'Jackie Brown,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' the 'Kill Bill's and 'Django Unchained,' how could it not be your least favorite? Thems just the breaks sometimes."
"I probably would have to say that David Fincher is my favorite director but I'd have to go all the way back to his first movie 'Alien 3' to find a movie of his that I just didn't like -- and that going by what he's done since, that probably wasn't even his fault. Everything else he's done has either been perfect or near perfect or a personal favorite or just a really good movie."
"I give this answer tentatively because I haven't seen it in years, and maybe I'll like it better now, but I remember being very let down by Pedro Almodovar's 'Dark Habits.' You'd think this director doing a story about sex-crazed, drug-addicted, tiger-owning nuns would be a home run, but it left me cold. That said, I'm prepared to eat my words if I get to see it again and reevaluate it."
"'Red Line 7000,' Howard Hawks; 'Two Rode Together,' John Ford; 'Beyond the Clouds,' Michaelangelo Antonioni; 'The Southerner,' Jean Renoir; 'Up,' Russ Meyer; 'The Sin of Harold Diddlebock,' Preston Sturges; 'Tattooed Life,' Seijun Suzuki; 'Dr. T and the Women,' Robert Altman...I could go on. Oh lord, could I go on."
"Well, I don't know if I'd consider Wong Kar-wai my favorite director, but he certainly has a pride of place in my cinephile heart. And my least favorite film by him is...not 'My Blueberry Nights,' the apparent consensus choice for his worst movie (and one that, believe it or not, I'm willing to defend, to a certain extent). Actually, for some reason, I've never been nearly as enamored with his 1997 film 'Happy Together' as I am with his other films, finding myself more pushed away than emotionally engaged by the seeming endless separations and make-ups between the two gay males at its heart. Wong's semi-improvisatory filmmaking methods often risk aimlessness, and this, I've always felt, was one instance where he fell into that trap. That said, that tenderly romantic dance in the kitchen between Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung is surely one of Wong's finest moments. Even at his worst, Wong Kar-wai is capable of summoning up true cinematic magic. (All of this, of course, may be moot if his long-awaited Ip Man biopic 'The Grandmaster' is as disappointing as some at Berlinale have suggested.)"
"Amusingly, many of my favorite directors (Scorsese, Spielberg) have quite a split between masterpieces and absolute duds that I completely hate (I'm looking at you, 'Amistad' and 'After Hours'). If 'Killer's Kiss' is my least favorite Kubrick, it's only because it's slight, and I've yet to see 'Day of the Fight.' Plus, I've not seen Lars von Trier's 'The Boss of It All,' and while 'Melancholia disappointed,' it's still kind of a stunning film, just not as magnificent as many others. As for 'Frenzy' within Hitch's oeuvre, well, that's a very long story. Still, if I'm going to take the question as a challenge, finding that film that I despise despite absolutely adoring the rest of the director's output, I'm a bit stumped. 'Death Proof' is clearly the worst thing Quentin Tarantino ever did, yet it still has its charms. I've defended 'The Ladykillers' by the Coens as a love letter to the original film, but it's not particularly great compared to their other films (I actually like 'Intolerable Cruelty' quite a bit). So, if I was forced to find one where for all the director's other movies I find something to love, but had one of the more miserable experiences of my filmgoing life watching the outlier, it'd be Guillermo del Toro's 'Mimic.' I've not bothered re-seeing it, there may be something to be found after the fact (especially as there's no doubt a "Directors Cut" that might make up for some of it), but I have a searingly bad memory of seeing that film on screen not even realizing it was the guy that had done 'Cronos.' I remember just wanting to murder everyone involved I thought it so bad. When I was an adolescent seeing 'Alien 3' I had a similar experience of hatred, but in my wizened years I've actually grown to love that film even more so than Cameron's bombastic earlier iteration, leaving Fincher free from any film of his that I don't consider to be in their own way excellent."
"The low mark of the Coen Brothers' career: every time Marlon Wayans is on screen during 'The Ladykillers.' An absolutely tone deaf performance in a directorial career that rarely strikes the wrong chord."
"Loving most anything by Wes Anderson, my least favorite of his films is 'The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.' The story never quite connects with me, but it's just as visually stunning as the others."
"I grew up loving the films of John Carpenter. From the campy, to the scary, to the campy and scary, the man could do no wrong in my eyes. Then came 'Ghost of Mars.' While I haven't revisited since it's release, I remember some camp, no scary, and a lot of really bad. It might not be his worst film, but it is my least favorite. It is the one that made me realize that even Mr. Carpenter is a flawed human, and that flawed humans sometimes cast Ice Cube in their film."
"You speak as if I can tell you, authoritatively, who my favorite director is. Surely most of us are unable to play by Highlander rules and say there can only be one. A strong contender, however, is Woody Allen, and, yes, I have a clear low point. I have spent an inordinate amount of time defending Mr. Allen's work post-'Deconstructing Harry' (1997), which some feel could have been a nice capper to a splendid career. I stood up for 'Small Time Crooks,' 'Melinda and Melinda,' 'Hollywood Ending' and 'Whatever Works.' I'll admit that 'Scoop,' yes, is woefully flawed, but not without merit. (Beyond ScarJo's bathing suit.) I cannot, however, find anything to like about 'You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.' It is a lazy piece of dross, written and directed as if on auto-pilot. I came out of that movie truly depressed, wondering if I'd merely willed myself into liking some of the recent Woody works, afraid to admit that he's tapped out. (To be fair, I've seen films like, say, 'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion' but once, not daring a second look.) After 'You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger' even I was verbalizing that, perhaps, Woody should just stick to dixieland jazz and the occasional New Yorker piece. The joke was on me, though, as his next film, 'Midnight in Paris' was, I'm sure we can all agree, quite extraordinary."
"I'm sure there will one day be a Criterion release of Wong Kar-wai's 'My Blueberry Nights' explaining why it's an important work. But to me, it's the Pop-Tart in the man's artisan bakery, just to torture that pie metaphor as much as Wong does in the film. He turned the nightly noodle trek of 'In the Mood For Love' into a feast of the senses (and the sensual), but he was unable to work the same magic with 'MBN''s quest for crust. Worst thing about Wong's American debut, though, is a woefully miscast Norah Jones, the pop chanteuse whose lack of prior acting experience is more obvious than the blueberry goo on her lips."
"This is a tough question because it presumes that it's possible for one to have a favorite director. I adore the work of too many filmmakers to have a single favorite, but the first thing that sprang to mind was Sam Fuller's 'Verboten!,' his 1959 war film about the end of WWII. Like any Fuller enthusiast, I ardently admire his feverish, hyperbolic style -- I find such manic films as 'Park Row,' 'Shock Corridor,' and even 'Shark!' to be towering achievements. But the ramshackle plotting and frenzied form of this 'sleazy masterwork,' as Dave Kehr called it, is just a bit too unwieldy for my taste. The film's does have an undeniably bright spot, of course, in the Nuremberg sequence."
"This is a tough one right off the back because I can hardly choose a favorite director. Either way the first thing that comes to mind when I have to choose my least favorite film by *a* favorite director of mine is 'Lolita' by Stanley Kubrick. A lot of people enjoy this adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's most famous book, but it never really connected with me. It might be because I don't think James Mason makes a particularly good Humbert Humbert, or that I think the film drags on for way too long. The most egregious thing about the movie for me is the way it manages to make the otherwise absolutely hilarious Peter Sellers absolutely annoying -- good thing he made up for it by being three different amazing characters in Kubrick's next film, 'Dr. Strangelove.' I could argue for hours, but to me it's simply the most lackluster film in an otherwise spotless cinematic output."
"I'm stumped. If I love a director I love their work. But if you want to get into Robert Altman don't start with ''Pret-a-Porter.' Just don't."
"To quote notorious gangster Roman Maroni: 'That's a fargin trick question!!!!' It requires me to know who my 'favorite' director is. Never really settled on that. I can say my least favorite Woody Allen movie is probably 'Hollywood Ending,' and my least favorite Coen Bros. movie is 'Intolerable Cruelty' (but I've yet to see 'The Ladykillers')."
"'Gran Casino,' Luis Buñuel. The director himself said 'Fever Mounts In El Pao' is even worse, but I haven't seen that yet."
"I admire the work of so many directors from all different genres and countries it's almost impossible to chose one. Operating on the principle that 'The King of Comedy' is one of my absolutely favorite films, I would look at Martin Scorsese's impressive filmography for a 'least' favorite. His 'The Departed' was disappointing, but my least favorite in his oeuvre is 'Gangs of New York,' an overlong, bloated epic, full of bad performances and noble efforts."
"Like many die-hard auteurists out there, often the weirdest and least-liked film in a director's canon can be the most revealing. Even if you don't particularly care for how the narrative flows, the shot compositions, or the acting styles, it can often reveal many nuances about how the auteur functions and thinks his way through his own obsessions. Maybe not my favorite director ever, but certainly one of my top ones would be Howard Hawks, and I can't say that I very much find the humor in 'Man's Favorite Sport?' to be all that effective, especially with Rock Hudson's somewhat sleepwalking performance. But when seen in correlation with 'Bringing Up Baby,' the film almost becomes like that film's polar opposite in terms of how Hawks changed as a director in terms of speed and rhythm: if 'Baby' propels along like the speed of the titular cheetah, 'Sport' moves in odd circles without purpose like the fish Hudson attempts to catch. The film almost feels like Hawks on vacation, but that's somewhat of the secret delight of how strange it is to see him working in this vein, even if it is a decidedly minor work. But as I like to say, minor works often reveal the major aspects of a director. (As for anyone who answers this question with Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon,' Scorsese's 'New York, New York,' Spielberg's 'A.I.,' or Malick's 'The New World,' just no)."
"My favorite director is Hayao Miyazaki, and while I actually love all of his movies and would give each of them a grade in the 'A' range, my 'least favorite' of his films is his most recent work, 'Ponyo.' I love the film, and think the artwork is some of the best of his career, but is not quite as groundbreaking or emotionally resonant as his prior work. Still a great film, though, and one of the best children's movies of the 2000s."
"I will happily watch just about anything else by Woody Allen except 'Anything Else,' his 2003 romantic comedy that is so half-hearted, it felt as if this once superb filmmaker had just thrown in the proverbial towel. Starring Allen and Jason Biggs, the familiar confused younger man/widened mentor thing, in exhausted Allen dialect, was such a pale imitation of far better work, I honestly thought this might be the last cinematic gasp from a filmmaker I had always found adventurous, poignant and, of course, hilarious. I have never been so happy to be wrong. 'Match Point' and 'Midnight in Paris,' two of Allen's more recent films, assure me the 78 year old writer/director/star is as passionate about his work as ever. Aren't we lucky!"
"Hands down 'Andromedia' by Takeshi Miike. Imagine if the J-Pop equivalent of the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls got together to make a 'drama' about their friend (Mai) that dies and becomes reborn as a Max Headroom-like Internet personality (Ai, get it?). Having Miike has a favorite director is tough since there are so many possibilities for a least favorite. Seriously, there're 50 films from the 2000s alone -- but that's when Miike was transforming from an insane work horse into a finely tuned insane work horse. 'Andromedia' is a straight-to-video POS that Miike did because... well, who knows? Miike is a weird dude. For all the home video demos he hit, there's still the urban legend that he gets his cast of whatever he's shooting to make safety PSAs for children in a remote village in Northern Japan. So why wouldn't he sign on to make the Internet equivalent of 'Spice World' or--come to think of it, the Backstreet Boys never made a film. Well, score one for The Beatles and The Monkees after all."
"My favorite director is Paul Thomas Anderson and my least favorite film of his is probably 'Hard Eight.' I think, unfortunately, this isn't exactly a comment on the quality of the film, just that he's improved so much with every film the first one gets rewatched so infrequently."
"Ugh, probably 'Pret-a-Porter' by Robert Altman -- one of the most disappointing moviegoing experiences of my life. The first Altman movie I ever saw was 'The Player,' when I was 16 -- I enjoyed it largely for all the celebrity cameos, but otherwise felt I was missing what was so great about it. Then, when I was 17, I saw 'Short Cuts,' and all of a sudden I 'got' the Altman approach and was hooked big-time. I rushed to catch up with his back catalogue, in the process discovering some of my favorite films of all time: 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller,' 'Nashville,' 'The Long Goodbye.' So 'Pret-a-Porter,' which followed 'Short Cuts,' was the first new Altman movie I saw as a confirmed fan -- and holy crap, I could not have had worse timing. 'Pret-a-Porter' is maybe the ultimate example of how the Altman approach can go disastrously wrong. He really needs to love his characters, I think, and he clearly had no love for the fashion biz, which he probably saw as the height of superficiality and phoniness. Since he relies so little on conventional narrative, there was nothing onscreen to respond to but his obliterating disgust. It was a very dispiriting, even condescending movie, and I left the theater crushed. It didn't spoil my love of Altman, which remains intact, but it was my first taste of his fallibility."
"I go back and forth on who my favorite filmmaker is, with it always being between Woody Allen, Darren Aronofsky, Jason Reitman, and Kevin Smith (I know, one of these things is not like the other), so it really depends on which director I'm talking about. If it's Allen, even his worst movies still somewhat entertain me, so I'd say his worst work is 'The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.' If it's Aronofsky, I'd go with 'Pi' (which is still tremendous), while if it's Reitman I'd go 'Thank You For Smoking' (still very good), and in Smith's case it's 'Cop Out' (which I think is decent enough if in the right mood). I guess I see their work through slightly rose-colored glasses at times, but I choose to believe that I'm lucky enough to have favorite filmmakers who never (at least to date) make out and out bad movies."
"Most of my favorite directors have at least one clunker on their resumes, but I'm going to go with Jim Jarmusch's 'The Limits of Control.' Jarmusch makes films so infrequently that I felt heartbroken when this one was over, because I knew it would be years before I'd see another, hopefully better movie from him. What I love about his work overall is that he's exclusively interested in 'the spaces in between' -- the kinds of little human moments most movies would leave out. 'The Limits of Control' has a typically Jarmuschian premise: as assassin waits to carry out a mission in Spain, but instead of watching him pull off the job, we merely observe as his day leads up to it. Unfortunately, what transpires is muddled, confusing, and hard to identify with. The humanistic quality that marked pictures like 'Stranger Than Paradise' and 'Broken Flowers' is nowhere to be found. It's my understanding that Jarmusch has a new film coming out later this year, and that gives me hope. Even if it turns out not to rank among his best work, I'm fairly certain it could never be less satisfying to me than 'The Limits of Control' was."
"I wouldn't necessarily call him my favorite director, but there aren't many living directors whose work I anticipate more than Wong Kar-wai - which made his well-intentioned but ill-conceived English language debut, 'My Blueberry Nights,' all the more disappointing. Nothing about 'My Blueberry Nights' works; the story is overwrought, the dialogue is clunky, and the performances are all over the place. When the Criterion Collection inevitably comes out with a Wong Kar-wai Blu-ray set, I'd have no problem with them leaving 'My Blueberry Nights' out of it."
"'My Blueberry Nights'' is the only failure by Hong Kong ace Wong Kar-wai. It is not just a coincidence that the film is Wong's first -- and hopefully last -- venture into Hollywood-style filmmaking. Norah Jones, its star, is no Maggie Cheung, star of many of Wong's home-grown works."
"Alas, my favorite director has only made one movie: 'Synecdoche, New York,' i.e.: the greatest film of all time. So my least favorite Charlie Kaufman film would be all the ones he hasn't made in the five years since, each of which has left a 120-minute vacuum in my soul."
"This is a great question because it challenges on multiple fronts. First, who is my favorite director? I am not quite sure who I would give that mantle too. First I have to make a list of candidates, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg, Brad Bird, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Spike Jonze, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky, Stephen Soderbergh, the Coen Bros. (Yes, make fun of me, I am a contemporary American film fan). Then how do you judge best; a number of great films, ratio of great films to total made, or do you just go with the gut and don't try and bring math and science into it all? I think it is an amalgamation of those criteria and with that I have to go with Paul Thomas Anderson. They only problem with going with PTA is that I think the choice for his worst film is fairly obvious and not that interesting; it's 'Hard Eight'/'Sydney.' By no means a bad film, in fact it is more than good, it just doesn't stand up to the rest of his filmography. There are plenty of great moments and performances throughout, but it lacks the momentum, scope and grandeur of his other works. So to have a little fun and stir up a bit of controversy I will rank his films from best to worse. 1. 'Boogie Nights,' 2. 'The Master,' 3. 'Magnolia,' 4. 'Punch-Drunk Love,' 5. There Will Be Blood,' 6. 'Hard Eight'/'Sydney.' Feel free to make even more fun of me for putting 'There Will Be Blood' so low on that list; it loses me after the final jump forward in time."
"Steven Spielberg has always been my favorite director. He's the reason I went into filmmaking to begin with, a story I'm sure I share with many 30-something film grads. I bet you think I'm going to say '1941,' but I'm not. The movie that annoys me most in Spielberg's filmography has to be 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.' I don't hate this movie. In fact, there are moments I quite like. But of all that Spielberg has done, this feels the least genuine. 'Crystal Skull' comes off as nothing but a nostalgic money grab, with preposterous moments (yes, nuking the fridge) wedged between overdone (even in Spielberg's filmography) alien subplots and an over-the-top attempt to reboot the franchise with young Indy offspring played by Shia-Trans-F'ing-formers-Labeouf. I just hope Disney can succeed with their continuation of 'Star Wars' without overdoing it like Spielberg and Lucas did here. That's a fear that may have me hiding in my Frigidaire come 2015."
"Ingmar Bergman's 'The Passion of Anna' is the only one of his films that I've seen that I can't get onboard with to any appreciable degree. I really love the stuff he was doing in the late '60s, giving us slight glimpses 'behind the curtain' to the filmmaking process in 'Persona' or 'Hour of the Wolf', but he takes it way too far in 'The Passion of Anna,' inserting extended interviews with the cast about their characters as the drama is in progress. It's an interesting gambit, and the film still has some good moments, but between that and the merely-workmanlike color cinematography, it's by far the lest involved I've been with a Bergman film. Well, until I get around to seeing 'The Serpent's Egg,' I suppose."
"I'm one of those assholes who doesn't really have a favorite film or director, per se, making life unnecessarily difficult for people casually asking for a shorthand to my tastes. So when prodded, I always say 'Bringing Up Baby' is my favorite film and Howard Hawks my favorite director. I still haven't seen all of Hawks' films -- I only caught up with 'Red River' last year, fer chrissakes -- but the worst of that lot, the only one I didn't like to some degree, is 'Sergeant York.' It was one of his biggest hits, and yet Hawks' style and tastes are fundamentally at odds with Great Man genuflecting, which is what this portrayal of WWI hero Alvin York largely is. A scene where Gary Cooper, in his first Oscar-winning turn, strikes a Rodin pose while the words "God!" and "Country!" boom on the soundtrack, seems as far away from Hawks' loose style as one could devise. Luckily, the same year both Hawks and Cooper made 'Ball of Fire,' so all's cool."
"Stanley Kubrick's 'Full Metal Jacket.'"
"Regret to inform, I nearly walked out of the Dardennes' 'Falsch.'"
"'Pi' by Darren Aronfosky. Probably the most likely choice from that director, but it's a choice based from necessity not really from the film being inherently bad. I bought 'Pi' blind on DVD many moons ago and liked it, I just didn't fall in love the way I have with all of his other features."
"Well, I'll have to go with 'A Prairie Home Companion' by Robert Altman. Not that it is a horrible film but it is one of my least favorite films by him; and, sadly, it is also his last. I think Altman probably still had a few great films left in him when he died at age 81, so it was disappointing for me to see him go out on such a low note."
"'My Blueberry Nights' by Wong Kar-wai. Wong Kar-wai's American debut is, unsurprisingly, visually sumptuous but there is too much in the film that doesn't quite work. I'd still happily watch it again though, even the weakest Wong Kar-wai film is still a pleasure to watch."
"I’m going with 'Magnolia' from Paul Thomas Anderson. 'Magnolia' is still excellent, it’s just not quite as close to my favorite as his recent moody, intense period pieces 'There Will Be Blood' and 'The Master.' (And though it’s arguably slighter than anything else he’s done, I really like the raggedy charm of 'Hard Eight.') 'Magnolia' is impressively sprawling, topping Anderson’s previous epic ensemble film 'Boogie Nights' in terms of cast, story, and scope. That’s essentially the problem: it’s a little too giddy riding off the rails. I still admire the audacity Anderson has in climaxing the film with a torrential downpour of frogs, but at some point, the excess gets a little distancing. So, while I’m very close to loving 'Magnolia,' I don’t hold it as high as Paul Thomas Anderson’s other films."
"Probably Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut.' I keep thinking I need to see it again now that I know where all the misdirection is and that the suspense angle is a red herring, but I also keep never mustering up the motivation to do so."
"At last year's New York Film Festival press conference, I spoke with Abbas Kiarostami about the ratio of chance and direction in the context of disasters about to occur in 'Like Someone in Love,' one of my favorite films by a favored director. 'How close I feel to you as a spectator,' Kiarostami said to me, 'this is what I want to watch -- a moment of truth.' 'Certified Copy,' his previous film, is barren without these truthful moments, and I felt a little bit hijacked into a trip with Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, whose interactions lack the sense of danger in the mundane that Kiarostami usually explores so masterfully. Ernst Lubitsch's 'The Shop Around the Corner' and François Truffaut's 'The Bride Wore Black,' two other least favorites by favorites, suffer from a similar brilliance in construction that cannot override a fundamental lack of chemistry."
"If my favorite director of the moment is Wes Anderson, then my answer would have to be 'The Life Aquatic.' I don't hate it by any means, but I don't connect with it the way I do with all of Anderson's others."
"I don't know if he's *the* favorite, but David Fincher is a favorite director of mine, and I mention him because I think it's kind of amazing that he was able to assemble a career after 'Alien 3.' That picture is terrible! Where the first two movies in the series were taut and intense, the third is languid and leisurely. None of its set pieces are memorable and none of its dialogue is quotable. The only halfway decent scene in the film, Newt's autopsy, was almost ruined when Fincher wanted to use an extremely graphic cut and had to be talked out of it. Presumably, Fincher got a mulligan because the production was a disaster from the beginning -- seemingly every writer in the universe wrote a draft of 'Alien 3' -- and it was unclear for a long time whether Sigourney Weaver would be in or out - and he was able to establish himself as an auteur with his next film 'Se7en.' Whew!"
"My favorite filmmakers are the Coen Brothers, and their worst film is 'The Ladykillers.' I suspect this answer will be the plurality of this week's survey."
The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on March 11th, 2013:
The Most Popular Responses: "Like Someone in Love," "Stoker" (tie)
Other Movies Receiving Multiple Votes: "Side Effects," "Amour," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Django Unchained," "Leviathan," "Life of Pi," "Silver Linings Playbook."