Above: Some of last year's top big screen atrocities.
In the last few years, I have grown increasingly attracted to the value of great movies created under a tremendous lack of resources. The so-called "democratization" of cinema has its drawbacks, including an unwieldy glut of product, but it also makes way for highly individualized productions. The idea of a movie exclusively representing a single creator's point of view has been explored by avant garde filmmakers for decades. These days, however, personality frequently invades contemporary cinema of various sorts. When it works, the medium creates a sense of closeness with the creator that few other art forms can achieve.
Hence my inclusion of Sita Sings the Blues in my number one slot for my top ten list of films released in 2009, in addition to acknowledgments of Rejected and Grizzly Man Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected and Herzog's Grizzly Man in my favorite films of the decade list. These movies not only reflect singular perspectives; they are defined by them.
Thinking about this shift to a new age of personalized filmmaking, I am driven to express an anti-Hollywood screed. Nothing creates a greater blockade to individual effort than a large, industrial system (which makes it all the more gratifying when quality product manages to squeeze through the cracks). So when Dan Kois invited me, for the second year in a row, to contribute my least favorite films of 2009 to his annual poll at New York magazine's Vulture blog, I decided to rail against the establishment.
Now, I'm not anti-Hollywood per se, but this was a rough year for quality studio releases. Away we go:
1. Year One. Because Harold Ramis is a genius and can do better than this.
2. Nine. MTV-style editing often gets cited as the most obnoxious aspect of modern blockbusters, but I'll take that undeniable aesthetic tendency over this bland approach to the musical film, in which a horde of Oscar winners spout annoying melodies and mug for the camera.
3. The Ugly Truth. When Harry Met Sally went rotten.
4. The Box. Richard Kelly captures the mood of old Twilight Zone episodes with none of the thrills, insights, or plausibility.
5. Jennifer's Body. I'm no Juno hater. That Diablo girl's got legs, but this sloppy horror pastiche has no ground to stand on.
6. Post Grad. If I could turn mumblecore — a gross-sounding word that describes things it shouldn't — into an epithet to describe bland depictions of alienated youth, this would be the paragon of the genre.
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It's not possible for the greatest action hero of comic book lore to have a boring backstory, right? Wrong.
8. 12 Rounds. This cliché-ridden thriller fires blanks.
9. Away We Go. If Sam Mendes directs the next Bond movie with the sort of tepid forward motion plaguing this nonstarter, it would be an avant-garde oddity for the ages.
10. G.I. Joe. The corrosion of standards in the face of indifference. Keep that in mind, Team Avatar.