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The Most Embarrassing Roles Of The 2013 Oscar-Nominated Actors & Actresses

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 22, 2013 2:38 PM
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Best Supporting Actor

The Jerky Boys
Alan Arkin - “The Jerky Boys”
Across his 50-year career, Alan Arkin has taken plenty of jobs to pay the bills, but of late ("America's Sweetheart," "Firewall," "The Change-Up"), he's managed to do it in tiny roles with a minimum of fuss. But probably the nadir came in the mid 1990s, long before his recent run of acclaim, in "The Jerky Boys," the big-screen adventure of the once-popular prank callers that nobody in the world asked for. The movie stars Johnny and Kamal, the titular Jerky Boys, as thinly-veiled versions of themselves, two childhood friends from Queens who've amused themselves since they were small by making prank phone calls. But one day they end up ringing Tony Scarboni (Vincent Pastore, soon to be Big Pussy in "The Sopranos"), the right-hand-man of mob boss Ernie Lazarro (Arkin). The film's about as amusing as you'd imagine a feature-length film based around two guys making prank phone calls would be, especially given that Johnny and Kamal are not particularly impressive actors. And while Arkin brings a certain gravitas to his Mafia don, he's visibly sleepwalking through the role. One suspects if Arkin's producer character in "Argo" had gotten this script, it'd have gone straight in the bin. For what it's worth, the film also includes an out-of-nowhere cameo from Tom Jones, singing Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" for no particular reason.

Hide & Seek
Robert De Niro - “Hide And Seek”
The two-time Oscar winner is generally deemed to be back on form with "Silver Linings Playbook," which has given Robert De Niro his first Oscar nomination in 20 years. Picking the worst film of his career in the last two decades since his last nod (for "Cape Fear") is a tricky feat; from "Frankenstein" and "The Fan" to "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle," "15 Minutes," "Showtime," "Analyze That," Godsend," "Stardust" and "Little Fockers," the actor could have filled up this feature on his own. But for us, it's "Hide And Seek" that takes the prize. The 2005 film, directed by Australian actor-director John Polson ("Swimfan"), sees De Niro play David, a psychologist, who moves to a small town with his daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) after his wife (Amy Irving) commits suicide. But Emily is clearly disturbed, something that seems to derive from her imaginary friend, Charlie. If, for any reason, you have any desire to see this film (and we recommend that you don't), look away now: Charlie turns out to be David's murderous split personality, who killed his wife, and is ready to kill again. It's about as ridiculous as it sounds, but without the self-awareness of something like the far superior "Orphan," and it features a performance by De Niro that's somewhere between disengaged (as David) and just plain terrible (as Charlie). Hopefully 'Silver Linings' will mark the end of this kind of film in his career.

Patch Adams
Philip Seymour Hoffman - “Patch Adams”
Now that he's an established Oscar-winner, it's so rare that Philip Seymour Hoffman takes a studio gig that it feels like something of an event when he does, as with "Mission: Impossible III" or the upcoming "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." But it wasn't always so. Before he broke out in the late 1990s, the actor was cropping up in questionable fare like "Twister" and "Red Dragon." Probably the worst such example came in 1998, just as Hoffman was cementing his status with "Happiness" and "The Big Lebowski," in the form of the deeply awful Robin Williams vehicle "Patch Adams." The actor plays Mitch, the snobbish roommate of Williams' title character, who takes against his wacky methods, but is eventually won over by him. Hoffman's clearly been cast to replicate the same sort of thing he did years earlier in "Scent of a Woman," and his performance is somewhat shrill, although we suppose that compared to the atrocities going on elsewhere in the film, his scenes serve as something of a relief. Especially when he does what you're longing to do inside, and shouts at Robin Williams.

Man Of The House
Tommy Lee Jones - “Man of the House”
Everyone's favorite craggy-faced Texan has hardly proven adverse to a paycheck gig over the years ("Batman Forever," "Captain America: The First Avenger," the endless variations of his character from "The Fugitive"), but has tended to manage to retain some dignity while he pays for his summer home. Not so with "Man of the House," a lousy, already-forgotten comedy where Tommy Lee Jones plays a Texas Ranger who goes undercover in a sorority house, disguised as a cheerleading coach, in order to protect a group of girls who've witnessed a murder. One can't deny that there's a certain degree of inherent comedy in placing Tommy Lee's deadpan mug amongst a group of cheerleaders, but director Stephen Herek doesn't have the faith to just let that play out, adding in a backflipping Cedric The Entertainer, half-a-dozen subplots and a rotten script. The result is that, rather than being amused, you simply pity the star.

The Three Musketeers
Christoph Waltz - “The Three Musketeers”
After winning his "Inglourious Basterds" Oscar, Christoph Waltz wasted no time in cashing in, replacing Nicolas Cage as the villain in Michel Gondry and Seth Rogen's "The Green Hornet." But that film doesn't quite qualify in our eyes. It's undeniably terrible, but Waltz's bad-guy-with-a-mid-life-crisis is by some distance the best thing in the film. Much more egregious was a film that came later that year, Paul W.S. Anderson's "The Three Musketeers." The Austrian actor is one of about a dozen villains in the "Resident Evil" director's ludicrously overstuffed and overcomplex actioner. Playing Cardinal Richelieu (played in previous films by Charlton Heston, Tim Curry and Stephen Rea, among others), Waltz spends the film plotting on the sidelines and essentially setting things up for a sequel that will never happen, as Mads Mikkelsen's Rochefort takes on most of the villainy duties. By not really giving Waltz anything to do, any reason to be feared -- and crucially, not giving him any decent material to play -- it's a criminal waste of the actor, and as such, much more objectionable than "The Green Hornet."

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  • Jack Thursby | February 25, 2013 4:43 AMReply

    Actually Helen Hunt showed up in both Trancers 2 and Trancers 3. Try having a look at imdb once in a while!

  • linz | February 24, 2013 9:02 PMReply

    I don't thing any role of Anne's could be more embarrasing than 'Havoc'.

  • Rebecca | February 24, 2013 1:58 PMReply

    Latter 49 is a good movie.

  • PETE | February 23, 2013 12:26 PMReply

    I think it is ridiculous to consider "The Reader" worse than "Bride Wars". WTF?

  • GLENN | February 23, 2013 5:09 PM

    i know WTF !!!!

  • Ash | February 23, 2013 4:42 AMReply

    I dont think M3 and Mama are terrible, the most terrible film Jessica's ever done is Texas Killing Field.

  • jen b | February 22, 2013 10:56 PMReply

    Everything Anne Hathaway has done besides Rachel Getting Married and TDKR is a stinker. Just look at last year- One Day. Horrible! Year before- Love and Other Drugs- embarrassing! Good god, she has terrible taste.

  • tracy | February 23, 2013 4:38 AM


  • jimmiescoffee | February 22, 2013 9:30 PMReply

    i disagree with most of this piece. not every role is perfect. and "paying the bills" is noble enough. so fuck this entire concept. but that being said, 'nine' was a disaster.

  • Brandt | February 22, 2013 8:43 PMReply

    Such lackluster choices are very unbecoming of such a tremendous year for cinema. Where are the nominations for movies like The Grey, Jesus Henry Christ and Killing them Softly? Read about the Top 10 Movies of 2012 with reviews and other honorable mentions at

  • Andrew | February 22, 2013 7:47 PMReply

    You include Stardust in DeNiro's list of terrible recent films....really? It's actually pretty fun and was well-received for the most part.

    And calling The Green Hornet undeniably terrible? I know critics were pretty harsh with it, but I am a pretty staunch defender of it as a pretty fun movie that clearly shows in Gondry's direction. Nothing great, but undeniably terrible? If you didn't like it you didn't like it, but please.

  • Sven | February 23, 2013 3:01 AM

    The Green Hornet was undeniably terrible, really.

  • droopy | February 22, 2013 7:19 PMReply

    i dont know man, i mean patch adams is terrible, but twister and red dragon aren't... are they? twister i love, saw it when i was 8, thought it was fucking awesome and that feeling stays with me to this day. and red dragon only has a bad rep because of brett ratner, but its by far his best movie and its actually pretty good. great cast, i thought the cinematography was pretty damn good, nothing really special, but i think he got the look right. its been a while since i saw it though. im gonna watch it right now

  • Ray H | February 22, 2013 5:31 PMReply

    I looked up "My Boyfriend's Back" a little while back. A silly teen zombie movie I hadn't thought about or seen in 20 years. Turns out one of the high school bullies is played by none other than Philip Seymour Hoffman! He plays Matthew Fox's main buddy/henchman and ends up accidentally killing himself with an axe.

  • Alan B | February 22, 2013 7:00 PM This looks like the greatest thing ever.

  • QNorris9001 | February 22, 2013 5:27 PMReply

    The Playlist reeks of pretension.

  • Knative | February 22, 2013 4:19 PMReply

    How can you bring up Helen Hunt and not mention the tv movie where she jumped out the window because she tried drugs?

  • Zack | February 22, 2013 3:22 PMReply

    So the most embarrassing things on Jessica Chastain's resume are movies you spend most of the blurb complimenting? She's done pretty well for herself, I guess.

  • coke | February 22, 2013 4:07 PM


    I don't think you can possibly say anything bad about Chastain...

  • 64564 | February 22, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    I just saw Virtuosity a few days ago on HBO. Washington has been in much more generic, programmatic crap. It's deeply reflective of the 90s moment of virtual reality wonkiness, sure, but it's fucking fun, and pretty stylish -- in a corny way -- to boot. It's the most superficially embarrassing, and thus the easiest/most obvious pick for this list -- because of its datedness -- but, frankly, I think its more interesting as cinema (and cultural artifact) than the implausible, TV-drama-esque Flight. You'd rather watch The Preacher's Wife or John Q, I take it? Maybe Fallen

  • Sven | February 23, 2013 3:02 AM

    John Q.... Exactly!!

  • Zack | February 22, 2013 3:40 PM

    "Fallen" is redeemed for me by that scene with the demon body-jumping through the crowd and singing "Time is On My Side" line by line.

  • BEF | February 22, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    What? "Trancers" was a decent enough b movie and wasn't it her first role ever (which is an exclusion on others on this list). I actually think the story idea, time travel through blood ancestry would make for a decent update with a budget. "Pay it Forward" is way more embarrassing, because there's a budget and "prestige" that is entirely misspent and maybe has the silliest love story of anything that isn't "The Sapphires".

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