I’ve written a lengthy column about what I thought was the best in film that I saw from this past year. Now it’s time for the worst — for the dark side of my cinematic experience to come forward. There won’t be as much structure here as in the Empty Balcony Awards. It doesn’t matter what year a film was released, or if I’ve even seen it within the last year. These are awards for film garbage.
The William Shatner Award (given out on his 84th birthday!) goes to Disaster on the Coastliner. I don’t know why, but nary a year passes without me seeing Shatner in something other than Star Trek. This year saw Netflix resurrect an old TV movie from the deepest recesses of Burbank. It has everything one could want from the days before cable changed the way TV movies are made. There are only a few locations, a couple of aging Hollywood veterans show up for easy paychecks, and best of all, Shatner had to film scenes where his rug is getting whipped around by the wind. That alone is worth Netflix’s monthly rate. A bonus award goes to supporting cast member Robert Fuller for out-sliming Shatner. The two of them, while never sharing a scene, go back and forth in their attempts to woo women in the most disgusting ways imaginable. Fuller’s character is such a cad that in one scene, when the passengers of the train become aware of the danger they are in and crouch down for safety, he pushes a woman’s face into his lap, and doesn’t spill a drop of his cocktail. That is some extraordinary smarm.
The Biggest Shitty Surprise Award goes to Joel Schumacher for Batman & Robin. I saw this film for the first time in years while I was putting together Arnold Schwarzenegger month, and I was pleasantly surprised. The movie is a total mess, but that seems to have been the point. Schumacher’s crime was in going full camp. But, if a viewer ignores what they WANT the movie to be, and instead watch it for what it IS, it improves dramatically. The lesson, as always, is don’t take any movie about superheroes and costumed criminals too seriously.
The Award for Most Egregious Lack of Awareness goes to William Sachs for his work directing The Incredible Melting Man. He was so focused on getting a shot where two characters have an expository scene while riding on a dolly that it never occurred to him how loud the damn thing was. It nearly drowned out the dialogue. But, did Sachs bother having a rerecord once the film was in the can? Hell, no! That would make the film less shitty, and we can’t have that. There were many moments of glorious shittiness in this flick, but the sheer ineptitude of this scene stands out.
The I Saw Ben Affleck’s Dick Once Award does not go to Ben Affleck or Gone Girl, strangely enough. Rather, this award goes to the body double who was behind the Angela mask at the end of Sleepaway Camp. What a trashy movie. I don’t know who it was in the climactic scene where Angela is revealed to be a boy, and I don’t feel like expending the effort to find out. But congratulations, guy. I saw your junk this past year.
The Award for I Didn’t See Jennifer Lopez’s Ass goes to Anaconda. This film was made before Lopez, and her ass, got famous. So, while all films since she became a star show off that derriere of hers, the filmmakers in this one made sure the camera never lingered too far below her waistline. It’s actually kind of funny watching this flick try so hard to avoid her ass. A bonus award goes to Ice Cube for working in some of his rap lyrics into the dialogue. What a sellout. A further bonus award goes to Jon Voigt for taking his role so seriously. He had to have known what kind of flick he was in, but he was a pro. And when Voigt goes pro (see Runaway Train), we all win.
The Kevin Costner Memorial Affectation Award goes to Kiefer Sutherland’s accent in Pompeii. I don’t know what he was trying to achieve with his mealy-mouthed delivery, but it had that most important hallmark of bad screen accents: unsustainability. Sometimes it was an English accent, sometimes it had a lilt. I don’t know. It was just shit.
The Are You Fucking Kidding Me Award goes to I, Frankenstein for having a character referred to as the ‘High Queen of the Gargoyle Order.’ I shit you not, those words were spoken in a real movie. Nothing more needs to be said.
Finally, Shitty Movie of the Year goes to The Keep. Michael Mann has all-but disowned this flick. Not because the studio took it away from him and ruined his vision, but rather because the film is a look into his artistic soul, and he recoiled at what he found hiding there. This flick is filmmaking unchained, Mann’s imagination taking the film in directions that defy sense and coherence. He tried to make something epic, but instead produced one of the shittiest movies I’ve ever seen. But it’s good shitty, not bad shitty. I found it captivating and impossible to ignore. It’s a shame this film is being allowed to fade into obscurity, with the only digital release being a transfer from videotape. Sure, it sucks, but it reaches such sublime levels of bad cinema that it needs to be preserved for all time, if only to show aspiring filmmakers the dangers of excessive free expression and drugs. Every filmmaker should attempt making something this wild. Sometimes, it will work. Other times, something like The Keep will be made. It’s a win-win for us viewers, despite how embarrassed Michael Mann is that this film exists in his filmography.