The Bottom Shelf

2006 year-end edition

As the nation’s foremost movie janitor, I am sometimes asked by my wholly imaginary readers about the ground rules for a solid year-end 10 Worst list. Should such an honor be reserved for botched blockbusters? For ambitious but ludicrous belly-flops by noted auteurs? Or should movies that never had a chance of being good — say, a cheap, shoddy comedy like Van Wilder 2 — qualify for the roster?

Get out of here with your hifalutin’ categorizations! The Bottom Shelf is a big tent. A big, smelly tent. Whether you’re a cinematic master failing embarrassingly or a nincompoop rising to the level of your incompetence, you are welcome here. (Alas, Van Wilder 2 fell just short of this year’s list. But it was close.) So without further ado, here are 2006’s 10 biggest stinkers.

#10: The Fountain. Darren Aronofsky may be a genius and all, but he has no detectable sense of humor. Has anyone ever told a joke in one of his movies, or even cracked a smile? If this guy really wants to challenge himself, how about making a wacky comedy? In the mean time, we’ll have to settle for the unintentional laughs in this ponderous sci-fi meditation on love, death and hairstyles through the ages.

#9: School for Scoundrels. Remember when Billy Bob Thorton’s repertoire contained a colorful assortment of murderous hayseeds, hell-raising rednecks and slow-witted yokels? Well, you can forget about all of them, because there’s only one Thornton role now: the hardass authority figure who makes his charges miserable until they all learn valuable life lessons. If you happened to miss his tired routine this time around, you can catch it again in Mr. Woodcock, coming soon to a theater near you.

#8: Annapolis. Like a science experiment gone awry, Annapolis splices two clichéd movie genres into one big snore of a film. The first hour is Lite Metal Jacket, and the second hour is Raging Bullshit.

#7: Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. We’re all very happy for Art House Bill Murray and his delightful array of lumpy middle-aged sad sacks, but Broken Flowers and The Life Aquatic aren’t gonna put a new wing on Murray Mansion. So it’s perhaps understandable that he would set aside a few hours to (perhaps literally) phone in the voice of the obese lasagna-eating cat for this slightly-worse sequel to the already bad adaptation of the inexplicably popular comic strip. Understandable, but still so very wrong.

#6: All the King’s Men. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put my ass back together again when this turgid piece of Oscar bait finally came to an end.

#5: Lady in the Water. In many of his interviews timed to the release of this monument to ego gone wild, M. Night Shyamalan expressed an affinity for Bob Dylan. If that’s the case, his fans can now breathe a sigh of relief that he’s gotten his Self-Portrait out of the way. Unfortunately, that means his Born Again phase still awaits.

#4: Genius Club. You probably missed this one — as far as I know it only played in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so you may well think I am making this up. Alas, I assure you, it is for real. A terrorist (Tom Sizemore) is threatening to blow up the White House unless the President assembles the country’s greatest minds to answer his questions about the meaning of life. The casting of Stephen Baldwin as one of the geniuses is a particularly brilliant stroke by writer-director Timothy Chey, whose answer to the big questions appears to be: Jesus! Glad that’s settled.

#3: Running Scared. Do you find the films of Guy Ritchie a bit too understated? Do you wish Natural Born Killers weren’t so slow-paced and minimalist? Boy, has Wayne Kramer got a movie for you! Mixed film stocks, slice and dice editing, nausea-inducing color schemes and ultraviolet ultra-violence all combine to elevate the witless script from the level of late-night cable goombah flick to the elite realm of the unholy mess.

#2: The Celestine Prophecy. In all the hype over The Da Vinci Code, you may not have noticed this micro-budgeted adaptation of another big best-seller about a global religious conspiracy. Crammed with New Age hooey spouted by wooden soap opera actors and boasting state of the art Etch-a-Sketch special effects, The Celestine Prophecy concerns the search for mystical insights in Peru. Here’s an insight for you: this movie blows.

#1: Tideland. Terry Gilliam’s latest effort provides further evidence that he may never recover from the debacle detailed in Lost in La Mancha, the documentary about the collapse of his production of Don Quixote. It’s the excruciating story of a young girl who retreats into a fantasy world of her own making after the death of her parents and spends most of her time talking to disembodied doll heads. Tedium gives way to revulsion when she meets her neighbors, who appear to be members of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre touring road show. Jeff Bridges co-stars as a bloated, decomposing corpse. This isn’t a movie; it’s a train wreck wrapped inside a nervous breakdown.