Worst Films 2008: Awful is the New Awesome

I turned off reruns of “Cops” and a fresh new season of “Celebrity Rehab” long enough this year to see a few hundred movies. Because it’s my job. I know, tough job.

I try not to complain. In fact, I go one better than trying not to complain. I try to excavate the hidden bit of delicious sea-salt caramel in the center, even when everything else around it is bitter and tasteless. (Past example: the part of “License to Wed” where the robot babies shoot blue fake poop out of their mechanical bottoms. Amazing. TiVo it on cable if you think I’m lying.) And when I can’t find that gooey center, I realize that life is cruel and without inherent meaning. But usually I can find it.

Earlier this year my cruel editor made creating this annual list all the more difficult by casually assigning me a half-year-mark column about the same thing. And when a paycheck is dangled in front of me, I rip it from the teasing fingers of life.

So right here, right now, you won’t be reading about the skull-hammering insanity of “One Missed Call,” “Rambo,” “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” “In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” or “Mamma Mia!,” you’ll have to go back and read it here. But you should definitely know about:

“88 Minutes”: In my fantasy life, I think about Al Pacino starring in various infomercials. My favorite one lately is for the pan that turns every kind of food into a convenient, eat-on-the-go, half-moon-shaped pocket sandwich. I keep imagining Pacino replacing the lady who hosts the 30-minute spot and all the goodies he makes with the super-pan, which he then hands over to swooning 19-year-old pocket-sandwich-craving nymphs. In turn they coo over his kitchen prowess and his next-stop Phil Spector hair. That this loopy, lurid thriller is pretty much a Cialis ad for aging forensic-inspector-genius types being stalked by serial killers means Pacino's already halfway there.

“10,000 B.C.”: I miss the Ooga Booga Caveman genre. They don’t make enough of those anymore. And this one answers all kinds of science questions about human evolution. Apparently, 12,000 years ago, people used to be able to run at the speed of light. Like you could be in snowy mountains one second and then, BAM, suddenly you could be walking in a tropical jungle. Also males could asexually reproduce even though they might not have wanted to. That’s because in 10,000 B.C. there were only two women around. And one of them was old and freaky and didn’t even have the good taste to fashion herself a bikini out of animal pelts. Also? Gays built the pyramids. Always making pretty things, those gays.

“The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas”: The Holocaust may be a tragedy beyond human comprehension, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be gifted with a growing subset of films that tries to cute it up and make it a heartwarming story about childlike friendship. Roberto Benigni showed us all the way in “Life Is Beautiful,” and now this movie picks up the burning flame. Adorable little Auschwitz moppets marching off to the gas chamber and teaching us all a little something about how beautiful life is. It’ll never match the imaginary version of “The Day The Clown Cried” that I carry around in my head but it will have to do for now.

“The Day The Earth Stood Still”: Dear President-elect Obama, The day a giant 30-story-tall robot comes to Earth and stuns everyone into submission is the day I would like for you to obey that robot instead of trying to incinerate it in a giant remote weapons facility. P.S. Assign a task force to investigate the power of Keanu Reeves’ stone-faced glare. Then give him whatever he wants. P.P.S. Budget allotments for Jennifer Connelly to be given more scarves. She looks like she’s freezing all the time. And finally, I would like to be spared a death by metallic space insects, so please get on that global warming thing right now if you will. Jennifer Connelly might not like a cooler planet but that’s where all her new scarves will come into play.

“Hounddog”: A gloopy, corn syrup-clogged, artery-hardening tale of drunk daddies being hit by lightning and turning simple and drooly, dirty-bare-feet Elvis superfandom, pre-pubescent rape at the hands of a teenage milkman, magically soul-healing African-American besties and mommy abandonment in the Deep South. That Ashley Judd somehow managed not to take part in this film remains a mystery. If this is how Dakota Fanning’s parents are helping to navigate her career, then I think it’s time for Jodie Foster to be given full custody.

“The Love Guru”: Where does the human ego live when it gets too full of farty gasses and outgrows its cranial confines? Which ice floe does funny pick to go die on? When do the gears in a career-machine start grinding and throwing sparks? When its owner is zipping around on a motorized magic carpet during an “American Idol” telecast and frolicking about with David Archuleta. Is that when? How about when you start finding yourself using the same guy-with-a-giant-penis jokes as an Adam Sandler movie that beat you to theatrical release? How about then? And if not, when is when?

“Pathology”: Corpses used for ventriloquism-based jokes, Alyssa Milano with armpit stubble, group-sex blood orgies in morgues, brain-tossing, senior citizen hookers with grandson pimps, that same grandson pimp being hacked to death, a pedophile inhaling liquid nitrogen, people having sex on the floor right next to the now-dead, liquid-nitrogen-filled pedophile, vivisection, autopsies that lead to lesbian make-out moments, crack-smoking, dead children in the service of booger jokes. I could fill up my word count limit on this movie. Because that’s like not even HALF of the super-insane, barely describable action. The rest is waiting for you. Patiently. In the dark. Sickest movie of the year, hands down. I recommend it to everyone I know all the time.

“Seven Pounds”: It’s been a strange year for “giving.” First that cheapskate Oprah decided not to have her “Favorite Things” episode because she felt like it was inappropriate to shower people with lavish gifts in a time when the country is feeling such great economic need. And this was after she went on “30 Rock” and promised everyone sweater-capes. She’s all, Give of yourself now. That’s what life is really about. (italics mine). Anyway, she and Will Smith must have a lot of lunchtime chats, because now he wants to give you this gift of a movie (after making sure that he was first given about $20 million to star in it). And in this movie Smith wants to give some other people seven pounds of… well, I won’t spoil it. But he wants to give it to them so badly that he’s… well… that jellyfish… and… the banana peels… and… dang, I can’t bring myself to ruin the movie with the nuttiest, most jaw-dropping ending of 2008. I mean it. Best one. And I saw “Pathology.” So I know things.

“The Spirit”: When Gabriel Macht as The Spirit isn’t talking to himself about himself, he’s talking to himself about other people, or he’s talking to other people about himself. Or he’s talking to himself and talking to the camera at the same time. And at those times he’s really talking to you about how he’s talking to himself. Then sometimes he’s talking to bad guy Sam Jackson about himself. Or to bad guy Sam Jackson about Sam Jackson. Then he talks to The City, which is his one true love. I think. Then he gets shot a lot by bad guy Sam Jackson (who’s wearing a lot of really rad frosty-blue eyeshadow) and falls into the muddy black goo. Scarlett Johansson struts her rack around in a Nazi uniform, too, giving Woody Allen nightmares. It all becomes sort of hypnotically dizzying and trance-inducing. And I know you probably won’t be able to duplicate my viewing experience, but when I saw it I was sitting right in front of director Frank Miller and he coughed on the back of my head for 90 minutes. OK, not really. He coughed into his hand. But I know at least some of those fame-germs got on my head.

“The Women”: In this post-apocalyptic horror film, a future dystopia where feminism never happened becomes the setting for a Thunderdome-like frenzy of gore and rage. The women mutilate themselves as offerings to an angry Shoe God and only Debra Messing survives. It’s like “10,000 B.C.” But FOR THE LADIES Y’ALL!

Dave White is the film critic for Movies.com and the author of Exile In Guyville. Find him at www.imdavewhite.com.

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