Top 10 Overrated Movies of the Last Decade

As we say goodbye to the first decade of the new century – and I don’t wanna hear any revisionist bellyaching about the decade not ending until December 2010 – we also say hello to the mainstream media movie critics’ lists of the best movies since 2000. Like their “hard news” reporting brethren, the MSM’s critics’ consensus view of what’s good constitutes a conventional wisdom that emphasizes the “conventional” while going light on the “wisdom.” And, like the rest of the MSM, they are almost always wrong.

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This countdown of movies – all but one of which was nominated for at least a couple of Oscars – is not a list of the worst movies of the last decade. Instead, it counts down ten notable cinematic critical darlings that simply do not hold up over time. They are not necessarily awful films – though some are transcendentally terrible – and many have good performances, memorable scenes or even a classic character or two. But overall, the effect of watching them again today is similar to what you might experience at your high school reunion when you see how that sexy cheerleader you once dated is now a bloated wildebeest with a tat on her meaty hock reading “Hope and Change.” You just shake your head, asking yourself, “Man, what was I thinking?”

10. The Departed (2006): This Martin Scorsese film is not terrible. It’s just not as great as everyone – including the Academy, which named it “Best Picture” and Scorsese “Best Director” – wants to believe. You get the distinct impression that after overlooking Scorsese for real masterpieces like Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, the Academy and the critics made an unspoken pact to see that he finally got recognized for something. Sadly, there’s no disputing that The Departed is at the tail end of the Scorsese pantheon. Its tangled, implausible plot relies completely on characters making consistently poor decisions and being blind to the obvious. Leonardo DiCaprio is too pretty and too whiny as the twitchy protagonist. Jack Nicholson competently chews the scenery but just seems bored with the whole thing. Matt Damon, who is from Boston, is unconvincing as someone from Boston. While Scorsese’s use of a Drop Kick Murphy's tune deserves props, The Departed is waaaaaaaaay too long, and the “romantic” scenes between DiCaprio and Vera Farmiga bring the action to a flying stop. Rent Casino instead.

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9. Little Miss Sunshine (2006): Yuck. It was hardly the original, groundbreaking comedy that it was made out to be – and hardly a rightful Best Picture nominee. It’s really just an intermittently amusing road movie – very intermittently. We’ve seen a million versions of Alan Arkin’s potty-mouthed grandpa. Whoa, an old guy who swears and engages in debauchery – mind-blowing! Particularly annoying is the character played by Greg Kinnear, the father who is so stupid he actually believes in the American Dream. That drew plenty of guffaws from the hipsters, as did the up-tight, repressed know-nothing characters during the climax who were actually dismayed at the sight of a six-year old doing a modified striptease to “Super Freak.” Yeah, take that fathers who care about their families and people who disapprove of kids acting like little tramps. Unpleasant, smug, and unfunny – these are hardly the qualities of a great comedy.

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8. In the Bedroom (2001): In the Bedroom is a ponderous, slooooooow, glacially paced talkfest that somehow earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It was hailed as uniquely moving, and that was true. In fact, about half-way through it, I moved directly to the exit. I admit that it was probably immature of me to yell to the remaining audience members that, “This sucks – I’m outta here!” On the other hand, perhaps it makes me a fearless truth teller who refuses to allow society’s conventions to silence his patriotic dissent. You be the judge – but whatever you do, don’t squander irreplaceable hours of your life on this train wreck.

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7. Children of Men (2006): No one can argue that this confused, depressing sci-fi flick about a dystopian future without children is not a technical marvel. It is, as its Academy Award nominations recognized. But it is also an intellectually bankrupt, confused mish-mash of hazy leftist tropes, green preachiness and hackneyed Hollywood clichés. Apparently people stopped being able to breed because of capitalism or something – who knows? And while you might think this would be the ultimate fantasy for the climate change scammers and other Earth First/Humans Last types, consistency is hardly Children of Men’s strong suit. All people are bad, except the illegal immigrants flooding England, who are good. And so are the terrorists, sometimes, but no one else is. Here’s my advice: If you have to watch the stupid thing, do it with the sound off and speed through the talky parts to get to the action set pieces. You’ll thank me.

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6. Mystic River (2003): Mystic River is painfully slow and it’s so calculatedly actor-y, with hammy portrayals by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, that you feel like Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian should show up to yell “Acting!” You half expect Sean and Tim to break the forth wall to announce “And scene!” Look, their politics are terrible, but their commie preoccupations are nothing compared to these awful performances. Overwrought acting and the grim, melodramatic story together made for one of the decade’s least pleasant film-going experiences. See it with someone you dislike.

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5. No Country for Old Men (2007): Yeah, I know most everyone loves it and that it won Best Picture. Yeah, I know Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the novel, is supposed to be America’s greatest literary treasure. Well, I hated the book and the movie and wish I could get back the hours I wasted on them. The plot makes little sense, and it’s propelled forward only by having Josh Brolin’s character do the absolute stupidest thing at each decision point. Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones both portray rural characters not as real human beings but as some sort of weird Hollywood image of what normal people are like. Javier Bardem as the killer is initially interesting, but he suffers from Chronic Indestructibility Syndrome – the fact that he can’t be stopped kept me from caring that he wasn’t. There are also gaping holes in the story where important events happen, but we don’t see them – just like in the book. I suppose that it’s some sort of hip literary statement to tell a story by not telling it. I guess I’m just one of those bourgeoisie knuckledraggers who demands his stories be coherent, interesting and actually told.

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4. Superbad (2007): This tiresome teen comedy got no Oscar nods, but it did earn an 87% fresh rating on Rottentomatoes.com. I don’t know why. Other than the amusing McLovin character, this was a pale imitation of truly subversive teen films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, yet it was hailed as some sort of cutting edge, revolutionary experiment in pushing boundaries. And it did – of good taste, but without the laughs to justify the crassness. Ridgemont dared to show its emotionally stunted, direction-less heroine seek out an abortion because she had no parental or social influences that provided her other options. It made a powerful comment on the spiritual emptiness of a whole generation of affluent kids. In contrast, the timid Superbad focuses on its lame protagonists’ efforts to buy-up beer and makes tampon jokes. Edgy. Superbad shows that if you expect nothing from your movies, you will get it.

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3. Crash (2004): I have to admit that I did not see this Best Picture winner. When I first saw the trailer, the needle on my Liberal Sanctimony Detector went into the red. No thanks. So, allow me instead to quote a long-time friend’s assessment. Crash is “an abomination.” It belongs not on a list of the Top Ten Overrated Films of the Last Decade but “on the list of the Ten Worst Movies of All Time.” Note that my friend is a proud liberal, so perhaps this provides some hope that those of us on both sides of our polarized American polity can come together once again on common ground, united in a shared contempt for Crash.

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2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): A bloody fairy tale set during the Spanish Civil War – how can that go wrong? Where does one start on why this over-praised disaster is so lousy? Well, there’s the child-like innocence of the communist guerrillas who are the heroes of the piece. As anyone who knows anything about the Spanish Civil War knows, the reds spent a lot less time bravely trying to save little girls than butchering one another for insufficient political reliability. How about the story? Well, I still have no clue what it was about. There’s a little girl, a mean fascist, some monsters, and then most everyone dies. Like so many others of these over-praised films, Pan’s Labyrinth is boring, confused and generally unpleasant, and I wish there was a way to unsee it.

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1. Lost In Translation (2003): Sometimes you walk out of a movie and you know that it has, at some level, changed you. Well, my life was measurably changed for the worse because I saw this film. Watching it caused me physical, psychic and spiritual pain. You haven’t been bored until you’ve been Lost In Translation bored. Still, there are three good things about Lost in Translation. First, Bill Murray is funny in one, or maybe two scenes. Second, they use the awesome song “Just Like Honey” by the Jesus and Mary Chain on the soundtrack. Third, it eventually ends. Lost in Translation is just a terrible movie – dull, pretentious, and morally bankrupt. Scarlett Johansson, whose ambition is apparently to prove that Winona Ryder is not the worst actress in human history, plays an immature, narcissistic, spoiled brat who whines her way through a trip to Japan. Naturally, she is our heroine. The problem is that the movie seems to think ScarJo’s character is awesome, and that the real problem is people keeping their commitments, fulfilling their responsibilities and forgoing transitory gratification. Yeah, they sure called our society’s big problem – too many people not acting like selfish twits.

Perhaps you have fond memories of one or more of these films. Perhaps you recall enjoying, even loving the experience of seeing it back when it first came out. Well, don’t take my word for it. Put it on your Netflix queue. Pop it into the DVD player. But just remember – you were warned.

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