Sunday, January 9, 2022

Sunday Worst: Bizarro Awards 2021

  My good friend the Doctor said that I should do a parallel list to my Kal-El Awards that reflect to worst in pop culture from the year.  He suggested that I call them the "Lenny Luthors" after the horrible Jon Cryer character from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.  The rational for choosing Lenny was that "he is terrible in every way that Superman is awesome."

I liked the idea, but I thought instead of Lenny Luthor we would name the awards after the true opposite of Superman:


Bizarro is the anti-Superman, literally.  He even maintains speech patterns that are the opposite of what he means.  "Good-bye, me am not Bizarro.  Me like you!  Live!"  said by Bizarro actually means "Hello, I am Bizarro.  I hate you! Die!"

So since Superman is my mark of excellence.  Bizarro will be my mark of utter awfulness.   Unlike the Kal-El awards, these will be focused only on movies.  The reason is that serialized work like television and comics require a longer time commitment in order to understand the material.  You may have to watch a show or read a comic for several months before you discover if it is truly bad or good.  It took me a few episodes to understand the logic behind Vincent D'Onofrio's performance in Daredevil.  The investment of time and/or money also precludes a lot of unnecessary sampling, so my exposure to bad material is a bit less.

With a movie, you can have a complete understanding of the product after 90-180 minutes.  So I only have two TV categories:

-Worst TV Show I Stopped Watching
-Worst TV Show I Still Watch

In both of these cases I will be giving my critical condemnation of shows about which I have some significant experience and thus have a basis for calling them critical failures

So now, here are the Bizarro Awards for movies this past year.  (based on the movies I have seen).


The Suicide Squad

This is a movie that swings for the fences and misses big time.  I know others who disagree, and I respect that.  But for me, I was horribly disappointed and disgusted by this film.

James Gunn is someone who has really horrible instincts.  His aesthetic and moral compass in movies is completely out of phase with mine.  His Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly incredible movie because he was restrained by the Marvel machine and forced to be creative.  Given a PG-13 rating, and given the overall vibe fo the MCU, Gunn had to use his powers as a writer/director to deliver something appropriate for most audiences.

When DC took the guard rails off, we got The Suicide Squad: a movie that is dark and disgusting and one those is intentionally ugly and nihilistic.  Don't get me wrong: there is a place for R-Rated, mature content comic book films.  Deadpool, Watchmen, and Logan have proved that.  But Gunn's movie revels in its grossness to the point where there is almost nothing likable or redeemable by anyone or anything in the story.  

This is the second year in a row that a Harley Quinn movie has won the dubious honor of worst film of the year.  Margot Robbie continues to have the unfortunate honor of being one of the best things in terrible movies.

10. Fatherhood
9. Mortal Kombat
8. Coming 2 America
7. Army of the Dead
6. Trial of the Chicago 7
5. Tick, Tick, Boom
4. Gunpowder Milkshake
3. The Woman in the Window
2. The Dig
1. The Suicide Squad


Taika Waititi - Free Guy


Everything Waititi does in this movie is terrible.  

He is a walking 1-dimensional sketch of a movie bad guy.  That in and of itself is forgivable.  But Waititi does it so badly that he literally sucks the enjoyment out of every scene he is in.  What makes it all the more frustrating is the apparent utter obliviousness of his own annoyingness.  This is summed up for me in a moment when someone says something he doesn't like and his response is "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?"  It is delivered so horribly that it makes every utterance of this catchphrase by the late Gary Coleman look like comedic genius.  


Leslie Jones - Coming 2 America

Jones was the best part of the 2016 Ghostbusters, where she was able to break through a lot of the milquetoast, cringe comedy with her bold performance.  Here, she gets completely lost in the shuffle.  Her performance typified everything that went wrong with this sequel: the characters did not become funnier, only louder.  Unlike the actor playing her son, Jones did not come off as anything like a real character, but, like I mentioned above with Waititi, only the sketch of a real person.


Simon Stone - The Dig

The number one cinematic sin for me is simply this: boredom.

Do not bore me.  I try to find something good in films that I find problematic, but if the movie is boring, I begin to completely disengage.  And this was the case with The Dig.  The film also had some odd moral issues, but I couldn't get worked up enough about it to care.  Director Stone leads the camera along these long, dreary shots that are supposed to have artistic value.  And while he does find the odd nugget of cinematic beauty, the overall effect is that we never really get into the story.  He does the annoying thing where he uses a voice over of a conversation while the main characters are sitting together silent.  All this serves to do is make us think that the conversation wasn't interesting enough to be shown.


James Gunn - The Suicide Squad

As I wrote in my review:

I remember when they first announced James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy.  I thought he was a terrible choice.  His previous movies of his that I had seen were gross and disturbing.  I did not think that he had the sensibilities for a super hero film.  Fortunately, I was proven wrong and Guardians became one of the best super hero films ever made.  But now I know the reason:

James Gunn was restrained.

One of the reasons that a lot of big name directors do not want to work with Marvel is because the studio had tight controls over their properties and the content of their films.  The franchise is accused of being bland because of this, but it also prevents a director from taking the series off the rails.  

Restraint can be the biggest help to creativity.  You need look no further than Jaws, where Steven Spielberg took a B-movie plot and turned it into a masterpiece because he was forced to be creative rather than explicit.  But when you remove these boundaries, you can get an indulgent mess.

And that is what we have with The Suicide Squad.

I was not a huge detractor of of David Ayer's original Suicide Squad the way many critics were.  It is not a bad movie, but it is a little bland (apparently Ayer's original version was cut up much the same way Snyder's Justice League was).  But one of the big critics of that film from others was that it did not embrace a full R-Rated vision for the characters.  And this new film goes to the extreme.


Coming 2 America

Unlike years past, this category is filled by a movie that is not explicitly anti-Christian.  I tended to avoid films this year that denigrated the faith.  The only reason this movie is here is because of the way it portrayed Reverend Brown.  I'm not even sure that scene is anti-Christian per se, since we cannot deny the presence of those who use religion for illicit gain.  But of all the films I have seen this year, this was the one that took the most explicit hit at religion.


The Suicide Squad

From my review:

In once scene, members of the team are sent to retrieve Flagg, who has been taken by soldiers in the woods.  They are ordered to make sure there are no witnesses.  What follows is an action sequence here the squad proceed to sneak up and kill a number of soldiers until they reach Flagg.  But the twist is that Flagg is fine.  He isn't captured.  He has been taken in by the nation's freedom fighters.  This realization is a punchline to the scene, meant for laughs.  But I was instead filled with disgust.  Our protagonists just murdered several people over several minutes.  Not only do they not care, but these people's lives are treated as a joke.

Throughout the movie, squad members seem to hold a line against killing children.  All well and good, but any other innocent adult is fair game.  I realize our squad have to remain villains of some kind, but I lose any reason to vote for them.

And as I wrote in another post:

 So why did people like Deadpool and not The Suicide Squad?  Because Deadpool, with its meta comedy and fourth-wall-breaking style lets you know that you can wink at the comedy. And (this is important), Deadpool only kills bad guys.  True, non-villains do die horrifically for laughs (see X-Force).  But Deadpool doesn't kill them directly and he saves the nicest one in the post-credits scene.  The Suicide Squad plays for laughs the deaths of innocents and the heroes.  When one of the main characters gets killed as a punchline, the message is "Hey, we don't care about our characters." And neither will the audience.



From my review:

The reason I gave the show a chance was because of one scene in the trailer.  Ava is whining to Deborah about how good she is.  Deborah wheels around and says that being good is the bare minimum to have any future in this industry.

It reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada, where the older, prickly mentor helped the snobbish assistant get over herself and find her esteem in being competent at her job (at least that's how I understood the theme of that movie).  

Instead, every episode was simply Ava being a horrible person and expecting everyone to fall over themselves gushing about how wonderful she is.  At one point someone calls her out on this, saying that she always thinks she knows what's best for them, but doesn't have her own life figured out.  I've found this to be a trick that a lot of modern movies and shows are using: having someone point out the main character's biggest flaw so that the audience will excuse it.  But being aware of your vices is not the same as growing out of them.  Ava has an amazingly, narcissistic sense of her own worth as a comedian.

The worst part about it is that she isn't funny at all.

I know that humor is subjective, but everything she says is tinged with nastiness.  And throughout the episodes I've watched, her advice comes down to being even nastier and more stringent.  On top of this, the show constantly and inexplicably virtue signals with the strangest non-sequiturs.  At one point, Ava gets angry at Deborah and shouts at her "I hope you donate to Planned Parenthood."  It was such an odd, out of nowhere statement that assumes the virtue of helping kill unborn children.


Saturday Night Live

(Below are my comments from last two years, but they still apply to this year)

I still hold out hope that in 90 minutes of television there may still be at least 5 minutes of good humor.  But it takes a lot of endurance through horrible sketches to come across a gem like "Crucible Cast Party."

Every once in a while there is a sketch that is actually insightful and funny, like the Game Show "Republican or Democrat?"  But most of the time I watch the sketch for the first minute and a half until I find out what the gag is.  Most of the time it is a miss, rather than a hit.

Political comedy is tricky, unless you are only looking to find the funny.  Johnny Carson was the all-time king because he made fun of everyone and everyone from all sides of the aisle could laugh at their own political party.  But if you get a sense that one side is being mocked over another, a lot of that good will is lost.  And since SNL tends to lean heavily into its politics, this makes it a slog to watch.

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