Anne Thompson and TOH! writers Maggie Lange, Beth Hanna, Matt Brennan, and Jacob Combs share their picks for Worst Movies of 2012. Somehow Greta Gerwig, "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Prometheus" rate mentions on more than one list.
It's a badge of honor for me to try to avoid the obvious bad movies. But sometimes I feel obligated to see the big-budget studio train wrecks I saw coming a mile away, such as "John Carter" and "Battleship," two of the worst movies of 2012.
But there were five more that were even worse:
5. "Promised Land" – It's not Gus Van Sant's fault that he couldn't save this anti-fracking diatribe written by Matt Damon and John Krasinki. Nobody could have.
4. "The Words" – Another case where the script is the villain. Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid and Jeremy Irons do their best to bring to life this unbelievable pretzel-twisted story within a story within a story.
3. "Hyde Park on Hudson" – Roger Michell's misguided and inaccurate depiction of King Bertie's visit to FDR makes one of our greatest presidents look like a dirty old man stamp collector.
2. "Rock of Ages" – While this stage-to-screen musical proves that Tom Cruise is one of our last remaining must-see movie stars, Adam Shankman ("Hairspray") botched this jarring and ugly movie that was intended to pull straight males into watching a musical. Bad concept.
1. "The Oranges" – This painfully icky suburban relationship drama concerns a lonely dad (Hugh Laurie) with a wife (Catherine Keener) and grown daughter (Alia Shawkat) who thinks it's a good idea to have an affair with the lonely daughter (Leighton Meester) of his next door neighbor pals (Oliver Platt and Allison Janney). Complications ensue.
Something about the overblown big-screen absurdity of "Prometheus," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and "John Carter" enthralled me. "The Dark Knight Rises" was pompous, heavy-handed, and stolid, but "Damsels in Distress" wins my vote for the worst movie of 2012. Senseless, stupid, and anemic, Whit Stillman's bid for a comeback dilly-dallied about with faltering steps and an utter lack of grace–despite Greta Gerwig's stalwart attempts to keep things interesting.
"Lola Versus": It takes a lot to make Greta Gerwig repellent, but somehow this depressingly boring, self-impressed "romantic comedy" (which is neither romantic nor funny) does so quite effectively. Zoe Lister Jones is cringe-worthy as Lola's oversexed best friend; she references vaginas a lot — how edgy!
"Prometheus": I went in with such high expectations, and found weird, gross-out, sexually uncomfortable imagery and characters with no smarts (i.e., let's touch this mysterious snake-like thing that looks dangerous; let's run in a straight line from a rolling spaceship instead of stepping one foot to the right or left and being saved). Other than Michael Fassbender as an android, everything else in this film made it a huge disappointment.
I had trouble coming up with a nominee for "worst" movie, with all the usual caveats. I could not possibly have seen all of the bad movies worth considering, and how do you define "worst," anyway? "The Words" — structurally unsound and stylistically forgettable, with a maddeningly empty and self-important understanding of love, language, and art — was the foremost contender.
But the film that remains stuck in my craw all these months later is "The Dark Knight Rises," a brutalist monument to conservatism that paints the disaffected and impoverished as terrorists, thieves, misanthropes, and deformities. I know full well that to criticize the merest inflection of Christopher Nolan's trilogy is to invite ad hominem attacks along with well-reasoned disagreements, and perhaps that's why the film's politics remain so menacingly above reproach.
But amid all of the controversy surrounding "Django Unchained" and "Zero Dark Thirty," it would do to remember that many more people saw, and loved, Nolan's cruelly violent vision of a society railroaded by Occupy-style mob rule. "The Dark Knight Rises" makes radical democracy the hostage of madmen, ordinary folks bloodthirsty criminals, and the idle rich saviors of us all. Mitt Romney himself could not have vilified the 47 percent with more unnerving vigor.