So Roger Ebert just added Tree of Life to his 10 best films of all time list
. Which I don't get because it was poorly structured, unmemorable, and tedious, which is a pretty friggin' impressive achievement for a movie with dinosaurs and Brad Pitt in it. And that Hallmark greeting card version of the afterlife at the end--complete with sunsets, waves, and wheeling birds--was like a Sunday school orientation video it was so unspeakably clichéd and dorky.
And he chose this over Synecdoche, NY. I guess some things in life just defy analysis.
But this does raise the question: what are the absolute worst best films of all time? Here's my list, and I'm putting Tree of Life in the #1 position, just because it's annoying me right now.
- Tree of Life - I was ready to cut my own throat after the first hour, but I was pretty sure that the film would redeem itself in some way before the end. Perhaps a character would show up that we cared about. My money was on Sean Penn, since his purpose in the film was otherwise inexplicable. (I lost that bet. He talks about uninteresting things to someone on the phone, and he rides an elevator, and he looks annoyed about the stupid role that he has to play.) Perhaps something resembling a plot would become evident. Okay, forget plot--maybe something would just HAPPEN. Anything, please! Nope. The most exciting part of the movie for me was when the end credits started to roll. Yes!
- Forrest Gump - Here's a movie that celebrates how mental inadequacy and the American Dream go hand-in-hand. Seriously, wut?
- Citizen Kane - It's like the old joke about Shakespeare: it would be better if it wasn't so full of clichés. Except, it probably wouldn't. I think movies should at least be memorable, and the only thing I can remember about this film was the "Rosebud..." ending, which has been repeated in so many places, it's probably now a false memory that was implanted by a Simpsons episode.
- Vertigo - I just start laughing when the psychedelic effects start in. Okay, maybe there was a time when that shit actually worked, but it stopped being that time somewhere in the 1960s. And we are talking about the greatest films of all time, after all, not films that were great for 3 years until their special effects technology became comical.
- Raging Bull - I like De Niro. I like Scorsese. But I can't remember anything about this film. I think I didn't finish it for lack of interest. I figure that's got to count against you.
- On the Waterfront - To be honest, I can't think of any Marlon Brando lead roles that I've actually liked. We'll pick on this one, just because I was forced to sit through it in film class.
- Platoon - Hollywood loves Oliver Stone. But the dude's a bit of a hack, isn't he? He tackles issues that are sensitive to Americans, but that tricks Americans into thinking he's brave and nuanced. But he's actually a bit ham-fisted, which doesn't become clear until you see how he handles non-American subjects. Alexander, anyone?
- Empire Strikes Back - Okay, this was actually an eminently enjoyable film. I'm putting it here because most people say it was the best of the Star Wars movies, when in fact the first film stands head and shoulders above it as a piece of art. Empire is a boilerplate sequel--more action, better one-liners, upgraded special effects, and a cliff-hanger ending setting up a ridiculous third movie. It's actually nothing more than an extremely-well-executed piece of shite. But still a lot of fun.
- Star Trek II - Wrath of Khan - Same story as Empire, above. This one's a favourite of the nerds, who apparently just want their movies to be big-budget TV shows. The cinematic, Kubrickesque pretentions of the first Star Trek movie got swept into the garbage with this one, and the franchise rapidly went downhill after that.
- No Country for Old Men - This was actually a really good film, and I adore the Coen brothers and everything they do. Why pick on this film, in that case? Because they botched the ending. Just as the tension and storyline gets wound up to the snapping point, the filmmakers simply look away. They literally look away, and we don't see the end of the movie. We see Tommy Lee Jones looking a bit baffled by the ending, but he doesn't get it, so he goes and talks to his old dad about it, but he doesn't get it either. It's like the film broke, or the DVD was scratched and unplayable for the last 5 minutes, and we just have to hope that it was a good ending after all. But mostly I'm just annoyed that of all the Coen Brothers' films, this is the one that got an Oscar.