ranters and ravers

Vulture’s Critics’ Poll: The Complete Ballots

Forty-three critics! One-hundred-and-seven movies! You’ve seen the slideshow of our 2009 Worst Movie Poll; now find out who hated what and why, on the Vulture Critics’ Poll compendium of ballots.

The system: Each mention of a film earned that film one point, with a bonus point awarded each time a critic specifically named the film the absolute worst of the year. A link associated with a critic’s name indicates that we pulled their picks from a previously published list.

Richard Brody, The New Yorker
The oppressively boring movies of 2009 have passed into oblivion along with their titles, as have the merely empty ones. What remains, on the negative end of the spectrum, are those which represent spectacular artistic failure — intentions utterly unfulfilled by results, intentions that overwhelm any of the life that might have been sparked on set, intentions that may even be dubious in themselves and which represent the will to art rather than anything artistic. And in this regard, for 2009, there’s nothing more exemplary than Antichrist, with which Lars von Trier, who sells sex with religion and religion with sex, shows himself at least to be one of the top ad-men of the day. That said, it’s worth mentioning the five enduring nuggets of wisdom the movie offers: (1) install window guards; (2) take your meds; (3) avoid the wilderness; (4) have a second wrench handy; and (5) keep your nose to the grindstone.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe
In order:
The Lovely Bones
All About Steve
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
Crank: High Voltage
Breaking Point
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Serious Moonlight
The Final Destination
Paper Heart
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
St. Trinian’s
The Burning Plain
Stan Helsing

Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen gets my vote for worst of 2009, with G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra a close second.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Fast and Furious
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The Mark Pease Experience
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
The Boondock Saints II: All Saint’s Day
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Old Dogs

David Edelstein, New York
1. Nine. The lyrics add an extra element of pain.
2. The Limits of Control. Non-action as existential manifesto.
3. Police, Adjective. Non-action as political manifesto.
4. The Lovely Bones. Getting murdered young as New Age manifesto.
5. It’s Complicated. Affluence porn.
6. Transformers 2. “Make it stop!”
7. Antichrist. More entertaining when the mutilations begin.
8. New York, I Love You. You’ll want to move.
9. Big Fan. King of Comedy with bigger losers.

Jim Emerson, Chicago Sun-Times Scanners blog
I’m gonna say Avatar — the only James Cameron movie I’ve ever considered a total failure. Because: (1) the CGI technology STILL isn’t good enough; (2) the visual design is gaudy and unoriginal (morphing together Roger Dean’s Yes album covers, Thomas Kinkaid, and Walter/Margaret Keane); and (3) beyond the technology, little effort appears to have been expended on the things that make a movie an “immersive experience”: the direction, the writing, the acting …

David Fear, Time Out
Paper Heart

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
5. Last House on the Left
4. Tony Manero
3. The Box
2. Bride Wars
1. The Men Who Stare at Goats

J. Hoberman, Village Voice
A truly terrible movie is worth a hundred stupefying mediocrities. Moreover, a single annoying performance can render even a mediocre movie hateful. So what’s objective? These are not the “worst,” although some are morally reprehensible, just the most critically overrated. In alphabetical order: Crazy Heart, An Education, Precious, A Serious Man, Up in the Air. Did anybody really like The Road or The Lovely Bones? If so, add them, too.
P.S. All of these movies are from the past few months because nobody remembers the “masterpieces” of last spring.

Stephen Holden, New York Times
Old Dogs was the worst movie I saw in 2009.

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
1. All About Steve
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
3. Public Enemies

Eric Kohn, IndieWire
1. Year One. Because Harold Ramis is a genius and can do better than this.
2. Nine. MTV-style editing often gets cited as the most obnoxious aspect of modern blockbusters, but I’ll take that undeniable aesthetic tendency over this bland approach to the musical film, in which a horde of Oscar winners spout annoying melodies and mug for the camera.
3. The Ugly Truth. When Harry Met Sally went rotten.
4. The Box. Richard Kelly captures the mood of old Twilight Zone episodes with none of the thrills, insights, or plausibility.
5. Jennifer’s Body. I’m no Juno hater. That Diablo girl’s got legs, but this sloppy horror pastiche has no ground to stand on.
6. Post Grad. If I could turn mumblecore — a gross-sounding word that describes things it shouldn’t — into an epithet to describe bland depictions of alienated youth, this would be the paragon of the genre.
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s not possible for the greatest action hero of comic book lore to have a boring backstory, right? Wrong.
8. 12 Rounds. This cliché-ridden thriller fires blanks.
9. Away We Go. If Sam Mendes directs the next Bond movie with the sort of tepid forward motion plaguing this nonstarter, it would be an avant-garde oddity for the ages.
10. G.I. Joe The corrosion of standards in the face of indifference. Keep that in mind, Team Avatar.

Dan Kois, Washington Post
Battle For Terra 3-D
Law Abiding Citizen
Ninja Assassin
A Single Man
Spinning Into Butter

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
1. Walt & El Grupo
2. Gigantic
3. Downloading Nancy
4. Ninja Assassin
5. Outlander

Kevin Lee, Shooting Down Pictures
I Love You Beth Cooper was Chris Columbus’s horrifying attempt to rekindle the teen comedy torch of his mentor, John Hughes. Except that in place of Molly Ringwald’s complex charisma, there’s Hayden Panettiere’s Barbie Doll cheerleader crashing through an equally plastic plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if seeing what his beloved genre had been reduced to may have hurried John Hughes to his grave (he died a month after the film’s release). But the fiasco sunk to even lower depths when the marketing team paid an actual high-school valedictorian $1,800 to mimic the film’s title phrase in her graduation speech, and post an “amateur” video of it to YouTube, hoping it would go viral. Both the video and the movie went nowhere; as for the valedictorian, let’s hope she used that money to buy some dignity.

Nathan Lee, Film Comment
(500) Days of Summer: 95 minutes of agony.
Avatar: I like overblown digi-super-spectaculars as much as the next guy, but seriously. Smurf tigers getting their Baraka on under the Tree of Life?
Up in the Air: Jason Reitman is so totally the dude to critique class privilege. Makes Juno look like Rosetta.

Dennis Lim, Moving Image Source
Up in the Air. Maybe not the worst filmmaking, but definitely the worst politics.

Karina Longworth, LA Weekly
I don’t know from “worst,” but one of the oddest parts of essentially watching movies for a living is the occasional moment when you find yourself sitting in front of A Very Serious Movie, covering your face with your hands in the hopes that none of the Very Serious Critics seated all around you will see that you are laughing in mockery at something they seem to be taking Very Seriously. This happened to me this year in the following films: The Lovely Bones, Precious, Amelia, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Public Enemies. That said, all of those films are better than Paper Heart. Well, maybe not The Lovely Bones.

Nell Minow, BeliefNet
All About Steve was the worst movie of the year. The films that made me feel I could hear my brain cells melt as I watched were Next Day Air, I Love You, Beth Cooper, Old Dogs, and Miss March.

Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
Transformers, hands down.

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
In general order of foulness.
The Lovely Bones
The Proposal
Pink Panther 2
The Unborn
The Ugly Truth
The Uninvited
Fired Up
A Serious Man
The Final Destination
Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Michelle Orange, Movieline
The Hangover: A cynical mutation of comedy that smears the joke all over your face and walks away (to the bank, apparently). Lick it off or don’t, no one seems to care. Also, it’s just boring and mean and low down and it sucks.
Amelia: The last note I took for this movie was “Just die already.” If wishing death upon one of the twentieth century’s great feminist icons is what Mira Nair had in mind, bravissima.
Invictus: Eastwood seemed to forget that we are all already on bended knees when it comes to Nelson Mandela — there’s not much point in making us belly down to the ground to lick his shoes.
The Lovely Bones: I had a feeling that gooey slumber party at the end of The Return of the King didn’t bode well for the Salmon girl.

Chris Orr, The New Republic
The Lovely Bones: Worst Movie (Everything Going Wrong That Could Possibly Go Wrong category)
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: Worst Movie (Idiotic Remakes of Minor Classics category)
All About Steve: Worst Movie (Idiotic Remakes of Minor Classics category), Runner-up
The Ugly Truth: Worst Movie (Misogyny Pretending to Be Feminism category)
The Pink Panther 2: Worst Movie (May the Vengeful Specter of Peter Sellers Haunt Everyone Involved Until Their Dying Breaths category)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
The Haunting in Connecticut
Jennifer’s Body
And, yes, Avatar, which I, evidently alone among the human species, hated from start to finish.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune/At the Movies
Saddest hits of 2009: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; The Ugly Truth; Sherlock Holmes
Grimmest portrait of a marriage outside Bergman’s Shame: Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Is it fair when: The Hangover is the highest-grossing comedy in history, and In the Loop barely hits cult-flop status?

Keith Phipps, the AV Club
Alien Trespass: I almost feel bad picking on such a small movie, but the existence of this straight-faced send-up of fifties sci-fi B-movies baffles me. As a YouTube clip it might have been bearable, but at feature length it’s pretty rough.
Old Dogs: Robin Williams plays a character so afraid of children that he at one point allows himself to be turned into a human puppet to get through the ordeal of playing with a little girl. Bear in mind, he’s supposed to be playing a grown-up human being, not some alien unfamiliar with the ways of our species.

Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
All About Steve. Sandra Bullock as a crossword-puzzle designer stalking Bradley Cooper around the southwest.
Antichrist. Lars von Trier’s arty grotesque about men treating women badly, women treating men badly, babies dropping from windows, and woodland creatures that talk.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. Sushi-phobic Jeremy Piven gets his own star vehicle as a slick, cynical used-car salesman, and proceeds to drive the vehicle off a cliff.
Land of the Lost. Will Ferrell’s dumb-guy comedy shtick finally runs its course (we hope).
Law Abiding Citizen. A truly ugly depiction of Philadelphia, and a truly ugly revenge fantasy full of far-fetched plot turns and gratuitous gore.

Rex Reed, New York Observer
Funny People
The Men Who Stare at Goats
The Informers
The Hangover
Sherlock Holmes
Where the Wild Things Are
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
The Ugly Truth

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
1. All About Steve
2. The Ugly Truth
3. Old Dogs
4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
5. 2012
6. Love Happens
7. Whiteout
8. Fame
9. The Twilight Saga: New Moon
10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
5. All About Steve
4. Everybody’s Fine
3. The Burning Plain
2. Away We Go
1. The Ugly Truth

A.O. Scott, New York Times/At the Movies
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2. Away We Go
3. Nine
4. Law Abiding Citizen
5. Couples Retreat

Matt Zoller Seitz, The House Next Door
Imagine That — in which Eddie Murphy’s BlackBerry-obsessed stock-market analyst exploits his daughter’s imagination to improve his career prospects, then belatedly realizes that he should just be spending time with her — takes the title. It’s the kind of moviegoing experience where you can feel the audience growing more enervated by the moment — especially the kids, who left the house expecting to have fun but ended up having to suffer through a fictionalized big-screen version of the furtive conversations parents have while writing utility checks. “If this story had to be told,” I grumbled to a friend, “why not have it be from the point-of-view of the neglected daughter?” “I’ll bet you anything that’s the story the screenwriter originally wanted to tell,” he replied. “Then the studio exec said, ‘I like it. How can we make it be more about me?’”

Choire Sicha, the Awl
10 Food, Inc.: GARBAGE. Complete and total regurgitated garbage, barely offset by the rare piece of good reporting.
9 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: I mean obvs, Jesus Christ, WHAT.
8 The Great Buck Howard: WTF WAS THIS?
7 Inkheart: SNORES.
6 Jennifer’s Body: Sad. So close to being of interest.
5 Julie & Julia: I hated this movie so much. The worst part was that one half of the movie (YOU KNOW WHICH HALF) was good. Ruined by the OTHER HALF.
3 The Taking of Pelham 123: LESS THAN NOTHING HAPPENED.
2 Echelon Conspiracy: I cannot believe that I was so sick that I put this on the pay-per-view. HORRID.
N.B.: If anyone puts down Knowing, they are INCORRECT. That movie was AWESOME.

Brent Simon, Screen International
Amelia. Easily the worst studio stab at earnest dramatic filmmaking I saw all year.
All About Steve. A special sort of train wreck that unfolds like some fever-dream, recycled-parts mash-up of Anchorman, Mad Love, and a drunkenly self-amused improv sketch.
Polanski. A jumbled, whorish, opportunistic hot mess, but not really in a so-bad-it’s-good way.
Alien Trespass and Twelve in a Box. Nobody saw these, but that doesn’t mean those movies shouldn’t be punched in the nads. The former is a putative sci-fi period piece send-up that just sits there, like a blob. The latter is an interminably paced, poorly made, money-grubbing farcical ensemble. Both are dreadfully boring in slightly different ways, and make a case for the entertaining benefits of clamorous Hollywood product.

The staff of the AV Club
10. Downloading Nancy
9. Old Dogs
8. Fired Up
7. The Ugly Truth
6. All About Steve
5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
4. Paper Heart
3. I Hate Valentine’s Day
2. Gigantic
1. Miss March

Dana Stevens, Slate
Antichrist. Fuck you, Lars von Trier, for ruining my favorite Handel aria forever.
Away We Go. Or, Why Everyone Sucks Except For the Screenwriters’ Proxy Couple.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Oh wait, I never got to see it, so I guess I don’t know. Better ask the three fanboy bloggers who were given press screenings.
The Limits of Control. Oddly, these coincide perfectly with the limits of my tolerance for Jim Jarmusch.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. That ending? Where Robin Wright Penn is supposed to be following her bliss all Jill Clayburgh-style as she drives off with the wind in her hair? She’s actually being a total creep and treating everyone in the movie like dirt. Just FYI, Rebecca Miller.
The Proposal. Finally, a film that deals with the plight of the wealthy Canadian immigrant.
Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. half-naked. And yet it blew. How is this possible?
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Self-explanatory.
Whatever Works. Annie Hall run through the de-funnifying machine.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
Land of the Lost

Keith Uhlich, Time Out
A Single Man

Sara Vilkomerson, New York Observer
Inkheart: Brendan Fraser and magical, magical reading does not, as it turns out, go together.
Spinning Into Butter: An Oxygen original movie starring a weirdly dressed SJP.
The Ugly Truth: It almost makes me feel badly for Katherine Heigl. ALMOST.
G.I. Joe: Can’t remember a thing except it hurt my brain.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past: I will always prefer Scrooged.

Armond White, New York Press
Angels and Demons
Up in the Air
An Education
The Men Who Stare at Goats
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon
Jennifer’s Body. Brainless affectation masquerading as empowerment.
New in Town. Renee Zellweger is still a terrific actress (she gave an astute, charming performance in Richard Loncraine’s My One and Only), but she’s got to stop playing the ingenue — particularly in movies as country-cute, and as overall lousy, as this one is.

Vulture’s Critics’ Poll: The Complete Ballots