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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Is 2010 really the worst year for movies ever? Or is Joe Queenan just nuts?

Chris_rock The Wall Street Journal, which is normally quite picky about what it puts on the front page of its Friday Weekend Journal section, has given the entire page over to a wildly overbearingly cranky rant by Joe Queenan, headlined "The Worst Movie Year Ever?" (The best part of the whole piece is the layout, which inserts the headline on a theater marquee -- my compliments to the Journal's design team.) 

Queenan really works up a head of steam trashing "Robin Hood," "The Last Airbender" and "Dinner for Schmucks," not to mention "Grown Ups." In fact, Queenan theorizes that Chris Rock's association with the last of those movies was the real reason why, when Rock and the film's co-stars were seated next to Kobe Bryant by the Lakers bench during the NBA Finals, Kobe gave them the cold shoulder, refusing to even look in their direction. Here's Queenan's take on why this year is so much worse than any other year:

Go into a movie theater any day of the week and watch as the audience sits listlessly through a series of lame, mechanical trailers for upcoming films that look exactly like the D.O.A. movies audiences avoided last week. More films about misunderstood mercenaries. More films about rogue cops. More films about the pivotal role of choreography in rescuing the underclass from its own worst instincts. More movies about congenial thugs from South Boston. More films about boys who do not want to grow up, ever, ever, ever. More movies about cats.

As if to lend credence to Queenan's argument, the Journal's Joe Morgenstern gleefully pans "Schmucks" in the same section of the paper, saying the centerpiece of the film "is an elaborate event at which attendees are amused by idiots -- not unlike the experience of 'Dinner For Schmucks,'" which just for good measure Morgenstern dismisses as "pathetically unfunny."

Of course, it isn't the worst movie year ever. Many of this year's movies are bad -- how 'bout that "Clash of Titans"? -- but they're no worse than those of any other year. Nonetheless, every year some critic or commentator pops up, claiming that a particular year is absolutely, hands-down, without argument truly the worst year ever for movies. It took me about five seconds on Google to find Film.com's Dre Rivas sounding positively suicidal about the cinematic offerings of 2008, prompting him to pose the question: "Is 2008 the worst year of movies ever?"

It's probably no coincidence that most of these unhappy proclamations surface near the end of summer, which is definitely the dog days for movie-going, when film fans often feel as if they have gone weeks and weeks, if not months, since seeing a film that they could recommend to anyone who's managed to graduate from junior high school. But that doesn't mean that we've hit rock bottom. We've seen plenty of good movies this year, starting with "Inception," which wasn't just beloved by most critics, it remains the most popular movie in America.

Queenan mentions "Inception" in the lead of his story, but never gets around to giving it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, which seems like a cop-out, because it puts a huge hole in his argument to claim that it's the worst movie year ever when the biggest hit of the month is a strikingly original film that has inspired mass critical adulation. Queenan acknowledges that there are a few good films lurking around, such as "The Kids Are All Right," but he even slags off that film, saying that "whatever its merits, it's no 'Sideways,' no 'March of the Penguins.'"

Of course, when "Sideways" came out, I bet there were plenty of cranky critics like Queenan who said that whatever its merits, "Sideways" is no "Shakespeare in Love" or "Fargo." I'd even wager that in 1939, arguably the greatest year ever for movies, there was some critic arguing that Hollywood was going to hell in a handbasket. It's the problem with doomsday thinking: When you loudly proclaim that things can't possibly get any worse, you look like a dummy if they don't and a fool if they do. Especially if you say it in July, when there are still five more months left in the year. 

Photo: "Grown Ups" stars Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James and Adam Sandler courtside at Game 1 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images

 

 
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The movie industry is nothing but a lot of American Idol hacks creating total slop.

Queenan lost all credibility with me after Unkindest Cut - where he seems unaware that he is chonicling his complete lack of understanding of cinema on every page... as well as his lack of imagination. He doesn't seem to understand films on a basic level... and seems uninterested in learning. He's one of those critics with no shortage of opinions, who usually doesn't "show his work" and give examples and "evidence" that backs up his opinion.

Every year someone will say it is the worst year... but we have no idea whether the very films we think are crap today will be classics tomorrow. WIZARD OF OZ, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE... the list is endless. How many junky genre films were just popular entertainment when released, but are now classics on the National Registry? This will always be the worst year for films... or maybe the best year for films. We won't really know until 50 years from now when that crappy piece of schlock ends up becoming a beloved classic.

- Bill (big fan of ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN)

Based on the proof presented, I'd say yes to both...

Joe Morgenstern didn't pan "Dinner for Schmucks" in the Journal. I did. If you disagree, that's your privilege, and misfortune. But before critiquing a piece, try reading the byline.

Joe Queenan definitely needs a Brain job!

Yes, this is the worst year for movies ever. I know people say that every year but this is a truly memorable year for the stinker. Even the junk popcorn movie are bad. Prince of Persia and Robin Hood could have been fun but they were just dull. All you want from a summer movie is some dumb fun but they are just so dull. This is the day the movies died.

An insultingly stupid piece indeed. I myself get angry at those who loudly bemoan the state of new movies: so watch your damn old ones and shut up, already! Thanks to home media, the everyday consumer has easier access to the entirety of film history than at any other point. Ergo, every passing year is the best-ever year for movies.

But Mr. Goldstein, your own paper has not been blameless in this dreary mudslinging game. In July 2005, LAT writer film critic Kevin Thomas giddily explained a supposed summer-long box-office slump thus: “at long last we've reached critical mass, with too many remakes, too much that's formulaic.” And yet, franchise pictures continue to thrive. So, how'd that formula doomsday work out for ya, Kev? And have those darn kids gotten off your lawn yet?

It's frankly pathetic to see grown men whine in such ignorant, apocalyptic fashion; they ought to be thanking their lucky stars each day that they still get paid for the unbelievable luxury of writing about art. And if they want to complain about something, there's still, y'know, a world of politics out there.

Frankly Inception is not all that original. Shallow character development, perfunctory dialog, and only a few interesting visuals, all of which appeared in the trailers. But hey let's jump on the bandwagon because everyone knows that what really matters is what the herd thinks. The acting is ok, but if Leo wins awards for this and not for Shutter Island that will just once again prove that voters are just Junior Prom rejects. If you want to see a truly innovative drop-dead mind-blowing movie about layers of perception, rent Synecdoche, New York. Which brings me to the fact that there are oodles of fabulously creative ground-breaking films made every year that deserve the awards that usually go to the crap lined up at the cineplex. Anyone who throws up his hands and claims there's nothing out there is just lazy or stupid.

So Queenan has the summertime movie blues because the current films aren't up to his personal standards,gee that's unfortunate. The movies produced for this year,reflect the success of prior summer hits,so we get movies based on video games, successful TV shows,super heros,raunchy comedies etc;.That pattern has been in place for at least nine years and has made a lot of money overall. The summer movie schedule is a lot like TV programming with episodic series. If it feels very familar ,well that's because it is.Perhaps the offerings just aren't exciting enough for the critics because a lot of the reviews are quite harsh. Actually Anderson at the WSJ gave a negative review of Inception.It looks as if civilian movie ticket buyers liked it however.In 2005 the Journal was complaining about the type and quality of summertime movies,so Queenan's views aren't unique at all.

"The age of the bankable, surefire matinee idol seems to be over, as the industry has discovered with Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts' most recent films."
I'm sure Mr. Queenan will be eating crow after "Eat, Pray, Love" opens.

 
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