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The 20 Worst Film Follies of 2016
The 20 Worst Film Follies of 2016

Ithaca

Armed with decades of acting experience, a rolodex full of high-profile industry colleagues, and the rights to a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Meg Ryan enjoyed plenty of advantages in making Ithaca, her directorial debut, so while it would be unfair to expect her to produce a masterpiece her first time out, the total ineptitude on display here is still genuinely stunning. The film is confused in conception, dreary in execution, and completely lacking in forward momentum. Scenes drag on with no sense of purpose, while the actors generally seem lost. The overall effect is like watching an early rehearsal for a play, when the rhythms of a scene haven't yet been established and the actors are still finding their characters. Watson

The 20 Worst Film Follies of 2016

Jackie

Forget “post-truth.” “Anti-biopic” is the new term that gets our epic side eye. Pablo Larraín's alternately ghoulish and regressive Jackie garnered raves for expanding the parameters of that most boringly traditional and Oscar-wooing of genres, as though literally every single biopic from the last 15 years hasn't also sought methods to keep the genre's many pitfalls at bay. Failing to distinguish itself from all other historical drag revues of late, Jackie indulges in the hoary strategy of placing an iconic figure from a global event under the microscope, in order to give its central actor a chance to flex her muscles against the binds of mimicry. And struggle Natalie Portman does, unbearably for those who recognize this breed of performance as prestige cinema's true uncanny valley, but attractively to the type of filmgoer who assesses cognitive dissonance as evidence of praiseworthy thespian efforts. The elements that do work (Mica Levi's sensual score, first and foremost) only confirm the film's status as a luscious department-store window display. Enfant terrible Xavier Dolan took the opportunity to declare himself “artistically intimidated” by the film, which makes some sense in light of his “lady doth protest too much” self-identification as a strict top. In divorcing history from context, Jackie willfully lays on its back, inviting those who prefer injecting their own meaning amid red-satin drapery. Eric Henderson

The 20 Worst Film Follies of 2016

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The saddest thing about Keeping Up with the Joneses is that it appears sincere in its attempt to fill the comedy void that only the filmmakers thought was left by Desperate Housewives. Wisteria Lane is now Maple Circle, where two government spies, Natalie and Tim Jones (Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm), move to in order to ingratiate themselves with Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis), a security company drone whose computer holds intel about an arms transaction. Natalie and Tim's poker faces may indicate how inherently good they are at protecting their secret identities—or they could point to Gadot and Hamm's resignation over the screenplay never rising above cataloging the expected outcome of Mr. and Mrs. Smith clones shooting their way through a Hollywood backlot version of flyover-country suburbia. Gonzalez

The 20 Worst Film Follies of 2016

King Cobra

Considering that King Cobra takes place in the mid-aughts, the possibilities for a nostalgic playfulness around Web 1.0 pornography could have been plentiful. Instead, the filmmakers soak their characters in a one-dimensional bathos devoid of any stylistic fun, feeding them trite lines (“You're gonna be a star, I have a feeling”) in a silly premise involving jealousy and trademark, and timidly refrain from any form of critique or unapologetic devotion to the ridiculousness of the subject matter. Were it not for its (uninventive) sex scenes, King Cobra could have easily been a made-for-TV production. It's difficult, in fact, to find a reason for the film's existence beyond a spoiled platform for James Franco's ersatz boldness. Diego Semerene

The 20 Worst Film Follies of 2016

Lazy Eye

Lazy Eye, which begins with sex and ends with post-coital guilt, presents us with an implausibly moralistic world where seasoned gay men are naïve, clingy, impossibly romantic, and completely offended by the concept of unfaithfulness, as well as cigarette smoking. Within the logic of the film, settling into an airtight monogamy, ideally with children, is the ultimate goal for the properly prudish post-9/11 homosexual, for whom sex is inevitably marred with anxiety and guilt and a second home is a sort of compensation for the lack of a second lover. Even an instance of shade in this world is tainted with sanctimony, as when Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) chastises Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis) for daring to be single and still not a homeowner: “It's hard to have a kid if you're not settled.” Semerene

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