'Burn Hollywood Burn,' reviewer says, for making these clunkers in 1998
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From Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- How can you possibly pick the 10 worst films of 1998? Accurately, I mean. I realize that most people out there want to roll over like amorous Pomeranians and have the movie industry scratch their tummies every weekend. If, on the other hand, you require any quality at all from what you're paying to see, this year was one of the rip-roaringest in the recorded history of no-goodness. Simply put, lots of movies stunk bad. To name just 10 seems a cheat, but you have to put forth a little bit extra if you expect to be recognized at the end of the year.
1. "Burn Hollywood Burn: An Alan Smithee Film"
If a movie director wants his name removed from a film after the producers have gotten their oily hands on it, he's allowed (by the Director's Guild of America) to replace it with the pseudonym "Alan Smithee." True enough. I'd be willing to bet, though, that the only reason Arthur Hiller had his name taken off of this turkey was because it needed as much cheap publicity as it could possibly get.
Written by screenwriting antichrist Joe Eszterhaus, this is supposed to be a comedy about the dirty dealings of the movie industry. In actuality, it's an unamusing, unfocused, rude little frat-boy prank of a picture that perfectly illustrates Hollywood's overriding vileness by having been made at all, not by what's being shown on the screen. Rent it, then bury it in your garden. In all likelihood it makes for a terrific fertilizer.
Listen, I'll be the first to admit that Smith's a spunky, sexy woman, but an 80-minute worship session disguised as a movie is a bit much ... especially when the star produced it. The title character (yes, Woo is a person's name) spends the entire film struttin' her stuff through New York City like a runway model in heat.
The guys who are lucky enough to spy her super-fine behind lose control of themselves and wind up doing funny, chewing-gum-commercial things like falling off of bikes and bumping into each other as they gawk. The main problem with the film -- aside from its very existence -- is that Woo's an unbelievable jerk who expects people to cede to her every whim because she's willing to walk down 42nd Street while wearing lingerie and high heels. Low on calories, low on laughs. The clothes, as you might expect, are very, very tight.
3. "Buffalo 66"
Just in case you like your movies rolled up and crammed down your throat, there's "Buffalo 66." This celluloid assault comes courtesy of writer-director Gallo, who famously reprimanded a "New York Post" reviewer when she didn't show enough enthusiasm for his ability to make actors scream abusive inanities at each other for two hours. I'd fill you in on the plot if it was actually about anything except screaming and Vincent Gallo.
Not too long ago, I saw Gallo walking down Lafayette Street here in New York City, and I honestly considered letting him know how ridiculous I think the movie is. I decided not to, though, because it would be rude, and I cry easily when people raise their voices. And I'm not as fast as I used to be.
4. "Let's Talk About Sex"
Another extended ode to shallow self-satisfaction. Writer/director Beyer also stars as one of a trio of friends who make a film about what real women really think about sex. Never mind that our heroines look like pool extras on "The Love Boat" and spend the majority of their free time rasslin' with South Beach variations on the Marlboro Man. Their New Age-inflected banter about the intricacies of relationships is a major league hoot, but you haven't seen acting this wooden since "Pinocchio" hung up his clogs. Ingerman, in particular, emotes as if she's gazing into a mirror just before a big date. The clothes, as you might expect, are very, very tight.
I almost inhaled a Milk Dud during this one. "Hush" is a "mother-in-law from hell" movie in which Paltrow gets escorted home by hunky new fiance Schaech only to be abused and tortured by his mom, the hugely eager-to-go-bug-eyed Lange. A major highlight is when Lange turns veterinarian on the now-pregnant Paltrow by feeding her cheesecake after secretly lacing it with a drug that's used to make horses fall into labor. It's like that practical joke where you load brownies up with laxatives, except that the victim in this case might end up giving birth to a Shetland pony instead of just ruining their underwear. Of course, giving birth to a Shetland pony wouldn't do much for your underwear, either.
6. "Dead Man on Campus"
If they make a comedy and nobody laughs, has a comedy really been made? This tree-falling-in-the-woods question has bewildered philosophers for generations, but MTV Films and director Alan Cohn teamed up in 1998 to finally provide us with a thoroughly non-debatable answer -- no. "Dead Man on Campus" is very much in the "Animal House" tradition, with the important difference being that it's pathetically written, has no real jokes, no rhythm, and no good performances. Forget Bluto, it doesn't even have Dean Wormer. In an unanticipated show of good taste, teen-agers around the country couldn't be bothered.
7. "Tarzan and the Lost City"
I wonder how it feels when you're directing a Tarzan movie and you slowly start to realize that the lousy fake gorillas are still more believable than your lead actor. Of course, if you direct the way Carl Schenkel does, you might not even notice. It's impossible to give Van Dien's Tarzanically awful thespianism the attention it deserves because Schenkel shoots confrontations in tight close-ups that turn opposing groups of people into nothing more than vigorously churning elbows and feet. BONUS IDIOCY: Van Dien talking to the jungle beasts (you know the drill -- "kahooey-hooey-hooey-chee-chee-chee"). Actually, it's pretty funny when Van Dien talks to people, too.
It used to be that bad horror films were the primary staple of the movie industry. That all changed over time, however, as bad movies in general became the norm. "Phantoms" is as old-fashioned wretched as they get, featuring a fickle monster that's either a huge, face-sucking moth, a black log of slime that jumps out of kitchen sinks and attaches itself to bad actors, or a lizard that gets hung up in people's craws until they painfully cough it onto the floor. (At which point, for no good reason, it dissolves.)
We're supposed to be extra-horrified because the creature changes its form from scene to scene, but it's nowhere near as frightening as Affleck, who doesn't even manage to change his expression. Between this and dating false demon Marilyn Manson, McGowan must be hard-up by now for a legitimate scare.
9. "Knock Off"
It's no surprise that this year's Jean-Claude Van Damme movie is dreadful, but couldn't it at least make a little bit of sense? Hark is a legendary (and apparently desperate) Hong Kong action director who definitely needs to chill out. His camera careens non-stop, like a hyperactive drunk driver trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital. (At one point, you actually travel into the guts of a cell phone, then hurtle through the airwaves when Van Damme dials up a buddy on the other side of town.)
The music is laughable, the dialogue seems to have been dubbed by a deaf mute, and, of course, there's Mr. Muscles. His Oscar moment comes when he's forced to whip off his blue jeans because the buttons (which are actually very small explosive devices) are about to blow! Seems like he could handle a bomb without flinching by now.
10. "Desperate Measures"
Here's what happens in the central action sequence for "Desperate Measures." Keaton, starring as a Hannibal Lector-type genius murderer, has volunteered to donate bone marrow so that cop Garcia's young son can live to see another day. But things don't go as planned.
Keaton ties a small vial containing a serum that doctors use to revive overdose victims onto his tooth with a piece of thread. Then he swallows it, and coughs it up at the exact point that he's being put under by the anesthesiologist. Breaking the bottle with his teeth, and thus counteracting the sedative, he then dislocates his thumbs to get out of a restraining harness, jumps off the table and pulls the tube off of an oxygen tank.
Using the tip of a match that he's broken off under his thumbnail to light the gas, he blow-torches his way out of the operating room. A group of studio executives, two major actors, and a major director thought it was a good idea to film this. (I figured writing jokes about this one would be redundant.)
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