It’s well known that I don’t like Donnie Darko, which is supposedly why only 5 people read videogum (that’s not even close to why). But I will say in my defense that I went into Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales with an open mind. I like dystopian nightmares, and I have respect for ambitious projects that attempt to encapsulate a grand theory of the world within a couple of hours. As it turns out, though, I don’t like poorly envisioned dystopian nightmares, and Kelly’s film may have been an ambitious project, but its ambition wasn’t so much to encapsulate a grand theory of the world within a couple of hours as it was to distill three hours of bong talk into two and a half hours (he edited out all the parts about how if God is omnipotent could He create a boulder so heavy that even God couldn’t lift it, but that’s the only part that he edited out.)

Southland Tales is set in an alternate 2008 after a nuclear attack on Texas. The United States is now at war with the whole Middle East, and back home Americans live under military rule. The main character is played by The Rock, who’s a movie star caught up in some kind of world domination scheme revolving around perpetual energy created by a velour-robe-wearing homunculus played by Wallace Shawn. There are political intrigues, time-space-continuum-rips, revolutionary counter-forces, echoes of 9/11, and it ends when SPOILER ALERT two Seann William Scotts hold magic hands and cause their ice cream truck to rise into the sky where a kid in a doo rag can shoot a missile launcher at a Zeppelin. Yikes. Save us Avon Barksdale.

The main problem, though, is that the movie doesn’t make any sense. And it’s not that it doesn’t make any sense because I’m too stupid (although I am very stupid), it doesn’t make any sense because Richard Kelly’s pedestrian, unfinished ideas have nothing to do with each other and are not stitched together in any meaningful way. Like, sure, yes, OK, Richard Kelly, we can all agree that the world is becoming overrun with marketing.

But that idea hasn’t been interesting since Supermarket Sweep. Moreover, for an alternate history to be compelling and have metaphorical resonance for the world we live in, it can’t totally depart from the world as we know it (especially if it’s an alternate history set in the present.) For example: how come after a nuclear attack in Texas, the US Government staffs up the NSA with a bunch of dwarves?

Kelly is overly self-indulgent. You can just see him sitting in his office masturbating over his moleskin notebook, eyeing each napkin-caliber idea with onanistic lust, being like “I’m a genius, bro, I’m a genius,” and then cumming this garbage all up in our eyes.

And again, I was generous with this movie. More generous than the people who watched its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, who booed and walked out. This is the second time I’ve seen it, and in both instances I was pretty willing to play along and search for the point Kelly was getting at. That is until I was stopped dead in my tracks (twice) by this scene:

“I’m a pimp and pimps don’t commit suicide”? Whoops, that’s in your movie. To make matters worse, that line is repeated again at the very end of the movie. That is the last thing Richard Kelly wants you to think about as you leave the theater. Seriously? Even two Hummers fucking for NO REASON would have been better than that.

Oh, and did I mention that it has cameos from two of the worst directors of all time? Kevin Smith and Eli Roth?

Woof. Those three in a room. It’s like those apocryphal stories about young George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola hanging out in 70s Hollywood, talking about taking over the world, except instead of thinking back on what a heady, exciting time that must have been, you’re just left wondering why our country is plagued with so few snipers.

This is a pretty strong candidate for the worst movie of all time. Too long, check. Super pretentious, check. Painful to watch, check. Dialog like “we’re going to take the ATM machine with us to Mexico,” check. Midgets, check. So many wrongs do make a FAIL.

Next Week: Due to an unforeseen ruling, Crossroads has been disqualified. Instead, we will be discussing the Lindsay Lohan film, I Know Who Killed Me, which everyone should agree is a poetic substitute.

As always make your suggestions for TWMOAT in the comments or in an email. If you have not before, please consult the Official Rules.

Comments (57)
  1. ricky  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2008 0

    Diary of the Dead.

  2. Gabe,
    While I in large part agree with your conclusions, (except about Kevin smith, but that’s another matter) there was one saving grace in this film for me. After the rediculousness past the hour mark, I was comforted in the notion that I’d heard Sarah Michelle Gellar finally admit that she liked to be fucked hard. Even if it was in character, that soundbite will fuel Buffy fantasies for years to come.

  3. Randi  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2008 0

    I’m so glad you’re doing I Know Who Killed Me next. I watched it on Saturday per the post you guys had last week and it was definitely The Worst.

  4. The Happening. Please include The Happening.

  5. The clip you included in this post is insane. I sorta wanna watch this movie now.

    You are going to hate I Know Who Killed Me.

  6. Tycho  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2008 0

    Gabe, you do realize that this quest can only end one way?

    No matter how bad a film southland tales is, there will always be something waiting around the corner or hidden away in some demented obsessive b-movie fanatic’s basement to smack you in the face with sheer awfulness.

    So either you quit, or you slowly drive yourself insane.

    And if you do go insane Kevin Smith will probably make a film about it

  7. Did Richard Kelly decide to make all the wrong directorial choices as an artistic statement? If so, he gets that award. If not, he gets that other award filled with human poop and a face punch to his smug face.

  8. Meissa  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2008 0

    consider the 1996 movie MR. WRONG with Ellen Degeneres and BIll Pullman.

  9. this post….. is clean

  10. glass_family  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2008 0

    Scott — DON’T DO IT! Never, ever, under any circumstances, watch this movie. It’s not the fun type of bad, where you can laugh (Like Blacula or something). It’s just boring and stupid and its fucking two and a half hours of your life. I read the script a year or so before this came out, and was flabbergasted. So, going in, I knew (kind of) what happened, and was still left flabbergasted (and trust me when I say this, there is shit that didn’t get put into this movie that is more embarrassing than what did make it).

    It’s amazing to watch the movie though and see that every decision made is the wrong decision (I think I read the same thing on this very site about “The Room”). Plus, Kelly is working under the idea that he’s hilarious and a genius when he is absolutely neither (have you ever seen “Domino?” Yeah, he wrote that script too. Fuck!) So the writing is bad. The direction is bad. The casting is just horrific.

    When Sean William Scott is stealing the show from everything and everyone else around him, you’ve kind of got a problem movie. I wholly endorse this for “worst movie of all time.”

  11. glass_family  |   Posted on Jun 16th, 2008 0

    Also (because this will inevitably come up) I call bullshit on having to read the graphic novels to apparently know whats going on. Fuck you, Richard Kelly. You want me to do homework to see your piece of shit SNL/Mad TV Castoff parade? Go screw. A movie should work on its own fucking terms, not have to be propped up by backstory in comic book form that you couldn’t find time to fit into your (already bloated!!) film.

    I’m just sore is all.

  12. David  |   Posted on Jun 17th, 2008 0

    I thought the movies had to have an Alist star? Since when is the Rock A-list?

  13. Gabe, my brain is not computing Bai Ling = movie star. Just like not all porn actors are porn stars, not all movie actors are movie stars.

    Also, I could literally feel my brain cells collapsing on themselves as I watched that clip.

  14. I love that you included Bai Ling in that list. Is she even B-list? I mean, I love her to death because of her craziness, but I would hardly call her a movie star.

  15. kestrien  |   Posted on Jun 17th, 2008 0

    Try the Brothers Grimm – it’s a terrible way to remember Heath Ledger, and just plain terrible in general. You could also try the Uwe Boll classic For the King: A Dungeon Siege tale. I think Jason Statham has made his way over to A-list – and if not, combined with Burt Reynolds ought to be enough.

  16. Lindsay  |   Posted on Jun 17th, 2008 0

    couldn’t agree more. was a complete waste of time. i could barely make it through the first five minutes… tried to fast forward to a “better” part… and I was so confused that I turned it off. The plot was just complete redonkulousness. I don’t mind zany. I don’t mind different. I don’t mind weird. But this was just BAD.
    Also, Sarah Michelle Gellar related… don’t bother with Suburban Girl (also with Alec Baldwin). That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.
    And worst movie ever has to be a toss up between CRANK & Shoot Em Up. I’m actually angry at myself for watching them.

  17. Murfo63  |   Posted on Jun 18th, 2008 +1

    “the Happening”…Sooooooo NOT happening. Makes “day of the Triffids” look like “Citizan Kane”. The movie about killer shrubs, who decide to destroy all creatures with IQ’s greater than their own. Which explains why the main characters in this crap-fest make it unscathed right to the end. Can sub-human species create an atomesphere in which intelligent beings are suddenly compelled to kill themselves? Well, the scripwriters for this stinker had me thinking about clawing my own eyes out, so I’ll have to say “yes”.

  18. AlexNY  |   Posted on Jun 18th, 2008 0

    Please add ‘Mission To Mars’ to your worst movies list. This Brian De Palma directed movie has big name stars and had a theatrical release – and it just failed in every way. He could have made a better movie by filming himself throw millions of dollars off a bridge.

  19. Haynos  |   Posted on Jun 18th, 2008 0

    The Hottest State.

  20. of all the WMOATs, i have to say this one might end up as an actual rental. or at least a download.

  21. Ruth  |   Posted on Jun 19th, 2008 0

    I nominate “Xanadu” (1980) for TWMOAT. It has A-list stars (Olivia Newton John, Gene Kelly) and kills my soul at every moment. It’s just…terrible.

  22. I tried to watch this movie and simply could not bring myself to even finish the first half of it. It’s incredibly long, goes nowhere, confused the hell out of me by introducing new characters (many of them recognizable actors and comics) in bit roles every few minutes, and at no point made me want to keep watching. Some movies are bad, but this one is easily among the worst I’ve ever seen.

  23. Maria-Mercedes  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2008 0

    For your consideration (sorry if they have been suggested before):

    Over Her Dead Body, starring Eva Longoria (-Parker), Paul Rudd, and Jason Biggs.
    Plot: Longoria plays a bridzilla who is killed and haunts her ex-fiance who is hooking up with a psychic who is the only person who can see Longoria. Beyond-the-grave hijincks ensue.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0785007/

    Juwanna Mann, starring Miguel A. Nunez, Vivica A. Fox, Kevin Pollack, and Lil’ Kim.
    Plot: Nunez plays a basketball player who gets kicked out of the NBA for being really rude or something so he decides to dress up like a girl to play in the WNBA but starts falling for his teammate (Fox). Oh, and Ginuwine is also in this film. And it wasn’t made in 1996.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0247444/

  24. Miss Smith Drank Your Vodka  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2008 0

    The Fountainis much worse IMHO.

    Also, Failure to Launch.

    Thinking you’re funny and cute is just as pretentious to me as thinking you’re smart and unique. Both LOSE btw.

  25. Jonathan  |   Posted on Jun 20th, 2008 0

    This movie looks hilarious. I want to see it so bad, with full expectations that it will be awesome.

  26. This movie is a disaster. It’s full of half-baked strands of storyline that don’t even come close to coming together. However, I’ve watched it, oh I don’t know, seven times? I force it on just about anyone with two and a half hours to kill. It’s clearly not a well-made film, but it is, however, full of batshit crazy imagery, albeit imagery that has no bearing on the plot (plot? what plot?) whatsoever. The prime minister of Japan’s hand being chopped off? Followed by a gong? Come on. No one’s going to accuse Kelly of re-inventing Dr Strangelove, but as far as total bullshit goes, I found Southland Tales to be very watchable bullshit.

  27. Annmarie  |   Posted on Jun 22nd, 2008 0

    I’m a little late to this Round 1 party, but I would like to submit Drowning Mona for consideration. I saw it in high school, and my friends and I STILL talk about how terrible it was.

  28. joe  |   Posted on Jun 23rd, 2008 -6

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  29. I wonder if joe is Richard Kelly’s middle name…

  30. yo  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 -2

    this movie is awesome what are you talking about

  31. Ah, I loved Southland Tales… maybe not as much as Donnie Darko, but it was still good…

    ~Dan
    http://jazzsick.wordpress.com/

  32. PeteR  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 0

    I think Richard Kelly is taking the piss out of himself a bit in this film. Donnie Darko was great for trying to pick apart and figure out what Kelly’s intentions were.

    With Southland Tales the more you try to read into it the less you get out of it.

    Consider these things: why pick b-grade celebrities? Why remove the need for one main protagonist?
    It’s not supposed to be a clear linear narrative.

    Sit back and laugh at the madness. It’s an hysteric fast-paced pop-culture wank-fest.
    That’s the point.

  33. “I like dystopian nightmares…”

    Awesome quote.

  34. uptonking  |   Posted on Jun 27th, 2008 0

    Oh… I just remembered… sitting through…. “Isn’t She Great?” – a lot of Bette Midler films should be on the list… especially any supposed drama – “Beaches” is a scream – as in – run as fast as you can – so awful. Hmmm… Bette Midler. And Barbara Hershey’s awful collegen filled lips…. classic bad.

  35. I liked Southland Tales, but I’ve been told I like bad movies that don’t make sense.

  36. joe brader  |   Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 -1

    Spanglish has got to be one of the worst

  37. Joseph  |   Posted on Jul 2nd, 2008 0

    I’m with you on Donnie Darko, by the way.

  38. Ditto on Diary of the Dead. Hate to say that, but ditto a 1000 times over. It’s so ripe for the TWMOAT series.

  39. what  |   Posted on Jul 8th, 2008 0

    this film was meant to be satire

  40. This might just be it: the worst, ever. I watched it myself a couple of weeks ago. Holy shit.

  41. a piece of shit… another stupid comedy… hate it

  42. It is definitely confusing. I enjoyed in the dvd extras that many of the actors also seemed to be completely at a loss. Lovitz seemed thoroughly perplexed. I did buy the graphic novel and read up online about the back story and watched the extras AND rewatched the movie, and once i understood everything i did enjoy it . . . sorta. but i agree that you should be expected to do that much work to understand much less enjoy a film. I was really disappointed withe website. it seemed like an ambitious companion piece to the movie that Kelly kinda forgot to finish.
    SMG had some really funny lines.

  43. first off: one of the rules: can’t be intentionally horrible. i’m confident that a many of the elements in these movie were intended to be horrible to the point of distraction. that said…

    I can’t help but feel like this movie amazingly did what it set out to do, which is ostracize everyone up to and including the people who tend to enjoy this type of satiric-ish movie. why pick the cast that was picked? for one thing, richard kelly isn’t a fair director. but i think that stopped being automatically shitty and discrediting when we entered the age of modernist/postmodernist thinking, where the author/narrator (aka kelly) is not a reliable source.

    i’m not totally sure about the cast (although i do sense a state of pop culture commentary in there somewhere), but on a purely basic level: it’s distracting. richard kelly loves to distract. in donnie darko (whether you like it, or not), there are major elements to the storyline that are missed because of obvious distractions. this movie takes that to another level. the obviously odd casting and odd humor and odd imagery and odd scenes almost completely veil the philosophical/religious subtext.

    and one more gripe: is anything that deals with issues that are intrinsically “deeper” than the normal fair considered pretentious? if not, how might someone deal with such fair without being slapped with such a term? i was always confused by the overuse of this modifier?

  44. Timberlake owned in this movie. Yeah I said it.

  45. Adam Bruneau  |   Posted on Feb 6th, 2009 0

    A complete and total mess but IMMENSELY entertaining. Glad I read this review it make me Netflix it and I’m totally glad I did.

  46. eddie  |   Posted on Feb 12th, 2009 0

    yeah the biggest problem with this is that it was not entertaining at all, it was confusing for no reason, no payoff, not funny, too long!!!

    I watched this crap three thirds of the way and then i couldn’t watch anything else for weeks. i was dissapointed in the world!! good call on this one. thanks for including it.

  47. Ben  |   Posted on Mar 3rd, 2009 0

    I have a new appreciation for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Anyone who can sell a line like “I’m a pimp and pimps don’t die.” can’t be all that bad.

  48. This absolutely gets my vote.

  49. Jack  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 -1

    Here’s where u all suck….

    YES this movie is BAD…but it’s awesome bad. I would argue this movie is significantly WAY more entertaining than DONNIE DARKO. Its not b/c of “plot” or “acting” or anything else, but just bc something…ANYTHING is actually happening on screen, unlike Gylennhallylllhalllneynn talking to a rabbit-man. I would also disagree with a previous poster that SHOOT EM UP is a terrible movie…yes its NOT GOOD…BUT its also many kinds of AWESOME. Seriously, some people just don’t have appreciation for really good bad movies. They’re the same people who liked the racist “morality tale” CRASH, which to me is the most overblown, in your face, beat you over the head with the message but just to make sure you got it we’ll repeat it again and beat you again, piece of crap movie I’ve ever seen. Or maybe go enjoy what could’ve been a seriously moving tale about two men and their forbidden love as cowboys totally ruined by the casting of a girl who is two years younger than Heath playing his daughter. Seriously…WORST CASTING OF ALL TIME OR AT LEAST WORST MAKE UP OF ALL TIME…but no one talks about it. Now i’m just rambling….but I know I’m right when I disagree. I fight stupidity, yet my opponents made PAUL BLART the #1 movie for 3 consecutive weeks. Check mate. Your move, assholes.

  50. Jeff  |   Posted on Aug 3rd, 2009 -1

    Go Fuck Yourself You Pretentious Prick. Your Opinion Is Worth Shit, Especially About Kevin Smith.

  51. Jeff  |   Posted on Aug 3rd, 2009 -1

    Go Fuck Yourself You Pretentious Prick. Your Opinion Is Worth Shit, Especially About Kevin Smith.

  52. bob  |   Posted on Sep 12th, 2009 0

    realy enjoyed watching the movie cant wait to read the graphic novel

  53. Gabe, you’re right in your criterion for this making a WMOAT, except the midgets. Trust me, the future depends upon MIDGETS. You’ll thank me when we run into each other at the Hover Car dealership.

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