American Beauty won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Picture. Whoops! This is a pretentious, misguided, ham-fisted film. But the Academy’s decision actually makes more sense if you look at what the film was up against. The other nominees that year were The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, and The Sixth Sense. Really? An M. Night Shyamalan movie And The Green Mile both nominated for Best Picture in the same year?! WHOOPS REDUX! As much as it pains me to say something like this–because talk about pretentious, misguided, and ham-fisted–but American Beauty is the very definition of a “pre-9/11 movie,” if there is such a thing. It depicts and is of a world that no longer exists. A world in which The Green Mile and The Sixth Sense could be competing for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. A world in which it seems to be agreed that the emotional struggles of teenagers are as valid as the emotional struggles of adults (they’re not, sorry teenagers). It depicts that world poorly, and its depiction has not aged well, but if there is one thing we can take away from this portrait it is that for as horrible as 9/11 was, maybe we’re better off now, because yuck.

American Beauty starts with a voice-over narration from Kevin Spacey describing his seemingly average life in suburbia and all the malaise that entails, and then gives us the dramatic bumper that within a year he will be dead. Wait a second, if he is going to be dead, then how is he narrating this movie? Oh, he is an angel in heaven. COOL. Already off to a great start for sure. Were the rights to Tuesdays with Morrie not available? Because we could have saved a lot of time and just adapted Tuesdays with Morrie. Anyway: Kevin Spacey is so miserable that he masturbates in the shower. IN THE SHOWER! And his wife, Annette Bening, is so miserable that she…gardens…and is friendly with the neighbors! OH, THE TWISTING PATHS THAT LIFE TAKES! Being white is, as we know, very hard. You guys have seen this movie, right? We can cut to the chase? Kevin Spacey has a midlife crisis. He quits his job and starts smoking weed and exercising. Meanwhile, Annette Bening has an affair with Mr. Cohen, and their daughter, Thora Birch, dates the “weird” next door neighbor, who loves to sell weed and tape everything on his Hi-8 video camera (LOL). Also: Kevin Spacey REALLY wants to fuck Mena Suvari. And Wes Bentley’s dad is mean and owns Nazi china. And Annette Bening buys a gun.

At the end of the movie, Chris Cooper shoots Kevin Spacey with a gun because of “faggots” and an almost comically bad “mistaken identity” scene involving a rolled joint and a papasan. It is actually set up a little bit like a murder mystery, with Thora Birch and Wes Bentley talking about killing him, and Annette Bening driving home with her gun on the seat, but the only mystery here is why someone didn’t shoot Kevin Spacey much earlier in the film. Or why he didn’t shoot himself.

As mysterious as who built Stonehenge!

The main problem with American Beauty is everything. It attempts to take a sardonic view of modern (at least modern by 1999 standards) middle-class suburban life, a moving A.M. Homes novel, if you will, except that A.M. Homes is great, and this is the opposite. It’s hard to reveal the seamy underbelly of things if you don’t even get the belly right. Start with the opening sequence: Kevin Spacey is watching his wife through the bay window of their beautiful house as she prunes roses in her rose garden and speaks happily about them with the neighbors. “When did she become so unhappy,” he wonders. Wait, why is she unhappy? Because she’s gardening and being friendly? Those are both really great ways to spend your time. More people should try both of them. As it turns out, she is pretty unhappy, but it’s not because of roses, it’s because she’s married to a self-absorbed, self-pitying, child molester.

American Beauty glorifies Kevin Spacey’s “liberating” mid-life crisis as if he is living out the ideal way for a man to regain his virility and self-worth. Uh, no. I’m sorry, but there is absolutely no reason to respect an adult who quits his job in order to smoke weed (that he buys from a teenager) and play with radio controlled cars (huh?) and lift 10 pound weights in the garage because you want to get into teen-raping shape. It is not brave and noble at all. Or even cool or enviable. It’s fucking pathetic. At one point he gets a job running the grill at a fast food restaurant because it reminds him of the summer he did that when he was 14. Gross! YOU ARE A FUCKING ADULT WITH A CHILD AND A MORTGAGE! I AM SORRY THAT YOU ARE UNHAPPY IN YOUR MARRIAGE, BUT ALSO IT IS TIME TO GET REAL AND ALSO WORKING AT A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT IS NOT FUN, THIS MOVIE, AND IT’S OBNOXIOUS OF YOU TO EVEN SUGGEST OTHERWISE. Assholes.

Actually, to go back to the weed and weights thing for a second: so you’re telling me that Kevin Spacey, a full grown man, makes sweeping lifestyle decisions based on the advice and/or gossip of teenagers? Perfect. (I repeat my question: why does he not kill himself?!) When he first meets Wes Bentley, who invites him to go out to the parking lot to smoke weed, which no he doesn’t because teenagers don’t invite adults they don’t know out to the parking lot to smoke weed at a real estate brokers’ convention, he quits his job on the spot, and Kevin Spacey calls him his personal hero. Really? He is 17 years old and he quit his minimum wage catering job. DUDE IS LIVING THE DREAM! Shut up, both of you, but mostly just you, Kevin Spacey.

Which brings us, of course, to the part where Kevin Spacey wants to RAIL Mena Suvari SO HARD. Ugh. UGH. Why? Because she's stupid? The movie's fetishization of teenage sexuality completely overlooks the part where teenagers are functionally retarded and also happen to be really bad at sex. There is nothing less sexy than when a teenager opens its mouth and says ANYTHING. (That being said, I am in love with the 19-year-old cashier at the bodega around the corner, so if anyone has Dr. Drew's pager number, I'd love to ask his advice. But my point still stands.) The scene in which Kevin Spacey pulls down Mena Suvari's skirt (before unbuttoning her blouse? I think [know] you’re doing it weird, dude) is literally one of the grossest things I’ve seen in awhile. It’s only grosser to imagine all the film crew people standing around making sure not to breathe a sound while they did take after take. “Slower, Kevin.” Barf.

Aging comes with lots of complications and a fair amount of regret. Happiness is elusive. But at no point does this movie address the simplest of questions: if Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening hate each other so much (and they REALLY hate each other) why don’t they get divorced? This isn’t the 1530s. King Kevin VIII doesn’t need to rewrite the fucking Bible. It is this false premise, the shucking-and-jiving avoidance of a very simple and obvious solution to everyone’s problems that forces the movie down these ludicrous paths. Example: just because a dude is a homophobic ex-Marine doesn’t actually make him a murderer, and the movie’s buzzcut-thin depiction of Chris Cooper’s two-dimensionally-angry character is as obnoxious and “convenient” as his character’s opinion of gays. Not to mention the fact that no man, gay or straight, has ever said to another man: “let’s get you out of those wet clothes,” as Kevin Spacey does for absolutely no reason other than that it propels us towards a soap opera conclusion.

Also:

Of course, Alan Ball has made a cottage industry out of creating garbage soap operas disguised as something else. If he was in charge of a fancy restaurant, everything would be hot dogs, but it would be deconstructed hot dogs in ketchup reduction. Whatever, dude, hot dogs is still hot dogs. “But it’s a vampire bar!” Shut up.

One thing I will grant American Beauty is that it might be the first movie to ever feature a smoothie?

Congrats. And I do like this part:


Haaaa. That girl rules. Someone please make a GIF of her face at the end there, thanks.

Next week: We have come to the end of this round, if you can even believe it. There will be a brief hiatus as the next round of nominees (oof) is selected and announced. Unless someone shoots me in the head first. Come on! My heart is bursting, too! Shoot me! (Just kidding, please do not shoot me. It was a poorly thought out joke in keeping with some of the themes of this post. If anyone shoots me in the head, I will be so mad.)

Comments (409)
  1. Aw, c’mon. The Green Mile is great! I haven’t seen it since I was 13, but I’m sure it’s still great!

  2. I know this movie is pretentious and cloying and bloated and turgid…but I don’t care, I still love it.

    • I’m the same way! I know that I shouldn’t like this movie for all the reasons listed above, but I still do. SORRY, GABE.

    • I suppose I should try to defend my appreciation for this film a bit. First of all, Best Picture? Don’t make me laugh barf. But also, worse movie of all time? The movie has problems, but also Couples Retreat.

      I guess my love (okay, like) for this movie comes from the fact that I first saw it as a teenager and it does, admittedly, promote a very teenage philosophy. “He’s right, man! This isn’t life, it’s just stuff!” — teacherman, 1999, to no one. But it is also a very beautiful movie in a lot of ways. I mean, this shit with the roses??? That is B-A-N-A-N-A-S! And Annette Benning weeping into Lester’s clothes at the end? Heartbreaking.

      But then, I voluntarily work with teenagers all day so what do I know.

      • i too saw this as a teenager and enjoyed it. but every time i re-watched it everything just wrang more and more hollow, contrived, and false.

        the movie is just like Lester’s actions: at first we can identify with his whole “fuck you attitude,” but in the larger scope of things they are empty, selfish, and accomplish nothing.

        as a teenager it sounds cool to see an adult regress and do what he wants to do, b/c as a teenager we want to be seen as adults, yet also want to have none of the responsibilities and that’s pretty much the mindset that this movie glorifies.

        but then, I voluntarily avoid teenagers all day, so what do i know.

        • I am a teenager (boo) and while I think a lot of people my age identify with Lester, I always thought he was kind of pathetic. The thing I liked most about this movie wasn’t this whole idea of “fuck suburbia” it was more the symbols used throughout the film (roses, the color red) as dumb as that sounds. Also, Kevin Spacey was pretty spot on playing Lester.

          ANYWAYS I realize that I am reading into this movie waaay too much. I get why people don’t like it. Who knows, maybe I’ll watch it again in 10 years (50 if I want to be Gabe’s age) and have similar feelings.

      • Teacherman, I also love this movie too because I saw it in college. I don’t know if anyone remembers this, but it was out in the movie theater for a little while, went away and came back again around Oscar time. I saw it when it was at the theater the first time, so of course this gave me lots of bragging rights about how up on it I was with awesome movies while everyone else was watching a bunch of soulless drivel (oh shut up, COLLEGE ME).

        And, if anything, it gave us the “fuck me your Majesty!” scene, which cracked me up every time I saw it. I haven’t seen it in a while though – I’d like to remember it the way I viewed it back then.

    • I still like this one too. It was one of the first movies I bought on DVD. I know that I thought it was uber-deep when I first saw it (at seventeen, my intellectual peak) and I don’t think its aged quite as well, but I honestly think we’re supposed to find Lester Burnham to be a sad sack. He’s pathetic, and at the end he kind of accepts that fact, just in time for the deus ex machina murder thing.

      I remember that after seeing this movie, me and all of my friends were convinced that Kevin Spacey was the greatest actor of all time. Then K-Pax and The Life of David Gale came along and whoops.

      • I remember seeing the Usual Suspects on VHS right before I saw this movie and my friends and I just gushed our supple young teenage asses off about how Spacey was like the greatest actor of his generation (because obviously). and then the rest of that guy’s career happened, and we were like FIGHT CLUB IS AWESOME. let’s go in the woods and punch each other a couple times!

        • My high school’s rowing team decided to form their own fight club. I assumed they watched a pirated version of the movie where it ends 2/3 of the way through.
          “What a great, consequence-free plan, guys!” -rowing teams.

    • i also saw it as a teenager, but what i remember most about this movie was seeing the trailer in the theater. i thought the trailer was amazing… that who song really worked well.

      this may have been the first offbeat drama i had seen at that age, so maybe it did open my mind to different types of films. i might be giving it too much credit, but i’ll say that i will always have a soft spot for this one.

  3. I suppose the point of this film was to showcase the implicit ennui surrounding all of modern Western society. It definitely achieved this aim in the sense that it is REALLY FUCKING BORING.

  4. This movie didn’t piss me off as much as some of the people who loved it did. They were hating on Annette Bening’s character so much–but Gabe makes an excellent point about the adolescent nature of Lester’s complaints. Throwing a plate of asparagus at the wall? VERY MATURE, BUTTWAD. Way to have an adult conversation about things.

    • Also–don’t waste that fucking asparagus. Some of us had to dig change out of the couch to buy peanut butter.

      “I don’t know why they call it Hamburger Helper. Tastes just fine on its own.”

      • Sidebar: can we come up with something other than “white people problems”? May I suggest “rich people problems”? Because I know on average they don’t have as many really difficult problems as minority groups, but *some* white people have serious problems. That is all.

      • Poor Asperagus:

      • “That is a $4,000 sofa, upholstered in Italian silk. It is not just a couch.”

        -Teacherman

      • I completely agree with you Ms Friday.

        I remember at the time this film came out, my girlfriend’s Dad, a ‘banker Buddhist’ (because NOTHING says removing one’s self from desire like the commodities exchange), started appropriating all of Lester’s lines. It made me sick into my own scorn.

        But I didn’t hate the movie. In fact I loved it. And still do.

        I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to make a movie glorifying – if this actually does glorify it, I think it’s a little deeper than that – a brat. We pretty much deify brats all the time – pre and post 9/11 – and I don’t think this automatically makes it a bad film.

        • I actually love the movie, too. I just didn’t want to hang out with anyone who idealized Lester. Because Lester the Molester is not a hero to have. I sympathized immensely with Annette Bening’s character, having to take care of an under-responsible manchild, always having to make the responsible decisions, always being the bad guy. (And no, I’m not talking about teacherman, haha.)

    • I will say that when I first saw it (when I was 16?) I totally hated on Annette Bening’s character. But then I grew up and realized that not only was Lester a dickwad, but 16 year old me was ALSO a dickwad.

      I like to think I am a better person for it, but truth be told I am probably still a dickwad of some sort.

      • I think that’s it perfectly LBT. When certain younger people see this they’re all, “Dude! That’s like my mom! Harshin’ on me and not letting me smoke the pot or Bing the Zune.” But when you grown up a little, you’re like, “Shut up for real.”

        • “Bing the Zune” – I am stealing this line.

        • I want to make sure I emphasize *certain* younger people. Actually, change that from *younger* to *less mature*. We have some amazing teenaged monsters around here, and I don’t want them to think I’m hating on Gen Y.

          • YAY for teengum!

          • I don’t think this gif helped prove my maturity.

          • I appreciate that Baby Friday! I’m rather tired of hearing people rant about how ignorant, stupid and imature teenagers are. It is nothing more then age discrimination. I am an intelligent and respectful teenager who gets good grades and stays out of trouble, so it’s frusterating to be grouped with delinquents just because of my age. I’ve also found that on the whole, the average teenager is far more intelligent and respectful then we get credit for.

            Sorry to get all seriousgum here, guys! Just had to voice my opinion on that and also thank Baby Friday for being awesome, as usual!

          • I agree with mr. wright.

            Let’s be honest, many if not most teenagers are terrible [also, many if not most PEOPLE are terrible, but I think this is especially true for teenagers because we often just know so little] I mean, there are teenagers who really like poetry and modern art and choral music [no biographo] but there are probably a lot more who think Kesha is good music.

            I guess what I was saying is, teenagers are MOSTLY terrible, but I’m not.

      • Don’t worry, LBT. In case you haven’t heard:

        If being a dickhead’s cool, I’m sure being a dickwad is even cooler.

  5. Winner of Best Academy Award for Straight-Up Rocking The Marimbas

    • Ok, in all seriousness.

      This movie is way overhyped and I don’t know why my generation has it on their Favorite Movies Facebook Blurbsite (but they also have Fight Club, so who knows). Kevin Spacey has Bad Uncle Eyes and now whenever I wake up to my Apple iPhone playing Marimba I wake up with K-Pax and an overlong and excruciatingly White problem (it’s my penis). So I mean yes, it is a bad movie and it is basically about what a Total Bummer it is to be a teenager (literally or just developmentally!) thinking about how hard it is to be an adult and white and boring like the parents and having a job and providing for people. Bad movie.

      All that said, I don’t think Kevin Spacey’s transformation into Keyser So-bored is exactly meant to be a totally sympathetic move. I mean, ok, I haven’t seen it in a bit, but I seem to remember the main characters being painted as both noble and strong (which, nope) but also pathetic and stupid and totally like our dumb parents, right, you guys? So giving the movie grief for having Kevin Spacey be stupid is totally fair, but it’s not exactly news to the movie. The movie knows.

  6. One thing about this movie that always bothered me is near the end when he and Mena Suvari are about to do it (go to jail) and she says she’s a virgin. And then for him it’s like, WOAH, HOLD THE PHONE, CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE, I THOUGHT YOU WERE A HO FO SHO. Like sort of implying SINCE YOU ARE A VIRGIN YOU SHOULD WAIT FOR SOMEONE SPECIAL, BUT IF YOU WEREN’T, I WOULD’VE TAKEN THAT ASS TO RAPETOWN and we’re supposed to find this TOUCHING?! Touching in a very wrong and creepy place, if that’s what you mean.

    It like tries to be this modern-day Lolita, but Alan Ball’s screenplay ignores Nabokov’s hatred of Humbert Humbert. He may have been a protagonist, but both author and audience knew he was kind of a piece of shit.

    • I mean, I really do not want to get on the “justifying Lester Burnham’s behavior” bandwagon because he is a creepster, agreed, but I do think Humbert Humbert is In A Different Class. Reasons include: Lolita was 12 AND he was Lolita’s guardian AND he felt no remorse about his role in her mother’s death AND etc.

    • Yes this movie is terrible, but

      I think that when he is like “one of many!” and Mena Suvari is like “one of ONE” and he says “whoa, one of NONE,” it’s not some sentimental move. It’s that he saw her as a functionally sexual object (that is, the archetype of a sexually-available & nubile teen, a function of his desire rather than a fully-articulated person), and when she said she was a virgin it made him realize that she was actually not just a sexual flubber depository, and without that he realized that his attraction to her was as much an artificial construct as his original conception of her.

      Even that is stilted and totally one-dimensional, but the movie did have more of a point there than Kevin Spacey just saying, “You need a special boy with feelings to be the penis in you, like in Glee.”

  7. When I was 15, I both cried at this movie and took my boyfriend to it to make out during it MULTIPLE TIMES. We also made out to Double Jeopardy, starring Ashley Judd. “You can’t be tried for the same crime twice!” After we broke up, I cried at Double Jeopardy too.

  8. Because I was reminded of this terrible movie in another post, I nominate The Other Boleyn Girl! It made me literally want to set myself on fire, rather than continue with the pain.

  9. I nominate Run, Fatboy, Run. That is all

  10. also, has anyone in the history of bench pressing and marijuana smoking ever done those two things at the same time?

  11. Wish Granted Gabe:

  12. I think the worst thing about the movie is the elements that are good, like Spacey and Cooper are really good at playing these terrible characters, also where did Thora Birch and Wes Bentley go? I liked them*
    *Ghost Rider and Lifetime Movie Of The Week about a Pregnancy Pact

  13. I know people who wear bowler hats who talk with their hands will hate this suggestion, but I nominate Fight Club.

    • I have always wanted to, but have been to afraid. I will stand beside you. I AM SPARTACUS.

    • Seconded. ALWAYS hated that movie.

    • From your description, it sounds like you’re talking about the cast of “Cabaret”. Didn’t know they were such big “Fight Club” fans…

      • Nope, I’m talking about assholes who go to Burning Man and Steampunk conventions. They wear bowler hats and talk with exaggerated hand gestures. They love Fight Club.

        • Not liking people who like a certain film is not a good reason to dislike that film

          (Please note, the above comment makes perfect sense)

          • Well, I don’t like the movie. I hate movies that hate the audience. It’s shallow and disgusting. It is a great looking and well acted flick, but it did nothing for me. I disagree with your post, it is possible to dislike a well made movie for it’s cultural impact.

          • I don’t quite understand how Fight Club hates its audience. I’m not even sure how a piece of fiction is capable of hating its audience. Maybe the characters hate the audience but I don’t think the film-makers or screenwriters do.

          • You don’t think its possible for an artist to have disdain for the audience? A movie funded by 20th century fox with the star of Cool World railing against consumerism? Like American Beauty, it’s a well made, well shot. well acted film that just doesn’t do it for me.

          • I felt like it hated the female part of its audience. #confessions I just felt like it was talking to the female spectator like, “Yeah, this is shit you don’t understand.” But we all feel alienated? I don’t know. The character Helena Bonham Carter plays was really weak. Very silly. Not a real person at all. Not even an attempt at a real person.

            Keep rambling, Baby Friday, this is going really well!

          • Also: people of both genders love making soap out of people fat. That transcends gender.

          • I can understand how an artist can hate their audience, but a film which requires the input of so many different parties and overseen by studios designed to eliminate singular visions is not going to have that some kind of hatred towards those it’s targeting. And even if it did manage to, I don’t think Fight Club fits that description at all. For a start, it contains a character that is railing against consumerism, which is completely different to ACTUALLY being against it. If anything, the ending of it states clearly that anti-consumerism was not the way to save this particular character from his “white man troubles”

          • i thought the girl (the actress and character) were awesome in that movie. she’s the only thing that makes more sense once you realize what is going on in the movie. you thought she was acting schizophrenic. then you realize that she’s actually a pretty cool pretty depressed person who feels like she is being jerked around by a schizophrenic. she’s an entirely sympathetic character and important piece of plot.

          • So I’m very nervously breaking from my voyeuristic history with you guys by making my FIRST COMMENT (Hey, guys! Big fan! Thanks for the lulz, etc.) but such is my hatred for Fight Club. I agree that it’s silly to dislike a movie just because you dislike its fans, BUT I think it’s valid to allow real-world reactions to turn your “Ugh, this movie” into “THIS MOVIE NEEDS TO BE STOPPED” (but not really, guys, boo censorship).

            For example: I don’t like Fight Club because it commodifies an ideology and turns it into something shallow and trendy (Nihilism! Anarchy! None of this matters!) which is remarkably similar to how it treats women. (Someone prove me wrong with a worthwhile female character that comes from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk [more like UPCHUCK Palahniuk, amirite?]) But I HATE Fight Club because it inspires this wave of glorifying that commodification. It’s the same reason I have a very big problem with people who worship Patrick Bateman or Alex DeLarge. The difference in terms of the movie/book is that at least Brett Easton Ellis and Anthony Burgess seem to be in on the joke, whereas CP genuinely believes these guys are sooOooOoOoOOoO edgy and awesome.

            ANYWAY. I always wanted to mark my entrance into the monster community by making a million enemies, soooo mission accomplished?

          • I’m no longer sixteen and filled with impotent rage and the desire to know better but…..

            you guys do realize that neither Edward Norton nor Brad Pitt were supposed to be sympathetic right? Edward Norton hated his life but was too callow or oblivious to do anything on his own, and was so self absorbed that he walked all over the only person that accepted him (Marla, who is like the only sympathetic character in the movie), and Brad Pitt is just a sociopath that has convinced himself that his megalomania and rejection of societal structures and norms (Edward’s subconscious desires) are the means to the end and everything he does is justified. it’s not until the big reveal where he starts kicking Edward Norton’s ass where Edward Norton even kind of sympathetic. at least that’s how I always read it, even when I was a kid and totes loved the movie to pieces. I mean the characters ooze cool, but they’re obviously a fantasy we know SHOULD ABSOLUTELY NOT be realize because those people are assholes, and the movie’s closing shot pretty much points out how bad an idea it would be, or at least alludes to it.

            oh and that love was the fifth element or something.

          • and the whole EVERYONE IS IN ON PROJECT MAYHEM thing was fucking terrifying! not cool! scary! so no, I don’t think it was really commodifying those anarchist elements?

    • Sorry, but no. I understand people hating the nihilism behind the core of it, and people getting pissed with the legions of anarchy-seeking idiots who have wilfully misinterpreted it to make Tyler Durden the protagonist, but that doesn’t make it a bad film. It is technically very well scripted, acted and directed and it has no right to be nominated just because it has been blown out of proportion in some circles.

      • Fight Club is a terrible film that uses a cloying “psyche” at the end that is as bad as sixth sense, crying game or any other number of straight to video crap movies. pretentious and very 90s

        • So far the only reasons you’ve given for disliking Fight Club is because of the “psyche” at the end (which needed to be there because without it the entire character of The Narrator makes no sense) and the fact it is pretentious (I don’t think it is at all self-important, although I would accept it is gimmicky). Would you care to elaborate?

    • Agreed! Shut up, stupid voiceover. Put on your shirts, you assholes. Talk about your pre-9/11, pre-Wall Street crash movies. If today’s crybaby suit-and-tie dudes need to get punched to feel alive I have some fists that are happy to help out.

      • I kind of get what you mean here. But what did it actually do to us? We are certainly not less pretentious or self-deluded because hipsters, but I do kind of see how movies like American beauty and Fight Club look a little – wussy-ish? now. Are we just older or did something actually change in our collective thinking? “Lost innocence” is not an acceptable answer.

        • In all fairness to American Beauty and Fight Club, they didn’t know 9/11 was gonna come along and ruin everything.

          Huh? That’s probably my favorite comment I’ve ever made.

    • I don’t know what to say but I’m so pissed.

      I’m going to have to make loud noises until I win this argument.

      Fight Club is a great Movie!

    • You know, I was kind of “eh” about this movie for a while, with the teenage boys who were suddenly “really into nihilism” and the really horrible female character.

      And then I read a book. And man, forget the movie, FUCK THAT BOOK. “Woe are white men, emasculated by feminism and Ikea!” The whole “oh wait but this was a terrible idea, BUT NOW MY FOLLOWERS ARE UNSTOPPABLE” cop-out ending was worse than the movie (also, less ‘splody).

      More like Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time amirite.

      • I love this book. Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorite authors.

      • Yeah, one of the few instances where the movie is infinitely better than the book.

        I have a reading on the film where he’s choosing between idiotic, old-school style masculinity and Marla’s femininity and it’s ultimately about the destructive and childish nature of might-makes-right masculinity, but it’s like 8pm and I’ve already had too many glasses of wine to go on.

        • I think that is definitely a valid reading!

          Also I forgot to mention that all the monochrome and the kind of weird sound mix (dialogue down low, sound of flesh being pummeled up to 11!) makes this an excellent movie to fall asleep to.

    • Holy moly. I knew Fight Club was divisive but I’ve never actually witnessed the division in comment form. Fight Club is one of my favorite films, and it was actually my go-to for awhile whenever someone would ask the inane question “What’s your favorite movie?” Not that it was my fav (who can seriously pick a singular favorite film?) but it would at least give me a reading of the person at the time. I also really liked that film and I would prefer chatting with someone who wouldn’t mind dissecting it with me.

      Obviously the misguided co-opting and glorification of Tyler Durden and his punching capabilities by less-film-savvy brohams put the kibosh on the general public judging the film itself and instead judged it by taking stock in the lowest common denominator of the film’s fanbase, but it hasn’t colored my appreciation. I’d be lying if I said the 19 year-old me wasn’t seduced by its nihilistic, anti-consumerism, it’s-only-after-you’ve-lost-everything-that-you’re-free-to-do-anything message. I did just that over the next year and a half, although that’s not Fight Club’s fault. I was a fuck-up before I saw the film in the first place. But in those dark times I would reflect on the film and started picking apart the flaws in Tyler’s teachings, and that just made me love the flawed protagonists and their self-destructive struggles even more.

      Fight Club was the first dvd I bought— the deluxe one with the brown paper bag motif— and I didn’t even own a dvd player. I acquired a dvd player of my own in the form of a PS2— no joke— two years later. So it probably goes without saying that I have some sentimental attachments to this film.

      Seeing as how TWMOAT isn’t a REAL hunt for the Worst Movie, but is an entertainment device, I have no qualms with Gabe tackling Fight Club. But whenever I think about TWMOAT I always go back to the film that started it all, DEATH SENTENCE, and Fight Club is heads and shoulders above that film, no contest.

      • Also, the score by The Dust Brothers is THE SHIT, and at the ending as all the buildings fall (definitely pre- 9/11) and the Narrator has rid himself of his destructive alter-ego, “Where Is My Mind?” begins to play— raw guitar after all that electronic looping and scratching— and then a dick is spliced in for 6 frames. Then everyone in the theater unties in laughter as they smile at having seen the dick. Great ending.

      • Also, the score by The Dust Brothers is THE SHIT, and at the ending as all the buildings fall (definitely pre- 9/11) and the Narrator has rid himself of his destructive alter-ego, “Where Is My Mind?” begins to play— raw guitar after all that electronic looping and scratching— and then a dick is spliced in for 6 frames. Then everyone in the theater erupts into laughter and smile together at having seen the dick. Great ending.

        • Goddammit, Tyler.

          • I like Fight Club. What I didn’t like was the way it made all of the guys I know act like they want to join Project Mayhem. It’s like they stopped paying attention during the last 20 minutes of the movie. Project Mayhem was a bad thing! It’s a good film that has a huge fanbase comprised almost entirely of people who didn’t get it. What a weird phenomena.

            It reminds of reading Catcher In The Rye in high school, and everyone was like, “Oh man, Holden Caulfield was right, everyone is a phony!” BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT OF THE BOOK! HOLDEN CAULFIELD WOUND UP IN A MENTAL INSTITUTION, GUYS!

          • I’m right there with you, Fozzy. “The misguided co-opting and glorification of Tyler Durden and his punching capabilities by less-film-savvy brohams” is definitely something I think we’ve all witnessed and it is unfortunate but I’d rather the message be out there, free to interpret rather than not out there at all. And thankfully, these same jackasses very rarely if ever actually made any Project Mayhems, and instead settled for giving each other free punching shots at drunken parties (fight cubs did spring up after the film, after all, and I felt that lent itself to some of the motivations of the characters in the book and film, attesting to some of the messages and themes regarding men, feelings of emasculation, male bonding, and the more primitive cravings for violence and sport).

            Just as long as they’re not punching me or harming anyone who doesn’t freely want to get punched like a moron, I say live and let live.

  14. “But at no point does this movie address the simplest of questions: if Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening hate each other so much (and they REALLY hate each other) why don’t they get divorced?”

    I know, Gabe. It’s SO weird how nobody ever stays in failed, unhappy marriages anymore. That shit ended thirty years ago. This movie is LIES!

    • THIS. Thank you.

      My parents got divorced once I started college, but they probably should have gotten divorced years before that, and I know part of their decision not to was based on the, perhaps incorrect, assumption it would be better to stay in a failed marriage then to get divorced when I was in middle/high school.

      It also happens that my father and I went to see American Beauty right as the divorce was being finalized , he was about to move across the US, and (I was to find out later) get married to someone else in a few months time.

      While I rather enjoyed the film and it resonated with me, my father was much more affected by it, wouldn’t talk to me after the movie was over, only later admitting that it caused him to become deeply depressed for a couple weeks after.

      This is all to say there is more to this film then kids saying Annette Benning sucks and parents just don’t understand.

      • This is why it becomes a problem to judge emotional, personal works of art.

        I was a teenager when I first heard Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors. It affected me in such a deeply personal way that it ceased to be a record and transcended into some part of myself, some kind of tangible explanation for the emotional core that I had failed to articulate.

        When I read a few reviews, I came across the word “pretentious” more than I thought possible. It’s easy to dismiss a piece of art or entertainment because it doesn’t reflect your personal worldview or to call it condescending because you feel like you’ve graduated to a level where its beneath you.

        It’s easy to rip on Dashboard Confessional because the perceived “earnestness” feels trite and amateurish, but there are thousands of kids who hold those records so close to their hearts.

        It’s easy to rip on Twilight, but there are millions of people who feel part of something because of it, even if that something is fantasy, they feel emotional connection.

        It’s easy to rip on American Beauty, but somewhere out there, it touched a father in a way that cause him to reflect on his life.

        This is why I’ve given up on criticism. It seems like more and more, there is no good or bad. There is only you, your experience, and what you like.

        • I don’t care what anyone says, I love Bright Eyes and will never apologize for it.

          (This is my un-eloquent, inelegant agreement with your argument)

        • In an earnest attempt to avoid delving into film, and to a larger extent art theory, I will stick with the simple response: I agree! (mostly)

        • Well, except, by this reasoning, Thomas Kinkade is just as creditable an artist as Van Gogh.

          (I like Bright Eyes for the way he swings for the fences. Sometimes he connects, sometimes he looks silly. But his ambition keeps him interesting.)

        • I’m sorry, but nothing excuses the fact that Dashboard Confessional makes really, really terrible music. NOTHING.

          • I wasn’t saying that I was ever a fan of Dashboard Confessional*. My whole point is that while you and I might recoil at the mere thought of being subjected to Chris Carrabba’s increasingly contrived heartache, that there are tons of people that take solace in it.

            I might not be a fan, but who am I to say that their emotional connection is false?

            *I was, though. Swiss Army Romance, oh how you made me feel that my high school breakup was profound! (THAT ONE ducks ironic tomatoes)

          • I may have an unfounded hatred for Dashboard but that surely does not prevent me from belting out “Screaming Infidelities” in public arenas.

        • That One, let’s go sit at an all-night diner to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while we confess secrets to each other and become a little bit in love with each other and then go for a really long drive with the windows down and listen to Bright Eyes really loud and just feel like such good friends way to the bottom of our stomachs. Right?

          • Can I come?

            Can we listen to the entirety of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning?

            Also, That One, It’s OK to like Dashboard Confessional, they wrote Hands Down!

          • Oh, Ass Dan, Hands Down is how I won over my wife almost ten years ago! I took her to a Dashboard show during the tour that he introduced a full band. And it was the best date I could ever remember…

            Can I embarrass myself even more?

          • “Oh, Ass Dan”

            - That One’s Tombstone

  15. American Beauty 101: If there’s one thing that smoking weed encourages, it’s definitely four-hour long workouts.

    Fake and Gay.

  16. IF YOU THINK THIS MOVIE WRITTEN BY ALAN BALL IS TERRIBLE, WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE HIS DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, TOWELHEAD!
    Worst. Movie. I. Have. Ever. Seen. It would end the search.

    • Oh my god yes.

    • Oh geez, I just looked that movie up. The Wikipedia synposis alone might let it win the hunt- no movie viewing required. So much cringe in those paragraphs. (Useless anecdote: there was NO WAY I was going to just Google the word “towelhead.” Had to type that right in to the Wikipedia homepage.)

  17. I misread that as barf hiatus

  18. I’m really enjoying these WMOAT entries about movies that are not universally panned and, in many cases, are generally critically acclaimed. I think it makes for some really interesting reviews and comment discussions.

    That being said, I’m going to suggest a really terrible, obviously terrible, no-way-it-could-be-good movie for the Hunt:

    THE CELESTINE PROPHECY (2006)

    In this adaptation of the popular New Age classic (???), a history teacher has to go to Peru to check out some scrolls that predict the future of mankind! This movie stars matte paintings, soft focus lenses, and stars of Videogum past and present Rufus Humphrey (Gossip Girl) and Mrs. Grimes (Walking Dead). Also Jurgen Prochnow and Hector Elizondo? They are in this too, and they are probably B-list, right?

    This sounds like a movie that didn’t get a theatrical release, but it did, in several countries! And so, in conclusion, I believe it qualifies for the Hunt and would be a worthy entry.

    It is on Netflix Instant. It is a pretty fun time.*

    *Sobriety not recommended.

    • oh hey, my dad had that book laying around with his other new age hippie books when i was growing up. i am going to second your nomination because anything based on new age hippie shit my dad likes has to be terrible.

    • Oh, my gosh, a friend of mine made me read the book. He said it changed his life, and he was really smart and interesting. So I read it and what a loss. The Prophecy decrees that you should be vegetarian, so the main guy converts and after his first vegetarian meal he walks outside and sees the whole world transformed, every tree and rock glowing. GLOWING. “My god, the prophecy…” This book, glork, what a brannigan.

    • Love your Avatar/Name, one of my favorite movies!

  19. Even though I agree with everything Gabe said, this film can never be a WMOAT for me, due solely because of this line: “Fuck me, your majesty!”

  20. Oh Wes Bentley, too bad about what happened to you. You were so cute.

  21. The Oscar nominations are funny because 1999 is one of the best years for film ever. Fight Club, Magnolia, South Park, Man on the Moon, Iron Giant, Toy Story 2, American Movie, Titus, Office Space, Election, Three Kings, The Matrix (kinda), The Phantom Menace … oh, wait on that last one.

  22. I remember disagreeing with giving Kevin Spacey the Best Actor Oscar for this. I wanted Denzel Washington to win for his work in “The Hurricane.” Maybe SNL can write a Denzel skit of this happening. America LOVES Denzel impersonations.

  23. Even with a dead dad, Thora Birch should still be able to get a partial competitive jazz dance scholarship

  24. I read an earlier script where Thora Birch and Wes Bentley were actually tried and convicted for murder, with the “Would you kill him for me?” tape as the primary evidence. The movie is basically the same, if I recall correctly, with some trial scenes at the beginning and the two of them in jail at the end. But you’re right, there are some scenes in the finished film that imply a payoff that doesn’t happen.

  25. Also if Oscar-winning films aren’t off limits how about 2001 A Space Odyssey?
    Sorry guys, I found this to be kind of a mess minus H.A.L.

  26. Once again, I nominate “Synecdoche, New York” for WMOAT.

    Note: I LOVE this movie. I could listen to Synecdoche, New York read the phonebook (What? That doesn’t even make sense!). But I understand it is a “hot debate” (so many thumbs… Never Forget), one that I would enjoy reading Gabe work out.

  27. Good Luck Chuck is easily one of the worst movies ever made. That movie has the emotional maturity of a 3rd grader.

  28. Nomination: “In Dreams”. I’ve said it before, but honestly. If you’re looking for a real reason to hate on Annette Bening, that’s a good start. It’s a sort of fairy tale inspired sort of serial killer movie that’s all gussied up with artistic pretension that way only the late 90s knew how.

    Also, it has a weird motif about apples. As in, Annette Bening spends more time being terrified by apples than by any killer. They are not my favorite fruit, fair enough, but that’s too much, Bob.

  29. But Six Feet Under is still good, right?

  30. One of the problems I had with this movie is how the “weird” boy is supposedly so weird and shunned from society and yet he’s this chiseled GQ looking cover girl pretty boy. I was like, “Oh sure he’s an outcast. yeah right whatevs.”

    • He’s not the back end of a monkey all right, but the movie doesn’t talk about the dead dogs he keeps neatly wrapped in his locker. Conventionally attractive does not preclude people from exuding a weirdfield to keep people at bay.

      • Ugh, completely. The cherubic-faced boy who went to elementary school with me and happened to moon cars in front of like, the crossing guards and kids and parents and everything is living proof.

    • Sure enough. Make him fifty pounds heavier and see if his creepiness is still endearing.

  31. I take issue with the notion that this movie “completely overlooks the part where teenagers are functionally retarded and also happen to be really bad at sex”. I’d say that it does a pretty great job of portraying teenagers EXACTLY like that. I do like this movie, though. It’s the only thing Alan Ball has ever been involved in that I can sit through. PS Can I please nominate Towelhead?

  32. Stranger than Fiction please!

    “I brought you flours”: Will Ferrell deciding to prove once and for all he cannot play a romantic lead. For reasons known only to himself.

  33. nomination for the next round: Blow

    • Ugh no, I love Blow (TWLLS*). Why??? I love reading everyone’s reasons for hating the movies they nominate, I could do it all day (TWSS). Ladies be chattin’ in this comment.

      *That’s what Lindsay Lohan said**
      **6 months ago called and they want their joke back

      • i nominate Blow b/c it is one movie i see in almost EVERY DVD collection, even in peoples’ collections where they only own like 12 movies [and its usually the SAME 12 movies] but no one ever quotes it or really talks about how amazing it is. the only defense they have is “good movie. i love johnny depp.” and nothing more.

        it really isn’t good. it’s nothing but a half-assed direct-to-dvd rip-off of Goodfellas that happened to have scored Johnny Depp to star in it. beyond that, it has absolutely nothing going for it.

  34. once again I feel compelled to nominate eXistenZ for the WMOAT, not just because I personally consider it terrible, but I have to feel that even if I genuinely appreciated this film I would love to see Gabe review it regardless (because man is it CRAZY)

  35. I nominate “Cadillac Records”. Has anyone seen this? Its the most slapdash, piece of shit, multi-character biopic ever made.
    And E’s girl plays a super yenta.

  36. When this film came out I was closer in age to Mena Suvari’s character and didn’t see it as all that wrong but now that i’m heading toward Kevin Spacey time? yeah it’s creepy… and also, weed and weights Ha!

    • Okay, everybody… one last time: there IS such a thing as a high-functioning pothead. Not all potheads sit on the couch playing Call of Duty all day. Some potheads are actually very productive and even physically active.

  37. I’m pretty sure there was a smoothie involved in LA Story? And maybe Mighty Ducks II?

  38. And also I nominate, and will doggedly continue to nominate, Marie Antoinette for the next round.

  39. I mentioned when this was nominated that I hated it so much in the theater, I bought the DVD. Well, yesterday the time came to watch that DVD and see if I was right in 1999, or if the world was. (Although even in 1999, I knew it was not as bad as NELL, COOL WORLD, or DROP DEAD FRED, which trio I hereby nominate.)

    For me, a huge problem with this movie is that it declares itself a satire of Our Suburban America. But I grew up there? And it doesn’t look anything like this. Srsly, Hollywood, quit it with the women gardening while wearing pearls at the white picket fence because that does not happen. By putting it on-screen you are not “twisting a knife” or “holding up a mirror” or even “having a laugh,” you are just looking dumb. And that is pretty much the whole movie. The whole movie is showing us living rooms that are not at all messy and proclaiming this to be symbolic of what has gone wrong with us when in reality our living rooms are kind of messy and when they are not it isn’t because we are sick as a society but just because mom probably has OCD. We do not have Nazi china because there is a secret fascist streak in us all and we do not use handguns to feel powerful and then naturally hatch murder plots, and very few dads are having emotional meltdowns at the dinner table because no one asks how their day went. Dads do not long to tell us how their day went. Or anything. They are dads.

    So, this movie sucks, and you know it’s going to suck at Minute 2, when he is masturbating in the shower and the voiceover says, “That’s me, masturbating in the shower.” There is nothing this movie won’t show you AND tell you and then congratulate itself on in a twee, immature way (why show masturbating at all unless you are hoping to be shocking in a twee and immature way). It just plays like a satire written by a really talented 15-year-old, you know? (No offense to our 15-yo monsters; I’m just saying you guys don’t deserve Oscars.)

    That said, there are a couple of funny scenes, and there is some truth at points, and it actually works for me when he stops himself before railing Mena Suvari (who in real life went on to get railed by a 40-year-old) because he realizes he’s been acting like a child but he’s not a child, and she’s been acting like an adult but she’s not an adult, and–Freaky Friday–things go back to normal. But then he dies. “Because faggot.” Yes. Exactly. America will not let you be happy? The military-industrial complex won’t? I don’t know. The gay neighbors seemed happy. There is so little that is believable and everything that is believable is sacrificed on this altar of having “something to say” about the “American condition,” but despite all the explaining, this movie never seems to have anything coherent or interestingly contradictory on its mind. What a suckfest.

    I was right all along. Boo this movie. And Yay the Hunt.

    • “Dr. Strangelove declares itself a satire of Our Military Industrial Complex. But I work there? And it doesn’t look anything like this.”

      • See? That comment is how incisive satire is done. If only you had written and directed American Beauty, That One!

        • I’m sorry for the snarky comment, hotspur. I didn’t have much time to give a fully thought out response.

          I think you make a lot of good points, but could I respond just to your comment about the heightened nature of the film?

          I’ve always viewed AB as told through the filtered eye of someone on a different plane of existence. It’s made explicit from the first scene (“…I’ll be dead.”) and its reinforced through the fantasy scenes. Lester experiences a textbook erotic experience as he slides his hand into Mena Suvari’s tub (I swear “tub” is not a euphemism) and the curtain’s abruptly yanked to show that it’s just some sad, middle-aged guy jacking off in the bed that he shares with his wife.

          The whole film is built on idealistic fantasies in the context of suburban life. Carol idealizes the Real Estate King, only to be disappointed. Lester idealizes Angela, only to be disappointed.

          In the denouement, “angel (Gabe’s word not mine)” Lester talks about his grandmother. He remembers that her felt like paper. That makes it (IMO) clear that this is a story of details (the paper bag, the Nazi plates). That puts the whole film in a different context. This is the story of a disembodied spirit and its impressions of suburban culture.

          ARGH! I wish I could write more about this or at least elaborate on what I’ve already written! Life interferes. Look closer.

          • Her *hands* felt like paper.

            Sorry. It’s all in the details.

          • Well, that’s a good take on the movie. Sure, okay, I see what you mean — so, thanks!

            For me, though, some details are just wrong. Like the cheerleaders smoking. Maybe my high school was unusual, but we had two crowds of smokers: arty chicks & drama guys, and long-haired guys in Metallica T-shirts & their hardened molls. Maybe Mena’s cheerleader smokes, but the movie didn’t get me there — I felt like I was watching a directorial decision, not a character: “Let’s give her a cigarette. It will symbolize her pose of adulthood.”

            To be clear, I don’t think this is the WMOAT. Almost every movie in the Hunt is worse.

    • oh man, I spent about 10 minutes writing some shit that was exactly like this, but then I saw you did this. Fuck, and/or yes.

  40. Does this glorify Kevin Spacey’s midlife crisis? This film portrays him as an asshole, you say so yourself. Are we really meant to sympathize with him? Or anyone in the film?

    • I know people who related to Spacey’s character which frightens me

    • I agree irelandnopoints, it seems like the monsters who saw this as teenagers missed the last line of Lester’s Spirit voice over: “and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… You will someday. ”
      maybe i’m wrong but i took this to mean that he admitted what a stupid person he was & it wasn’t until he died that he realized how good he had it. it seems some of the monsters also ignore that he still loved his wife & didn’t want a divorce.

  41. This is movie’s pretty bad, (like reaaaalllllly pretty bad). But Gabe, seriously, why have you not done these movies yet?

    One of them, all of ‘em, I don’t care. I know they’re an easy target, but they were super long, and there’s three of them, and oh yeah IT’S BASED ON A RIDE AT DISNEYLAND!!!!!

    • Well then:

    • I upvoted you because dear god, those movies. I mean, I thought the first one was fun. But then the second one…uh oh. The third one was one of the worst movie experiences of my life. And yet I would not turn it off, because I hated it so much I didn’t want it to defeat me. It made me so angry!

      It was, I think, seven and a half hours long? You have to watch an hour of movie before the story (ha) even starts; editing, what’s that?; there are 1,743 nonsensical and unnecessary plot twists; the whole movie is a MacGuffin, basically; what is even going on and also who cares and also UGH, PIRATES, PIRATES ARE THE WORST.

  42. Can you please add The Quiet to the hunt already so I can stop nominating it every round? PLEEEAAASE?

  43. When I was in high school I thought this was just about the most profound movie I had ever seen. Even the floating bag bullshit. I cannot get over now how, as an adult making adult decisions, this movie ever got past the screenplay stage. Not one person has an actual conversation – they talk to the plot, not each other. There is not one grain of human emotion in this movie, just a bunch of sorry caricatures in a flimsy house of cards plot. Fuck that bag.

  44. Norbit.

    And I predict when I’m Still Here comes out on DVD, it will be awarded the grand prize.

  45. Yes! I was shouting ‘JUST GET A DIVORCE’ at the TV from about the 20 minute mark.

    I hated both Thora Birch and Mena Suvari’s characters. Dear god they were annoying.

    Also, I nominate Piranha 3D. Is it eligible? If not, it should be.

  46. It’s almost definitely been nominated before, but I suggest “Million Dollar Baby.” Or maybe just a general assessment of Clint Eastwood’s post-”Unforgiven” oeuvre. To me, many of them are the worst movies.

  47. Oh, also The Master of Disguise! It’s SO BAD. I took my then-7-year-old brother and even he couldn’t stand it. Dana Carvey, how far you have fallen.

  48. Please please please do VALENTINE’S DAY!!! It is wretched. It has a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But don’t just take my word for it:

    “There’s literally no point in talking about bullshit like this, about the parallel vignettes in which a gradeschooler orders flowers for his dreamgirl and teenaged Emma Roberts books an appointment to bust her cherry.” – Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

    “Bombarded by cliché, you wilt in your seat like a discarded rose.” – Kate Muir, Times UK

    “I loved a couple of the scenes in Valentine’s Day: the opening credits and the closing credits.” – Gary Wolcott, Tri-City Herald

    “Every skit is lame, every line of dialogue is stale, every joke falls flat, and every performance has been phoned in between text messages to agents blinking, ”SOS!”” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

    • Yes! Thing that happens in this movie part whatever, Jennifer Garner is “dating” this guy and surprise he’s married, so he finds out where he and his wife are eating and, posing as a waitress, calls him a lying cheating scumbag in front of his wife and all the other patrons
      and she curses a lot during this, hilarity

      • How about Anne Hathaway taking calls from her side job as a PHONE SEX OPERATOR at her office job! And not even talking dirty or saying anything about the act of sex really, just talking in some horrible Russian accent!

        • I must have really despised this movie, because I hated it on an airplane and I love everything I see on airplanes (except The Last Station, ugh). Instead of “characters,” we have attempts at making everyone into “regular people,” but none of the people involved with this film have ever met a human being before, or, apparently, had phone sex. Write what you know!

    • And, for good measure, I’ll throw in 2 horrible movies I just saw this weekend – The Love Guru and Spread. Although they do not shine a candle to the piece of shit movie mentioned above.

    • C’MON, AMELIA NOMINATION REDUX

    • I don’t know if Gabe would be able to hurt Topher Grace like that.

    • And in the same vein “He’s Just Not that Into You” if not already done (I couldn’t find anything to the contrary).

      It’s just… offensive! To women! To men! To relationships! To heart attacks!

  49. I realize I am wrong. I know that. Of course. But I liked this movie when I saw it. I think there are probably MILLIONS of movies like this, but this was the first movie I saw that presented suburbia as something dark and disturbing, and I LATCHED ON to that shit. I think Gabe misreads the movie as a tacit approval of Kevin Spacey’s actions. Instead, I think it’s condemning suburbia for creating him. But maybe (probably) I am giving it too much credit. Still, in 1999, when I was 14, this was a decent movie.

  50. Long time reader first time commentator. I am actually intimidated to comment as I am not all that witty. I totally agree that this has not stood the test of time. I remember thinking this movie was amazing when I was 18. Now at 31 it’s really shallow and self indulgent. But I really liked Gabe’s idea of the pre 9/11 movie. So many films in the 90′s fall into this category. But the one movie that swept the Oscars and the nation that fully embodies the pre 9/11 movie is Forrest Gump . I loathed that movie to no end. I think mostly because it kept beating other movies I really liked in the hearts and minds and critics. However, looking back on it, it’s the quintessential self congratulatory baby boomer nonsense. Imagine today if that movie was made? I just have a hard time thinking the film world embrace a movie about a folksy mentally challenged simp who stumbles around historical events and making the world a better more heartwarming place. Its even more insulting in a post G.W. Bush world. Ok sorry, that was way more wordy then I meant.

  51. I hate how Kevin Spacey dies at the end, I think the point would have been better made if they just would have kept on with things. I mean the whole point is to portray the banality, but that’s totally killed by this extreme dramatic series of situations at the end.

    On a personal note: When this movie came out the guy I had a crush on loved it so so so much, we would go see it in the theater over and over again and he would talk incessantly about the plastic bag scene and I thought it was all really dumb, but he wasn’t so I went along with it (love). He later hooked up with my best friend at the time and so then I really hated the movie, because they were the movie–indulgent, selfish assholes who weren’t concerned about the consequences of their hurtful jerk behavior. So of course, I was happy to see it picked for WMOAT. Thanks :) .

    • My High School boyfriend and I both thought that if we got maried we’d turn into Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning. That scene where he is bitching about wanting to stay home and watch James Bond really happened on our way to see the movie. (MLIAB?)

      But even though we both recognized that our relationship would lead us to becoming people we both saw as awful we still dated for another 8 years. Because teenagers are functionally retarded.

  52. “Birth”. Please. This movie and everyone associated with it deserve to be pummeled in the face.

  53. At least Haley Joel Osment dies at the end.

  54. It is time for the John Travolta nomination of the week!

    I have noticed a surprising dearth of Nicolas Cage nominations, yet we ARE allowed one Nic Cage “acting” “contribution” per round! Therefore, I am submitting a double whammy, if you will.

    Face/Off.

    John Woo’s first English-language, Hollywood-backed, action-blockbuster-extravaganza! I am pretty sure he did not speak English at the time of filming! This movie, according to Wikipedia, holds a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What the fuck.

    I will not bore you all with a lengthy synopsis, for you only need this key fact: John Travolta and Nic Cage switch faces. Then they impersonate each other for an entire movie.

    Also I think Nic Cage runs around without a face at some point?

    Action-wise, it is actually pretty sweet. But my hatred for both the lead actors overcame my love of expensive action setpieces.

    I saw this movie when I was 12, at my friend’s birthday party. We had just watched all of Enemy of the State (prior to the Willenium). We could not make it through this movie.

  55. American Beauty was directly responsible for my getting married to a man even though I am a lesbian. As in, we announced our engagement about 15 minutes after turning the movie off. As near as I’ve been able to figure out, it scrambled my brains to the point where I thought: “Hey, that was a hackneyed depiction of a boring, typical, middle-class suburban white marriage after a few decades. Let’s do that. If we do that, then when I’m in my forties I can get stoned and go statutory on Mena Suvari.” I’m still surprised that my now-ex-husband was equally entranced with this plan. #poordecisionmakinggum

    Also, you know what else has made me feel like an idiot? Watching Monkeybone, the film that brings you Brendan Fraser’s id as a horny animated monkey. It is terrible. It is worse than getting married because you are nineteen and you just watched American Beauty. It is the WMOAT.

    • Brendan Fraser is just horrible. In fact, he is probably the worst. I nominate every movie he has ever acted in, including Crash.

    • First of all, you hold your tongue, mouesh, School Ties is beautiful if only for the plethora of bathroom scenes involving little tiny baby Matt Damon +little tiny baby Ben Affleck. THEY’RE SO TINY JUST LOOK AT THEM.

      Second of all, um, can I hear more about your story, thelaststraw? Because I am totally intrigued by what you’ve said.

      • Oh man, I don’t even know what to say. We were really close friends. I think, basically, we decided to get married in order to prove a point, even though we were both intelligent college-educated people who knew damn well that proving a point is one of the worst reasons to get married. (Although probably not THE worst. That would be something like getting married in order to enter a couples-only sack race.) And I think the point we were trying to prove was essentially that we were smart people who “got it.”

        I remember turning off the movie and talking about how we would never be trapped in loveless, sexless, routine marriages, because we were nineteen and really smart and also really full of ourselves. And — there may have been alcohol involved — we decided that the way to make sure of that was to marry each other, immediately. We were going to elope to Las Vegas, but — there was definitely alcohol involved — we realized that neither of us should drive, so instead we called our parents and announced our engagement. And then, because the parental ball started rolling, we planned a wedding for a year and a half and then we went through with it. And then, two years into a loveless, sexless, routine marriage, I started dating women again and he started dating women again and we got to have a hostile, expensive, painful divorce. Yay. I tend not to mention the whole “American Beauty” part when explaining my marriage and divorce to people, but it’s really an embarrassingly integral part of the whole thing.

        Basically what I hope I have learned from all of it is that I’m kind of an idiot. And I now have a mandatory, self-imposed waiting period on making decisions of any kind after seeing any Important Movies. I wasn’t even allowed to call and order a pizza after seeing Inception. Someone else had to do it. Ifanyonewhoknowsmereadsthispleasedontjudgemethanks.

        • Oof. Well, I think we all make dumb decisions when we’re young [Hi, I'm 16, and I think it's a great idea to wear my brothers' shirts tied at the waist with string] I guess your thing was just solidified in a major legal decision. Also I will never think of this movie the same way again, because in my head it will always be tied to your story, and then I’ll have to explain to people what the look in my face is.

          *hugzzz*

  56. Last time I nominated it I got crazy downvotes and maybe I will avoid them this time by virtue of having been away from my computer all evening, but I nominate Memento. I really hate that movie. Sorry team!

  57. I agree with everything Gabe said but I still like this movie.

    Also, everyone is probably going to think I’m really gross but (as a teenage girl) I always found Lester to be kind of sexy*. . . like hook up with your friend’s dad fantasy.(anyone? just me?) Although. . I’m 21 now and haven’t seen this in a few years and I’m not sure how old Angela is supposed to be so I guess it’s probably creepy and real grown up people should obviously not let that fantasy ever be realized.

    I do think Lester deserves some credit for not following through.. I don’t think it was him not wanting to do it because she was a virgin, it was her revealing that she was a virgin that put her vulnerability and immaturity into perspective for him and reminded him that she was human and fragile and not a sexual object and that’s why he didn’t do it. Even though he was being a gross objectifying creep up until then, I think he got a reality check and was brought back down to earth, he is human and not completely awful (or he would’ve just done it, obviously.) Sure he was an idiot for getting himself to that point but he grew as a person by the end.

    *I don’t think ridiculous pot-smoking responsibility-shucking self-important man-babies are sexy I just have a thing for dads. Do I need a therapist?

    • When I was your age, Rage Virus, I started dating a man 20 years older than me. Now that I’m 31, I cannot imagine what he was thinking. But I’m not saying you’ll feel different when you’re older, because apparently plenty of people don’t.

      If you want to get over dads, therapy won’t help, but having a relationship with someone who will never make you a priority (and if he did, you wouldn’t respect him anyway) will get you past it!

  58. I am voting for Deception once again because it is truly terrible and made me lulz quite a bit. And it’s really fun to say “DECEPTION” all dramatic-like (pronounced dee-sept-SHUN) when anything ‘shocking’ happens in the movie.

  59. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  60. Nominate
    Modern Problems

  61. I really liked this movie when it came out, but it came out when I was in High School. I probably thought Kevin Spacey’s character was just the tops, really aces. Now, without even watching it, I feel embarrassed. I’m going to go smoke pot now and lift my 10 pound weight.

  62. I hereby nominate Mortal Kombat 2 for WMOAT. Anyone who has tried to sit through it will know why.

    (Does this break the “popular superhero” or “kids’ movie” rules because it was based on a video game?)

  63. How about this

    I accidentally put this in the Walking Dead recap earlier so you can see how adamant I am about how GOD AWFUL this movie is. Downvotes bedamned!

  64. Hold up. I just backtraced all the old WMOATs, and Gabe never covered Minority Report? Please someone tell me I’m missing something because that movie was HORRIBLE. I re watched it last week, remembering that I sort of liked it when it first came out, but HOLY SHIT. Future space cops reading billiard balls to catch precriminals who also do future drugs and cut out their eyes? Also: WHAT WAS WITH ALL THE SLAPSTICK? I felt like Yackety Sax should have been playing during that scene where Tom Cruise gets his eyes replaced (boo!) and he accidentally eats the rotten sandwich and milk. And then later he chases his eyes down a hill before they fall into a sewer grate!

  65. Please consider St. Elmo’s Fire as the worst movie of all time, or at least the worst movie of the 80′s.

  66. I hereby nominate The Upside of Anger starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner (2005). This film is ostensibly about a middle-aged woman whose husband leaves her and her four perfect yet quirky daughters (one of whom is Evan Rachel Wood and is nicknamed Popeye????) to be all depressed until she starts hanging out with Kevin Costner, the attractive alcoholic down the street. However, it is actually a depiction of the most outrageously selfish and self-absorbed mother in the entire world who the audience is somehow supposed to identify with and like. At the beginning, you think it is just your standard white people problems movie but then there is a twist of WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD at the end to finish it off right.

  67. I nominate the movie “Four Brothers”
    This movie…I…I don’t want to talk about it.

  68. This movie is so bad I am sure someone earlier in the thread has probably nominated it as well, but I nominate LEGION, starring Paul Bettany.

    It had black-winged angels with machine guns!! And Dennis Quaid and Tyrese!!! It has Paul Bettany with a gun photoshopped into his hand!

    I read this blog every day and the WMOAT’s are my favorite posts. Legion was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life. NO movie is as bad as this movie.

    • Legion was so terrible I actually forgot that I watched it. Like, I thought it was some feaver dream I had. I ended up renting it from Netflix twice because I didn’t remember it the first time.

  69. I’d like to nominate Art School Confidential. It had soooooooooo much potential, but is really nothing but a mess.

  70. i ain’t reading 289,000 comments but i will say that that i bet a lot of this loved this movie as stupid idiot teenagers but we all need to acknowledge that it’s certainly aged poorly and also IT’S OKAY TO ADMIT THAT IT WAS BAD.

  71. NEVER BEEN KISSED.

    Honestly, it’s a horrible, depressing pap smear of a film.

    I actually cried when I saw it. It’s whole comic premise is ‘debilitating loneliness’. Get it? Because some people have no one.

    Drew smiles, I weep.

  72. I would like to nominate:

    -Slumdog Millionaire

    -James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ (not to be confused with Avatar: The Last Airbender; although it’s probably a terrible movie as well.)

    Ugh.

  73. I desperately nominate Law Abiding Citizen. It’s one thing to make a dumb revenge movie, it’s another to make a dumb revenge movie that talks down to the audience and pretends to have anything to do with “our broken justice system”.

    Barf. BARF I say!

  74. I would like to nominate Beyond Borders. Because I hate do gooders.

  75. There is a movie you have not seen starring Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland, with a cameo appearance by Orson Welles. It was a “comedy” made in 1970. And it is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen. It is called Start The Revolution Without Me.

    In it, two sets of twins (yes, it’s one of those twins played by the same guy movies), one rich and one poor, are mixed up at birth. But then there’s mix-ups, mistaken identities, sex romps and other things people thought were funny in the 1970s. And something about the French Revolution. This “wacky” “farce” is much less “wacky” than it thinks. For instance, what the fuck is this scene:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ2ApmX4Z08

    Ugh, this movie is a real shame. There’s such a talented cast. And I got excited at the idea of period piece parody. But this movie is the very worst pile of horse shit I have ever seen. Not a single chuckle. And the ending, oh that ending. It makes zero sense. Like, I really have no idea what was supposed to have happened at the ending. My favorite thing is that the script, which is definitely the biggest problem with this movie, actually got nominated for the Writers Guild Award for best comedy. WHAT? Please watch this terrible movie that probably cost a jillion dollars and probably made zero.

  76. Second Never Been Kissed. My ex-girlfriend and I were in France and this was one of the last movies she had that we hadn’t watched on the trip and I only agreed to watch it hammered. Even then, still depressingly awful.

    Avatar is essential to this project.

    I nominate Whatever Works. Talk about a movie I went in wanting to like and just ended up angry at. All the typical Allenisms (old asshole manages to attract beautiful women who would never give him the time of day, then lectures at audience) AND it manages to crap on any character not from New York City. A shame because the first 20 minutes are pretty good and then the inception is revealed.

  77. I always thought the point of the movie was that we were supposed to hate all the characters (like Catcher in the Rye). So, I always liked the movie for doing a great job of showing terrible people.

    I always wanted to read a book that was The Catcher in the Rye but told from all the non-Holden people. Just pages and pages of adults going, “Holden Caufield is such a little shit.”

    Anyway, I nominate Australia for WMOAT because it is awful. It also features Videogum favorite Hugh “pee-pants” Jackman and frozen faced Nicole Kidman. And it’s amazingly racist in this weird reverse way where you can tell they are trying to hard not to be racist but it only makes them seem more racist. And the movie never ends. It just goes on forever and ever.

    But mostly, pee-pants. Come on.

    • Oh hell yes, I second this.

      I am Australian and this movie embarrasses me. Australian movies tend to fall into a couple of categories – genre films like Wolf Creek which are actually fairly decent, and movies which try to capture the ‘spirit of Australia’ or some such bullshit. They always have sweeping landscapes and magical Aboriginal children and kangaroos and are set in the past and/or the bush.
      Never mind that something like 97% of us don’t live anywhere near the bush, have only seen kangaroos in zoos and our lives are more like those featured in Hollywood movies.

      It goes on forever and Nicole Kidman has the emotional range of a teaspoon. And I’m not usually strict on immigration, but I do think Baz Luhrmann should be sent out of Australia and not allowed to come back in.
      If people want to watch an Australian film then please rent Wolf Creek, or The Castle. Not this shit.

  78. Everyone knows that if you want to bang high school girls all you need to do is invite them to your house to drink and smoke weed. Just ask this guy.

  79. Hello, young people. Long time reader, first time commenter!!! Anyhow, I would like to tell you a story from 1999. The first time I saw American Beauty, it was opening weekend at a suburban theater. The audience, including me, was quite moved. The second time I saw it was in a discount theater in New York, and — how to say this? — my friend and I were the only people-not-of-color in the house. Oh, the hooting and hollering! Oh, the laughter! So, anyway, my point, Gabe, is that I think that you, like me, missed that this picture is a delightful comedy about the imaginary misfortunes and delicious folkways of white people.

  80. tl;dr

    I nominate Garden State for the-Movie-That-All-of-My-Friends-Said-Changed-Their-Lives-When-I-Was-20-but-Was-Really-Just-Pretty-Emo

    • Potentially unpopular nomination: Zombieland, the Garden State of horror movies.

      Zombieland had some entertaining moments but was overall pretty terrible. And I say this as a mega fan of the zombie genre and also Bill Murray.

  81. I nominate the steaming pile of crap “Legion” for WMOAT mainly for the fact that the character development is the most formulaic/shitty thing I have ever seen. At the beginning of the movie, most of the characters’ lines consist of “I may be a [insert what you are so the audience knows] who [another fact that will come into play later], but this movie sucks donkey balls.” I may have embellished on the last part of the line but you get it. Also when the cop is shot at the beginning you can see him falling onto the mat. It’s insane how bad this movie is. INSANE.

  82. The first time I saw American Beauty, as a senior in high school, it was amazing: for a teenager, the idea that adults were miserable until they started acting like teenagers was comforting, no duh. Then I watched it a few years later and this time I absolutely hated it: I thought the acting was horrible and I loathed every character. Then, a few years later I was stuck in my college town, working on my fifth year (with an extra year off, so six years all told) of a degree, all my friends gone for break or just gone in general, stuck in my crappy apartment because they were short-staffed at the shitty chili place where I was assistant manager and I had to stay for that one shift. I had already watched Grave of Fireflies (seriously, the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen), was halfway drunk and alone in a blizzard, when I decided to pop in American Beauty. This time through, and probably because I’d just watched a movie about kids SLOWLY STARVING TO DEATH, all I could see was the hollow emptiness and sadness behind every character, just barely being held at bay by the idiotic things that make up the American Dream, like remote control cars and being the best real estator. It was like looking into the heart of the void, like watching a cleverly disguised Kafka story. Does that mean that this is a movie worth watching? I don’t think so (I haven’t watched it since and have no desire to), but if anyone out there is looking for a double-feature right before you off yourself, you could do worse.

  83. Um does Allan Ball forget what high school was like and has he ever had to work in fast food? I remember working at Taco Bell and I was getting paid less than $5 an hour (which was below minimum wage in Aus at the time, but it was “training pay” so it was “legal”) and I used to get the most horrendous burns from the chicken steamer/boiler. I was fired because I didn’t look happy enough… I dunno about you but I found it pretty hard to smile with all those burns on my arms. The only bit I liked was the guacamole and sour cream guns.
    And all I remember about high school was that there were a lot of arseholes and my hormones made me relentlessly horny and tired.

    Fuck you, Spacey character. If you’re bored, go on a holiday like in Eat, Pray, Love.

    • Yes! This movie came out when I was a teenager, I spent the whole thing hoping that when I became an adult, I wouldn’t be idiotic enough to forget that being a teenager kind of sucks arse and that I spent the whole time looking forward to not being one.

  84. I’m not familiar with what movies have already been submitted, but I’d like to nominate The Goonies if no one has suggested it yet. I do not understand the appeal, nor can I find any redeeming qualities, yet I have been ridiculed for years for openly disliking The Goonies. I’d like to see them get theirs.
    If not The Goonies, then The Last Unicorn.
    Ok, you can chastise me to your heart’s content now.

    • The Last Unicorn was most likely the basis for many a suicide, I’m sure. The Goonies, however, was a teen scream when it came out…and while I intensely dislike the Coreys (RIP-Corey Haim) it is a cute movie–for kids. I appreciate it for that.

      I would love to nominate Open Water…..I’m sorry that those people were stranded out at sea, but do I want to watch people ‘recreate’ something so terrifying in such an unconvincing way–with that as it’s only story, “Dumped at sea, surface to find yourself stranded, and tread water for the rest of the movie….with the occasional panic and screaming….”

      Plots are good…I like plots.

      After Jaws, which, let’s face it–had people scared to crap on the can for fear that a Carcharodon carcharias was going to tear through the bowl and eat them arse first, you can’t make a good “shark kills and scares folks real bad” movie anymore….so, why bother?

  85. OK guys, I have a nomination. I don’t know if it’s ever been nominated before: Miss Congeniality.

    My wife and I were watching this tonight and just marveling at how ridiculously stupid it is. It has the clunkiest dialog, a lot of legitimately awful performances, many many many logic problems, genuinely baffling editorial choices, deus ex machina is used for even the most mundane plot points (why is there a Nerf football at the pool?!?) and the most “romantic” line of the movie is something like, “If we were to have sex I wouldn’t say no.”

    The overall lesson of the movie can be summed up as, “Even if you’re a tough, independent woman with good values who places no value on societal norms of beauty or elegance and yet are still a successful human being in spite of this, you better learn to be pretty or else you’ll still be a bitch with a meaningless life and no one will ever love you.” It takes the “take off your glasses let out your pony tail and you’re a beauty queen” movie to absurd extremes.

    I’ll be honest, this might not ever win WMOAT, but it deserves to compete.

  86. BUT…but…the 25th of April is the perfect date! I thought I was the only person who thought
    so before I saw Miss Congeniality!!!!

  87. I am going to defend this movie even though I only saw it once (years ago). It’s hackneyed and Hollywood, but I think it shows that being a teenager, working in fast food, smoking pot, working out, and filming floating plastic bags as “art” can be romanticized because, though it might not actually be that great, it’s a preferable form of vapid over that of an adult life in America. Kevin Spacey tries to change into a truer version of himself, but finds that, ultimately, he can’t. We cannot revert from what we are to what we were or always wanted to be because even the facades we adopt are part of who we are. Chris Cooper’s character also fails when he tries to revert to a truer form of himself. All this worrying over identity leads to the angst and anguish in the characters.
    The problem in the movie would be that everything is idealized and romanticized, so it is never clear exactly where the turmoil is coming from or what the characters are running away from or striving toward. A more realistic depiction of suburbia would have made this movie weather better. I would still agree, however, that we would all be happier if we were still in more youthful and aggressive phases of self-discovery than to passively accept the small comforts we become socially normed with. Good message for an okay movie.

  88. Something about this post has reignited my crush on Gabe. I think it was the part where he said he was in love with someone else.

    Also I bought this movie during the “asshole” phase of my life.

  89. I respectfully submit “Kingdom of Heaven” for the Hunt for the WMOAT. Please, thank you, goodnight.

  90. I love the part where he blackmails his boss about some prostitute mishap from years ago or whatever and he gets to leave his job and take a bunch of stuff or get a huge severance package or some shit. Then he’s like “i’m just an ordinary man with nothing to lose” and I’m like No, you’re just an ordinary man with A PERFECT PIECE OF AWESOME SCANDALOUS INFO ABOUT HIS BOSS EVERYONE WISHES THEY HAD SO THEY TOO COULD SAFELY QUIT THEIR JOBS. This movie, man. Really showing you what everyone wants to do, but only if they could just grow a pair! Except nope.

  91. Listen, I haven’t been here in months and I still nominate BELOVED. So come on Gabe, on with it.

  92. I like your critique of the movie, but, in my opinion, by using the word sardonic to describe the film, you, perhaps mistakenly on your part, assigned to it an inflated worth. The deer hunter, for me, was sardonic. Am beauty was mashed potatoes.

    Respectfully, Xioba