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Outworn welcomes of 2003
As a creature of media, I experienced deep hurting at the coverage and hyping of many 2003 phenoms. Here’s a few.

Ironic praise for “The Daily Show” or “The Onion”: Please, everyone – stop saying that these fake organizations are “the only REAL news.” They’re not. They’re satire. For fuck’s sake. Ernie Pyle was a real journalist. Michael Kelly was a real journalist. Smoove B. Love Man is not. The Nation, of all the crazy sources, got it right when they interpreted Jon Stewart’s (very, very funny) show as political activism.

Making fun of Dennis Kucinich: So he’s short, single, and has bad hair. He also is a presidential candidate with a platform. When did the Fourth Estate start taking orders from ten year-olds? Reporters and webmasters took a throwaway line in a debate (“If you’re out there, call me”) and made us believe that Dennis Kucinich was running for president to get dates. Yeah, he won’t win the primaries, but he’s speaking for at least 2 million voters who want us to hand over national soveriegnty to the UN, abolish the death penalty and Pentagon, and subsidize graduate school tuition with our tax dollars. Cover it!

California recall jokes: For Christ’s sake, anyone who’s observed more than one political campaign should know that wacky people run for office all the time. Lyndon LaRouche and his cult mount presidential campaigns every four years. Dozens of oddballs will be on state Republican primary ballots, picking up 100 or so votes against George Bush. And yet every working cartoonist and every human cartoon (Keith Olbermann, I’m looking at you) acted like this was a disgusting mockery of democracy. And then they put on their serious faces and joked about Dennis Kucinich’s hair.

Explosions and shiny things: I’m not alone on this one. At multiplexes across the fruited plain, people saw what movie studios were offering and said: “Um, I think I’ll see Finding Nemo instead.” So we had Gods and Generals (which made back 15% of its cost), Timeline (18%), Biker Boyz (48%), Bulletproof Monk (30%), Hollywood Homicide (29%), Cradle 2 the Grave (70%), Out of Time (55%), Tears of the Sun (39%), The Rundown (43%), The Haunted Mansion (51%), Tomb Raider 2 (50%), The Cat in the Hat (65%), Charlie’s Angels 2 (63%), The Hulk (77%), and the worst movie of the year, Bad Boys II (82%).

The Hilton sisters: Obviously.

Fox (the network, not the news channel): If you want a good, hard cry, rent the fourth disc of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and listen to the way Fox treated the producer of one of the most acclaimed TV shows of the last three decades – a show that inspired national security documents, academic papers, political tracts, and millions of teenage girls. So what did Fox do? They rejected the finished, two-hour pilot and gave Whedon two days to write a “typical episode” of the series. Then they used the non-pilot as the series premiere. Then they ran other episodes out of sequence (the equivilent of watching The Return of the King before Fellowship, followed by The Two Towers). Then they pre-empted it for The Brady Bunch Movie. Then they cancelled it, with three filmed episodes unaired.

This is the the network that, in 2003, ran Skin, The Next Joe Millionaire, American Juniors, and Temptation Island.

The skinny Renee Zellweger: Can we just agree that she looks much, much sexier when she gains weight for the Bridget Jones movies? It goes straight to her curves.

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DVD Review: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fifth Season”
When CJ and I sat down to watch these 22 episodes, which premiered in 2000-2001, we wondered if they would make any sense to viewers who hadn’t been watching the show for four years. Xander (Nicholas Brendon) had gone from a goofy, Buffy-worshipping slacker to a very grown-up construction worker. Willow (Alyson Hannigan), a loveless computer geek back in 1997, was now a hardened magician and cheerful lesbian. Rupert Giles (Anthony Head), a stuffy librarian/trainer in season one, was now a tortured father figure with no job. And Buffy, crushed by a seasons 2-3 relationship with the studly vampire Angel, is now dating the lunky ex-spook Riley Finn. When the season begins, the new cast is living it up at the beach, tossing around a football and eating hamburgers cooked by Xander and his girlfriend, Anya (Emma Caulfield). Watching them like this was just … weird. In five years of Seinfeld, the characters had changed hairstyles and George had gotten a new job. In five years of The West Wing, President Martin Sheen had been re-elected. In five years of Buffy the characters had really grown up.

The show’s producers realized this, of course. They had finished with the “high school is like hell” metaphor a while ago, and spent one year letting their characters taste freedom. At the end of the season five premiere, they revealed that Buffy had a 14-year old sister, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg, who really does look like she could be related to Sarah Michelle Gellar). But Dawn had never existed until now. She was a plot conceit – to hide away a key that would destroy the barriers between dimensions and allow hell to bleed onto earth, monks had transformed it into the kid sister of the most powerful human being they could think of. Buffy was an unwilling participant in a plot to keep the world safe from Glory (Clare Kramer), an exiled hellgod who was killing anything in her way to finding the key.

But that was just the plot device. As with everything on Buffy, Dawn meant a whole lot more. She grounded the slayer who was just getting a sense of independence. Since the monks had created Dawn with fake internal and external memories (as we see later in the season, Buffy even remembers her coming home from the hospital 14 years ago), she had a calibrating effect on the entire cast. She crushed on Xander, treated Willow and her girlfriend, Tara (Amber Benson), like aunts, and made Giles even more of a father figure. And as the season went on, she was one more person grieving when Joyce Summers, Buffy’s mom, got a brain tumor. The result was the saddest season of the show to date. Nearly every episode involved some cast member crying. By the end, Buffy was so overloaded with tragedy that she became catatonic (Willow went into a trance to snap her out of it). This set the tenor for the rest of the series, which hemmorhaged fans and depressed critics. But how else could the series continue? Buffy had come into her twenties. The crackerjack box stress of high school was over. Buffy and her friends were in the real world, and it was terrifying.

CJ and I watched the season in three marathon sessons, devouring 8 episodes at a time. That made the medicine go down more smoothly – with a couple exceptions, season five was never as fun as one, three, and four (season two had funnier episodes but ended with the death of Angel). Marti Noxon, who had handled the heartbreaking Willow/Oz and Willow/Tara episodes in season four, comes roaring back with emotionally devastating episodes about Riley, Joyce, and, uh, Dracula. Joss Whedon turned out the two saddest episodes of the whole series (“The Body” and “The Gift”). Even Spike gets pathos. But because the first four years had driven such a great foundation, the season as a whole worked. I’ve seen chunks of seasons six and seven, and I’d have to admit that this is the last great year of Buffy.

EPISODES (the five best are bolded):
1 – “Buffy vs. Dracula.” Dracula comes to Sunnydale, hoping to turn the slayer into one of his own via patented sexy methods. Xander becomes his emissary; even Willow kind of gets a crush on him. 8/10
2 – “The Real Me.” Fallen-from-grace high school queen Harmony, who’d been vamped in the season three finale, forms a gang to take down the slayer. Also, Giles takes over a magic shop. 7/10
3 – “The Replacement.” A demon splits Xander in two – responsible “Mr. Harris” and goofy Xander. There’s great writing, but a so-so plot and resolution. However, we find that Riley thinks his relationship is doomed. 7/10
4 – “Out of My Mind.” Riley needs heart surgery, and Spike wants the domesticating computer chip out of his head. 7/10
5 – “No Place Like Home.” Buffy meets Glory and finds out, via a very cool spell, that Dawn is not her sister (she sees reality shift in and out – Dawn fades out of pictures and her bedroom fades into a storage room). Good on its own, the episode’s themes won’t be fulfilled for months. 7/10
6 – “Family.” Tara gets her own episode and it’s merely ok. Her family had abused her and claimed she was a demon – the gang proves she isn’t, and take her into their arms. There’s wonderful acting by all concerned, but not much of a plot. 7/10
7 – “Fool for Love.” Buffy wonders what actually hapens in those battles that take a slayer’s life. Spike, who’s killed two slayers, fills her in. Absolutely one of the best episodes of the series – funny, pathetic, revealing, and deep. 10/10
8 – “Shadow.” Glory sends an emissary to find the identity of the key, and Joyce has a brain tumor. A menacing episode that suffers from a silly rubber villain. 6/10
9 – “Listening to Fear.” A “snot monster from outer space” arrives to murder mental patients, and Joyce is on the hit list. Bad villain, scary episode. 7/10
10 – “Into the Woods.” Riley, who has been paying vampires to feed on him, gives Buffy an ultimatum – come to the place where the military is re-recruiting him or he’ll leave. She arrives too late. 8/10
11 – “Triangle.” Willow and Anya bond when they accidentally summon a troll god. The funniest episode of the season, with big emotional highs (Xander almost dies saving them both). 10/10
12 – “Checkpoint.” Everything piles on Buffy’s head, including a returned Watcher’s Council. She realizes that everyone needs her, but she doesn’t need them. 9/10
13 – “Blood Ties.” Dawn finds out what she is, and after cutting herself with a kitchen knife and burning her diaries, she runs to the hospital and is caught by Glory (who doesn’t know what she is). An incredible fight scene, a stunning revelation (Glory is trapped in the body of Ben, who’s befriended Dawn and Buffy) fine acting by Trachtenberg, and the emotional high of the season thus far. 10/10
14 – “Crush.” Spike is in love with Buffy, and kidnaps her (and Drusilla) to prove it. Weird but affecting. 9/10
15 – “I Was Made to Love You.” Warren Mears built a robotic girlfriend for himself, then tired of her and tried to leave her. What could have been an idiotic episode is saved by good writing and forshadowing. 9/10
16 – “The Body.” Buffy finds her mother dead, and the team reacts. Try watching this and then explaining why the “West Wing” actors deserve to win Emmys. 10/10
17 – “Forever.” Dawn tries to resurrect her mother. A necessary plot, well-acted and scary. 10/10
18 – “Intervention.” Spike has had Warren build a Buffy robot, thus losing all of the esteem of Buffy’s friends. But Glory tortures him to find out who the key is, and he doesn’t tell. Buffy rewards him with a kiss. Awesome melodrama. 9/10
19 – “Tough Love.” Glory zeroes in on Tara as the key, and when she comes up empty, she steals Tara’s sanity as payback. Willow goes shithouse and confronts Glory at her HQ. Corny, but thrilling. 9/10
20 – “Spiral.” The team goes on the run and hides in an abandoned gas station from the encroaching forces that want to kill Dawn. A suprisingly exciting chase episode. 9/10
21 – “The Weight of the World.” Willow pulls Buffy out of her coma, and we get an explanation of just what Buffy is feeling during the hellishness of this year. 9/10
22 – “The Gift.” Willow steals back Tara’s mind from Glory. Xander proposes to Anya. Giles murders Ben because Buffy can’t. Spike sacrifices himself (but doesn’t die) to save Dawn. Buffy sacrifices herself to save the world. 10/10

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And I am proven correct
Boxofficemojo have updated their site. The Return of the King won Wednesday. Cold Mountain came in fourth.

I can tell you Miramax’s mistake. They are treating ROTK like another geek movie, like Star Wars or The Matrix. But it’s an adaptation of a classic novel, starring a marquee cast, and featuring a very strong love story. Thus the can of whupass.

UPDATE: Why do I care? Eh, the Cold Mountain commercials get on my nerves. They go something like: “The most acclaimed movie of the year is now the most nominated movie of the year, with eight Golden Globe nominations including best picture of the year.” But Cold Mountain is just another slice of the weepy based-on-the-bestselling-book period crap that gets served to us every year. Return of the King is a near-spiritual experience. I watched grown men wipe tears from their eyes at the performance of Sean Astin. This movie deserves some damn respect.

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Drudge is an idiot
My family computer won’t let me shrink the screenshot I took, but here it is anyway. Drudge has reported that “Cold Mountain” is the box office victor of Christmas day, based on a link to BoxOfficeMojo.com. But the page in question hasn’t computed totals for any other opening movies. As I show in this screenshot, BOM editors had left LOTR’s gross totals blank.

Christmas box office receipts typically look like the receipts from an average weekend. The Last Samurai, which was marketed much like Cold Mountain, made about $8 million each day of its opening weekend. If Cold Mountain follows similar patterns, it will make a little less than $20 million over the long weekend. If so, I’d be pleased – I predicted as much three weeks ago.

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Every single movie I saw in 2003
I’m a fucking mark. Seriously. For all of my pretense, and for all of my copies of The New Yorker and The Northwestern Chronicle, I look over my list of box office excursions and realize I fell for all of Hollywood’s mind games. I had to see the Matrix movies. If I liked American Pie I would love its latest sequel.

So I never got around to Finding Nemo, and I missed most of the movies that were nominated for Golden Globes. But of the 33 movies I saw, a healthy dozen were worth my money. And the rest … were the rest. Here they are in ascending order of ruling.

33. Bad Boys II
It’s hard to judge this leaky anal cyst of a movie without pondering how much it cost. $130 million. $40 million of marketing. Now, I go to a university with a pretty good film program, and I’ve met people with solid scripts or concepts. And I break into a cold sweat thinking of how many of their lives could have been changed – how much art could have been unleashed upon a grateful world – with the money Michael Bay used to portray two rats fucking as Martin Lawrence watched. Bad Boys II proved once again that a.)Martin Lawrence is incapable of being funny, b.)rape isn’t funny, c.)after a point, exploding cars can be boring, d.)gay-bashing can be funny, but not when Will Smith does it.
32. Irreversible
Get this – an annoying Frenchman falls in love, and then his girlfriend is raped, and he and her ex go looking for the killer! It’s a Lifetime Original Movie with the rape scene shown in full, stupid dialogue about “fucking,” and it’s all edited backwords. But the soundtrack (by Daft Punk) was cool.
31. Cradle 2 the Grave
A mind-numblingly dull kung fu bottom-feeder, with a plot slightly less intelligent than the average mission on Grand Theft Auto III. Jet Li’s green card obviously came with a provision barring him from making decent movies – everything he touches turns to suck. DMX’s 5-year old daughter stealing a van. The face-off in the ring of fire. All of the idiotic prison scenes. The DMX scooter chase. Jesus.
30. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The original movie worked because the actors were unknown and the filming was gritty, so it seemed like an unfolding nightmare. This is a glossy groanfest with a kidnapped baby thrown in to give it a more human touch. And it’s set in the 1970s, but one of the doomed kids wears cargo pants.
29. Tears of the Sun
Endless Bruce Willis war movie about Nigeria.
28. S.W.A.T.
Actually, there’s something compelling about a movie that doesn’t contain a single original idea or line of dialogue. Wait – the villain did get caught for having a busted tailight. So that’s new.
27. 2 Fast 2 Furious
Mediocre action with some fun set pieces and scenery-chewing performances. Even from Paul Walker.
26. Head of State
There were some surprisingly good jokes in this satire of blacks in American politics. I liked the travelling b-boy narrator – I didn’t like the obvious, ghettoed-out campaign that Chris Rock undertook when he decided to prove something to himself. The terrible to fun gag ratio was 2-1.
25. The Matrix Reloaded
And so the Wachowski brothers reveal that they only had one good idea, and proceed to bluff their way through the first of two generic sci-fi actioners. This one was the worst, thanks to the insultingly trite “philosophical” speeches that. Never. Ended.
24. Identity
I credit the studio for keeping an Act III plot twist completely concealed throughout the ad campaign. I also credit them with a stupid ending that marred a pretty cool mystery.
23. Daredevil
It made the mistakes that Spider-Man and the X-movies didn’t – it treated the comic book characters like comic book characters, and made their decisions stupid, always geared toward whatever would inspire a fight scene. This gave us the immortal Michael Clarke Duncan moment when, given the choice between blowing Ben Affleck away by siccing his guards on him or taking him on in a fist fight, takes off his jacket and says: “I’m from the Bronx. You wouldn’t understand.” And there was the part when Colin Farrell caught a stack of broken stained glass.
22. Phone Booth
Not bad, but the worst episode of 24 blows it the hell away.
21. Pirates of the Caribbean
A silly family movie that was oversold to adults like me, who watched Keira Knightly spar with an undead monkey and said, “huh?”
20. Dark Blue
Kurt Russell and Brendan Gleeson really drained every ounce out of a mediocre cop thriller script. Hell, they found emotions that weren’t there in the first place. The result was like really kickass community theater.
19. The Hulk
Fine acting and a great buildup ruined by stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid action scenes. See Hulk punch a mutant dog! See Hulk wrestle with an electrical Nick Nolte!
18. Bruce Almighty
A terrific high concept – Jim Carrey with the powers of the Judeo-Christian God! A so-so execution, with some really lamentable life lessons from Morgan Freeman and a homeless guy, who is, of course, also God.
17. American Wedding
What a disappointment. The second Pie had constructed a sweet, cute love story for Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan. This movie just didn’t fully utilize what the first two movies had lying around. Some wonderful moments (Eugene Levy giving Alyson sex advice, Sean William Scott hitting on men) were dragged down by stupid character motivations and a lame new character played by January Jones. If Jones’ character had been stronger, this would have been a top-tenner.
16. The Matrix Revolutions
Taken out of context, this was a fun b-movie – the kind of thing John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper would make if Joel Silver gave them enormous novelty checks. Huggamah buggamah was the dialogue awful, though.
15. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Far better than it should have been, considering it was basically “Terminator 2: Oh man, we didn’t save the world this time.”
14. Bad Santa
The worst Terry Zwigoff production by a country mile – listless and sometimes dull. But if you lie back and let it sink in, there’s some magic in Billy Bob Thornton’s curses and vomiting.
13. The Weather Underground
The only documentary I saw was way, way too light on its brain-addled subjects, but I have to give credit to its narrative flow and recreation of the mood of radicals in the 1960s.
12. Shattered Glass
For such a boring crime, as movies go, Billy Ray fashioned a compelling, funny little epic. Hayden Christiansen really gave one of the performances of the year – you pity the little shit, even as he drags down his friends and coworkers with his lies.
11. Freddy vs. Jason
The best slasher pic since A Nightmare on Elm Street. You could argue that the filmmakers matched the ambitions of Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino in making exactly the picture they wanted and exactly the picture fans had spent years yearning for.
10. American Splendor
I saw it on a date, like About Schmidt and Adaptation. Movies about depressive guys who strive for better things and are never really happy … they click with me.
9. Love Actually
Like Preston Sturges on meth. At this point in the list, I’m remembering moments and images that stuck with me for days after I saw these movies. Love Actually is extremely funny, and packed with stuff that Ali McGraw would sell her teeth to act.
8. School of Rock
For every 20 shitty losers-overcome-the-odds movies, there’s one winner. This is the Slap Shot of our time.
7. Kill Bill Vol. 1
I really, really didn’t get into the opening scenes with Vivica A. Gox. Not at all. But the movie gets going after that and really puts other revenge movies to shame. And the animated sequence is better than anything in The Animatrix.
6. Bubba Ho-Tep
You know a movie is kicking when it features Ossie Davis as John Kennedy, dyed black by the government to cover up a conspiracy, and most critics don’t even mention it. This was seriously fun – one of the few movies I saw that made me think, halfway though, how mad I was that it was going to end eventually.
5. 28 Days Later
Danny Boyle understands why the George Romero horror movies worked. They weren’t about monsters. They were about what makes people want to create and preserve societies. I loved almost everything about this movie.
4. X2: X-Men United
Forget the “best comic book movie ever” talk. Bryan Singer and crew absolutely understand what makes the X-Men concept work, and they beautifully handled every character (especially Pyro, Mystique and Jean Grey) to drive the themes home. And stuff blows up real good.
3. A Mighty Wind
This, and the next two movies, were the only ones that drove my fellow moviegoers to tears. I look for that sort of thing. When a movie makes a gambit to tug my emotions, if it’s working, I see if it’s working for someone else. And the final concert scene really affected the people around me both times I saw A Mighty Wind. It’s not the funniest Christopher Guest movie, but it’s the only one that does that.
2. Lost in Translation
It makes your favorite romantic comedy look like garbage.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Can we just admit this is the best epic fantasy ever filmed? It does no good to deny it. For the past two years, there’s been nothing like the Rings films. Each one is packed with moments that stick with you. The Matrix had the initial Trinity camera-swing and Keanu’s acrobatic bullet dodge. Rings has Boromir fighting through the hail of arrows, the Balrog, the Ents, and pretty much everything Legolas ever did. And I never liked the scouring of the Shire in the first place.

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The year in quotes
Tim Blair offers a side-splitting collection of 2003 wit (intentional and un-) over at his blog. Keep hitting “next” to go and see every month’s picks. Some favorites –

– “I hear that one of Saddam’s main torture techniques involved giving the victim a standard medical exam and then showing it on TV.” One of Tim’s astute commenters.

– “I have an uneasy feeling that many on the intellectual left are fearful that America will lose its next war amid massive casualties – but are even more fearful that America may win with minimal casualties.” Robert Fisk in a real “hear, hear” moment.

– “You want to really annoy the conservative warmongering powers that be? Work your ass off to pump up the vibration.” San Fran Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, one of the many people who helped make Arnold governor of California.

– “Do those who have written this tripe ever dare to go back and see how wrong they were last time?” Christopher Hitchens? You bet your ass.

Sometime I edit this little newspaper. When I joined it, back in 2000, I was a little embarrassed by the quality of our writing and arguments. I’m not any more. I was very careful that we didn’t jump too deeply into pre-war word orgy. We saved most of our jibes at celebrities for our middle-of-the-book section. I wrote one column about celebrity/journalist fearmongering, but concentrated on the hypocrisy who supported Clinton’s wars and cringed at Bush’s. Part of me regrets joining the anti-anti-war protest at NU, back in March, but when the anti-war folks asked me to take the mic to explain why we could possibly support Bush’s genocidal schemes, I calmly asked everyone to think past their hatred of this-or-that politician, or this-or-that policy, and form an argument about what would actually make Iraq better.

These quotes are still funny. But they remind me why I’ve lost most of my interest in opinion journalism, and why I like reporting much, much better.

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I am entertained
I notice that Stephen Den Beste has been writing interminable synopses of his latest anime purchases. This has prompted me to reflect on the stuff I’ve watched since my vacation began last Saturday.

TV
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
It’s like this: Master Shake, Meatwad and Frylock are anthromorphic fast food items with superpowers. Meatwad can assume different shapes. Frylock shoots electricity from his eyeballs. Master Shake squirts goo out of his straw. In theory, they solve mysteries. In practice, they sit around their New Jersey house and sneak into their neighbor’s pool when he’s not looking. Weird things happen – creatures arrive from the moon, a dig reveals a sandwich forged by the overlords of Hell – but the gang does their best to avoid them.
When I explain this cartoon to peers, they don’t get it. Understandable. The concept is pure Cartoon Network – ironic, cheap animation with an inherently silly core. What makes the show great (and worthy of repeat viewings) is the writing and voice work. Look for a script online, and get a flavor for how Master Shake and Carl (the neighbor) make the same riffs work in different plots and contexts.

Sealab 2021
A crack team of scientists in a futuristic undersea complex do stupid things. Dean likes it – I’m less enamoured. But I love the episodes that play with the confines of a TV show, like when it becomes an MTV-style bullshit promo for a Sealab “movie” called “Tinfins,” or when a nine-minute story is revealed to be a commercial for the jazz-themed Bebop Cola.

Movies
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Tobe Hooper’s sequel to his slasher classic is pure, unmitigated shit. Realizing he can’t recreate his old documentary style, Hooper makes a Sam Raimi-style gorefest that absorbs absolutely none of Raimi’s wit, and “funny” scenes drag on for eons, getting more and more unbelieveably dull.

Poltergeist II (1986)
Strangely, Brian Gibson (director of 1998’s very funny “Still Crazy”) manages to recreate the look and feel of Tobe Hooper’s original, which is one of the 10 or 12 best horror movies since the birth of Technicolor. Stranger still, he packs in a lot of potentially scary ideas that don’t work. And he commits a truly stupid ending to film – the haunted Freeling family enter the spirit world, do battle with a scary bulbously thing, and are saved by the ghost of Craig T. Nelson’s mother in law. I mean, Jesus.

Lifeforce (1985)
Can we make it official that Tobe Hooper was never any damn good? This potentially cool vampires-in-space movie starts like Alien and ends like Mullholland Drive, with the human antihero engaging in naked sword-sex with the alien soulsucker. Wow, what crap.

Legend (1985)
Ridley Scott’s legendary dud, which casts Tom Cruise as the feyest fantasy hero since Little Nemo, is actually a real wonder to behold. The set design is breathtaking, on par with the prettiest sights in “The Lord of the Rings.” Mia Sara, best remembered as the squeeze in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is gorgeous. Tim Curry, as the villainous Darkness, is a human cartoon. “What is LIGHT without … DARK! What are YOU without … MEEEEE!”

Glengarry Glen Ross
What the fuck? The only Oscar nomination went to Al Pacino? Unfair. Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey are all fantastic as real estate salesmen who are cracking under the pressure of a contest set down by their employers, relayed by Alec Baldwin. Don’t let the phrase “real estate” scare you off. The dialogue and acting make this one of the tensest dramas of the last 20 years.

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Simple pleasures
When I have time on my hands, I read. When I have time and an internet connection, I read reviews of bad movies. And the pans of Roger Ebert are some of the best. Bad movies apparently make his brain leak out of his ears. He cannot comprehend how these movies are made, and he pounds the keyboard, pained and wailing, trying to understand. The results are always, always funny. Here are some samples.

– on “Josie and the Pussycats”
Josie and the Pussycats are not dumber than the Spice Girls, but they’re as dumb as the Spice Girls, which is dumb enough.

– on “Little Indian, Big City”
If the third reel had been the missing footage from Orson Welles’ `The Magnificent Ambersons,’ this movie still would have sucked.

– on “Trapped in Paradise”
There’s a scene where several squad cars are chasing three crooks in a horse-drawn sleigh. Why is this supposed to be funny? Why? Why? Why?

– on “The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas”
This is an ideal first movie for infants, who can enjoy the bright colors on the screen and wave their tiny hands to the music.

– on “Saving Silverman”
You know you’re in trouble when you’re reduced to praising a movie for its absence of fart jokes, and have to add “almost.”

– on “Mad Dog Time”
The girls share the last name of Everly, so they’re the Everly Sisters–get it? Ho, ho, ho. God, what rich humor this movie offers!

– on “Clifford”
It’s not bad in any usual way. It’s bad in a new way all its own. There is something extraterrestrial about it, as if it’s based on the sense of humor of an alien race with a completely different relationship to the physical universe.