The Most Average Movies of the Past 15 Years: A So-So List
While it's standard to come up with a list of the best films of a time period, and probably even easier to come up with the worst films; it takes a REAL memory to try to come up perfectly horizontal movies. Movies that are so unmemorable in their lack of being quality, yet also aren't worthy of scorn. Perfect C's. Am I getting the point across? Movies that are giftedly mediocre. Like the quality of writing in this first paragraph. Take THAT, self esteem!
Let us celebrate each of the past 15 years' finest achievement in not really achieving anything, good or bad.
2001 - JOY RIDE
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? This was right in line with the standard for late 90s / early 2000s assembly line horror movies. I mean, remember Leelee Sobieski? What a great mediocre actress! Pre-Fast and the Furious Paul Walker [skypoint] and Steve Zahn near the peak of his career! It has all the best ingredients for a movie you'll watch at 1am and probably not turn off for like 30 minutes.
2001's Honorable Mentions: Hannibal, The Score, The Others
2002 - SIGNS
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? Ahhh, the good old days when Shyamalan could release movies met with excitement, and legitimate anticipation of a good twist! This was before M. Night went completely off the deep end, but also after his only (truly) good movie. Signs was, and sorry about this, a SIGN of an eventual decline (wait, don't leave!). But he still had enough of The Sixth Sense's magic left in his pocket to make something at least watchable.
2002's Honorable Mentions: Panic Room, Road to Perdition, Orange County
2003 - PHONE BOOTH
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? At the time, this was an innovative gimmick for filmmaking. People were talking about the movie that "only takes place at a phone booth!" It was a time different from now, when ideas weren't completely spread thin, and things as dumb as the phone booth movie still had potential to feel new. In 2003, this was almost a refreshing change in storytelling. That doesn't mean it was great by any means, but it did what it needed to do.
2003's Honorable Mentions: Dreamcatcher, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, The Last Samurai
2004 - RAY
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? It did just about the exact amount necessary to fulfill the bare minimum level of standard biopic entertainment. Criticizing it for what it tried to be is unnecessary. It's a turkey sub, and it knows it's a turkey sub. Eat your plain turkey sub.
2004's Honorable Mentions: The Alamo, Hidalgo, Hotel Rwanda
2005 - SYRIANA
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? I remember not hating this movie, but if there's a single person out there who could tell me the plot of this movie and why it was so popular at the time it was released, I probably just wouldn't believe you. There's nobody out there watching Syriana over and over again every year.
2005's Honorable Mentions: Kicking & Screaming, The Matador, North Country
2006 - A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? Robert Altman kept this from being a disaster, but he really rode the line between wanting to turn it off already and being genuinely charming.
2006's Honorable Mentions: 16 Blocks, Babel, Invincible
2007 - HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? I think was the point when Harry Potter just went on autopilot mode. Which lasted probably up until the last one. As a fan, but not a diehard fan, I remember pretty much nothing about the plot of this entry of the series. It was still entertaining, but it kind of lacks any defining features. I give it an EHHHHHHH-bracadabra.
2007's Honorable Mentions: Black Snake Moan, Rescue Dawn, Beowulf
2008 - BURN AFTER READING
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? It's like *just* funny enough to make me not think it's bad, but there can't be a single person on this planet who thinks this is actually good, is there?
2008's Honorable Mentions: Doubt, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Appaloosa
2009 - THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? This was a great concept with an amazing cast done with a pretty unremarkable treatment. How do you not turn a movie about "warrior monk" telekinetic soldiers into something memorable? Felt like an off-brand Coen Bros movie. Like when you buy a two liter of "Dr. Thunder" to save 75 cents, and wonder if it was really worth it.
2009's Honorable Mentions: A Serious Man, Splice, Extract
2010 - CYRUS
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? The Duplass brothers are kings of mediocre films. They almost feel like the Roger Corman of making a movie that just exists and everyone forgets about. They just churn out project after project that feel like they were written in two days and filmed in four days. John C. Reilly battling an autistic Jonah Hill shouldn't have been this average.
2010's Honorable Mentions: Green Zone, Holy Rollers, It's Kind of a Funny Story
2011 - CARS 2
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? Without a doubt this is one of Pixar's laziest attempt to make a movie. For the first time ever they decided to just make a cash grab. Thing is, it's not that bad. And kids will enjoy it more than we will. If you can't bring yourself to believe me, just compare it to Planes in order to give it validated placement on the rating spectrum.
2011's Honorable Mentions: Contagion, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Martha Marcy May Marlene
2012 - LAWLESS
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? I don't think I've ever seen a period piece with flatter coloring, so-so acting, and generic storytelling than this one. It is the $8.99 K-Mart jeans of movies. They don't look that good on you, and they'll eventually fall apart, but you will get to work without everyone seeing your junk, I guess.
2012's Honorable Mentions: The Guilt Trip, Seven Psychopaths, Wanderlust
2013- BLUE JASMINE
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? Should it be that big of a surprise that Woody Allen produced a mediocre movie in 2013? The guy makes a movie literally every year. I'm sure there are 10 other movies of his I could have added to this list but I just haven't seen them. I think the idea for this film was to scrape together every cliché family drama storyline Woody could think of off the top of his head, and then let an Oscar wining Cate Blanchett give the movie some meaningful relevance. You put Cameron Diaz in that role and this thing drops from mediocre to terrible pretty quickly.
2013's Honorable Mentions: Don Jon, Elysium, Bad Grandpa
2014 - LABOR DAY
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? Jason Reitman managed to turn a movie about an escaped convict teaching a lonely housewife how to make peach pies into a movie that I actually didn't mind watching. Did I dream this movie...? ...No, I just checked IMDb, it is definitely there. Wow.
2014's Honorable Mentions: The Gambler, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Skeleton Twins
2015 - EDDIE THE EAGLE
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? Sports movies are really easy to make mediocre. They all follow basically the same formula. I mean, it's a formula that people like to watch, but inspirational sports movies tend not to try to reinvent the wheel too much. Watching an underdog overcome adversity in order to achieve (at least personal) success is a staple of the mediocre genres. "Remember *this* footnote in sports history? Well, let's stretch his life story out for two hours somehow and move on to the next guy. The people will kind of like it!"
2015's Honorable Mentions: Burnt, Bridge of Spies, True Story
2016 - JANE GOT A GUN
What makes it so beautifully mediocre? If everything about this movie ended up working out how it was supposed to, maybe... just MAYBE, it could have been slightly above average. But as the directors, cinematographers, and cast members starting collectively backing out of the room slowly, all we were left with was Natalie Portman still determined to do her weird passion project for some reason. I mean, it's alright. But was it worth all the trouble?
2016's Honorable Mentions: Money Monster, Demolition, Midnight Special
Good luck finding a phone booth these days :-)
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i rate movies by the friend zone factor. if they are mediocre, they are the friend that asks to borrow your lawnmower once in a while.
You don't remember why they ask, and you'd rather not ask because you don't really care.
Good movies they can stay in my living room and drink with me. Why? Because you care about the character. There's no more character development anymore.(especially the bad guys)
[Scott Roberts] "it kind of lacks any defining features."
I think I may disagree with that more than anything you've ever written that's not about Gravity.
Dolores Umbridge is one of the great villains of the series, the introductions of Luna Lovegood* and BELLATRIX LESTRANGE (who redefines gonzo even by Helena Bonham Carter standards, which is saying a LOT), the death of Sirius Black, one of Alan Rickman's strongest outings, and that's just off the top of my head.
*I really thought that hers was a breakout performance, so I just doublechecked: the New York Times called her "spellbinding", which sounds about right. I might also be prejudiced because in one of those "Which character/Beatle/pizza topping, tartan plaid are you" quizzes, it turns out that I am in fact Luna Lovegood, which delights me endlessly to this very day. The only one of these that's ever rung true.
A nice summation of the proceedings from LA Weekly: "The darkest and most menacing by far of the five Potter films, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is also the only series entry outside of the third, Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that feels like the product of a vivid cinematic imagination and not just a slavishly faithful transposition of a runaway kid-lit best-seller. "
I agree. This was an actual film, and not just a movie -- with me being the first to admit that I almost always prefer "movies". I'd put it high on my list of the year's best. In fact, just doublechecking the Oscar noms that year (here), I think it's pretty much this and No Country for Old Men duking it out for the top spot, with Harry (and Luna) getting the nod over Javier Bardem's haircut.
(I'm not including any non-Oscar nominees in that consideration, since of course lots of any year's best pictures are never in the running. But I'd have to do ACTUAL work to look those up because frankly, everything before last Wednesday is kind of a blur to me.)
I'll keep it at this to stay within the spirit of capsule reviews. That's about as capsule-y as I get, I think.
But I LOVE this idea!!! I'm definitely going to poke at it some more and come back with a few of my own to add to this undistinguished list.
[Tim Wilson] "I think I may disagree with that more than anything you've ever written that's not about Gravity."
I thought you disliked my Snowpiercer praise more than anything I said about Gravity! ;)
Alright, I accept your Order of the Phoenix argument!
Just at the time of me making that list, I really thought to myself "What happened in that one?" Now you've refreshed me. I do remember a fun wand battle at the end, at the very least.
Still, I like other Potter entries much more. If I have it my way, Prisoner of Azkaban was the best Potter film, and Goblet of Fire was the best Potter movie. Wait, Azkaban was directed by Alfonso Cuarón? Oh no, we're back to Gravity talk!