10 Things I Like About 10 Bad 2013 Movies


I’m not a fan of “bottom ten” or “ten worst” lists. I don’t enjoy reading them because they typically pound the same films and are by necessity a little mean-spirited. I don’t enjoy writing them because I avoid the worst of the worst. I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually took in one of the consensus ten worst films in a given year.

This list is a feeble attempt to direct the “ten worst” conversation elsewhere. Let’s face it: movies are awesome, and even the worst ones have things about them worth celebrating. So I’ve identified my ten least favorite movies of 2013 and wrote not about why I dislike them so much, but rather what redeeming qualities they had:

10.) White House Down‘s ridiculousness
In the battle of dueling action films that blew up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen won monetarily (indisputable) and creatively (my opinion). And while both films are relatively mindless, only one is truly ridiculous. While I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t care to be subjected to Olympus Has Fallen‘s self-seriousness again. It’s too dour for its own good. Roland Emmerich’s film, however, has charm, and if push came to shove, I’d give it another go. It’s silly, but that silliness works in its favor more often than it doesn’t.

9.) Robert Patrick’s performance in Lovelace
I’m happy Lovelace went there. You have to address the family when you’re making a film like this, and as Linda’s father, Robert Patrick gets at both the disappointment he feels and the unconditional love he nonetheless holds in his heart for her. The phone call between he and Amanda Seyfried near the film’s conclusion is a pretty powerful moment.

8.) The Reluctant Fundamentalist‘s superb source material
I struggled with what to do for this film because it doesn’t really have much going for it, but nothing is exceptionally terrible, either. So I’ll use this space to mention that the novel upon which Mira Nair’s latest is based is fantastic. If the movie’s existence leads to even one more person reading the book, I’ll take it.

7.) Lindsay Burdge’s A Teacher performance
Writer-director Hannah Fidell doesn’t tell us much about the titular character in her indie drama. Instead, she lets her lead actress, Burdge, give us all the exposition we need with her lead performance. It’s very good work.

6.) Berberian Sound Studio‘s haunting sound design
Like De Palma’s Blow Out, this little English horror flick is about sound design and properly features outstanding sound design itself. It’s not hard to understand why poor Toby Jones was losing it…

5.) Richard Jenkins’s and Nick Nolte’s performances in The Company You Keep
When Shia Labeouf isn’t cavorting around pretending to be a world-class journalist, The Company You Keep focuses on Robert Redford, an old Weather Underground member who slipped into society undetected for three decades. Once his secret becomes public knowledge, he attempts to evade the authorities, and he needs the help of some fellow colleagues-in-hiding. Enter Jenkins and Nolte, who seem right at home. Their (too few) scenes feel very 1970s paranoid-thriller-esque.

4.) The wild movie premiere scene in Broken City
The only real so-bad-its-good entry on the list is this whopper of a scene from Allen Hughes’s early-2013 dramatic thriller. Midway through the film, Mark Wahlberg’s character attends the world premiere of his girlfriend’s indie movie. She has a few sex scenes. He doesn’t like it.

What ensues is acting (and writing) at its most hilariously awful. Wahlberg screams, drunkenly, at everyone he sees and a few inanimate objects, and eventually, he breaks up with her. It’s a scene that must be seen to be believed. Many, many details about this film have escaped me in the months since I watched it, but I won’t forget that scene any time soon.

3.) Ellen Page’s Touchy Feely performance
I’m typically allergic to the charms of Ms. Page, but in Touchy Feely, writer-director Lynn Shelton’s latest, I started to get it. She’s more subdued than she was in Juno, but not lifeless, like she was in Inception. It’s an underwritten role, I’d argue, but she makes it her own.

2.) The visually interesting grading system in The English Teacher
Most of Craig Zisk’s romantic comedy starring Julianne Moore and Greg Kinnear is too cutesy, but the way in which the mousy Moore character assigns letter grades to the men she dates is rather amusing and a nice flourish in an otherwise formally uninteresting movie.

1.) Escape From Tomorrow‘s gorgeous cinematography
The movie that probably shouldn’t exist. I wish it didn’t, but that’s another story. Here, I’m talking about Escape From Tomorrow‘s moody images, which convey the sense of foreboding Randy Moore is trying to capture. Say what you will about the rest of the film (I said plenty here), but it does look pretty damn terrific.

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