Before we get to the very worst film of 2012, here (listed in alphabetical order) are seventeen dishonorable mentions, a cinematic Hall of Shame:
- “Being Flynn,” an overacting contest (with no winners) between Paul Dano, the falsest young actor in Hollywood, and Robert De Niro, a sad parody of his former self.
- “The Cold Light of Day,” a grossly incompetent thriller in which everything is explained to the hero in one scene and he re-explains it to his love interest in the next, ending with an egregious instance of the Talking Killer fallacy, in which the villain, rather than simply shooting the hero, stops to trash-talk him first; David Cronenberg’s tedious and incomprehensible.
- “Cosmopolis,” with transitions so abrupt you wonder whether the projectionist has pulled a practical joke; the staggeringly unfunny.
- “Damsels in Distress” by Whit Stillman, whose idea of satire is 20-year-old collegians who think the name Xavier starts with a “Z,” and don’t know what color their own eyes are; Lawrence and Meg Kasdan’s.
- “Darling Companion,” a stunning comedown from their collaboration on 1991’s great “Grand Canyon,” and a film that (even for one who grew up among Westside sybarites oblivious to their own privilege) reflects a jaw-dropping sense of entitlement and completely misplaced priorities; the suffocating Australian import.
- “The Eye of the Storm,” which looks like it was made for public television thirty years ago and makes you feel old and sad just watching it.
- “The Five-Year Engagement,” a rare movie I walked out on, co-starring the most mismatched couple of the year (Emily Blunt and Jason Segel) in a script in which nobody, no matter how small their part, behaves remotely like a human being.
- “For A Good Time, Call…,” a phone-sex comedy of gratuitous vulgarity, wholly devoid of laughs.
- “4:44 Last Day on Earth,” by the played-out provocateur Abel Ferrara, which manages to make nuclear apocalypse a matter of apathetic ennui, with Willem Dafoe as a romantic lead (never a good idea) who expresses Ferrara’s vapid ideas by talking to himself on his rooftop.
- “The Grey,” a gruesome game of Ten Little Indians whose morally bankrupt raison d’être is to make you wonder which of several men will next be eaten alive by a pack of wolves.
- “The Inbetweeners,” a despicable, woman-hating British teen sex comedy that plays like a sixth or seventh sequel to “Porky’s”.
- “Just 45 Minutes From Broadway,” the nadir of Henry Jaglom’s obsession with girlfriend Tanna Frederick, in which Jaglom not only tolerates but actively encourages the hysterics and histrionics of his horrible cast.
- the arch, twee “Moonrise Kingdom,” another Wes Anderson dollhouse of a movie with no room (or desire) for genuine human behavior or emotion.
- the astonishingly inept “Dreamgirls” wannabe “Sparkle,” which left us with the lingering memory of Whitney Houston reciting lines such as “Never once was I laying in my own vomit!” in a performance campy enough to evoke memories of Faye Dunaway in “Mommie Dearest”.
- “Stand Up Guys,” 95 minutes of dead air that’s as torturous to sit through as a look at the cast list (Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin) would lead you to surmise, taking place in an alternate universe in which, when an ex-hitman dies at 4 in the morning, there’s a bulldozer on call to dig his cemetery plot.
- the preposterous, downright laughable “Taken 2,” at the end of which Liam Neeson (squandering a career’s worth of audience goodwill) finally has his mortal enemy looking down the barrel of his gun, at which point he proposes, “If you give me your word that you’ll let me go, I’ll lay down my gun”.
- and the exasperatingly lethargic indie bomb “The Trouble With Bliss,” so intent on saddling each of its characters with a DSM’s worth of quirks it doesn’t care that they come off as brain-dead. Lucy Liu plays a marketing executive who asks Morris, the lead, to test a product, “you know, that Mexican food with the tomatoes and the white stuff.” “Salsa?” he asks. “Yeah, salsa.” Later, a New York girl Morris hooked up with swings by his apartment. “Did you bring me Brie?” he asks her. “No, it’s cheese,” she replies. “I think it’s French.”
But the single worst film of 2012 - the only film to receive a rating of 1/2 star - is the dehumanized and soul-deadening "The Raid: Redemption,” a genuinely depressing video game of a movie, 100 minutes of brutal knife and gun deaths, presented virtually without context, in loving detail, often for laughs.
The screenwriting – replete with typos, punctuation errors, and “all your base are belong to us” grammar – makes “Street Fighter” seem Joycean by comparison.
Quickly, boredom sets in, but not just boredom: a numbness, a desensitization to violence and death that pains the conscience.
Its ultrahip amorality finds its voice in the sinister purr of the contented sociopath. I’ll bet Adam Lanza would have loved it.