December 31, 2004

Worst of 2004

By Martin Tsai

• Policy changes at Telefilm Canada seem to further endanger our film industry. The productions it has bankrolled – including this year’s Intern Academy, Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed, 19 Months, Going the Distance, Hollywood North, The Blue Butterfly, The Delicate Art of Parking, Nothing, Moving Malcolm, Luck, Wilby Wonderful, Twist, A Silent Love and Emile – herald the new wave of artistic bankruptcy in homegrown cinema. Not sure what’s worse: the fact that our tax dollars go to fund these films, or the fact that grassroots campaigns like the First Weekend Club urge us to also pay full admission prices to suffer through them.

• Documentary features’ appeal has broadened considerably, and filmmakers like Michael Moore, Errol Morris and Morgan Spurlock have become cultural icons. But as with any genre, this one has its share of stinkers. The amateurish What Remains of Us, Go Further and What the Bleep Do We Know? fail to make compelling cases for their respective agendas, but they at least score some points for their admirable causes. Ones that don’t even attempt to illustrate the social relevance of their subjects – such as Broadway: The Golden Age and Words of My Perfect Teacher – turn out to be torturously self-indulgent trivial pursuits.

• The all-media assaults of no-talent multi-hyphenate Barbie-incarnates like the Olsen twins, Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan comprise the year’s most mind-boggling trend. Backlashes against Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé Knowles almost seem premature – at least those two have marginal talents and the good sense not to pile their clothing lines onto the racks at Wal-Mart and Zellers. Mean Girls notwithstanding, these young divas have flooded the multiplexes with after-school specials that should have gone straight to video.

• This year has seen many spectacularly worthless piece-of-trash sequels such as The Whole Ten Yards, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Alien vs. Predator and Exorcist: The Beginning. Singling out Resident Evil: Apocalypse as the worst of the lot would be almost unfair if it weren’t for the fact that it is the offspring of a film based on a video game.

Shakespeare In Love has blazed the trail for the genre of revisionist historical dramas. But unlike its imitators, the film is just mostly harmless fluff. This year’s Stage Beauty and Finding Neverland become vehicles for their respective screenwriters to project their own questionable morals. These scribes abuse the authenticity often associated with fact-based dramas by playing fast and loose with historical facts and figures to serve their purposes. While Neverland misguidedly promotes denial and escapism as sensible ways to cope with personal tragedy, it’s not nearly as offensive as Stage Beauty which urges all minorities to seek refuge in the closet for the sake of acceptance.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.