Everyone has taken that soul-sucking job in order to pay the bills. And while we proles may tease them for living the glamorous life, actors probably take that job more often than anyone, since they never know when the next job is going to come. (Case in point: Michael Madsen told us that he categorizes the movies he’s made as “good,” “bad,” and “unwatchable.”) Putting this theory to the test, we scoured the filmographies of this year’s nominees in the acting categories, looking for movie titles that screamed ‘bad idea.,’ and we were not disappointed with what we found. Jesse Eisenberg, for example, did a TV movie called “Lightning: Fire from the Sky,” which will be the main feature at our next Bad Movie night. Here are ten other films that this year’s candidates would probably prefer remained unseen.
Colin Firth (Best Actor, “The King’s Speech”)
Movie: Femme Fatale (1991)
IMDb rating: 4.6
The plot: An English artist-turned park ranger falls for and marries a stranger, only for her to disappear days later. As he learns more about his wife, he gets deeper and deeper into the Los Angeles underworld looking for clues that will lead him to her.
Firth’s character: Joe Prince, the aforementioned artist/ranger.
How bad is it?: You may not see the ending coming, but that is about the only thing this movie has going for it. Armed with one of the most awkward love scenes we’ve seen in ages, this movie does not gel on any level, using mental illness as a means of providing psychological depth, not to mention Acting!, with that last word ideally spoken like Jon Lovitz. Firth is actually passable here, given the material, and Danny Trejo pops up as a tattoo artist. But you can bet that when someone assembles a clip show of Firth’s finest moments, this movie will not make the cut.
Jeremy Renner (Best Supporting Actor, “The Town”)
Movie: National Lampoon’s Senior Trip (1995)
IMDb rating: 4.9
The plot: A group of delinquent kids takes a bus trip to Washington D.C. to tell the President first-hand what is wrong with the education system, something a couple of corrupt politicians intend to exploit.
Renner’s character: Mark “Dags” D’agostino, a slacker stoner. With pierced ears.
How bad is it?: Put it this way: the first actor listed in the credits is Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer, and the movie’s few laughs come from Tommy Chong as the drug-addled bus driver. On the “National Lampoon” movie scale, this one lands somewhere in between “Class Reunion” and “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj.”
James Franco (Best Actor, “127 Hours”)
Movie: Whatever It Takes (2000)
IMDb rating: 5.2
The plot: Geek wants unattainable babe, jock wants geek’s unattainable neighbor friend next door. Geek and jock strike deal to help each other out, even though it’s clear that neither couple belongs together.
Franco’s character: Chris Campbell, the jock, natch.
How bad is it?: It’s not bad so much as it’s dull. It’s bad too, but mostly dull. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe is a lovely physical specimen, but she has the screen presence of a black hole, while Franco is stuck doing a character similar to Andrew Keegan’s Joey from “10 Things I Hate About You,” which came out the previous year. No one here has much personality, not even the geek’s even geekier friends (played by “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul and Tom Hanks’ son Colin). There is a reason this movie only made about half of its $15 million budget back at the box office.
Nicole Kidman (Best Actress, “Rabbit Hole”)
Movie: BMX Bandits (1983)
IMDb rating: 4.8
The plot: Three teenagers looking to make some quick money unwittingly steal walkie talkies from a crime lord who needs the walkies for a Big Score.
Kidman’s character: Judy, the plucky girl who loves happy endings. And BMX bikes.
How bad is it?: The first half is actually pretty decent. The kids’ dialogue is snappy and the three leads – one of whom, no joke, is named Angelo D’Angelo – are all quite likable. The second half, however, is just ridiculous, as the kids are chased by two Keystone cop-type goons. The director does some interesting POV shots, but he scores every bike jump with a synthesized swoosh. Also, Kidman’s bike double is clearly a dude.
John Hawkes (Best Supporting Actor, “Winter’s Bone”)
Movie: Future-Kill (1985)
IMDb rating: 3.5
The plot: A group of frat boys go into New York City to pull a prank, only to by hunted by a homicidal mutant.
Hawkes’ character: The Light Man, though we have no idea where this name comes from since has neither lights nor cigarettes. He’s just a kid dancing at a fraternity party. But what is that robe thing he’s wearing?
How bad is it?: Sweet Jesus, is this movie bad. The tone is all over the place, the story steals from roughly half a dozen other movies, and the title makes no sense, as there is nothing futuristic about it. As many people have pointed out, the best thing about this movie is the poster that H.R. Giger designed for it, though even that poster makes no sense in context with the movie.
Michelle Williams (Best Actress, “Blue Valentine”)
Movie: Timemaster (1995)
IMDb rasting: 3.8
The plot: A time traveling boy must stop an alien race from manipulating humans into blowing up their own planet.
Williams’ character: Anna. And that’s all we know.
How bad is it?: As you can tell, we weren’t able to actually get our hands on this one (the movie’s all over the torrent sites, but those things make our computers itchy), and while that would normally be grounds for exclusion from a piece like this, the trailer is just too ridiculous to pass up. Looking like some strange, cheap hybrid of “The Quick & the Dead” and Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Wild, Wild West,” “Timemaster” blends post-apocalyptic goons with sci-fi gadgetry and, for some reason, backflipping skiers. And apparently the plot has something to do with virtual reality, which was B-movie law in 1995. And the only thing that makes this trailer more awesome is watching it en Espanol. Thank you, God.
Mark Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor, “The Kids Are All Right”)
Movie: Mirror, Mirror II: Raven Dance (1994)
IMDb rating: 3.9
The plot: A girl and her mentally challenged brother live in an orphanage, and the girl discovers that a mysterious mirror is capable of granting wishes, but at a price (dunt dunt duuuuuunh).
Ruffalo’s character: Christian, a benevolent boy in a puffy shirt who may or may not be a physical manifestation of the mirror itself.
How bad is it?: As horror movies go, this is as scare-free as they come, and the subtitle “Raven Dance” doesn’t really apply, except for the fact that a raven occasionally comes out of the mirror, and the lead actress occasionally dances. Ruffalo doesn’t fare too badly as the mysterious Christian, but the movie around him makes no sense. Ruffalo would return for a third “Mirror Mirror”…as a different character, which must be a recurring theme for this series since William Sanderson (“True Blood”) did the same thing in the first two installments.
Jeff Bridges (Best Actor, “True Grit”)
Movie: The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go (1970)
IMDb rating: 3.9
The plot: James Mason is Y.Y. Go, a half-Mexican, half-Chinese (ha ha ha ha!) power broker who blackmails an American ballistics expert into giving up blueprints for a cutting-edge weapon, but has a sudden change of heart.
Bridges’ character: Nero Finnegan, an aspiring writer and draft dodger who is lured into doing seedy work for Go for some quick cash.
How bad is it?: Did we mention that the movie was narrated by Buddha? Man oh man, is this gonzo. Written and directed by Burgess Meredith (yep, the Penguin himself), the movie actually delves into some pretty taboo stuff for the time (Bridges seduces the ballistics expert, and his girlfriend is molested by a female cop), but at the same time, it is completely scattershot. Bridges complains that his girlfriend is late, even though he has three hookers in his apartment. The government’s plan to get close to Finnegan is to have an agent pose as a publisher who’s interested in his work, as if that isn’t at all suspicious. The is one loony movie, but on the plus side, there are several shots of Irene Tsu’s perky breasts, so it has that going for it. That, and its fabulous “Age of Aquarius”-type theme song.
Helena Bonham Carter (Best Supporting Actress, “The King’s Speech”
Movie: Francesco (1989)
IMDb rating: 6.0
The plot: A group of Franciscans attempt to document the life of St. Francis of Assisi, a wealthy playboy who became a saint.
Carter’s character: Chiana, the young lass who tries to understand his need to live the life of a possessionless pauper.
How bad is it?: Well, Rourke doesn’t have an English accent, and his hair looks like he just shot an episode of “Miami Vice” (we’re pretty sure we saw a tattoo as well, and an earring), but Carter does her part to lend an air of legitimacy to it all, even if it’s rather ponderous. And while her appearance is probably historically accurate, you have to think that Carter winces in horror whenever she sees pictures of herself from this movie. Especially those manbrows. And check out that synthtastic score by Vangelis!
Amy Adams (Best Supporting Actress, “The Fighter”)
Movie: Psycho Beach Party (2000)
IMDb rating: 6.0
The plot: A ’60s surf movie parody where an atypical teenage girl wants to learn how to surf while a serial killer lurks among them.
Adams’ character: Marvel Ann, a shallow harpy looking for an MRS degree and will use all of her feminine wiles to get it.
How bad is it?: We picked this one solely for its title, expecting it to be all camp but no wit. And dog our cats, but this one turned out to be pretty awesome. Seriously, we’re not sure how this one did not appear on our radar earlier, considering it has a regular from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Nicholas Brendon), Los Straitjackets as the band during the luau scene, and Thomas Gibson (!) playing a beatnik rhyming version of The Dude. And if that weren’t enough, Lauren Ambrose plays not one, not two, but three characters, and they’re all great. (We can’t tell you how excited we are that she’s in the upcoming season of “Torchwood.”) Ah, but right, this piece is supposed to be about Adams. She gets to show off her dance moves, and her hourglass figure; what’s not to love? She’s made much worse movies than this, that’s for sure. Take “Leap Year,” for example.