Top 10 overrated films of the decade

When does a decade begin and end, anyway? The truth is no-one knows. Superior minds have puzzled over it for years and the only consensus to be reached is that a decade consists of ten consecutive years. My own eminently sensible method of decade detection involves counting from one to ten in the usual manner, only adding two or three numbers at the front.

And so we bring you the ten most overrated films of the ‘noughties’ (and something inside me cries out in anguish just typing that horrid word), which means the years 2001-2010 for those not paying attention. The titles on this list are not necessarily bad films (though some of them are). Most are actually okay, like the American version of The Office, or Bob Geldof. It’s just that they aren’t amazing… yet people think they are.

People are morons.

10. Bad Santa (2003)

Sounds all right…

The premise and credentials for this darkly comic Christmas fable couldn’t be more stellar: Sultan of Cynical Billy Bob Thornton stars as the titular grinch in a fat suit, Terry (Ghost World) Zwigoff directs, even the Coen brothers could be found lurking around the set in their role as Executive Producers. Add the smirk-inducing Bernie Mac and you’d think you’ve got a fried piece of comedy gold on your hands.

So what’s the problem?

They forgot to bring the funny. And you can blame writers Glenn Ficara and John Requa for that. Everyone else seems game enough, and Thornton predictably gives good festive grump, but when your showpiece gags all seem to revolve around how amusing little people look when dressed up as elves, you’ve no right to be acclaimed as one of the cult comedies of the decade. Fact.

9. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Sounds all right…

Break-out roles a go go in this serving of Oscar-baiting whimsy: Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano, Steve Carell taking the obligatory shot at playing it straight (but not that straight, guffaw) – all boosted their credibility as members of a ker-razily dysfunctional indie-film family.

So what’s the problem?

By god this film is pleased with itself. Funnyman Steve Carell playing a suicidal gay fellow, esteemed veteran Alan Arkin getting his heroin-sniff on, Paul Dano having no lines to learn because his character has taken a vow of silence… look up ‘quirky’ in the dictionary and if dictionaries had pictures it would have a picture of something else, probably. Look up ‘contrived’, though…

8. Red Road (2006)

Sounds all right…

Heavily relevant drama in which a Glaswegian copper finds herself obsessed with a man she spots during her late-night shift ogling CCTV feeds down the station. Andrea Arnold won plaudits galore for her shocking début feature.

So what’s the problem?

Dogme on a council estate, and exactly as pretentious as that sounds. The dramatic tension – such as it is – serves only as a conduit for the film’s central message, which is “Life is grim, and about to get grimmer”. Hey ho.

7. Igby Goes Down (2002)

Sounds all right…

Grown up comedy-drama starring a Culkin – and this one can act. Macauley’s brother Kieran is joined by character stalwarts Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman in this post-Ferris take on teenage rebellion, as Igby battles New York, the World, and life itself in order to find the meaning of his 17-year old existence.

So what’s the problem?

Actually, I’ll just refer you to the above paragraph. Also, an incredibly smug aura of entitlement does not a great performance make, Kieran. No matter how shit your brother is.

6. Red (2010)

Sounds all right…

Bruce Willis takes on the archetypal mantle of retired operative-type coerced by means of a nefarious nature into doing that always-tricky ‘final job’. Fanboys assure us the source material – a comic book, if you hadn’t guessed – is as strong as Bruce’s head is shiny, and we finally get to see Helen Mirren firing a machine gun at stuff.

So what’s the problem?

I lost count of the number of superior films this ‘borrowed from’ – no, screw that, Red outright thieves from Leon, The Bourne films, and, um, The Long Kiss Goodnight. And Mirren does not convince at all with a Heckler & Koch in her hands. Greatest actress of her generation, my arse.

5. Love Actually (2003)

Sounds all right…

An exemplary collection of some of Britain’s finest Thespians (and Martine McCutcheon from Eastender Street) compete for screen time, all the while spouting witticisms written by Richard (Blackadder) Curtis. Surely, a heart-warming take on Blair’s Britain?

So what’s the problem?

Namely, Richard (everything else) Curtis. Following up Four Weddings… and Notting Hill with further proof that Richard lives in a magical land called Curtis’s Britain, in which gutter-snipes marry Prime Ministers and charming wood-fairies fly from Hertfordshire to West London every morning delivering croissants and sunshine. Never before or since have I so craved the sight of a kitchen sink.

4. Atonement (2007)

Sounds all right…

Twisty, moralistic period piece featuring much miscommunication, though not funny like in Fawlty Towers. Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s highly respected novel turned heads with cinema-goers and award-voters alike. Features a now-legendary 5 1/2-minute long shot of the battle of Dunkirk.

So what’s the problem?

I’m no Keira Knightley-hater, I’m unfashionably happy to say. She delivered one of the most underrated performances of the decade in 2005′s The Jacket. She’s got the chops, I mean to say. But if I have to watch her breathlessly emote her way through just one more period piece I’ll be finishing (and starting) that awesome novel of mine in jail.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Sounds all right…

David Fincher reunites with his sometime muse Brad Pitt for this adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Two of the most incisive commentators on American society of their respective times, with added groundbreaking special effects goodness.

So what’s the problem?

Jesus, what a snoozefest. How do you make reversing the ageing process boring? Ask Fincher, he can tell you. The biggest travesty of all is that this is actually the first serious mis-step in his otherwise first class career… yet it’s the first of his films to be showered with award noms! I am Jack’s burning sense of resentment…

2. Crash (2004)

Sounds all right…

Writer/director Paul Haggis plots one of those multi-storied tapestries that only seem to take place in LA, as racist cops, feckless hubbies, OGs, and Thandie Newton converge for a State of the Union address. Impressed the hell out of liberals everywhere and scooped the Best Picture Oscar.

So what’s the problem?

Too many to mention, but here’s the biggie – in a genre that is over-flowing with quality fare (Magnolia, Short Cuts and so on), this is the one that the Academy decides to anoint Best Picture? Why, because it purports to tackle the subject of racism even as it unwittingly reinforces racial stereotypes? Ridiculous. Also, David Cronenberg’s 1996 film of the same name is far hotter.

1. The Hangover (2009)

Sounds all right…

Las-Vegas based comedies are usually pretty good, yeah? It’s got that bearded fellow in it who’s meant to be the shit. It’s also got Mike Tyson, tigers, and strippers. Fuck yeah.

So what’s the problem?

This is the emperor’s new clothes of noughties comedy. It smashed the box office – which, let’s be honest, isn’t unusual for a mediocre comedy. But it was practically revered by critics too, all the praise seemingly revolving around a fat bearded man essaying a man-child who got tired during the coming attractions, and Mike Tyson’s painfully unfunny karaoke version of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”. Just poor, by any decade’s standards.

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