Most years, I come to the end of our 12 months together in filmdom and end up picking a smallish, nearly flawless picture for my No.1 slot. Then there’s a larger, more expansive, more obviously imperfect No. 2. This year, “The Rider,” #1; “Roma,” #2.” See?
“Worst” lists are different. I don’t seem to veer in a particular direction for those, though nothing stings like a terrible comedy. Then again, at this point in the Marvel and DC superhero cycles (three clicks past the rinse cycle, and one click the right of “enough already”), there’s something especially grinding about a franchise product rollout that holds next to nothing for you, personally. It’s all personal, of course. Criticism is subjectivity, not objectivity.
With this exception: These 10 films really were the stinkin’ worst.
10. “Red Sparrow.” A lugubrious semester spent in what Jennifer Lawrence’s Mata Hari knockoff describes as “whore school.”
9. “Death Wish.” Sleaziest reboot of the year. Vigilante slaughter as self-actualization therapy. Director Eli Roth is a moral idiot.
8. “Rampage.” Joel Coen describes a director’s job as “tone management.” For the year’s worst example of tone mismanagement, try the Dwayne Johnson/killer gorilla movie, cute one minute, punishing the next.
7. “The 15:17 to Paris.” Clint Eastwood couldn’t figure out how to tell this true-life, good-news, anti-terrorism story, but he went ahead and started filming anyway.
6. “Aquaman.” Even with a talented, versatile director (James Wan) at the helm, this one feels like being trapped in a Wisconsin Dells water park for, like, a week.
5. “Avengers: Infinity War.” Two billion dollars in the coffers can’t possibly indicate a granite slab of mediocrity, can it? Can it?
4. “Welcome to Marwen.” See the documentary on Mark Hogancamp’s life and work sometime; the Hollywood version, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Steve Carell, turns everything to creepy sentimentality.
3. “Death of a Nation.” Dinesh D’Souza’s Trump infomercial equates the president’s accomplishments with those of Abraham Lincoln’s. No more need be said at this time.
2. “Life Itself.” From the creator of “This is Us” comes the most resent-able romantic weepie of the year.
1. “The Happytime Murders.” Brutally unfunny revenge on the Muppets, starring Melissa McCarthy, who also led one of the year’s best films, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Which proves the axiom: Everything truly wrong with a movie goes wrong long before the actors are called to the set.