The Most Overrated Films of 2009

Weak years tend to bring out overpraise in those desperately in want of a great film. That's not to say 2009 was a weak year, quite the opposite, but when it comes to mainstream Oscar-bait, 2009 was downright lousy. Hence, a lot of mediocre films started getting inexplicably large amounts of praise.

Now a lot of people I like and respect really love some of these films, so as always take my opinion with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that not all of these are bad films (although some are), but I just think they're consistently seen as being better than I thought they were. Here are the films of 2009 that I feel are overrated.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDSHow did this exercise in Tarantinian cinematic masturbation end up as one of the five frontrunners for Best Picture? There are moments of Tarantino's genius on display here (the opening sequence is one of the finest of the year), but by the end it get buried in subplots and Tarantino's self-indulgence.

AN EDUCATIONIn any other year, Lone Scherfig's nice little coming of age drama would have disappeared without a trace. It's well produced, perfectly respectable, and features some fine performances, but we've been down this road before.

THE BEACHES OF AGNESWhy is renowned French New Wave director Agnes Varda talking to an animated cat? Your guess is as good as mine. I think general goodwill for the adorably elfin director led to the effusive praise heaped on it by critics. If anyone else had made this...god help them. I keep meaning to revisit it to see what I missed, if anything. Maybe someday I'll see what everyone else sees.

A PROPHETIt pains me to say that this will probably beat Michael Haneke's brilliant The White Ribbon for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars, but it seems a likely scenario at this point. That being said, it's probably the best film on this list, but I never felt its pseudo-supernatural "prophet" angle really came together or made any thematic sense. It's a solid film, but all the praise its getting just seems like overkill.

OF TIME AND THE CITYArtistic tone poem cinematic memoir, or painfully pretentious bore? I'm going with the latter.

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCEAnother Soderbergh diddle that seems like a sidetracked artistic exercise in style over substance.

WATCHMENOutside of that opening montage, this thing is a complete atrocity. Seriously.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITYHype, hype, hype, all for this? Yes the nighttime haunting scenes are effective, but the rest of the movie is strictly amateur hour.


You certainly do not pull punches.

I'm in agreement with you on Watchmen. I do not think it made anyone's best list.

The Girlfriend Experience had good acting in need of a plot to balance it. It just went no where.

All the subplots from Inglourious Basterds converged towards the end of the film. His self-indulgence pulls back on the final scene in the film. You have to admit that forest scene was well shot.

Was An Education hyped and for that matter, over-hyped? I heard very little about the film outside of reviews and a trailer. I never saw a commercial or an ad for the film on anyone's website.

I actually made a worst list for this year but decided not to post it. Since studios send me screeners, they might not like their films appearing on that list (which easily could be called the garbage list).
Black Sheep said…
I can't say I agree with you about An Education or The Girlfriend Experience - both films I wish more people had seen. I applaud you for blasting Inglorious Basterds. I could not agree with you more.
Mattie Lucas said…
@Film-Book - I get screeners too, but I don't want to disrespect them or my readers by dishonestly praising something I don't like. I would hate to end up being a studio shill. Besides, I think my ratio of positive to negative reviews is pretty equal. I do feel guilty sometimes, especially if I really don't like a film a small, independent source asked me to review, or if it comes highly touted by a publicist I like, but it's part of the game, and I think they know that.

And "An Education" has been hyped in critical circles, it has made a lot of top ten lists and has gotten a lot of Oscar buzz.

@Black Sheep - I just don't get the "Basterds" love. It's on top ten after top ten...and it baffles me.
Ryan McNeil said…
Glad to see that someone else has finally called out THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. I'm a big Soderbergh fan, and I can't believe how profoundly shallow this film was. Pretty photography, but nobody in it says or does anything worth the price of admission.
Bigg said…
I realize this isn't gonna win me any points, but I kinda liked Paranormal Activity. The ending felt rather tacked-on, though.
Sam Juliano said…
Some good choices for the list, no doubt about it!

But of course I am a big fan of Davies's poetic OF TIME AND THE CITY, and find the inclusion of the Audiard film rather bizarre. But I will see it first before I even attempt to take you to task, even gentle ribbing.
That's why there are many films that I have seen that I just do not review. Its a waste of my time.

I also figured out a way to post my worst list that should not offend the powers that be.

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