Exclaim!'s 9 Most Disappointing Movies of 2016 2016 in Lists

Exclaim!'s 9 Most Disappointing Movies of 2016 2016 in Lists
For all of the great and underrated pop culture that popped up in 2016, the year still sucked. And that sucky-ness seeped its way into movies too. There were plenty of cinematic let-downs throughout the year — movies that showed promise before leaving us feeling dead inside. Here are 9 of those films. We're not even mad, just disappointed.

9. I Saw the Light
(dir. by Marc Abraham)

The subject and genre didn't build up hopes for this movie. Every year, music biopics come out and can be good, great, or awful. In 2016, we had three in quick succession: the great Born to Be Blue, the middling Miles Ahead, and I Saw the Light, a movie whose performers at least promised some quality. Generally, Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen deserve a class of film worthy of talents. (Then again, after the former's cringey "They watch The Night Manager in South Sudan, too" Golden Globes speech, who's really to say what he deserves these days?) But this retelling of the life of country music star Hank Williams can't even sell out to convention properly. Instead, the leads offer muddled accents, making this worse than a Walk the Line retread. (Read more.)
James Brotheridge

8. American Honey
(dir. by Andrea Arnold)

American Honey is a frustrating watch: a nearly three-hour, meandering journey in a van across the American South that desperately wants to paint a rich tapestry of the lives of disenfranchised youth. Scenes that seem to confront capitalism, appropriation and classism never pay out in a meaningful way, there is no character development or growth and plot threads are introduced and never resolved. The film's cinematography is beautiful and sweeping, and a scene in which protagonist Star parties with some rich Texans is the film's best, and would do well as a twenty-minute short. The rest of American Honey, however, plays out like a film your cool but clueless aunt made about "the magic of today's youth." (Read more.)
Laura Di Girolamo

7. American Pastoral
(dir. by Ewan McGregor)

Without question, first-time directors deserve a modicum of patience while they work out the kinks in their craft. But when said director is a veteran actor, and when they fail on this spectacular of a level, it's tough to forgive. They said that Philip Roth's novel was "unfilmable," and they were right. Here, Ewan McGregor has crafted one of the most inept films to hit the screen in years. The acting, lighting and pacing are all off, and Dakota Fanning is downright offensive as a young woman with a speech impediment. The film is so bad that it's almost worth a watch, but that doesn't mean we're not deeply disappointed in Mr. McGregor's directorial debut. (Read more.)
Josiah Hughes

6. Wiener-Dog
(dir. by Todd Solondz)

There was a time, probably right around the release of his 1998 masterpiece Happiness, when writer-director Todd Solondz seemed like one of the most audacious and daring filmmakers out there. But then he could never seem to escape the daunting presence of his own shadow, bringing back characters from his breakthrough debut Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness in later efforts Palindromes and Life During Wartime respectively, and generally just treading water. And with this year's Wiener-Dog, here is Solondz again having the character of Dawn Wiener from Dollhouse return (this time played by Greta Gerwig, and despite the fact that Wiener was killed off in Palindromes) for yet another encore no one requested. While the film does have some inspired moments of pitch-black humour, it's impossible to shake the feeling that what once seemed bold has now grown rather boring and that Solondz seems increasingly incapable of making films without leaning on the crutch of his successful past efforts. (Read more.)
Kevin Scott

5. The Neon Demon
(dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn)

The Neon Demon is one of the most stunning, visually arresting films I've ever seen, and one could argue that its substance being secondary to its style is a moot point. But The Neon Demon can't work visually if it doesn't work thematically, and there are a number of ideas introduced that don't lead to a satisfying conclusion or payoff. Is the film about the high-stakes modelling world preying on the innocent, or is innocence a construct that savvy young women use to manipulate men? It doesn't really commit to either idea, and although The Neon Demon is a dreamy mess, it's so incredibly gorgeous that it's worth a watch if you can turn off the part of your brain that wants to make sense of it all. (Read more.)
Laura Di Girolamo