I lost a bet* and challenged Friend 1, who won the bet, to find a worst movie for me to review than United Passions, which is possibly the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Confident in the fact that his own abilities are lacking, Friend 1 decided to reach out to Friend 2 — who he only knows in the briefest of passing – because he knows Friend 2 probably understands my movie tastes better than anyone. And thus, Friend 2 can likely best find a movie to hurt me. To really hurt me. And thus, together, did Friends 1 and 2 chose The Color of Time.
Friend 2’s rationale behind this was threefold and wholly correct:
- The film has James Franco, and I generally hate James Franco.
- The film is based on poems, which means it’s probably pretentious and I generally hate that sort of pretentious claptrap.
- The film was made by film students, and my most painful of painful movie-watching experiences typically take place at film festivals when I wind up watching some beginner’s raw film.
Putting aside where The Color of Time may objectively rank in the scale of terrible films, it is certainly stacked up to be, subjectively, the worst of all possible movies for me.
And man, it is not good.
But we’re not there yet. Because, there is one more thing to explain. So confident were Friends 1 and 2 in their selection, they made their own Book Report Bet on this very book report. Bookreportception! They made this bet with Friend 3 — he who assigned me United Passions — and Friend 4, who’s just in it for the sport of it all, to keep the number of players even. So, I know at least four people are reading this ramble-on because there’s a book report on the line.
Ok, now, let’s talk about The Color of Time. Again, it’s not good. On the plus side, one of the first things we see is an alphabetic list of six cast members: Zach Braff (meh), Bruce Campbell (Groovy!), Jessica Chastain (I will forever and ever adore her), James Franco (ugh), Henry Hopper (who-dat?) and Mila Kunis (yes please and thank you). That’s a cast that’s batting a clean .500 for me, and really only 1 out of 6 that makes me pained. So, a couple minutes into watching this, I was feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, all the rest of the minutes utterly waste everyone, giving us something that amounts to little more than a 70 minute Malick-lite exploration of some poems while ostensibly following a poet who is on a road trip and also reliving his past through poem. Or something. It’s high-falutin’ and bone boring.
Love of Freaks and Geeks aside, I generally hate James Franco, as Friend 2 knows when he painfully drug me to see Why Him? last year. Hey. Friend 2. Go fuck yourself.
But there was an interesting thing here. While he was in full pretention mode, with tons of voice-over poetry being read, he was also very quietly subdued. In finding his inner Malick, Franco manages to be non-annoying. There’s still the pretention, it’s just not a grating pretention. But as much as I was not looking forward to the Franco watching, the thing that really caused me agita about watching this movie was the film student angle.
Because. Check this. The Color of Time isn’t just any old film school project. It was written and directed by 12 — TWELVE — NYU film students! So I assumed this would be a complete and utter shitshow, an incoherent and pretentious mess. But to their credit, The Color of Time is only just a pretentious mess, as it is surprisingly coherent. While I could take a guess at bits that were written or directed by different groups of the twelve, it actually holds together fairly well. So as a student film-type thing goes, I’d give them a solid A- on the execution.
Lastly, while the movie breaks my heart by utterly and completely wasting Chastain and Kunis, Bruce Campbell’s two minutes on film are a highlight. This is in part because he spends most of it just arguing with a random gas station attendant, but mainly because his scene ends with him making fun of James Franco. So thumbs up there.
And. Well. That’s kind of all I really have to say about this movie. Because there’s not really any there there.
Now objectively, United Passions is clearly the worse movie. It’s bad from top to bottom, comes from a place of devious and manipulative intent, and offers nothing redeeming. The Color of Time, while pretentious malarkey, at least seems to be coming from a good place (if the heart of film students can be deemed “good”).
The thing is, subjectively for me, United Passions is also the worst movie. Going into this, I really and truly thought I’d deem The Color of Time my bottom of the barrel, movie nightmare. But it turns out it isn’t quite. This partly has to do with the fact that the movie is a brisk 70 minutes in and out. If you’re gonna be pretentious, at least be fast pretentious. I respect that. And while I was bored for most of the movie, the pretentious shots were at least mostly interesting to look at from a basic visual perspective, whereas United Passions is also a poorly executed piece of filmmaking.
But with United Passions, I wasn’t just bored. Rather, I vacillated wildly between bored and angry. And as the movie progressed, the anger was ever growing. I hate that movie. Fucking. Hate. The Color of Time? I find myself walking away mostly indifferent to it. It’s not good, it’s barely a movie, it’s not my cup of tea. But I’ve seen worse. Frankly, the last Malick flick I saw was more painful for me.
So, there you have it. Friends 1 and 2, you lose. Friends 3 and 4, I hope you chose their retribution wisely.
*The bet was part of a chili cook-off and the results were total bullshit because the guy who beat me puts beans in his chili and that’s also total bullshit #texasForever.