Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Worst Acting Performances of 2017 [5 to 1]

Emma’s shade-throwing at bad acting continues! Read 10 to 6 here. I like to think I was relatively measured in my snark before. As we’re now onto the bottom five, I can’t promise to be so kind! Ehehe.

05. Johnny Depp, Murder on the Orient Express

As the sketchy art dealer Ratchett, Depp’s character is killed off early on, leaving Kenneth Branagh’s sleuth the rest of the film to piece together whodunit. The Johnny Depp of old, the Depp we saw in Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, not the 34897 laboured sequels after), Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands would have seized this role with aplomb and made an indelible impression in his limited screen time.

The Johnny Depp of late, however, is just here to collect his paycheque. Depp sleepwalks through his lines, completely lacking urgency in a pivotal scene where he asks Poirot to investigate who’s been sending him death threats.

Ratchett is an unappetising character, who has made his share of enemies over his lifespan, so in reality, he would be much more impassioned when asking the detective for his help, probably even having to beg. But Johnny Depp uses none of the actor’s tools that he has so capably applied in the past (facial expressions, change of voice and body language), instead reciting his lines with such indifference that the audience can’t help but wonder if Ratchett cares whether he dies or he lives.

The actors surrounding him, particularly Josh Gad and Derek Jacobi, try their best to make up for Depp’s lethargy in their own performances, but there is only so much your co-stars can carry you, particularly if you’re a mega-star like Johnny Depp.

The only positive about Depp’s appearance in this film, is that it gives Kenneth Branagh the opportunity to deliver the scathing ‘I do not like your face’ line to him (between this and “You can almost see it from here. Home.” in Dunkirk, the actor/director has been blessed in 2017!).

Given the unsavoury allegations of abuse levelled at Johnny Depp from his ex-wife Amber Heard and the ongoing backlash about J.K. Rowling endorsing his appearance in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie, when she has always been an advocate for protecting women in the past (a figure in the media saying one thing and doing another! That doesn’t sound familiar at all. #ohaiEmmaStone), Poirot is certainly not alone in that sentiment.

04. Cara Delevingne, Valerian
Just like in Paper Towns (which earned Blahra a second place finish on this list in 2015; she’s somewhat of a regular on these lists), Delevingne is meant to play the romantic heroine in Valerian, but fails to engage with the audience due to her haughty, smug demeanour.

This adversely affects Valerian, because, at some point in the film, her character, Laureline, must rescue her police partner, Valerian (Dane DeHaan, whose heavy bags under his eyes suggest that they probably had to re-shoot scenes over and over again because Cara kept fluffing her lines). Due to Cara’s smirking and flouncing around, I got the impression she was far more concerned about her hair looking pristine for the cameras than she was for Valerian’s safety.

Given that the film is trying to pitch these two as love interests, this detracts massively from the credibility of a film which is already asking the audience to suspend their belief on many things (like the futuristic galaxy in which they inhabit).

Someone really ought to tell Delevingne that pouting and rolling your eyes do not constitute acting. The ‘actress’ also sings a song for the OST of Valerian, and, er, judge for yourself, but I don’t think it’s unfair to say her musical prowess is comparable with her acting.
I would rather be punched in the face than have to sit through Cara Delevingne trying to act again.

Blahra Delevingne: Jack of All Trades. Master of Absolutely None.

Thank God Harry Styles proved to be a more gifted actor than his ex-girlfriend beard!

Slight sidebar, but methinks Ms. Delevingne was cast in this film, not for her acting prowess (which Suicide Squad and Paper Towns would have attested to there are none), but rather, her lofty 41 million Instagram followers. If each of her followers turned out at the cinema to support her, Valerian would have been raked in the bucks. 

They did not, and the film deservedly tanked at the Box Office last year.

Yet, Dunkirk, headlined by the then unknown Fionn Whitehead, Get Out, starring Daniel Kaluuya in his breakout role and Baby Driver, starring Ansel Elgort, all did very good business at the 2017 Box Office. These guys were all far from household names when their films hit cinema screens.

Let this be a valuable lesson to Hollywood studios: people want to watch films that they think look interesting. Not because they have privileged, more-money-than-talent, cocaine-addicted basic upstarts in them. #ByeFelicia

Last year’s third place in worst acting performances holds his position in this ropey fantasy film.

Tang Sanzang is an iconic character in Chinese folklore; a pure, pacifist monk. His aversion to violence means that there are occasions when his character is in jeopardy, at which point it is up to his monkey sidekick Hou Ge (which literally translates to ‘monkey brother’) to rescue him. It sounds weedy on paper, but Tang is actually anything but. Ultimately, he has to wisdom to recognise that violence only begets violence, and he’s willing to put his body on the line for the sake of preserving peace.

It takes a talented actor of gravitas, comprehension of the role they’re playing, and a shrewd reading of the subtext to convey all of these factors at play. It is safe to say that former K-Pop star Kris Wu (who was also bad in Valerian, but, I constrain these lists to have at most, two entries from the same film) is not such an actor.

The Chinese-Canadian Jennifer Lawrence, he only has two facial expressions: dopey and in anguish, and, like, JLaw, his transitions between the two modes is more stilted than a Powerpoint presentation created by a toddler.

Journey to the West 2: Demons Strike Back suffered from several flaws: low production value, tacky CGI, and a corny script. Yet the thing which truly stuck out about the film was Kris Wu’s unnatural, laughably bad, over-acting.

02. Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy 2

I’m just going to say it: I don’t think Chris Pratt is a very good actor. 

Back when he was a bit schlubbier, he was well-cast for the role of Andy Dwyer in Parks and Rec insofar that he was playing himself. This helped to create the illusion that Pratt had acting chops. But, having watching him struggle through Not-so-Magnificent Seven and Passengers, before witnessing him at a new low in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I think I’ve seen enough.

In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Star-Lord meets his father (Ego the Living Planet) for the first time, and, given how much of an impact his father-less upbringing made on his identity, this is pretty major. After getting familiar with each other and Ego (Kurt Russell) wins his trust, the rug pull moment occurs. Ego’s intentions for seeking out his long-lost son are far from paternal. (Did the name not give it away?) 

So under his father’s spell, Star-Lord can’t recognise that he’s being played. This plot beat, of someone being so happy to have a father that they’re blinded to his flaws, was conveyed with sensitivity and nuance by Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now (ohai Miles!), who was so smitten with on-screen dad Kyle Chandler, that he couldn’t see how much of a deadbeat he actually was. 

Unlike Tisch Drama School-educated Teller, Chris Pratt is nowhere near as good at expressing such layers.

Pratt and Russell have very little in the way of father/son chemistry, and when they’re on screen together, it just feels like two Hollywood stars having a causal catch-up, rather than forming an emotional connection. 

Then, when his dad asks him to make a sacrifice which will only benefit Ego, Pratt has to act tormented. His attempt to convey intensity in this scene was absolutely hilarious, and I had second-hand embarrassment from it.

01. Emma Watson, Beauty and the Beast

Tale as old as time… that Emma Watson cannot act to save her life. Just to torture cinemagoers even more, Watson also tries her hand at singing in this forgettable Disney live-action reboot.

Emma Watson carped on and on about how right she thought she was for the part of Belle, because Belle is a bookworm and Watson… has gone to University (I hate to break it to you hun, but so have a lot of actors and actresses!).

Which goes to show you that identifying with the character you’re playing is not enough. When she tells the librarian that she spent the weekend reading Romeo and Juliet and loved the escapism, the line rings about as true as the barista in The Room when she tells Tommy Wiseau, 'you're my favourite customer'. She's just reciting the words, no more.

When she’s not assailing our ears with her auto-tuned caterwauling (and I thought Stone in La La Land was the floor for the worst singing from an Emma in a musical), imbuing Belle with a hauteur that is all wrong for the character (Belle in the cartoons is warm and loving, Watson plays her as self-satisfied), she’s delivering some of the worst, most forced acting ever.

Whenever Watson opened her mouth to sing, I was reminded of the line in Phantom Thread, 'I don't want to hear it because it hurts my ears'.

There are two scenes which still haunt me in my nightmares due to her lousiness in them. The first is her line-reading when she tells the villain of the piece, Luke Evans’ Gaston, ‘I will never marry you, Gaston!’. 

Her delivery was so stiff and prissy, it brought back horrible memories of Watson’s many years of butchering Hermione Granger (Hermione, like Belle, was never written as a shrill harridan, yet under Watson’s incompetent delivery, she came across as just that).

The second was at the pinnacle of the film’s emotion. Dastard Gaston has shot the Beast, and he’s slowly bleeding to death. This is the emotional climax of the film and Dan Stevens, under many layers of prosthetics, brings his best dying face. Emma Watson, meanwhile, has such a frozen, wooden expression, that you’d think she’s deliberating over her Starbucks order, rather than losing the character she’s supposedly fallen in love with. It's a distractingly unconvincing performance, and it totally took me out of the moment.

In a way, it’s almost a talent, how Emma Watson has managed to sustain her level of duffness at acting. She’s as bad now as she was in the first Harry Potter film, back in 2001.

It’s time the actress, who takes herself far too seriously, realised that she got that Razzie nomination for a reason, and take a break from films.

Perhaps she could do some reading, if she’s as big a bookworm she claims to be? Maybe she could brush up on her Shakespeare. A little birdy told me Romeo and Juliet was good...


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