Oscars: Movies 2014's Acting Nominees Would Likely Rather Forget (Video)

Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey
Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey
 AP Images/Invision

This year's Oscar-nominated actors and actresses delivered the best performances of the year on the big screen, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And on Sunday, a few of those contenders will take home Oscars, but many of this year's hopefuls are likely still hoping to forget some of their past roles -- in poorly reviewed movies like Down Periscope, Fool's Gold, The Watch, Speed 2 and 2012.

In fact, they probably hoped Oscar voters didn't recall those parts.

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But now that voting for the 86th Oscars has ended, let's take a look back at some of the worst movies featuring this year's acting contenders, including the trailers for those titles.

Christian Bale: Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)

Christian Bale has already won an Oscar for his work in 2010's The Fighter. But the acclaimed American Hustle star and best actor nominee previously had a small role in the poorly received Captain Corelli's Mandolin, starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. The film, directed by Shakespeare in Love's John Madden, has a 29 freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Bale plays Cruz's illiterate fisherman fiance, who disappears for half the movie as his role -- which in the book on which the film was based involves him fighting for the Greek army and having harrowing adventures -- was downgraded for the movie version. Bale earned faint praise from The New York Times for his performance, but it wasn't enough to save their assessment of the film. "[Bale's] performance emits occasional sparks of the primitive, flashing-eyed vitality that Hollywood deems quintessentially Greek," the Times reviewer wrote. "But probably no actor could transcend the turgid romantic mush stuffed into the mouths of these three [actors]."

Bruce Dern: Down Periscope (1996)

Nebraska's Bruce Dern has a chance to become the oldest best actor winner 35 years after he was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for his role in Coming Home. However, Dern's long career also includes a role in the Kelsey Grammer comedy Down Periscope, which has a 13 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Nebraska star and best actor nominee plays Admiral Yancy Graham, who's determined to make things difficult for Grammer's character, assigning him to skipper a rusty submarine with a ragtag crew in a series of practice maneuvers. Even Dern's performance was criticized by the New York Times review of what it called a "desperately wacky comedy." "Even the usually reliable Bruce Dern, who plays Dodge's would-be nemesis, an ambitious, paranoid admiral, is strangely subdued and off-pitch," the reviewer writes. People weighed in, calling the confrontations between Dern and co-star Rip Torn "like the main bake-off at a ham festival."

Leonardo DiCaprio: The Beach (2000)

Leonardo DiCaprio has been nominated for five Oscars, including his best actor nod this year for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street. But while he's received acclaim for films like The Aviator, The Departed and Blood Diamond, his 2000 follow-up to his starring role in Titanic, Danny Boyle's The Beach, is the most poorly reviewed film of his career, according to Rotten Tomatoes, which posts a 19 percent freshness rating for the title. In the film, DiCaprio plays an American backpacker searching for an island that's believed to be as close as it gets to paradise on earth. After discovering that the island has already been colonized, DiCaprio's character goes a bit crazy in the jungle. But none of that seemed very scintillating to most reviewers. Newsweek said of the film, "The Beach is nothing to write home about, though the landscapes are ravishing. The movie itself is neither fish nor fowl -- the first half is not nearly as sexy as it should be, and the decline and fall is about as harrowing as an expulsion from summer camp." New York magazine said of the star's performance, "DiCaprio can be a marvelous actor, and he goes all-out here, but his performance is all blank visionary stares and tantrums." The Baltimore City Paper put a finer point on it, calling the film "ferociously terrible" and that with his part, DiCaprio was displaying "an apparent career death wish," something that clearly did not come true. The City Paper even subtitled its review "Leonardo DiCaprio Went to The Beach and All He Got Was This Lousy Movie."

Chiwetel Ejiofor: 2012 (2009)

Before his Oscar-nominated turn in 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor had a small role in Sony's Roland Emmerich-helmed disaster movie, 2012, based on the now-known-to-be-untrue Mayan prophecy that the world would come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012. In the film, starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet, Ejiofor plays the president's chief science advisor, trying to figure out how to stop the mutated neutrinos that are destroying the Earth from the inside out. The film has a 39 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The New Yorker saying of the two-and-a-half hour film, "2012 is so long, and its special effects are at once so outrageous and so thunderously predictable, that by the time I lurched from the theatre I felt that three years had actually passed and that the apocalypse was due any second. Emmerich’s main achievement is to take a bunch of excellent actors, including Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Woody Harrelson, and to prevent all of them -- with the exception of Oliver Platt and a pair of giraffes -- from giving a decent performance." Rolling Stone went even further, suggesting that due to the film's basis on the Mayan calendar's predictions, "the Mayans should sue."

Matthew McConaughey: Fool's Gold (2008)

Matthew McConaughey put out a number of poorly received movies in the years before he reinvented his career with roles like his Oscar-nominated performance in Dallas Buyers Club, including such duds as Sahara, Two for the Money and Failure to Launch. But perhaps the worst of his earlier pictures is the somewhat appropriately named Fool's Gold, in which he attempted to re-create the magic of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days by re-teaming with Kate Hudson for a movie with an 11 percent Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating. The San Francisco Chronicle said of McConaughey's role in the film, "He plays a total washout, with big plans and a line of patter, but nothing much going for him. Essentially, he's the comic character, but he's much better at reacting than being zany, while Hudson spends most of the movie looking worried, when she's potentially the more bubbly and skilled comic personality.… For McConaughey, he is too handsome to hide it, so it's best when he plays someone who's about more than his looks. But Fool's Gold presents him in a beefcake-goofball role, in which he goes through most of the movie with his shirt off. He looks great, but in the end, the role is no more flattering to him than a bimbo role would be for Scarlett Johansson or Katherine Heigl. By playing up the most obvious aspect of his allure, the movie diminishes him."

Bradley Cooper: Case 39 (2010)

Bradley Cooper also had parts in a number of panned films (including Failure to Launch, Valentine's Day and All About Steve -- more about that later) before he started earning Oscar nominations for his collaborations with David O. Russell, like this year's American Hustle. In Case 39, which has a 22 percent freshness rating, Cooper stars alongside Oscar winner and former girlfriend Renee Zellweger, whom he met while filming the demon-child thriller. The film sat on the shelf starting in 2006 before finally getting a U.S. release in 2010 and features such scenes as Cooper's psychologist character being attacked by a swarm of hornets emanating from his own bodily orifices.

Michael Fassbender: Jonah Hex (2010)

Best supporting actor nominee Michael Fassbender has earned acclaim for his roles in films by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame and 12 Years a Slave), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) and Ridley Scott (Prometheus) as well as his role as Magneto in the X-Men prequels. But his foray into the world of DC Entertainment, Jonah Hex, received backhanded compliments like this one from the Washington Post: "Michael Fassbender makes an interesting-enough villain as Turnbull's tattooed Irish henchman, Burke. Though, truth be told, his fights with Hex only serve to prolong the story unnecessarily." The film has a 12 percent freshness rating, with Rolling Stone saying simply, "it's … [hard] to sit in a theater and watch this crapfest."



 

Jonah Hill: The Watch (2012)

Jonah Hill is a two-time Oscar nominee, including a best supporting actor nod this year for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street, but he probably hopes Oscar voters forgot that in between Scorsese's latest and Hill's prior Oscar contender, Moneyball, he was also in The Watch, which has a 17 percent freshness rating. The film made headlines for the wrong reasons before it even hit theaters when its name had to be changed from its original title Neighborhood Watch after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. In light of that, Hill's wannabe cop, with a bedroom arsenal of weapons, still seems ill-timed. In the film, Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade battle an alien invasion after a series of inexplicable murders, but the movie really served mostly as a waste of talent, including behind the scenes (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg co-wrote the script directed by Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer). "What is most disappointing is that so much comic talent is wasted in this generally humorless movie," USA Today wrote in its review of the film. "Given some of the terrific comedies these actors have starred in, it's all the more surprising that any — let alone all — of them wasted their time on The Watch." Time magazine called the movie, "a disservice to its trio of stars, who are forced to play diminished forms of their best roles (in, say, Greenberg, The Break-Up and 21 Jump Street). Here, they are the fronts for an exhausted, exhausting reprise of stupid behavior, male-bonding cliches and penis jokes, which extend even to the aliens."



 

Jared Leto: Alexander (2004)

Jared Leto famously took several years off from acting before his Oscar-nominated turn in Dallas Buyers Club. One of his last films before his hiatus was Oliver Stone's poorly received Alexander, which boasts a 16 percent freshness rating. The film about Alexander the Great stars Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie, with Leto playing Hephaistion, Alexander's lover, as the film explores the leader's bisexuality. Although Leto's character successfully wooed Alexander, the actor was unable to do the same for reviewers. Slate said of Leto, "[He's] too self-intoxicated to be much of an erotic force." The Washington Post also found his performance unmemorable. "I thought he was this other guy, equally handsome, equally vapid, equally unmemorable, whom Alexander prongs with a spear in a drunken rage late in the movie," the paper writes. "But that was some other guy."

Amy Adams: Serving Sara (2002)

Amy Adams has earned five Oscar nominations, including her best actress nod this year for her role in American Hustle. But before she caught the Academy's attention, the actress was in Serving Sara, which boasts a 5 percent freshness rating. Adams has a small role in the 2002 movie starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, but she didn't make a very good impression on reviewers, many of whom panned the title. Adams played the new girlfriend of Hurley's character's ex-husband, with The New York Times wondering, "Why any Texas cattle baron worth his cowboy boots would want to dump a woman like Sara (Hurley) in favor of a chirpy bimbo like Gordon's new girlfriend, Kate (Adams), remains a mystery the movie wisely doesn't begin to tackle." USA Today called the movie, released in August, "one of the bigger misfires of the summer."

Sandra Bullock: Speed 2 (1997)

Sandra Bullock memorably won a Razzie the same year she won her first Oscar, even showing up for the bad-movies ceremony the night before the Academy Awards and accepting her Razzie for All About Steve with a hilarious speech. So it seems that Bullock's willing to defend that film. But she likely has less charitable feelings toward Speed 2, one of the poorly performing sequels she often referred to during talk of doing a follow-up to her 2013 hit The Heat. Indeed, the 1997 movie has a 3 percent freshness rating. "What a reeking bag of nothingness! What emptiness, what vaporous vapidity! What rot, stink, and whiff of mold spore! It's like an existential prank merrily engineered by Jean-Paul Sartre in heaven," the Washington Post wrote of the film in one of its two reviews of the title. "The characters seem written by monkeys on amphetamines with crayons." In the Post's second review, critic Desson Thomson says the sequel "sinks faster than a rock," adding, "I’ve seen more nail-biting, hair-raising excitement on The Love Boat." He also laments changes to Bullock's character in the follow-up. "Time may have been kind to her looks, but it’s wreaked havoc on her brain. She seems to have evolved into the giddiest bimbo since Betty Rubble." The San Francisco Chronicle concurred about the lack of excitement in the movie, writing "there's not a single moment of drama or tension in any of the action sequences. And the film is made up almost entirely of action.… The most curious misfire is the film's big set piece, in which the ship loses its brakes (brakes?) and heads full speed into a cozy coastal town. Sailboats, surfers and fishing boats line the shore, yet, interestingly, no one seems to notice a Queen Mary-sized luxury liner until it's about five feet away." The paper later calls the movie "a crunching, smashing, crashing bore."

Meryl Streep: Lions for Lambs (2007)

Even the great Meryl Streep stumbled into a forgettable film. On Sunday the August: Osage County star is up for her fourth Oscar win, after landing her 18th nomination. But she didn't receive the same awards attention for her 2007 outing with Tom Cruise and Robert Redford in United Artists' Lions for Lambs, which has a 27 percent freshness rating. The ideological political drama about the war in Afghanistan, received pans from outlets like Slate, which wrote, "As you sit through the film's 88 eternal minutes, you have to keep reminding yourself that Redford has been directing films, some of them pretty good, for nearly 30 years now. Yet Lions for Lambs appears to have been created by someone who's never seen one of these newfangled contraptions called 'movies,' or for that matter, witnessed that phenomenon known as 'speech.' Everyone in the movie talks incessantly -- essentially, the film is a record of three simultaneous conversations taking place across the globe -- but not a line of dialogue sounds like something that anyone has ever actually said.… Meryl Streep tries to bring her 'A' game to the scenes with Cruise, throwing in speech tics and bits of business to give her character some heft. But both politician and journalist are such cutouts (he spouts about the axis of evil, she sighs disapprovingly and scribbles on her pad) that they might as well be debating on Meet the Press." The Christian Science Monitor wrote that Streep and Cruise's scenes are "like a David Mamet playlet that's missed its mark."

Jennifer Lawrence: The House at the End of the Street (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence filmed the poorly reviewed thriller The House at the End of the Street, which has a 10 percent freshness rating, before landing her first Oscar nomination for her breakthrough role in Winter's Bone. The film was later released after she starred in the first Hunger Games film and before she earned her second Oscar nod, and first win, for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. The New York Times called the movie "an unwieldy hybrid of [Psycho] and standard teenage horror films.… Once the action kicks in, House at the End of the Street turns into a choppily edited, poorly timed mess with little continuity, overloaded with aural shocks in a desperate attempt to compensate for its minimal suspense." The Toronto Star added: "Lawrence can do very little with the wretched material at hand, other than use those amazing eyes to alternate between self-assurance and surprise.… The climax is so ham-fistedly handled that it is unsatisfying and ridiculous in equal measure. Built on a foundation that is lame and shoddy from basement to attic, this is one House that deserves a wrecking ball."



 

Julia Roberts: I Love Trouble (1994)

Before she won an Oscar for Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts co-starred with Nick Nolte in 1994's I Love Trouble, a romantic comedy in which the two actors reportedly didn't get along during filming. The movie boasts a 17 percent freshness rating, with the Washington Post calling the film, which includes elements of a suspense thriller, "as bland as its title, which really should be attached to a Disney cat movie." The Chicago Tribune added that the movie is a "major disappointment," not only given the casting of Roberts and Nolte but also the track record of the film's writer-director team Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, who also did the Father of the Bride remake starring Steve Martin. Moviefone later wrote of I Love Trouble, "Roberts and Nick Nolte are both horribly miscast as rival reporters who fall in love while chasing a scoop that could endanger both their lives. They're supposed to remind us of the crackling chemistry of a classic screwball couple like Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, but they have no spark, and they both come off as pampered, well-tanned Hollywood wannabes, not hard-boiled, danger-seeking Chicago scribes."

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