The 10 Best (And Worst) Passion Projects To Come Out Of Hollywood Since 2000
The history if film is littered with passion projects that either wowed or flopped. For every Citizen Kane there is a Battlefield Earth with the one defining feature of all passion projects seemingly being that no matter whether the fail or succeed, they are always a spectacle. So what could be more entertaining than counting down 10 of the best and worst of them.
1. Best: Inception
Whether you loved this film or were utterly confused by it, there is no denying the cultural impact Inception had when it was released in 2010. Writer and director Christopher Nolan reportedly worked on the script for 10 years, having originally intended to pitch the movie as his follow up to his 2000 breakthrough Memento, and it showed in the dense layered plot. What really stood out about the film though was Nolan’s restraint when it came to CGI, crafting some of the most thrilling and exciting action scenes of the new millennium with trick photography and fluid choreography. The hotel fight scene which sees Joseph Gordon-Levitt running on the walls and ceiling in particular has to be one of the most visionary action sequences ever put to film.
2. Worst: Glitter
When it comes to doomed passion projects, musicians have a category all to themselves. And while the self imposed time period prevents me from writing about such golden examples as Vanilla Ice‘s hilarious Cold As Ice (1991), there is one musical monstrosity of a film I can sink my claws into. Mariah Carey’s Glitter from 2oo1. Long before she was engaged to our very own neckless wonder James Packer, Mariah actually had a massive music career if you can remember, with this fiasco film proving to be her first stumble from the heights of success. And while she may not have won the Oscar she was hoping for, she did win a Razzie for worst actress while also serving as a year long punchline everywhere from late night talk shows to the morning news. Her career has never really recovered, hence why she’s lined up to be the latest Mrs James Packer. Such a pity, she’s so much more than a beard for a closeted gay man.
3. Best: Don Quixote/ Lost In La Mancha
This is a bit of a controversial inclusion as the film was never actually made, but Terry Gilliam‘s disastrous attempt to turn Miguel de Cervantes’ literary classic Don Quixote into a film was itself the feature of an amazing documentary called Lost In La Mancha. With sets flooding, his lead actor injured and the Spanish Air Force constantly ruining the audio by flying planes over the set, if you ever want to watch a film on how passion can break a man this is the one.
4. Worst: Freddy Got Fingered
Does anyone remember Tom Green? Briefly married to Drew Barrymore and best remembered for acting alongside her as ‘the Chad’ in the first Charlie’s Angels reboot, he was a bit of a late 90s sensation thanks to his self titled show on MTV. Wildly popular for his wildly unhinged antics, who knows why someone thought that giving him a movie would be a good idea, although considering this was the era of teen gross out comedies like American Pie, Road Trip and Not Another Teen Movie etc it’s not actually that surprising. Still considering the film features such amazing heights of comedic artistry as Tom Green jerking off a horse, Tom Green ‘getting inside’ the corpse of a deer and Tom Green swinging a stillborn baby over his head by the umbilical cord – how this film ever got released I have no idea.
5. Best: The Brown Bunny
Some people might call this the most ego-centric and boring film on this list, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but for those of us who find some peculiar fascination with Vincent Gallo‘s own self obsession this is the zenith point. Somehow convincing someone to give him $10 million dollars to make about a motorcycle racer traveling the country and meeting various different women, Gallo turned in a film that looks like it was shot by your dad, where very little happens. He did somehow convinced Oscar nominated actress Chloë Sevigny to give him un-simulated fellatio on camera so that happens at least, which considering the whole film is kind of Gallo sucking himself off must be some kind of artistic statement or motif right?
6. Worst: Battlefield Earth
When it comes to failed passion projects, this is the defining entry. John Travolta‘s long gestated effort to get the message of Scientology out to the masses, the film garish aesthetic, convoluted plot and a performance from Travolta famously described as ‘tra-volting’, the film pretty much ended the career that had only just recently been revitalised by Pulp Fiction. Having shrugged his way through the late 90s in films like Phenomenon and Michael, his public profile was already far too anemic to weather the cyclone of shit that was this movie.
7. Best: The Last Witch Hunter
Now this one is a bit of an oddity on the list, as it was actually Vin Diesel‘s passion for the character rather than the film itself that drove it into production, Diesel having played as a Witch Hunter as an awkward Dungeons & Dragons obsessed teen. Writer Cory Goodman based a lot of the character on conversation with Diesel about his D&D character, and the whole film kind of feels like Vin Diesel getting to live out his teenage fantasies. For a role playing nerd like me getting to watch Vin’s own teen dreams come to life was a lot of fun, and getting to see how hot he looked with braided hair and a beard was just icing on the cake. Plus who can go past a movie with a flaming sword, they should all have flaming swords.
8. Worst: The Passion Of The Christ
If you can’t tell, I’m being intentionally controversial with this list, just like Mel Gibson was when he decided to make The Passion Of The Christ. While it went on to be one of the biggest independent film of all time and technically speaking is a masterpiece of film making, the film’s brutal depiction of Christ’s crucifixion and the implication that it was the Jewish establishment of the time that was to blame for it started the public on the road to labeling Gibson as an anti-semite. Mind you, the whole getting pulled over for drunk driving and spouting hateful remarks about Jewish people running the world etc didn’t really help either. All the controversy aside, the main issue with this film is how it managed to be so boring and so violent at the same time. Add to this the fact the whole thing is in Latin and Aramaic and it’s a one way ticket to boresville punctuated by some of the most graphic violence ever put on screen.
9. Best: Birdman
Initially conceived by director Alejandro G. Iñárritu as a comedy, Birdman would go on to become the most hyped film of 2014, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director and best Score for it’s nuanced and direct depiction of former blockbuster star attempting a stage show comeback. Envisioned to be shot in one continuous sequence, everyone from friend and family to the studio tried to dissuade Iñárritu from doing so. Nevertheless going ahead despite himself worrying the technique might prove more distracting than immersive as he had hoped, the director recruited writer Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr and Armando Bo to help him realise his vision the four of them collaborating between Beunos Aires, New York and LA over Skype into the late hours. The film going to the enjoy great critical acclaim, Birdman is a telling example of how a film-makers passion must endure the hardships of reality to create something magical.
10. Worst: Swept Away
This film hold a very special part in my heart as it seems to have finally put to bed any dreams Madonna had for a career in acting. Unfortunately it also almost destroyed her then husband Guy Ritchie‘s career as a director, who riding high on the success of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch was pretty much lost in the woods for a couple of years after this before finding success again with Rock’n’Rolla, Crank and Sherlock Holmes. Still that seems like a fair price to pay to never have to see Madge up on the silver screen again (seriously I wish she had disappeared in a puff of ravens after making the Frozen video). Possibly the greatest warning ever on mixing romance and creativity, Swept Away is a truly awful film, Ritchie and Madonna somehow sucking the charisma out of each other and resulting in a bland and bloated attempt at comedy.
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