It's commonly understood that not all great movies are necessarily great-time movies, and I think we can all agree that not all great-time movies are necessarily "great." (Formally brilliant and historically essential though they are, I'm not sure I could summon the energy to sit through Intolerance or Triumph of the Will again, and while I love Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle to death, you'll never read 2,000 words on it in Cahiers du cinéma.)

Space ChimpsAt first, I thought it might be fun to compose 200-ish words each on my 10 least-favorite 2008 movies, to go along with my 10 favorites for the year. And then I realized that would just be mean-spirited and silly. And I still opted against it.

So instead, I'll content myself with random comments on the top 10 (well ... 20 ... ) Hollywood entertainments that made the job of being a movie critic just a little tougher than it should ever have to be.


Frank Langella and Michael Sheen in Frost/NixonSo you've got my 10 favorite movies and 20 least-favorite movies for 2008 ... but what about the 139 that landed somewhere in between?

Glad you asked!


Pickman's Song There are low-budget films and there are low-low-budget films. And then there are low-low-low-budget films.

And then there's Octopoid Productions' Pickman's Song.

"We clocked the budget in at around a hundred dollars," says Octopoid co-founder Joshua Bentley of his East Moline company's 31-minute homage to a 1926 H.P. Lovecraft story. "A hundred dollars with plenty of guerrilla-film locations. You know, basically storming an old abandoned school in the middle of the night ... .

"The outside of the school," he quickly amends. "Not the inside. Nobody was inside any place they weren't supposed to be."

Reader issue #698 One of my clearest memories from childhood is seeing the 1978 disaster "epic" Avalanche - starring Mia Farrow and Rock Hudson! - with my family, and roaring at the ridiculous dialogue (even though, at age 10, I barely understood why it was ridiculous) and effects (which even a 10-year-old knew were shoddy). To this very day, I'll exit some piece of crap at the cineplex and think, "Well ... at least it wasn't Avalanche-awful ... ," and terrible though it was, the movie - or rather, my family's reaction to the movie - remains one of my absolute favorite film-going experiences.

Saw it at the drive-in.

"We go to drive-ins all the time," says 23-year-old Arron Lorenz of his family, which includes father Randy, stepmother Terri, and half-siblings Nicholas, 13, and Courtney, 9. "It's one thing we can do together where we don't have to be quiet."

Maquoketa's 61 Drive-in America's first drive-in theatre - which was also the world's first drive-in theatre - opened on June 6, 1933, and the act of watching movies from one's car proved so enduringly popular that now, 75 years later, hundreds of drive-ins can be found in locations all across the country.

Then again, there used to be thousands.

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis in King Corn Kathryn Allen serves as the chief organizer for the Quad Cities' third-annual Environmental Film Festival, and when we sat down for a recent interview, she described the turnout for 2006's inaugural program as "pretty good - we had probably about 100 people, and we were ecstatic. We thought that was just great.


Best Actress Marion Cotillard At the 100-minute mark of Sunday night's 200-minute Academy Awards telecast, Forest Whitaker strode onstage to announce the winner of Best Actress, and I found myself making the same silent plea over and over: Give it to Marion Cotillard ... give it to Marion Cotillard ... .

No Country for Old Men Let's begin with a caveat: I'm not very good as this Oscar-guessing thing. So if you're planning to use my predictions to help win your annual Academy Awards pool, you should know that two years in a row now, I've only guessed correctly in 15 out of 24 categories, giving me an average of .625 - a moderately underwhelming record.

Then again, if that were my batting average in professional baseball, I'd be a god, so I'm pressing ahead.