The Atlantic Daily: 6 Movies We Didn’t Love

This weekend, the Oscars will celebrate the best in cinema. Today, we’re doing the opposite. Then: Here’s what to watch, listen to, and read.

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The Oscars aim to showcase the best of the year’s cinema, bold acts of storytelling that captivated audiences.

These are not those films. As Hollywood’s finest creators prepare their acceptance speech for this year’s weird in-person ceremony, we’d like to nominate a few of our most scathing reviews for your entertainment. Join us as we revisit last year’s cinematic lowlights.

1. Hillbilly Elegy (a big-name adaptation of the memoir by J. D. Vance)

Hillbilly Elegy is a think-piece trap; it might be tempting to view little moments as sweeping commentary, but the film’s ambitions simply aren’t that serious.”

— David Sims

2. 365 Days (a lurid erotic thriller that dominated Netflix’s Top 10 list)

365 Dni, as the movie is titled in Polish, defies nearly every rule of good filmmaking. The plot, even if you allow for its queasy gender dynamics, is trite and bewildering.”

— Hannah Giorgis

3. A Recipe for Seduction (a.k.a. the KFC-Lifetime “mini-movie”)

“I would like to pay it the highest compliment I know how to give to an ad: It is exactly what it claims to be—nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.”

— Megan Garber

4. Sonic the Hedgehog (a film starring the ’90s video-game mascot)

“How did an adventure saga about a mystical hedgehog who battles with armies of aliens get turned into an odd-couple road-trip movie? Why would anyone want to see Sonic, who is best known for doing loop-the-loops through neon assault courses, sit in the passenger seat of a pickup truck and trade aimless banter with a highway patrolman?”

— David

5. The Last Thing He Wanted (a film adaptation of the novel by Joan Didion)

“In the final scene, [director Dee] Rees discards the plot of Didion’s book altogether, changing the ending to make it somehow even less plausible. What’s left is a sticky, indecipherable tangle.”

— Sophie Gilbert

6. Dolittle (the latest film to center the doctor who speaks with animals)

“It’s transfixing at times, if only because it’s such a disaster. It would be an exaggeration to say that Dolittle has a plot.”

— David

Revisit the week that was. See some standout photography from around the world, as curated by our senior editor Alan Taylor.

Read. Michelle Zauner’s new memoir, Crying in H Mart, out this week, explores the connection between food and grief.

This week’s Books Briefing newsletter explores the new literature of burnout.

Watch. Time to cram for the Oscars: We suggest watching Minari (rent online), Mank (Netflix), and Nomadland (Hulu or rent online), if you haven’t already.

The season finale of Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming on Disney+ today. The show “was able to invert decades of tired debate over the legacies of storied white characters,” our critic Sophie Gilbert writes.

Sophie also reviewed two recent crime shows worth your stream: HBO’s Mare of Easttown nails its portrayal of a Delaware County community, while AMC’s Gangs of London is a brutal but enthralling thriller.

Listen. When is it appropriate to take your mask off? Our hosts discuss the state of COVID-19 safety precautions on this week’s Social Distance podcast.

Looking for something a little lighter? Mop your floors to stylings of Tina Turner, Prince, and more: Our staff writer Hannah Giorgis put together a spring-cleaning playlist. Listen on Spotify.

Take a deep breath. It’s the weekend. We’ll see you Monday.