The Hunt For The Worst Movie Of All Time: The Black Dahlia

It’s easy to romanticize the past. From the nagging perspective of the present, where life is at best a day-to-day struggle with frustrating obligations (and at worst, you know, Darfur), and our culture seems determined to implode under the weight of its own stupidity (or at least the weight of Octomom in the middle of her eighth month), the past takes on a golden hue. The world seems like a simpler place, with more deeply-rooted values, and all those old Gods walking the Earth, the ones we read about in the high school books. Obviously, all of that is total bullshit. The world has never been a better place than it is right at this moment. Despite the many obvious, horrible problems with human society, we’ve never been less racist, less homophobic, less generally happy as a whole than we are right now. We have better medical care and easier access to education than has existed in the whole of human history. Even on the less-fundamentally-survivalistically-important cultural side, things are still the best ever. More people are working harder to create great work than ever before. The world moves forward. Keep up.

But if you do attempt to harken back to the false glory of the good old days, DON’T CAST JOSH HARTNETT. Dude is, like, tha worst.

The Black Dahlia is based on the novel by Elmore LeonardJames Ellroy, which centers around a true crime unsolved mystery that occurred in Hollywood in 1947 when a young would-be actress was found gruesomely murdered. Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart play two Los Angeles detectives who become increasingly obsessed with the case. There’s some kind of love triangle between them and Aaron Eckhart’s girlfriend Scarlett Johansson. Then Josh Hartnett sleeps with Hillary Swank. Something else happens. Aaron Eckhart is murdered when he is trying to murder Scarlett Johansson’s ex-boyfriend who got out of jail. Something. There’s…a clown painting. Josh Hartnett moves in with Scarlett Johansson and she asks him to fix a broken bathroom tile which is how he finds a bunch of secret money, so he sleeps with Hillary Swank again. Then something happens and I don’t know. He’s in a house? There was a porno and the porno was made in this shitty house and it turns out that Hillary Swank’s mom killed the would-be actress because she’s an alcoholic? She shoots herself and then later Josh Hartnett confronts Hillary Swank and she has an Academy Award you know, for best acting? And he shoots her. Because something happened. He was like “did something happen?” and she’s like “yes,” and he shoots her for it. Then he goes back and Scarlett Johansson is always wearing a neglige because of World War II or whatever. The end.

It’s one of those rare movies that actually includes a scene that is perfectly representative of how the viewer is feeling.

“Watching The Black Dahlia is like slowly walking up a staircase to a door, but when you get to the door, you can’t even bear to open it. Instead, you sit down and break into tears, and someone rushes out as overly-dramatic music swells, and the person just asks ‘what happened?’ ‘WHAT HAPPENED?’ and you don’t say a word.” Exactly. Metaphors.

This is actually the second time that I have seen this movie, and I still do not understand it. I mean, there aren’t really any loose ends, it’s all tied up for you. I know who killed everyone who got killed, but it’s still like “huh?” What was that? Adults made that?

kd lang made that.


Rose McGowan made that.

The Rose McGowan stamp of quality.

Why is Brian De Palma even considered an important director? He is, isn’t he? He’s always linked in my head with that old Team Coppola Goof Troupe. But he’s responsible for some really terrible movies. Look at the past 10 years alone:

Snake Eyes (1998)
Mission to Mars (2000)
Femme Fatale (2002)
The Black Dahlia (2006)
Redacted (2007)

Dude followed up Snake Eyes with Mission to Mars. Perfect. Hollywood needs to get its whoops-dar checked. Even his past triumphs aren’t very good. Scarface, despite what a large percentage of the hip hop community’s oversized t-shirts might suggest, is laughable. Get Ready to Meet My Little Friend. And the thing he’s most famous for is just an homage to Sergei Eisenstein.

We get it, Brian De Palma, you took Appreciating Film 101 in college. Cool zoomz, dude.

But let’s get off Brian De Palmas. The fact of the matter is that it’s almost not even his fault. The Hollywood obsession with trying to remake film noirs is one of its worst obsessions. The Good German, The Man Who Wasn’t There, all that shit is bad. And by otherwise very talented people who usually make good movies. Let it go, guys. Never look back.

In any case, The Black Dahlia is overly long, incredibly confusing, looks like it was filmed at the Universal Studios Theme Park, stars Josh Hartnett as a hard-boiled detective, features SNL-caliber “old timey” accents, and is absolutely no fun at all to watch.

It’s very bad. It should be left in the past to be forgotten, as we do with atrocities.

Next week: Bicentennial Man. How did that happen? Too close to What Dreams May Come! Spacing Out Horrible Robin Williams Movies FAIL. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.