Tag Archives: Bad Words

Best First Features of 2014 Countdown

One of the most interesting themes you find when searching back over the best films of 2014 is the brilliance of films with one word titles (Birdman, Nightcrawler, Whiplash, Boyhood, Rosewater – it’s a long list!). Another is the remarkable quality of feature directorial debuts. Many of the year’s most powerful, intriguing films came from first time filmmakers, though several of these are industry veterans. Here is a look at the most impressive feature directorial debuts of 2014.


Dan Gilroy’s been writing films – many of them mediocre at best – since 1992’s Freejack. It appears he saved his best script for his debut as a director. Nightcrawler is aided immeasurably by the best performance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career, but Gilroy’s dark, creepy approach to unseemly but enormously relevant material proves his mettle behind the camera.


An industry veteran with a connection to the source material, Jon Stewart made his directorial debut this year with the tale of a journalist jailed in Iran partly because of an interview he did with The Daily Show. The story behind Rosewater is fascinating, and Stewart’s direction proves thoughtful, insightful and inventive.

The Babadook

Aussie Jennifer Kent’s spooky tale opens this week, offering perhaps the creepiest effort of the year. A cautionary tale about parenting, the movie introduces a filmmaker who grounds fantasy in an unnerving level of naturalism, who can draw deeply human performances, and who knows what scares you.

Dear White People

Justin Simien makes the leap from shorts to features with one of the smartest films of the year. Dear White People tackles racial issues with confidence and a mix of sarcasm, outrage, hilarity and disgust. Simien never abandons comedy for preaching, but there is not an issue he isn’t willing to spotlight, however uncomfortable. It’s an insightful, biting comedy too few people saw this year.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature is also the first Iranian vampire film, so extra points there. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a gorgeous, peculiar reimagining of the familiar. Amirpour mixes imagery and themes from a wide range of filmmakers as she updates and twists the common vampire tropes with unique cultural flair. The result is a visually stunning, utterly mesmerizing whole.

Obvious Child

Gillian Robespierre crafts an uncommonly realistic, uncomfortable, taboo-shattering comedy with Obvious Child. A romantic comedy quite unlike any other, it succeeds in large part due to a miraculous lead turn from Jenny Slate. Robespierre’s refreshingly frank film rings with authenticity, and is as touching as it is raw.

Bad Words

We’re willing to give anything a shot if Jason Bateman is involved. Sure, it doesn’t always pay off, but his directorial debut Bad Words is as wry, dry and funny as you’d expect. No one has comic timing like Bateman, and it leads to a quickly paced, lean and hilariously mean effort.

This Queue Is Mean..and Funny!

The underappreciated and underseen comedy Bad Words gets a fresh chance at an audience, releasing today on DVD. In his directorial debut, Jason Bateman plays a terrible man but an excellent speller in a squeamishly hilarious film that won’t cater to predictability or common decency. Bateman’s direction – like his film – is lean and mean. Bad Words is not for the sensitive or easily offended, but for the rest of us, it’s a refreshing piece of nastiness.


Need more jocularity at the expense of children? Why not dust off that ol’ Yule Tide classic Bad Santa? Madman Terry Zwigoff directs the most irreverent, mean and hilarious holiday film of all time,thanks in large part to flawless performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Cloris Leachman, Tony Cox, John Ritter, and of course Brett Kelly as Thurman Murman (“That’s your name?”). This screenplay bends to no one, but the film is an absolute classic of wrong, wrong comedy.

Words With Enemies


Bad Words


by George Wolf

Is it amusing to watch a 40 year old man act like a total S.O.B. to everyone around him, frequently unleashing crude verbal assaults on kids and parents alike?

When that man is Jason Bateman..yes, yes it is.

Bateman not only stars, but makes his big screen directorial debut in Bad Words, and he delivers a darkly funny romp through the cutthroat world of spelling bees. Think Best in Show meets Bad Santa and you’ll be in the right-but-way-wrong neighborhood.

Smarmy Guy Trilby (Bateman) crashes the spelling regionals in his hometown of Columbus, informing the judges that through a loophole in the rules, he is eligible to compete. With no legal grounds to deny him, they relent and find out Guy is not only a great speller, but a nasty douchebag who will stop at nothing to humiliate his opponents.

Why would a grown man do such a thing?

Reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn) reflects our curiosity, and she travels with Guy on his journey to the national finals, hoping to discover his motives and land a story.

The screenplay, a debut for Andrew Dodge, has apparently been floating around for years, scaring off potential filmmakers with its down and dirty edges. Bateman, who’s been elevating projects since his days as a child actor, proves a natural at fleshing it out.

As a comic actor, Bateman’s timing is always flawless, a trait which translates well to his direction. He keeps the story lean and mean, with a quick pace and plenty of funny moments that never feel forced. Best of all, the heartwarming life lessons are kept to a minimum.

If you guessed that Guy and reporter Jenny find love, while a cute young speller teaches Guy the meaning of friendship, no one could blame you. Bateman’s not following that tired formula, and bless him for that.

That’s not to say that Jenny and Guy don’t share some hilariously awkward moments, or that precocious spelling champ Chaitanya (young Rohan Chand in a charming performance) doesn’t want to be friends, but Bateman never lets any of it become overly saccharine. He sets his tone and, for the most part, sees it through.

If you don’t like nasty funny, stay far away from Bad Words.

But if you do, come sit next to me.