The Academy may consider this year's nominees the best of the best, but that doesn't mean they haven't made some stinkers in the past. Just like everyone else, actors have to pay their dues in crappy jobs before the good ones come along.
So in preparation for Sunday's Academy Awards, let's celebrate five of the worst films that this year's Best Actress and Actor nominees have ever made—including not one, but two talking ape movies:
1. James Franco in The Ape: Franco likes to come off as a jack of all trades, but he should have fired himself from his own misbegotten 2005 feature—which he cowrote, directed and starred in—about a frustrated writer who moves into a nice apartment where he hopes to write a novel.
The catch? He has to share it with a large, talking gorilla!
And lest you're thinking Bedtime for Bonzo hijinks, this is worse, because it's a Dostoevsky-style allegory about a fragmented soul (we know this because pictures and quotes from Dostoevsky appear throughout).
So insufferably pretentious we'd cut our own arm off to escape it.
2. Annette Bening in American Beauty: Yes, it won Oscars, but that doesn't always make something good.
Positioned as though it were some kind of shocking exposé about suburban families being dysfunctional, the movie trafficked in laughable clichés (pot-smoking makes you funny! Three's Company-style wacky gay misunderstandings can easily confuse military guys!) and really nasty morals (Ladies really like their creepy stalkers! Rebel against the American dream, even in a funny way, and you will be killed!).
Worst of all, the Oscar nominations encouraged director Sam Mendes to keep making movies—thankfully, the Academy wasn't fooled twice when he made the same one over again as Revolutionary Road.
3. Christian Bale in All the Little Animals: Bale is a savvy player who rarely picks a pathetic project; even the widely disliked Terminator Salvation was an understandable choice because really, who wouldn't want to be John Connor?
Lucky for him, not many people know about the sole directorial bow from Jeremy Thomas (producer of The Last Emperor). Bale plays Bobby, the mentally handicapped stepson of an English-accented Daniel Benzali, whose character's name is "The Fat," and who delights in murdering pets.
Bobby escapes to the countryside where he encounters John Hurt's homeless Mr. Summers, and the two of them go around the burying roadkill until Benzali shows up again to try and run over Bobby in his car.
Every bit as awkward as it sounds.
4. Colin Firth in What a Girl Wants: Firth is a crowd-pleaser when he plays either a historical figure or a romantic leading man. When he finds himself just playing The Dad, however, it's usually in something atrocious, like Nanny McPhee or this.
Named after a Christina Aguilera song and starring Amanda Bynes, whose main talent at the time appeared to be in tripping and falling on command, What a Girl Wants treats Firth as an afterthought in the role of the father Bynes' character never knew. A silly controversy about the airbrushing of Bynes flashing a peace sign on the poster was more interesting than anything in the film itself.
5. Helena Bonham Carter in Planet of the Apes: Yes, this is the one to blame for getting Bonham Carter and Tim Burton together for the first time, and we can only surmise that perhaps they were so busy falling in love they forgot to make the movie any good—a trend they continue to this day.
Certainly the director showed little interest in ostensible female lead Estella Warren, and the best performance came from a heavily made-up Charlton Heston making a joke about guns. It was the first movie to feature Mark Wahlberg talking to animals, though, so at least we got one good running joke out of the deal.