When Genius Fails: The 10 Biggest Wastes of Talent

The next time you crap the bed on some important project at work, remember this: even geniuses screw up. And when they do, it's often in a huge, spectacular, terrifying way that us commoners could never have dreamed possible.

For example, we've stolen our title from the book When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein, a cautionary tale about a company that hired some of the most talented people on the planet, then managed to lose almost two billion dollars in a single month.

Here's more proof that even the best can fall flat on their rich, smirking faces:

#10. Grindhouse

Why It Should Have Been Awesome
About two years ago, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the co-founders of late '90s Oscar factory Miramax, left to start their own production company, the profoundly titled Weinstein Co. It was an ambitious move, and the brothers needed an ambitious film to let everyone know that they meant business. After a couple of critically hailed test runs, the Weinstein's decided to put all their chips on Grindhouse, a film that featured not one, but two of the greatest living action directors (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez), and a veritable murderers row of action movie talent.

Not to mention a chick with a fucking machine gun for a leg.

What Went Wrong
Drowning in all that carefully assembled talent, the Weinsteins failed to notice one very important thing: The project didn't make a lick of sense. It spoofed a genre of bad '70s exploitation movies known for being bad in the first place. And, "known" is a stretch. The idea for the film came about when Rodriguez and Tarantino noticed they both owned the same poster for Dragstrip Girl and Rock All Night, and decided they wanted to make a movie for all the people who had those posters, too-in other words, each other.

The Weinsteins spent the months leading up to the film' doomed release counting artfully done smash zooms and hovering crane shots to get to sleep at night, and failed to realize they were gambling their company on an inside joke between two film nerds. Not surprisingly, the film turned out to be a success with critics, who enjoyed the fact that it was 180 minutes of winking and nodding in their general direction, and a gigantic commercial failure, losing in its first week at the box office to Are We Done Yet?, a film whose logline (The Money Pit... with black people!) was a bit easier for audiences to wrap their minds around.

#9. Guns N' Roses -Chinese Democracy

Why It Should Have Been Awesome
After 1987's Appetite For Destruction and 1989's LIES, it's easy to see why Guns N' Roses' label, Geffen, agreed to release two albums at once in 1991: Use Your Illusion I & II, which debuted at the top two spots on the Billboard Music charts. Someone at the label probably thought, "We better release these as quickly as possible, because at this rate of song production, we won't have room in our warehouses in 2007 for all the albums these guys are going to put out over the next decade!"

What Went Wrong
It hasn't come out yet and, considering the band started recording in 1994, the next few months don't look so promising, either. And, although democracy has not arrived in China since production of the still-unreleased album began, polling stations have opened in once-undemocratic nations of Indonesia and Iraq during that time. Also, Axl Rose has turned himself into a bloated, red-corn-rowed version of the Predator, managing to rival Michael Jackson for "creepy-looking-'80s-idol" supremacy.

In theory, the album could still be released and be worth the wait. It could-despite a total absence of Slash, Izzy, and with the addition of roughly a metric ton of Axl-take the music industry by storm and give Rolling Stone magazine something new to write about for the next 20 years. However, based on this performance of one of the new songs, and the fact that the most remarkable aspect of it is that Axl (right) now looks like a high school math teacher, we're going to hold our applause until we hear a little more.

#8. Ocean's Twelve

Why It Should Have Been Awesome
The movie was fat with Oscar winners. Now, a movie starring an Oscar winner is no guarantee of success, as Jon Voight proved in SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2.

"But, how about a movie featuring five Oscar winners?" A baby genius might ask, using Jon Voight's baby-talk decoding system. "That's gotta be five times as good, right?" The baby genius would have a point: A movie starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Matt Damon, and directed by Steven Soderbergh, would be expected to be amazing. And, this isn't Ocean's Five, it's Ocean's Twelve-the movie also features Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, Elliott Gould, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Bernie Mac and Bruce Willis.

What Went Wrong
It' basically like watching an Us Weekly come to life: "Hey kiddo, you want to watch famous people cover up their emotional neediness with gobs of money, right?" The film itself is absolutely devoid of any artistic merit, featuring performances that suggest the actors are hung over, and a twist ending so pointless that you half suspect they're fucking with you.

It turns out that neither of these suspicions are all together unlikely: Soderbergh and the stars have all but admitted in interviews that the film was just an elaborate ruse to get paid to party at George Clooney' villa in Italy. When asked if there were any pranks played on the set, Brad Pitt noted, "I think the biggest joke was on Catherine (Zeta-Jones) because she actually thought we were making a movie. Being the new kid, nobody told her because she was up running lines and breaking down her character." Ha ha! You got us, too, Brad! We went in thinking we were actually paying to watch a movie. Stealing money from the masses is apparently hilarious when you're handsome.

#7. The 2001-2003 Texas Rangers

Why They Should Have Been Awesome
The baseball Rangers signed 40-40 Club superstar Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252-million contract, the most lucrative deal in baseball history for arguably the greatest player of his generation.

What Went Wrong
First, let us acknowledge the difficulty we had deciding between which Rangers team to go with, the Texas version or New York' hockey team. The NY Rangers, during the seven seasons ending with 2003-2004, frequently had the highest payroll in the NHL and featured various future hall of famers. The result? Seven consecutive losing seasons.

However, as if to prove that everything is, in fact, bigger in Texas, including colossal embarrassments, the Texas Rangers went one step further by finishing dead last in their division each season A-Rod was on the team. This means that the Texas Rangers could have saved money signing about half of the New York Rangers to their team, had them play games in skates instead of cleats, and technically not done any worse in the final standings.

#6. The Titanic

Why It Should Have Been Awesome
Costing $7.5 million ($162.3 million, today) and taking three years to build (a quarter of a man' life expectancy at the time), the Titanic was the most talked about gigantic ship of the early 20th Century, a time when there was presumably little else to talk about. It was designed by Thomas Andrew, widely considered one of the most intelligent and gifted shipbuilders in the history of the trade (as if you didn't know that already). After attending the elite Royal Belfast Academical Institution at 11, Andrew worked his way up from the bottom in various shipyards thereby familiarizing himself with all aspects of shipbuilding. He was also the nephew of Lord William Pirrie, who was the owner of enormous-shipbuilding juggernaut Harland and Wolff. Legend has it that he once ate a trash bag full of popsicle sticks in a single night, and the next morning shit a perfectly constructed scale model of the entire Spanish Armada. Making ships was sort of this dude' thing.

To reward his work ethic, enthusiasm and almost-universal likeability among peers, J.P. Morgan, gave Thomas what at the time was known as "ass-loads" of money to build his dream ship.

What Went Wrong
Hard to say. In 1912, right before the Titanic' voyage, a deckhand reportedly boasted that "God, himself, could not sink this ship," so it' quite possible that a higher power asserted itself to put the arrogant crewmember in his place. Or it could have been the iceberg.

The Titanic, despite warnings of ice floes and being blindfolded by darkness, decided it would take it' chances with a slalom course of icebergs, always a good idea when you're so big that you have to RSVP two months in advance to make a left turn.

Not surprisingly, they eventually crashed into a humongous chunk of ice, thus transforming the ship from "Unsinkable Luxury Cruiser" to "Fodder for James Cameron' Money Cannon."

Of course none of it would have been so bad if they packed enough lifeboats to save everyone. But since the ship's talented pedigree seemingly insulated it from disaster, there were only enough for the women, children and Billy Zane. Freezing, stinging water, on the other hand, was in no short supply, and hundreds went down with it, including shipbuilding prodigy Thomas Andrew.

Billy Zane, luckily, was unharmed.

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