Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bad Movie Chart


Last night I watched Showgirls. My friend "X" and I had been talking about having a "bad movie night" for a couple of weeks. "X" shall remain nameless because being outted on the internet for sitting through all 2 hours and 15 minutes of Showgirls (you read that right, TWO HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES where each passing minute is more morally bankrupt than its predecessors) is almost worse than being a Republican caught with a rentboy.com account.

Showgirls
had less taste than the stripper pole Elizabeth Berkeley meticulously tongues twenty minutes into the "film."


"X" and I had fun making Mystery Science Theater 3000 style jokes throughout the movie. I must admit, as much as I hated the story and characters, I laughed my ass off (almost inducing an asthma attack...I swear). As I went to bed, with visions of Jessie Spano flailing about like a child inflicted with Tourette's syndrome and Gina Gershon slipping in and out of accents that ranged from Southern Slut and Jersey Shore Jezebel to some version of Julia Child attempting cockney articulation, I realized that I needed to define what I consider to be a "good" bad movie.

As a self-proclaimed aficionado of bad cinema, I came up with the following chart:

1. CULT CLASSIC BAD
Good kind of Bad
Anybody who's ever been to a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture or Tommy Wiseau's The Room knows exactly what I'm talking about. This is a very rare category of bad cinema in which a movie is so bad entire groups of people get together to lampoon it. If you sit and watch a cult classic by yourself, you'll most likely turn it off before you reach the end of the film. These movies are only entertaining when they're experienced with lots and lots of friends (usually in costumes and carrying bags of props).

See also: Troll 2, The Forbidden Zone, most of John Waters' canon

2. IRISH CAR BOMB BAD
Good kind of Bad
A step down from the cult classic bad films are movies that are beyond entertaining when you're under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or some weird combination of painkillers and ginger ale (I watched a lot of bad movies when my molars were removed in college). This category is usually filled with sci-fi action (Tron, Starship Troopers), grotesque horror (Tremors, Freddy vs. Jason) or blaxploitation comedy (when I'm a little tipsy, there is nothing funnier than Wanda Sykes playing Biggie Shorty in Pootie Tang).

NOTE: Unless you're recovering from surgery, this category is also only acceptable in group form...you crazy alcoholics.

See also: Armageddon, The People Under the Stairs, Undercover Brother

3. GUILTY PLEASURE BAD
"Good" kind of Bad
This is a very personal category. Every person has at least one movie that they're ashamed to admit to loving. That movie isn't fun when you're drunk. It's not fun with a group. Every time you mention enjoying it, someone scoffs at you and you lose all credibility for ever recommending a film again. For me, that movie is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

See! Half of you stopped reading right there. I could spend hours talking about how it feels like a $200 million Ed Wood film. I could write multiple blog posts on how much I hated the first one but found the second one to be so ridiculously gratuitous that it exists in its own universe and still manages to hold my attention for its ungodly running time no matter when it's on. None of those defenses hold water. So, as with all guilty pleasures, I will tuck my tail between my legs and admit that it is a total piece of shit...then run home and fire up my blu-ray player because it's still in there from the last time I watched it.

NOTE: If your guilty pleasure has higher than a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, it doesn't count...unless of course you secretly loved Precious because it's the most you've ever stifled laughter in a movie theater.

See also: Yeah, right...like I'm gonna admit to any more of these...

4. NETFLIX INSTANT BAD
Neutral kind of Bad
This is a category that collects all films deemed "mediocre." A recent example of this for me is Julie & Julia. When it was in the theater last summer, I asked everyone who saw it what they thought of it and I always got the same reaction: "Well, the movie's kinda slow and exactly what you'd expect, but Meryl Streep is REALLY good." That kind of "glowing" review won't get me to run to the nearest movie theater. It also won't get me to walk to the Blockbuster next door...or alter my Netflix queue so that it's mailed to me the minute it's available on DVD. However, I do feel like I owe it to Meryl to watch everything she does, and I'd rather not have to sit through commercials. So the minute it was available to stream to my TV, unedited, for free, I watched it.

And, yeah, Meryl was good.

See also: Changeling, The Blind Side

5. CABLE TELEVISION BAD
Bad kind of Bad
This is a step down from the Netflix Instant category. Notice that I never said Julie & Julia was particularly bad, it just wasn't particularly good either. Any movie that you wait until it premieres on TBS, TNT, or Comedy Central is obviously something you were never really interested in seeing in the first place...but maybe it had some strange element that grabbed your attention when you were flipping channels one Saturday afternoon. For me, this movie was Ang Lee's Hulk. I'd heard nothing but bad things, and the monstrous running time scared me away from going in the theaters. But, one day I was home bored and came across it on USA Network or something. The fact that it had commercials meant I could clean my apartment or work on my taxes or whatever was my "chore" that day without devoting my full attention to the television (I'm very easily distracted from my chores). I'd always been curious about where Ang Lee went wrong with the movie and, surprisingly, I found myself entertained enough to watch about two hours of it (probably only half of the film when you factor in commercials).

NOTE: I don't recommend this category if you're watching a bad movie like, say, Wild Things. They edit out the "good bits." And we all know T&A is the only reason anyone would sit through a Denise Richards picture.

See also: Any movie based on a Stephen King book that's NOT helmed by an A-list director

6. JUST PLAIN BAD
Bad kind of Bad
Did anyone expect Norbit to be good? Was anybody surprised that Furry Vengeance pulled a whopping 6% on Rotten Tomatoes? Some movies are so bad that you can't even make it to the end of the trailer. Nobody watches these movies except for the voters at the Razzie Awards. Let's keep it that way, folks.

See also: Gigli, Basic Instinct 2, Catwoman, I Know Who Killed Me, any Diane Keaton film that's NOT helmed by an A-list director, any film where Anthony Anderson gets top billing, any film with the name "Uwe Boll" anywhere in its credits.

7. TOTAL FUCKING LETDOWN BAD
Absolute worst kind of Bad
May 19, 1999. Do you remember that feeling you had when you walked out of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Do you remember wanting to throw George Lucas off a very tall bridge?

In my opinion, the absolute worst kind of movie isn't one where Eddie Murphy dons a fat suit, or Diane Keaton plays someone's overbearing mother, or Paris Hilton "emotes." The worst kind of film is one you're genuinely looking forward to seeing that sorely lets you down. These bad films sneak up on you and kick you in the nuts, then fart in your face while you're rolling around on the ground in agony. One minute, you're more or less having fun reliving your childhood and forgiving a few misplaced CGI gophers...the next Shia TheBeef is swinging from tree to tree with a bunch of monkeys while Indiana Jones continues his quest to discover alien skulls. Ouch.

This can also apply to movies that you originally plan on putting in the "Cable Television Bad" category. If I can be so bold as to reference another Michael Bay flick...I remember expecting to dislike The Island. The trailers made it look like a flashy, over-produced, action flick with no interesting contribution to the science fiction genre. I got into a free screening at work, and was actually shocked to find myself enjoying the first half. The characters were interesting. The movie pretended like it was going to explore the moral implications of cloning. There was mystery. There was drama. And then, about halfway through, Steve Buscemi crashes the party. He reveals the big mystery to the main characters, tells them what they have to do to stay alive, then gets out an actual map and traces out the rest of their steps through the third act. No more mystery. No more surprise. From that scene on the movie became a flashy, over-produced, action flick with no interesting contribution to the science fiction genre!! It tricked me!

See also: The Da Vinci Code, Hannibal, Spider-Man 3, The Lovely Bones, pretty much anytime Tim Burton decides to "re-imagine" something

7 comments:

Simon said...

#5: Does 'The Langoliers' count?

Mat said...

Your title is misleading. I came for a chart but only got text. :\

Nick SantaCroce said...

Fucking great post.

Kira Shea said...

I LOVE this. It reminds me of how clever you are! I think you need another category though (one I just discovered myself). It's somewhere between the cult classic bad and guilty pleasure bad...It falls into the same vein (but backwards) as films that you hear about that are "amazing" that actually DELIVER. Films that you EXPECT to be terrible, that ARE terrible and so, in that way also meet your expectations---which brings some sort of strange satisfaction. If, however you didn't expect the film to be bad going in, it would probably fall into the "total f-ing let down bad" category. Though, most of these, if you don't have the street smarts to ANTICIPATE them being bad---you really have no sense of film. See: TWILIGHT 'New Moon'. I felt like watching something laughable, and as a result thoroughly enjoyed this movie. But again, saw it for free via Netflix... So I guess I'm combining some of your 'bad' categories here :) Fab post!

ChillwithWill said...

Simon, I haven't actually seen 'Langoliers.' Wasn't it originally a made for cable movie though? Is it worth watching?

Mat...You just gave me something to do this week. Thank God work is slow.

Simon said...

Its good for a TV movie. Shit camera work, but the acting's decent and its an interesting story.

IllWilliam said...

...you've got David Morse, Dean Stockwell, and Bronson Pinchot bouncing around in a Stephen King adaptation helmed by the guy who directed Fright Night; it's not a wonderful ride, but it's got a couple of nearly memorable moments.