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In Defense of Bad Movies
by Spotlight Mike

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The Universal Symbol for PLPLPPLPLPLPLPLPL!

The Universal Symbol for PLPLPPLPLPLPLPLPL!

My wife and I visited Spain a few years back. Aside from the fact that she spoke very bad high school Spanish and I took French thirty years ago, we managed to fumble our way through our vacation with minimal embarrassment. One downside of traveling overseas and not being in a tourist area, that is, we were put in a timeshare that was more of a vacation spot for locals than for "ugly Americans," is that meat is "different" in their meals as it is for Americans. That, added to the fact that the town we were in had no market, only a traveling bazaar that came once a week and only sold LIVE entrees, the wife and I had difficulty finding American-style cuisine.

Since we rented a car, we were able to freely move about the area. We traveled around the Southern Spain area and finally came across a real supermarket! We ran in the store and gleefully picked up as many staples as we could understand. In the meat section, there was quite a variety, though many of the items were prepared and wrapped, so we had difficulty figuring out what was what. We finally came across a whole chicken (head and all) and a package of ground meat marked "Hamburger." Since our little apartment had a kitchen, we could cook, so we bought the hamburger, took the hamburger back to the apartment, cooked up the hamburger, bit into our hamburger - and gagged! Turns out that the store was a favorite of British tourists and in the era of Mad Cow Disease, their "hamburger" was actually veal. Now, if you're expecting a nice juicy beef burger and end up with a dried-up veal burger (we overcooked it), there's bound to be disappointment.

That is my defense of the so-called "bad movie." If a movie is hyped as the Next Greatest Thing to ever hit the Silver Screen and it turns out to be a travesty, there will be disappointments. BUT
I'll Be Back - Oh, God! PLEASE NO!

I'll Be Back - Oh, God! PLEASE NO!
(going back to Spain for a minute), if we were aware that your "hamburger" was actually "vealburger," and you had previous knowledge of what to expect, the horror of your surprise would not have been so great. Translating that in movie terms, that after reading the reviews of your fellow Matchflickers, or if you're like me, a first adopter, you've done your research of the documented clunker, and you go anyway, don't be surprised when you've felt that you've lost two hours of your life you'll never get back; well, ya get what ya paid for!

Bad movies are usually bad movies because we expect something other than what is presented. Take MY MAN GODFREY, a 1936 sophisticated comedy that was very popular in its day, and still holds up today as a classic comedy. A person weaned on SCARY MOVIE would look at this "ancient attempt at humor" with boredom, if not outright disgust. The opposite would apply to the GODFREY generation's view on Keenan Ivory Wayan's effort. The lesson learned here is that if expectations exceed reality, there will be issues.

Many movies lure you into the theater with preview trailers that promise you wonderment, excitement, humor and drama; most do not live up to their hype. It is therefore the responsibility of the theater-goer (yes, I said responsibility) to understand what they're getting into. And at the prices of today's multiplexes, a bad movie experience can be an expensive mistake. You wouldn't go to an Asian cuisine restaurant if you wanted Italian or buy a dress that was too young or too old for you. So why would you expect your movie experience to be as enjoyable as you want it to be if you went blindly into it? For
Ed Woods - the Patron Saint of Clunkers

Ed Woods - the Patron Saint of Clunkers
most movies, you have a very good idea what to expect. If it's a Sylvester Stallone movie, you expect action. But, if you walk into a Sylvester Stallone movie expecting action, and you get OSCAR, you're bound to be disappointed. But, if you can expand your expectations and believe that Stallone can do comedy, it may not be such a painful experience. Even a movie such as PLAN 9 from OUTER SPACE, Ed Woods' crowning achievement, hailed as "the Worst Movie Ever Made" can have some entertainment value when taken in the right context.

There is always the exception, however. That is, those movies that take themselves too seriously. Movies like HEAVEN'S GATE, or INCHON, where over-blown production, or over-blown acting, or a combination of other features just makes the movie painful to watch, in any mindset. It is, after all, entertainment, and you're supposed to be entertained, not preached at or screamed at, or anything else a performer can do "at" you. I personally do not understand why a person's interpretation of entertainment is to sit in a theater and cry for two hours. Then again, few people would understand why I love Steven Spielberg's 1941, the movie that proves that even Spielberg can make mistakes.

On every Matchflickers' Personal Profile page, each member lists not only their favorite movies, but what referred to as their "Guilty Pleasures." Each Matchflicker's list usually consist
A Stage Play So Bad - It Became a Cult Juggernaut

A Stage Play So Bad - It Became a Cult Juggernaut
of movies not critically acclaimed, or generally accepted as quality cinema, but darn it, we like 'em anyway. These "bad movies," in the opinion of each Matchflicker, may be bad movies to most, but to that individual, that's entertainment. As the saying goes, "I may not know art, but I know what I like."

Bad movies are in the eye of the beholder. It doesn't matter if it was touted as a cinematic achievement or an OMG, "no they did'n" clunker, the bottom line is what is the entertainment value to YOU? Remember, movie makers don't go out make bad movies, so every so-called bad movie must be a good movie to a specific demographic. How many of us secretly enjoy the occasional schlocky movie, or a movie that's so incredibly bad (BATTLEFIELD EARTH), that you hunker down with your bowl of popcorn anyway and feel oh-so superior to the material you're watching. To paraphrase the words of Father Joseph Flanagan, "There is no such thing as a bad movie."

Except for The LOVE GURU.

Of course, I could be wrong!


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Sep 23, 2010 7:57 AM
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How about 1955's Killer's Kiss? Love your columns Mike. Always something new to learn. I too love 1941. Right after Pearl Harbor the West Coast was really paranoid. Speilberg captured it just right.
Mike Thomas
Sep 23, 2010 12:09 PM
[X] delete
Thanks, Jon!

I actually had to CUT DOWN my column because of the massive list of "bad movies" I've seen. As you probably know, I love bad movies, and even limiting them to the most memorable I've seen was tough.

Maybe I should have made this a two-parter....

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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