Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bad Movies: Good For Your Health

Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to Find the Worst Movie Ever Made, by the Aussie film critic Michael Adams.

I have read this book back to front. And it's a big book.

Before I had an obsession with films you might call "so bad they're good" - films that leave dignity at the door and make joke after joke at their own expense, films like the eighties version of Flash Gordon. This book, however, instigated a new fury which has consumed me with its passion for a number of weeks now.

I have become entrapped by the allure of genuinely bad movies.

I must admit, this strange and dangerous pastime was not as grandiose a transition for me as it would have been for many others - indeed, there is a masochistic quality to watching movies that are just flat-out bad; but I had practice.
  • My devotion to the craft forces me to stay up-to-date and not be one of those finnicky naysayers who will give bad reviews to, specifically, 3D animations they have never seen. When I say I hated How To Train Your Dragon, you know I've damn well seen it. I wanted to turn off Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs several times, but how can I say the movie sucks if I have not seen all that it has to offer? Well I have, and it does.
  • After that bout of every Alice In Wonderland movie we could locate, Arch was put off Alice movies more or less for life and I had passed through the eye of the needle of poor filmmaking. Between all of the different versions, virtually every single moviemaking mistake that can be made, has. And badly at that.
  • Arch and I have become rather entranced by a website known as AVClub which has, besides ordinary film reviews, utterly hilarious sections such as My Year Of Flops, Commentary Tracks Of The Damned, Films That Time Forgot, and I Watched This On Purpose.
  • Arch is a rabid completionist, and part of this obsession means that if he decides he wants to start a Daniel Day-Lewis collection, he's going to damn well finish it, even if it means buying Nine and Last of the Mohecians. Same for the Crispin Glover collection which includes such unintentionally hilarious travesties as Willard. We tend to watch these films with a sense of bewilderment as to why such a great actor would even want to be in it. Almost universally, said actor is the sole redeeming feature of the film.

Note: Crispin Glover makes everything slightly more enjoyable

With that, we were ready.

Ready to start watching really bad movies.

Guys, trust me on this. Be very careful about testing these waters because as I'm sure Michael Adams can tell you, it will become an addiction.

Curiosity killed the cat. In my case, it may well be morbid curiosity of how bad a film can actually get and still be released in the cinemas. There is good in this weird practice, however.

The more bad movies you watch, the more easily you can diagnose bad filmmaking. It's like practice. Yes, the films are often a ghastly viewing experience, but no pain no gain, right? I am pretty sure this is what separates a "film lover" from a film fanatic.
How far are you prepared to go for your love of the medium? Are you willing to suffer gaining the forbidden knowledge?

Have you ever wondered why people keep saying Hackers is so corny? Why Heaven's Gate was such a financial and critical disaster? How Kevin Costner went from a bankable Hollywood megastar to a laughingstock, and the films that caused this?

I'll tell you what helps. Watch it with a friend. Throw it on and shoot the shit like nobody's business. It's like a game. It makes the more boring bits bearable and it is so worth it when you hit a spectacularly bad bit and laugh like retards. Discuss the problem the film is experiencing, how to avoid it, and how it has appeared in "better" films more subtly. The funny thing is, Arch and I had streamlined this technique before we realised that it is basically what the MST3K / RiffTrax guys do for a living. I doubt even we could have sat through Twilight if it weren't for their side-splitting commentary.

Oh my god, Robert Pattinson is such a fucking douche. And yes, the vampires seriously do sparkle.

Of course, Australia doesn't get MST3K (and never has, or will) and we only got a chance to watch one RiffTrax movie before the guy who had two hundred and sixty gigs of them fucked off back to Sydney. But that isn't going to stop us from hunting down these movies and delving deeper and deeper into the quagmire of shithouse films.

So does this mean reviews??



Yeah, maybe.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

You know what really pisses me off?

Trailers.

And how the people responsible for making them have nothing to do with the film itself.

They employ the single most time-honoured clich├ęs of hackneyed editing ever conceived and we are expected to sit there and take it.
They also have different sound designers who use shitty sound design that is far beyond the limits of taste of even the most brazenly shameless hollywood director-for-hire. Same goes for their revolting stock music which usually finds its way in.

Some of the things I hate about trailers in particular:

  • Tonal shifts. It's all serious and gloomy one minute, then the music stops, then someone cracks a funny and some upbeat pop song takes its place as the trailer suddenly becomes more "humerus".
  • Showing us too much. Leave some of the best scenes for when I see it, eh?
  • Showing us too little. The latest "Splice" trailer I saw left me scratching my head and thinking, "well? What the fuck is this movie even about?"
  • Showing us the wrong scenes. The Iron Man 2 trailer put me off wanting to see the film, something which turned out to be incredibly misleading.
  • "SLAM" editing. Nauseatingly common. We only see a shot at its proper exposure for one frame before it fades to black. Pause. Another shot slams at us and fades to black. Do this about eight times, or enough times to utterly disorient anyone watching the film. Virtually always accompanied by loud "SLAM" bass-sounds.
  • The fact that nobody actually writes the voiceover guy's lines. It's just mailmerged templates selected depending on the season. "This summer, prepare to be blown away..." "Enter a world, of magic..." "And he's about to find out..." "From the studio that brought you..." "Wonder..." "A deadly game of cat and mouse..." "An incredible adventure awaits..." "Intrigue..." "This fall..." "Sometimes, all you need is a little..." Christ on a stick. Get creative, you fucks!!
My single greatest fear if I ever become a director, moreso than flopping a big production, is handing the film over to these guys to handle my trailer. They're going to ruin it. I won't even recognise what comes out of the trailer barn.