Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bad Movies We Love by Edward Margulies and Stephen Rebello

Not all movies made are good. Some of them are bad, some of them are very bad, and some pass through the time/space continuum that separates the very bad from the "So bad, you'll puke yourself laughing at the scenery-chewing, overacting, and bad special effects on display on the screen when you go to see them.

The authors have made 21 different lists of "So bad they are amusing and/or good" movies. Each of those lists is a different category, and then, they rate each film on its badness in the category, ranging from "So bad, you just have to watch it NOW" to "Just excruciatingly bad- watch at your own risk", which they call "You are on your own".

The twenty regular lists and the one "worst of the worst" list at the end encompass over 200 movies, from "Mame", "Butterfield 8", "9 1/2 Weeks", "Myra Breckenridge" and "Action Jackson" to supposedly highbrow stuff like "Caged", "A Summer Place", "The Eyes of Laura Mars" and "The Exorcist II: The Heretic" with plenty of other stops along the way,

The best chapter is, of course, the last, the so-called "Hall of Shame", populated with instant non-classics like "Kitten with a Whip", "Xanadu", "Can't Stop the Music", "The Fountainhead", "Mommie Dearest" and "The Oscar" being among the many polished turds on display. Better than just letting us know that these movies are bad, the book tells why they are bad in all their steaming glory, calling out directors on far-reaching visions that reached too far, or, conversely, not quite far enough, acting that is leaden, wooden, histrionic of flat as pavement after the steamroller goes by. Perhaps we are meant to believe that the two actors who simply have no chemistry together are deeply, madly in love with each other, or perhaps it is the script itself that fails to inspire, with horrible, tortured dialogue that somehow passed muster with the production company, but which inspires hilarity of entirely the wrong sort in viewers, or laughter when the film is supposed to be serious.

For people who think that past movies were simply better than Sturgeon's Law, which states that 90% of everything is crap, this book provides an eye-opening look at the truth that this simply isn't so, and the ratio of crap to good hasn't really changed at all in the history of movies. It's selective memory on the part of movie-goers who only remember the good and forget the bad. And there is a lot of bad, and even worse to find among those old movies.

What is also obvious is that the two authors really love movies, even the hilariously bad ones, They lovingly trot out all the flaws that make a a movie bad, or make it an unintentionally hilarious laugh-fest that can still be enjoyed in a "so bad it's awesome" way. Whether you have seen the movie in question or not, just reading the description can often make a reader laugh. I got the most laughs for my reading out of the section on disaster films like "Airport, Avalanche, The Poseidon Adventure, Delta Force, Earthquake and Concorde: Airport '79. I'd seen most of them and remembering them did make me laugh.

This wonderful book serves as a smorgasbord of bad movies that will make you both howl with laughter and just howl at the awfulness of it all. If you like laughing at absurd movies, add this book to your collection and the baddest ones to your Netflix queue, then sit back and wait for the yuks to roll in. But if you don't like bad movies, you will still get some enjoyment out of the book- just skip the movies themselves. Recommended.

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