Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bold Statement: I Love Junk Movies

A recent article on The Moki Blog confirms what everyone in the whole world already knew: today’s movies suck. The interactive graph on the site isn’t the most user-friendly, but it does give us the cold, hard facts. Movies released in the last decade (and certainly in the last three years) just aren’t very good anymore. They boiled down their process by stating:

"We looked at the 20 most popular movies each year, for the past 20 years. The key, we think, is to look for movies that some love and some hate, which is the likely profile of a bad movie that's "safely" manufactured for an existing fanbase. In other words, movies that are polarizing."
And I get it. Really, I do. I see that, very clearly, as time goes on movie studios just don’t want to take chances. But I really need to clear the air here. I will, literally, go see any movie in the theater. I will pay full price. I will buy popcorn. I will leave happy, no matter what.

I’m not a millionaire playboy with time to waste and money to flush. I just love getting into a story, good or bad. I want to see The Roommate, I want to see Tangled, I want to see Hall Pass, and I am Number Four, and good lord, please, someone come see Gnomeo and Juliet with me!

I started thinking about just how much I like crap movies earlier in the week, when Boivin posted his fantastic dreck review of Envy and I was reminded just how much I loved that stupid, stupid movie. I remember renting it with friends and howling with laughter at even the most dreadful moments of the film. Did they misuse Christopher Walken? Of course! Was the general conceit of the film based on the power of the poop-joke? Absolutely. But wasn’t it still groan-worthy and delightful (and didn’t it give proper props to flan)? I’m not saying Boivin was wrong in any way here. I’m saying I’m wrong, or, that when it comes to movies…there’s something wrong with me. I really believe I'm a special case (as we all like to believe about ourselves) and there are certain factors that have made me into the “perfect storm”-style fan of bad film.

First, and probably most importantly, was my coming of age on a steady diet of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’ve loved those brilliant little robots and their evisceration of the B-Movie since I was too young to get the jokes. In my teenage years I was an MST3K tape trader, sending in loads of blank VHS tapes to get one copy of a rare episode back in the mail! It was a huge community based, in essence, around movies with cardboard sets!

That show instilled in me a sense that good can come from any movie. No matter how dated or poorly made the movie, if you have good friends and a good sense of humor, any viewing experience can be a positive viewing experience. Even if I see a bad movie in the theater with friends, in a packed theater full of people who wouldn’t appreciate us joking around out loud, I enjoy it because I know my friends, too, are seeing this schlock.

Secondly, I blame my education. I have a (near useless) degree in Writing for Film and Television and I understand a bit too well the art of the blatant plot. Even the most paint-by-numbers film becomes, to the trained eye, a sort of hunt for the plot point. Where is Ben Affleck’s midpoint? When does Katherine Heigl reach her false climax? All this jargon is essential to good and bad filmmaking alike, and I can turn any boring movie into an exercise in structure. Therefore even a boring movie can pique my scholarly interest.

Finally, and I’m going to get a little esoteric here so stay with me, I love to try to take things out of their context and let them exist in a vacuum. Watching a film as a thing and not as a movie with a budget and a director and a low Rotten Tomatoes rating can turn the bad to the absurd. Its not exactly postmodernism (or post-structuralism) but it does the trick. Think about a terrible movie, say, Transformers 2, and try to watch it as if it just exists. Don’t think about Michael Bay. Don’t think about the acting. Watch it scene by scene and try to disconnect yourself from all cultural and aesthetic preferences. Do so and you may find, as I did, that that movie is wildly entertaining and hilarious and utterly bizarre. I give fair warning, you will slip out of this intoxicating state of pure intake from time to time, and the fall back to reality is a hard and destructive fall indeed. It works with a lot of pop-culture. From The Jersey Shore to a new Miley Cyrus radio smash hit, taken as purely a work of art or a thing existing in and of itself, pop-culture stands on wobbly, hilarious legs.

So in the end I just can’t write off a movie as terrible. It either excites in me a sense of community, or it becomes a honing exercise. And worst-case scenario, if a movie really does just suck, I can always get weird with it and make it exist the way I want it to: absurdly.