Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Behalf of Bad Films…

Not too long ago, Toto asked for people to confess their guilty pleasures, which films they love to watch despite the fact that they are truly awful. This got me to thinking, and now I confess:

I am a lover of bad cinema.

I don’t mean the obvious disasters, like Plan 9 From Outer Space. No, I love the film gone wrong, that one that started with the best of intentions and went astray.

That’s the only way to explain why I think a wreck like Wanted is good. And if that’s not sufficient proof, consider that I can’t get enough of Hitman. The plot (choke, how did I even write that word in this context?) is laughable, the acting significantly short of sublime, and the writing...oh dear oh my. Yet I can’t get enough. Watched it again just the other night. All the while, I’m thinking how no one seems to notice these bald killers with bar codes tattooed on the back of their heads, and how in the hell do they conceal all those weapons under those snazzy coats (dual pistols, silencers, reloads, swords...two swords!) and...and...and I just don’t care.

There’s the truly bad, like Howard the Duck. I was a fan of comic book, at least the original color version, and I should be pissed off at how my duck was abused by this film. Thomas Dolby’s music makes teeth ache, and not in that pleasant way that some truly awesome punk can do; John Barry is squandered. ILM went to a lot of trouble to make special effects that are generally lacking in the “special” department and are minimally effective. They substituted various sites around the San Francisco Bay Area for, of all places, Cleveland, Ohio. What, I wasn’t supposed to recognize downtown Oakland?!?

And yet...

My love for well done bad movies explains why I can’t get enough of Underworld and Underworld Evolution (still waiting for the DVD of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans; complete with Rhona Mitra, who all alone justifies my loving Doomsday). At first I thought it was just Kate Beckinsale in latex, and while that might be enough, turns out there’s more. There has to be more because Jake Speedman is enough to undo all the good will Beckinsale earns; he sucks that hard.

There’s something deliriously marvelous about both films. I credit writer-director Les Wiseman, who insisted on practical (on the set) effects as much as possible. The result is that those enormous werewolves are actually on the set, fighting those vampires. Watch the behind the scenes footage; they actually get to walk around and growl! Tis a thing of joy, it is.

Like Timur Bekmambetov with Wanted, and maybe even Xavier Gens (though reports are that he was “fired” and film finished by someone else) with Hitman, the film exudes a sense that Wiseman was just having one hell of a good time. Maybe that’s it, the common thread making each of these films more enjoyable than their “quality” would lead you to expect.

Francois Truffaut once said:

I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between.

And that’s it. For each of these films, I get a sense that the key people in charge, especially the directors, just love to make films. Even Hitman, which is another half-baked screen adaptation of a successful video game, just feels like everyone knows the entire thing is ludicrous, but, hey, let’s enjoy and look, we’re making cinema! w00t!

Now, I can’t take all bad cinema. I’m not a complete masochist. For instance, I survived one viewing of Battlefield Earth. Wow. I’ve tried to re-visit it, to see if it can join my little pantheon of marvelously horrible films, but alas, no. I get a few minutes into it and I just have to give up, at least when I’m sober. It’s a well known fact, however, that tequila makes almost anything palatable. I shall have to do further research.

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