The Bad, The Worse, & The Beautician… Also, Sharks: April ’15 in Films

vlcsnap-2015-04-07-12h38m46s131 This was a very hard month for me. For perhaps the first time since I started doing monthly movie-watching themes, I actually watched a substantial amount of films that fit the theme in relation to what I watched that did not. But why – why – did these stars choose to align on the month that I chose to devote specifically to bad movies? Indeed, I watched a large mess of material this month – with particular emphasis on mess. In general, I tend to watch a lot of TV and movies that pertain very particular to my own interests; therefore, sometimes I fall into patterns where I enjoy pretty much everything I watch. Since I believe that any appreciation of art should come with its own challenges, I decided to embark upon a journey of watching as many expectedly-bad films as I could, partially in an attempt to fully realize my personal tastes.

While I did watch a few movies considered milestones in the “bad movie” subculture of cinephiledom, I also watched a whole bunch of trash that I had previously promised myself that I would never watch for my own sake. On the other hand, there were also a few films that, though often included among lists of the worst movies of all time (some even declared terrible by personal acquaintances), I didn’t think were all that horrendous in the end. And really, this was my end goal for this month in the first place: seeking out those hidden gems that maybe, just maybe, deserved a second chance. Of course, I didn’t find as many of them as I had hoped, but everyone’s got to start somewhere. village This month, I watched a couple of films from M. Night Shyamalan: The Village and The Last Airbender. Previously, I had only ever seen The Sixth Sense from the filmmaker, along with various clips from some of his other films that video bloggers and general internet users implement in order to emphasize how bad his movies are. It could be argued that his name is up there with Edward D. Wood’s, in that both are considered among the worst – if not the worst – filmmakers of all time. My opinion? After venturing past the one film that most people consider his best, I think the hate toward Shyamalan is a bit misplaced, perhaps unfairly so. The Village has, for the most part, gotten mixed reviews and is relatively more acclaimed than his most notoriously bad flicks. I personally didn’t enjoy it, but I can see how others would. The worst one could say about it is that its narrative is uninteresting, bland, and not helped by its otherwise decent twist ending (also, Adrien Brody). The Last Airbender is definitely the worst of his I’ve seen, with poor acting, incomprehensible storylines, and an aesthetic that seems to generally suck the life out of its seemingly charming source material (although I’ve never seen the show). Once again, however, this is really the worst you can say about it. It’s not even the worst film of its year, let alone worst of the decade. Sure Shyamalan has proven time and time again that his genre pictures turn out rather silly, but there are hundreds of terrible horror, thriller, and sci-fi churned out every year. Picking on him because he’s got such high prestige (one of the only Indian directors in the US who does, by the way) simply comes off as misguided and it’s just one bandwagon within the film community I simply don’t get.

The other is the relatively recent appreciation for Michael Bay, whom I will set here as a counterpoint. This month, I watched his first Transformers film; previously, I had watched Pearl Harbor and Pain & Gain. After this month, honestly, I think I’m officially done with Michael Bay. I am literally unable to appreciate his juvenile, hypermasculine approaches to the types of films in which I have to push myself to become involved in the first place. Pearl Harbor could have even been halfway decent if it wasn’t so painfully boring. Yet Transformers isn’t just tiresome; it’s also blatantly misogynist and racist, in ways that I could only imagine twelve-year-old boys finding merit in. Yes, I actually enjoyed Pain & Gain when I watched it about a year ago, but that was mainly for its sharp, satirical edge and humorous performances from its cast (notably Dwayne Johnson). I’ve yet to uncover even a fraction of such strength in any other part of his filmography. Despite such advantages, his style is still cinematic trash and it astounds me that there are a rising group of movie-lovers who have come to defend the artistic merit of Bay’s films. ThePrincessDiaries22004DVDRipAC3-3Whew. I’m really not sure where that huge Shyamalan/Bay rant came from, but it does feel good actually writing it down. I don’t particularly wish to dwell on the negative in my blog, so I really don’t want to focus on the films that turned out to be just as terrible as I expected. Moreover, it probably wouldn’t benefit anyone for me to make a top 5 worst films I watched this past month, as it’ll be full of obvious picks that most people wouldn’t consider watching in the first place. I’ll just say that you should probably avoid the following films at all costs: SharknadoThe Nutty ProfessorJack and JillTransformersBattlefield EarthSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandLicense to Drive. While some of the films I watched were ones I ended up disliking, I find these particular ones to have little to no redeeming qualities whatsoever. On a side note, I didn’t even initially plan on watching License to Drive for bad movie month – it’s just really terrible and no one should have to watch it.

With that being said, there are others that managed to stumble somewhere between trash and treasure while still unanimously being a “bad” movie. While Deep Blue Sea was certainly dated in many ways, I would be lying if I said I had at least somewhat of a good time watching it (I particularly recommend it for LL Cool J alone). It certainly was more charming than the very similar Anaconda, which I also recently watched for the first time. Secondly, I can’t really see the sequel to The Princess Diaries winning over many of the fans of the first film (which I personally have always enjoyed). Nonetheless, it’s pretty fun in its own right – at the very least, it contains a great all-ladies slumber party scene which coalesces into this brief, wonderful moment. I also rewatched the live-action/CGI clusterfuck Scooby-Doo for the first time in about nine years, and as a probably ridiculously unpopular opinion, I didn’t think it was all that bad. Yes, the plot is most likely too convoluted and weird for its own good, but its combination of sight gags and self-aware humor provided at least some substance to the final product. Considering that it was written by known fanboy James Gunn, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Finally, although The Beautician and the Beast has a ridiculously low rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I actually found it genuinely charming and a totally worthwhile watch. Then again, this is coming from someone who is a fan of both rom-coms and Fran Drescher, so perhaps this is an acquired taste.

A particularly interesting sidenote is that I coincidentally watched three separate films this month that featured antagonistic sharks: Deep Blue SeaSharknado, and Kon-Tiki. These were all made several decades after Jaws, which is evidence that the general public still carries a deep-rooted fear of the aquatic creatures and probably always will. f1f12688c497c7ba42256cad2d77fb24Besides all these bad movies, I also watched a good number of films that I didn’t plan for my bad movie month, but the most notable ones will be covered in my top 5 for the month. Here is the complete list of films I watched this month (asterisks indicate rewatches):

  1. Pink Flamingos (Waters, 1972)*
  2. Deep Blue Sea (Harlin, 1999)
  3. Sharknado (Ferrante, 2013)
  4. Frogs (McCowan, 1972)
  5. The Village (Shyamalan, 2004)
  6. Saved! (Dannelly, 2004)
  7. Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Babbitt, 2007)
  8. Intrastella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (Takenôchi, 2003)
  9. We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (Nibbelink et al., 1993)
  10. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DeBlois, 2014)
  11. Space Jam (Pytka, 1996)
  12. Mom and Dad Save the World (Beeman, 1992)
  13. The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (Marshall, 2004)
  14. White God (Mundruczó, 2015)
  15. Bande de filles (Girlhood) (Sciamma, 2015)
  16. It Follows (Mitchell, 2015)
  17. The Nutty Professor (Shadyac, 1996)
  18. Jack and Jill (Dugan, 2011)
  19. Transformers (Bay, 2007)
  20. The Warriors (Hill, 1979)
  21. Megamind (McGrath, 2010)
  22. The Last Airbender (Shyamalan, 2010)
  23. Battlefield Earth (Christian, 2000)
  24. Scooby-Doo (Gosnell, 2002)*
  25. Red Hook Summer (Lee, 2012)
  26. Der Wald Vor Lauter Bäumen (The Forest For the Trees) (Ade, 2003)
  27. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Schultz, 1978)
  28. Cowboys & Aliens (Favreau, 2011)
  29. Spy Kids (Rodriguez, 2001)*
  30. Mac and Me (Raffill, 1988)
  31. The Beautician and the Beast (Kwapis, 1997)
  32. Kon-Tiki (Rønning & Sandberg, 2012)
  33. Along Came Polly (Hamburg, 2004)
  34. License to Drive (Beeman, 1988)
  35. Cecil B. Demented (Waters, 2000)
  36. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Khouri, 2002)
  37. A Knight’s Tale (Helgeland, 2001)
  38. Fantastic Voyage (Fleischer, 1966)
  39. Romancing the Stone (Zemeckis, 1984)

New-to-me: 36
Rewatch: 3

Total watched in 2015: 185
Total new-to-me in 2015: 176

Once again, I still managed to make my one-per-day goal, but it’s still a little bit less than what I usually watch. This makes sense, of course, considering that I’m also trying to complete my Billboard Hot 100 challenge, which is eating up a lot more of my free time than I was expecting. This is on top of my decision to watch the entirety of Dragonball Z, with which I’m already one-third finished! In addition to all of this, I started watching Steven Universe in April, which is surprisingly super charming, beautiful, women-centric, and basically everything I could ever ask for in a cartoon. I almost have to hold myself back from devoting the entirety of my free time on this show, but with imagery such as this and this, it’s damned near impossible. So basically, if you get anything out of this blog post, let it be known that ’tis better to watch Steven Universe than shit cinema.

Now that I’ve got all that out of the way, here’s my top five films I watched this past month. Warriors_007Pyxurz5) The Warriors.

During my first-time watch of this cult classic, I was utterly confused of what to make of it. Its old-timey misogyny really exemplifies some of the most distressing aspects of this era’s media representation. Yet at the same time, its focus on the invisible outcasts of the inner city makes for a story that is hard for me not to appreciate. Overall, more than anything else, the music is great and its campy aesthetic is to die for. I still can’t decide which of the gangs’ choice of outfits I prefer the most, but I think my vote goes for Mr. Overalls and Roller Skates. itty-bitty-group4) Itty Bitty Titty Committee.

While I was generally unfazed by …But I’m a Cheerleader (given that it has been a few years since I watched it), this film really won me over for Jamie Babbit. Sure, its political edge often unfortunately highlights the the more problematic facets of radical feminism, including its cissexism. On the other hand, its story is charming and rightfully subversive; inevitably, I found myself crushing on practically everyone (especially Melonie Diaz, who is such an underrated actress). We need more films about queer punk babes being friends, lovers, and overall challenging oppressive structures with DIY mantras and bad attitudes. MV5BMTYyOTYxMDkwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzY3NTU0NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_3) Pink Flamingos.

I have a confession to make: before I rewatched Pink Flamingos at the beginning of the month, it was easily my least favorite John Waters film. After undergoing (enduring?) this experience once more, however, I can confidently state that there really is nothing else like it. Hilariously gross and successfully provocative, it captures the sheer essence of grotesque, trash cinema in ways of which other films have only begun to scratch the surface. Although I still hold the opinion that Female Trouble is his strongest film, the beautiful mess that Waters plants upon the screen in Pink Flamingos is still some of the most subversive stuff of all time. girlhood2) Girlhood.

Celine Sciamma cannot be touched. She has such a distinct flair for her stories about maturing young people, seen as she delicately approaches the topics of lesbianism and transgender identities in Water Lilies and Tomboy, respectively. Girlhood, her latest, is certainly no exception. The use of nonprofessional actors was a great decision, as the story of her protagonist feels all the more genuine, approachable, and sympathizing. Every scene of this film bursts to life with strong, beautiful, young Black women, whose mere presence in the narrative is so, so important. Overall, as grim as Girlhood may be, it values the invaluable power of female friendship amongst hard times. This is probably most explicit in the “Diamonds” scene, which is my favorite scene in any 2015 film thus far. Arpegius1) Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.

Seeing as I’ve recently became more serious about music these days, perhaps it’s fitting that Interstella 5555 would be my favorite thing that I watched all month. After all, it’s essentially little more than a prolonged video following a concept that probably didn’t exist upon the corresponding album’s original intentions. Nonetheless, it’s terrific. It combines two of my most recent favorite things – Japanese animation and Daft Punk’s Discovery – with absolute precision and compelling emotion. The artwork is absolutely astounding, and while the story isn’t really much to write home about, the methods the animators took to make sure it matched up to the music is certainly worth appreciating. More than anything, I think, it’s an excuse for me to listen to Discovery, with the advantage of an accompanying sci-fi narrative about an extraterrestrial band who gets sent to Earth to work for evil music executives. How could I complain about that? ma-vie-en-rose4.jpgIn March, I read B. Ruby Rich’s New Queer Cinema and was introduced to an array of titles from the late 80s to early 90s that worked to define this cinematic movement. I’d really like to watch as many of these titles as possible, while the ideas and concepts presented in the book are still fresh in my mind. Therefore, May’s theme will be devoted to LGBT films and filmmakers that would fall into this category. I hope during this time I could finally get around to films and filmmakers that are prestigious within this subculture yet relatively unknown on a larger scale – films like High Art and The Watermelon Woman, filmmakers like Todd Haynes and Derek Jarman. I expect to discover an eclectic blend of genres and quality tied together by this unifying, rainbow thread – and something tells me that I’m not bound to be disappointed.

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