November 20, 2003

The B List

Print More

What is it about bad movies that makes people feel compelled to see them anyway? I remember once I read an essay about people being morbidly fascinated with the decay and death of the human body, their own mortality, and that phrase has stuck with me ever since. I think that in this instance, that phrase is particularly accurate. Bad movies fascinate people and lure them in to spend their precious pocket money on an experience which one can be almost certain not to enjoy. Really, the enjoyment comes from being able to lambast the horrible movie you spent your dough on. Also, misery loves all the forced company it can get, so dragging a friend with you is most of the fun, reveling in an experience that you can both rehash over and over again.

I went to see Matrix: Revolutions knowing that it would probably suck and I would be disappointed; I even had several conversations with various friends about this particular fact. And yet, I went to see this movie anyway, wasting my $6.00 on an experience that left me angry and yelling at everyone nearby about it. The only redeeming aspect of the movie (besides the fact that there’s no way they can milk another sequel out of this franchise) is that I went on a weeknight and received the student discount. God help the wrath I would have had if I had gone to the weekend showing.

A friend of mine went to see Brother Bear this weekend and told me, with no amount of surprise on my part, that it wasn’t exactly the best movie in the world, but he hadn’t expected it to be. I started in on him, telling him how dumb was he to spend money on a movie he knew he probably wouldn’t enjoy all that much, and then I thought of my Matrix mishap. That shut my mouth. Seriously, it’s so disturbing that we go to these movies not for the pleasure they bring us as cinema, but rather we go for the purpose of going to the movies. Instead of doing something to stimulate our minds or enhance our mental facilities, we numb ourselves into a near catatonic state for two hours to pass the time without having to talk to the people we’re with.

Now, I’m all for taking a break from work, vegging out and all of that, but there is a fine line between taking a break to get a grip on your sanity and just being too disinterested in your own surroundings to care about what’s going on. Yeah, losing yourself in fantasy is great, but fantasy is still supposed to stimulate your own imagination, give vent to aspirations you have inside, and reveal the inner longings you would never even conceive of, no matter how many drinks you may have had.

Cinema developed as yet another way to convey a great story, another way to tell someone else this fantastic idea. From melodramatic silent movies to slick film noir to the modern mega blockbuster and all the various permutations that happened along the way, movies have always told a story that was worth telling. The idea was the most important part of the film, the core of the experience of seeing a movie. Now, the central aspect of most movies is the visual appeal, the big names in it, and how much money a studio can rake in on the opening weekend, before everyone tells their friends just how badly that movie sucked. This makes me sad beyond words.

Action films, romantic comedies, and horror movies are fantastic genres that deserve respect. True, there are a ton of bad movies that fit into the above categories, but there is also an enormous number of really excellent flicks that don’t deserve the flippant dismissal most people give to movies that match the above groupings. Basically, this is my rail against seeing crap movies for the purpose of seeing a movie. If you want to zone out, why not watch bad TV, or, better yet, bad movies on TV? It’s a lot cheaper and tends to make one feel less dirty than one would after walking out of the theatre when the credits role on, say, the upcoming movie Timeline, which deals with students (one being portrayed notably by Paul Walker) working on an archaeological dig in France before travelling back in time to save their professor. Yeah, sounds like quality, doesn’t it?

The season is at hand for all the Oscar contenders to start crowding each other out, so there’s plenty of quality films to choose from when you want to catch the latest offering at our dear local theatres. Not that I’m advocating movie snobbery, there’s nothing I hate more than pretentious people who won’t even consider seeing something unless it has subtitles. Just see something that you might normally think you wouldn’t like. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Last Samurai, and Gothika all promise to put on a thought provoking show. Remember: a movie so bad it’s good is golden, but just plain bad film wastes everyone’s time.

Archived article by Sue Karp