Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"The cultural equivalent of leprosy."

Several years ago, I flew from Dallas to Las Vegas with my dad. On the nighttime flight, Dad was reading a book by Joe Queenan -- I believe it was Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon. (I could call him to confirm this, but an aversion to hard labor -- like fact-checking -- is one of the things that led me to blogging.) Queenan's diatribe about popular American culture was making Dad laugh, hard. How hard? A couple of days later, in a casino, a guy walked up to him and said, "Hey, you're the guy who was laughing on my plane the other night. I have to ask, what were you reading?"

Last week, in The Guardian, Queenan wrote about the recent Paris Hilton vehicle (a Pinto, to be specific) The Hottie and the Nottie, using the movie's release as an excuse to ponder what makes a movie a candidate for The Worst of All Time.
Though it is a natural impulse to believe that the excruciating film one is watching today is on a par with the excruciating films of yesterday, this is a slight to those who have worked long and hard to make movies so moronic that the public will still be talking about them decades later. Anyone can make a bad movie; Kate Hudson and Adam Sandler make them by the fistful. Anyone can make a sickening movie; we are already up to Saw IV. Anyone can make an unwatchable movie; Jack Black and Martin Lawrence do it every week. And anyone can make a comedy that is not funny; Jack Black and Martin Lawrence do it every week. ... A generically appalling film like The Hottie and the Nottie is a scab that looks revolting while it is freshly coagulated; but once it festers, hardens and falls off the skin, it leaves no scar. By contrast, a truly bad movie, a bad movie for the ages, a bad movie made on an epic, lavish scale, is the cultural equivalent of leprosy: you can't stand looking at it, but at the same time you can't take your eyes off it.
For his king of the all-time stinkers, Queenan selects Heaven's Gate, "a movie in which Jeff Bridges pukes while mounted on roller skates."

I haven't seen Heaven's Gate (though its flaming collapse is detailed in a book I recently raved about). It's hard to come up with my worst ever off the top of my head, so I won't make any final pronouncements. I'll mention Titanic as an early contender, though, because in addition to all of its flaws (meaning, its first two and a half hours), many people think it's good. And as Queenan writes, "an authentically bad movie has to be famous; it can't simply be an obscure student film about a boy who eats live rodents to impress dead girls."

So, readers, leaving aside whatever rock-bottom cable atrocities you've happened across, what are your feelings about Worst. Movie. Ever.?


Blogger Dianna said...

Showgirls. Definitely a contender. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater did hilarious parody of In the Actor's Studio a couple of years ago, where they re-enacted some scenes and showed others. It's shocking how bad it is. Having never seen the movie before, I thought the actual film clips were some sort of high tech digitial parody. I was naive, obviously, but it still seems unbelievable that a film so cheesy, highlighting such extremist character stereotypes, and based on such a vapid and worthless plot could make it to theaters. Straight to video, sure, but major theaters? Then came Snakes on a Plane. But at least the producers of that film realized it was bad and tried to turn it into a parody of itself.

1:20 PM  
Blogger gunter said...

Is Beyond Borders well known enough to be a contender?
I found it excruciatingly painful to watch.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Leanne said...

Cable Guy. Walked out halfway. And I know Ishtar, Battlefield Earth, Santa Clause: The Movie, and the movie version of Popeye all have lost the most box office revenue.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Bruce Almighty. It just has to be.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I suppose one should disqualify all sequels, because, I mean - Star Wars I, Indiana Jones 2: Indiana Jones and the Supporting Actors of Doom (Shortround: “Feels like I step on fortune cookie! …That no cookie!”) …,eh? I can’t choose one off the top of my head but I’ll contribute this: If forced, and forced hard, I’d rather watch “Leprechaun 4: In Space” than Ice Cube’s “Are We There Yet?” or that “The Last Waltz” movie about a bunch of coked up hippies and their garage band or something. Heh heh…

6:59 PM  
Blogger Kraig said...

I know you said it's unfair to pick on sequels, but in terms of money spent and gratification received (or not received), it has to be Speed 2. To me, Speed 2 is the quintessential example of the unnecessary sequel: Nothing new to add, shoehorns a ridiculous premise into an even more ridiculous premise, expects you to just dismiss the romance angle from the first one and accept a brand new guy from the start---because even Keanu had enough sense to steer clear of this one---and it make the cardinal sin of any action's criminally boring. With a budget over $120 million, Speed 2 really was on "Cruise Control."

7:58 PM  
Anonymous ko said...


because it's awful and i love it

because it's obnoxious and yet i cry at the end
like a chump every time

because the premise is absurd and yet
many "respectable"actors are in it


10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shadowboxer, the unrated "directors cut." A little-known film that got surprisingly-wide distribution directed by the guy who produced Monster's Ball and The Woodsman. It is incredibly bad. Not only is it bad, it's gratuitively obscene while pretending that its not gratuitous. It's so bad, it is not even funny, and combined with the amount of obscene content, you will want to turn it off and do anything else before you are halfway done watching it. It is truly unwatchable.

1:28 AM  
Blogger mr. shmits said...

is Pink Flamingos too obscure?

if so, then my vote is either for Shortbus, Inland Empire or Crash (Haggis or Cronenberg, take your pick)

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Big Budget
Big Director

Insane story.
Insane costumes.
Insane Art Direction.
Sean Connery in red diapers.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Josh said...

ooh I vote crash too. Haggis.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Star Wars - The Phantom Menace". I know expectations were impossible to meet...but come on. Had that one actually been the first released, there never would have been any more. A classic example of a once decent (I won't say great) director who lost his touch long ago, but too egotistical to listen to anybody around him. Why was "Empire Strikes Back" the best Star Wars movie, by far? Lucas didn't direct that one.

3:39 PM  

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