It’s hard to admit that something you love is not good, it’s an admittance that your beliefs are at the very least misguided, and at worst dead wrong. Seeing as how we are all well-rounded individuals here at Flixist, we are not afraid to take our foot and shove it directly into our mouths and admit that we are on occasion wrong.
So here are the confessions of our sins for all to see, the movies we keep out of our top 10’s for fear of ridicule. Even with all of that buildup, I can’t admit that Southland Tales is actually a bad movie. Sure it’s no Donnie Darko which was the previous effort of writer/director Richard Kelly, but it’s definitely entertaining. But bad? Well, maybe it is…
Richard Kelly began writing Southland Tales just prior to 9/11 and it serves as an almost knee-jerk reaction for Kelly to the new world America found itself in. Terrorism, the PATRIOT Act, and the deepening of political schisms all come to pass in this overly long movie featuring actors who were either on their way out or hadn’t yet made it in the Hollywood scene. The basic premise is that America was attacked with nuclear weapons and in response went crazy in cracking down on civil liberties and anyone who so much as even looked at them wrong in the past 20 years. Using that as a jumping off point, Southland Tales tells the tale of the three day period surrounding the 2008 Fourth of July celebrations in Los Angeles involving a porn star, a movie star, and a Neo-Marxist operative disguised as a fascist police officer bringing about the end of the world.
Sounds interesting right? It is, it’s just that it’s not done right. Despite the fact that Donnie Darko’s success meant Kelly could have gotten any talent he could have wanted, he instead decided to target actors who were “pigeonholed” into previous roles and wanted to give them a chance to shine. A noble endeavor, but it didn’t work with the script he was writing. Then again I don’t think any actor could have made the script work. While the story was interesting, the dialogue was so cheesy I didn’t know whether to watch it or put it on my burger.
It’s also an overly confusing mess with Kelly assuming all of his viewers would read the three-part prequel comic that would explain the setup better than a two-minute intro could. The problem with that is no one knew this movie was coming out so for most it was an impulse rent at Blockbuster (yes those still existed at this time) based on the director alone and when they sat down to watch it they couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on. Religious allegories were thrown into a spin cycle with quantum physics and political intrigue and what came out was a tie-dye shirt that wouldn’t even sell at Woodstock ’69.
So why do I love it? Because it’s so ridiculous and over the top that I don’t know whether it’s all one big joke or the biggest sophomore failure in film history. Once you understand what’s going on it’s surprisingly prescient of what was to come for us as a lot of what was predicted in the movie is starting to come to pass only 12 years later. Although it took me around four viewings to understand everything when you read the comic first the movie makes a lot more sense as I made sure to get the comic for my girlfriend to read before watching it for the first time and she had no problem understanding it.
On top of this, Mandy Moore says “Cockchuggers 2: Cock Chuggin'” and it also has the line “I’m a pimp, and pimps don’t commit suicide” in it, how can you say no to something like that? Very easily I suppose as the movie didn’t even make 500,000 dollars in its box office run. This could be because of the staunchly anti-government themes in the movie causing some theatres to refuse to screen it making the already limited run even more limited but it was also savaged at Cannes prior to release so that didn’t help either. Combine all of this and it’s a perfect storm of bad consequences that led to something I still try to watch every year or two.
Music and Lyrics – Matthew Razak
On paper Music and Lyrics sounds horrendous. It is a partial musical romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, both of whom were nearing the end of their rom-com peaks. It’s about a washed-up 80s pop star who gets his big chance at a comeback by writing a new song for a modern day pop star. He discovers the girl watering his plants is actually really good at lyrics and so asks her to help him. It goes exactly how you think it will with no deviations from standards, form or cliche. It is, simply by not doing anything new, a bad movie. And yet it works so well as a bad movie. It’s the kind of terrible rom-com that make the genre work. Sure, there is nothing new, original or creative about the movie (aside from the fantastic made up 80s band PoP!), but it clicks for whatever reasons turning bad into enjoyable. Grant and Barrymore show why they were rom-com darlings for so long, and I’ll be damned if even the insanely predictable outcomes don’t feel good. If I had to write an analytical review of this it would be nearly all negative, but I’d slap an Editor’s Choice on the sucker in a heartbeat.
Nacho Libre – Sian Francis-Cox
Nacho Libre shouldn’t work. A Mexican monk fighting undercover as a wrestler? You’ll be forgiven for having your reservations. But if you’ve seen it, you’ll know it’s amazing, and that Jared Hess is nothing short of an auteur of this generation. Jack Black is basically unleashed to be 100% Jack Black and the result is pure cinematic joy. He plays Nacho, a monk who resides in a monastery, cooking for young orphans and living out unfulfilled fantasies of being a Luchador (professional wrestler). When a new teacher, Sister Encarnación, arrives at the school, he is challenged to live the life he has been called to live by God – and so begins his moonlight wrestling career.
With the help of Steven, a bedraggled local, he embarks on a noble quest to fulfill his calling, but can’t quite keep it from slipping out to his holy brotherhood. But despite the obstacles that life throws at him, Nacho is undeterred, and puts his wrestling (and his devotion to God) before anything else. There are spontaneous songs. There are stretchy pants. There are too many static shots of bystanders who contribute nothing to the scene whatsoever. And above all, there is wrestling. This film is just too painful to be seriously considered, but to me, it’s still one of the most brilliant and hilarious films of all time.
FDR: American Badass – Jesse Lab
I remember the days before Netflix was the streaming giant it is today. Back then, I would rent DVDs from them all of the time and they had a whole host of B-movies to choose from. Netflix was how I got to see Iron Sky and Birdemic for the first time. Netflix was a B-movie haven for me, but the absolute best worst movie that I saw during that time was FDR: American Badass. It’s the kind of B-movie that does crack then drives a semi-truck off of a cliff. And I love it.
So President Franklin D. Roosevelt had Polio, right? Do you want to know how he got Polio in the first place? Well, a Nazi werewolf bit him while hunting, so he decides to stick it the Axis Forces, who are all werewolves, by running for President, ending the Great Depression, then ending WWII with his wheelchair converted into a one-man tank. All the while, he teams up with a backwater senator who loves his sister and does pot his the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, played by Kevin Sorbo. This isn’t high art. Not even close. But with such an outrageous premise, I can’t help but love this historically inaccurate mess.
The Spirit – Kyle Yadlosky
There’s a scene in which Samuel L Jackson (as The Octopus) fights The Spirit in a lake of septic waste. He appears from under the muck and breaks a toilet over The Spirit’s head. He then says, “Come on! Toilets are always funny!” And he’s right. They are.
Death to Smoochy – Nick Hershey
Imagine if a movie were a hot dog. Sometimes you mindlessly ingest without really knowing what’s going on, and then at the end you’re wondering “what did I just do to myself?” as you burp up the weird parts of a pig. 2002’s Death to Smoochy is that hot dog wrapped in bacon slices of lies, deceit, bribes, murder, and redemption. A maniacal Robin Williams doesn’t hold back as the greedy and egotistical Rainbow Randall, and perhaps is Williams’s most freeing character. After losing his hit children’s show and spinning out of control, Randall’s attempts to seek revenge on his former production team and their new replacement is done in such a savagely idiotic and hilarious way taken to the extreme of Williams’s commitment.
Part of what makes a good bad movie is the difference between what the critics say and what the audience enjoys. Rotten Tomatoes has a critic score of 42 percent and an audience tally of 66 percent, which is expected given the dourness seemingly required to be a strong critic. Death to Smoochy was panned by critics without hesitation (Roger Ebert gave it 0.5 stars and used words like “miscalculated” and “lacking” and “odd” and “inexplicable” and “unpleasant” and…) which is understandable. Two characters with completely opposite mindsets centered around the nefarious world of children’s programming aren’t likely to strike a chord with many, but allowing Williams open reign is what makes this hot dog easier to digest.
Jupiter Ascending – Chris Compendio
I remember after watching Cloud Atlas, one of my favorite movies of all time, I gained a trust for the Wachowski sisters and knew that I would be down for anything they have to offer creatively. I was unprepared for their follow-up, Jupiter Ascending, and I had never felt more betrayed in my life. The first time I saw it, I was unable to process the images being flashed before me. The plot was at times, predictable, and other times, non-sensical. You’re telling me that bees can sense royalty, and Sean Bean isn’t going to die in this movie? I didn’t feel eased into the world at all, constantly asking “what the hell is that?” and being confused by literally every plot point. It did not help that I was inebriated during this viewing of the film.
After scrubbing the image of Eddie Redmayne out of my head, I thought that would be the last of Jupiter Ascending—but like a siren, the film just kept calling back to me. It was a favorite of some of my best friends in college, including my ex (no, this movie is not the reason we broke up), so naturally, this movie showed up again in some of our several viewing parties. I learned to stop worrying and love the Jupiter Ascending. Yes, I was still confused, yes, I was still uncomfortable from Mila Kunis’s “I love dogs” line, and yes, I was still wasted. But viewing it like a modern version of cheesy sci-fi serials of yore made Channing Tatum with alien elf ears much more tolerable. And hey, I never tire of Redmayne’s “I CREATE LIFE! …and destroy it.”
I still couldn’t tell you what the fuck the plot was. I should probably watch this movie sober sometime.
Thomas and The Magic Railroad – Drew Stuart
I loved Thomas the Tank Engine – as a child. The tactile snapping of wood rail pieces, and the satisfyingly smooth motion of the train traveling along them; it was one of my favorite childhood rituals. So, dear reader, when I saw Thomas and The Magic Railroad in the theaters, I was thrilled. Riveted (heh) by the newcomer Lady, and terrified by the monstrous Diesel 10. I distinctly remember walking out of the theater happier than daisies. If only I had looked at my mother’s face. Maybe I’d have known what agony that she had been subject too.
Thomas and The Magic Railroad is a shockingly bad movie. The series has never had excellent production values, but the low-budget, wholesome British television show was more about the characters and the lessons they learned. This movie has zilch. Every human character, especially Alec Baldwin, bombs their performance harder than Michael Richards. The effects are terrible, the movie is way too long, the story is crap (something about gold dust,) and that distinctly British brand of wholesomeness is drowned out by the terrible, terrible acting.
I’d say watch the movie, but it’s painful. Instead, just check out this chase sequence from the finale. Be warned.
Please direct all tomatoes at Nick because Death to Smoochy isn’t a bad movie. Did I forget to mention that there was a scene in Southland Tales where a car has sex with another car? Because that also happened. Just getting it out there.
So what about you? What’s your favorite bad movie? It’s O.K. we won’t tell anyone.