When I was 11, I discovered that my friends no longer liked the Spice Girls and “preferred jazz” instead. I had no idea what jazz was, or why the Spice Girls were suddenly worthy of scorn, particularly as we had so recently won the school talent show with our carefully choreographed and lip-synced rendition of “Say You’ll Be There”. I decided to shrug it off and continued to worship all things Spice until around the time I got a dial-up connection and became distracted by an endless stream of wondrous things.
This bewilderment over something being cool and then not cool for no reason that I could discern has since been remedied by a comforting epiphany: I have terrible taste. I’ve never been the person who discovers something “first”. I have yet to experience the thing where I cannot like something anymore because it has “sold out”. I am baffled by the concept of liking something ironically. I’m far more likely to hop on the bandwagon long after the thing has gone from novel to naff to nostalgically cool again.
The lifelong lack of pressure to be cool has freed me to simply enjoy things that I find enjoyable. (I’d like to assume that most people would do this too, but I’ve been informed otherwise.) Tastelessness is bliss. Guilty pleasures are often the best balm to a bad day. They’re that squirt of aerosol cream on a bowl of cheap, vanilla ice-cream pilfered from the dregs of the freezer: fleeting, effortless fun when you simply haven’t got energy or yen for anything more challenging.
Miss Thropist argues that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure – if you take pleasure in something, why feel guilty about it? I see her point, but the term remains useful shorthand for those so-bad-so-good things I love as much as a bag of luridly orange Cheese Balls. Plus, I was raised Catholic, so I’m almost certain that all pleasure comes with a side of guilt and vice versa.
Of course, it goes without saying that one person’s trashy movie is another’s high art. The fabulous John Waters knows exactly what I mean, which is why Cry Baby is the most magnificent thing Johnny Depp has ever bestowed his cheekbones upon. But it’s apparent that a number of the movies I genuinely cherish are almost universally reviled, ridiculed, or relegated to the bargain bin. Then again, popular opinion is that Sherlock Holmes is a good film, and it’s just not. It sucks, and most definitely not in a so-bad-so-good way. (I’m not at all bitter about the fact that giving Guy Ritchie’s exercise in tedium “only” two stars led to my right to award stars being revoked all together. Not. At. All.)
The one downside of having bad taste is that it can be lonely. I want to share the things I love with the people I love, but sadly, as my reputation precedes me, it’s tough to get friends on board with my recommendations, and thus, I must trawl the Internet for likeminded souls. To that end, I’d like to share my top so-called cinematic turkeys, snippets of eye-wateringly bad reviews included, in the hope that it might entice you, Dear Reader, to watch them or confess your own existing appreciation. Then we can be best friends!
”Original Sin” is a textbook case of a movie that would have been better had it been worse. It’s somber and tasteful trash, and that’s exactly what’s wrong with it. The love scenes, of course, are supposed to be the audience bait, but this sort of limb-entwined, foot-extended-over-back ardor has been made irrelevant by the seamier writhings of late-night cable. ”Original Sin” violates a far more scandalous taboo: It bores the audience. – Entertainment Weekly
I love Angelina Jolie and I love Antonio Banderas. But that love alone could not sustain my love for this film – I love Johnny Depp too, but I thought The Tourist was terribly dull and forgettable. I guess the key difference is that Angie and Antonio actually have chemistry. (Now I’m trying to recall if Johnny Depp has ever had chemistry with anyone, or if I’ve always been too distracted by his pretty face to notice. Oh wait – Winona, of course. And Christina Ricci in The Man Who Cried. And Juliette Binoche in Chocolat! But I digress.) Original Sin is beautifully melodramatic, and entertainingly overblown. Both leads are perfectly cast in roles that would swamp less committed and charismatic actors. Jolie’s schoolteacher-femme-fatale-circus-orphan-conwoman-nun character is just the kind that she excels in. (I’m rather saddened by this Brad-and-a-zillion-kids “lofty” stage of her acting career. I’m hoping that she hams it up in the upcoming Maleficent.) Banderas’ repeatedly duped plantation owner-cum-stalker could so easily seem creepy or pathetic, but his smouldering elevates everything around him, and you end up really rooting for him to get the girl, despite all the backstabbing. The twists are truly twisty and I could not predict how the film would resolve itself. The ending is utterly ridiculous yet completely satisfying. (Why no sequel, guys?) There’s just nothing I would change – besides editing out all the sex, of course. Nothing wrong with a good old fade to black, folks. Stephenie Meyer knows what I’m talking about.
Surely you remember Grease, don’t you? It was that annoying pile of shit those annoying high school girls who liked My Little Ponies and who asked you for dates all the time used to fawn over and karaoke to. Surely the obligatory sequel to what has to be a top contender for the “worst ’70s blockbuster” crown must carry some weight as a camp classic. Surely anyone’s hatred for the 1978 original should translate into begrudging relief that the 1982 update simply isn’t the first Grease. Unfortunately, it isn’t. – Slant
I used to freaking love Grease. I loved it so much that it made me sad, because life would never be the way it was at Rydell High, all singing and dancing all the time, and John Travolta mooning over you at a drive-in. I wanted to learn to sew so I could make Pink Lady jackets and force all my friends to wear them at school. (In retrospect, I’m relieved this never came to fruition. Sometimes it seems that I spent my entire adolescence coming up with ways to invite humiliation.) But Grease is everywhere, all the goddamned time, and I’ve become sick of it. (Maybe this is what people mean when they say a thing has “sold out”.) However, I’ll never get tired of Grease 2. Finding it on VHS at Woolworths was one of the happiest days of my life. (Life was really hard before Amazon and eBay, kids.) It beats the original in almost every way. The songs are more entertaining, Michelle Pfeiffer is cooler than Olivia Newton John, and the overall tone is far more feminist – the girl doesn’t skank up to attract the guy, rather the guy works hard to impress her, and it transpires that she likes his original flavour self too, once she gets to know him properly. Which is exactly how it should be, people.
The movie looks like a video game being played in a dust storm—its brown-and-rust palette is irritating. As the heroine faces all sorts of dangers (such as samurai robots and zombie German soldiers) with a team of scantily clad girls who may or may not be figments of her imagination, the movie spins out of control, until it collapses in a heap, senseless. – New Yorker
It’s frankly tragic that more people don’t realise the awesomeness of Sucker Punch. I’m guessing a large part of the reason is that most people have seen the theatrical cut, which did away with all the brilliant burlesque musical numbers, and apparently re-edited the plot in a confusing manner.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the awful 1992 film, is so unendurably bad that its screenwriter, Joss Whedon, was moved to remount his idea for TV (and rather more successfully so, too)… When Buffy spits out totally groady things like “my secret weapon is PMS,” you can’t help but hope the vampires bring her down… but they’re all either hopeless, puny protogoths who’d pull a muscle turning over their Cure LPs, or they’re Pee-Wee Herman… but that’s nothing compared to the fact that Luke Perry (The Fifth Element) is here as an oily high-school loser who teams up with Buffy. Grease in the 80s… with Vampires. Ugh. – Flick Filosopher
I first saw this at a sleepover when I was 11 (clearly a banner year) and I thought it was wonderful, especially when Luke Perry’s character got a haircut and returned to resembling the cute Dylan I so fancied from Beverly Hills 90210. At the time, it felt different to stuff I’d seen before and in hindsight the film is perfect pre-teen fodder – a little scary, a little sexy, a lot funny, with a helping of the Girl Power that was so trendy in the mid 90s. The dialogue is brilliantly quotable, almost on the level of The Princess Bride: How funky is your chicken? How loose is your goose? Our goose is totally loose!! It’s got an excellent cast: the aforementioned Perry, Kristy Swanson (of Flowers in the Attic and Big Daddy fame), Paul Reubens, Rutger Haur, David Arquette and Hilary “Two Freaking Oscars” Swank. (Every time I see Swank in anything, all I can think about is her bitchy character Kimberly popping the collar on her tacky yellow jacket and saying “It’s retro!”) It’s also highly satirical about high school life; in the vein of much more celebrated films like Heathers or Mean Girls. The TV show is obviously better – it’s really a different beast all together – but the original movie really deserves to be appreciated on its own merits, even if Joss “God of Geek” Whedon has disowned it. I love you Joss, but no take backsies.
The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Pt 2
If anything, this series has gotten dumber and more inert as it has progressed, with this last one finally reaching over into an extended wallow in camp. Forget the multiple, cascading and intertangling plotlines of the Harry Potter series; Breaking Dawn struggles to keep even just one ball in the air. – Vulture
I feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t watched this film – which to be fair, can’t be that many, considering the big bucks this box office behemoth brought in. Breaking Dawn Pt 2 represents the pinnacle of the mind-boggling Twilight phenomenon. (Isn’t it awesome when the whole world goes crazy over something super weird, like Cabbage Patch dolls or sparkly vegetarian Mormon vampires? I can’t wait for the next bizarre craze.) To be honest, I find it almost impossible to distinguish the films between the first and this one. Those in-between films were all fairly boring and overly earnest, peopled with fairly boring and overly earnest actors. I dimly remember spending the duration of one counting torsos. I sat through them anyway because I knew that my commitment would be duly rewarded. And it was. The final book has all the best stuff, from a vampire baby eating its way out of a womb to a werewolf falling in love at first sight with said vampire baby. So obviously the film is 116 minutes of non-stop shits and giggles. I howled with laughter and left the cinema with a huge smile on my face, and at least one tear rolling down my cheek. It knows how ridiculous it is. It is in on the joke. It is having just as much fun as you are. And for that it deserves a round of applause and a lengthy afterlife on DVD.
Following a screening of Nicholas Hytner’s glossy picture about the trials and tribulations of faculty and students at a prestigious ballet academy, viewers suggested alternative titles for the piece. One proposed “The Lead Shoes,” another “U-2-4-6-8.” My contribution was “The Stomach-Turning Point.” What’s notable about all this isn’t just that there wasn’t a single favorable comment to be heard, but the level of contempt directed at the picture, an unbelievably hokey and, in spite of the terpsichore on display, resolutely lead-footed piece of mawkish melodrama. “Center Stage” is an instant camp classic, so shamelessly bad that it unintentionally invites hoots of derision and peals of laughter. – One Guy’s Opinion
One of the best things about guilty pleasures is that you tend to find them unexpectedly. I found Centre Stage while flicking through channels, just as it was about to start. I only recognised a handful of actors but I was soon completely enthralled by the Fame-like tale of a country-mouse ballerina at a ballet academy in the big city, who just wants to dance, god damn it. Yea, the lead dude is not my cup of tea at all, and his tiny head makes the petite Amanda Schull look like Lucy Locket with a Polly Pocket boyfriend, but the dancing. Oh, the dancing. The dancing is just mesmerising and exhilarating, and set to insanely catchy music – the songs of Michael Jackson and Mandy Moore are heavily featured. The sequences opened my eyes to how ballet dancing doesn’t have to be boring – it can be adventurous and unexpected, and tell a story that doesn’t involve swans or nutcrackers. Though those are good stories too. I credit this film with my subsequent willingness to widen my cultural horizons – I’ve now seen three, count’em, THREE ballets at an actual theatre and everything. Ballet isn’t just for fancy people, yo.
Rock of Ages
Adam Shankman’s campy and interminable adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical “Rock of Ages’’ tries to do for Los Angeles’ notorious 1980s rock scene what the film version of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’’ did for the sex industry: rendering its seamy milieu fit for family consumption… This plodding mess may help put to rest Hollywood’s inexplicable two-decade love affair with the awful ’80s, a pop- culture decade that’s overdue for a break. – New York Post
Now this is a guilty pleasure I sought out deliberately, and I was not disappointed. I watched this with Miss Thropist and She Who Must Not Be Named (yet), and we were stunned, STUNNED, that the girls next to us talked the whole way through the film and not about how ridiculous Tom Cruise looked in chaps either. (Other people fail at watching things, obviously.) Their loss because Rock of Ages is like Glee but with better music (a lot of the same music, in fact) and fashion (so much leopard print and neon!). It’s only a fraction as good as the stage show, but that fraction is more than worth the price of a cinema ticket. Sure the plot is flimsy and nonsensical, but the performances are full of heart – you simply haven’t lived until you’ve seen Catherine Zeta Jones jerkily dancing to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” or Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand crooning the always amazing and perfectly homo-erotic “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” at one another. It’s also STUFFED with quality dialogue – the phrase “double the Z, double the flava” has become a surefire way to put a smile on the face of anyone privileged enough to have seen this supremely enjoyable film. I really don’t see how there could be a “good” version of this – it’s exactly the film it promised to be, and you’re bound to have as a good time watching it as was clearly had making it.