Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reflections on "Bad Movie Night" by Cap'n Howdy

 Bad Movie Night is coming up this weekend. For some of you that means you'll be at the Blogorium, inexplicably sharing in on the agony and the ecstasy of the best of the worst I can throw at you. For some, it will be a recap you take a look at later on, and think to yourself "wow, I'm glad I didn't have to sit through that." For the Cap'n, it's a fun, if admittedly unorthodox way to spend time with friends. It's also a good opportunity to clarify a few things, as I do from time to time. There's an inherent contradiction coming up, but I am vast and contain multitudes. Or I'm a walking contradiction. I can't remember. Anyway, let's discuss how Bad Movie Night fits into the evolving notion of the Blogorium and the Cap'n Howdy mission statement overall.

 Without fail, at some point during Bad Movie Night, someone is going to ask me if I'm going to see X or Y terrible movie, and I'm probably going to say "no". A friend recently asked if there was a review on the Blogorium for Tusk, and was confused / disappointed when I explained that I stopped watching the movie around the time that Johnny Depp showed up. That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me, the point at which I realized that nothing Kevin Smith had in store for Tusk was worth investing any more time on. If you really want to know how I feel about post-SMODcast Kevin Smith as a director, there's a review for Red State out there that pretty much covers it. I'll add that it isn't particularly enthralling to hear his M.O. for making movies that aren't sequels is to get really high, record a podcast, and then turn whatever he comes up with into a movie. You know, like "Jaws with a moose." Nevertheless, I fully expect a question about how excited I am for Mallrats 2 (not at all).

 That said, it's totally fair to ask me that, especially at something called Bad Movie Night. Historically speaking, the get together-s hosted by the Cap'n have centered around horror movies or schlock, and primarily schlock. They're fun films to rally around, and are conducive to a party atmosphere. It's an informal crowd that comes to Blogorium events, and while you aren't expected to participate in any MST3k-like riffing on movies, I don't discourage making comments when something just doesn't make sense. The specious plot that bridges gratuitous nudity in Andy Sidaris films practically begs for some level of commentary. But I wouldn't do the same if I was at Nevermore (well, sometimes, but much more quietly). We do, on occasion, watch screwball comedies or more serious fare, and there's talk of branching into different "fest" directions, but let's stick with Bad Movie Night for now.

 Bad Movie Night was borrowed from a tradition my brother and his friends started more than a decade ago: during birthday celebrations, they'd each buy the birthday boy or girl the worst movie they could find, and everyone would have to sit through it. They would drink heavily and apparently it got quite loud. I'd never actually been to one, but the first Bad Movie Night was built loosely on that premise. Having had some experience with Horror Fest and Summer Fest, I thought I could program one that had some really entertaining stinkers, and we'd kick it off with a field trip to see Crank 2: High Voltage. Trust me, while highly entertaining, it falls squarely within the rubric of "bad movie". That was followed by The Giant Claw, Batman and Robin, Mac & Me, Troll 2, and Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. A good time was had by all, and whenever possible, I've tried to keep it going.

 The Blogorium has existed in various forms over the years, but since I moved to this service, I've kept the "about" information over to the right basically the same. Sometimes, the phrase "Trash Savant" has come back to haunt me, because it implies that my movie watching palate is limited to sifting through lots of garbage to find the Least Worst Of. And I get it, because around the turn of the century / millennium / whatever, there was a point where the Cap'n and friends would go see anything. Like, literally, we'd just go see a movie to see a movie. How else do you explain watching The In Crowd, or Loser? Or the double feature of The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps and The Replacements when I had an entire multiplex to choose from? Yes, I saw 8mm and Idle Hands and the first two Resident Evil movies. On the big screen. I don't know why. Well, I do: they were playing and we had already seen Payback or whatever else we really wanted to see. Sure, I also spent the summer of 99 watching Eyes Wide Shut and The Sixth Sense, even The Blair Witch Project and South Park (and, yes, The Phantom Menace), but for some reason only the bad movies stuck.

 It continued over the years, and yeah, I would organize group outings for Alien vs. Predator or The Matrix Reloaded, or Professor Murder and I would just go see, well, anything. Again, allow me to stress that yes, we only saw Paycheck because we were too late for Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. I don't remember why we went to see Godsend or The Butterfly Effect, or even Saw. A lot of that was a throwback to high school, I think, when we would regularly go to the discount theater to see things like The Big Hit or Suicide Kings, or The Big Lebowski. And also Godzilla, Lost in Space, Scream 2, and whatever else was playing. It was fun, and cheap, and bad movies are tremendously entertaining. The summer of 2008 had to be a record for "what's playing this week," because I saw The Dark Knight, The Happening, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe. One of them was good.

 But, over time, they became a smaller part of my cinematic consumption. I know that a lot of friends from that era didn't necessarily keep up with that, which is why I'm still chided for not having watched Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. I'll probably still get grief for it, because I have no plans to watch it, and what I'll go out to the theater to see grows more and more limited. Most of the things I've seen on the big screen over the last year ended up on the Best of List. The last two movies I saw were Birdman and It Follows, both based on the great word of mouth I had been hearing from friends. Despite what people might assume, It Follows was the first movie I saw in theaters from 2015. These days, if a movie just looks bad (like, oh, Seventh Son), I'm less inclined to see it just to see it. The last time that happened was probably Movie 43, which was every bit as forgettable and terrible as you've probably heard. Lockout was the last time I really had fun with a terrible movie, which is why it's playing as a double feature with Lucy at Bad Movie Night this year.

 Herein lies the aforementioned contradiction, because I do still watch bad movies. Hell, I watched Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster last week, and Sorority House Massacre II the week before that. They are, by no stretch of the imagination, good movies. In the past you'd have reviews up for those, instead of It Follows and The Babadook. In fact, Sorority House Massacre and Sorority House Massacre II are probably going to end up under the "Cranpire Movies" banner, which is what I tend to use when I want to talk about schlock. It's not that Cranpire will watch anything (even he has limits), but it's become a running joke between us that he'll sit through what I won't. Still, the two (technically three) Sorority House Massacre films are so disparate, even from each other, that I'd like to share their charms with you all. But I'm probably never going to watch Taken 3. And I doubt I'll ever finish Tusk.

 The funny thing about having had this blog for so long is that I'm frequently held responsible for reviews I wrote years ago. That's fair, I suppose, but I have tried to evolve as a writer and as a reviewer, so when I look back at a quarter review of something like Student Bodies and have to defend it when someone from the film takes exception to it, I cringe a little. Not because I didn't write it - I did, in the middle of a Fest - but because it's not really a review. It's a reaction to something that happened that I wrote quickly while people had a smoke break. It's a time capsule of a moment in the history of the Blogorium, but it's not how I would write it today. But you can't tell that to somebody who finds the review through a Google search - it's not an ongoing evolution of film criticism to them. It's a review, one that says the movie they like sucks.

 Or worse, it's The Mechanic review, which was a run of the mill Jason Statham movie, where I didn't feel one way or the other about it. In fact, by and large I gave up reviewing films headlined by Statham because they'd all be like The Mechanic - an overview of the plot, general comments about the action, he was good, the supporting cast was okay, the story was serviceable. Other than the Crank films, it's a pretty succinct reaction to most of his starring roles, and if I can't add anything to the conversation, I'll find something else to review. That doesn't stop people from reading The Mechanic review - which they do - and assuming that's currently how I feel about the movie. Honestly, four years later? I've forgotten almost everything about it. Even the "World Champion" ring, but it doesn't matter. Everything is contemporary on the internet.

 Which brings us back to Bad Movie Night and bad movies in general. As long as the Blogorium exists and posts can be found ala carte on search engines, people can and will safely assume that's all the Cap'n is about. And that's fair - I like the Dr. Re-Animator picture at the top of the page and The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman background scroll bar. Perhaps someday they'll change, but hopefully it gives visitors an indicator that things aren't taken too seriously around here. Please don't think that I don't enjoy bad movies: one of the things that drove me crazy in film courses was an attitude of intellectual snobbery, of a dismissal of "low art" that wasn't to be bothered with. It wasn't rampant, but there is an attitude of "if it isn't a classic or a modern classic, it's not worth bothering my time with". I remember working with someone who sneered at the idea that Peter Jackson would adapt The Lovely Bones because it was "pop fiction" and that he was "above" that*. He should just stick to Tolkein, I guess. Look how well that worked out for The Hobbit.

 Over the years, I've tried harder to provide a balance of "high" and "low" art, and to be honest with you, I don't watch a lot of these neo B-Movies. If you read my Hobo with a Shotgun review, you'll notice that I didn't have a lot of fun with the movie. I hated Machete Kills. There wasn't enough about Wolf Cop to merit a review, to be honest, and I don't watch Syfy Channel Originals. It's not a matter of being dismissive of them, to jump back a paragraph - I don't particularly care one way or the other, and I'm not going to tell anyone not to watch them. I try to mention them as little as possible, so unless someone asks why a Sharknado movie isn't at Bad Movie Night or Summer Fest, you won't hear about it in the Blogorium. It's the same thought process behind the Transformers series: I haven't seen them, I'm not planning on it, so why devote time and energy into insulting them? There are literally thousands of blogs that do that. But if you want to know about The Beach Girls and the Monster, I've got you covered.

 Moving forward, the goal is to try to bring you reviews for films you maybe haven't heard about, old and new. If it's a major release, I might review it if there's something worth bringing up I haven't seen anywhere else. Otherwise, you probably won't see it until the Recap. In the meantime, I'd rather focus on movies like Under the Skin or Spider Baby (to name a couple from last year). They're very different movies for very different audiences, but I really enjoyed both of them, and you might too. I'm always open to suggestions, but it's been a long time since the Cap'n would go watch literally anything. By the same token, I'll pay money to see Samurai Cop with an audience, even though I own two copies of Samurai Cop. It was worth it to see their reaction. That was the same situation with Things at last year's Bad Movie Night - I suffered through it alone so I could see the faces I made on my friends. And by the way, they could have left, but no one did.
 This year's Bad Movie Night is a... shall we say, unique assemblage of "so bad, it's good"**: Continuing in our trend of "being afraid of women in the 1950s," there's Devil Girl from Mars, followed by High School Confidential, Disney's The Black Hole, Raw Force, the aforementioned Luc Besson double feature, and a special Trappening. Because you shouldn't always know what you're getting at a Bad Movie Night. A recap should follow some time next week, and then after that, it's back to whatever strikes the Cap'n as worth writing about. Maybe schlock, maybe not. We're on the cusp of blockbuster season, so maybe those will make it into the mix. I'm not sure. Above all else, my goal for the immediate future is to make Cap'n Howdy's Blogorium as unpredictable as possible, so as to keep you from settling in to "this is what to expect." Hell, I might even go back and re-review some of the older posts, just for kicks. Stay tuned, and if you're on your way to Bad Movie Night, prepare yourself...

 * I never saw The Lovely Bones, so I can't weigh in on whether it was any good or not, but it's a similar attitude to refusing to read a book that's been adapted into a film - like Trainspotting - because that "taints" the source material. And yes, that was another instance that came up with a similarly dismissive person.
** That's a big criteria for me - bad movies that are just bad are a waste of everybody's time.

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