I’m going to the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline to watch one of the worst movies ever made. I will have a big box of plastic spoons and a football with me. I’ve already seen it five times in theaters. What the hell is wrong with me?
This isn’t the first time I’ve asked myself this question. I spent this past Halloween in a theater full of cross-dressers. We were yelling jokes at the shitty movie we were watching for the umpteenth time. All the while, actors and actresses were singing and dancing and pantomiming along with the characters onscreen. Again, a movie I had seen many times, yet I decided that the best possible way I could spend $10 that night was on The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
A few weeks ago, I spent a night with dozens of strangers on Facebook as we fired up Netflix and started streaming bad movies together. We were constantly updating a thread full of comments, jokes, and insults. Every so often, someone would send an angry message wondering why the hell we were wasting our time with this piece-of-shit movie. These sentiments really struck a chord with me.
Time is valuable. Between school and work, you probably don’t have enough time to watch as many movies as you’d like. And when you do get to watch a movie, you probably hope that at the very least, it’s a good one. Good acting, good dialogue, a good plot, and something at the end to make you feel satisfied. Something that makes you happy that you spent two hours with these characters.
You can do a lot in two hours: you could write a paper, study for an exam, clean your apartment, or even take your pet penguin for a walk (Hey, I’m not here to judge). You could probably get all of those things done in two hours if you really wanted to. But no, you chose to spend two hours on your leisure. And when those two hours are wasted by a movie that isn’t good, you’re angry. Your essay isn’t done, you’ll fail your exam, your apartment is a pigsty, your penguin is lonely, and you have nothing to show for it. It’s as if the director doesn’t respect the fact that you’ll be spending your limited free time with his or her movie and it’s infuriating.
So why the hell do I love bad movies?
People say that reality TV is like a train-wreck; it’s so trashy and disgusting that it’s hard to look away. Similarly, celebrity train-wrecks are the butt of all jokes and the subject of all press for days on end. Remember when Britney shaved her head? Who cares? But it’s so much fun to point and laugh at the high-profile embarrassments making tabloid headlines. Studios and advertisers know this. It’s why MTV and TLC have become what they are today. Nobody watches Jersey Shore or Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo because they condone that behavior or find the characters compelling. They laugh at it.
In reality TV, “real” people are put in manufactured situations and it feels incredibly fake. With movies, I find the opposite to be true. Despite being completely fictional, the amount of passion for a project shown by the cast and crew of a film is so much more palpable than any reality TV out there. The emotions captured on camera are acted out, but their impact on the audience is real. Just like any painting or musical composition, movies are carefully constructed to get their points across; as the saying goes, artists use lies to tell the truth. When Daniel Day-Lewis, for example, invests everything into a role, his dedication comes across on screen in a very special, visceral way that could never be accomplished with non-actors, no matter how real the situation. See also: Act of Valor, a film that falls apart despite being shot with real war veterans.
My guess is that reality TV producers think that “normal” people are going to have genuine emotions when put in front of a camera, but when you give someone fifteen minutes of fame, they want to make it as memorable as possible. It’s almost impossible to be genuine. However, the people involved with a production give it their all, hoping to please the studios and keep making money doing what they love. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie. So when a movie does everything wrong and the cast and crew think they’re doing everything right, it becomes hilarious.
Ever have a friend make a stupid comment 100% seriously? Then have them scramble to justify themselves? Imagine that moment captured on film.
I view bad movies as simply another genre of comedy. However, truly hilarious bad movies are a rare treat. Nobody can intentionally try to capture the magic of movies like The Room and Troll 2, but when they show up on the scene (most likely after a disastrous theatrical run), they are immediately snatched up by bad movie fans and heralded as classics.
What I don’t understand is why shitty, trashy reality shows sell well enough for them to keep airing, yet bad movies have extremely small audiences. Despite the magic that happens onscreen when a movie flops, it’s such a small subculture compared to the repetitive, recycled garbage on TV that makes headlines. Then again, it’s this niche’s small dedicated following that makes watching bad movies in a theater a blast.
Your time is valuable. Watch lots of movies with intricate plots and good acting and, you know, an actual point. But every so often, if you’re in the mood for a special brand of comedy, get some friends together (or better yet, go to a theater with friends) and check out a box-office bomb. In this new series, I’ll highlight a great bad movie every week and attempt to show you why these movies are worth your time.
If Tommy Wiseau can spend $6 million making The Room, you can justifiably spend two hours laughing at it.