Friday, April 01, 2011

It's the first of April Hurrah! Time for me to unburden myself of all the badly made films I have watched this month. First, The Very Good News; I'm not going to do it (today).

Second, The Good News; I watched three or four decent films last month; the Bad News is I also watched some 30 or so crappy ones.

Why? It's a question I often ask myself. Why do I seek out and watch such dreadful films as Universal Soldier: The Return, The Atomic Brain, and Demonwarp. Most of the time I ask myself the question as I'm actually watching the film. Why am I watching this shit? But sometimes I ponder on the question in a more general manner. The other day I thought about it while I was at the computer when someone asked me on a forum. This (tarted up a bit) is what I wrote in reply:

Why? To explain that I will first have to quote the oft quoted Sturgeon's Revelation:
“Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud.”
The general interpretation of this, the way I think people tend to visualise it, is that there is this huge pile of crap with the 10% that is the good stuff sitting on the top. Like the yummy cream and sprinkles on the top of a trifle hiding all the cheaper custard, watery jelly, and soggy sponge lurking beneath.

I prefer to think of it as a bell curve where the X axis is frequency and the Y axis is quality... hang on, I'll draw it.

Like this:

Graph by the_junk_monkey, on Flickr

The 90% crud is the shaded area in the middle, a vast uninteresting bulk of mediocrity and hackwork. It's the areas at the extreme edges, where the graph shallows out, that contain the fascinating stuff.

People learn by making mistakes. People learn from watching other people making mistakes. I am somewhat passionate about film and I learn more about film making by watching people repeatedly fucking up than I do by watching great films. I like to see how things work. A really great film usually sweeps me along and involves me so deeply that I get so wrapped up in the story and the telling of the story, that I don't really notice how the story is being told. With a bad film it's easy to step back from whatever narrative there is trying to get out and enjoy the spectacle of watching the film fall to bits. Other times it's fun trying to find a narrative structure. You suspect there is one in there but you're dammed if you can find it. Ed Wood was very good at this game. What the hell is going on?

Another reason for watching bad film makers fuck up is to marvel at how inventive they are. Every time I watch a bad film I'm amazed by their ability to screw up in new and interesting ways. I suspect, and I've said often, that 90% of comedy is based on failure. Whether it as simple as Laurel and Hardy failing to get the piano up the set of stairs in The Music Box or Woody Allen's 'sophisticated' inability to be happy, comedy is based on failure and ineptitude. (I'm not sure what the other 10% is based on - knob jokes probably.)

Watching grown-ups failing to string a simple series of standard shots together is endlessly hilarious to me. (I read self-published books for the same reason.) In one film I watched this month the director managed to use what was obviously intended to be the establishing shot for the sequence after the interior it was intended to establish. I suspect this because he had left himself no way of cutting from one scene to another within the sequence. It was horrible! It was so horrible I had to rewind and watch it three or four times just to see how truly horribly horrible it really was.

A mistake I shall not make when the meteorite of solid gold lands in my back garden. When I am suddenly and inexplicably wealthy I plan on starting my own production company.

Here's a long blog entry I did a couple of years ago with a totally different set of reasons for watching hypercrap movies.

1 comment:

LarryS said...

On that trifle- I prefer the custard!

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