June 03, 2008

Room 101

The brainy sophisticates at Crooked Timber take a curmudgeonly turn and nominate movies "to avoid watching before you die," meaning, more or less, films that are so horrible they should never be seen by anyone.

Taste is taste, and like anyone, I have stuff I like and stuff I don't like as much. And I guess there may be movies I hate so much that I wish they had never been born, though to be honest I can't think of any right now. It's annoying to sit through two hours of something you don't like, but you get over it after a while, don't you?

But if you were playing this game, would you cite any of these as films you shouldn't have ever seen and that no one else should see either, ever:

Being John Malkovich, Ferris Beuhler's Day Off, Straw Dogs, Cabin Boy, Braveheart, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Anchorman, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Magnificent Ambersons, and (most shocking of all, perhaps) Rosemary's Baby?

Because I sure wouldn't.


Also: Happiness, O Lucky Man, Kids, Funny Games, and Touch of Evil. The movie the Timberers seem most mad at is Starship Troopers.

Also, according to one discerning fellow (and seconded by a few others) Pulp Fiction only has value as "a litmus test to decide who you’d want to be friends with." Meaning, if I have it right, that anyone who likes Pulp Fiction could not possibly meet the minimum standard of whatever-it-is that you must have in order to qualify for friendship with them. Strict!

Posted by Dr. Frank at June 3, 2008 06:31 PM | TrackBack

I don't care what anyone says, Straw Dogs is an awesome movie.

Posted by: Cpt. at June 3, 2008 06:36 PM

Well, I thought Anchorman was pretty terrible.

But then, I liked Cabin Boy, because Chris Eliot is a comic genius.

And on the third hand, the people at Crooked Timber are, well, pretentious douches.

Posted by: Sigivald at June 3, 2008 06:52 PM

"Purple lightning...that's always a good sign" Cabin Boy ROCKS.

Posted by: Mike NYC at June 3, 2008 07:03 PM

One of the amazing things about the Internet for me is this access to everyone's thoughts about something. For every movie that I consider genius, there's people who think it's trash and vice versa.

It's helped me take my own reviews with a grain of salt- "You didn't like it? Whatever, someone else did".

Posted by: Duncan at June 3, 2008 07:13 PM

The problem is, when you think of movies to add to this list, you think of movies that you know other people like and you just think they're dead wrong about. I think that's what they doing here, so a lot of people are going to disagree with your list almost by definition. The premise is kind of evil; just because I hate the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I feel no need to disparage others from watching it. I guess the Crooked Timber guys are a bunch of paternalistic social planners anyway, so they don't have to feel bad for saving society from itself. On the other hand, if you were going to make a list of movies that almost nobody liked, say "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium", that would be kind of pointless.

Anyway, my list would include Mystic River, A Beautiful Mind and Crash and maybe Nashville. Of course if I wanted to list the worst movies I've ever seen, it would be like Corky Romano or something.

Posted by: josh at June 3, 2008 07:21 PM

i think being john malkovich is one of the best movies i've ever seen.

the worst movie i've ever seen is they saved hitler's brain.

Posted by: david at June 3, 2008 09:43 PM

This reminds me of an interview that you did some years ago, Frank, where you were asked what your favorite movie was, and you answered "The King of Comedy." I'd never seen it (I was a small child when it first came out), so because of the interview - and the fact that I have always enjoyed Martin Scorcese films - I rented it on video. I was so bored by it that I wanted to cry.

But I agree with you on the other titles, especially Straw Dogs.

My top 10 list of movies to avoid (in no particular order, and these change somewhat frequently): Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes, Yentel, Easy Rider, Woodstock, The Sound Remains the Same (or whatever that Led Zeppelin movie is called), Neil Diamond's Jazz Singer, Cocktail (the Tom Cruise gagger), Kindergarten Cop.

Best 10 films to see at all costs, in no order: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Goodfellas; Bringing up Baby; Rock and Roll High School; Carlito's Way; Rio Bravo; Seven Samurai; Crumb; Blue Velvet; Slapshot.

Posted by: David at June 3, 2008 10:36 PM

I regard movie snobbery as a bit of a phenomenon. I've met a couple of people who have suffered with this ailment, and they have regarded my moderate music snobbery as utterly pedestrian.

I guess your usual subculture is based upon music genre, but film is an entirely different elite.

Myself? I don't have the energy to be anti-everything. Film doesn't usually bother me, unless I'm forced to see films at the cinema that I know I'll dislike. Van Helsing for instance. But I don't think it's that controversial to say that film was shit.

Posted by: Leah at June 4, 2008 12:55 AM

I remember when Pulp Fiction came out. All these people I knew were falling over themselves trying to see who liked it more. Everybody saw it like a million times its opening week, bought Pulp Fiction t-shirts from Sam Goody, and would never shut the hell up about it. It gets to the point when you don't even want see the damn movie. And when you're finally capable of suspending all your prejudice and skepticism and get around to renting it like a year later, it's a total let-down because everyone made it out to be this amazing, religious experience. Same thing with the Star Wars movies, which I enjoyed, but never felt compelled to shape my existence around. (I believe I've described a small-scale backlash.)

All things considered, I can't really think of a single movie that NO ONE should see (...except for maybe How to Make an American Quilt). After all, it's probably a good thing that Quentin Tarantino is out there making movies because apparently they seem to work a hell of a lot better than anti-depressants for some people.

Posted by: Cpt. at June 4, 2008 12:56 AM

Unlike you, I am an old man, so I have to say that Star Wars (which I saw with my parents at the movies,....a number of times in the 70's actually ) really made a huge impact on my existence, because the film's emphasis on "good versus evil" made me a strongly right wing conservative for several years. In fact, in light of the hundreds of millions of Americans who packed theaters in 77 to see it, I think that the reason for this movie's immense success had not so much to do with its special effects (average by today's standards), but with the fact that it was released at the right time: Just as American was coming home from Vietnam in defeat in the mid-70's. It made people believe in America again, and it is not a coincidence that Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting from the movie. I would say that Star Wars was a big reason for why the "Silent Majority" was able to sweep their candidates (including Reagan) into power all across America in 1980.

Posted by: David at June 4, 2008 02:35 AM

okay, a couple of quick observations...

my guess is that, for the most part, folks are only going to include on their "worst movies ever list that should not ever be seen by anyone/anything, especially humans", movies that they had at least some small expectation would be good. (that said, i'm not sure why "being john malkovich" and "anchorman" are on the same list.)

and david's theory about some weird ronald reagan/star wars conspiracy is, well, just a little weird.

Posted by: kenny kaos at June 4, 2008 06:58 AM

As much play as it got because of the T&A, "Barbarella" was pretty damned awful. The worst I've ever seen has to be one of the first HD movies I ever watched, "Galaxina".

Posted by: Z at June 4, 2008 07:38 PM

Oh and sorry because I know he bought the rights to "King Dork" and all but I hate pretty much everything Will Farrell except for "Stranger Than Fiction". He is actually decent when he's not trying to be funny. When he tries to be funny, he comes across as the same idiot SNL character every single time.

Posted by: Z at June 4, 2008 07:40 PM

Of course, bad movies can be entertaining in an MST3K, fountain of unintentional humor kinda way.

The worst movie I've ever seen is City Dragon, which my brother bought at a mom & pop gas station in rural Indiana for $1. It looks like it was shot with a camcorder. All dialogue consists of free style rapping, and it's filled with these embarrassing karate "sequences." I believe there's some nudity in there somewhere, too.

I remember Googling it a few years ago and getting zero hits.

Posted by: Cpt. at June 4, 2008 08:02 PM

Will Ferrell is great; I have just about memorized Talladega Nights.

Posted by: David at June 5, 2008 12:31 AM

His Dubya was terrible.

Elf & Stranger Than Fiction are great movies. The other ones are kind of dumb, but then again, I don't think Will Ferrell is out to make great films. If he was trying to pass himself off as an amazing artist or God's gift to comedy, then maybe there would be something to criticize. His movies are popular, and he gives people what they want. Can you blame him?

I'd say that his tenure at SNL was checkered. My elderly aunt summed it up best when she said, "all this guy does is shout and walk around in his underwear." That brand of humor has its place, but it gets old really fast.

Posted by: Custodian at June 5, 2008 01:42 AM

Anchorma was great:

"Well, I have one
great passion that...that lives deep
within my loins, like a...like a flaming golden hawk"

Posted by: josh at June 5, 2008 02:34 PM

I think this category was made for the previously mentioned "kids"

Kids is the only movie where I tell people you do not want to see this movie. I don't think it is necessarily a bad movie, but it is extremely uncomfortable to watch. And I highly recommend not watching it.

Posted by: goldenfoot at June 5, 2008 05:13 PM

Goldenfoot, if you think that "kids" is uncomfortable, give "Shortbus" a try....

Posted by: Z at June 5, 2008 06:00 PM

what a bummer...

Posted by: weary fingers at November 25, 2008 06:40 AM