Last weekend, I participated in the third annual Movie Moxie Challenge, a small event organized by handful of die-hard movie fans with one goal: to push film buffs to their limits and see how much bad cinema they can endure. The marathon was seven films long and once you entered, you were not allowed to leave. To ensure maximum suffering, all films in the line-up were from 2012, so there was no hope of a decades-old camp classic to lift our spirits.
In every bad-movie marathon, there comes a point (usually around hour four or five) where you start to wonder "Why am I doing this? What am I doing here?" It takes a special/deranged kind of person to willingly subject himself to this kind of torment. So why? Why do we like bad movies? Why do we enjoy suffering through them when there are so many other options out there?
Here are the seven lessons I learned from this year's Movie Moxie Challenge, each one of them represented by a different film in the marathon.
Personality Always Trumps Skill in a Bad Movie
Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day
If you were forced to divide the world of bad cinema into two distinct categories, you'd have bad films made by people who care about what they're doing and you'd have bad films made by people who don't care at all. The "Don't Care" crowd is how you end up with with dull, generic studio garbage or direct-to-video sequels to unpopular action franchises. The other crowd is how you get movies like Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day (which, for the record, only appears to have a tenuous connection to 2004's Woman Thou Art Loosed).
Although there's no denying that this is a bad film filled with characters who don't make much sense, subplots that add up to nothing and a final twist that renders the entire film irrelevant, director Neema Barnette has a vision. Granted, it's a completely nonsensical and bonkers vision that isn't at all backed up by the film's poor production values, but Barnette's voice still rings loud and clear above everything else. Bad films can still be made by people with unique and singular visions and sometimes those visions are worth seeing for yourself… especially when that vision tries to combine a church comedy with an abduction thriller.
We Find Your Ham-fisted Beliefs Amusing
The moment someone decides to make a non-documentary film as a mouthpiece for their political and social beliefs, they're already a few steps behind. A film's message should emerge organically from the drama, so reverse engineering a movie around a specific statement is troublesome and usually results in hackneyed, hilariously wrongheaded movies like October Baby.
Whether you agree or disagree with the film's extreme pro-life stance, there's no denying that October Baby can't even remotely mask its intentions, piling on the wacky (bad) comedy and Lifetime-channel drama in a desperate attempt to not resemble a political statement. The result is a bad movie, yes, but a bad movie that's also a textbook example of why movies with effective messages work -- because they do all of the hard work that October Baby sidestepped. In that way, October Baby can't help but be educational in an Intro to Film Studios kind of way.
A Bad Comedy Is Always Worse Than a Bad Drama
Keith Lemon: The Film
When you watch a bad drama, you usually find yourself watching an unintentional comedy. A poorly worded dramatic line or a weak performance can transform scenes that could have been heartbreaking or thrilling into total laugh riots (see October Baby). Unfortunately, the opposite is true with bad comedies, resulting in films where the audience sits stone-faced while the comedians on-screen work way too hard for our amusement.
Keith Lemon: The Film is a British import so awful that it made me briefly wish that England would sink into the Atlantic. It's so unfunny, so glacially paced and so completely lacking in anything worth talking about that it practically killed the marathon. There's a reason all of the "great" bad movies are unintentionally hilarious "serious" films: an unintentionally unfunny comedy is death on-screen.
The Best Bad Movies Are Conversation Starters
Everyone attending this year's Movie Moxie Challenge agreed that Foodfight! was easily the worst film of the day. An unfinished, technically revolting, completely unreleasable (but still released) rip-off of the Toy Story franchise, Foodfight! imagines what happens in the grocery store after everyone goes home. It seems that all of your favorite corporate icons come to life, go on adventures and speak with B-list celebrity voices! This is unwatchable junk with no redeeming qualities, but what absolutely fascinating junk this is!
This is a movie that paints generic brands as evil monsters in Nazi uniforms who transform the grocery store into a Fascist state, forcing the wacky and lovable brand names (including Mr. Clean and Mrs. Butterworth) to lead a revolution. Is this film suggesting that buying off-brand paper towels is comparable to sporting a swastika tattoo? And what about the animation? For a film that took 10 years to (not) complete, it sure looks like nothing was done with it. What exactly went so incredibly wrong here?
Foodfight! has given me more to chew on and more to talk about than many of the good movies I saw in 2012. If a movie is going to be this bad, then it should be capable of inspiring great conversations. And let me tell you, Foodfight! is one great, amazing, terrible piece of junk that I'm so glad I saw because I can now talk about it.
Bad Movies Make Us Appreciate Good Movies
Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike
Sometimes, a bad movie is just a bad movie. Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike is certainly a bad movie (and one that sports many of the qualities discussed under October Baby), but compared to the rest of the marathon, it's actually a pretty competent production. Heck, it's miles ahead of Atlas Shrugged Part I, which bored everyone silly at last year's Movie Moxie Challenge. Still, watching this frequently dull and lifeless film, which still manages to look and sound like an actual movie, was a keen reminder that the films we love are more than a sum of their technical parts. Movies are alchemy. They're chemistry. They're a wonderful combination of magic and science. Sometimes, sitting through a movie that has all of the moving parts and none of the life is essential to renewing your love of film. Thanks, Atlas Shrugged Part II!
Sometimes A Bad Movie Will Teach You Absolutely Nothing And Will Not Contribute to Your Movies.com Article at All
Man, Smiley is a really bad horror movie that offers nothing new and doesn't even have the nerve to be terrible in an interesting way. Moving on!
Bad Movies Are Best Watched with Friends
The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure
If I had tried to watch The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure by myself, I'm pretty sure I would have turned it off after the first 15 minutes or so (and I say that as someone who is a glutton for cinematic punishment). An "interactive" children's movie that encourages the audience to sing and dance when prompted while formerly respectable actors like Cary Elwes and Christopher Lloyd humiliate themselves on-screen for a paycheck, this thing is pretty much a nightmare for anyone above the age of three. It's an epic miscalculation, the result of brand building gone horribly awry.
But you should totally watch it. Just bring friends. Together, you can marvel at the scene where Jamie Pressley makes out with the bad-tempered fish. Together, you can follow the words at the bottom of the screen and chant along with J. Edgar the talking vacuum as he awkwardly flirts with Windy the magic window. Together, you can ponder what went so horribly wrong with Chazz Palminteri's career that he's playing a terrifying milkshake proprietor who may be married to a cow. Together, you can actually get up and dance when the movie asks you to and not be too embarrassed.
You know the old saying: misery loves company. Well, bad movies love an audience… although in this case, preferably a slightly drunk audience.