“I’ve always been a failure junkie. I get giddy over toxic buzz, noxious press, and scathing reviews.” — Nathan Rabin
I’m often amazed that movies make any sense at all, and that so many of them turn out as wonderfully as they do. Unlike novels, whose cohesiveness is helped by the fact that there is usually one author (with a team of editors) guiding the overall vision of the novel, movies are the product of so many different (often competing) visions that it’s unclear how they ever come together at all. With a movie you have not only a writer, but also a director, cinematographer, art director, costume designer, location scout, actors, editors, dog wranglers…the list goes on and on. The fact that a cohesive work of art is ever produced with so many cooks in the kitchen is truly a marvel.
Of course, sometimes things just don’t work out, and this is where Nathan Rabin comes in. Rabin, a writer for the The Onion A.V. Club, has long specialized in writing about the dregs of culture in his columns “Direct-To-DVD Purgatory” and “My Year of Flops,” and has even created his own audio commentaries for some truly horrible films. The newish book My Year of Flops: One Man’s Journey Deep Into the Heart of Cinematic Failure collects some of Rabin’s best bad movie reviews, as he chronicles cinematic failures past and present, covering classics such as Ishtar, Howard the Duck, and Cleopatra, as well as newer stinkers like Battlefield Earth, Gigli, The Love Guru, and Elizabethtown. The point of the book is not, however, to simply kick a bad movie while it’s down. The truly great thing about Nathan Rabin’s writing is that he is clearly a lover of cinema and not content with merely engaging in schadenfreude. He obviously loves the films he’s gingerly poking fun at, even while watching films like the 2001 comedy Freddy Got Fingered and wondering in open-mouthed astonishment, “how did this movie even get made,* let alone released.”
For added value, you may want to watch some of the bad movie goodies Rabin discusses before checking the book out:
Ben Affleck stars as Gigli, a second-rate mob enforcer hired to kidnap Brian, the mentally handicapped younger brother of a federal prosecutor who’s about to bring Gigli’s boss to trial in New York. Sparks (and groans) fly after Jennifer Lopez is sent to keep an eye on both boys.
In this ultra-saccarine stinker, our sensitive hero Drew accidentally causes the shoe company he works for to lose millions of dollars and becomes suicidal. Then his father passes away, he falls in love with a flight attendant, listens to lots of indie rock, and learns to live again.
When 28-year-old cartoonist hopeful Gord Brody (Tom Green) leaves the safety of his parents’ home to make it big in Hollywood, all kinds of horrible offensive things happen for about 90 minutes. This was Tom Green’s first Hollywood movie and probably his last.
I cannot bring myself to write anything about this movie, so instead I will share a quote from A.O. Scott’s famed New York Times Review: “The word ‘unfunny’ surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, The Love Guru is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.”
Playboy and con man Christopher Tracy (Prince) sets out to woo and marry a young heiress, but finds he also has to woo the heiress’ priggish father. It’s fun to watch Prince traipse about the French countryside with his man servant in tow, but beyond that nothing makes much sense in this movie.
Mariah Carey makes her film debut in this unintentional campfest as Billie, a young singer struggling to make it big in New York City. She is plucky and talented and quickly learns about the highs and lows of fame. Bummer.
I still have not figured out how to describe (or watch) this movie. Briefly, it is an ensemble piece set in a futuristic Los Angeles that stands on the brink of disaster. It stars the Rock and Justin Timberlake and too many C- and D-list actors to name here. It’s pretty weird.
There are, of course, many more horrible awful bad movies out there to enjoy—should you choose to move beyond horrible movies (or continue your journey deep into the heart of cinematic failure) you can find helpful resources on our CLP film page, such as filmlists, reviews, and helpful search tips.
How about you? Do you have any favorite bad movies?