Desert Island Dreams

I love bad movies. One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Mystery Science Theater 3000, which consists almost entirely of a man and several robots riffing on whatever cheap old sci-fi/horror movie the producers were able to get their hands on that week. When the show was cancelled, the same people started producing Rifftrax, which are downloadable audio commentaries that sync up with movies, which, in my opinion, lack the comfort food feel of the TV show, but since they don’t have to buy the rights to the movie that they want to make fun of anymore, they can do it to just about anything: The Matrix, The Wicker Man, Twilight, you name it. Of course, I’m more inclined to watch old episodes of MST3K (which are almost all available on YouTube), but it’s nice to know that the men who elevated mocking shitty movies with one’s friends into its own art form are still at it.

Trashy movies hold some level of fascination for me. To a degree, I respect them as art, but at a certain point, their quality isn’t really what it’s about. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, taken as a film, is something of a mixed bag. The plot is thin, the last half hour drags, and there’s not much of a point to the whole thing. At the same time, Tim Curry kicks ass, the songs are catchy, and it’s still good, campy fun. But to join other weirdos in a theater at a midnight showing (some of whom are in costume, although I have never dressed up) in shouting stupid shit back at the screen and doing the Time Warp along with everyone else is an experience that everybody should try at least once. Sometimes I wonder why the semi-sequel, Shock Treatment, didn’t take off in the same way. It’s got the same strengths and weaknesses as Rocky Horror, except that it’s even cheaper, the humor is PG rather than R-rated, and Brad and Janet are no longer played by Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, but by their B-list equivalents. So maybe I’ve just answered my own question. Still, parts of it are ahead of its time, like the scenes in which it mocks reality TV and our need to make our private lives public in the quest for some level, any level, of celebrity.

I find that when trying to understand people who are mean to me, it helps to ask how they got that way. It’s impossible to know the full story unless you talk to everyone they’ve ever met, but sometimes, I can extrapolate. I meet a lot of bullies, people who may not have spent elementary school pushing nerdy kids around and stealing their lunch money, but who have perfected a similar behavior that is couched in intellectual doublespeak. When you get right down to it, is telling somebody that they lack the comprehension skills necessary to grasp the brilliance of your argument any different from calling them a big dumb poopyhead? It’s the same bullshit tactic of using ad hominem insults to distract from what they’re actually saying, and it often manifests in the form of finding the one percent of their argument that could be misconstrued and using it to defeat the other 99. Before you know it, you’re having intense disagreements about the pettiest bullshit imaginable simply because the other party won’t concede even the most innocuous point. I actually am quite content to agree to disagree under many circumstances, but since doing so, for some people, is tantamount to crying “Uncle!”, sometimes I have to get a little bit more aggressive. Oh, I can walk away from a fight. I just won’t do it until I have reason to think it’s over. Some people have been surrounded by yes men since birth. On some level, they’re aware of it, but choose to ignore it, thinking that they can just coast by. I won’t let them. It’s not in my nature.

One of my favorite “so bad it’s good” movies of the last decade is Birdemic, a film with special effects so laughable and continuity errors so blatant that I have quite literally seen student films that are better made. As a former California resident, I may have a familiarity with some of the locations used in the movie that gives watching it a nostalgic undertone. Just in case anyone is curious…

It has been my experience that anyone who says they don’t like your tone is basically saying, “I don’t want to admit you’re right, so I’ll just find some thing about you to criticize and leave it at that.” And of course, the person who tells you you’re being narrow-minded or overbearing is often doing that themselves. It’s an offense-as-defense mechanism: Keep the other person on their guard, so that they won’t have time to protest. To a certain extent, you can’t ignore people like that, because they’re everywhere. Generally speaking, I figure it’s time to bow out when you just can’t think of anything else to say. Some people just want to live in their own little bubbles, and I don’t enjoy popping them, but I do enjoy watching them think for themselves for a change. It’s just that there’s no guarantee they’ll ever get there.

And while I’m on the topic of bad movies, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Room. That film is some sort of surreal masterpiece.


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