In another thread, someone mentioned that he had never seen *Titanic**, and my first impulse was to tell that person that he should see the film—not necessarily because I thought it was great; rather,…well, actually I’m not sure about the reason, which is partly why I wanted to start this thread. Are there any bad Hollywood films that you feel cinephiles should see? Btw, I’m not talking about bad b-movies that are actually good or have some value (e.g., Carnival of Souls). I also not talking about bad films that are so bad they’re good (e.g., Plan 9). What are some of these films, and why would you say that cinephiles should see them?
There are some films that one has to see in order to understand contemporary popular culture. I care less about contemporary popular culture these days so I’m seeing less of them than I used to. I think it doesn’t matter what the particular film is so I find it hard to name names.
It’s easy for cinephiles to become insolated and isolated is the film version of an ivory tower. If we’re going to contrast the films we love with those that have made a cultural impact, I think we should have a little background on what’s made that impact. A lot of the more cloying Best Picture Oscar winners (Forrest Gump, Crash, ect.) fill that function. Also those that hit a cultural nerve despite their awfulness (Pretty Woman, Avatar). Not that these should take up a significant proportion of our selections, but if we’re going to have a dialogue and not a monologue, we need wider perspectives.
There are some films that one has to see in order to understand contemporary popular culture.
That’s the main reason I can think of. On a related note, how does seeing such films help one understand contemporary popular culture, beyond the superficial? For example, would understanding Titanic or the Harry Potter movies (and is there a difference between the interest in the films vs. the books?) reveal deep insights into popular culture or even the Zeitgeist and larger society? What would I understand about popular culture if I see these films and what exactly would I fail to understand?
While we dismiss the relevance of commercial success in determining film quality, don’t you think that the very fact of that success can tell us something about the people that embraced it? (just as the Oscars tell us how Hollywood wants to see itself.)
…don’t you think that the very fact of that success can tell us something about the people that embraced it? (just as the Oscars tell us how Hollywood wants to see itself.)
Sure, but I’m interested in knowing what we learn. What would be some examples? Personally, I have trouble articulating what insights I’ve gained from watching these films.
I guess it’s not that we’d learn much from the films themselves (after all, if we could, would we consider them bad films) as we do about perspectives that the general public embraces. What does it say that so many embraced Forrest Gump’s celebration of ignorance as a road to salvation or the rah rah shallowness of Top Gun. The success of Pretty Woman says something very disturbing about how we view both wealth and prostitution.
Bad b-movies that are actually good
Which one’s which?
Guilty pleasures should always been seen, but it varies widely who would consider them guilty pleasures vs. just crap.
I guess it’s not that we’d learn much from the films themselves (after all, if we could, would we consider them bad films) as we do about perspectives that the general public embraces
Right, but that’s not always so clear to me—even the examples you mention don’t seem so clear to me; I’m not sure I agree with your reading. For example, seems part of the Holy Fool tradition—one that doesn’t celebrate ignorance so much as question conventional wisdom and values and places decency, kindness above them. In addition, other films have similar story lines to Top Gun and Pretty Woman, so why did these films resonate more than the others?
Maybe I should have just said, “B-movies that are actually good?”
On a very basic level, having some knowledge of pop culture films and media keeps you in the loop socially.
When I was in high school, I rarely watched movies. All my friends talked about Fight Club (which I had not seen) 24/7. They would even bring it up when we were discussing Shakespeare in English class—they seemed to think that Tyler Durden was just like the Fool in King Lear.
I always felt like I was missing out on a big part of social interaction by not having seen it. (Whether 14-year-olds should be watching stuff like Fight Club is another matter…) Even today I have a hard time connecting with my friends about entertainment because they watch stuff like The Big Bang Theory and I watch stuff like Mad Men. You’ve gotta find something in common to talk about, and pop culture films fit the bill.
Top Gun for our understanding on homoeroticism.
I agree with Brad.
I believe you are likely referring to me as the person who hasn’t seen Titantic Jazz, as I mentioned not having seen it in the thread. My lack of interest in Titantic though shouldn’t be seen as indicative of any larger statement on what types of movies I watch, or the reasons I have for watching what i do. I am not at all one of the people who tends to avoid any particular type of film, popular or obscure. I even tend to reject the “bad” label as a defining characteristic of many of the movies others might put in that category as it doesn’t seem particularly helpful to me. My decisions on what to watch is based around, as I suggested, interest, and those interests are varied and can push me towards all sorts of movies given whichever holds my fancy at any given time. For example, I, not too long ago, spent one weekend watching a number of Jennifer Aniston films to get a better perspective on what she brings to the screen and why she is so popular as well as seeing what her movies were about. The following weekend I watched a number of Adam Sandler films for similar reasons. I’ve devoted time to watching the Bollywood/Disney crossover movies, teen romantic comedies, and Nora Ephron films just as I have to watching Tarzan, Charlie Chan, Mr Moto, Abbott and Costello and other series, Russian fantasy films, Polish dramas, early Bollywood, Mexican, and Middle Eastern films, movies directed by Gordon Douglas, John Brahm, Anatole Litvak, Johnnie To. I’ve sought out movies for their cinematographers, stars, supporting cast, and other crew members, I’ll spend time focusing on certain themes, styles, genres, nations or eras until either I can’t get my hands on more films of that sort, something else grabs my attention more, or I feel I’ve gotten enough from whatever the interest was to sate me for the time being.
I mention all of that not to pull an attitude or anything but to suggest that my feeling is that interest should drive one’s viewing and not some concerns about what a movie is supposed to be or who it is supposed to appeal to or concerns about what one should be watching. If someone wants to focus only on what they think might be the best films, in whatever way that is measured, then that is surely what they should do as their interests would be ill served otherwise. One can suggest reasons for why they might want to take a look at something else, just as they might suggest some good reasons why people who are primarily interested in Hollywood films might want to look elsewhere as well, but in both cases without the interest and some purpose behind that exploration there is little reason to undertake it as it is likely to simply not suit them. There are only so many movies one can watch in a lifetime, and, crudely, picking any one to watch is knocking another off the list of those you will see, so one is best served by picking the films you feel you are likely to get something from. I’m a hardcore omnivore when it comes to watching, I want to know something about as many things as I can, but that obviously has its own limitations as to what kind of knowledge one will get from viewing in that way, which is why I admire those who are more dedicated to specific areas of film and aren’t much interested in venturing other areas as their body of knowledge will be so different than my own. Keeping an open mind and listening to what others may say about what one might find interesting is good, but any more prescriptive suggestion about what someone else should watch probably isn’t all that useful.
Kiss of Death with David Caruso, it is horrendous. It shows why an actor shouldn’t get ego crazy and leave a solid, smartly written TV show to just act in shit movies, and how Cage just cannot control himself and not overact.
I love you, Greg. Did you watch She’s the One? I actually kind of like that one. But you really put yourself through the paces watching Aniston and Sandler movies. You have paid your dues, sir.
Sadly(?), no, my videostore didn’t have that one, I watched The Switch, He’s Just Not That Into You, and, of course, Just Go With It for that double dose of Sandler and Aniston action. That left Marley and Me, The Bounty Hunter and The Break-Up as the one’s they have I haven’t, yet (?), seen. I’ve actually come to admire her as an actress, if one sets the roles and eras aside, she reminds me of Irene Dunne to some degree as they both excel at listening and have quicksilver expressions which lend a depth to their emotional response in a way that is uncommon. They are, of course, different types when it comes to looks and carriage somewhat, but they both also tread an unusual line between the comedy and drama in their respective movies. (That Dunne’s movies were also much better in a number of other ways may say as much about the changes in our culture and Hollywood as it does the differences in ability between them. Not that they are identical, but that the situation is more complex than just that is all I’m saying.)
The Warriors (although some people love this movie, so no offense)
Howard the Duck
He Man (Dolph Lundgren)
The Gate (starring that Kid who grew up 2 b hot-4got name)
Just my opinion. I feel my life has been somewhat enriched by sitting through these crappers…
@Ammyanne- I would not call THE WARRIORS, FACE OFF or even ONCE BITTEN crappers.
I think in terms of political readings sometimes “bad” films are very productive. Films like THE HELP and THE BLINDSIDE are to my mind not very good as cinema but are extremely interesting to chart the fantasies of white neoliberalism/color-blind racism in the age of Obama. I think they are important to experience for that reason.
The bat shit crazy viral video KONY 2012 was important to watch for similar reasons. It taught the viewer almost nothing about the political situation in Northern Uganda or about the nature of the Lord’s Resistance Army but because it was so popular it teaches us a great deal about the psychological manifestations of a form of American Imperialism. The whole way the narrative was constructed around this innocent little white American boy as a stand in for the American viewer was fascinating. The way the film constructed its political arguments via emotional tropes rather then through any form of factual information or political analysis illuminates a great deal about how many middle class Americans possibly experience their relationship to the two-thirds world. I would definitely say KONY 2012 is a dreadful film- even a ridiculous one- but what it can teach us politically/psychologically about a segment of the bourgeois class in the United States is greater then many more accomplished films. I think it is a must see film for anyone interested in the workings of the a kind of dominant American imaginary in 2012.
Everyone should see some bad Hollywood films. But no there are no particular films that must be among them. I once knew a guy who got a Ph.D in English Lit without ever reading anything by Shakespeare. He turned out OK (then again, I haven’t heard from him in a while . . . ).
Side note: most of the bad pictures I have seen in recent years were not Hollywood films.
But even choosing some bad Hollywood films (at least nobody is suggesting it’s a redundancy) to see is difficult these days. Bad Hollywood ain’t what it used to be. And, Mr. Parks, you can’t be seriously comparing a Ph.D. in English Lit not reading Shakespeare with someone not seeing bad films.
Let’s take the top ten global office hits of 2011
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
2 Transformers: Dark of the Moon
3 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
4 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
5 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
6 Kung Fu Panda 2
7 Fast Five
8 The Hangover Part II
9 The Smurfs
10 Cars 2
A few observations: all are sequels except a remake of a cartoon series. Most are based on other properties (books, toys, theme park ride, tv series)
Most are terrible to forgettable (haven’t seen all so I can’t judge entirely but it’s hard for me to imagine a worse year for top box office hits in terms of quality).
And perhaps more importantly I get the feeling that film is no longer the best entry point to understanding popular culture. Which of these films are actually culturally relevant or influential in any way? Maybe the Twilight series but as a hugely successful book first – ditto Potter (but I do think everyone should see at least one Twilight film).
If you’re not at least passively keeping up on current mainstream films, you’re perspective is going to be pretty stale. Sort of like George Bush Sr. asking what a food scanner at a grocery store is.
“And, Mr. Parks, you can’t be seriously comparing a Ph.D. in English Lit not reading Shakespeare with someone not seeing bad films.”
No, I’m saying you can have a understanding of popular culture without having to hit any particular set of cultural cues.
Big,quality Hollywood films I avoid like the flu. Never seen-
Gone With The Wind
The English Patient
Tree of Life
If I had followed my instincts and never seen movies like Ordinary People, Tootsie Chariots of Fire, West Side Story etc I would be a better person today.
Tootsie is fantastic!
Tootsie is as good as Victor/Victoria.
I love West Side Story. Sure it’s cheesy and it probably shouldn’t have won all those Oscars, but you just can’t beat Leonard Bernstein’s music.
Tootsie is fantastic if for no other reason than getting Pollack back into acting. Without Dustin Hoffman, we never would have gotten that iconic pool table scene in Eyes Wide Shut or the line delivery, “He’s an asshole” in Michael Clayton.
Add Platoon to the list of movies I would be better off if I had not seen it. And Salvador. The 80s were ripe with those.