Thursday, May 6, 2010

Movies to Avoid

I watched two different movies this week which sucked in their own distinct ways.

First off, we’ve got David Lynch's Eraserhead.  No one can deny the appeal of The Straight Story or the artistry of The Elephant Man, and Lost Highway and Muholland Drive are two of my favorite movies. Wild at Heart?  Absolutely.  Blue Velvet?  Sure.  Dune?  Well, at least it was one the decade’s top three flops (the others being Heaven’s Gate and Howard the Duck).  If you’re going to fall flat on your face, do it with gusto.

I’ve had Eraserhead on my to-watch list for almost nineteen years, ever since a guy came dressed as Henry Spencer to a Halloween party my sophomore year of college and everyone went nuts.  They all seemed to know who and what Eraserhead was, and I felt like I was missing out. When I later learned the mind-bending Lost Highway that I loved was by the same director, I was psyched.

It may have taken another ten or so years for that excitement to wind its way through my consciousness and my Netflix queue and eventually to my DVD player, but I finally saw it.

In the special features, Lynch talks about dissecting a cat while attending film school and shooting Eraserhead.  The way the organs changed from vibrant colors to dull grays when the air hit them fascinated Lynch.  Eraserhead is like that.  It’s an exercise, nothing more.  It’s solipsistic (and no, I don’t think I’m using solipsistic too much since I’ve learned it, I’m just psyched to be able to use it correctly. And yes, that’s two uses of psyched; quit being so critical and write your own blog), it's gratuitously weird, and it's almost eye-wateringly boring.

But I forced myself to watch it.  It’s Lynch, after all.

The punchline?  When I brought it up at a party the next night to a bunch of pretentious film buffs, no one had seen it.  I wish I had given it my usual treatment, ejecting it when the first twenty minutes didn’t pull me in.

I have no idea how the other movie got in my queue. It’s called See This Movie and it stars Seth Myers and John Cho as hapless moviemakers (I’m laughing already) trying to get a non-existent film into a festival while simultaneously filming the whole experience to put in the festival.  It was so profoundly terrible I can’t help but wonder who these fools are rating it highly enough that IMDB gives it 5 out of 10 stars.

When it started, I couldn’t believe anything so horrible had become a completed film.  I know “horrible” is not specific criticism, so let’s say it had problems with pace, tone, performances, and writing.  I watched it because I didn’t believe it could be as bad as it was and still exist.  Then about twenty minutes in, there was a funny scene.  Seth Meyers gets hit on by Jim Piddick.  Normally a bit player, when given the chance to shine in a large role, Jim Piddick proves the old adage that it doesn’t hurt your career to be in a terrible movie as long as you’re the best thing in it.

This "dumb straight guy rattled by a pass from a man" scene has been mined for comedy countless times, but it was well written, Piddick rocked it, and it seemed like the only time Meyers acted instead of trying to be funny.  This scene fooled me into thinking the movie only started shitty and got better.  Not so.  I sat through an hour and a half of paint drying because of one funny scene.

I will never get these hours back, folks.  But if I can prevent just one person from wasting his or her time on these same cinematic failures, then it will have been worth it.

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