Rupert Pupkin Speaks: "Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Maxim Pozderac ""

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Bad" Movies We Love Guest Post: Maxim Pozderac

Movie junkie Maxim Pozderac works at Austin, Texas’ VulcanVideo. He is currently part of the team working on Fantastic Feud for Fantastic Fest. His Twitter handle is @Accordion27. His favorite movie is UHF.

Though I’m certainly not the most qualified person to talk about it, I’m intrigued with the recent form of New Sincerity that basically advocates moving past ironically enjoying garbage pop culture and to instead embrace and celebrate those awkward bits of media you genuinely adore. While many cinephiles can jump to defend flawed films that were rejected by the masses, it’s sometimes easier to proclaim your love of a bomb like Hudson Hawk than to stand up and say you actually like a turkey like Color of Night. While there are plenty of flawed films I wish were better, I fully embrace the faults of the titles below. If you’ve got the time, we should watch them together.

Super Mario Bros. (1993)
“This Ain’t No Game”

The best way to watch this film is to forget everything you know about the video games and just go with what’s onscreen. Italian plumbers Mario Mario and Luigi Mario [English actor Bob Hoskins and Columbian comedian John Leguizamo] are transported to a parallel dimension where humans evolved from dinosaurs and must stop the evil Koopa [Dennis Hopper] from merging his world with ours and conquering the Earth by de-evolving humans. If they gave all the characters different names and tried to pass the film off as an original work, no one ever would ever think the two properties were related. The production design on this film is fantastic. The ultra-violent (for a PG movie), fungus-infected world of Dinohattan is so full of details that I still notice new stuff each time I watch it. Every citizen seems armed with a cattle prod or flamethrower, cameras and telephones look like guns, otherwise comfortable chairs are covered with spikes, and the electric cars (since there aren’t any fossil fuels) that citizens drive are constantly crashing into each other since there aren’t any traffic lights. While the computer effects are what you’d expect for an early ‘90s film, I say that Yoshi looks as good as anything in Jurassic Park, which hit theaters two weeks later in ‘93. In addition to wanting a sequel that would have set Daisy and the brothers against a mercenary Mario doppelgänger named Wario, I wish the film had led to the creation of a “Super Mario Bros.: The Movie” SNES video game that would confuse and disappoint kids for generations.
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Shock Treatment (1981)
“Trust Me, I’m a Doctor”

As someone who enjoys musical theatre and horror & science fiction films, it’s no surprise that I’m a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
[Although, I feel like the only person who doesn’t care for quoting and acting-along that happens whenever it plays. Just once, I’d like to see RHPS in 35mm with an audience that’s silent and just watching the film]
However, it’s the soundtrack to the film originally described as neither a “sequel” nor a “prequel,” but an “equal” to the 1975 hit that I’ve listened to more. Back in Denton, USA, Brad and Janet Majors [Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper] find themselves trapped inside TV studio in a film that’s somewhat prescient in predicting how all-consuming television would be in the lives of Americans. Though none of Richard O’Brien’s songs here are quite as catchy as “Time Warp,” tunes like “Breaking Out,” “Duel Duet,” “Lullaby,” and the titular “Shock Treatment” are enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the film. Shock Treatment goes off the rails a bit, but it never drags like its predecessor. It also features a rare live-action appearance from Barry Humphries outside of his Dame Edna Everidge persona.

Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation (1992)
“The New Nerds on the Block Team Up with the Masters!”

This made-for-TV film might as well be subtitled “Revenge of the Jocks,” as the Adams College of the ‘90s has the nerds of Lambda Lambda Lambda and Lewis Skolnick [Robert Carradine] basically running the campus while the Alpha Betas have gotten used to having the short end of the stick. However, it’s not long before Stan Gable [Ted McGinley] and Orrin Price [Morton Downey Jr.] decide to return things to their “natural order,” leaving Tri-Lambs new and old to fight for their right to be nerdy. After the lackluster attempt of Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise and a truly horrendous “Revenge of the Nerds” TV pilot, I love seeing the series return to the main themes are staying true to yourself and being accepting of others. Plus, the flick features this great bit of dialogue: “There’s no greater friend of the nerd than the American DJ. If we weren’t all nerds ourselves, we’d be on television.”

Snakes on a Plane (2006)
“Sit Back. Relax. Enjoy the Fright.”

A victim of fan-based Internet hype and poor marketing? Sure, but I find SOAP to be a hilarious self-parody of high-concept action films. Catchy title no one could possibly forget? Check. Bankable main star surrounded mostly by a bunch of (at the time) relative nobodies playing broad stereotypes? Check. Opening sequence and title card that appear to be in direct conflict with the tone of the rest of the film? Check. A doomed uniformed employee hoping nothing goes wrong during their last on the job? Check. Overly complicated criminal plot? Check. Unnecessary and/or ridiculous choices for stylistic camera moves and/or shots? Check (in this case, it’s the snake-vision). Gratuitous nudity and violence? Check. Signature line of dialogue from our hero? Check. Brand new pop song over the end credits that positioned to be a hit single? Check. In talking to director David R. Ellis a couple years ago about the film, he said, “Yeah, the script was called Snakes on a Plane. I knew exactly what kind of movie I was making.”

Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell (various works, 1980-1998)

Like a southern response to Paul Reubens’ west coast creation of Pee-wee Herman, Jim Varney’s Ernest P. Worrell was a similar hit with ‘80s and ‘90s kids across a variety of media, yet the film vehicles for the commercial character were often written off as cheap, common-denominator entertainment. Sure, some of the jokes were corny, there was a lot of slapstick, and it never made sense why Ernest kept dressing up like his various relatives, but despite his lack of common sense, Ernest was a relatable good ol’ boy: always aiming to please and never trying to offend. Though his later direct-to-video exploits lacked the emotional resonance, humor, and budget that earlier hits had, Varney still put his all into his performance in hopes that a child renting one of his videos would be entertained. I’ll forgive you if you don’t find the man amusing, but if you’re not moved by him singing “Gee I’m Glad It’s Rainin’” in Ernest Goes to Camp, then you have no soul.

Honorable Mention

After Last Season (2009)
“The End of a Season Means the Beginning of a New One”

Movies like Troll 2 and The Room are often said to be so-bad-they’re-good. After Last Season, on the other hand, is so-bad-it’s-confusing. I don’t love After Last Season, but I find it so interesting and so perplexing that I like to occasionally show it to people who say they aren’t affected by bad cinema.

When I showed the film to some first-timers recently, my friend Tommy Swenson made the point that After Last Season is almost Brectian in the way it distances viewers and makes them question “what exactly is a location? What constitutes a prop in a motion picture?” This is entirely accidental, however. I’ve seen the movie a number of times and still can’t explain what happens. Two researchers test out some chips that allow people to view the thoughts of others, while there’s also a knife-wielding killer (who may be either a ghost or invisible) on the loose. Oh, and most of the film’s a dream, and the rest of it’s a flashback. Maybe. There’s an MRI machine made of cardboard, a bedroom doubling for a doctor’s office, arrows and Microsoft Word documents printed out on computer paper that act as set dressing, and mostly abstract computer animation that might have been impressive if it was made by a film school student in the late ‘80s. Though it runs 93 minutes, After Last Season feels like it lasts four hours, and throughout most of the film, there’s what sounds like a gurgling on the soundtrack, as if all the sound was recorded next to a series of pipes whenever a toilet was flushed. I still can’t figure out the geography in the room where most of the action takes place. None of the actors create a character that’s more detailed than “the male who delivers these lines” or “the female who says these lines.” Not even the title or tagline makes any sense to me.

I’m convinced the whole movie was some kind of tax dodge or money laundering scheme. Almost all the listed crew is using a pseudonym or doesn’t exist. The director was apparently some sort of real estate agent. The film’s theatrical run was limited to only about four theaters, and afterwards, the 35mm prints were burned because that was cheaper than shipping the reels back to the distributor. Yet, the film was submitted to the MPAA, trailers were posted on Apple’s website, a website was created, and a DVD was made available on Amazon. I’ll go to my grave not knowing the mystery of After Last Season. If you somehow watch it, you won’t be able to say you’ve been to the film, but at least you’ll have been through it.


dfordoom said...

I enjoyed Shock Treatment more than I enjoyed The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rupert Pupkin said...


Rupert Pupkin said...

Never been a big RHPS fan.

Thomas Duke said...

I too prefer Shock Treatment. We should start a support group.