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Critical - Best? Worst? It's all relative.
by Mark Eggleton

While the latest issue of FILMINK is devoted to the best cinematic endeavours of all time, it is always important to remember the worst. Back when I was a kiddie growing up in my glorified humpy in the town of Boondocks, most films that came my way were masterpieces. That meant I rarely saw a bad film. Now, some people would suggest that Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder and La Bamba starring Lou Diamond Phillips aren't masterpieces. But on a cold night in a musty cinema with ice-cold popcorn and a girl who just wasn't interested, they were brilliant pieces of celluloid fantasy.

And that's the point: no film is bad if you happen to enjoy it because you've endured it during harsh times. For example, you're travelling in Mongolia and you've been living on yak offal for a month and you happen upon a Macaulay Culkin film festival. I guarantee that by the time you're up to Getting Even With Dad you'll be thinking he's one of the finest cinematic practitioners of his generation.

On a personal level, after deliberately locking myself in a cupboard for two months with an air-conditioner, and only eating dried pasta in a bid to prepare for an assault on this hill behind my home, I even liked Michael Keaton in Multiplicity. This brings me to my next point. Bad films.

Mr. Gene Wilder has made a career out of mostly bad films. So have Lou Diamond Phillips, Ronald Reagan, Tony Curtis, Jean Claude Van Damme, Elle Macpherson, Steven Seagal, Christian Slater and Nicole Kidman. Oh, there are plenty of others as well, but to really dwell on the worst you have to hone in on people with pretensions to high art. This reduces the crowd.

Ms Cruise's (nee Kidman, nearly Mrs. Marcus Graham) oeuvre, consisting mainly of absurd performances as doctors, is a series of monumental tosh. I kind of hope to walk into my local department store and discover the Kidman tosh pack - featuring Batman Returns, Days of Thunder and The Peacemaker with Practical Magic thrown in - next to the Mel Gibson pack and the Robin Williams "beard film" collection. Actually, the Mel Gibson pack featuring the films of a megalomaniac including The Man Without A Face, Braveheart, Lethal Weapon 22, Ransom and that Lee Marvin remake would also rank highly on the schlock meter. As would the "beard" films of Robin Williams. Or worse still, the films of that execrable hairdresser, Joel Schumacher.

I actually went into my local multinational video retailer and asked for some shit films to buy and the trendy assistant oozing with film school cred suggested they didn't stock any. I ranted. I asked my friendly assistant about bad films and she nominated the works of Ed Wood and films like Cleopatra and Heaven's Gate. I ranted some more.

I suggested a truly bad film is one in which everyone takes it seriously and it still sucks (like Eyes Wide Shut, The Godfather Part III, Bonfire Of The Vanities or even Portrait Of A Lady). It shouldn't be just some obvious thing that everyone hated, it has to be bloated with it's own self-importance. It has to be earnest and it has to be a struggle to watch. Taking all this into account, my damn fine video assistant suggested that Bertolucci films were a struggle to watch.
"All crap," I said.

She nominated the Spielberg "bludgeon you with a message" films.
"All crap," I said again.

"Greenaway films," she whimpered.
"Crapulum again," I uttered.

She then suggested certain Lucas films, Samantha Lang, Geoffrey Wright, Stanley Kubrick, Joel Schumacher, Robert Redford, certain Martin Scorsese films, Alan Smithee and Stephan Elliot as things she was afraid to admit to hating.

There was even a suggestion that I was a negative influence. That I hated too much. That according to my way of seeing things, everything committed to celluloid was appalling. That I was a short, balding, spotty faced cynic with a chip on my shoulder.
Now I don't know about hating too much but the rest was true and it hit me hard. It's time to be positive.

So, there's no such thing as a bad film if you see it in the right environment. If the elements around you are harsh you will appreciate any film. I'm currently gaining a new found respect for Herbie Goes Bananas, with a little Elle Macpherson thrown in, while sitting in the baboon enclosure daubed with banana syrup at Taronga Zoo. I'll bet you I think they're masterpieces. Except maybe for Elle. But then again the films of supermodels are another story.


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originally posted: 01/10/00 21:50:08
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