Fourteen days into NaNoWriMo 2013, I’m just under 25,000 words into the first draft of a novel. It’s the first in a series I’m writing with Sare Liz Gordy. A couple of friends have agreed to do guest posts while I’m pounding out this work of supposed genius, and today I’d like to introduce you to a new occasional guest blogger, my friend & coworker Matthew Lyons. Matt will be writing movie reviews.
After a conversation at work where it was suggested his love of defending indefensibly bad films be translated to a column called “That Said…” , we got to talking about movies people like or don’t like, I started going on about my love of Von Trier, and Matt came up with the idea of creating a set of guiding principles – a manifesto, if you would – that would guide his critical journey. Today, I present that manifesto. Sit back, strap in, and enjoy the ride.
PROFANITY 2013: “Most Movies Are Probably A Little Better Than You Thought”
A vague guideline to the movies you probably forgot or maybe just wanted to forget, what the hell, I don’t know how you live your life or the choices you’ve made thus far, we’re just talking about movies here, okay?
By Matthew Lyons
I think that we can all agree that there are more bad movies released every year than good ones. That’s not news, and it’s not a revolutionary concept. The good movies out there, and even rarer than that, the great movies Hollywood has to offer are few and far between. The average, mediocre and the-why-in-the-jesus-h-tapdancing-christ-did-I-waste-two-hours-of-my-life-on-that-pile-of-dogshit-anyway flicks tend to rule the roost, since they tend to be the money-mills, the Big macs of the movie world. I get that.
But just because something is bad for forgettable or just plain “Eh…” doesn’t automatically disqualify it from having good parts. After all, Wings was a fucking terrible band, but it had Paul McCartney. Point is, bad things can be made with good parts, and those good parts, as a rule, don’t get nearly enough credit as they should. Nowhere is this more apparent than in movies. That’s what this series of guest blogs is about, revisiting the good parts of objectively bad or low-average movies. That, and I get to watch a lot of movies. That’s a big part of it, too.
I suppose that I should lay out some guidelines here (rules are so stringent, and I’d just end up breaking them, anyway) to help outline what movies I’m going to watch and how I’m subsequently going to babble about ‘em. Bear with me:
1. Unanimity of reception is as boring as watching shit dry
Yes, we get it, everybody loved Anchorman and Super Troopers. I did too – still do. They’re awesome movies. But that’s exactly the problem. If there’s a widely-accepted consensus on a movie, there’s no debate. That means most award winners (Oscars and Razzies alike) are out, as are most cult films – one of my friends shrilly insisted, like three goddamn times, that I review Paul Verhoeven’s seminal campy dogshit-a-thon Showgirls. My response was a resounding “Hell Naw.” All the film school dickheads in the world have already made their minds up about it. I get about as close to “cult classic” as I’m going to with the very first review, just so I can get about as far away from “cult” as fast as I can. I’m here to maybe tip the review scales on underwatched or underappreciated flicks a little closer to the positive.
2. Genre? Never heard of it
I don’t think I should have to explain too much that genre is not necessarily going to be a mitigating factor in what or how I watch something, but people will bitch about anything these days. I like movies of all stripes, so I’m kind of going to watch whatever the hell I want. Movies are movies are movies, and like Ebert said, It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it’s about it.
3. I Hope Jeffrey Lyons Dies, or, Who cares what some dick movie reviewer has to say? …Hey, wait a minute…
This one’s really a two-parter: (1) I’m going to keep external opinions about the movies I watch to a bare minimum, pre-screening. Most movie reviewers are self-aggrandizing jagholes looking to kick the director in the sack so they can be The Infamous Guy, You Know, He Of The Cruelly Negative Reviews, and I’m not interested in having something awful sticking in my craw while I try and find stuff to love. (2) I’ll probably regularly go after what’s critically wrong with the movie, however briefly, and only to throw the good stuff into perspective. I’m about examining the good parts, not pointing and laughing at the bad stuff. There are plenty of other bloggers who do that, so if that’s what you’re looking for, go read them and leave me the fuck alone to love these movies without irony.
4. Film school can blow me
This is not some pretentious, sweatervest-wearing dickhead dissection of the cinematic techniques present in any movie. Fuck your dutch angles and deep focus. This is not a debate of the symbolism in the cinematography. This is about stuff that almost anybody can love about movies that got none. For the casual viewer as well as the movie geek. Movies are for everybody, you know? Why try to force them into some silly little exclusive box? Doing that’s more about the reviewer’s ego than the movie itself, anyway. And my ego’s already doing awesome, thank you.
5. The film stops when I say it stops
A.k.a., The Playfair Principle. It’s like this: everything related to the movie is fair game for inclusion. Soundtrack, promotional material, interviews the stars gave, shit, even action figures or stickers, whatever the movie’s got to offer. I’m sure there are going to be movies where the best thing I can say about it is “I really liked that Dinosaur Junior song on the soundtrack!” and that’s just fine. You stamp it with the movie’s brand, it’s a part of the movie’s world. That easy.
6. Fuck you, I’ll play favorites if I like
Of course, I’m not going to watch nothing but movies I haven’t seen before – I’m going to watch some lame movies that I love anyway, because I love them, and I want to write about them so other people will love them, too. I never claimed to be objective, and I’m not going to sit here and fucking lie to you like an asshole. Actually, that’s a pretty good one…
7. I never claimed to be objective, and I’m not going to sit here and fucking lie to you like an asshole
Another one that should probably be obvious, but what the hell: I reserve the right to call “uncle” if a movie has no redemptive value whatsoever. I’ll still write about it, but I imagine those entries will probably be a little different than my regular fare.
8. I curse a lot.
You’ve probably figured that out already. Hope that’s cool, that’s probably going to make this a lot easier for the both of us.
Anyway, those are what I’ve got right now. I might come back to work on it a little later, but it’ll do for now. Still with me? Awesome.