Since we’ve spent so much time this week discussing the best of the best, why not spend some time celebrating the worst of the worst? This Saturday, the day before the Oscars, your favorite celebration of achievement in shitty filmmaking presents its 30th Anniversary spectacular. This year’s nominees for Worst Picture of 2009 include: All About Steve, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost, Old Dogs, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
I’m sure not all of these movies are terrible, but I can say with certainty that I had no desire to see any of them except for GI Joe, and that’s mostly because Lady E wanted to see it. She wasn’t allowed to play with GI Joes as a kid, and therefore has always enjoyed the forbidden fruit.
Whichever film enters this *ahem* prestigious pantheon of suckitude, let’s take a look back at some of my favorite past winners. Not all of these movies are terrible, it’s just that… who am I kidding? These movies are pretty much terrible, but hold a special place in my heart. Let’s find out why…
1986: Howard the Duck
When I moved out of my parents’ house after moving back in with them after graduate school, I got my own place and for the first time had digital cable in my bedroom. This was a new gateway to laziness as now I didn’t even have to wander the 15 feet to my DVD shelf in order to enjoy terrible movies, I could do it with the mere press of a button. Outstanding! If I could have worked in a way to get a fridge in my room so I wouldn’t have to get up and get beer without looking like the laziest piece of shit in the Northern Hemisphere, believe me, I would have done that too.
So one lazy weekend day I was cruising through the free movies offered and stumbled upon Howard the Duck. I’d remembered how lambasted this movie was by pretty much everyone, and thought (like an idiot), “Hey it can’t be that bad. I’m sure it’s just weird. Let’s have some fun! Where’s my beer? All the way in the fridge. Goddammit. Stupid social norms.”
I dove in and within five minutes had completely turned on the movie. Yeah, it’s just as bad as everyone says and probably even worse than you remember. Apparently Howard gets sucked through an interdimensional portal from what appears to be a world that looks exactly like earth only with ducks (and chick ducks taking baths complete with duck tits and duck nipples, if memory serves) into ours. He somehow befriends a pop singer played by Lea Thompson who I’m sure would love to have one of those memory eraser thingies from Men In Black to wipe all memory of this movie out of existence, and fights to return home against Jeffrey Jones who’s Satan, or an alien, or some shit, and eventually does.
The movie is part comedy, part science fiction, part action flick, all shit. I expected to go in and have a laugh at it, but was too beaten down by how aggressively bad it actually is to do so. So why is it one of my favorite worst picture winners? Because it gives me unusual, and perhaps misplaced, pride that I can say I’ve seen what I take to be one of the worst films ever committed to celluloid. This movie is a colossal miscalculation, and as it’s been said, it takes a lot of very smart people to make a truly horrific movie. And in this case, those smart people made a huge pile of pun riddled, inconceivable duck shit.
Cocktail’s one of those films where you could describe the plot – something about Tom Cruise getting betrayed by his mentor over a woman or something – and no one gives one hair on a rat’s narrow ass. What do you remember about Cocktail? Dorks flipping bottles to popular light rock tunes to the amusement of a bunch of mouth-breathing party guys at a bar, right? The plot is for nothing, the visual candy of watching bartenders do rudimentary juggling skills is where it’s at. You can watch cocktail on a lazy afternoon, get sucked in, and then wonder where the last 45 minutes went. I’m willing to bet if I gave you a quiz about what happened in the movie, the only one you’d get right would be something about how many rotations that bottle of Bacardi did over Tom Cruise’s left shoulder.
Two personal notes about this movie before we move on:
1) I went to bartending college (I know, what an idiot) and all of my instructors explicitly told us not to do any of the ridiculous crap they do in this movie for actual paying customers. Why? First, if you’re using a bottle that has anything more than a drop in it, you’re going to spill liquor everywhere. Secondly, and more importantly, unless you’re working in Vegas where tourists don’t have a clue, people largely don’t give a crap about your stupid tricks. They’re there to drink, and if they have to watch you flip bottles for 5 minutes before making their whiskey sour, they’re going to get pissed and your tips will dwindle to zero. So, in addition to inconsequential plot, we’ve got a nonsensical skill from which to hang all of our action. Awesome.
2) This soundtrack rules. Sure, I haven’t listened to it in forever, but it was the cassette tape I played as I taught myself to rollerskate on our back porch when I was 9. I’d push off the walls and get my balance, then I’d choreograph some weird little dance moves to each song. I realize how gay this sounds now, but I don’t care. I turned into an awesome skater and whenever I fruitboot in the park, I sometimes think about John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Wild Again” or The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” while I do it. Which is also gay. Fuck you.
As a horny 14 year-old boy, my friends and I all conspired to figure out how we were going to see Showgirls. It had Jessie Spano naked, was rated NC-17, and had more buzz going into it than any movie I’d been cognizant of before. Of course, when you’re 14, you’re generally not all that industrious, nor do you have the means to concoct a scheme to achieve in the simplest of goals, but the dream still looms large. I saw it when it eventually came on HBO, and while there’s a ton of nudity, everyone delivers their lines with such ferocity, such zeal, such anger, that any sexuality to be had is shaken out like dirt beaten out of a dusty welcome mat with a tennis racket.
Incidentally, while the wife was out of town on her bachelorette party last September before our wedding, I revisited this one on HBO again. I couldn’t sleep, but thankfully this was on in the wee hours (which is the only time this movie should really be consumed anyway) and I stayed up to watch it. As an earnest story, it’s atrocious. But as a farce, this movie is one of the best films ever made. It works as a comedy because none of the moments ring true, none of the characters the least bit believable, and the dialogue is delivered with such urgency, you keep waiting for someone to get shot with an arrow from off-screen like the poor newscaster in Kentucky Fried Movie. Since I didn’t see many movies in the year before my wedding, I awarded this Best Comedy of 2009. Watch it again if you like tits, sure. But if you’re ready to laugh, watch the scene where Elizabeth Berkley angrily dips some fries in ketchup and gets pissed off at the polite question of where she’s from. Why’s she so angry? Who the hell knows? But you can bet she’ll sell it with some righteous overacting! Two thumbs up for this movie!
Striptease tries to be a sexy comedy and accomplishes neither goal especially well. It’s not all that funny, and it’s not particularly sexy. We had all hoped to see more of Demi Moore’s spectacular set of wonderfully fake chesticles, but we only got a handful of token shots that never framed them up properly nor did they linger over them long enough. The whole thing was profoundly underwhelming.
As far as comedy, the movie has its moments, but not enough of them for you to actually say you enjoyed yourself. Ving Rhames as the surly bodyguard probably has the most choice moments followed closely by Robert Patrick who steals wheelchairs and sells them on the black market for a living. There are enough moments between them combined with the mustache twisting villainy of Burt Reynolds to hint that a better movie was in here somewhere that some studio executive decided to muck up in favor of a boring plot about how Demi Moore tries to win back her daughter.
In fact, I’m almost positive I read something a while back that described that very scenario, but since I’m writing this on an airplane, I can’t look it up. Additionally, that plane is taking me on vacation, so you’re on your own for looking that one up yourself. But we can’t overlook Striptease because like so many of us, there’s a better version just dying to be let out. And honestly, even though they screwed up how to show off Demi Moore’s enormous tits, they’re still worth oogling.
2001: Freddy Got Fingered
In 1999 Tom Green burst on the MTV scene with a show so weird, those of us in high school couldn’t not love it. He turned his dad’s car into the Slut Mobile, he dicked with strangers, he stuffed Vaseline and hair into his mouth for no apparent reason. He was the id we all wished we could unleash on a daily basis, only on television. He wrote the delightful “Bum Bum Song” which despite having a moronic premise, was undeniably catchy.
At the height of his popularity, somehow he got an actual studio to greenlight a movie that featured him wearing dead animal carcasses, fondling horse cocks, and swinging a baby attached to an umbilical cord over his head like an Old West lasso. The fact that this actually happened and appeared in actual theaters for people who paid actual money is still nothing short of miraculous. It even amazed Tom Green who revealed in a recent interview with the AV Club (again, you’re on your own – plane, vacation, etc.) that reflecting on it now, he’s amazed at what he got away with. He set out to make the worst movie of all-time. And he succeeded. On every level that a person can be offended, Freddy Got Fingered has something for you. Taste, art, basic human decency, storytelling, subtlety – none of these things really factor into Freddy Got Fingered.
But what’s amazing is that if you ever get up the nerve to check it out again, there’s a certain brilliance to aspiring to willfully make the worst movie ever. Whereas Ed Wood romanticized stock footage and thought he made terrific films, Tom Green knows exactly what he’s doing here and it makes for not only a psychotic experiment in testing the patience of an audience, the whole thing almost reads as an essay on comedy itself. What’s funny? And why? Where is the line? Does the line exist? Is there no line if something is set up properly? If you set up something poorly intentionally, do you then find a backdoor into the other side and somehow become funny again?
The movie is a total mindfuck. I have no doubt that the first time you see it, you’ll likely hate it. Sure, you’ll laugh at the “Daddy, would you like some sausages?” part and the Backwards Man, but overall, you’ll feel violated by it. But once you get over that, you’ll see a real mad genius at work. Tom Green is insane. But he got a real studio to knowingly bankroll the worst movie anyone could conceive. And to that end, it’s brilliant.
While I don’t think there’s much hope for secret brilliance from this year’s crop of Razzie nominees, hope springs eternal. As always, we’ll keep our eye out for you. Until then, enjoy this year’s Oscars. I’m riding this horse backwards. Hyah!
04 Mar 2010 E Dagger