Reader's Exchange

Crying fowl at the box office

Do we agree that "cult classic film" is frequently euphemistic for "awful movie"?  And that dreadful flicks can be wonderfully entertaining?  Take Plan Nine from Outer Space, so uproariously unfortunate that my family felt we had to own it on DVD.  If you haven't added that one to your personal collection, you likely know someone who has.

Now there's Birdemic (full name, Birdemic: Shock and Terror).  A "viral cult hit", this four-years-in-the-making production has inspired accolades such as The New York Times' "A Turkey Flies High" (or, as puts it, "Run For Your Lives!")  Reviews suggest that every single dollar of the $10,000 budget is evident on the screen--if you get my drift.

Birdemic publicityCheesy special effects are my idea of a good time.  And, of course, half the joy of witnessing risky film ventures occurs afterward.  Surely, the ticket price entitles one to scoff at the film's shortcomings, and I do.

Double standard alert:  So, why am I not similarly willing to scorn books that are near-misses, disappointments, or just disasters?  I'll gladly tell library patrons that I thought "X" movie represented two misspent hours I'll never get back, or some equally candid report.  However, when asked to assess a book or series that I hated, I'll offer something tepid like, "I suppose it just isn't my kind of book," or "I haven't gotten beyond the first title yet" (meaning "and I never will...")

It's not that books are library territory and movies aren't; our collection includes hundreds of DVDs.  Perhaps I suspect that my views might occasionally carry some weight with patrons for whom I've recommended books they enjoyed.  My lack of film-reviewing credentials, on the other hand, is obvious!

Here--possibly proving that point--are two films in from my personal "worst ever" list:  Penny Serenade and Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.  Your thoughts?


Bill said:

The issue of intent must be taken into consideration.  In Penny Serenade, the Christmas song sung by the six year old adopted orphan before her death is a poorly aimed shot at the heart-strings.  On the other hand, Buckaroo Banzai, Across the Eighth Dimension offers John Lithgow, as master criminal Emilio Lizardo, singing a mis-remembered Beach Boys song in his prison cell with an irony that does not even consider the existence of heart-strings.

Modern culture does not ask if there is a pink flamingo on your lawn; it asks why the pink flamingo is on your lawn.  


# June 8, 2010 1:54 PM
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