August 12, 2013

"Lindsay [Lohan] topless and looking uncomfortable, real life porn actor James Deen frontless and pantless and unable to perform (I mean act)..."

"... added up to a disaster of a film that shouldn’t have been made in the first place."

The movie "The Canyons” — directed by Paul Schrader directed and written by Bret Easton Ellis — makes only $30,100. That's quite a feat, making that little, with that many elements that might draw the curious. In the old days, something that bad would attract some so-bad-it's-good attention. I'm thinking that, these days, there's so much bad that we've become immune to the so-bad-it's-good effect. When's the last time anyone said "So bad it's good"?

My preliminary efforts to answer that question fixes on the February 10, 2011, the day "Friday," by Rebecca Black was uploaded to YouTube. You have to go to Rebecca Black's official YouTube page, here, and endure a commercial if you want to see the video that was originally uploaded and derided.

I suspect "So bad, it's good" isn't a viable concept anymore. I looked for the phrase in Wikipedia and got taken to a subsection of the article "Cult film." I note that the article at the first link to this blog posts says that IFC Films released the film, for which it paid "nothing," in the hope that it would become "a cult film." "So bad it's good" is one way films in the past have arrived at "cult" status. Wikipedia's analysis of the phenomenon reveals emergent skepticism:
Jacob deNobel states that films can be perceived as nonsensical or inept when audiences misunderstand avant-garde filmmaking or misinterpret parody. Films such as Rocky Horror can be misinterpreted as "weird for weirdness sake" by people unfamiliar with the cult films that it parodies. deNoble ultimately rejects the use of the label "so bad it's good" as mean-spirited and often misapplied. Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson has further argued that any film which succeeds in entertaining an audience is good regardless of irony. The rise of the Internet and on-demand films has led critics to question whether "so bad it's good" films have a future now that people have such diverse options in both availability and catalog, though fans eager to experience the worst films ever made can lead to lucrative showings for local theaters and merchandisers.
Maybe "So bad it's good" was never an accurate explanation of what was happening. Maybe somehow only the old "So bad it's good" stuff — like "Plan 9 From Outer Space" — is still amusing. But I do think it has something to do with all that crap on YouTube. There's so much bad that making it through badness is no longer a concept.

The trick now would be to make something actually good. But I suspect we've lost the knack for that too.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lauderdale Vet correctly notes that "So bad, it's good" was said frequently about last month's "Sharknado." My perception that the end had come was false. It's like that scene in a bad monster movie where you think the monster is dead, and — suddenly! — he attacks.

24 comments:

Lauderdale Vet said...

When's the last time anyone said "So bad it's good"?

Sharknado... :)

(Still didn't watch it though)

Lauderdale Vet said...

The trick now would be to make something actually good. But I suspect we've lost the knack for that too.

Perhaps Bollywood or Hong Kong will save us. We could use a little competition to remind us that we're not simply entitled to the crown, no?

Jake said...

When's the last time anyone said "So bad it's good"?

Umm...Sharknado?

traditionalguy said...

I suspect that it was always a infamous event hype like the last man drafted in the NFL or the worst writing of the year award. It made the "critic" feel superior...but today with a tsunami of critics talking as fast as they can, it only gets a so what response.

donald said...

I watched Sharknado with my Russian girlfriend. She could not fathom why I was laughing so hard. Did you know it was not possible that they would come out (Spoiler alert) of that shark whole?

Henry said...

Over at Grantland, Molly Lambert managed to write a "so bad she's good" review of Lindsay Lohan's performance:

It's a monster movie of sorts. Lohan's face is bloated and looks strange from fillers that her young face did not really need. She insisted on doing her own makeup, which means that her look never changes from scene to scene. It remains a porno kabuki mask of heavy eyeliner and stripes of dark blush. It really works, for some reason. The other actors never quite get on Lohan's level, but she is on her own planet as an aging diva straight out of Tennessee Williams. At age 27, she is already on the verge of being washed up as a party girl.

The postmodernist would assert that it is the viewer (the critic) who gets to interpret something as so-bad-it's-good. Since so-bad-it's-good is a postmodern idea, this seems a defensible idea.

cubanbob said...

For thirty eight grand in production costs Lohan and Deen could have starred in a legit hit porno movie. They need better agents.

PBGolfer said...

I'd rather watch Jerry Lewis' movie. At least he had the conscious and taste to determine it was a poor production.

Tibore said...

You know, there is such a thing as "So bad it's bad". What you see is, after all, what you get. This movie seems to hit that mark pretty square.

The 80's Flash Gordon was an example of something so bad it was good. I have a hard time even fitting Sharknado into that, let alone whatever this thing by Lohan is.

madAsHell said...

She turns 28 next July.
I hope it all works out for her!

cubanbob said...

Speaking of cult movies so-bad they are good this one might make it to the top of the charts: The Gay Niggers From Outer Space. Believe it or not it really does exist. God only knows why someone came up with it, found the money to film it and distribute it but there it is.

MadisonMan said...

Sharknado did burn up twitter when it was on, but that did not translate to people actually watching it in great numbers. I didn't watch it -- no Cable. It seems like people watched it so they could kvetch about it on twitter. What a horrible reason to watch something.

So bad it's good still means it's bad.

Barry Dauphin said...

I've understood it's so bad, it's good to mean that it is more fun to talk about how bad it is than to actually watch it.

KLDAVIS said...

"So bad it's good" peaked with the Star Wars Holiday Special...it's all been downhill since.

Scott M said...

I suspect "So bad, it's good" isn't a viable concept anymore.

I think "for now" is probably a better term to use than "anymore". Media consumers are so cyclical that there's bound to be something coming around at some point that will fit the bill.

Mark Nielsen said...

kldavis: the Star Wars Holiday Special was so bad that it went way past "so bad it's good" and wrapped all the way back around to "unbearably bad".

Beorn said...

Thank you for the clarification.

I thought The Canyons was the latest rehab facility that Lindsey Lohan attended.

SteveR said...

So Paris Hilton gets wrinkly and fades into Daddy's money, Lohan goes the fake porn route. Maybe she'll go into real acting, which I think she can actually do well. Party Girl is not a career move.

Bob_R said...

I think "so bad it's good" will always be valid in scifi. At their best, special effects can allow you to suspend disbelief for an entire movie. One way they can let you down is to occasionally they break the mood. Another is to land in the "uncanny valley" where they seem false and creepy. But when the effects are as bad as those of Sharnado, they go all the way to "cartoonish" on the other side of the uncanny valley. They aren't supposed to suspend disbelief any more than bugs bunny.

Cartoons can have the opposite effect - being so good they are bad. The 300 and Sin City didn't really live up to the comic books they were based on. Some of the worst Disney animated movies like Cinderella and Pocahontas have relatively realistically drawn characters. (And the characters that people actually like from those movies are the most "carttonish.")

Revenant said...

"So bad, its good" is a real thing. It isn't always just a case of people misunderstanding the art.

An example is the dubbed version of the "Fist of the North Star" anime, where inept translation and bad voice acting combine to create a wealth of accidental humor.

E.g., a scene where the main character promises to heal a child using his secret martial arts knowledge of pressure points becomes something like "I am going to touch you in a special way. But you must never tell anyone how I have touched you. It will be a secret."

DAN said...

The Room. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL_71IQQeeA

Jason said...

Wot? How come Lindsey gets her own tag but no tag for Deen?

Mark said...

"Release the Kraken!"

john marzan said...

the movie screener is already out in the internets. since the movie was widely panned, many probably downloaded the movie for free instead of going to the theaters.

the movie wasnt that bad, but lindsay lohan was the least watchable actor in the movie.