Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Announcing the Trashy Movie Celebration Blog-a-thon

Do you think Django the Bastard should be enshrined in the great canon of movie history? Should Can't Stop the Music be on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies? Should Screwballs have swept the Oscars in March of 1984? Do you think the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis should be given serious study at NYU?

I want you to make your case. To me, to the world.

The weekend following April 5, I'm going to host the Trashy Movie Celebration Blog-a-thon. The date will honor Roger Corman's birthday, as he has more than his share of movies that are either trashy, great or often both, and also the opening weekend of Grindhouse.

I don't want to hear about how you enjoy watching Army of Darkness despite your better judgment. Save your guilt for church!

I don't want to hear about Tod Browning, Sergio Leone, Paul Verhoeven, Quentin Tarantino or, most likely, even the work of Corman himself, at least as a director. All of them have a substantial base of critical and popular support. I do want to hear about Sergio Martino and Norifumi Suzuki. I want to hear about modern hacks like Uwe Boll and Leigh Slawner.

I don't want to hear about movies like Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I want big budget messes like Boom or Catwoman. I want grindhouse madness. I want Spaghetti westerns, chopsocky, softcore porn, slasher movies, rape-revenge, etc. I want to know what expanded SNL sketch you think is funnier than The Producers (unless, of course it's The Blues Brothers or Wayne's World).

But I don't want to hear why they're good or better than people think. This is not the forum for tepid defenses. I want essays that convince me and everyone around that the movie you have chosen is truly great, not beyond its reputation but within the Pantheon of Cinema. This should be a movie, filmmaker or weird sub-genre you love and believe not only shouldn't be vilified or ignored but should indeed be celebrated by audiences and critics the world over.

Think of what that is. You know there's something deep in your mind. The movie on your shelf that you tell the good neighbors is a guilty pleasure, but you really watch it no-holds-barred and love it. Come out of the closet and dance with it.

In Conventional Contrarianism: A Practical Guide, Jeff Ignatius wrote, "In this Web-democratized age when every possible opinion already has its champion, how the hell can one be a contrarian?"

It's a good point. And trash has many defenders now, but even they tend toward the guilty pleasure, or worse yet, the lazy pleasure, defense. I want the vigorous defense.

Shout from the rooftops, "I love Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS and so should you! The problem isn't my love, it's your lack of love!"

And, please, if you're reading this and interested in seeing this succeed, spread the word. I'm giving plenty of time, but for some people I know it won't be easy. That guilt builds up.


Neil said...

Pre-emptive footnote:

I can already hear the objectivists screaming in pain from this suggestion.

And I don't at all disagree that there are objective standards upon which art is and should be judged, at least in conjunction with one's subjective reaction.

It seems to me that in most circumstances the people who are quickest to say that some works of art, music, literature or film are objectively good or bad to me are people who have spent considerably less time studying the standards by which art, music, literature and film can and should be judged on than I have and can rarely point up much in terms of specific standards, aside from assuring me that much of my taste is "bad".

That aside, there remains no simple algebra by which one can judge works of art. Otherwise criticism would not exist and we would merely fill it into the formula and all agree what's good and what's not and sit down to a cup of tea together.

But that's not true either. Within math and sciences, formulas and theories are regularly tested against new ideas and challenges. This allows them to strengthen with further demonstration of their basic correctness or slight adjustments. Either that or they fail, in which case they deserved to.

My contention is that the most common arithemetic by which we judge films, especially here in the US, is faulty. I think far too much weight is given to realism, restraint and "good taste", while not enough is given to genuine imagination, passion and presenting a challenge. I seek not to change the criteria, but merely give people pause to adjust the bslance.

It is generally unquestioned that we test conventional wisdom of greatness. People come along with new ideas, new reasons to argue why Citizen Kane doesn't deserve the critical consensus of its artistic greatness. The accepted standards were somehow not applied correctly or neglected some aspect of it. If it is as great as its held up as, it withstands these criticisms with most and thrives.

However, we spend remarkably little time poking holes in the critical consensus that, say, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a terrible movie, even though the same standards were applied and are equally deserving of examination.

Lazily allowing conventional wisdom to hold is bad science as well as bad criticism.

That all being true, I'm not expecting (or even hoping) that the majority of responses, assuming they come, will be as academic as my post-scripted ideas here. I chose the word "celebration" on purpose. Regardless of how we ultimately come to feel, we all choose to watch trashy movies for the same reason, because they're fun.

rob humanick said...

I already have a title in mind. It never struck me as being trashy, but damn near everyone I know - save for that remote handful of people who have frighteningly similar taste to mine - thinks it is. It's the only movie my girlfriend has ever flat-out walked out on, and I still hear about it to this day.

Consider that a teaser.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I'll be posting the word today.

cinebeats said...

75% of the movies I love would probably be considered "trashy" but I'd love to participate in this blog-a-thon! It seems like it will be lot of fun and create a lot of great reading material.

Neil said...

Rob: I'm looking forward to reading about your choice.

Peter: Thanks for the link. Nice blend of Oscar-hype and trash talk.

Cinetalk: My taste obviously skews toward "trashy" myself, especially when it's broadened out, as I've tried to do. I figured the concept would naturally appeal to folks like us, so I tried to write my post to appeal, as much as possible, to others who might only have a couple of favorites. My hope is to get a good mix of tastes and choices.

Steve said...

Now this is a blogathon right up my alley. I'll be happy to contribute a piece on what I consider to be the greatest trash film I've ever seen and one of the pinnacles of Western achievement.

Culture Snob said...

"I want to know what expanded SNL sketch you think is funnier than The Producers (unless, of course it's The Blues Brothers or Wayne's World)."

I'll try to find something new to say for the blog-a-thon, but in response to this challenge, I'll throw out Stuart Saves His Family and my love letter to it.

Neil said...

Steve - I'm very excited to see your choice.

Culture Snob - I agree completely about Stuart Saves His Family. My standard for exception was critical and/or mainstream success, not my personal opinion. Thanks for sharing the review.

sammyray said...

Do you want us to send you our blog, or do you want us to post it on ours and then send a link?

Neil said...

I'm sorry. Yes, please email me (it's softcell at the gmail-dot-com) the link to your posting during the weekend and I will post the link. Anyone interested in participating but without a place to host, please email me, I'll be happy to post additional entries... and, yes, even with proper credit.

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