Friday, June 09, 2006

Best of the Badness

Or, "Sheila started it!"

The Underrated Movies series of posts led to underrated performances - beginning with the specific mention of Kee-An-U in Something's Gotta Give. This sent Tracey off on a list of turning point performances (no, not that Turning Point). (PS - Cullen too.)

I can't keep up. I don't follow film closely enough, don't know the craft enough to offer more than the amateur's "liked it/didn't" sort of critiques. In a way, it's almost like beer - I can tell the difference between good beer and bad but am not much of a consumer thereof. (Bingley wept.)

But let me blurt anyway: behold, enjoyably bad movies! Criteria:

1. inane concept
2. ridiculous twists (either plot or character)
3. the Excuse Factor - in other words, was the whole project a thinly-veiled excuse to smuggle in lots of nudity/explosions/special effects?
4. good actors slumming or not yet discovered
5. cheesy music
6. clichéd dialogue/too much exposition
7. unintentional comedy
8. The X-factor: a catchall based on the timing of the movie, becoming a cultural phenomenon, and other less-defined factors.

And here are three to start:

1. The Rock. A surprisingly high score with a lot of, er, "positives" - screwy plot, stupid twists, and excuse factor all a perfect five out of five, notes-by-rote soundtrack (solid four), lots of Slumming (Connery, Ed Harris, David Morse, the late John Spencer), high X-factor (8 of 10), and a decent comedy rating (3 of 5: they lost one point because some of the jokes were intentional). It doesn't take quite top honors, though. Connery is perfect in a movie like this thanks to his Bond training - he even riffs on that, because this character was also in Her Majesty's Secret Service. But Nic Cage loses them a point because he just fits here too well. Connery is obviously taking a step down, Cage not so much. Harris also loses a point, but in a different way - he's wonderful. He actually makes chicken salad out of the chicken feather concept, skills he mastered in The Abyss. You care about what happens to him. 37 of 45.

2. - Commando. "Aul zat matters nau is Jen-ny!" And with that, we are OFF to the races. A lot of movies like this could be considered, but would probably only rate in the 20's. This one, though, takes the rather common action conceit of "forcing good guy to do bad stuff or else" and ramps it up - Ahnold really raises his game here. The twists are preposterous, the set pieces are all cosmically goofy (high Excuse Factor), and the dialogue is a perfect five (never have so many died so often to so many bad dispatch lines - in fact, check the trivia for one that got left on the cutting room floor). Four of five for the music, which is nearly as clichéd as Ahnold's dialogue. (Oh - James Horner. Of course.) No slumming, and discovery factor is low (a young Alyssa Milano), but Dan Hedaya's hilariously-miscast (and misnamed!) South American warlord, Arius, scratches out two points. 36 of 45.

3. Top Gun. The überbadness. Surprisingly loses a point on the twists and the concept, which are corny but so predictable that I can't give it a five. But it takes full marks for Excuse Factor (half of that just for the "oiled guys playing volleyball scene," topped by Hollywood's flexing) and the electro-Loggins soundtrack. Slumming/Discovery is a five thanks to Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan (her first real big role, IIRC), Anthony Daniels, Mr. Strickland from Back to the Future, Tom Skerrit looking bored as hell, and Val Kilmer taking it all to another level - in fact, his performance actually results in a six out of five for Unintentional Comedy, topped by the "Sorry about Goose. (snif!) Everyone liked him. (SNIF!!!!!)" speech. But the Crooze, of course, makes the film. He has zero chemistry with Kelly McGillis - anti-chemistry, even. It actually doesn't even seem odd that he'd rather be late for his dinner with her than miss out on the oiled volleyball game. And then he asks to shower at her place! (Smoooooooth.) It all comes together in the "love scene," a mandatory feature of 80's movies - he looks almost as serious as he does in the sailor suit photos, and soaring above it all, the leaden notes of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away." It did, but only because I cracked three ribs laughing. You have to HAVE breath first, Tom. McGillis should have gotten an Oscar nod for "Best Carrying of Both Sides of a Cinematic Romance." 44 of 45.

The floor is open to other nominees.

(w/t to Sheila for the Crooze Salute, part of this comments thread. Put down your beverages before you read.)

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