My Favourite Film of 1959.

Film Let's talk briefly about bad films.

The first time I read about Plan 9 From Outer Space was in The Golden Turkey Awards, Harry and Michael Medved's 1980 humour book which listed what they judged to be the worst films of all time across a range of categories, suggesting nominees and a winner. Most Embarrassing Movie Debut (Paul Newman in The Silver Chalice), Most Ridiculous Movie Monster (Ro-Man from Robot Monster), Worst Performance by a Popular Singer (Tony Bennett in The Oscar) and Worst Title (Rat Pfink a Boo Boo). The decision Ed Wood's film was a hold over from their early tomb, sorry tome, The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. Both books were key parts of my early film education.

Except outside of their snark, there's an argument that Plan 9 From Outer Space isn't that bad in as much as at least it's entertaining. For all the cheap special effects, amateurish acting and applauling scripting, there are few lulls in its near eighty minutes even in the section in which the elderly Bela Lugosi has literally wandered in from another film (Wood utilised footage shot with the actor before he died and repurposed them in the later film). Having now seen a fair few B-pictures from the period with their poe-faced acting and clanky plotting not to mention equally amateurish special effects, Plan 9 at least has some atmosphere.

Which is sort of the problem. There's rather a lot of films with their one-star reviews and "worst films of all time" labels which objectively aren't. Scroll through Netflix and you'll find a stream of astonishingly average horror films with monosyllabic titles which fail at the basic level of actually being scary and so are pretty unwatchable on that level, and are bad. But none of them are really the worst because the people behind them aren't usually trying too hard. They have a script which has been good enough to pick up some financing and they've done just enough to get a return on their investment. The Cannon approach essentially.

It's important to add in here that I also don't tend include the comedies of Adam Sandler and his pals, Eddie Murphy, the Transformers films or any of that Kermodian rantable shit. Again, these things are awful, unwatchable tripe, but again the filmmakers have an audience and segmentation they wish to entertain and although there's always the argument that a lot of people might turn out for a film but not enjoy it (and yes, I've seen all of those Transformers films), and they are bad, they're not bad, bad. Artistically they achieve whatever it is the filmmakers have set out to accomplish even if the bar is lower than the lowest thing that's low and lower than that.

No, my argument is that for a film to be "bad" as in "the worst film of all time" it has to have been conceived with a certain level of hubris at some level (probably the studio) (most often this happens when there's been some studio interference) either because it was produced by someone who has otherwise turned out some good work or because the filmmakers genuinely believe they are producing a world turning piece of art but have failed to notice the results are laughable. Quite often these things actually get distribution. Some of them have appeared on over a thousand screens in the US.

Here then is short list of bad films released in my lifetime and that I haven't been able to blot out of my memory:

Love Actually
Bee Season
August Rush
The Juror
Man of Steel
Film Socialism
Hector and His Search For Happiness
The Women
Cassandra's Dream
Angel (Ozon)

That's eleven.

Some of those are pretty obvious and I there's only the odd item which people would argue against.  A few more could have been added thanks to the Simon Pegg smugness scale in which the quality of a film tends to dip considerably depending how smug his character is, and although it was tempting to put How To Lose Friends and Alienate People instead, he's supposed to be a hate figure in that whereas we're very much supposed to like Hector even though he's a cretin.

All of these films are creative failures and near impossible to watch.  Bee Season has whole sections in which Richard Gere lectures people about Buddhism while Juliet Binoche plays a kleptomaniac.  The Women remakes one of old Hollywood's cleverest, funniest greats with some of our best contemporary actresses but has them play vapid, idiotic versions of themselves.  The Juror has one of the oddest final acts of any legal drama ever.

Somehow, for some reason, I watched these all the way through.  Partly it was an obligation, as part of a watching list or some such and sometimes as is the case with the utterly bizarre August Rush, about a Violin prodigy called August Rush, you have too keep watching because you have no idea where the story is going to end up because the script seems like it's been thrown in the air and filmed and edited in the order it fell to the floor.

But what do I know?  There are people who adore Love Actually.  There are spirited defenses of Fan4stic on Amazon.  New Yorker critic Richard Brody called Cassandra's Dream one of the best films of the 2000s.  Ozon clearly conceived Angel to be purposefully kitsch as a pastiche of particular type of film making.  Film Socialisme has won many awards.  I happen to think these films are bad, but some people clearly enjoyed them.  It's confusing.

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