Sunday, 15 February 2009

Ooh, Look At Me With The Big Star!

As you may have noticed, I enjoy bad movies, as they give me plenty of ammunition, and a chance to vent my anger at them.
Probably the most famous version of the 'this film is crap so let's enjoy it!' genre is Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), the American TV show in which a bad film is run, and a group of people make jokes about it and point out its flaws.
The show's head writer and main star was Michael J Nelson, who I had a chance to talk to.

ELEMENTARY PENGUIN: Now you, Kevin, Trace, and all the gang had amazing success in the 80s and 90s with MST3K, and more now with rifftrax. Why do you think the public enjoy bad movies?

MIKE NELSON: It's the deflation of the expectation, I think: "You are about to be
entertained by experts" is what they're saying, and so seeing that go wrong is fun and surprising.

EP: Are there any set themes or moments that distinguish an enjoyable bad movie from a truly unwatchable one?

MN: Definitely. Fail spectacularly and it's fun, fail by not trying to do enough and it's just boring. Bad dialogue can be funny - flat dialogue is a snoozer.

EP: When was your last truly enjoyable trip to the cinema?

MN: What decade is it? Actually, I rarely go to the theater, and mostly I can't enjoy it because of the other patrons (texting, talking on the phone, just flat out talking) but I have a nice setup in my home. I think the last movie I saw in the theater was Tropic Thunder, and that had some very enjoyable moments.

EP: If you look at lists of the top 10, 50, or even 100 films, the majority of them will be from the 1950s to around the mid 90s. Why do you think modern films, even if very good, seem to be less prolific?

MN: Probably economics. There just is a lot more money to be made in foreign markets with genre and action movies, which can be very good, but don't tend to be as lasting.

EP: If you were only allowed to watch one movie, for the rest of your life, what movie would that be?

MN: Probably Casablanca. It's just so much fun, it's smart, and its steeped in true emotion and crisis and patriotism and heroism, partly because it was filmed in 1942 when the world was truly on the brink.

EP: In Kevin's book, A Year At The Movies, he talks about the decline of drive-in movies. Certainly here in the UK, there seems to be a decline in the number of cinemas altogether. Why do you think this is?

MN: Simply the dizzying array of entertainment choices available now. When I was a kid there was 4 channels of TV and you had movies.

EP: Has working on MST3K and Rifftrax affected the way you look at films you watch for pleasure?

MN: Yes, you really do appreciate good movies more because you see how easy it is to fail. It is a very, very difficult thing to make a good movie, so bravo to those who do.

EP: What do you think is the most over-rated film of all time?

MN: Crash or maybe American Beauty.

EP: Do your children enjoy the films they go to see as much as you did when you were a child?

MN: They love movies, and though they like some of the silly comedies aimed at their age group, they also like quite sophisticated fare, and like old movies every bit as much as new ones. (For instance, To Kill a Mockingbird is a family favorite.)

EP: Do you think that bad films are made because studios know we will watch them, or that we watch bad movies because studios keep making them?

MN: I think the studios will do anything they can to make money - that is their job, after all, and I have nothing against that. For my part I'm glad they keep making them because it keeps me employed, too.

1 comment:

  1. Who is the luckiest man of all time? Dom is!