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Tuesday 23 April 2013

Library Tales: Observations I

When students attempt to hide books - that is, when they deliberately secrete a pile of un-checked-out books in a place that only they know so that they alone can gain repeated use of said books - it is mostly found to be Law or Business students (or Law and Business text books at any rate) that are the perpetrators. What are we to make of this?

The messiest book shelves - that is, kind-hearted students have made something like an attempt to return the item to the shelf, but instead have dumped them near but not near enough to were they actually should be. It's a benign dumping, rather than actively trying to stop people use books they want, they stop everyone, including themselves - are almost always to found wherever there are science and medical students. Mathematics students seem to find the classification system especially impossible to follow, maybe it's just too simple?

Some helpful students like to write notes on the frontispiece of books, "this one's good!" or "what a load of rubbish!" or point out good work by the author "good start!" sometimes they like to leave hand-written notes, "Recommended Reading." How sweet.

It is a  Japanese superstition that when one sneezes it means you are being talked about by someone. Since starting work at the library it seems I've become a regular topic of conversations...

The worst part of the job, taking books off the shelf. Not even to be cleaned or repaired, but simply packed up and sent away. First to an external store and then probable shredding. That I was 'weeding' philosophy books only compounded my ill feeling.

Monday 22 April 2013

Haunted by Popular Music: Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove

I've been racking my brains, why I've had this song in my head all day.

Was it an advert? Can't think of one and don't have a TV, so seems unlikely.
Perhaps music in a film? I checked, none that I've seen recently.

Really, I just hope it's from a generally good mood that I find myself in.
The sun's back, I had a nice relaxing weekend.

Today really feels like a Magickal Monday
I hope yours is too.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Terrible Films I Love, Volume II : Dungeons & Dragons

Part two of the ongoing series: Terrible Films I love, start with the introduction if you haven't already.

Phantom Menace poster anyone?

As a teenager and into early adulthood I was an avid player of various RPGs and it was with D&D that I first began. It's been well over ten years now since I last played and I'm currently suffering from a real sense of nostalgia about it. It may well be time to dig out the old D&D books (unless I've sold them on eBay and can't remember) and try and convince some aging academics to take part in a game.

I can remember countless conversations when we were young about how our ideal fantasy film would look (and I think Peter Jackson did a great job of satisfying my 13 year-old self's idea of a Lord of the Rings film) and so although I was quite a bit older when I heard they had made a Dungeons & Dragons film, I was still intrigued with a proper Wizards of the Coast backed film project. Especially as it featured Jeremy Irons, an actor I really admire and enjoyed in Brideshead Revisited and many more.

One fear was a 'Disneyfication' of the film, by that I mean a softening of tone, although keeping various stereotypes, and an anachronistic simplification of Medieval style cultures, with a harking back to crypto-right-wing notions of tradition and hierarchy, albeit ones that never actually existed anywhere. This was something increasingly began to bother me about fantasy setting RPGs as I grew older. I need not have worried too much though, because that particular problem was the least of concerns for the Dungeons & Dragons film.

It would be no understatement to say that Jeremy Irons steals every single scene he is in, indeed, he does more than just steal scenes he utterly devastates them with overacting so fierce that it's probably dangerous to witness. It's scenery chewing that defies belief.

Don't look right at him!!

We might ask ourselves why, that is, why would a well-established, respected, and seasoned dramatic actor find himself with a first-time director, an awful script, and less than excellent co-stars? Perhaps he has a rubbish agent, or has no personal judgement, or is desperate for the money. 

Certainly it can't be his love of the project that motivated him. Irons gives the impression of a man who has found himself somehow in a crap job and thought to himself, "Sod this, I'm going to go as far as I can, have fun doing it, and let's see if that stupid kid director has the balls to stop me!" Which, for the record, Courtney Solomon did not, but also I'm not sure that Jeremy enjoyed himself given a brief insight a 'behind the scenes' clip gave me. 

In one of the many pointless extras on the DVD, there's an opportunity to see the "D&D creator" in a cameo appearance. I'd like to point out that there were TWO D&D creators, although Dave Arneson was probably lucky to get that mention (even though he got deleted from the film) as Gary Gygax was probably better known (thanks to Futurama).

Anyway, in said clip, we see Jeremy Irons gie'in it laldie (much like the clip above) and once line is delivered and "cut!" is called he drops and stomps off with such an expression that you'd never think he was in any way finding joy in his work.

Summary: If only Jeremy Irons played every character in this film...

What of our heroes? Well, they're quite a pair... Ridley or Ripley (excellent fantasy name there writers! Oh and I checked it was Ridley) is your typical anti-hero every-man super-man, played with something like charm by that bloke who played 'Jimmy' in the New Adventures of Superman  (Justin Whalin). I say 'something like charm' because the only evidence of this charm is the occasional attempt at a mischievous grin, which results in our hero looking like a lobotomy patient or deranged sex pest. This isn't to say the actor's terrible, or massively overacting, but just that he seems woefully miscast as the hero. Especially when they have to rely on a chosen one trope to explain why any of this shit is happening. 

So far so American hero cliche, what better accompaniment than a throw-back black sidekick? Marlon Wayans plays the servile retarded comic-relief character Snails as a homage to Chris Tucker's character in The Fifth Element. Although I've no way of checking and it hardly excuses him anyway, Wayans filmed his scenes in only four days before returning to another production. Maybe that's why he didn't notice quite how awful it all was and it's certainly why when both heroes are wounded, one falls to an ignominious death (Snails) and the other (Ripley?) is, for no other than reason than he's the 'chosen one', healed by the elf king (is he a king? maybe not, but he's Definitely NOT Elrond) played by the least elf-like actor they could find, the always extraordinary Tom Baker. Maybe it was the Doctor Who connection that led to his casting, but not even as Doctor Who has Tom Baker had to say such nonsense. Actually, it appears the director was trying to give us another depiction of despised Jar-Jar Binks from the Phantom Menace in the character of Snails, because he's apparently meant to fulfill the same role, in that he's equally irritating and offensive. If, however, you've got a character who spends the majority of his time wailing and falling into things it does seem a bit odd, cruel even, to then have him slaughtered and throw his body off a castle battlements.

Summary: Worst buddy combo ever? Miscasting and offensive stereotypes are not a great double-act.

What of the supporting cast? Because no true D&D inspired film should be without 'the group'. For those that don't know, one of D&D's key features (that makes up for the lack of actual role-playing) is the necessity for a group of characters to work together, each utilising their class-specific skills, i.e. you need a thief to open doors and disarm traps, a fighter to fight, a cleric to heal, and a magic-user to support with magic.

So, what's the combination of the movie team? Two thieves, a mage, a dwarf, and an elf 'tracker'. Actually, Ridley is probably more of a thief/fighter with some innate magic skills. One of the benefits of being the 'chosen one' is that you can do everything on your own, which goes against the whole idea of D&D as a game. Not that a truthful adherence to the rules will make it a better film, but just that (like I've mentioned before in my Hobbit review) it's a Tolkien-influenced fantasy theme for the individual to be reliant of his or her group, that is, their friends. D&D as game comes from the Tolkien idea that nothing can be achieved without collaboration as a group.

I've already got to the point, much quicker than anticipated, where I can't be bothered going on with this review. If I was to tell you ALL that is bad about the film it would take another 100 hours and probably remove all the fun you can have with it.

So, for the sake of brevity and my sanity, here is just a short list of a few of things that I could have mentioned:

1. Where did that dwarf come from? What's his name? Where's he gone? Who the hell is that guy?! Why is the DWARF the same height as everyone else?
2. Does that elf's breastplate have nipples?
3. Why does the big bad guy have blue lipstick? Who'd tell him?
4. Richard O'Brien has a 'crystal' maze.
5. Constant establishing shots of Disney castles.
6. Does the director really love Indiana Jones THAT much? *copies scene*
7. Not Phantom Menace too! *copies inherent racism*
8. "We're all equal... and I'm getting knighted." *sigh*
9. Random purple headed man, possibly an extra from Buffy.
10. If you can't afford decent CG why use it so much? And in direct shot?
11. Thora Birch can't be bothered to act. Note: This is being EXTRA kind.
12. Who the fuck are these guys? Where did they come from? What are they saying?
13. Makes an episode of Xena look like a well-researched historical epic.
14. Must have taken plot ideas directly from a 12 year-old boy's D&D game.

That's probably enough.

Final reckoning: If not for Jeremy Irons this would be an excruciating experience, but once ol' Jezza has settled you in for what's in store, it really is quite a fun shout-at-the-idiot-athon.

Requirement: Beer, group of raucous friends, ability to find humour in dire acting/script/effects.

Finally, a top 20 moments video compilation from the same guy (The RetroCritic) that made the excellent Street Fighter movie 'embarrassing moments' video.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Library Tales: Dedications III

As you might have noticed I only choose the interesting dedications for my collection

It's fair to say that I ignore a great deal and they tend to go in this order of appearance: 

Mum and Dad, children, husband or wife or significant other, dead people, people related to the author's subject (for the children!), people working in the same field as the author, famous people the author hopes will be pleased by their dedication.

Also, this is the last 'Dedications' for a while as I've moved to different project work and won't have the opportunity to inspect books.

To Mary Alison, John David, and Timothy
for Whom This Anthology Is Written
and Who Will Soon Judge Its Merits

For my mother, Phyllis Katz,
who gave me humor,
and my father, Arthur Katz,
who taught me to sing without words.

To the millions of poverty-stricken children in this country whose voice is too
amorphous and diffused to be heard by the powers-that-be!

To our parents,

To our children
And to Le Petit Prince
Who helped us understand so much

To the pioneers,
listeners and dreamers of dreams,
all of them.

A tous ceux et toutes celles pour qui la ville
et les quartiers populaires sont une promesse.

For Steve, my valkkaittunai
Finnish 'life's help'

For the men of my family:
my father, Nelson; my brother, Ronald;
and my husband, Ronald Nelson

I dedicate this book
with profound affection and gratitude
to the Sanchez family,
whose identity must remain anonymous

Dedicated to bisexual people everywhere -
Come out, come out. wherever you are,
It is our time to dance!

to partiality, irony, intimacy and perversity

For Ian, with love
and the hope that boys and girls of your generation
will grow up to enjoy a safer, saner, more loving,
and more fulfilling sexuality

To Bob and Lorraine

for the gift and luxury of 'imagination'

The little god of Love is generally represented as 
a child; and rightly perhaps, considering the erratic
character of his ways among the human race. There
are signs, however, of a new order in the relations of the
Sexes; and the following papers are, among other
things, an attempt to indicate the inner laws which,
rather than the outer, may guide Love when - some
say - he shall have come to his full estate

Saturday 13 April 2013

Cinema on Saturday - Tideland : a quick defence

(Yes, it happened again)

I thought I'd take a short break from writing my Dungeons & Dragons review to talk about a film I saw the other night. Tideland is a 2005 Terry Gilliam film that until Thursday night I had never heard of. Being a fan of most of Terry Gilliam's work I was pleased to discover it and intrigued by the blurb and cover artwork.

First reactions: Tideland is not an easy watch in places. It manages to get under your skin and crawl. It reminded me very strongly of Jan Svankmajer's Alice, which is no surprise as Gilliam himself describes Tideland as "a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Psycho." Perhaps had I known more about the plot of the film I would not have watched it, but I'm glad that I did, because although unsettling in places (and maybe a little too ghoulish) it is a rewarding watch. The performance of Jodelle Ferland is excellent for one so young, which can only be because equally excellent direction. It's no surprise to me that Gilliam understands children as his films have always struck me as being childlike in a way that really remembers what it's like to be a child. 

I later found out that Tideland got quite a hostile critical reaction and has a very low score on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes (26% and 30% respectively). Again, I'm glad I didn't know all this before watching the film, although that partially explains why I'd never heard of it. Not an excuse really, why should we base our film-watching habits on the biased views of critics?

This quick response then is a defence of Gilliam's film from the what I see as the personal disgust most reviewers felt when they should have been critically objective in their analysis. Put simply, the film unsettled them and most people don't like that, so having been given a nasty shock they hit back in the only way they could.

What then is so upsetting about the film to so many people? Typically it is because it is dealing with subjects that most people would rather ignore; drug addiction, child neglect, child abuse, isolation, mental illness, death and decay, and the death of so-called innocence. The last is the most important, and as far as I can see the most ignored. Paradoxically the film is about innocence, the entire film being seen through the narrator's eyes, who is a nine-year old girl called Jeliza-Rose.

The romanticisation of innocence. What is innocence? I think that the majority of people have a distorted view of innocence, particularly when it comes to the representation of innocence in film. So, when I talk about 'the death of so-called innocence' in the film I'm talking about the death of this particular innocence. This distorted innocence comes from, first, a refusal to deal with the lives of children, in a sense, it is a failure to properly remember what childhood was like and replace it with fantastical notions of purity that one is constantly fed from representations of children in fiction. The second place this distorted innocence gains it's history is, no surprise, from a populist description of the Judeo-Christian notion of innocence. In this sense innocence is an absolute freedom from the guilt of sinning, something that only the young can have as they have had no experience of evil.

Tideland instead gives us a more realistic view of childhood innocence (albeit an abnormal childhood). In the film's introduction by Gilliam (an odd step, but probably one necessitated by the panning it received)  he makes a plea for us to forget everything we've learned as adults and to remember the resilience of children. Now, although the first is an impossibility, it is directing us towards something important. Innocence in Gilliam's view is more akin to ignorance or lack of knowledge, in which the gaps are filled by imaginative attempts at description or understanding. Children are natural story-tellers, particularly isolated creative children like Jeliza-Rose. I think people came to this film expecting the same old depictions of whimsy, of fantasy, that did not challenge them but instead confirmed their received views of what childhood innocence constitutes. The idea that children can have naive thoughts about intimacy, expressed through childlike notions of 'marriage' and 'kissing' rather than adult understanding of what that means, true though it may be is repellent to the distorted notion of innocence, because this shows children trying to make sense of the adult world rather than being somehow unconnected to this world we understand. That by creating this false notion of childhood innocence as being utterly unaware of adult notions allows the belief that we can be 'purified from the world' and it's horrors at least for a little time.

Gilliam's second plea, for us to remember the resilience of children, explains why Jeliza-Rose can deal with all the horrible things that happen to her and still carry on. That see can live in a house with her dead father for so long seemingly without concern while her 'adventures' continue is from this childhood innocence that doesn't understand, it is this ignorance that gives her resilience. Although perhaps we could also say that children are more resilient as they have not made decisions on what things are meant to mean, these actions are fluid and can be interpreted in different ways, they are receiving so much information about the adult world that they are not able to make immediate understanding and instead create a story with which to temporarily explain, until they are told about how they should feel.

I'll stop myself there. There's plenty more I could say about the film; beautifully shot prairie vistas, the 'Southern Gothic' characters Dickens (Brendan Fletcher) and Dell (Janet McTeer), cameos by Jennifer Tilly and Jeff Bridges, Gilliam's trademark cinematography, and so forth. Whatever else one might say about the film, it's understanding of what constitutes actual childhood innocence that over-rides the false romanticised ideal of innocence is the film's best achievement and one worth defending.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Terrible Films I Love, Volume I : The Room

So, as promised, here is the first review of Terrible Films I Love.

NOTE: You might notice that most/all of the clips from the film have now been removed due to a copyright claim from Tommy Wiseau...

The Room is very obviously the personal project of Tommy Wiseau who wrote, directed, starred in, and somehow how financed the entire production in 2003. It tells the quite probably semi-autobiographical tale of 'Johnny' a wealthy man-about-town (perhaps some sort of banker or something? We are never told) and his fiancée, sorry not fiancée, his "future wife" Lisa and her betrayal of Johnny with his best friend Mark. Also important to the story, in that they both have unresolved sub-plots are Denny, Johnny's ward, and Claudette, future wife's mum. There are many more characters, but they drop in and out  of the story so regularly and suddenly that they can't be considered to be part of the main plot, although that doesn't stop them taking up a great deal of screen time anyway.

The basic plot is this: Johnny and Lisa are happy and in love, Johnny buys her gifts (e.g. a dozen red roses and a sexy red dress) and they have regular sex while listening to poor quality R&B music. However, Lisa is bored with Johnny and, possibly because he doesn't get an expected job promotion, but possibly not, she decides to "make things interesting" by first starting an affair with Johnny's best friend Mark and then by lying that she has been beaten by Johnny while he was drunk and then also lying that she is pregnant. Throughout all this Johnny remains calm, he talks to his friends for advice, plays football in tuxedos, saves Denny from a violent armed drug dealer named Chris R. Finally, however, his suspicions are aroused, so he records Lisa's telephone conversations and then accidentally catches Lisa and Mark kissing at a surprise party Lisa had organised for Johnny. This prompts a fight between the former friends  everyone leaves, Johnny trashes the room and then commits suicide. End of film.

Already in this brief explanation you might be wondering WTF? But wait, there's more!

Possibly the most quoted line from the film.

Denny is such a mysterious character that he deserves a little more attention. Denny is Johnny's ward, in that, although not related Johnny takes care of Denny by paying him through college and offering moral support and philosophical advice. Also, he doesn't seem to mind that Denny professes his love for Lisa and isn't bothered by the whole drug thing. Part of this support of Denny means that the young man drops by Johnny and Lisa's flat all the time (actually, quite a lot of people seem to use the flat as a drop in centre for tedious conversations and awkward sex). Sometimes it's only a brief visit, sometimes to eat an apple, ignore the obvious hint that Johnny and Lisa want to be alone, and then join them in their pillow fight foreplay. Perhaps he is slightly backward? We'll never know, because Denny's sub-plot, like Claudette's cancer, is never explained or explored. At least Denny is the one person to genuinely grieve Johnny's death. Although the actor does call him "Tommy" by mistake, which is the sort of thing you should probably fix before distributing the film.

Advice straight from the Tao of Wiseau.

We are constantly reminded, both in the opening shot and subsequently in all establishing shots that the film is set in SAN FRANCISCO. If we are not seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, or tram cars, we are seeing Johnny walk past various landmarks to remind us of the location, but why? The setting plays absolutely no role in the plot, nor is it ever mentioned. Indeed, beyond Johnny and Lisa's flat, the roof (with obvious shed that is meant to be a stairwell), the alley, and the coffee shop, there are only a few external locations. Not forgetting the very memorable flower shop, which is probably my favourite scene, "Hi Doggy!"

Actually this also prompts the consideration of the constant greetings and farewells that all characters (but especially Johnny) participate in. If one character enters a room then they will greet everyone present and every character will in turn say, "oh Hai!" The same happens when someone leaves a room, "bye X!"

Why do they do this? I assume it's to constantly remind us who the hell anyone is, but beyond their names there's normally very little other information. For example, what reason does anyone have for any of the things they are doing? We are never given the slightest clue.

Why are there framed photos of cutlery (spoons! part of The Room screenings performance involves throwing plastic spoons whenever these pictures are in shot) and not of loved ones?

A screening in Cleveland, 2011

& Minneapolis 2010

There are many questions we could ask, but after having seen the film the most pertinent question will probably be, is this for real? Having watched this film a few times with different groups of friends there's normally one person (the sober one) who cannot believe that the whole thing wasn't a set-up or some amazing parody of a truly awful film. How is it possible, they wonder, that almost every aspect of the film (to say one good thing about the film, it is well shot, albeit shot like a daytime US soap, but still looks nice) is so terrible? It must be a hoax! Well, as this sounds like a genuine claim, I did some research and I'm pretty certain I can state that it really was a totally legitimate attempt at film-making. How so? Well despite Tommy Wiseau's later claims that The Room was a 'black comedy' and was meant to be funny, it's pretty obvious that he's not understood what a black comedy actually is and that he only claimed this after this critical outcry. Additionally and finally damning is his later 'attempt' to make a sitcom. As people have found The Room so hilarious this must mean that Wiseau is a comedy genius right? Therefore it's natural he should make a sitcom and it be a hit! This was probably something like his reasoning. Sadly for Tommy and for the viewing public, he really is not anything like a comedy genius, except unintentionally. You see, writing comedy is actually very hard and if you can't write a coherent love triangle plot or develop characters and so forth then it's pretty unlikely you'll manage to be funny on purpose.

Less funny than The Room but almost as stupid

In a sense, I suppose it is cruel to laugh at the efforts of someone so deluded. However, having heard a few interviews with Wiseau (including one were he compares The Room with Citizen Kane) I have to say he managed to remove all sympathy that I might have felt for him, I do pity the other actors and crew involved though as the production must have been an awful experience. Still, the pain is temporary but the results will resound down the ages! 

It's also inspired some equally funny responses; a flash game, various mash-up videos, parodies, and (my favourite) this excellent dubstep music video.

Final reckoning: I've only briefly touched on some of the things that make The Room so very special indeed. I could describe everything about the film but it would still need to be seen to be believed. See it!

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Haunted by Popular Music: Ash, Girl from Mars

Do you ever wake up with a song in your head?

I often do and mostly they're songs from my adolescence.

Here's one that came from nowhere this morning. I haven't recently heard it, they were never a favourite band, I honestly can't think why it's in my head and now it won't leave.

This is often a problem with these songs that haunt me, they quickly become earworms and take most of the day to shift them. So, in an effort to get it out of my head I thought I'd impose it on anyone who'll listen.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Silly sATURDAY: terrible films I have loved - Introductions & Summary

Six of the worst!

1. Appreciating terrible films.

First, we might want to consider why I would want to watch a terrible film anyway. For, if a film is really bad then surely it must be not possible to enjoy it. The category of films I refer to then are not simply bad but belong to the 'so bad it's good' genre. This series (Best of the Worst) by is an excellent example of this sort of enjoyment of truly awful films. What then denotes this category, if we are looking for something more than just bad? This is not a simply definition, but then few are, it may come down to personal taste in the end. So, rather than attempt to give a general theory of good bad films I'll simply tell you what it is that I love for in a film that makes it a 'terrible film I love'.

Indeed, it's sometimes a dangerous game and often times you find yourself with just a dull, stupid or nasty film and not one that has you roaring with laughter at the ridiculousness of the film. 

So, of utmost importance, is the humour one finds in the film. It's not enough for the dialogue to be corny, or the plot illogical, or the effects lame, or the acting wooden, but they must be of a certain level that is just beyond, it must be SO much worse than you could possibly expect!

Typically these are not the sorts of films that one would want to watch alone (or sober). Indeed, of secondary importance, is the group participation aspect of the activity. A really good 'terrible film I love' will also be a film I've watched with a group of friends, it is the laughing together and shouting out lines or just questions of incredulity to the film that adds enjoyment. 'The Room' is the epitome of this sort of film, so much so that I believe it should carry a warning that one should not attempt to watch the film alone! This really is a film (and many of them are) that can only be enjoyed in a group. Below was an example from one of the many screening of 'The Room'. However, for copyright reasons it's been removed from YouTube. As you would have seen it's something of a performance piece in itself, almost like 'Rocky Horror' or 'sing-a-long-a Sound of Music'. In the clip, which is part of 'The Room' watching fandom, there is a running joke that whenever a framed photo of spoons is in frame that you shout "spoon!" (obviously) and throw plastic spoons at the screen. This does beg the question, why are there framed photos of spoons? Well, I believe the answer is that the set-dresser bought photos to place around 'The Room' but didn't think to replace the generic pictures with people, y'know, people in the film.

There are lots more videos of this type, but I'll save some of the longer ones and longer clips for the review proper.

What are we enjoying here? Is it the mockery of a thing or the act of passing judgement on an obviously inferior thing that causes our pleasure? Put simply, are we just enjoying the equivalent of 'bullying' someone's personal artistic vision? I'd hope that this is not the case, as I don't feel that I am deriving any pleasure from belittling or humiliating the work of another, nor do I feel any sense of superiority over another's artwork. I don't feel I'm directing my laughter personally at the actors, writers, or directors involved. Indeed, sometimes a really good actor, writer, or director can find themselves involved in a terrible production. For an example please refer to Jeremy Irons in my Dungeons & Dragons review. 

Perhaps then we're just enjoying these films ironically? That is, there's not really anything to be enjoyed, so we make a pretense of appreciating the film to show how ironic we are. This, or any similar descriptions, just doesn't work, because I do find genuine entertainment in watching a 'terrible film I love' and there is something that I'm appreciating in all of them. It isn't something very deep, but it does engage critical analysis - it must confirm a specific description to be enjoyable - and it isn't just an allowing of normal film watching criteria to slip for a time, rather it is more like an extreme form of typical criteria, a special type of appreciating. Normally I am repelled, or at the very least bored, by films that are lazy, cheap, or exploitative, but these 'terrible films I love' aren't bad in this sense. It is more like a genuine attempt has been made to achieve something in the film (via dialogue, plot, or effects) but that it goes so spectacularly wrong that it causes astonished amusement, "why would they think THAT was a good idea?"

Indeed, if I think about my favourite 'terrible films I love' (reviews linked below) then none of them are lazy cash-grabs (the plot of Prometheus*, Adam Sandler's films, all of the films made by Asylum). Instead these failings come about by some sort of deluded artistic vision, or an obsession for some other aspect of the film at the cost of all else (typically this initial reason gets lost along the way too), or some other sort of near magical convergence of bizarre awfulness (Hercules in New York is an excellent example). 

So, to conclude, it's quite hard to specify exactly what makes a film move from bad to so bad it's good, but it must have humour (our individual commitment of appreciation), have group spectacle (our shared commitment of interaction), have integrity of failed expression (the film-maker's commitment), and not fall into the category of dull or lazy and so forth. The final being the hardest to avoid, for even the best 'terrible film I love' will have some extended moments that are just bad and are devoid of anything entertaining. Still it is worth suffering this potential dullness for those moments of absolute comedic joy enjoyed as a group.

2. The Films.

Summary and Recommendation.

The absolute classic so bad it's good film. Tommy Wiseau is writer/director/producer/lead actor. That's probably enough information. If you've never seen it or a so bad it's good film before then you MUST watch this!
Recommendation: The highest possible. Get the beers in!

When is a bad film made awesome? When involves Jeremy Irons going all-out crazy in an manner that would make Nick Cage concerned for his mental health. A fantasy film made by people with no understanding of the fantasy genre.
Recommendation: Quite strong. If only to see an excellent actor going beserk. Is achingly awful in places (and probably massively racist).

III - Street Fighter
Van Damme is his typical self combined with an awful computer game spin-off that equals amazement. One of the best moments features Jean-Claude (who plays archetypal American hero Guile with a Belgian accent) giving an inspirational speech to his men.
Recommendation: High. More of a head-scratcher at times, especially if you know (and love) the game it's supposedly based upon. Poor old Raul Julia though :(

IV - Hercules in New York
Arnold 'Strong' (the film-makers obviously thought Schwarzenegger as too unbelievable) shows just how much better an actor he is now in this epic fail of hilarity. The best moment is a fist fight in Central Park with a man in a rubbish bear costume (hint: it's meant to be a real bear).
Recommendation: Definitely. Arnie's line delivery is a constant source of amusement.

V - Samurai Cop
Classic 80's martial arts schlock done to an extreme level of ridiculousness.
Recommendation: Yes! A classic of its type, but hard work sometimes. The wig makes it all worthwhile though.

VI - Mystery Movie...
Can't make my mind up yet.

Reviews forthcoming...

*Thanks to the Doubtful Egg for an excellent review of just some of Prometheus' failings.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Library Tales: Dedications II

A few more dedications:

To the memory of Dobrila Koliba,
who took my advice, and died because of it.

For my wife Chris with love and thanks
for putting up with me for 45 years

To Tom, Maya, and Gemma,
All good-citizens-to-be, and of some just state, I trust
With love from Popi

To Zina 'A.Z.'
(and to five years of inter-species affinity)

May your star always shine brightly

For all TANU women, and
For my mother, Susan Geiger, whose
"When will you finish that book?" kept me going, and
For Janet Spector, who never doubted that I would.
(That's Tanganyika African National Union, if you didn't know)

To the memory of my mother, from whom I inherited my passion for books
and my indignation at the injustices of this life. To the memory of my father,
from whom I inherited my fascination for science and my curiosity about this
extraordinary world.

This book is dedicated to my wife, Joanna A. Mauer,
and daughter, Brooke Laffan Ciraldo.
Joanna and Brook, in turn, rededicate it to Barry,
beloved late husband and father.
"Barry Laffan died suddenly after a two year long illness before this book was published"

For Chris
a simple twist of fate

For Ned, who somehow succeeded in growing up through all this
and for all those who didn't