Saturday, August 30, 2008

Worst Movie Ever?

This is an interesting post over at "videogum"; a snarkfest about the quest to find the worst movie ever.

That particular link is to Crash.

I liked Crash, though I felt it was over-rated. It was highly watchable. Also, as I live in Los Angeles, and it made L.A. seem very, very small, I considered it more a surreal fantasy than anything. Not hugely meaningful, just a fast-paced set of vignettes centered on racism. (I plain loved Magnolia, which struck me as almost a kind of film-pointillism, and which commenters also trash.)

I can totally see how thinking Crash was supposed to be meaningful in some deep way would piss you off. But note, also, that the viewer's attack is made partly based on who made it. They tie Paul Haggis (disparagingly) to thirtysomething (which I also liked, as an anthropological curiosity: "Why are these old people always whining?") when he's most responsible for the relatively harmless Due South and also credited with writing Million Dollar Baby, as well as Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima for Eastwood.

Maybe that's indicative of something. A lot of people saw political messages in there where I saw individual stories it would be foolish to extrapolate from, and which would give contradictory messages if you did extrapolate from them.

But then, also note, the quest started upon seeing Death Sentence, James Wan's gritty revenge flick. I'm not sure what someone expects upon seeing a movie called Death Sentence. I mean, I'd think one would expect violence and action, which this movie delivered in a stylish way.

What the two movies (Crash and Death Sentence) have in common is that they're surreal. Take them as absolutely literal, and, yeah, they don't make much sense. But you can apply that, more or less, to any narrative. By definition, narratives do not hew to reality because reality is boring. Editing, plot conveniences, bizarre coincidences are all things that drive fiction.

Now, you might say, "But, Blake! What about all that stuff about post-apocalyptic movies you rant on about. Aren't you demanding realism from a narrative there?"

My response is simple and two-fold.

  1. Shut up.
  2. I love post-apocalyptic films, even the bad ones. Children of Men is not the worst movie ever, not by a longshot. It's terribly poorly thought out, but the premise is good enough to power enough dramatic tension to keep the film moving.
Meanwhile, nobody mentions any of my "worst movies".

Here's a truism:

Good is subjective. Bad is highly subjective.

My criteria for worst movie, as noted in the link above, is when you have all the money and talent in the world and you blow it trying to shoehorn a message.

But, wait, couldn't that describe Crash? It surely could. Like Paul Haggis, I'll leave you to figure out the moral of this story.

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