March 28, 2008

"A morass that starts out as a quagmire, then morphs into a cesspool and finally turns into a slime pit on the road to its ultimate destination."

Joe Queenan explains — at some length — exactly what it takes for a movie to be the worst movie ever made. And by that standard, something like "The Hottie and the Nottie" isn't even in the running. To be truly bad, at the very least, important people had to have worked very hard making something that they believed was going to be quite profoundly wonderful.

Link via Dan Drezner, who thinks the worst movie he's seen, by Queenan's standard, is "Caligula." Queenan adheres to the "Heaven's Gate" school of thought.

ADDED: In other news: "Lindsay Lohan to star in new Charles Manson movie."

55 comments:

George said...

Are you talking about the global financial crisis?

These movies are not movies—they are investment-vehicles and welfare schemes.

GQ did a piece last month on who it said was the world's worst director Uwe Boll. Can't find that story, but Wiki sez...

"[German] law allows investors in German-owned films to write off 100% of their investment as a tax deduction; it also allows them to invest borrowed money and write off any fees associated with the loan. The investor is then only required to pay taxes on the profits made by the movie; if the movie loses money, the investor gets a tax writeoff."

Crews and actors stay on the dole. People who see these movies know they're junk. Everybody's happy! Yay!

ricpic said...

Ishtar. Great schadenfreude moment that this disaster happened to those two inflated zeros, Hoffman and Beatty.

rhhardin said...

Heaven's Gate had a great song, which I've only heard in parody, so not everything was lost.

(Imus ca. Jan 1 1998, Hale Bopp suicide cult)

Queenan had a piece he hawked on Imus also, about smoking an area-clearing cigar while walking the wrong way around the Central Park jogging path. People stopped him to scold. Those people make movies.

Palladian said...

"Lindsay Lohan to star in new Charles Manson movie."

My Lord, the coke-hoovering frat mattress has already been in that stupid Mark David Chapman movie, now a Manson movie? What's next? Altamont: The Musical? A Charles Whitman biopic?

Sheepman said...

"I'm not there". It took a lot of talent to make a movie that bad.

bill said...

Based on Queenan's criteria, Dead Poets Society is the worst movie. Actually, based on just about any objective criteria Dead Poets Society is the worst movie ever made.

Icepick said...

Bill, I've seen worse. Two that spring to mind by this definition are Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl and Eyes Wide Shut.

I think that Eyes Wide Shut is the worst of the two, though. At least Xiu Xiu can claim an important back-drop, and everyone dies at the end of the movie. But with EWS we get stupid from start to finish, with an ending that resolves nothing, and everybody lives.

How stupid is EWS? First there's the idiotic title. As the guys in Spinal Tap like to say, "There's a fine line between clevere and stupid." Unfortunately the EWS title is firmly rooted in the stupid side, and isn't even close to the dividing line.

Second, consider this plot description (accurate) from IMDB: "A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him." Wow, his wife ALMOST cheated on him once, and he has a meltdown! Stupid twit.

Third is Tom Cruise's acting, which is composed of repeating everything that everyone else says but ... very ... slowly ... with ... an abundance ... of .... Shatner ... Pauses ... (tm) .... Except that Shatner at his hammy worst (best?) was never that awful or slow.

OTOH, it was brilliantly lighted. I think they must have stolen all the extra lighting from the Arlington Road sets.

Icepick said...

Just to be clear, my belief that other movies are even worse should in no way be construed as an endorsement of Dead Poets Society, which is, in fact, a big steaming pile. (I think "big steaming pile" might be the ultimate destination of which Queenan speaks.)

Tibore said...

"...the coke-hoovering frat mattress..."

LOL Palladian... my only criticism of that is that there's no proof LL's ever put out in a fraternity. Otherwise, that's a hillarious description of the Ultimate Party Ho.

Palladian said...

Icepick, Eyes Wide Shut is probably a little too subtle for you.

I know it's hard for the average contemporary moviegoer to grasp, but not all non-cgi films are attempting realism.

Trooper York said...

Dead Poet’s Society does qualify as one of the worst movies of all time since it includes one of the prerequisites for inclusion on the list of ten all time worst movies: the presence of Robin Williams in a starring role. In fact I submit that I would nominate nine of his movies for the all time worst list:

Death to Smmochy 2002
Jakob the Liar 1999
Patch Adams 1998
Jack 1996
Jumanji 1995
Toys 1992
The Fisher King 1991
Cadillac Man 1990
Dead Poets Society 1989

This is a record of suckitude unmatched in modern history. He makes Pauly Shore look like John Gielgud.

As a aside, anyone who thinks Caligula is the worst movie of all time when it has Helen Mirren naked and having hot lesbian sex, well all I can say is you should think again my friend, think again.

Icepick said...

Oh spare me your prissy snottiness, Palladian. Eyes Wide Shut is simply dreck. It has an assinie plot, plodding direction and poor acting. (The only good performance was by Sydney Pollack playing, IIRC, Sydney Pollack.) Eyes Wide Shut is nothing more than "Heavy Metal" as done by a people-hating auteur.

Palladian said...

You've already proved that you're an idiot, icepick. No need to do it again in stereo.

Tibore said...

" To be truly bad, at the very least, important people had to have worked very hard making something that they believed was going to be quite profoundly wonderful."

Okay, I may be missing the "important people" criterion (so maybe this example won't be "truly bad"?), but:

Terror Firmer. My GOD, what a hideous experience!

And don't anyone scold me by trying to excuse it as a Troma flick! I've watched all the Toxic Avenger films and have thoroughly enjoyed the hell outta them (well, take that back... Citizen Toxie sucked...). I can camp-watch with the best of them. But Terror Firmer... OMGWTFBBQ!!... when you go that far out of your way to make a "so-bad-it's good" film, make sure it's really "so-bad-it's-good". TF is not just bad, it's a train wreck by a deranged engineer hellbent on following the path but not realizing that what you get in the end is just a mangled mess.

That film is So Bad it's Bad. TF is the absolute standard by which I measure bad films. It's actually so bad that it helped me find a previously hidden benefit to other bad films like "Alone in the Dark": You can actually mute that film, put some music into the CD player, and make things tolerable (that was my secret to watching "Baywatch". To this day, I have no idea what dialogue ever transpired, but I sure as hell know the cinematography for that series! Although I now associate certain scenes with certain bands, which is odd...). But Terror Firmer, no; even with alternate sound, it's a most execrable and unenjoyable movie experience.

The only thing salvaging any part of that viewing experience is the Lemmy from Motorhead PSA on hermaphrodites at the end. That I can watch. But the rest of the film, oh GOD no!

Henry said...

Not the worst movie ever made, but one of the most unnecessary would have to be the remake of Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford and the blankly cute Julia Ormond.

Trooper York said...

I would really like to see Lindsay Lohan star in new Charles Manson home movie.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Trooper, you forgot to add Popeye staring Robin Williams as one of the worst.

I nominate The Conqueror as top on my list of out right awful. John Wayne as Genghis Kahn and Susan Hayward as I don't know what. What were they thinking??

dbp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

What were they thinking??

Oh yea and produced by Howard Hughes. He was probably thinking ....tits.

Larry J said...

As bad as Dead Poets Society and Eyes Wide Shut were, they don't come close to sucking as bad as Quintet. I've seen Army training films that were better. Even those awful highway safety films they showed in high school over 30 years ago were better.

I saw Quintet in 1979 when I was stationed in Germany. We had 3 movie theaters on base and most movies only cost $1, so I went often. I should've known something was wrong when I walked into the theater and there was only about 12 of us in there. Before the movie ended, over half of them walked out. I actually stuck it through to the end, foolishing thinking it had to get better. It never did. This has to be the worst thing Paul Newman ever did.

Sisyphus said...

Maybe Terror Firmer has a shot. But the Dead Poet's Society is far too acceptable to many fans to be close to the worst movie ever.

We should be talking about movies like The Doom Generation, where every scene is more offensive than the last, culminating in the most offensive scene in any mainstream movie, ever (even Roger Waters wouldn't go that far!). We should be talking about Gymkata, in which gymnastics and karate are combined to extremely boring effect, and which may not have been fully edited. We should be talking about Surf Ninjas, in which a portable video game system serving as a prophet puts in the best performance. These are movies worth arguing about as Worst Film Ever!

Personally, I think this is much harder than the Best Film Ever, because so many of the worst have not been seen by many folks.

Trooper York said...

You have to mark on the curve. Obvious schock festivals like Basket Case and I Spit on Your Grave are not to be considered because they do not aspire to be
anything other than what they are:
shit.

It's the pretentious artsy fartsy commie bullshit manifestos that need to be mocked out of town.

Trooper York said...

Thats schlock not schock. I think. Sorry.

Hoosier Daddy said...

My cousin insisted that I rent Shakes the Clown, hailing it as the funniest movie he ever saw. I figured this would help me score with this girl I was having over.

Worst *@&@ing movie EVER. No nookie, no nothing.

My cousin only spent 2 days in ICU.

Trooper York said...

Robin Williams has an unbilled cameo in that movie. Just goes to show you!

bill said...

Sisyphus said...
We should be talking about movies like The Doom Generation, where every scene is more offensive than the last, culminating in the most offensive scene in any mainstream movie, ever (even Roger Waters wouldn't go that far!).


Pretty sure you mean John Waters.

Trooper York said...

It could be Roger Waters, I once saw Divine eating dog shit on stage during a Pink FLoyd concert, but it could have been the shrooms.

rcocean said...

Sorry, the 10 worst movies of all time are:

1. Yentl
2. A Star is Born
3. Prince of Tides
4. Up the Sandbox
5. All Night Long
6. The Main Event
7. Beaches
8. Battleship Potemkin
9. Ivan The Terrible
10. Dr. T and the Women

Trooper York said...

People, people who hate certain people are the luckiest people in the world.

Joe said...

I still don't know what Henry has against the Sabrina remake. Having seen both several times, I actually prefer the remake.

Why hasn't anyone mentioned American Beauty, In the Bedroom and, of course, Baby Geniuses, which may be the worse movie ever made?

rcocean said...

I have more talent in my smallest fart than you have in your entire body.
- - - Walter Matthau (to Barbra Streisand)

A cross between an aardvark and an albino rat.
- - - John Simon (about Barbra Streisand)

blake said...

Battleship Potemkin? Really? Were you forced to watch this as part of a film class?

As someone else has pointed out, most likely none of you have heard of them. They tend not to get distributed.

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" brought a lot of previously unknown crud to a much wider audience. But in the video era, there's a volume of scum that is hard to comprehend.

And it really depends on what you're looking for in "bad". For example, I couldn't bring myself to watch The Constant Gardener again, such a waste of talent (in the service of a jumbled social message) it is.

But, say, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? As tasteless and tawdry as it is, I could sit through it.

And I downright enjoy Ed Wood. Plan 9 from Outer Space is sublime. It is a movie with most of the pieces missing.

As for Uwe Boll, who is sort of Ed Wood without the charm, I think the Germans closed that loophole, didn't they? If so, his career is likely to come to an end. (Though I maintain he is actually quite talented. It's just very hard to see that from his movies.)

save_the_rustbelt said...

The entire cast of Notting Hill should receive the death penalty.

Any movie with an appearance by Hugh Grant has a very high suck quotient. Even worse than John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

A movie with Hugh Grant AND Babra Streisand would melt the screen.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Even worse than John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

Well...I don't know pilgrim (John Wayne voice and sideways stagger) the Mogol hordes will never be the same.

Actually some movies are so bad that they are good. King Solomon's Mines starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr from 1950 comes to mind. How DID they keep their makeup and hair so nice in the jungle. And why does the number of bullets in the bandolier on his chest keep changing? Did he keep finding and losing them when we weren't looking? 4 bullets... no 5.... no wait now 3 ...oooops 4 again. LOL.

save_the_rustbelt said...

"Actually some movies are so bad that they are good."

This is a completely different catagory, stocked with such treasures as Swayze's ROADHOUSE.

Trooper York said...

"Actually some movies are so bad that they are good"

The Wanderers.
Basket Case.
Q.
Mandingo
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of gold.
Town without Pity.

And any movie starring Pam Grier, Linda Blair, Sybil Danning or Adrienne Barbeau.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

And then there are those made to be bad on purpose. Never meant to be anything but dreck and proud of it!

Space Balls
Blazing Saddles
Young Frankenstein
Airplane
Mars Attacks...love Jack Nicolson as the President.
Caveman with Ringo Starr

Hoosier Daddy said...

Young Frankenstein

Inspector Kemp: Vee had better confeerm de fect dat Yunk Frankenshtein iss indeed VALLOWING EEN EES GANDFADDA'S VOOTSHTAPS.

Villagers: What?

Inspector Kemp: Following in his grandfather's footsteps, footsteps, footsteps.

Villagers: Ohhh. Footsteps.

I love that scene.

Revenant said...

I've got to go with Icepick on this one. "Eyes Wide Shut" takes the cake for "worst movie" under the criteria here.

It was a standard half-hour episode of Red Shoe Diaries, inexplicably padded out to be two hours and forty minutes long through the technique of having every scene take five times longer than it needed to. Its themes were trite and unoriginal, but thankfully it avoided insulting the intelligence of its audience by making sure that we were all too bored to be paying attention anyway.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Young Frankenstein. My favorite scene is Frau Bluecher playing the violin while a mysterious cigar smolders and admitting

Yes! Yes! Wictor was....my.... BOYFRIEND!!.

Cracks me up. Boyfriend.

Actually the whole thing makes me belly laugh.

knoxwhirled said...

... to qualify as one of the worst movies ever made, a motion picture must induce a sense of dread in those who have seen it, a fear that they may one day be forced to watch the film again - and again - and again.

A.I. made me feel this way, I'm not kidding. I wanted to leave after about 10 minutes, but we saw it in the theater with a couple friends (who I knew wouldn't want to leave), so we were stuck. Seriously, sitting through that movie was a hell that I thought would never end.

I truly would watch, let's see, The Prince of Tides, which I fucking detest, 5 or 6 times before I'd watch A.I. once.

###


bonus public service announcement: do not see "Pan's Labrynth" glowing reviews notwithstanding. God, it was basically Saw V. Just artsy enough to fool the idiot critics.

rcocean said...

"I truly would watch, let's see, The Prince of Tides, which I fucking detest, 5 or 6 times before I'd watch A.I. once."


6 times worse than "Prnce of tides"? Damn, that one BAD movie.

I did try to watch A.I once on DVD but couldn't get through it & fell asleep.

BTW, another Good Bad Movie, "Flash Gordon". Ornella Muti - wowza.

john said...

Rust belt:

I thought "About a Boy" was pretty good, and Hugh Grant rather charming in it. Of course, he was only playing himself for most of the movie.

Joe said...

Revenant, you insult the Red Shoes Diaries with your comparison. Any five minutes of the latter is a masterpiece compared to Eyes Wide Shut (well, except for the scenes with Nicole Kidman scantily dressed [which are then ruined by Cruise chewing the scenery].)

blake said...

Huh.

I liked Eyes Wide Shut. Actually I just read part of an appraisal of the film which declared it a masterpiece but--well, there's no point in defending Kubrick. When I'm in the right mood, I think he's brilliant. When I'm not, I think he's a bore. (EWS seems to be undergoing some sort of critical salvaging of late.)

What else did I like that you guys hated.... Mmmm. Dead Poet's Society. Peter Weir's greatness trumps Robin Williams' lameness.

Some movies with Hugh Grant. Love, Actually. Bill Nighy trumps Hugh Grant.

A.I., by the way, is Spielberg imitating Kubrick, so, you know, that might explain some things.

I like Pan's Labyrinth a great deal. One of my favorites for the year. I also like the Saw movies. I've never connected the two. The violence in Labyrinth is far more brutal yet far less graphic.

But then, I have a hard time connecting the crude, noisy, and mercifully short Heavy Metal to Eyes Wide Shut, too.

I haven't seen Ishtar but I understand it's "ok", not really the disaster it's often made out to be. It never really had a chance, given the pre-release publicity. Poor Elaine May.

I'm reminded of a discussion I had with some fans of Loudon Wainwright over his "Social Studies" album. Everyone agreed that it wasn't his best, and that many of the songs didn't wear well over time, but that a few were indispensable. Nobody could agree on which ones were which, though....

rcocean said...

"I haven't seen Ishtar but I understand it's "ok", not really the disaster it's often made out to be. It never really had a chance, given the pre-release publicity. Poor Elaine May."

There's no accounting for taste. Especially in Humor. Some people think AL Franken is funny. Jerry Lewis is a God in France.

But ISHTAR got plenty of good press. People thought "Beatty, Hoffman, Grodin, May" its got to be a funny.

They were wrong. There's nothing worse than a movie that isn't funny and that goes on and on. Its Comedic "Heaven's Gate".

othellodaddy said...

"Lindsay Lohan to star in new Charles Manson movie."

What horrible casting! Lindsay has only a passing resemblance to Manson.

othellodaddy said...

"Lindsay Lohan to star in new Charles Manson movie."

What horrible casting! Lindsay has only a passing resemblance to Manson.

Daryl said...

Caligula is one of the BEST movies of all time, hands down. What else has hardcore pornography and wanton, grotesque violence as part of a historical plot and witty social commentary? Nothing. Nothing ever will.

Hands down, the best, no contest, so-bad-it's-good movie:

OVERDRAWN AT THE MEMORY BANK, MST3K version.

Starring Raoul Julia as a Bogart wannabe in an "homage" to Casablanca, set in the future, that treks through virtual reality and back to the Orwellian real future. Awful CGI effects (though not quite as bad as the hillbilly song in "UHF," which is unwatchable). The CGI in that movie is what you would expect to find in a PowerPoint presentation today.

Redeeming Factor: it did have elements reminiscent of "The Matrix." The Wachowski bros. may have been influenced, though they would never admit it. Not in a million years.

You must see this movie to believe it. But it's not a date movie. So don't break my legs.

blake said...

But ISHTAR got plenty of good press. People thought "Beatty, Hoffman, Grodin, May" its got to be a funny.

That's not press, that's reputation.

They were wrong. There's nothing worse than a movie that isn't funny and that goes on and on. Its Comedic "Heaven's Gate".

A comedic Heaven's Gate is exactly the sort of press is got before being released. It was over-budget--which is death for a comedy. It was late. The studio had to threaten Elaine May to force her to come up with a print. She holed up for months trying to make something out of it.

Wikipedia agrees: Negative buzz about Ishtar and its outrageous budget was widespread in the press long before the film ever reached theaters, despite three successful previews.

The rest in the Wiki may be merely justification for the negative press, but I remember it clearly. It was savaged in the press before it was ever released.

If you think it sucks, of course, none of that matters. And I've never screwed up the courage to watch it (not a fan of Beatty, Hoffman or May). But of those I personally know who have, they're tepid about it, not hostile.

Trooper York said...

Dayrl, you the man. You are exactly right. The only person who knows more is your other brother.

rcocean said...

"If you think it sucks, of course, none of that matters. And I've never screwed up the courage to watch it (not a fan of Beatty, Hoffman or May). But of those I personally know who have, they're tepid about it, not hostile."

Blake, I was wrong. I've searched my memory and yes the movie was bad mouthed before it opened. But for some reason lots of people showed up anyway. I was there, in a crowed movie theater, the first week it opened.

And yeah you're right. Its not that horrible. Its not "Yentel" or "A star is born", "I want to slash my wrists" horrible. But it's NOT FUNNY. And it goes on forever.

blake said...

Wikipedia says it opened at #1 so the bad press couldn't have hurt it too much.

#4 by week #2, which was less common back then, if memory serves, and suggests word-of-mouth killed it.

And, yeah, bad comedy is particularly bad. Long comedy--has there ever been a good comedy that ran over 2 hours?

Revenant said...

And, yeah, bad comedy is particularly bad. Long comedy--has there ever been a good comedy that ran over 2 hours?

"Amelie" is the only one I can think of.

blake said...

Ah...has there ever been a good comedy that seemed longer than two hours? :-)