I’ve been watching a lot of bad movies lately. On purpose, sort of. I don’t normally watch bad movies if I know ahead of time that they are bad movies, but through a series of circumstances I’ve been confronted by more than usual lately. They have their use. One might think of them as the sherbet one eats between courses in a fancy meal, something that cleans the palate for the really good stuff.

Every Wednesday, I go to some friends house for bad movie night. This week it was peril in the air week and we watched Turbulence, an action movie about Ray Liotta playing a psychotic (I know, I know, a bit redundant) serial killer who manages to kill all the pilots and police officers on a plane leaving only a flight attendant, Lauren Holly, to land the damn thing. All I could think is, I don’t remember Doris Day in Julie or Karen Black in Airport 1975 being so annoyingly helpless (yes, believe it or not, this is not the first movie about a flight attendance having to land an airplane, though it’s doubtful there’s enough yet to make a genre all its own–at least, let’s hope not). Brendan Gleeson plays another psychotic criminal though what is even more criminal is his poor attempt at a Southern accent. Ben Cross from Chariots of Fire is on hand as a pilot who looks like he’s had that Rupert Everett type non-face lift face lift. As the movie goes on, one can see what probably went wrong: the producers spent so much money on the special effects, they didn’t have enough money to pay a good screenwriter or hire a good director. Art is full of little trade offs. Wouldn’t you love to be able to read minds as the different actors watched this movie? I keep thinking of the night Jay Leno had Hugh Grant on after his being picked up while receiving a blow job from a prostitute–the first thing Leno asked was “What were you thinking?”

The week before I saw Candy, that oh so controversial movie from 1968 from the oh so controversial novel by Terry Southern. The movie has Richard Burton, Walter Matthau, Ringo Starr, James Coburn and Marlon Brando as the various men trying to bed the virginal teenager Candy Christian played by nymphet Ewa Aulin (who ain’t half bad), though it seems awfully odd that she has a Swedish accent when she’s John Astin’s daughter. The story never makes sense, though Brando is very funny as a fake guru. What’s interesting here is how times have changed. In 1968, Candy would have been seen as a symbol of sexual liberation, that she was someone all men wanted to bed and it was her fault because she was so sexual and innocent. Today, it’s a film about pedophilia and a bunch of men who want to rape a teenager.

And to finish it all off, I saw Xanadu. Where to begin, what to say. Michael Beck says that the Warriors opened all sorts of doors for him in the movies that Xanadu then closed, which isn’t fair. He was never that good an actor. As the people who introduced the movie said, he was a triple threat: he couldn’t sing, he couldn’t dance and he couldn’t act–so of course let’s cast him in a musical. I went with a friend and we commented how we would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when this movie was being put together. The ideas had to come from coke induced production meetings. There’s no other possible explanation (or at least let us pray there are no other explanations). It’s as if everyone agreed to find the kitchiest, campiest choice in a scene and double it. It’s mind numbing and oh so much fun. One can’t look away. There’s a charming moment when Gene Kelly dances with Olivia Newton John (obviously choreographed by Kelly himself) and an animation sequence by Don Blum which would have worked well in a different context (and what an interesting way to have an actor who can’t sing and dance sing and dance, animate him). It’s the kind of bad movie that has a following and Xanaduians were there in force, clapping in rhythm at the big climactic skating dance number. This is a movie that has to be seen.

So tell me what you think.

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