Daring To Play It Safe


While we're all beating up on the Oscars, I'd like to note that the members of the Academy are a million times more daring and visionary in their choices than the proprietors of the increasingly hyped "Razzies." Is there anything more pathetically safe than these "Worst" lists? The Adventures of Pluto Nash—boy, you're really going to risk losing a lot of friends if you dare to say that's one of the year's worst! Crossroads with Britney Spears: What courage, to mock that darling of the critical establishment!

I'm heavily influenced here by Chris Fujiwara's piss take on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the cult of "bad" movies, art, music generally. Or rather, Fujiwara ably summed up the feeling I get whenever some wanker calls "MacArthur Park" the worst song of all time when they should be acknowledging Jimmy Webb as one of America's greatest living composers. Do these Razzie wags really find sitting through Oscar magnets like The Hours more entertaining than digging Roberto Benigni's truly unsettling Pinochio (or do they just find Nicole Kidman's fake proboscis more convincing than Benigni's)? By what standard can anybody claim to get more enjoyment from movie chloroform like The Road to Perdition than from Attack of the Clones?

Of course, I should admit I haven't seen any of these films. Honest people will acknowledge that this has never been a barrier to rendering strong opinions.

NEXT: Bin There, Done That

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  1. I actually like the Razzies. Someone once said that the difference between TV and Hollywood is that anyone who works in TV will tell you that 95% of what’s on TV today is crap and should never have made it to the airwaves, while anyone who works in Hollywood believes that everything Hollywood puts out is nothing short of greatness. It gives me hope to know that not everyone out there in America believes that everything that Hollywood puts out is a masterpiece.

  2. Tim,
    I’m not really sure what your blathering about. But I am stating for the record that “Joel Hodgson is a genius”

  3. Like every smug populist, I’m always happy to rip into smug elitism. That said, could Chris Fujiwara’s essay be any more indecipherable? Gawd, what a horrible piece of writing!

  4. My goodness, Fujiwara’s little rant is quite possibly the most confused piece I’ve yet seen regarding “bad movies.” He is attempting to postulate a “movement” that includes (1) people who like “bad” movies; (2) people who make fun of bad movies but are fond of them nontheless, e.g., the MST3K guys and Joe Bob Briggs; and (3) those loathsome Medved brothers and the Razzie folks, who make fun of bad movies but do not like them. If there is a coherent movement here, it eludes me.

    Of course, I wouldn’t have picked “This Island Earth” as a target for “MST3K: The Movie,” either, and it is no surprise that “MST3K: The Movie” is one of the weaker MST3K installments. But then sometimes a good (but odd) movie by a great director, for example Mario Bava’s “Danger: Diabolik,” does make for excellent MST3K material.

  5. Fujiwara is a clueless ass! The true message of MST3K isn’t just robot puppets making fun of bad movies. The message is that the film watching public doesn’t have to put up with the crap the Hollywood foists upon them. It’s also a stark warning to every dope with a movie cammera and too much time on their hands (e.g. Ed Wood, Coleman Francsis, Roger Coreman, Ray Dennis Stekler, etc.) to stop trying to pretend they have talent and leave the film making to the professionals.

    However, even the “professionals” are not immune from thier own cinematic hubris and will crank out an Ishtar, Crossroads, or Star Wars prequel. That’s were the Razzies come in.

  6. Just want to add my voice to the chorus calling Fujiwara’s totally misguided. MST3K is genius.

  7. Anyone who thinks Roger Corman doesn’t have talent needs to watch “Masque of the Red Death.”

  8. Franklin, Danger: Diabolik was, you’ll recall, MST3K‘s swan song, and while I agree that the jokes in that episode were pretty funny, I think the movie was better than the jokes were amusing. On that occasion, Fujiwara did a rewrite of his piece (now lost) that said something to the effect that in a just world, Danger: Diabolik would be recognized as a masterpiece of immense style, and it would be Gandhi and Schindler’s List and Top Gun that got the mocking-robot treatment.

    Mark, if MST3K‘s message is that “the film watching public doesn’t have to put up with the crap the Hollywood foists upon them” then why did they never, as far as I can remember, mock any major Hollywood releases?

    I don’t wholly share Fujiwara’s dyspeptic point of view, nor his fondness for old commie directors, and I think MST3K did a fine job of finding interesting movie rarities-so rare, in fact, that I usually ended up wanting to watch the movies themselves without any coaching from puppets. Maybe the MST3K fellas liked these pictures too, but what kind of an aesthetic economy is it where audiences can only appreciate this kind of stuff when it’s covered up by bells and whistles? As Charlton Heston would say, How did this upside-down world get started?

  9. Tim, “this kind of stuff” is increasingly available without the puppets. Have you seen any of Something Weird Video’s releases?

  10. Tim, the MST3K folks had to get permission to use all of their movies. As soon as the show became well-known, that permission became quite a bit more difficult to obtain. (Sandy Frank wasn’t happy at all, it is said.) Still, they did make fun of major releases on several occasions: an Oscar special on Comedy Central, as well as two “Summer Blockbuster Reviews” on Sci-Fi Channel.

    Regarding your desire to see the movies without the commentary … if I may be so bold, the point of the show is the jokes. It’s not the writers’ fault that you’re enjoying something they’re not trying to present.

  11. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I can detect a pattern with regard to MST3K. Some times Joel/Mike and the bots would hit stride with a total stinker (“Red Zone Cuba”), sometimes with a mediocrity (the aforementioned “Mitchell”) and sometimes with a good film (“Danger: Diabolik”). For my part, I used to watch the truly loathsome “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” just so I could hurl MST3K-like barbs at my TV. I swear, when it comes to that one show, I am as good as Joel and the bots at their prime.

  12. Franklin:

    “Deliverance” would have been a great movie for MST3K:

    Ned Beatty (post-sodomy): I’d appreciate it if this didn’t get around. OK? OK?!!
    Crow: Don’t worry–we won’t SQUEAL on ya!

    or how about this:

    Old lady at supper table, to Jon Voight: You know, I once grew a cucumber thirteen inches long!
    Tom Servo: You know, that reminds me of a funny story….

  13. And don’t forget when they would take a cheesy, failed TV show, usually from the late 70s or early 80s, and pass it off as a movie. Some of the more hilarious episodes involved that technique. My fav was “Master Ninja” (I think it was called that) staring some D-list actor guy I vaguely recognized and one of Dick van Patten’s kids.

  14. Hey, dude, that “D-list” actor was Lee Van Cleef. He spent all of “A Few Dollars More” upstaging Clint Eastwood. Lee kicked ass. (Uh oh. My inner geek is showing.)

  15. Let me say this: “Crossroads” was not that bad of a film.

  16. On the question of MST3K and Hollywood movies – there was “Marooned” starring Gene Hackman (he’s good in anything!) and a 1970 Oscar winner for special effects.

  17. I think Franklin’s said most of what I would say about MST3K. I’d add that I thought the show tended to be better when the movies were on the better side. The completely inept pictures brought out the cheap shots, but when they tackled a mere mediocrity like *Mitchell* … now *that* was funny.

  18. The Razzies suck every year. The Stinkers – at http://www.thestinkers.com – is easily the most brilliant bad movie awards on the Internet.

    The Stinkers have a better, more comprehensive ballot year in and year. The Razzies pale by comparison. The Razzies have even stolen material from the Stinkers site! Who could forget the classic Razzies pilfering of the Stinkers’ “100 Years, 100 Stinkers” poll?

    The Razzies are agenda-plagued wannabes. The Stinkers is the site the Razzies desperately wishes it could be.

  19. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    DATE: 01/20/2004 12:25:46
    He who gives up freedom for security deserves neither.

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