MST3K: Anti-cinema?

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MOD NOTE: this thread was spun off from The Shoutbox.


MST3K is as anti-love for cinema as it gets
IDK much about it but I always see someone commenting on Bruce Lee / Jackie Chan related videos asking to make fun of the mentioned movie in the video and it pisses me off



I don't know how much of this stuff you've seen, but the overwhelming majority of bad films are not actually transcendent schlock: most of them are just bad, full stop, and have nothing to recommend them other than the irony that they were created by people who thought they were making something decent (or, in some cases, not even that).

I don't think many of the movies MST riffs on are that easy to define as being full stop bad. Yes, there is full stop cheap, or full stop bad effects, or full stop stilted acting, or full stop absurd dialogue, or full stop disorienting and choppy editing, or full stop inappropriate scoring. But even if you add all of these things up, what you have is only a bad movie in regards to what you expect a movie should do. And more often than not, what is expected of a movie more than anything else is the suspension of disbelief. That is what a movie being bad is almost always about. And because we can't trust in it's reality, it remains nothing but a piece of film flickering through a projector. But....why is not being able to believe in the reality of a film even a remotely bad thing? Considering there is a whole spectrum of affect and emotion that comes with recognizing a film as a material artifact and not just a window into another world, maybe it's actually a good thing since these so called 'bad movies' are one of the purest ways to keep the artificiality of film intact, and continue to keep us conscious of how actual human hands have manipulated this physical material. It's a very specific awareness that becomes lost when we are always trying to lose ourselves in a film Jumanji style.


Bad movies are outsider art. There are all sorts of examples of this in painting and music, but in film, because of the cost of making one, these shitty no budget movies are all we have to represent the outsiders in society. And these films, at their best, expose who these people who made them are. They aren't just stories about hero's and villains and sets where we can explore high end effects, but they also tell the stories of the people that made them. That matters. This is a kind of beauty.


Also, formalistically, they are also the place where we get a much more wide ranging stylistic diversity, plus a lot more artistic chances being taken. This is mostly because the people making them don't know the established ways of doing things so they have to make them up on their own (this is a good thing).


And while I'm not like Minio in thinking laughing at these things is bad, he's right in pointing out the problem with the mocking culture that has built up around them. That because this culture is frequently based on reinforcing the dogmatic norms that have taken over the majority of more legit films. A culture that seems determined to laugh the outsider back into invisibility.



And this an example of what someone coming from my side of the fence is up against.


To bring any kind of relevance to the art of these outsider artiste, I have to spend paragraphs threading a needle trying to explain how value can be found in these discarded films.


And the response against this....but bad movies are bad.


What chance can nuance possibly have against this?



Nah, I could never hope to compete with you
I'm not a movie buff. I'm a cinephile.



Every film deserves the respect of being shown in its original form, presented as well as possible, and as close to the original auteurs' vision as possible. To think you can butcher a film, alter it, and mock it only because YOU think it's bad or undeserving is nothing short of criminal.
Commentary is not butchering; commentary specifically draws attention to itself as being outside of the production. They're not altering the film to make it worse to make it easier to make fun of.

The only virtue of MST3K is that, unlike the producers, they seemingly don't destroy the original cut.
In fact, as I keep mentioning, they're often the only ones responsible for keeping these films in memory at all. They are undoubtedly the only reason many of them get put into production on newer formats, ever. For all your dislike of it, one of these episodes does more to functionally preserve, enhance, and celebrate unseen cinema than most of their critics put together.

Incidentally, it's the similar disrespect for certain kinds of films that makes people allow themselves to half-watch them, do something else while watching them, or watch them at 2x speed, not even giving them the chance they give to the more "standard" "quality" movies.
See, this is what I fear the discussion is really about: imagining what kind of person might do this and not liking that person, and then transferring that dislike onto the entire idea. The fact that comedy is irreverent does not mean people who enjoy this do so because they don't take movies seriously in general. In fact, it's people who understand movies that best recognize, and get amusement from, failures.

What do you even mean by this? I'm not against people reviewing these films and posting their reviews online but if you want to claim that MST3K is reviewing those films in real time just as they play, I'm not buying into it.
But they are watching it over and over in advance of what they say. As I pointed out earlier, good satire has a deep understanding of the thing it's satirizing, and the people making fun of bad films usually have a deep understanding (and often a deep, genuine love for) bad cinema, as people almost always do when they spend a lot of time with something.

I also wonder how you can square this extreme genuflection towards the purity of the initial work with such a narrow view of artistic criticism, given that criticism is itself clearly an art form, too. I can't imagine a coherent ideology of artistic purity that would have you defend Birdemic as important expression without granting the same umbrella deference to critique of it, in essentially any form. And it's particularly hard to square with your general belief that our unintellectualized reactions to art are the most important thing. What do we have to append to that now? That those reactions only count if you're crying, and not if you're laughing at something absurd?

The "so bad it's good", "so bad it's bad", monster pictures from the 50s, schlock, pulp, trash, they're all certain kinds of movies. Besides, how can you dismiss a movie before you even watch it? It's your prejudice. MST3K TELLS you it's a bad film because they picked it to mock it. Low ratings online TELL you it's a bad film. Your own close-mindedness TELLS you it's a bad film. Watch the original, hate it, and forget it. But at least you have seen the unadulterated film.
No, they really are bad films. This is why I asked early on how much you've seen, and suggested you might be imagining some transgressive masterpiece of schlock. It's important to engage with the reality, not just the hypothetical ways it might go wrong. These are not films that just try to do something odd or weird that fail in interesting ways. They're almost invariably just really, really terrible films. Films that, when they break "convention," do so completely by accident, with no intentionality and nothing profound embedded in the failure.

Again, the question is, would people not exposed to them via MST3K watch them anyway?
Overwhelmingly, no. And I do mean overwhelmingly, that's not some dude on the Internet using an adjective just to sound more confident.

The few "bad film fans" would. And they'd watch the original version!
And those people would do exactly what you're saying would be okay: seeing the original, and then enjoying the commentary. The only relevant question, then, has to do with the people who only find it through the commentary. Which is most of them.

Or better yet, let's say people watched the MST3K version. Would they watch the original now? How many would? One-thousandth?
Expressing this as a percentage of overall watchers, instead of as a percentage of people who would've never even heard of the film in the first place, seems like an obvious rhetorical sleight of hand.

If they make an opinion, this opinion is worthless, as they haven't even seen the film in its actual form.
If you turn your head to cough, have you forever sullied your experience? What if the sound skips for a half-second? What if you're just kind of sleepy? The Platonic ideal of a cinematic experience has never been, and never will be, experienced. So however you might like to dismiss this idea, I don't think it works to dismiss it in this way. I'm sorry, but I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I can at least roughly compartmentalize the commentary away from the film and say, with confidence: yeesh, that's a bad movie.

And how many would just stop at the MST3K version, having experienced the altered version of the film, never having watched the original? If people are only to see the altered, butchered, mocked version, they should see no version at all. (Provided the original version exists...)
This is the crux of it. I think this is wrong. You would resign these films to essentially having never existed rather than have someone make fun of them.



I would also like to add, as a lover of all types of art, I don't put any art piece above being repurposed, reappropriated, mutated or ridiculed.


The art world is not a fascistic order. It is an ongoing dialogue between those that create it and those that consume it. It's there to be bended to whatever will one chooses, both for better and worse.


MST is essentially using old and abandoned artworks and creating something new from them. As long as it isn't simultaneously incinerating the master copies, or taking credit for having made the original as well, it's all wonderfully fair game as far as I'm concerned.



I'm not a movie buff. I'm a cinephile.
See? Just like I told you.



I don't think many of the movies MST riffs on are that easy to define as being full stop bad. Yes, there is full stop cheap, or full stop bad effects, or full stop stilted acting, or full stop absurd dialogue, or full stop disorienting and choppy editing, or full stop inappropriate scoring. But even if you add all of these things up, what you have is only a bad movie in regards to what you expect a movie should do. And more often than not, what is expected of a movie more than anything else is the suspension of disbelief. That is what a movie being bad is almost always about. And because we can't trust in it's reality, it remains nothing but a piece of film flickering through a projector. But....why is not being able to believe in the reality of a film even a remotely bad thing? Considering there is a whole spectrum of affect and emotion that comes with recognizing a film as a material artifact and not just a window into another world, maybe it's actually a good thing since these so called 'bad movies' are one of the purest ways to keep the artificiality of film intact, and continue to be conscious of how actual human hands have manipulated this physical material. It's a very specific awareness that becomes lost when we are always trying to lose ourselves in a film Jumanji style.
The trap I want to avoid is condemning an entire genre of comedy just because it's theoretically possible to do conventionally bad things with intent. In case there's any doubt: of course it can be valid, meaningful, and a million other things when a film is deliberately bad, deliberately calls attention to its own artifice, etc. Stop motion animation is used to great effect even though it resembles reality less than other forms. There are countless examples of ways to do this thoughtfully, and with intentionality.

That is not what we're talking about here.

We're talking about filmmakers who use a lens because they don't know what different lenses do, didn't care to find out, and didn't check the dailies until it was too late. We're talking about (this one is real) movies shot on both regular film and digital simultaneously not as a piece of metatextual performance art, but because the director didn't know the difference and thought it sounded cool and historic to do it, but didn't even up using it. We're talking about films that linger on cars driving simply to pad their runtime (this is a hallmark of terrible films, by the way) so they can feel more like movies based on length alone.

In fact, overwhelmingly the films being mocked are doing the exact opposite of trying to defy convention. They are overwhelmingly failing by trying to be like every cliché idea of a movie you've ever thought of. A lot of the time it's some silly moderately wealthy person who thinks it would be cool to be a director, like the person who opens a restaurant not because they love food but because they like the idea of being a person who owns a restaurant.

Bad movies are outsider art.
If outsider art is valuable because it's not constrained by convention, then that's how we should define it, not by just asking "was this made by an outsider?" Outsiders can be just as banal and formulaic as your random mainstream fare. I might even say they're more likely to be.

Anyway, the biggest challenge outsider art has is being seen at all, so if we're trying to be pragmatic here, I don't see how we could avoid coming down in favor of riffing, on balance.

Also, formalistically, they are also the place where we get a much more wide ranging stylistic diversity, plus a lot more artistic chances being taken. This is mostly because the people making them don't know the established ways of doing things so they have to make them up on their own (this is a good thing).
I respect films that take chances, to the point where I routinely overrate interesting failures relative to others. But one almost never gets the sense from these films that anyone was taking a "chance." They are simply trying and failing to make the most basic films, doing the most basic things. Saying we have to defer to them feels like saying we have to seriously engage with a home video of a guy getting hit in the crotch because it might be interrogating gender stereotypes. We can't constrain our reactions based on mere possibility.

And while I'm not like Minio in thinking laughing at these things is bad, he's right in pointing out the problem with the mocking culture that has built up around them. That because this culture is frequently based on reinforcing the dogmatic norms that have taken over the majority of more legit films. A culture that seems determined to laugh the outsider back into invisibility.
If that's the determination, it sure doesn't seem to be working, because what's actually happened is people loving and seeking these films out more than they otherwise would have.

This is the thing I think people really need to grapple with, when their ideology of art would have the very things they're defending essentially erased from the world, and when the culture they dislike (which is about half in their imagination) is the only thing watching and celebrating them.



I would also like to add, as a lover of all types of art, I don't put any art piece above being repurposed, reappropriated, mutated or ridiculed.


The art world is not a fascistic order. It is an ongoing dialogue between those that create it and those that consume it. It's there to be bended to whatever will one chooses, both for better and worse.


MST is essentially using old and abandoned artworks and creating something new from them. As long as it isn't simultaneously incinerating the master copies, or taking credit for having made the original as well, it's all wonderfully fair game as far as I'm concerned.
Aye, I'm glad we got to this aspect of things: I expected to lead with it but got quickly caught up in other aspects of the discussion.

Riffing, particularly when done well, can be transformative. It is a work unto itself. Some of the hardest times I've ever laughed have been at these riffs. Some of my best memories with friends and family came over sharing in their absurdity. I almost have to reject out of hand any idea that would have me believe any of that is bad, because the actual experiences seem so self-evidently good.

Where people see defacement, I see a form of refurbishment. I think this is less like lipstick on the Mona Lisa than it is finding something at a thrift store bound for the trash and finding a use for it. It is, frankly, borderline miraculous to take something nobody ever cared about and create joy out of it, almost ex nihilo.



It's astounding how by scrutinizing every little point and periphery you manage to miss the core point so much. Or maybe you don't miss it but disagree with it. Which is arguably even worse.

But as is usually the case, discussing cinema with people who don't love cinema is a fool's errand.

Most people think they love cinema. But they only love individual types of movies. They're not cinephiles, which is fine I guess but it puts them in a position where they'll never truly understand cinephilia and the importance of preserving films in their original shape and form.

Those people see the "worst" kind of filmmaker who doesn't know how to shoot a film, doesn't care about it, and pads the film with elongated sequences that add nothing to the film. Then, they use their rationale to judge such art as worthless. But art should be experienced by one's intuition. It's their internal critic screaming that none of that was intended, that it's bad by some ambiguous criteria enforced by academia and "proper" filmmaking techniques. They believe that indeterminacy has no meaning. That it's all about the auteur's intentions. They cannot be mesmerized by a bad film. They don't know how to contemplate such films. They can't find entertainment in them. It's all their inadequacy, their lack of love, their lack of passion, hell, most of the time it's even the lack of will to try.

They don't treat films as works of art that are inherently valuable regardless of how they were made and what was meant by making them, but rather as mere sparks that prompt one to think. Truly bad films can be hypnotizing, surprising, or even funny. But it's up to each viewer to decide, not to some comedians who feel the need to make fun of something because they don't believe people would get/like it otherwise. Maybe most wouldn't so let's leave it to those who would.

Bad films are closer to art films than you might think. Both kinds can fly over the heads of generic drones that see cinema as a static entity that has to make them think, or be intended, or employ generic, normal, usual solutions to known problems. They cannot fathom how a film can climb over its inapt camerawork and amaze you with its grain, with its ugliness, or with its trashy (lack of) aesthetic.

But even "proper" "normie" "art" cinema is full of moments like these. The greatest moment in a Scorsese film was unintended. It was the ending to The Last Temptation of Christ. I hoped he intended it. It was such a truly abstractly godly wonderful ending to such a film, but of course, it was unintended. Thank God Scorsese was smart enough to keep it in the film, but it's not like he intended it to happen in the first place. But it did, and it was mesmerizing and splendid in ways that escape cognition. And to be fair, I'd never expect Scorsese to do something like this intentionally. He's just too "classically", "uptight", a focus-on-the-story Hollywood filmmaker.

Those filmmakers of the worst of the worst films never intended most of the things you find in those films either. But some are amazing. And just as I love The Last Temptation, regardless of whether the ending was intended or not, so I love some of the worst movies ever made. And frankly, I'd rather watch literally anything in the MST3K program (in its original version, of course) than Oppenheimer or Dune 2 or something like that. That's because you can never know what's going to happen in those bad films and for all you know, another one of those unintended genius moments might happen. But there will never be (and never was) any genius moment in a Nolan film - intended or unintended

Once again, even if those genius moments in bad films are rare, you should never fail to try and notice them. They're usually ephemeral & ethereal - easy to miss unless you give your whole self to the film. IMPOSSIBLE to notice if you're adopting a mocking attitude. Any of the alleged refurbishments only take you further away from the likelihood of experiencing those moments.

Have you ever watched a film and then asked yourself if something you noticed was real or just something you made up? Have you ever contemplated the pixels on the screen so hard and long you almost had an out-of-body experience? Have you ever surfed the nocturnal auras of trashy schlock? Have you ever wondered at the high entertainment & art value of something that is generally believed to be worthless? Have you ever escaped the generic convictions of what a film is supposed to be and whether or not whatever you see is the auteur's or your own vision just to take the film the way it is, without any embellishments and without any judgments? Have you ever truly, unconditionally loved cinema, and therefore made a point to give every film the fair chance it deserves?

In short, don't be MST3K. Be David Nelson.

But if somebody doesn't understand all that, further discussion is only derogatory to all sides involved. I used to be more eager to keep having this sort of discussion, but in the end, you can't find Salvation together with everyone. You have to save those who want to be saved.

Feel free to keep the discussion going Crumbs & Yoda. To me, continuing this conversation is pointless.



That is not what we're talking about here.

And neither am I. Those who do things badly on purpose are a whole different matter. And unless we are including Camp under that umbrella (mostly because the average viewer is unable to tell the difference between this and something that is simply inept), art that does this is almost always terrible.

We're talking about filmmakers who use a lens because they don't know what different lenses do, didn't care to find out, and didn't check the dailies until it was too late.

Exactly. And what is inherently bad about that? It would not negate anything they might be doing well, and it could add to the films effect. And, no, it doesn't necessarily matter if it was intended to or not.


Amateurism is not a curse. It is often a blessing, in the right hands. To not know the limits of what something can or cannot do, allows the amateur to try things a trained professional would not. It forges paths that might never have been taken if left in the hands of people who know what they were doing. Many established artists in fact will utilize techniques in order to break themselves of their habits and limitations.


Two examples of this:


A master painter who deliberately chooses to begin working with his left hand. They are obviously going to lose a lot of refinement in their art, and they are going to do a lot of brushstrokes which they might wish they could take back, but it freees them from habit. It opens up new avenues of expression simply through the fact they are unable to fall back on their talent


The cut up technique, where writers write as the might normally do, then cut their work into pieces and scramble it out of order. This introduces randomness to the process and gets the writer out of the habits of their style and well as the constricts of grammar and proper sentence structure. It creates something that would never have consciously been created. Song lyrics and novels have been made using this process, frequently to great effect.


In other threads I have championed the art work of children as being superior in many ways to that of adults. Why? Because they are at an age when they are not bogged down by tradition. They aren't handcuffed by believing everything needs to be purely representational. They don't have the guilt and shame of doing something poorly. They create for the love of creation, and this act when separated from all that other Orthodox garbage, allows us to see who these children are better than if they could draw people or trees or the sun in great detail. That visibility has value artistically in and of itself. And it's something many adults lose....unless they begin to work with materials and in ways they are unfamiliar.




We're talking about (this one is real) movies shot on both regular film and digital simultaneously not as a piece of metatextual performance art, but because the director didn't know the difference and thought it sounded cool and historic to do it, but didn't even up using it.
You mean Neil Breen? Glad you mentioned him. His technical and narrative and logical flaws as a filmmaker are what make his films art. I don't think there has been a film yet made that captures the worldview of this very particular type of American- paranoid, meglomanical, vain, wealthy and helplessly screaming against the government -- better than his movies.


If he made the type of movie he intended to, it probably would have just been a dull piece of garbage. But his limitations as a filmmaker are what expose him for who he is, and is what makes his movies things that probably should be studied 100 years from now, after the Apocalypse, so we can learn how exactly we destroyed ourselves.


We're talking about films that linger on cars driving


Are we talking about Tarkovksy or Manos here?

They are overwhelmingly failing by trying to be like every cliché idea of a movie you've ever thought of.

Intent really isn't so relevant. What matters most is what they make, what it makes us feel, and what we can say about it.


A lot of the time it's some silly moderately wealthy person who thinks it would be cool to be a director, like the person who opens a restaurant not because they love food

I'm more concerned about someone who doesn't know how to prepare food than someone who doesn't know how to point a camera, for obvious reasons.


If outsider art is valuable because it's not constrained by convention, then that's how we should define it, not by just asking "was this made by an outsider?" Outsiders can be just as banal and formulaic as your random mainstream fare. I might even say they're more likely to be.

Didn't say all outsiders are created equally


But one almost never gets the sense from these films that anyone was taking a "chance."

Unsurprisingly I'm not terribly moved by what most people get out of anything. Especially in the case of these movies which, as you've stated yourself, are either never seen at all, or are trotted out exclusively to be laughed at.


Next to serious masters, the next best thing in film are these nobodies floundering around and making miracles happen, sometimes completely by mistake.


They are simply trying and failing to make the most basic films, doing the most basic things.

This already sounds better than doing a basic thing professionally.


Saying we have to defer to them feels like saying we have to seriously engage with a home video of a guy getting hit in the crotch because it might be interrogating gender stereotypes.

It really isn't.


If that's the determination, it sure doesn't seem to be working, because what's actually happened is people loving and seeking these films out more than they otherwise would have.

I've got no problem with that. I'm just saying they have more to offer.


If they can bring so much joy with unintentional laughter, how does anything else they might do not count if it is also not completely intentional?

This is the thing I think people really need to grapple with, when their ideology of art would have the very things they're defending essentially erased from the world, and when the culture they dislike (which is about half in their imagination) is the only thing watching and celebrating them.
I



But as is usually the case, discussing cinema with people who don't love cinema is a fool's errand.
Could it be that maybe other people love cinema just as much, or even more, than you do, but simply have a different take on things? Just sayin'....



It's astounding how by scrutinizing every little point and periphery you manage to miss the core point so much.
If my response to your reasoning seems irrelevant, I think that suggests the reasoning itself was irrelevant.

But as is usually the case, discussing cinema with people who don't love cinema is a fool's errand.
As is discussing cinema with people who think you can only love it the way they do.

They're not cinephiles, which is fine I guess but it puts them in a position where they'll never truly understand cinephilia and the importance of preserving films in their original shape and form.
Nothing in my post suggests a disagreement with--let alone an inability to understand--the importance of film preservation. Quite the opposite: I literally described the ways in which this stuff aids in it. You can agree or disagree with that, but it's nonsensical to act like I didn't understand something I clearly described and addressed head-on.

But art should be experienced by one's intuition.
There's some truth to this, but I don't think this sentiment coexists very well with being aggressively judgmental about other people's intuitions when they differ. Either this stuff can be interrogated and judged, or not. Pick any standard you like for others, so long as you apply it to yourself as well.

It's their internal critic screaming that none of that was intended, that it's bad by some ambiguous criteria enforced by academia and "proper" filmmaking techniques.
For crying out loud, you can't decry the use of "ambiguous criteria" in the very next sentence after advocating for a standard of "intuition."

They believe that indeterminacy has no meaning. That it's all about the auteur's intentions. They cannot be mesmerized by a bad film. They don't know how to contemplate such films. They can't find entertainment in them. It's all their inadequacy, their lack of love, their lack of passion, hell, most of the time it's even the lack of will to try.
I think you're getting pretty worked up mentally dissecting people who you're not talking to and might not exist. Imagining and arguing with a "type" of person who never manifests and can therefore never disabuse your idea of them is a great way to stay angry forever.

Truly bad films can be hypnotizing, surprising, or even funny. But it's up to each viewer to decide, not to some comedians who feel the need to make fun of something because they don't believe people would get/like it otherwise.
Yes, bad films can be all sorts of wonderful and redeemable things. Usually, they are none of those things. And you can recognize that without ruling out the possibility. The same way I accept you can give a coherent and thoughtful opinion of a superhero film even though you are inevitably going into them with some preconceptions about how likely they are to be worth your time.

Bad films are closer to art films than you might think.
Sometimes. Sometimes they're a lot further than you think. As I keep saying, you should engage with the actual films we're talking about rather than, say, imagining a hidden schlocky gem and how you'd feel if somebody criticized it, which is what I still suspect is happening.

Regardless, none of my arguments hinge on the films being artless.

Both kinds can fly over the heads of generic drones that see cinema as a static entity that has to make them think, or be intended, or employ generic, normal, usual solutions to known problems. They cannot fathom how a film can climb over its inapt camerawork and amaze you with its grain, with its ugliness, or with its trashy (lack of) aesthetic.
Unfortunately you keep dragging our preexisting conversations about thoughts vs. feelings into other places, so I either must repeat myself or ignore them. I'm opting to ignore them here. I'll respond to the thoughts/feelings stuff in the proper thread, hopefully soon. But I'll give you a preview: I think it's a false distinction.

Those filmmakers of the worst of the worst films never intended most of the things you find in those films either. But some are amazing. And just as I love The Last Temptation, regardless of whether the ending was intended or not, so I love some of the worst movies ever made. And frankly, I'd rather watch literally anything in the MST3K program (in its original version, of course) than Oppenheimer or Dune 2 or something like that. That's because you can never know what's going to happen in those bad films and for all you know, another one of those unintended genius moments might happen. But there will never be (and never was) any genius moment in a Nolan film - intended or unintended
See, my fear is that I'm going to expend hours thinking and talking about this stuff and it's all going to come down to you just trying to find another angle to yell about normies. The fact that we're somehow talking about Christopher Nolan now would seem to support this pessimism.

IMPOSSIBLE to notice if you're adopting a mocking attitude.
I don't think this is true. You seem to have a very narrow view of what people are capable of noticing, compartmentalizing, and evaluating.

Any of the alleged refurbishments only take you further away from the likelihood of experiencing those moments.
This is closer to the truth. I think speaking in terms of gradations like this makes a lot more sense than speaking in absolutes, like in the immediately preceding sentence.

Have you ever watched a film and then asked yourself if something you noticed was real or just something you made up?
Many times. And then I've asked myself if the distinction matters or not. Still not sure.

Have you ever contemplated the pixels on the screen so hard and long you almost had an out-of-body experience? Have you ever surfed the nocturnal auras of trashy schlock? Have you ever wondered at the high entertainment & art value of something that is generally believed to be worthless? Have you ever escaped the generic convictions of what a film is supposed to be and whether or not whatever you see is the auteur's or your own vision just to take the film the way it is, without any embellishments and without any judgments? Have you ever truly, unconditionally loved cinema, and therefore made a point to give every film the fair chance it deserves?
No, because I'm a normie and we experience emotions at a lower level than the true cinephile.

Yes, other people have rich inner lives, too. Even the people who think in fundamentally different ways than you do about art.

In short, don't be MST3K. Be David Nelson.
I'd rather be Mike Nelson. He seems to be having a very good time.



It's astounding how by scrutinizing every little point and periphery you manage to miss the core point so much. Or maybe you don't miss it but disagree with it. Which is arguably even worse.

But as is usually the case, discussing cinema with people who don't love cinema is a fool's errand.

Most people think they love cinema. But they only love individual types of movies. They're not cinephiles, which is fine I guess but it puts them in a position where they'll never truly understand cinephilia and the importance of preserving films in their original shape and form.
Having inhabited some occupational niches where the meaning of words is very important, when I hear a word like "cinema", it comes with a load of meanings that vary from person to person. In this case, it can be anything from the name on a shopping mall "Cinema" with a bunch of screens and a lot of junk food to someone's definition of moving images that constitutes some sort of high-zoot Art, to be studied in universities and expounded on in movie fora.

So, that IS the question. What IS cinema? Cinephile seems to accompany that as a lover of cinema, but the core is that question about a commercial product that ranges from cheesy entertainment to purported "high art". Nobody is so pure in this business that they don't ask for money to view it, so it is a commercial entity, not some sort of pure, elevated Art that exists on a higher plane. Where is the break point between entertainment and cinema?

I might argue that Tarantula, that 1950's Big Bug movie, is Cinema and someone else might go to The Shawshank Redemption, currently #1 on the IMDB top 250. Considering my attitude about Shawshank (pretty good, but nothing like #1), Tarantula vs Shawshank would require some cogitation. I'd probably choose Shawshank, but, like all purported Art, there's no objective standard and not even an informed opinion that doesn't get corrupted by personal preferences and commercialism. That's the nature of the game, whether it's movies or paintings on walls or marble sculpture.

Personally, I think Shawshank is too long and talky. Tarantula gives me exactly what I want....John Agar and Mara Corday, running from a big irradiated spider until the Air Force arrives with napalm. Which is better....long and talky or a flaming napalm ending?



The trick is not minding
There’s really nothing wrong with hating a truly bad movie. There are plenty of movies that stink, like any number of sequels from the Elm St, Friday the 13th, and Halloween films. There’s nothing wrong with “hating” or “mocking” these movies. Even if, maybe there was one or two things good about the movie, a movie is judged by the each of its parts (plot/story, direction, acting, dialogue etc) and each part is judged separately, and the whole of the movie is what each part combines to make of it.
In the end, you’re judging the end result of the movie.
I have openly mocked some scenes in truly bad horror films, and comedy and action films, and I couldn’t care less if someone thinks that somehow makes me less appreciative of films, or, god forbid, less of a cinephile just because I don’t fit neatly in THEIR idea of what a cinephile should be.



Trouble with a capital "T"
..Tarantula (1955) gives me exactly what I want....John Agar and Mara Corday, running from a big irradiated spider until the Air Force arrives with napalm...
That's my kind of movie!



I had the curious experience of being a kid around the folks that filmed, on real film back then, the early movies of John Waters (some were neighbors), including John himself, referred to back then as the Pope of Trash. Regular Folks, churches and sometimes police, were horrified that this guy was making movies about the Filthiest Person Alive (Divine) in OUR neighborhood and, a couple times, the crew was detained by the police. Now, looking back, I see that Waters' movies have entered the world of the "Cinephiles". It's not just what you make, but it's the time, the place and the audience. Times change and audiences shift. Waters was a local guy with an 8 mm monochrome movie camera, now, he's a cultural treasure. I'm thinking that, in 10 years Tarantula will be a cultural treasure too. Personally, I've never thought much of The Good The Bad and The Ugly or 12 Angry Men or Fight Club and I have the credentials of having sat through Shawshank a couple of times.



Exactly. And what is inherently bad about that? It would not negate anything they might be doing well, and it could add to the films effect. And, no, it doesn't necessarily matter if it was intended to or not.
Inherently? Nothing. There's nothing inherently bad about rolling dice, either. But when something happens with no intention, that means any quality it has is incidental, like the proverbial stopped clock. You might get something out of it, the same way someone might have a profound reaction to paint you accidentally spilled on a canvas, but it's not as likely.

I think this is a sticking point, with both you and Minio: how much we should care about something being possible. The concern, it seems, is that if people expect these films to be bad, they won't give any of them a chance and will miss out on some meaningful (if unlikely) experience. And that is obviously true, but it's less true that this possibility means we should be giving these things a lot of our attention on spec, at the necessary all-time-is-zero-sum expense of engaging with things we at least know were done with intended meaning by people putting a lot of time and thought into them.

To me, the most valuable and enriching thing about art is the exploration of other minds, which necessarily means having a mind at work on the other end. And I'd say this isn't just my idiosyncrasy, but that some version of this is necessarily implied by engaging with art at all. Because if someone genuinely thought meaning was just as likely to arise out of randomness, they'd have no reason to seek out art over anything else.

Amateurism is not a curse. It is often a blessing, in the right hands. To not know the limits of what something can or cannot do, allows the amateur to try things a trained professional would not. It forges paths that might never have been taken if left in the hands of people who know what they were doing. Many established artists in fact will utilize techniques in order to break themselves of their habits and limitations.
I make an important distinction between "amateurism" and, for lack of a better word, laziness. I have a soft spot in my heart for the earnest amateur, but am pretty emotionally callused towards things done thoughtlessly. And I would also like to make a distinction between intent and thought. I agree a lot of great things in art were unintended, but I think far fewer were thoughtless.

A master painter who deliberately chooses to begin working with his left hand. They are obviously going to lose a lot of refinement in their art, and they are going to do a lot of brushstrokes which they might wish they could take back, but it freees them from habit. It opens up new avenues of expression simply through the fact they are unable to fall back on their talent

The cut up technique, where writers write as the might normally do, then cut their work into pieces and scramble it out of order. This introduces randomness to the process and gets the writer out of the habits of their style and well as the constricts of grammar and proper sentence structure. It creates something that would never have consciously been created. Song lyrics and novels have been made using this process, frequently to great effect.
I think it's relevant that both examples involve professionals snapping themselves out of their routine, so to speak, but then applying their expertise and thoughtfulness back to the messy result in some way.

You mean Neil Breen? Glad you mentioned him.
Tommy Wiseau did the camera thing (he apparently exclaimed "we'll be making film history!"), but I think for our purposes either's probably as good as the other.

His technical and narrative and logical flaws as a filmmaker are what make his films art. I don't think there has been a film yet made that captures the worldview of this very particular type of American- paranoid, meglomanical, vain, wealthy and helplessly screaming against the government -- better than his movies.

If he made the type of movie he intended to, it probably would have just been a dull piece of garbage. But his limitations as a filmmaker are what expose him for who he is, and is what makes his movies things that probably should be studied 100 years from now, after the Apocalypse, so we can learn how exactly we destroyed ourselves.
What's interesting about this is that the work is valuable for reasons outside of itself. You say it "captures [a] worldview," and I agree with that, but that almost makes it sound like a documentary. I probably need to think more about this (feel free to do the thinking for me if it's crystallized already on your end), but there's something important here about valuing films as time capsules, as useful in some way, compared to valuing them as emotional experiences in and of themselves.

Are we talking about Tarkovksy or Manos here?
The one where they did it because they looked at the runtime and thought it didn't seem movie-y enough and included it just to make that number go up, because they wanted to be taken seriously.

Your distinction is a good example of how something can be pointless in one context and profound in another. No specific object or frame in a movie is ever bad; they are only bad in context.

I'm more concerned about someone who doesn't know how to prepare food than someone who doesn't know how to point a camera, for obvious reasons.
In reality, so am I, but within the logic of an analogy I'm okay equating them.

On one hand it's perfectly reasonable to defend the weird and unconventional, but at the same time the filmmakers I'm thinking of are pretty much all the things you hate most. Tourists, people with nothing to say, people in filmmaking for fame or prestige or money, as soulless as any studio accountant. Does that mean they can't accidentally make something interesting? Nope. And the limitations and interference of studios can accidentally make something better, too. But certain artistic processes and intentions sure seem to be more or less generally conducive to good and/or interesting things. Studio interference, as you have observed and often remarked, correlates pretty badly with those things, and I wouldn't expect you to change your posture towards it based on the odd exception.

If they can bring so much joy with unintentional laughter, how does anything else they might do not count if it is also not completely intentional?
It does. It just seems way, way better at the unintentional laughter thing. As evidenced by the fact that they have literally a thousand times more viewing because of that than they did without it.

I [am now curious about how this sentence ends].