How do you rate movies that are so bad they're good?

Tools    





There are quite a few movies that I admire--on a technical level, as with something like Birth of a Nation or on a "achieved its goals" level--but do not enjoy. And calling them "good" feels like an inadequate word for the relationship I have with them. From a contemporary point of view, the propaganda of something like Birth of a Nation is less impactful because it now looks so over the top that it borders on parody..
,
I can't think of putting BOAN into my "so bad it's good" category because at least part of that lofty designation also depends on the movie being of no consequence, just some amount of brainless entertainment, accompanied by late night and beer.

Birth of a Nation, on the one hand, was a technical tour-de-force introducing audiences to one of the first Big Movies, but damn....what a way to do that. As I recall reading, Griffith, who grew up in post-bellum Georgia, claimed innocence, thought that it was all true, but there's no way I can believe that.

As a movie, it's interesting in its historical aspects, but after I've seen it, I always felt like I needed to go upstairs and take a shower to wash all that ham-fisted racism off of me. I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit that I watched that entire movie. That can never be a so-bad-it's-good movie, since I don't generally have to bathe after seeing something like Plan 9.



,
I can't think of putting BOAN into my "so bad it's good" category because at least part of that lofty designation also depends on the movie being of no consequence, just some amount of brainless entertainment, accompanied by late night and beer.
I agree with you. To me, a film like Birth of a Nation exists in a category of films where the words "good" and "bad" (or "so bad it's good") don't feel adequate to describe them. As you say later in your post, it is a technical pioneer and it's incredibly significant historically. But it's also racist to its bones and I think it's easy to see it now and almost laugh at the crude racial caricature, but at the same time it is racist propaganda that was effective in its time.

I don't think that anyone should be embarrassed to watch it. In fact, I think that understanding the kind of blatant hate-mongering that was directed at Black people in the United States is something that everyone should understand and bear witness to. Now, if you watched it and genuinely cheered at the KKK riding gloriously to the rescue? Yes, you should be embarrassed. I watched the film in high school as part of an African-American History class, and it was a powerful experience. It's one thing to read in a textbook something like "films and books often used derogatory portrayals of African Americans, many times played by white actors" and a whole other thing to actually watch such a film.

To me, a so-bad-it's-good film is almost always a movie that faceplants in the gap between its intentions and its execution. Plan 9 is a great example. It's meant to be a sci-fi film, and yet you've got people bumping into the sets or incredibly obvious day-for-night shots. The enjoyment is there in the space between what a good film should be and what is on screen.

Every now and then I do enjoy an "intentionally bad" film, but it's such a fine line to walk. A good recent example is Velocipastor which, among other things, has the good sense to keep its run time to about 75 minutes.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Yes The Birth of a Nation is very well made technically, and a pioneering in film, it's just I thought the idea of black population of the US wanting to attempt coup right after slavery was abolished, just seemed so bad that it was good ridiculously to me. However, there seems to be something of a similar government overthrow right now in the US, so maybe it wasn't so far fetched back then...

But there are other moments in The Birth of a Nation that are laugh out loud silly, such as for example, the one freed slave who tried to declare his love to a white woman he had feelings for the whole time, and the white woman just couldn't handle so she kills herself by jumping off a cliff. I thought it was so bad that it was good, because you don't buy it at all. And there is the 'Jesus' scene, which is suppose to be taken seriously, yet totally caused unintentional laughter for me. So things like that in the story makes me think it's so bad that it's good.



However, there seems to be something of a similar government overthrow right now in the US, so maybe it wasn't so far fetched back then...
Protest is not a government overthrow. Like, not even close.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Yeah that's true. So I guess the movie is still pretty far fetched then? But that was mainly my reasons for thinking it was so bad that it's good.



I thought the Birth of a Nation was bad for one reason: it bored me. And I've watched many other silent films including other D.W. Griffith films and enjoyed them.



Yeah that's true. So I guess the movie is still pretty far fetched then? But that was mainly my reasons for thinking it was so bad that it's good.
The film accurately reflects the fear of many white people that if African-Americans were given freedom/power, they would take over. It's why you get scenes of Black voters cheating in the election and white people being turned away and then the ridiculous sequence of the Black legislature where they are getting drunk and eating fried chicken.

It's an extension of the narrative that Black people need to be controlled by white people or they will run wild, and historically a ton of laws/practices (like slavery or Tignon laws) lean on this notion. The film has to create this threat because it's the only way to frame the Klan as heroic protectors and not, you know, racist murderers. It reframes things like terrorism and voter suppression and segregation as protection rather than aggression.

If you are interested in how Reconstruction actually went down (and the lasting repercussions of it) you can check out Ava Duvernay's documentary 13th, which I believe is currently free on YouTube.

I personally do find the film laughably far-fetched on almost every level, but the damage that it did and the mindset that it celebrates are absolutely not amusing to me. It's not a film that I can honestly say I enjoyed watching. I appreciate this quote from Roger Ebert (with the caveat that his use of the word "great" seems to mean its technological and narrative strengths):

The Birth of a Nation is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh okay. Did the movie do much damage to society though? I mean it was successful and made money but did it do more damage than that?



Oh okay. Did the movie do much damage to society though? I mean it was successful and made money but did it do more damage than that?
I think that it's hard to quantify damage when it comes to something like a film. But, for example, several sources say that even as late as the 1970s the film was being used to recruit people to the KKK. The film was shown to the President, large groups of Congressmen and Senators, and to the Supreme Court at the time of its release, giving many people the impression that those people agreed with the views in the film. As a piece of art it acted as an echo chamber to people who believed that Southerners were victims and that Black people were violent and deserved the violence they received at the hands of people like the KKK.

It was also treated by many people as an accurate historical document, showing how things "really were" after the Civil War.

You can argue how impactful a film can be, but one of the people who helped make the film wrote to the President:
This play is transforming the entire population of the North and the West into sympathetic Southern voters. There will never be an issue of your segregation policy.
In other words, arguing that the film was helping shift national sentiment to a more sympathetic view of segregation.

The film itself is widely seen as being a huge motivator of the resurgance of the KKK in 1915. From Wikipedia:
In 1915, the second Klan was founded atop Stone Mountain, Georgia by William Joseph Simmons. While Simmons relied on documents from the original Klan and memories of some surviving elders, the revived Klan was based significantly on the wildly popular film, The Birth of a Nation. The earlier Klan had not worn the white costumes or burned crosses; these were aspects introduced in the book on which the film was based. When the film was shown in Atlanta in December of that year, Simmons and his new klansmen paraded to the theater in robes and pointed hoods—many on robed horses—just like in the movie. These mass parades would become another hallmark of the new Klan that had not existed in the original Reconstruction-era organization
***I've had a really long work week, so I'm trying to be good about vetting my sources. But I'm open to correction if someone sees something they think is off-base.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh okay, but should the movie be blamed for KKK resurgence though, because there are other bad movies that have lead to bad things happening as a result of the movie, but I didn't think the movie should have been to blame. Unless of course, this movie is too pro KKK and therefore agrees with the intention of the resurgence then?



because there are other bad movies that have lead to bad things happening as a result of the movie
@ironpony please give examples when you get a chance.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh like for example, The Interview (2014), lead to a lot of death threats as well as The Last Temptation of Christ, which lead to the burning of one of the theaters that was showing the movie. Or how The Warriors (1979), lead to murders outside one of the theaters in some showings.



Oh okay, but should the movie be blamed for KKK resurgence though, because there are other bad movies that have lead to bad things happening as a result of the movie, but I didn't think the movie should have been to blame. Unless of course, this movie is too pro KKK and therefore agrees with the intention of the resurgence then?
Blame and cause are difficult attributions in history, but BOAN was a movie that made a huge amount of money in its day, even though it was banned in some places. I saw an estimate that today's dollars, it would have made a billion. It was not a flop, in spite of being excoriated and protested in places.

The other part is that it's said that the publicity and notoriety of the movie DID spawn a Klan revival and gave rise to imagery that they adopted. The Klan had been on the wane prior to that, but it got new life and a lot of widespread exposure. The Wikipedia article about it is long and goes into a lot of detail, but it was not JUST a so-bad-its-good bad movie.

I'll stick with schlock like Plan 9 or Tom Corbett, Space Cadet myself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nation



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh okay, I see what you mean.

I guess a so bad it's good movie would be Death Wish 3? If I were to rate it as a so bad it's good movie, I guess I would rate it a 7/10 on those standards, if that makes sense. I would even say it's better than the first Death Wish, because the first one is a movie that tries to be good and fails for me, where as the 3rd seems to know it's so bad that it's good and succeeds if that makes sense?



I Rate on a Scale:
  • "So Bad/Campy it's Good" = Good: i.e. Ed Wood Films, The Room, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, etc.
  • "Historical and/or 'Cinematic Movement' Contributions" = Good, (Or at the Very Least Scores Fascination Points with Me): i.e. The Birth of Cinema, Ozploitation films, Blaxploitation, etc.
  • "Technical and Aesthetical Bravado" = Good: i.e. Experimental and Avant-Garde Cinema or "Other Cinema" that Expands the Vocabulary and Language of Film and Film Art.
  • "Something that is, or will be, considered a Classic" = Good: i.e. Casablanca or The Godfather, etc.

Much everything else that doesn't really meet this criteria I kind of put under my radar as "average" or lower.
__________________
Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of 'Green'?

-Stan Brakhage



We've gone on holiday by mistake
Van Damme movies are like this, so stupid and campy that they are great, you watch them like a comedy, some of the lines of dialogue are so cringy that you can't help burst out laughing.
__________________



Van Damme movies are like this, so stupid and campy that they are great, you watch them like a comedy, some of the lines of dialogue are so cringy that you can't help burst out laughing.
Watch your Damme mouth before I roundhouse kick you in the face three times in slow motion!
__________________



We've gone on holiday by mistake
Watch your Damme mouth before I roundhouse kick you in the face three times in slow motion!
Oh no! Not the same kick that concludes EVERY one of his movies!



Last night's "so-bad-it's-good" movie was C.H.U.D.. One of the best of the 80's, toxic waste has transformed vagrants into hideous mutants that emerge from the storm drains of New York (where else, other than possibly LA) to prey on people and pets. CHUD has nothing in it of any consequence and it has a great corps of monsters, a scream queen, Kim Greist, a local Baltimore guy, Daniel Stern (Diner), John Heard, in one of HIS greatest roles, Christopher Curry as the stereotypic, burned out 80's New York cop, uniform cops who scratch their heads with their gun barrels, and a secret, which is that toxic waste is dumped into the "endless maze of subterranean tunnels" that vagrants use as their living quarters. It's urban decay at its worst.

Having spent a more than the average amount of time in the Big Apple, I sigh when I see that many locations in this film have become gentrified. There's no room in Manhattan anymore for CHUDs and they couldn't even afford to live in the storm drains, which now sell as condos for 2 million, so I guess this movie will never see a remake....unless Stern comes back to Baltimore where we still have all the cool stuff that they feed on and lots of subterranean tunnels where they can lure helpless victims to their doom.