The Virtue of a Trash movie

There’s a famous essay by Pauline Kael about trash movies and art. One line was quite refreshing to hear from an academic:

Perhaps the single most intense pleasure of moviegoing is this non-aesthetic one of escaping from the       responsibilities of having the proper responses required of us in our official (school) culture. And yet         this is probably the best and most common basis for developing an aesthetic sense because                         responsibility to pay attention and to appreciate is anti-art, it makes us too anxious for pleasure, too         bored for response.

Over the past weeks, I’ve learned a lot seeing some films that were nominated for Academy Awards as well as Razzies. My biggest takeaway: 50 Shades Darker is ineffably bad; even the effing is bad.

I ended up watching movies that I never would’ve watched otherwise. The Mummy with Tom Cruise? Baywatch? Not on many people’s must see list. I’m not sure if anyone’s ever said, “Wait, you haven’t seen The Emoji Movie already?” But, I want to make a brief statement building from Ms. Kael’s point in defense of watching some trash movies. I especially like her last sentence: “responsibility to pay attention and to appreciate is anti-art, it makes us too anxious for pleasure, too bored for response.” I find going into a movie that I know is a “classic” or critically acclaimed creates this sense of responsibility that I must love it. If I find I’m not liking it, I begin to panic and mid-way through desperately begin crafting a reasonable argument against. That way, immediately when the movie ends, I can explain how I could possibly not appreciate such art. There are movies that I’m literally afraid to watch because I fear I won’t like them. That way, if anyone asks me about it in the future I’ll bypass the pointed “How could you not like ________?” and get the more bearable “You haven’t seen _______?”

Going into the movies nominated for Razzies, though, there was zero pressure. Baywatch did win the “Razzie Nominee So Rotten You Loved It,” but I’d vehemently protest that. And, I have no fear unloading on the movie because it’s critically reviled. Baywatch is profoundly unfunny, including this scene that uses a Heimlich maneuver as a slo-mo, hypersexual moment (which I understand is their bread and butter, but still). This is followed by a character, who’s become aroused from the aforementioned Heimlich, diving on a beach chair to hide his erection. Only, he gets his penis stuck in the slats. It’ll be another 2 minutes and 30 seconds of screen time before the situation resolves. Woof.

However, Baywatch reminded me of much better body comedy.  I’m a strong advocate for watching trash movies. When you enjoy them, you often refine a sense of what you appreciate in movies. A bad movie is funny when you spot its departure from great cinema. The Room makes you laugh because the dialogue and delivery is hardly human: “I did not hit her. It’s not true. It’s bullshit. I did not hit her. I did not. Oh, hi Mark!” When you watch a bad movie, through the negative you see what you value in good movies. Also, it gives you an opportunity to experience no pressure in watching films, a mindset worth cultivating and practicing for when you watch more well-regarded films. Plus, trash movies can be a lot of fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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