Speaking of movie studios, Hollywood has been wallowing in a cesspool of bad movies for quite a while now, following every formula in the book: mindless sequels, idiotic comedies about wacky families or talking animals, pointless and lame remakes, unnecessary TV show adaptations, really sucky horror flicks…the list is endless. And they have the audacity to blame piracy for low box office returns! Every once in a while Hollywood surfaces from the shitfest just long enough to make a genuinely good film, something truly entertaining and possibly even enriching in some way, but otherwise it’s content to just keep cranking out mindless drivel for the lowest common denominator out there: people who will pay to see just about anything, no matter how empty or insulting.
When we were teenagers my brother and I used to watch “Siskel & Ebert” every Sunday, which was a good way to see some move clips and watch two critics argue about what to avoid. Years later I listened to the audio commentary that Roger Ebert did for the DVD of “Dark City” (a movie he raved about), and that’s where it hit me that this guy really knows his stuff — he pointed out little details about how scenes were shot and analyzed decisions the director made that would have never occurred to me otherwise, and it made me appreciate the movie on a whole different level. That’s when I began reading his column regularly, and I found myself agreeing with him (about movies I had already seen) more often than not. And because I trust his opinion, I usually try to read his comments about a movie before going to see it, though I don’t always follow his advice or agree afterwards. (rottentomatoes.com is another safe bet — they actually have a list of the 100 worst-reviewed movies which is worth a look.)
So the other day I was at the bookstore and spotted Ebert’s new book, which is loudly titled Your Movie Sucks. It’s his latest collection of reviews written about stupendously bad movies from the past few years, and if you’re tired of the onslaught of Hollywood stinkers, you’ll likely enjoy it. (Plus, the cover is priceless — I wear the same exact expression when being forced to sit through a long stream of intelligence-insulting movie trailers in the theater.) He pulls no punches in slapping down shitty movies as they deserve… He calls out the directors, scriptwriters, and actors and holds them accountable for the mess they’ve created, and lists every reason why their movie bites. Sometimes he’s really bitchy and takes a certain relish in demolishing what he considers a piece-of-crap film, and other times he’s simply bewildered by the awfulness of what he saw — you can almost see him shaking his head, wodnering why in the world anyone would greenlight and market such crapulence. He also gets into the occasional public spat with an actor or director, which is where things really get ugly. The two most famous cases, Rob Schneider (“Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo”) and Vincent Gallo (“The Brown Bunny”), are covered at the start of the book in detail, and it’s fun to see what happens when delicate Hollywood egos get bruised.
If you’re a movie buff and are interested in reading about why so many movies are so bad, I can’t help but recommend this. Even if you haven’t seen all these movies, you’ll likely enjoy Ebert’s writing, as he’s got a great wit and knows how to nail down what exactly went wrong in a film. I’ve known a lot of people who don’t like him for some reason — usually they bring up his fatness or age and little else — but throughout his decades in the movie business, the man knows his stuff and he’s seen it all. I’m just glad I didn’t have to!