Don’t deny it. Even the most committed Criterion Eclipse-set-collecting cinephile has tried-and-true favorites that aren’t exactly, well, critic-proof. When you’re done eating your cultural vegetables, so to speak, you settle down on the futon for your nineteenth viewing of “Roadhouse.”
To Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh, this particular kind of movie fandom is not just valid; it merits serious celebration. That’s why, in 2009, they launched “I Love Bad Movies,” their series of zines that compile short, fascinating, and often hilarious essays on glorious cinematic wreckage old and new. “The idea is to approach a fairly popular subject–bad movies–from a new perspective,” says Yarosh. “There are plenty of funny essays in I Love Bad Movies, but our contributors do more than describe the plot. We always try to point out something the viewer wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.”
In addition to the publication, Yarosh and Carman program film screenings all over the city, complete with slideshow presentations, trivia, and live commentary. “The crowd is generally people just like us: smart folks who like dumb stuff. We show movies that are easy to make fun of as well as celebrate.” They do have one setback, though: “We’ve tried to get certain stars or directors to make an appearance, but it’s hard to get them on board when the event is called Bad Movie Night. They have no idea how many high fives they’d get if they showed up.”
It was important for Yarosh and Carman to establish their project as a physical zine rather than launch a website or newsletter. “We spend a lot of time piecing together every issue (editing, layout, printing, distribution) and we want people to take the time to absorb and appreciate it. You can’t open these essays in a new tab and save them for later or e-mail your friend a link. You have to read everything on paper or meet your buddy for coffee to pass the issue on in person,” says Yarosh. “Or maybe,” Matt says, “you just can’t appreciate the weight of all these terrible films unless you hold it in your hands?”
So, what factors have to come together to make a great bad movie? Carman has a good bad movie theory: “The best bad movies are a reversal of expectations. Does a horror movie make you laugh instead of shriek? That’s good-bad. Do key body parts fail to line up during a sex scene? That’s good-bad. Do characters, plot lines, football games, and important health crises appear and disappear à la The Room? That can be great-bad. The specific points and qualities – or demerits? – that make a movie enjoyably bad have surely changed over time, but embracing someone else’s failure is an enduring pastime.”
“We never want to undermine the work that went into these productions,” says Yarosh. “The “love” is intentional: we’re celebrating the unusual, fascinating, and laudably flawed.”
“As long as filmmakers try but fail to make good movies, there will be people hoisting these turdish gems on their shoulders like ugly little cinematic champions,” Carman says.
Yarosh: There are only a couple of movies that I can watch regardless of my mood. “The Thin Man” and “Loves of a Blonde” are at the top.
Carman: It’s between “Rushmore” and “RoboCop.” They’re very similar, so it’s hard to decide.
Yarosh: The 1992 “Red Shoe Diaries” TV movie was part of the inspiration for the zine, so I will forever have a special place in my heart for it. It’s very silly in its portrayal of sex and romance.
Carman: Janusz Kaminski won an Oscar for Cinematography two years after shooting Vanilla Ice’s debut, “Cool As Ice.” It’s such a stupid movie, yet each shot is so undeservedly beautiful. And can we all finally agree that Ice was and is charming?
Last Movies You Saw:
Yarosh: I recently re-watched a favorite of mine — “Heartburn” — in preparation for the second episode of the film podcast I co-host: Bonnie and Maude, “two women watching movies adventurously!”
Carman: “Moonrise Kingdom” at Brooklyn Heights Cinema, one of the best movie theaters in the city. It felt like a live action brother to “Fantastic Mr. Fox”: breezy, vintage-clad, colorful in character and palette. “Moonrise” doesn’t have the warmth of “Fox” but it’s a satisfying romp.
Favorite Screening Ever:
Every year, programmer Cristina Cacioppo does a sing-along of “Grease 2” at 92YTribeca. It’s impossible not to get caught up in “Cool Rider” (sex as motorcycling), “Score Tonight” (sex as bowling), and “Do It For Our Country” (sex as patriotic coercion). It’s the most fun you can have in a dark room with seventy strangers.