I certainly do not consider myself to be a movie critic, by any stretch of the imagination. I am a movie fan, and enjoy the entire experience. We don’t go as often as we would like, because it is a rare occasion that an adult film slips into one of our local theaters. We live in a college town, and usually there will be ten screens devoted to hate crazed zombies and monster machines, crushing entire cities. There is not enough popcorn, raisinets or junior mints to justify sitting through 100,000 decibels of gore and destruction.
Our answer to the problem is Netflix. We can sit in our den, relax in our own easy chairs, and pick what we want to watch from a vast array of films. Like most movie buffs, I have a list of my ten favorite movies, and I list them here in no particular order:
Twelve O’clock High
In Harm’s Way
The Lion in Winter
Fried Green Tomatoes
The African Queen
These are movies I can watch over and over and never tire of them. Between Turner Classic Movies and Netflix, I manage to see all of them over the course of the year. There are a host of other movies that we have enjoyed as well as these classics.
During my seventy year love affair with the silver screen, I’ve seen my share of crummy movies, and in my golden years, I’ve discovered that I don’t have to watch a bad movie, any more than I have to endure a bad football game. I have given myself permission to get up and leave a movie or change channels if my Bulldogs are self-destructing. This is one of the few upsides to getting older.
Until earlier this week, I only had a handful of movies I just couldn’t stand, and only two can I call truly horrible. I ran into both of them when I was in junior high school, attending the Ellis Theater in Cleveland, Mississippi every time the feature changed. I’ll never forget my deep disappointment, when after a week of preview hype, a movie about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police finally opened. Expecting Sgt. Preston and his trusty Husky, King, I was horrified to find Howard Keel singing operetta. I lasted long enough to eat my bag of popcorn.
The next year, 1955, I was older and in high school, so I felt that I could appreciate a film for its artistic value. By the time Marty, starring Ernest Borginine, made its way to the Ellis in Cleveland, it had already won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor. All of this, and the palme d’ ore at the Cannes Film Festival to boot, I was looking forward to a moving experience.
I was on hand early on the night that Marty opened its four day run at the Ellis. I watched the entire movie, and not one damned thing happened — nothing, nada. I left the movie convinced that I was too country and backward to know art when I saw it, or that it was like reading The Catcher in the Rye — everybody hated it but were afraid to admit it.
Like I said, until earlier this week, Rose Marie and Marty were the worst two movies I had ever seen. This is no longer true. Monday evening, after our Memorial Day ride across South Alabama in a torrential down pour, we tuned into Evidence of Blood, starring Mary McDonnell. Some films may have a weak script, but can be salvaged by good actors, gripping cinematography or well delivered dialogue. Evidence of Blood struck out on every count.
About ten minutes into this dog, Clista threw the red flag and invoked our new found right to turn it off and watch Doc Martin. I pleaded for a delay, on the grounds that this was so bad it was entertaining, and it had to get better. It didn’t. We watched the whole thing, for reasons that had to be attributed to my bullheaded stubbornness.
Mary McDonnell is no Meryl Streep, but she seemed to be on a sedative or the victim of a lobotomy in this epic. The male lead was worse. He reminded me of Robert Mitchum’s portrayal of “Pug” Henry in The Winds of War. From his first scene to his last, he wore an agonized expression, and he never changed it. The plot was disjointed, and contradicted itself from scene to scene. Clista suggested that the film must have been spilled on the cutting room floor and put back together randomly.
I have to admit that on Tuesday morning, I was ashamed to have watched the whole thing, but at least something good came of it. Now Rose Marie and Mary have moved into second and third place as the worst movies I have ever seen.
Popcorn image from Creative Commons and Dreamtime.com