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I got into a discussion last night with some of my friends on why I like to watch bad movies.  There are so many good movies in the world, Mandy, they say.  Why do you waste your time watching shitty ones?

It can be a difficult thing for a bad movie aficionada to explain to a non-bad-movie-aficionado, because the NBMA has a point: there are objectively better ways you could be spending your time than watching bad movies.  So I tried to explain it roughly as follows: the right bad movies can be a fascinating exercise in watching the human condition unfold (and unravel) before your eyes.  However, not all bad movies are created equal: only a select few are brought to the level of badness at which they become good once again, and some are brought lower still by terrible people who didn’t know when to stop.

This seemed to satisfy my friends.  But they were still curious: how does one find the golden bullshit in the septic tank that is Bad Moviedom?  How do you know whether the bad movie you are about to watch is a True Bad Movie?  What is it that makes one bad movie charming and appealing, while another bad movie is just chock full of turds?

Well, it depends on the individual movie.  But there is actually a very loose process by which I evaluate bad movies, and while it’s not rigid enough to turn into a formula, it is distinct enough that I can break it down and explain how I go about it.  By my thinking, there are roughly eight semi-distinct categories of bad movies – henceforth, the Bad Movie Types. They are evaluated on the two major general factors that contribute to a movie’s badness:

Premise – what the movie’s Executors are given to work with: the movie’s plot, source material, inspiration, script, and/or storyline.

Execution – how the Premise is handled by the Executors: the direction, acting, editing, cinematography, and technical elements.

In determining a movie’s Badness Type, the Premise and Execution are each rated on the following (highly fluid, highly subjective) scale:

Good – nothing seriously wrong with it.  Might even have some elements to it that are Great.  Something is there to indicate that the people behind the Premise and/or Execution may have known what they were doing.

Flawed – had the potential to be good, but something, somewhere, went awry.  Bad and misguided choices in writing, acting, directing, thinking, or whatever have led to fundamental structural holes that are too big to be overlooked.

Incompetent – beyond simply “flawed” into “composed of nothing but flaws.”  Somewhere along the line, the people responsible for this element of the film came to mistakenly believe that they had talent for it.  Alternately, the people responsible were aiming for the ludicrous, or just didn’t give a damn.  Either way, the results are evident.

Looking at the possible combinations of these elements, I determined that movies that share combinations do, more often than not, occupy roughly the same place on the Sliding Scale of Movie Badness.  Certain combinations lead to a kind of terrible brilliance.  Others lead to something barely adequate, nothing more and nothing less.  Others lead straight into the depths of Movie Hell.

A note before I get started: the examples that I give of these, and my descriptions of the categories, are entirely subjective.  This is not a science.  It’s barely an art.  One man’s Type 4 is another man’s Type 6.  One man’s Type 2 is another man’s Best Picture winner.  More than anything, this is me having fun, and offering some insights into determining the types of bad films that are actually enjoyable to experience.  (If you think Foodfight! is good, though, you’re wrong.)
So, for my fellow connoisseurs of bad films, and for those who would like to see a thoroughly pseudo-scientific approach to evaluating Bad Movies, I present:

The interesting part of the post!Collapse )

Hope you enjoyed that!  As always, thank you very much for your indulgence.
I wrote a thing.  It's very long, kind of rambly, and gets emotional in places.  I was originally just going to sit on it.  Then I received encouragement from multiple sources that I trust to share it with other people.  I also received encouragement, in not so many words, to not be a goddamn coward.  When I spend so much of my time telling people that they have the right to speak out and they should use it, it's more than a little hypocritical of me to hide in the dark when my own opportunity comes up.

If you can make it through the whole thing, I'm always interested in hearing what you think.

Mandy holds you to at least the same standard that she holds her students and humbly requests that you DO read all the way through before offering commentary. Once you have, she will accept questions, comments, concerns, vilifications, insults, and multi-thousand or -million dollar book deals.Collapse )

Maleficent, Part V: Conclusions

Link to Part I
Link to Part II
Link to Part III
Link to Part IV

All right, we’re coming to the end of this train wreck, and then I can go back to actually having a life.  In the meantime, here are my final thoughts for your consideration.  This section, by the way, is relatively free of revealed plot elements.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my semi-coherent review-rant!

ConclusionsCollapse )

To those of you who have been following along, thank you very much for your indulgence.


Link to Part I
Link to Part II
Link to Part III

Well, by popular demand, I have returned to finish spending way too much time dissecting this piece-of-shit movie.  Enjoy Part IV: The Big Damn Snoozefest of a Climax, with Bonus Rage-Filled Tangents!

The New Movie, Act ThreeCollapse )

But wait, there’s more!  I still have paperwork I don’t want to deal with, so there will be one more installment!  Stay tuned for Part V: Conclusions!
Link to Part I
Link to Part II

And now enjoy Part III: The New Movie, Act Two, or: The Part Where Very Little of Any Substance Happens.

The New Movie, Act TwoCollapse )

Stay tuned for Part IV, if you still give a shit after that.


Link to Part I

Enjoy Part II: The New Movie, Act I, or: What Part of "Show, Don't Tell" Did You Not Understand?

Act OneCollapse )

Stay tuned for Part III!

Maleficent, Part I: The Background

WARNING #1: This is not so much going to be a review as it is going to be a rant with review-like elements.

WARNING #2: This review-like rant will contain many revealed plot elements.  If you don't wish to be exposed to revealed plot elements, do not read this review-like rant.

WARNING #3: In order for me to adequately express my feelings and thoughts about Maleficent, it will be necessary for me to utilize the full range of available English vocabulary.  In other words, this review-like rant will contain bad words.  If you don't want to see bad words, do not read this review-like rant.

Are we good?  Excellent.

Fuck this movie.  Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it.  Fuck it and fuck everyone who was involved in its inception, and fuck everyone who encouraged it, and fuck everyone who had a hand in its lifeless and insulting production.  And fuck me for believing in it even though I shouldn’t have.  I haven’t seen a movie that made me this angry since the remake of The Wicker Man, and for essentially the same reason: the people who made this took something I love and defaced it, not because there was something wrong with the original, but because the original wasn’t Culturally and/or Politically Relevant Enough.

The BackgroundCollapse )


I'm going to tell you a story.

The story centers around a young woman who is said to have lived around 2,000 years ago.

Before the woman was born, her parents had longed for a baby, but had been unable to conceive for years.  When they learned that her mother was pregnant, they were overjoyed, and their daughter was their pride and joy.

The girl was a very sweet and obedient child, but also proved to have extraordinary intellectual prowess.  By a very young age (possibly as young as three) she was fluent in the Hebrew of the Jewish scriptures and could quote them chapter and verse.  Her parents encouraged her in her studies, and sent her to be educated at the local temple, where she could have proper teachers and training.  She was very taken by the temple, and swore to spend the rest of her life there, in order to learn how best to serve her god.

When she was fourteen, the custom of her community dictated that she should be married, but she resisted, for marriage would conflict with the path she had chosen for herself.  The community elders were displeased, but found that they could not argue with her, because she bested them all in her understanding of the theology by which she was living her life.  Eventually she did marry, but she only agreed to do so when she met a man who shared her values and respected her wishes for herself.  The couple lived happily together, and she was free to pursue her own dreams.

Now, God had taken special notice of this young woman, for many reasons - her virtuous lifestyle, particularly her humility and graciousness, her devotion to him, and her exceptional intelligence.  He chose the young woman to help carry out his plan for humanity, and gave her an extraordinary responsibility - she would carry the child who would grow into the living incarnation of God's wisdom (logos).  However, God, being a gentleman, gave the young woman a choice.  One could argue that part of why he selected her is that he knew she would say yes, but the option was there for her to say no.  And only after thoughtful consideration of God's reason for choosing her, what this would mean for her, and whether or not she could trust these visions at all did she say yes.

When she realized how blessed she had been, the woman wrote a song about the experience.  Later, the part of her story most discussed would be that she had a child while remaining a virgin, but from what she wrote, that was clearly the furthest thing from her mind.  Instead, she expressed her gratitude that she, the humble creature that she was, had been chosen to help God lift up the poor and suffering and bring the mighty down a peg.  Indeed, even in later centuries, some of her devoted priests would admonish those who thought they could raise themselves to her level only through chastity, saying that instead they ought to emulate her kindness, thoughtfulness, and humility.

The woman did carry out her part in God's plan.  She had the child, raised him and loved him, and stayed by his side through his rise, fall, and even his execution.  After his death, she continued her work on his behalf, and became the beloved and admired mother figure to those who had been his friends.  When she died, they celebrated her life and her work, and she ascended bodily into heaven to be again with her son.  Since then, her legend has only grown, with stories of her doing extraordinary things (such as blocking a sword with her bare hands) for those who showed loyalty to her family.


As you have no doubt figured out by now, this is the (legendary) life and times of Mary of Nazareth, also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This is the story of her life as cobbled together from the Gospel of James, the Gospel of Luke, the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, Nicholas Love's Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, and the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux.  And what I have gleaned from it is that Mary was freaking awesome.

Why don't we talk about Mary anymore?  When did she get relegated to nothing more than Jesus's mom, who just kind of gave birth to him and that was the long and short of it?  Why isn't she celebrated anymore for what her character really represents - a strong and quick-minded young woman who was rewarded for her good life beyond her wildest dreams?  This, keep in mind, is the medieval depiction of her.  You'd think her PR team could do better, given another 600 years to think about it.

I understand that the new Pope is advocating a new focus on Mary in Catholic theology.  I hope it actually happens, because I want to see a lot more of her in modern times.


Mandy reviews The Human Centipede

I'm going to post some reviews of some films that I've seen.  Nothing terrible original, just me articulating why I like and dislike certain things.  Let's start with a nice, juicy (sorry) one, shall we?

I'll explain this spectacular operation only once...Collapse )

Tales from grad skool

Hey, guess what, everybody!  I graduated from college, and now I'm...back in college.  Except this time, it's somewhere else, they pay me, and I have just enough authority to kick undergrads out of my study carrel.

I'm approximately a month into my PhD program in Medieval Studies at Cornell University, which, funnily enough, is one of only two schools I applied to for undergrad that outright rejected me.  No hard feelings, though.  I definitely don't spend any time at all grouchily peering at the drunkenly giggling brodawg undergrads from over my books and wondering "you turned me down for THAT?"

No, seriously, I couldn't have been happier for four years than I was at Duke, and I'm both quite glad I didn't go here for undergrad and quite respectful of at least some of the undergrads who are here.  But yeah...grad school.  It's a very strange and multi-dimensional animal.

I spend a lot of time looking at freshmen as they cavort across the quad and feeling old, and a roughly equal amount of time looking at my colleagues in MS (our DGS occasionally, without a shred of irony, refers to the Program in his emails as "PMS") and feeling like the baby of the family.  And when I say "family," I mean it, because my colleagues here are awesome.  There's very little department drama, there's no backstabbing or petty squabbling - not among the students, anyway, the professors can be a different story - just an awful lot of OMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE WE SHOULD LOVE IT TOGETHER!

There are a lot of other good things about grad school: there are no more gen-ed requirements, which means no math ever again unless I decide I want it for some reason.  I have space in the academic buildings on campus that is mine: the department office and study rooms, and my own carrel in Olin Library.  I also have (as soon as the paperwork goes through) an advisor, a sweet older professor who is very interested in and supportive of the work that I want to do.  I miss Sarah and Fiona, my undergrad advisors, but this one seems like he'll do fine.

I spend a lot of time sitting in one of my on-campus spaces (or sometimes in my tiny apartment) and writing, or reading, or half-working-half-procrastinating.  Which brings me to one of the less good things: grad school makes you really, really boring.  On the occasions that I find myself with an hour or so of unadulterated free time, I more often than not elect to spend it watching TV alone in my apartment.  When I do hang out with my colleagues, we talk about work or TV, because that's also what they do when they have free time.  I'm trying very hard not to let my life outside of school die.  I dance every Friday and some other days, I volunteer at the animal shelter, I spin and crochet, I talk to my friends from home and NC, I sing in the car and in the shower. I want to work on a show again one of these days, partly because I'm suffering major theatre withdrawal, and partly because I need to get in with the theatre kids in order to make my master plan to produce medieval pageants come to fruition.

I'm actually consistently less stressed out than I was in undergrad.  Maybe it's because here, I know that I'm going to have a constant influx of work and there's no escaping it, so I may as well just go with it.  I also sleep way more than I did in undergrad.  This is important for me in particular, because when I don't get enough sleep, I turn into a miserable excuse for a human being.  I still don't do mornings.  My prime work hours are between 10 PM and 3 AM.  When I'm teaching next year, I will have to warn them that they cannot give me a morning class time, because if I haven't slept sufficiently the night before, freshmen will die.

Speaking of dead freshmen, I am suddenly highly intolerant of things that I might have found at least understandable, if not enjoyable, as recently as May.  I am in favor of lengthy prison sentences for obnoxious drunken undergrads who come into the library at night.  I wonder sometimes whether it might not be fun to whack them with a broom and demand that they get off my lawn.  I want to storm over to the Psi Upsilon house during one of their weeknight endeavors and yell SHUT UP MOPPETS.  Deep down, though, I know they should have fun.  In a few years, they'll be too busy either having a job or doing what I'm doing to have fun.

On a final note, I have obviously relocated.  I now live in the middle of nowhere in Tompkins County, in the great state of New "Oh hey, my vote counts even less than it used to now" York.  It's a new experience, having lived my whole life in the southeast.  The weather is colder and the prices are higher.  The people are very, very interesting.  My political viewpoints, which have placed me pretty firmly left of center everywhere else I've lived, make me a moderate here.  I don't miss the humidity, carnivorous vines, and nutjobbery that sometimes run unchecked in the South, but here, I'm learning entirely new ways in which people can be uneducated and prejudiced - especially against southerners!  What's that, sweetie?  You're informing me that "up here, we say 'African-American'?"  Well, good gravy Marie, bless your precious little heart!

That's all I can think of for now.  Expect another update...someday.