Volume 23, Issue 1 / January 2019
In this issue
According to a well-known Chinese proverb, “there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes”, in other words, art is a subjective matter and putting two thumbs down on a piece of art is impossible. Film criticism very much is an example of this. Scrolling through the review section of a film on IMDb, a well-known online database for film and television, one can easily find the diverging voices among the viewers, no matter if the film itself is a blockbuster or an independent production.
Then, one can ask, what is a “bad movie”? What makes a film “bad”? Is it because of an obvious reason such as bad acting with a horrible plot? Or is it because the film is so mediocre that it becomes predictable, boring? Or is the film underwhelming? Perhaps because the film is morally and ethically problematic? Even when some films are considered “bad” on a general level, why do people still watch them? Do we gain some form of pleasure, one that we can enjoy after a long day’s work? Or simply to make sure we know precisely why it is bad?
In this issue of Offscreen, the guest editors aim to tackle these very questions to try and explore the definition and boundaries of what constitutes a “bad movie”. The chosen five critics have approached the questions through different film genres and perspectives — ranging from cult cinema to blockbuster to horror and to art film. Max Mehran’s piece, “The Nun, or The Story of How I am Falling out of Love with Modern Horror” is critical of contemporary horror which, arguably, rests on aesthetics rather than a strong storyline, which can result in too much of a reliance on predictable horror tropes. Dominic Romano’s “Oh Hai Hollywood” seeks to understand how bad movies achieve cult status and are popularized by bad-movie fandom. In Léa Le Cudennec’s “Embracing Cinephilic Shame: I Watch Bad Netflix Movies”, the author explores the “guilty pleasure” associated with enjoying bad movies even as a cinephile. She connects it to affect and sheds light on Netflix’s role as a mediator of our media consumption. George Yi Chan Sohng questions in “A Taxi Driver, Politics of Remembering Trauma” that this successful blockbuster provokes emotion problematically, raising ethical considerations towards its handling of trauma in the 1980 Gwangju Massacre. He also raises issues concerning representation, where a national trauma is seen through the eyes of a foreign spokesperson. Ana Carolina’s Benalcázar’s “On Denis Villeneuve’s Polytechnique“ brings the notion of “an ethics of spectatorship” — engaging audiences to question a director’s intent in achieving realism when it comes to the depiction of femicide through aesthetic images.
What is considered “bad” will always be individual, as there is an audience for every film, and each will reach to their own conclusions and interpretations. However, our goal is to take forward the different discussions of how to define a “bad movie” in a comprehensive way, rather than have a definitive view of what is constitutive of a “bad movie”. (Léa Le Cudennec, Radina Papukchieva, Yi Xige, Maya Ibrahim Kamal, eds.)