I didn’t really know much about film at the time, but I knew 2001 was a great year to be a fan of movies, with the release of such titles as Wes Anderson’s THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, Christopher Nolan’s MEMENTO, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s AMELIE to name a few. That year was also when a movie would enter my mind and never leave, and starring an anti-hero that would become a cult favorite across the nation with lines that are still quoted to this day. I, of course, am speaking about JOE DIRT. Don’t get me wrong… I knew this movie was bad. Shaky editing, some bad acting, and terrible humor were all over this flick from start to finish. But, there was a good-hearted underdog with its main character, which made his dialogue even more awkward and hilarious. Plus, like a lot of people, I’m a sucker for a Christopher Walken cameo (more on him later). I laughed a lot at the story of JOE DIRT, and still do whenever it catches my eye channel-surfing.
That’s what makes a movie a guilty pleasure: You know it’s not good, but you can’t help but watch it, even defend it. With this week’s release of JOE DIRT 2: BEAUTIFUL LOSER (which of course I am excited to see), I decided to look back on some of my other guilty pleasures. I’m not talking about “I’m a guy, therefore rom-coms are a guilty pleasure” logic (SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE for life), but movies that I love to watch that were panned by either critics, moviegoers, or both. So, let’s get the judging started…
I’m starting with this one because it was the first time I had to defend a movie as a guilty pleasure. I have seen this movie more times than I can count. Directed by comedy legend John Landis, the plot revolves around a 1930s gangster named Angelo “Snaps” Provolone (Sylvester Stallone) and his attempt to go straight to fulfill his father’s dying wish. The movie is a madcap farce with a story that is advanced through deception and miscommunication. While Stallone has been panned for his attempts at comedy, what works is his straight man surrounded by over-the-top characters to provide humor. From his henchmen Aldo (Peter Riegert) and Connie (Chazz Palmenteri) to his elocution tutor Dr. Thornton Poole (Tim Curry), the dialogue is able to flow at a well-timed and fast pace. Critics panned it as a mess upon release, but the mess is what makes it charming; it’s a complement to its slapstick mood. OSCAR is available for rent through Amazon Instant Video and VUDU.
See? I told you Christopher Walken would make this list, in a movie centered on a secret war in Heaven between human-sympathizing angels and anti-human angels led by Gabriel (Walken). The film opens with Simon (Eric Stoltz) hiding a soul from Gabriel in a little girl named Mary (Moriah Snyder); a soul that is so ruthless that both sides of the war covet it for battle. Caught in a race against Gabriel is police officer Thomas Dagget (Elias Koteas), who, before becoming a cop, was on his way to priesthood until he has a crisis of faith. While the movie itself has continuity problems in its pace, as well as some uneven acting, the bad guys are what takes the movie to a fun level of camp. Walken completely went all in on the role of Archangel Gabriel and it is infectious (“Study your math kids… language of the universe!”). However, what seals it for me is the cameo by Viggo Mortensen as Satan, delivering his dialogue with creepy reverence as the film hits its climax. Check it out on Netflix Instant or rent it through various VOD services.
Finally, I’m taking this opportunity to voice an opinion I have long kept hidden: I love Ang Lee’s HULK. It brought a different, psychological perspective to everyone’s favorite green mutant, as well as a distinct editing style to recreate the comic book feel. Critics were better than mixed on reviews, but a lot of fans hated it. While Eric Bana’s Bruce Banner is a bit “cardboard cutout,” I think that was to express the fact that he is suppressing so much emotion that he is almost emotionless. David Banner (Nick Nolte) and Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) provide the perfect opposite poles of Bruce Banner’s emotions, David representing hate and Betty love. I don’t mind the running time at all because the development is key… plus the cinematography is fantastic. HULK is available for rent on various VOD services, as well as HBO GO.
What are some of your cinematic guilty pleasures? Don’t leave me open and vulnerable.
JOE DIRT 2: BEAUTIFUL LOSER is available exclusively on Crackle starting today.