There is a post currently at the top of r/badmovies this morning that caught my attention. The article is from a few years back over at Badass Digest, written by the Film Critic Hulk and titled “NEVER HATE A MOVIE”. I typically loathe reading lengthy things written in all caps, but this is pretty interesting read despite it. The author talks at length about an encounter with Quentin Tarantino, in which Quentin said the following regarding bad movies:
“Never hate a movie
There’s plenty of reasons to not to like a movie. But if you hate them? Meaning if let them bother you? Then they’ll do nothing but bother you. Who wants to be bothered?
You can learn so much about the craft from bad movies…Bad movies teach you what not to do and what to correct in your process and that’s way more helpful.
Never hate a movie. They’re gifts. Every fucking one of em”
People often ask me why I watch so many bad movies, and the answer isn’t just because I like to hate things. There is actually a lot to learn about how movies function from seeing how they can fail, kind of like tinkering with a faulty machine. If you never have a machine break, you may never completely know how all of the pieces work together to make the whole thing function.
When I watch bad movies, the first thing I aim to figure out is what about the film is throwing it off. It is usually a cacophonous mix of problems, but sometimes just one or two cogs are loose and throw the whole project off. The analytical aspect of the bad movie experience is a significant part of how this has become a hobby for me.
That brings me to an issue that I have with the aforementioned article. There is one aspect of a movie that can lead me to unconditionally hate it, given the right circumstances: the writing. I don’t hate writing if it is stale or cliched, mind you: that is a mechanical problem just like any other potential faulty cog in a movie. Sometimes, however, the writing in films is needlessly malignant or harmful without any cause or for any conceivable contribution to the movie as a whole. Writing is in this way unique among the many parts of a movie. It is pretty hard to do societal damage with bad lighting or set design, after all. The writing in movies can influence people and propagate ideas / values that are legitimately harmful. In those cases, ire towards movie writing is absolutely deserved.
Even then, perhaps it isn’t fair to level hatred at the movie in total for harmful writing (the director deserves blame for giving the writing a platform, so the writers aren’t totally isolated in blame). The writing is a crucial part of the whole mechanism, but it isn’t the extent of the machine; which can be very hard to differentiate. The movie “Pledge This!” comes to mind, which has truly loathsome and offensive writing that is not only vapid and immature, but relies on bullying and abuse as plot devices. As much disdain as I have for the script, I can’t say that I hate the work that, for example, the sound editors put into the movie. They inserted those fart sounds like absolute pros, the well-polished brass on a sinking Titanic of a project.
I might still say that I “hate” a movie like “Pledge This!”, but what I mean by that is that I loathe the narrative story that is the bedrock of the film, at least 99% of the time. The screenplay is pretty inseparable from the film itself in the final form, but there are more workings and levels to such a movie that may be functioning up to par or better. So maybe it still isn’t fair to “hate” the movie as a whole, but for practicality’s sake I don’t think it is totally out of line for me to say that I “hate” certain movies due to the harmful writing at their center. A nefarious and famous example that I think clarifies this idea is “Birth of a Nation”. It is an influential part of film history on the mechanical side, but also a rotten piece of racist propaganda at its functional core. I personally would say that I hate that movie, because the intention and writing are ultimately inseparable from the work as a whole. However, I think that it is possible to hate something and still appreciate aspects of it, such as in reference to Hitler’s oratory skills or the Detroit Red Wings’ scouting team. I think the positive influential aspects of “Birth of a Nation” fall securely into that realm.
In any case, I think the point of the “NEVER HATE A MOVIE” article is to encourage people to put more thought into how we all look at “bad” films in general, which I certainly don’t disagree with. A lot of people write off movies without much thought, and fail to see the nuances that actually lead movies into becoming failures. That said, I don’t think sitting through, analyzing, and enjoying bad movies is for everyone, and I can understand why a casual movie watcher would want to generally avoid them.
For me though, this all relates to an important life lesson: you should learn how to read the mistakes and failures of others as a means to improve upon yourself and your work. That seems to be at the core of what Tarantino and the Film Critic Hulk are both trying to get across here, and it is something that I think we should all strive to do in whatever fields we happen to work in.