I recently wrote in to the popular bad movie podcast Bad Movie Fiends (BMFcast for short), asking about their general thoughts on the IMDb Bottom 100. I just checked out their most recent episode on “I, Frankenstein” last night, having totally forgotten about the email, and it turns out that they responded to it in the show! It starts just after the 1:24:00 mark towards the end, but I’ll list some key excerpts below:
[on the IMDb Bottom 100]
“It is a good representation of the most publicly well-known bad movies”
“One of the problems with the Bottom 100 is that a lot of people vote MST3k movies on there, but you are watching those movies through different means…if you are sitting in a room with three guys who are ripping the shit out of a movie, it is going to alter your opinion of it a little bit…it bothers me that a lot of that list is MST3k movies, but there is shit like Foodfight and Theodore Rex on there*, which deserve to be there”
“Because of crowd-sourced stuff, an Indian movie called “Gunday” is at the worst spot on IMDb due to a political thing…a twitter campaign to take it to the bottom of the Bottom 100″
“My problem with that whole list is that so much of it is the painful shit that you don’t want to sit through. That is truly the worst, but we look for entertaining bad. That is always our goal”
“It used to be movies like “Plan 9” and “Manos” at the top, and then everyone was like “OMG Birdemic”, and it gets to the top 10. Then it levels out..and it starts dropping out of there.”
“My recommendation to you, Gordon, is do not do this solo. Do not take this journey alone. Don’t. It will only end in pain. When you are solo, it hurts. It hurts bad.”
“I don’t trust [The IMDb Bottom 100]. The community as a whole can’t agree on what a bad movie is…I wouldn’t go by that Bottom 100 list, and watch them just because they are bad movies…those things are pain”
“If you are going to keep on this path, skip the comedies…a bad comedy has nothing left. For the love of god skip comedies. They will all be “Disaster Movie”, don’t do it”
*Foodfight isn’t on the Bottom 100 currently due to not meeting the vote quota criteria. Theodore Rex has a low enough score and enough votes, but is not in the ranking due to unlisted criteria.
Overall, they responded almost exactly how I expected. They brought up the flaws of an open democratic ranking system, the recent “Gunday” controversy (I’ll cover that in a future post), and the over-representation of features from MST3k in the Bottom 100. They also specifically caution against bad comedies, which is something I learned pretty damn quickly (but I’m not skipping them, that’s cheating). Bad comedies are, 99 times out of 100, irredeemably awful with very little takeaway value. Then again, this challenge is supposed to be difficult, after all.
One aspect that I do find interesting about their responses is something I consider a sort of…philosophical difference between what they do and what I do here. The BMF guys are, with their show, specifically chasing down good-bad movies, using their sliding scale of 5 bags (bad) to 5 Jox (good, from “Robot Jox”) to rank everything they watch. They specifically go after lesser-known movies more often than not, and aim to raise the profile of what are basically diamonds in the rough: amazingly good-bad movies that have either been popularly forgotten or overlooked. I think that is a kick-ass goal, and something I am working on doing myself eventually with the Bargain Bin(ge). It isn’t very often that people find those golden good-bad movies, and you never quite know where they are going to come from, so all the more power to them for doing the leg work on digging them up. However, finding good-bad movies isn’t my goal with going through the IMDb Bottom 100. By nature of the voting quota for the list, movies in the IMDb Bottom 100 are already relatively well known, so it wouldn’t really make sense to use the list for that. There is still the chance that I will be surprised here and there (and I have been), but that isn’t the idea behind the challenge.
While the democratic system of the Bottom 100 has significant drawbacks, it also means that this ranking of bad movies is compiled by the quasi-consensus of the internet mob: the list has a zeitgeist to it, and a sense of cultural relevance. The fact that it is constantly updating actually fascinates me, whereas the BMF team sees that as a sort of weakness to the list. I think that it needs to be fluid to keep up with the times: just look at the archive rankings that I dug up from 2004, and check out the immense change that the list has undergone in that time. The will of the IMDb voting mob is ever-changing and fickle, and can be influenced by the times. I don’t think the Bottom 100 should be though of as a concrete and final list, but more like a sort of bad movie barometer for current trends.
So, there is a sense that the IMDb Bottom 100 has cultural relevancy to it, and that definitely influenced my interest in taking on this challenge. However, that’s also not the whole reason why I am doing it. This is where the real philosophical difference comes in: I like watching bad movies. Not just good-bad movies, but all bad movies. If a movie doesn’t have that special charm that makes it so bad it is good, that doesn’t mean I won’t watch it. With that sort of movie (“The Maize: The Movie”, for example), I just take a different approach to it. Instead of enjoying the spectacle like a good audience should, I approach watching these crap movies more like you would approach an autopsy. I want to understand what went wrong with it, and what dysfunctions were fatal to the film. I want to know who/what killed it, the cause of death, and perhaps the motivation (if it is known). I like knowing how movies tick, and there are a lot of aspects to film-making that are invisible to the audience unless something is going wrong. As someone who doesn’t have a film background, I like learning these things by reverse engineering bad movies and poking at their flaws, so I can better understand what makes good movies good. I still absolutely adore good-bad movies, but I’ve learned how to approach bad-bad movies as well. The IMDb Bottom 100 offers a variety of films that have failed in countless different ways, and I’m personally interested in digging into that sort of thing. It may be difficult to watch through them at times, but I always wind up getting something out of the experience when all is said and done.
Lastly, I chose to do this challenge to force me to write regularly and become ever-so-slightly more competent at video editing. And, of course, just to say that I did it. That alone is a good enough reason for me.
Also, I’m over half way done now. Might as well stick it out.
If any of you BMFers come across this, keep being awesome, and thanks for the response!