Most diehard cinephiles love camp. Who doesn't have a soft spot for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and co.? Less appreciated by the general public and legions of wannabe critics haunting the dark digital corners of the Internet are those serious movies that are unintentionally hilarious, be they farcically existentialist French movies (there's no shortage of those, just as there's no shortage of brilliant Gallic films) or pretentious movies that are hilarious in their pitch-black, angstily despairing humorlessness. (The end of the world ought to facilitate comedy, not render it superfluous).
Movies that fall into this category have myriad incarnations, from over-the-top French gems like Catherine Breillat's Anatomy of Hell to the likes of River's Edge, an ostensibly serious drama hijacked by the ludicrous performance of Crispin Glover. In any case, movies so bad they're fun are perpetual delights, and many have even come to be regarded as masterpieces. Several, in fact, have even been recipients of Academy Awards, despite how tragically awful they are.
It's hard to say for certain why heavy films that are accidentally funny are often regarded as serious works of cinematic art. The answer requires a good amount of sociological legwork, but perhaps in the end, it comes down to nothing more than marketing. The right presentation/angle is calculated to put critics and audiences alike in a serious frame of mind, tricking them into taking disasterpieces of accidental hilarity seriously.
- Photo: Sony
Thanks to Foxcatcher, the world knows what it would be like if a wannabe art film director tried to be Oliver Stone, or vice versa (check out the helicopter scene for evidence). Taken as a whole, Foxcatcher is a turgid wallow of nonsense enraptured with its faux-artistic non-aesthetic. While it smugly struts about the scene pretending it has important things to say about wealth and masculinity in the United States, the film accidentally stomps its way into the wilds of high camp, such as when John du Pont (Steve Carrell) tells his fawning protegee Mark (Channing Tatum) to call him Golden Eagle.345Agree or disagree?
- Photo: Universal Studios
Poor Sylvia Plath can't seem to catch a biopic break. The 1979 adaptation of her novel The Bell Jar was bad, and 2003's Sylvia, starring an embarrassingly miscast Gwyneth Paltrow, is so awful it's unintentionally funny. Consider gems like: "we're not even two people. Even before we met we were two halves, walking around with big gaping holes," which about sums up the film.
Sylvia's decent supporting cast makes a valiant attempt at damage control, but the mission is unsuccessful. A cloyingly melodramatic score and a sappy, nearly Lifetime-ish daytime TV vibe don't help either. In the end, Plath's suicide is more eye-rolling and cheesily annoying than it has any right to be.232Agree or disagree?
Often described as a companion piece to Anatomy of Hell, 1999's Romance is another ennui-and-fluid-drenched exploration of despairing womanhood. Caroline Ducey stars as an at-the-end-of-her-rope woman whose stuck-up, sex-phobic lover refuses to satisfy her. She embarks on a series of relationships that include a predictable S&M interval, an unsimulated encounter with Breillat porn-favorite Rocco Siffredi, and a sequence of fantasy encounters that are artsy and surreal in theory but campy in execution. A scene where Dulcey's head is in a brothel while her lower half undergoes an OB/GYN exam is particularly memorable.232Agree or disagree?
- Photo: Summit Entertainment
The Hurt Locker is a fantastic war movie for anyone who knows nothing about war, or about how the military works. To anyone who does know about these things, the movie plays as absurd farce.
Consider, for instance, the opening scene, in which a character dons a suit and attempts to disarm an IED on a Baghdad street. To anyone who's aware that the military has a host of very sophisticated robots to do the same job, the scene comes across as a parody of the type of masculine bravado you might see in an '80s movie: the hero disregarding technology or weaponry to accomplish a job by way of his own enterprising masculinity.
Military experts had other questions, such as: in what f*cking universe would a group of bomb-disposal experts pile into a Humvee and drive around a warzone alone looking for IEDs? Or: why in the hell are there bomb disposal experts riding in like the cavalry while a host of other soldiers huddle together, scared of what may or may not be an IED? As a cavalry officer who led patrols in Baghdad told Newsweek:
"EOD arriving on an unsecured scene alone to find ground forces huddled and hiding together in a courtyard stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. The portrayal of the ground forces was outright insulting."
The Hurt Locker so thoroughly disregards the reality of war it passes the threshold of Hollywood fabrication and becomes absurdist comedy, a deadpan Tropic Thunder.3011Agree or disagree?