It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Flick

We've all said it. "That's a "Bad" movie." But what do we mean by "Bad?" Bad like Al Capone, or bad like the dog that's scooting on your dining room carpet right now? Waitaminute, do you even have a dog? Go stop him!

Really, a bad movie could be bad for any number of reasons. Breaking it down, I've arrived at the conclusion all bad movies fall into one of six categories. The next time you see a bad movie, try and pinpoint what exactly made it bad, and what could have been fixed to make it better.

1) The Poorly Made Movie
This is a rarity in modern-day filmmaking. The movie industry is bigger than its ever been, and its still growing. Studios don't have to take chances on amateurs anymore. The days of Bert I Gordons and Edward D Woods are gone. Digital filmmaking has opened the world of movie-making to the masses, and everybody trying to break into the industry already has an extensive portfolio. If studios think you're remotely unqualified, they'll replace you with one of the 500 others waiting in the wings. There are no amateurs anymore. Just paid professionals and unpaid professionals. 
60 hour weeks. No travel reimbursement. College students only.
Must have 10 years experience. Masters degree preferred. This is a non-paying position.

But therein lies the irony. By opening the door for so many, we left the door open for everybody. People who don't want to learn the necessary skills and techniques. People who thought it looked easy, and assumed it was. People who think White Balance has to with laundry and Lavalier Mic is a French disk jockey. If the filmmakers don't care, why should the audience?
"Good enough" should not be an aspiration.

2) The Poorly Conceived Movie

Not every idea is good, but a good idea can come from anywhere. I've seen spectacular movies based on a board game, a theme park ride, sketch-comedy TV, and game shows. I have also seen bad versions of these same exact things.

As the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. There are some projects, licenses, and franchises that are doomed to failure. There are also completely original ideas that stink worse than month old roquefort. You could contact the greatest writers, directors, actors and spin doctors, they'd all tell you the same thing: There's just no substance. But the movie gets made anyways.

At what point did this begin seeming like a bad idea? The answer may surprise you...

3) The Boring Movie

However you choose to define movies (entertainment, art, escapism, culture, storytelling, etc.), they are an act of communication. Communication relies on engagement. It relies on captivation. It relies on a listening and responsive audience. And if the audience is busy checking their watch or playing Candy Crush, you've failed.
Pathos be damned, I want more popcorn. That's exciting!

Movies can be exciting, funny, scary, thought-provoking, fantastical, empathetic, and any number of other things, but they have to be doing something throughout their 90-minute runtime. There's nothing quite as embarrassing as a comedy that doesn't make you laugh, an action film that makes you yawn or a drama that confuses drearieness with seriousness. If you waste the audience's time, they'll let you know.
Yaaawn..... I said, yaaaaawn!

 4) The Unoriginal Movie

Pretend you're a marketing guru with a finger fresh on the pulse of modern society. You know what people want, how they want it, and the fastest way to make a money with it. It's no surprise when Jimmy McMoviemaker wants you to capitalize on the latest fads and interests. So you do. Fast forward to opening night, and...  your new project garners a net loss of $35 million. Turns out, everybody preferred your movie when they saw it the first time, several years ago. Suddenly, you're living in a refrigerator box under the freeway next to the guy who invented HitClips.
Wow! An entire minute of low-fidelity pop music!

Trends come and go, but before they do, they die a slow, painful, agonizing death. What may have been cool and popular ten years ago now seems old and stale. If you can't be fresh, be original. If you can't be original, at least be early. Always move forward with the future. If you stay too long in the past, you'll be passed up.
Here's a freebie: This genre is dead. Move on.

5) The Insulting Movie

People will watch anything, right? Plunk down a couple million bucks, they'll line up like sheep. There's no need to do any research on the film's subject; just reinvent it however you like. It doesn't matter if the characters are internationally renowned, shoehorn in some more accessible character traits. Change the setting away from 1960s Britain to modern-day America. Make the main characters young, thin, attractive, and in love. Cut out just enough of the violence, sex and depravity to earn a PG-13 rating. Have them drinking Dr Pepper. Add a wise-cracking companion and pop songs. And whatever you do, don't follow the book its based on. It doesn't have a happy ending. Besides, most of the potential audience probably haven't read it.

Dictated, not read.

People are not dumb. Actually, that's a lie. But still, people don't like being insulted. Respect the people by respecting the medium. Star Wars: A New Hope was made by a man combining his love of classic westerns with samurai films, adding original elements of fantasy and sci-fi. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was made by a man with a billion dollar special effects studio and contract obligations to Pepsi, Taco Bell. Lego, Lays, EA Games and Colgate.

You think I'm joking about this?

6) The Stupid Movie 

Let's be honest. If you had to produce a new movie on a shoestring budget, knowing full well you had no hope of ever attracting more than a million individual viewers, would you put lots and lots of effort into scripting, only to have absolutely no return on investment? Or would you just accept the carte blanche challenge, create something completely off-the-wall, and have fun while doing it?
Chichen Itza is not in the Grand Canyon.

It's the beloved "So-Bad-Its-Good" movie. A movie that defies all laws of logic and sensibility by pretending they never existed in the first place. These movies aren't good because they never tried to be good. They knew damn well what they were, and they embraced the ever-loving hell out of it. Think late-nite horror marathons hosted by comedians. Think SyFy original films. Think independent cinema. The people responsible for these films are either young professionals cutting their teeth, or seasoned professionals who have a psychotic signature style. Either way, they have a happy-go-lucky energy that's apparent after only a few minutes of viewing... unless it's just a happy accident. Trying to make lightning strike twice results in a poorly made or boring film instead of a "so bad it's good." Or in the case of a remake, a poorly conceived movie.

It's not too late to scrap production. Get out while you still can.


In a Word? Exclamatory

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