And though you might think this will be a primer on what not to do on your first movie date, that installment, in fact, is not scheduled until next week.
For this post we’ll be going back in time, all the way to the origin of the love of the movies of the bad. Travel with me, now, all the way back to the early nineties, we’ll say 1991, and a high school student who is working after school at his local library as a book re-shelver (a highly prestigious and difficult to get job in my neck of the woods. My neck because, yes, we are talking about me, Andrew Kozma, and we are talking about my hometown library, The York Public Library, and we are talking about the itch on my neck right now that hasn’t gone away even though I’ve refrained from scratching and I’m beginning to think just to hell with it go full bore with the fingernails on the flesh and whoa whoa wasn’t this supposed to be about bad movies?).
As a book re-shelver, I wasn’t the quickest, though I’d say I was pretty accurate. I was slow on the re-shelve because I’d use the re-shelving cart as a convenient way to troll for new books to read. I’d pause and read the backs of any interestingly-titled or -covered book, which, as you might imagine, significantly added to my re-shelve time. I do not believe I was the librarians’ favorite employee.
This library – THIS VERY LIBRARY – is where I came across The Golden Turkey Awards, a book by Harry and Michael Medved that combined bad movies with a penchant for alliteration, the ironic-backhanded-put-down metaphor, Hollywood history, and nascent film criticism of the kill-it-before-it-grows variety. Which is to say that it was highly entertaining to a teenager who loved bad movies but whose background in film history – of either the bad or good variety – was severely lacking (the first book came out in 1980. My main experience with “historic” bad movies was with The Evil Dead which, arguably, is not a bad movie but, inarguably, was much closer in time to the culture I lived in).
I realize now that the Medveds are one of my inspirations for criticism, at least the kind that I like to read. They are knowledgeable (although a publisher’s weekly review of their fourth book Son of the Golden Turkey Awards convincingly argues their lack of research)… so, um, they sound knowledgeable, are opinionated, and write with a sense of humor that, while it doesn’t always hit the mark, at least doesn’t detract from the reading experience. Although they are in quite different leagues, I trace a kinship between my early interest/exposure to the Medveds and my fascination with the criticism of William Logan and Damon Knight.
Apparently (according to this book) there have been connoisseurs of bad movies since, well, since there were movies. I think of bad movie fandom as being a byproduct of the home entertainment age, where now you can watch every conceivable bad movie at home, with friends, food, drink, and the ability to pause the whole affair when the bad becomes just too bad. Not that that ever happens.
(cough… Ankle Biters… cough)
Sidenote: It’s hard for me to separate a personality from what they create, especially if the creation is writing. Art, well, with art I don’t have to hear the simulacrum of the artist’s voice intoning in my head as I contemplate their work. But with writers and writing, the voice is right there in my ear, unavoidable. In doing (slight) research for this post, I found that Michael (the elder Medved) is somewhat of a conservative political commentator with his own highly popular syndicated radio talk show. Even though I want to find and read the rest of the books the Medved brothers wrote together, I’ll be reading their words for underlying, unstated meanings, political points of view, etc. Still, the book is an enjoyable romp through horrible Hollywood, and worth a read.