How To Tell If A Movie
Stinks Before You See It
by Robert Delaney
Save yourself some time and money by heeding these
simple warning signs.
- It was based on a true story.
Life is pointless. Therefore, any movie based
on real life will be
equally pointless. Exception: Gandhi
- There are more than two writers in the credits.
There's an old saying that the definition of a camel
is a horse that was made by a committee. Hollywood makes a lot of
camels. A writer writes a script that's pretty good, or it wouldn't
have been purchased. Then the producers, executives, director, and
actors insist on rewrites, and each bring in their own writers to do
it. Disney's Tarzan had 26 writers in the end credits (Yikes!).
After enough rewrites have passed, everyone has forgotten what it
was that made the original script good in the first place - just
like that game of telephone that we all played in elementary school.
Even if the number of writers in the credits is small, it can be deceptive
because the Writer's Guild has complicated rules as to who is entitled
to screen credit. Not every writer is credited, sometimes not even
the original writer who started it all up. Exception: None
- It was based on a television series, video game, or
Saturday Night Live sketch.
'Nuff said. Exception: Stuart Saves His Family.
It bombed because
it wasn't a brainless comedy - not even a comedy really, but a
grueling look at alcoholism and family dysfunction. The brainless
people who like SNL movies hated it. People smart enough to
hate SNL movies assumed that it was more of the same and refused
to go see it. (The lack of other exceptions is a
painful admission from a long time Star Trek fan)
- The commercial ends with "Featuring music by... "
and lists several bands or singers. Or it includes a credit for
This means that the creators were more interested in
making auxiliary profits from soundtrack album sales than in the
impact that inappropriate pop music would have on the
artistic and emotional integrity of their film. Music is the soul of a
film and should be written by real composers. As the late, great
film composer Bernard Herrmann said: "Be grateful if a doctor
makes you well; don't expect him to make you rich too."
Almost as bad are directors who insist on
compiling their own scores from classical music
and other sources because they think they know better than any real
composer could. Exception: None
- It stars Clint Eastwood, Julia Roberts, Steven Seagal, Jean
Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, or anyone who has ever starred
on Saturday Night Live (except the original cast).
Not that these are bad actors. They
just always seem to end up in bad movies. Either they have terrible
taste in projects, or they aren't ever offered any good films.
- It was directed by Stanley Kubrick or Robert Altman.
Talk about flamebait, but what can I say? Members of
their respective cults need not email me. Discussing these directors
with them is like discussing evolution with a Fundamentalist Christian.
Kubrick Exception: Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove,
Altman Exception: None.
- It's a horror film.
There's no reason why all horror films have to stink.
They just always do. The few that don't always cross over into
another genre: Nightbreed (fantasy), Aliens (science
fiction, action), Dawn of the Dead (disaster, social satire).
- The first word of the title is a pronoun.
Another of those weird but true warning signs.
Exceptions: My Dinner with Andre and My Favorite
- It's about a person with a fatal disease.
Life stinks enough as it is without having
to see movies
about people who have it even worse than we do. What kind of
masochist would volunteer to watch someone going through
something we hope we'll never have to watch anyone going through?
Subtract even more points if the sick person is a child.
- More to come as I think of them....