Archive | July, 2014

Our Pick for Worst Movie of All Time

24 Jul

Us movie lovers often have a hard time picking the best movie of all time (which is to say, the last hundred twenty years or so, as that is the length of time that movies have been with us.) We have just as hard a time picking the worst movie of all time. Here at DeJungle however, we feel that we’ve got the latter figured out. We try to be upbeat with our posts, and we realize that in this one we’re trashing a movie, but this one brought it on itself.

We used the following criteria to decide upon our candidate for worst film:

  1. We disqualified any movie that was deliberately trying to be bad.  Thus, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was kicked out.
  2. Movies with low budgets were disqualified. We were looking for big (or at least adequately budgeted) movies so the filmmakers could not be let off the hook on the grounds of insufficient funds. This meant that the notorious Plan Nine from Outer Space was off the hook (as were all the films in Ed Wood’s oeuvre.) This also meant that David Lynch’s Dune was definitely in the running.
  3. We disqualified any movie that we hadn’t seen (thus, Gigli was out of the running, as we had not seen it.)
  4. We disqualified any picture that was so weird that we couldn’t make head nor tail of the thing. Yep, The Room was out of the running on the grounds that it was so bad it was oddly spellbinding.

We’ll spare you the details of our deliberations, but in the end we settled on ….

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a 1979 release starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees.   This offering is jaw-droppingly bad. What’s wrong with this picture is the thing that’s wrong with just about every bad picture: there was no story, thus there was no script (or good acting, for that matter.) Stringing together Beatles songs to create a narrative was a bad idea from the word go, but these filmmakers went ahead with the thing anyway. The dailies should have told them that the idea was a bad one. They could have done the decent thing and shelved the picture.  It would have remained hidden in a film vault somewhere, a curiosity for film historians, but nothing more. But no, they had to release it.

Quick!  Git out of this picture while the gittin's good...

Quick! Git out of this picture while the gittin’s good…

Some fairly big names are in this picture, including George Burns, Aerosmith, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Billy Preston, Earth Wind and Fire, and the aforementioned Frampton / Bee Gees team. Alas, it is all for naught. The film is a dreary mess. Sure, there may be a song or two that works (Here Comes the Sun, for example) but it’s just not enough.

The Princess Bride advised us against getting into land wars in Asia and going up against Sicilians (when death is on the line), but only slightly less well known is this: Never think that you can make a good movie simply by stringing Beatles songs together and trying to create a story from them. For that reason, we avoided Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe; once bitten, twice shy, after all. Maybe we were wrong to do so, but hey, we’d been burned.

We realize that there’s a certain tendency when one hears about a bad picture to seek that bad picture out to see for oneself how bad it is. That, we hope, is not an option here. We don’t know if this picture was released on VHS, Beta, Laser Disk, DVD, or Blue Ray but we certainly hope not. If you find it in one of those formats, please stay away. It’s not bad in way that allows it to transcend its badness and in become in some sense good, it’s just bad.

We’d heard that Peter Frampton had sued because he’d been promised top billing in the film’s advertising and was not given it. In retrospect, Frampton should be grateful.

 

 

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One Summer America, 1927

3 Jul

“Oh, a sleeping drunkard
Up in Central Park,
And a lion-hunter
In the jungle dark,
And a Chinese dentist,
And a British queen–
All fit together
In the same machine.”

-Kurt Vonnegut  Cat’s Cradle

Vonnegut wasn’t referring to Bill Bryson’s One Summer America, 1927 when he penned those lines, but they capture the spirit of Bryson’s book.  There are no Chinese dentists or British queens, but the book covers a whole lot of people who  influenced American life during the summer of 1927.  Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Henry Ford, Clara Bow, Sacco and Vanzetti, Jack Dempsey, and Al Capone are only some of the figures that Bryson explores in his book.

Bryson has a knack for researching a topic, then taking the contents of his research and weaving a kind of narrative.  He has chosen the summer of 1927, we suppose, because a number of remarkable events occurred that summer, not the least of which are Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight, and Babe Ruth’s and Lou Gehrig’s copious number of home runs.  In addition, Prohibition was in full swing, and the summer also saw a meeting of four bankers who unwittingly laid the groundwork for the Great Depression of 1929.

One thing we like about the book is that Bryson often takes a much-revered figure such as Henry Ford and depicts the person in a human light. Far from being the far-sighted industrialist of legend, Bryson shows Ford to have been an adequate engineer but a less-than-stellar business man who was almost willfully ignorant, anti-Semitic, cruel to his son Edsel, and a bit of a crackpot.  On the other hand, Ford employed people with disabilities, ex-convicts, and epileptics (at a time when epileptics were shunned.)  Bryson gives the other figures he covers in the book a similar even-handed, warts-and-all depiction.

In short, we enjoyed the book.  If you seek an engaging read, One Summer America, 1927 fits the bill nicely. We aren’t related to the author and we’d don’t own stock in the publisher, so consider the source.

One Summer America, 1927