Finding the Good in the Bad

There are a lot of movies out there. I think I’ve seen most of them. Sad. More often than not, they’re bad movies. For reasons that aren’t obvious but which are probably related to my low-level OCD, once I begin watching a movie, I usually watch the whole thing. To paraphrase the inimitable Chaka Khan, once I get started, oh, it’s hard to stop. I continue viewing long after a flick has proven itself a total waste of my time. That’s when I bemoan the loss of two hours of my life (or in the case of Christopher Nolan’s interminable epics-in-his-own-mind, three) and wonder why I didn’t just turn it off.

Occasionally, though, I’m rewarded for my long-suffering tolerance of mediocrity and outright garbage. Amidst all the dreck that constitute so many films, there might be a nugget of gold that makes the whole effort worthwhile. Here are some examples of memorable moments from forgettable flicks.

  • Remember a movie called “Hot Pursuit”? I didn’t think so. I saw it and I still don’t remember it. It was a poor cop/buddy/crime comedy that did none of those things well. However, it had what I think was a priceless bit of banter. Some thugs kidnap two women and “take them for a ride”. When one of the two women claims she has to stop at a bathroom to deal with some “women’s issues”, one of the IQ-of-Donald-Trump kidnappers asks, “Can’t she hold it?” Well worth the 90 minutes of terrible cinema.
  • Mel Brooks is no slouch. His movies are generally filled with plenty of laughs, albeit often crude and/or cringeworthy. It could be that “Robin hood: Men in Tights” was one of them but I’ve never seen it. Somehow I did catch one line that was a classic Brooksian single entendre. It makes me laugh and cringe to this day. A character is described as “cocksure and headstrong”, but the person making that claim rethinks it and immediately adds, “Or maybe it’s the other way around.” Don’t try this at home.
  • Another terrible movie I never saw was the raunchy “Exit to Eden”. Dan Akroyd, one of its stars, listed it as a movie he wishes he’d never made. I’m not sure exactly what the plot was for this poor excuse for soft porn. It allegedly involved police going undercover at some kind of sexual fantasy camp. Some kinky guy approaches bemused leather-clad cop Rosie O’Donnell and asks, “How can I fulfill your fantasy?” Without missing a beat, Ms. O’Donnell retorts with the only message in this whole fiasco that rings true to any normal human being, “Go paint my house.”
  • I don’t even remember the name of the movie that was the source of this entry. A guy confused by the whole concept of ballet wants to know why they all dance on their toes. He asks, “Why don’t they get taller dancers?” I’m not alone in thinking this is a good line. I’ve since come to learn that the quip was originally uttered by none other than Henny Youngman. If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best.
  • Not every one of my favorite lines is from a bad movie. The lines are just so good, they transcend the mediocrity of the rest of the work. Such is the case with my favorite line from the “Fantastic Four” movie of 2005 (to distinguish it from the several other FF reboots and preboots), which I liked. Just before he is about embark on some foolhardy adventure, Johnny “The Human Torch” Storm (portrayed by Chris Evans) is warned by his sister Sue (“Invisible Woman”, Jessica Alba), “Don’t even think about it!” His response is one I’ve used many times since in similar, though non-superhero, contexts. Johnny calls back, “I never do!” as he flies off into who knows what shenanigans.
  • I admit I’ve never seen this next offering, although I’m a big fan of the creator. Nick Parks and his animated films are invariably terrific. Reviews of “Early Man” indicate that it was no exception. I’m not sure why I’ve never checked it out. Honestly, all I know of it is the commercial, which includes this priceless line spoken by a caveman in a prehistoric marketplace where he discovers an innovation: a loaf of sliced bread. He’s so overwhelmed by the idea, he utters, “Sliced bread?!? Why this is the best thing since… ever!”
  • The final item on my list is not a line. However, I feel confident in nominating it as offering the highest ratio between the hilarity of the gag (hysterical) and the quality of the overall film (miserable). In “Meteor Man”, Robert Townsend’s character is somehow endowed with superpowers, including the ability to fly. There’s a problem, though. He has a deathly fear of heights. To solve the problem, he never flies more than 3 feet off ground. Horrible movie but I wouldn’t have missed the image of him skimming along at kneecap level for the world. I laugh today just thinking about it.

There are surely many more candidates out there. One person’s list will be radically different than mine due to the subjective nature of movie and humor tastes. It’s nice to know that, even in the worst cinematic effort, maybe the creators didn’t phone the whole thing in.

Life by Subscription

It started with TV. It used to be free. Before we knew what hit us, we were paying a monthly subscription for cable. We got all those channels and, as the old joke went, nothing was on worth watching. Then along came streaming. Now we’re paying for TV… one channel at a time… one month at a time. Netflix, Prime, Disney+, Paramount+, Hulu, YouTube, … The list goes on and on. And on and on, etc.

There’s subscription radio (Sirius), subscription software (Quicken, Adobe, and about a million others), even subscription cars. Yup, subscription cars.

And all this is in addition to your monthly (or weekly or annual) fees for luxuries like water, sewer, heat, electricity, internet, phones, AAA, rent, mortgage, insurance (all sorts of insurance), taxes (all sorts of taxes), loans, newspapers and magazines (online or old school hard copy), gyms, clubs… They just keep adding up, don’t they? And we forget we even signed up for half of them in the first place. The folks we’re paying count on it. It’s their business model.

Now add one more subscription to the list:

Your life.

Look at the pharmaceutical ads on TV. Nearly every single one of them is for a maintenance drug, one you’ll have to take every day and pay for every month for the rest of your life for the privilege of healthy living.* Don’t hold your breath waiting for any of those conditions to be cured. There’s no money in that.** Not when they have you on their subscription plan.

Don’t forget to renew those subscriptions.

* That is, if you survive the 750 side effects listed in the ads, most of which are more serious than the condition they’re treating.

** No, sir. As one Wall Street analyst warned, curing patients is not a sustainable business model. Read it for yourself here.