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« Weekend Update | Main | Guest Posting -- Publishing in Britain »

July 01, 2003

Worst Movies

Friedrich --

Felix and Turbokitty have put forth a Top-Ten Worst Movies Ever list, and already the comments, suggestions, jeerings and putdowns are piling up. Some tough rules: no sequels, for instance. And some high-level filmcrit, too: "Showgirls," blissful camp or godawful travesty of all one holds dear?

You can join the entertaining fracas here.



posted by Michael at July 1, 2003


I'm about to make a shameful admission. I don't get the notion of camp, at least as many people use it. (See the discussion thread of the Top Ten Worst Movies List for many, many examples.) To pick only one: "Showgirls" may or may not have been executed in a camp frame of mind, but somehow I can't really see how that improves what one sees on the screen in this movie. There must be some marvelous mental alchemy that occurs when one understands the nature of camp--as I do not, alas--that transmutes cinematic lead into gold. (Or is it possible that the Emperor is wearing no clothes?) Anyone want to explain this mystery to me--and don't recommend Ms. Sontag's famous essay--I've already read it, and it doesn't lighten the gloom.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 1, 2003 12:27 PM

Friedrich -- As I recall, in an earlier posting you said that you'd seen Charlie's Angels. Did that film, perhaps, come with a trailer for a film called "Shaolin Soccer"? Did you watch that trailer a bit like you watch a car crash, both fascinated and appalled, and laugh out loud despite the fact that it really wasn't funny? That's camp.

Posted by: Felix on July 1, 2003 4:04 PM

Camp is impossible to define in hard terms; it's an aesthetic that you either "get" or you don't. But the most important feature of camp is that its effect is intentional. Camp is bad, but it knows it's bad. So if you laugh, you laugh with it, not at it.

Kitsch, on the other hand, is the unintentional variant. You laugh at kitsch, not with it.

The film versions of Oklahoma and The Sound of Music are kitsch. John Waters's Hairspray is camp.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on July 2, 2003 2:42 AM

By the way, if Paul Verhoeven's comments about the film are any indication, Showgirls is best classified as kitsch. It is certainly not self-conscious in its unredeemable badness. But his earlier Starship Troopers, with its deliberately ironic invocation of Nazi iconography, seems to qualify as camp.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on July 2, 2003 2:50 AM

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