I am tickled, and quite honestly shocked, to be invited to share my thoughts about movies with y’all. I feel like a pretty average viewer: I keep a list of movies I’d like to watch that have been recommended to me, and the annoying but unrelenting movies I should see list. I went to film school (whoops) so I’ve seen a lot of the classics and know a thing or two about cinema studies and media criticism. I can have an intellectual conversation about 12 Angry Men or Metropolis, and have opinions about Citizen Kane (…it’s boring). But here’s the thing: I love garbage.
Is the production design extravagant but the art budget would barely cover a crafting run to Michael’s? Delightful.
Does the casting make you say things like, “Oh that guy…what is he from?” I’m in.
Does the writing have the saccharine charm and pandering humor of a 90’s sitcom? Let’s gooooooo.
Is there a completely unnecessary and cringe-worthy musical number on par with a high school production of Cabaret? I literally cannot wait. (My high school actually did perform Cabaret my sophomore year. Why would they let us do that?!)
Don’t get me wrong: I love a lot of the good stuff, too. But I’d rather watch Short Circuit than Casablanca and would drop everything to personally produce a movie version of The Nanny. And honestly, credit where credit is due: everything cute about Wall-E was made cute by Johnny 5.
For many folks I know, the pandemic has been a time of decadent media consumption, in a good way. I am grateful to these voracious viewers who I can turn to for personalized recommendations for each streaming service, mood, or occasion. A year later though, there is effectively a neon ‘no vacancy’ sign flickering between my ears––my brain is too full and preoccupied with matters of consequence to make space for the appreciation of quality media right now. The typical quietude or excitement of downtime has been replaced with a droning nothingness: stuck but still going, overwhelmed but still bored, exhausted but still antsy. Languishing, anyone?
And so, my love affair with garbage is thriving.
Last week, instead of watching Nomadland or My Octopus Teacher or Roma, I watched So I Married an Axe Murderer. (Okay, so I ended up watching My Octopus Teacher a couple days later and it was sweet but from what I’ve seen, Crip Camp shoulda won the Oscar…but that’s another discussion.) If you’re looking for something to half-assedly pay attention to while you’re doomscrolling, sending angry emails to elected officials, and worrying about vaccine hesitancy, this is the movie for you. You can glance up once every 20 minutes and still be able to enjoy the full payoff of the climax.
This 1993 dark comedy stars just-post Wayne’s World Mike Meyers and the plot centers around his dating a woman who owns a butcher shop specializing in exotic meats. Think the watered-down ominousness of Sweeny Todd meets the clownishness of Little Shop of Horrors but without any musical numbers (which would only be an improvement, if you ask me).
It becomes evident almost immediately that the film is a testing ground for Meyers’ future projects, with his frequent use of accents, physical comedy revolving around the genitals, and playing multiple roles giving off some Austin Powers undertones. A quick internet dive (how else do people watch movies?) would unveil that he ended up heavily involved in the writing, pushing what would have been a dark comedy into corny-but-not-campy rom-com territory. Simply put, the movie is undemanding and fit for a distracted viewer.
Why garbage? Why not choose the absence of media to soothe the chattering mind? For me, that silence is an invitation for lazy, meandering rumination on thoughts too heavy to not be handled with diligence and care. And there is an odd comfort in garbage.
The security of low expectations, satisfied through a cheesy delivery. The credulous simplicity of outmoded set design that makes it seem like just anybody can afford a trendy loft in NYC or San Francisco. The contentment of knowing that you will never be asked for your opinion on it since it’s out of the collective consciousness––forgettable when it was released and still forgettable today. Most of my favorite garbage movies are from the 80s and 90s, so perhaps some of it is just the era of my childhood captured on film: the inviting familiarity of a tube TV, a character unfolding a map in the car, and storytelling that relies on the shortcomings of landlines and payphones.
So, next time you need to take a waking nap, pull something from the garbage chute and indulge in the void for 90 minutes.