The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies

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TheRoomMovie

This fall I have the great privilege of teaching a course I have always wanted to teach, “Topics in Film Aesthetics: Trash Cinema and Taste.” Jeffrey Sconce has defined “trash cinema” as “less a distinct group of films than a particular reading protocol, a counter-aesthetic turned subcultural sensibility devoted to all manner of cultural detritus.” Would Sconce agree with the way I am defining trash cinema in my course? I’m not sure. Nevertheless, the term “trash” is a useful way to denote the broad and shifting category of “bad films” and as a method for getting students to discuss film aesthetics. We will watch films that have been maligned for their “bad” acting (Showgirls), “bad” taste (Pink Flamingos), “bad” subjects (Freaks), “bad” politics (El Topo) and just plain “badness” overall (Glen or Glenda?). We will discuss what qualities categorize a film alternately as “bad,” “low brow” or “cult” and how taste cultures and taste publics are established. Finally, we will discuss why certain films are believed to have “cultural capital” and why and how trash cinema rewrites the rules about which films are worth watching.

pink_flamingos_6

Every week I will discuss one of these films on this blog, my students’ reactions to them, and whether or not these films offer a useful way for undergraduates to discuss film aesthetics as a political, cultural, economic and social construct. This is also a good excuse for me to talk about some of my favorite films.

The first film the students will watch (during the week of 8/31) is Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003). The film has been dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad films” and has gained an impressive cult following in Los Angeles, where folks line up for midnight screenings. Last year Entertainment Weekly did a wonderful story about it, which is when I first became obsessed with it. The Room even has its own Rocky Horror Picture Show-like rituals.

Which brings me to why I am posting about this now: if anyone out there (are you out there?) is familiar with any of The Room‘s rituals (I know about the spoon throwing and the yelling of “Denny!” whenever that character appears), could you please share them here? My students and I would be most grateful.

More on The Room to come…

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7 thoughts on “The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies

    Kelli Marshall said:
    August 20, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Interesting. Sounds as though it will attract a lot of students… Good luck with it all!

    Anna said:
    August 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve heard of people throwing viewing parties for The Room, hint hint….

    princesscowboy responded:
    August 21, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    We’re having a screening, Anna, and you are invited, of course!

    Matt said:
    August 21, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    We just went to the Rifftrax live screening of Plan 9 from Outer Space – freaking hilarious (and the commentary was funny too!).

    Anna said:
    August 28, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Fantastic! I can’t wait!

    […] either explicitly rejected or simply ignored by legitimate film culture” (101). In an earlier post I discussed how I would be using precisely these kinds of texts in my Trash Cinema course. […]

    […] discussed in previous posts, I am teaching “Topics in Film Aesthetics” this semester, with a focus on what is known […]

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