January 24 - BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)
[NOTE: SquareSpace is a complete trash service for many reasons, and until now I've mostly kept my frustration to myself; swallowing my rage and only releasing it in the privacy of those closest to me. Its latest crime must be acknowledged, however. After watching BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, I wrote a relatively contemplative analysis of what separates good dumb movies from bad dumb movies, BTILC being a paradigmatic example of the former. Unfortunately, upon publishing, my post was deleted without recourse for recovery. Because I don't feel like trying to rewrite what I lost, I'm going to try something different. Bear with me, we'll see how it goes.]
"You people sit tight, hold the fort, and keep the home fires burning. And if we're not back by dawn... call the president."
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is a good dumb movie. A great dumb movie, in fact. It was initially conceived as a western before being rewritten for modern times, but Kurt Russell does a high-octane John Wayne impression the whole time anyway. SNAKE EYES (1998) is also a dumb movie, although it isn't nearly as good (here's my review if you want to hear my thoughts). What is the difference between a good dumb movie and a bad dumb movie? After some consideration, I think dumb movies are still subject to whatever strange laws we place on "serious" cinema. John Carpenter clearly pours a lot of effort and creativity into BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, and as an artist with considerable talent, his craftsmanship goes a long way.
This may seem obvious. Good _____ movies still need to be, well, good. But when the dumb factor is introduced, it seems like oftentimes some films throw out basic principles of storytelling in favor of cheap gags that are self-parodic enough in nature to provide some sort of protective distance between the idiocy and the artist. This isn't in itself bad, necessarily, but there's a certain aesthetic difference between a movie that leans into its dumb core with genuine care and attention.
This is where I want to try something new. What do you think separates a good dumb movie from a bad dumb movie? What does "dumb" actually mean? Post in the comments and if there's enough feedback, perhaps we can have a conversation about stupid but excellent movies, from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA to THE ROOM.
Tomorrow's category: the Fantastic.