The Academy Awards were last week. The annual celebration of film, and narcissistic celebrity, crowned a new king in The Shape of Water. I have yet to see that film, so when I posted the Empty Balcony Awards column last week, the top trophy went to A Ghost Story.
So, Hollywood, the Empty Balcony, every critic, and every cinematic organization from here to Moscow has made it known how they ranked the films of 2017. All except one…
Welcome to the Shitty Movie Sundays Awards!
We here at Missile Test love shitty movies. Some cinephiles can’t get enough of the greats. Akira Kurosawa. Stanley Kubrick. Federico Fellini. François Truffaut. Ingmar Bergman. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
As for myself, the list of directors with which I grow more and more familiar every year is slightly different. Enzo G. Castellari. Bert I. Gordon. Bruno Mattei. Nigel Bach. And, God help us all, James Nguyen. The work of these filmmakers is a reminder that while film can be high art, sometimes it’s also naked profiteering and/or total incompetence. And sometimes, people just want to make a movie. In the 21st century, with the proliferation of digital camera technology, just about anyone with a smartphone and some free time can make a feature length film and post it on Amazon.
The strangest thing about shitty movies is that they still have the power to entertain. Many of them, in fact, do so much better than films of high quality, but deadly pacing. No matter how much one loves The Virgin Spring, that film is a straight slog to get through compared to Anaconda. That’s a fact.
Unlike the Empty Balcony Awards, in which awards were given to films from 2017, the Shitty Movie Sundays Awards has a different set of restrictions. Eligible films for this year’s awards could have been made last year or a hundred years ago, as long as there was a Shitty Movie Sundays review of them in 2017. Here are the woeful pieces of shit from which I will be drawing:
- Bad Ass
- Bad Ben
- Battle Beyond the Stars
- The Beastmaster
- Beyond the Poseidon Adventure
- Birdemic: Shock and Terror
- The Bronx Executioner
- Burial Ground
- The Chilling
- Chopping Mall
- Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
- The Expendables 3
- Eye See You
- Ghosts of Mars
- Jason X
- The Last Shark
- Maniac Cop
- Mazes and Monsters
- The New Gladiators
- Over the Top
- Paradise Alley
- The Raiders of Atlantis
- Rambo: First Blood Part II
- The Satanic Rites of Dracula
- Steel Dawn
- Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
- Tango & Cash
- When Time Ran Out
- Women’s Prison Massacre
That’s 37 bad movies. Every single one of them. Readers will notice that horror movies are over-represented on the list. Part of this is due to the month of horror film reviews that Missile Test does every year, and part of this is due to the genre being so welcoming to filmmakers in the early parts of their careers, when budgets are low and so, often, are skills. Sylvester Stallone films are also over-represented. That’s due to the month of Sly Stallone movie reviews I did last summer when I got bored. No matter how a film made the list, that was a lot of shit to wade through.
Anyway, that’s enough of an intro. On to the awards!
The Least Auspicious Way to Begin an Oscar-Winning Career Award goes to Tom Hanks for his work in Mazes and Monsters. In a film that was otherwise so bad and so slow I barely remember watching it, Hanks stood out for his performance as an unhinged tabletop role-playing game addict. Back in the early 1980s when this was made, Dungeons & Dragons was linked to the hysteria over non-existent devil worshipping cults, when all it really was, was kids playing a board game. Of course there would be a TV movie about this nonsense, and Hanks found himself in the starring role.
When watching this flick, it’s hard to picture Hanks working his way up the ladder to becoming Hollywood royalty. It’s as improbable a rise as that of our wayward president. The only difference is that Hanks actually deserved it.
The SNL Sketch Turned Movie Award goes to Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Go ahead. Watch the trailer. Tell me it doesn’t look like an SNL short filmed during a week Sly was scheduled to host.
The Fourth Grade Science Experiment Award goes to the volcano in When Time Ran Out. Every grade school goes through it. Around the third or fourth grade, the kids learn about baking soda and vinegar, and the next thing you know, half of them are making volcanoes out of clay and a funnel. I bring this up because the volcano in this Irwin Allen disaster flick was clearly inspired by the work of schoolchildren. Would it have killed Allen to hire a more competent effects team? Of course not, but then we wouldn’t have such a shitty mess to enjoy.
The Telly Savalas Memorial Award for Shitty Film Profligacy does not go to Telly Savalas for his work as Dr. Svevo (that is not a typo) in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. While Savalas would have appeared at a child’s backyard birthday party as long as the check cleared, this award goes to Savalas’s costar, Michael Caine. In a long and varied career, one would think that Caine’s appearance in Jaws: The Revenge was the nadir. Well, one would be wrong. Beyond the Poseidon Adventure is much shittier than that last gasp from the Jaws franchise. But if one really wants to have some fun, pretend that Caine’s Mike Turner from this film is the same character as Caine’s Hoagie Newcombe from the Jaws flick.
The backstory presents itself readily. Turner made his living salvaging wrecks. Perhaps his interests extended to smuggling. Perhaps he made enough to retire to a tropical island and live under an assumed name, wooing middle-aged widows fleeing from the cold climes of New England. The idea works so well that I would like to see Caine play a similar character in another shitty movie before he kicks the bucket, just to complete the trilogy.
The Your Movies Are So Bad, Please Make More Award goes to Nigel Bach, for his work on Bad Ben. Bach has become something of a cult icon in the horror film world. By all accounts just a middle-aged man with a dog living in southern New Jersey, Bach one day looked at the camera on his phone and decided that nothing was stopping him from making his own horror film. So, he did. And it was bad. Very bad. And I couldn’t look away. Then he made a prequel and a sequel that were just as bad, and only slightly less compelling. Keep at it. Make more movies, Nigel.
The Remember When They Tried to Act? Award goes to Mick Jagger, for his portrayal of a corporate mercenary in Freejack. I’m not quite sure what he was going for in his performance, but it livened up a very silly movie.
The Bless This Mess Award goes to Tango & Cash. This award celebrates a film that flies off the rails due to production problems. We viewers out here rarely get a glimpse into how the sausage is made. We just have to sit through a film and scratch our heads, wondering where it all went wrong. But now that there’s the internet, we can find out how behind the scenes drama affected a shitty movie. In the case of Tango & Cash, it was a script that went through dozens of major rewrites while the film was being shot. The result is a buddy cop film that becomes a prison film that becomes a James Bond ripoff before finally ending with a bunch of explosions. It really is fantastic to watch a movie collapse into chaos right before one’s eyes. Knowing what went on during the production makes Tango & Cash that much more enjoyable.
The Movie That Must Be Remade Right Now! Award goes to Chopping Mall. This is a movie about robot security guards that patrol a shopping mall at night. They go rogue and start killing people. This is a much more relevant idea thirty years later, what with the coming AI singularity. The idea could even be scaled up, where it’s not just a handful of robots that have gone homicidal, but the entire mall. It could all lead up to a grand finale on Black Friday, with the psychotic mall software mowing down hordes of holiday shoppers with machine gun fire. Yeah, that sounds like some good shit.
And now for the big one. The Absolute Awfullest, Worsest, Terriblest, Deadliest Shitty Movie I Reviewed Last Year Award goes to Driven. In a stunning upset, Sly Stallone and Renny Harlin’s racecar driving shitfest beats out Birdemic: Shock and Terror. From an objective standpoint, Birdemic is a worse film than Driven. Hell, Birdemic currently sits atop the mental list I keep of worst movies I’ve ever seen. Director James Nguyen had zero competence as a filmmaker, turning out something so bad it redefined cinematic futility. And yet, Driven was a worse watch. Birdemic is a stupid movie filled with stupid characters, but Driven is a hateful movie. Sly must have been in a shitty mood when he penned this disaster. Everyone in the film treats each other like dirt, and the racing material treated motorsport like dirt. That was a true feat, considering Sly spent years doing research for this flick.
This is a film made by professionals. It had a real production crew, real stars, and money to back it up. The result is unwatchable.
Driven is a film that reduces racing to caricature and human interaction to verbal abuse. The people who made it felt bad about their shitty movie, and they wanted you, the viewer, to feel bad, as well. Mission accomplished. Birdemic, on the other hand, is squishy sweet at times, despite the material. Driven gets the bottom award this year because I hate it just as much as everyone involved in it did.