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« 50th Anniversary: Bob Fosse's "Sweet Charity" | Main | Review: The Aftermath »
Monday
Apr012019

"London Fields" and Bad Movies as Palette Cleansers

Please welcome new contributor Tony Ruggio...

Have you ever wondered why Film Twitter is more fickle than critics? If you spend a reasonable amount of time there you’ll find deep pockets of hate among many non-professional critics for critical darlings as varied as Birdman, La La Land, even Black Panther. Critics, often dismissed as snobs or "the elite", actually appear to enjoy more films per year than other journos, pundits, and regular Joe or Jane cinephiles on social media. Critics are the only animals in our film bubble ecosystem who are forced to watch everything, even the bad ones. Others might skip the latest Adam Sandler romp or Netflix original dump, but critics (many of them anyway) see it all and I'm here to argue that it gives them perspective. Bad movies have a place, and can serve an under-discussed purpose, and that purpose is encouraging a greater appreciation for what the Inarritus and Andersons of the world are putting out there.

Art is subjective, yes, but most of the time we know a BAD movie when we see it. On the heels of SXSW, I was drowning in good cinema. Between Captain Marvel the week before, Jordan Peele’s near-masterpiece Us, and a few little gems I could find nowhere else, the festival had given so much yet deprived me of a proper palette cleanser. London Fields was it, a gonzo film noir so inept and ill-advised that I was left more than a little awestruck...

Theo James, Amber Heard, and Jim Sturgess in "London Fields"

There’s Amber Heard as a manipulative sexpot and clairvoyant, Billy Bob Thornton as an aging writer aching to include her in his next book, and Theo James and Jim Sturgess as two dopes vying for her affection amid pro dart feuds, gang feuds, and societal collapse. It’s a murder mystery, crime picture, and vague photo of the apocalypse all rolled into one mess.

In hindsight, it’s also the evil love child of a twisted, now defunct Hollywood romance, what with Heard’s starring role and Johnny Depp showing up in an extended cameo, mandatory quirky makeup and costumes in tow. Every actor is in a different movie, with the most noticeable difference between Thornton who goes subtle and Sturgess who goes real big, with a comically strung-out masculine groan accompanying his every move as an addict and ne’er do well. Amber Heard, for her part, is at least fun to watch as she oscillates between sexpot and virgin, depending on which mark she’s toying with. She’s given carte blanche to flaunt her model-like frame in dresses and assorted outfits that are increasingly dazzling.

As bad as London Fields was, I actually needed it. Movies like this can be unforgettable in their badness, and fun in their riotous effortfulness.

They're important, too. Bad movies are a check against complacency, boredom, and above all the fickle, fleeting nature of opinions. If inundated with artful, well-made ambition, it’s all too easy to grow weary, to become cynical and (eventually) self-destructively picky. Try trashing Birdman, La La Land, or Us on the heels of a London Fields. You’ll find it difficult to cry wolf. At least I do, and I have only bad movies to thank for that.

London Fields is now available for streaming rental on Vudu and Amazon Prime.

 

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Reader Comments (6)

Brilliant comment, Tony.

I've always espoused that everyone should watch at least 2-3 'bad' movies each year in order to fully develop a scale on which to measure quality.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

Great write up Tony. But I digress: Us did not work for me. At all.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

@Michael R

Us isn't for everyone. It's easier to love if you assume "nightmare logic" for much of it.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTony Ruggio

Theo James should be a bigger star

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I definitely agree it's good to see some 'bad' movies every now and then for a bit of perspective.

BTW, you cleanse your 'palate'; the 'palette' is what you mix your colours on when painting. Sorry to be *that* guy.

April 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

Good call, Steve G

April 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTony Ruggio

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