By G. Michael Dobbs
Two DVDs are featured in this week's column: one that is well-worth watching and one that truly isn't.
Way, too many years ago, I had an idea for a book called "Trash Chic," which was going to detail how a particular aesthetic came about: the appreciation of bad movies.
How many times have you heard the phrase, "That was so bad, it was good?" There are now filmmakers whose work is revered, studied and admired despite the fact it is awful, such as Edward Wood Jr. Some critics have dubbed his "Plan Nine from Outer Space" as the worst movie of all time.
It really isn't, but it is pretty awful. And its awfulness is attractive to some of us because of the earnestness of the cast and filmmaker. They are doing their best, with a sub-standard script and non-existent production values.
The filmmakers associated with this kind of film generally did not seek to make an object to be ridiculed. They were doing the best they could and generally these guys were fervent film fans who wanted to live the dream of making a movie despite a lack of money or talent.
The successor to Wood's crown seems to be taken by James Nguyen, a computer software salesman by day and a weekend filmmaker. He had made three movies so far and his third, a bargain-basement version of Hitchcock's "The Birds," has hit pay dirt by landing a distribution deal.
This truly awful film has received major media attention from the likes of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. Its distributors were cagey enough to capitalize on some Internet buzz on the film and booked a theatrical tour that attracted both audiences and entertainment journalists.
In interviews there is a doozey on the DVD Nguyen comes across as a sincere film fan who wants to emulate Hitchcock and make romantic thrillers. His version of "The Birds" is short of thrills the birds are terrible computer animation and the romance, thanks to the stilted dialogue and wooden performances, isn't too involving.
What's left, then, is the attraction of watching a cinematic train wreck.
I watched the film with the fast forward button engaged. Nguyen padded the film with long car driving sequences, dining scenes and other narrative time-wasters. Frankly, it has little of the charm of a Wood film.
But one's man's trash is another man's treasure. If you appreciate a good "bad" movie, here is the latest that has made that grade.
Several weeks ago I interviewed Springfield native John Kawie, a former stand-up comedian who suffered a stroke. Kawie turned his experiences into a one-man play part stand-up and part drama with which he toured around the country.
"Brain Freeze" is now on DVD and is compelling viewing whether or not you or a member of your family has had a stroke.
Taped at a comedy club in Manhattan, Kawie shows that his performance skills are still top notch. He has great comic timing and he is more than a competent actor.
Besides being a funny guy, he is also an angry guy and a sad guy and an accepting guy. What I liked so much about "Brain Freeze" is that it's very human. His show, which speaks about his life after his stroke, reflects the breath of his emotions.
This is not a shallow, feel good theatrical event. It has an attitude. It has a backbone.
Seek it out and watch it.
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