Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cult Classic of the Week: An Introduction

This is one of those new blog features that I mentioned around New Year's Day. My main purpose was to find another way to talk about movies I'm interested in. Also, I wanted a system for making decisions on what movies to watch.

I was inspired to try this because of two items I read recently. At the end of last year, I discovered a fairly new blog on horror and other genre films, From Midnight, With Love. I appreciate The Mike's sense of humor and his writing about film, but my favorite part is his Midnight Movie of the Week posts. A weekly review is a great format and a schedule that I could perhaps keep up with. "Midnight Movie of the Week" is such a perfect title for what I have in mind, but I don't want to steal it.

Second, there was a posting on the Home Theater Forum titled "How do you decide which DVD to watch from your collection?" This might seem like a silly question but I understand exactly what the initial post author means when he asks it. Often when I have the time and the inclination to watch something, I look at the shelves and have "decision paralysis". Usually I'll watch a DVD because it came up in a conversation, or we were reminded of it by a news item (as in the case when we watched Forbidden Planet after Leslie Nielsen passed away), or it's a new DVD that I just purchased. I'm a collector, so I have DVDs of favorites because I enjoy owning them and watching them whenever I like. Deciding which one to watch, however, can be difficult as I tend to revisit some discs and neglect others.

The solution? Leave it up to chance! First, I'll roll a d6 to see if the movie is from my DVD collection or from Netflix. Next, I'll check a list of random letters to choose the title. I used the random letter generator at Random.org to make a list of two-letter character strings in Excel. For the second letter of the string, I chose only the more frequently used letters. I didn't think that any film titles would start with "Zq".

There's a certain amount of fudging that will probably go on. I'll look for the film title that's the closest to the random letters, but it is not an exact science. It will depend on what titles are available, and if that film meets my criteria for a cult classic.

I haven't found a satisfying definition for "cult movie". It's a very subjective term. To paraphrase Judge Stewart, I know it when I see it. The definition that Peary used in his landmark book on the subject was a movie that is taken to heart and championed by segments of the movie audience. That's part of it, certainly, but to me that is incomplete. It may have been true in film studies of the 70s and early 80s, but since then I think that a more specific definition is in order, one that includes the relative obscurity or strangeness of the film. Look at the list of movies from his book and ask yourself what you would consider to be a "cult movie". I Married a Monster from Outer Space? Pink Flamingos? Caged Heat? Definitely cult movies. Singing in the Rain? The Searchers? The Wizard of Oz? I'm not so sure.

There are films in my collection that I love, that are considered classics, but not necessarily "cult classics". For this project, I want to shine a light on more obscure titles, the sort that the average person on the street wouldn't know about. So it's a random choice to a point, but then I might need to move one way or another on the shelf, or in the Netflix Instant search box, to find the right title.

Because of the open-ended nature of this project, I'm hoping to avoid the problem of not being able to finish, as was the case with my 100 Films in 100 Days project. I'll do my best to review a movie each week although it won't disrupt the schedule if I need to catch up later. "Review" might be a strong word for it. They may not be as detailed as my Green Slime DVD review, but I hope to cover some history and my own general impressions about the movies that I watch. I might entertain requests, too.


Dawg said...

I'm looking forward to it. I watched a trailer for Sam Fuller's "The Naked Kiss" that was just released by Criterion and got a chuckle at all the purse-inflicted blunt force trauma. I'm not sure if this would qualify as a cult classic, though.

Kaiju said...

I'd say so. "Shock Corridor" too.