As three cinema-obsessed girls we decided to create Reel Good Film Club, a film club that seeks to screen films that celebrate racial and cultural diversity whether they are hidden B-movies or Hollywood blockbusters. As we’re normally busy talking about whether Chris Pratt is cute or not we decided to be professional and have real discussions where we battle out the all-important questions about film via Facebook chat, because we’re lazy and modern. In our first discussion we talk about TASTE. Is there such a thing as good or bad taste when it comes to film?
Grace: I really think that there’s a hierarchy of bad taste, but it doesn’t really make any sense? John Waters and Russ Meyers and stuff being at the top, and then things like Walking on Sunshine right at the bottom (the trailer says it all).
Maria: I totally agree actually but then you have to really separate what these films are. I mean people like John Waters and Russ Meyer make trash films and are deliberately using shock value in their films, for example poo eating. Then you have “bad” films that are critically slated but become guilty pleasures. So maybe the separation between them is whether they are deliberately bad or not?
Grace: Yeah but how do you make the distinction initially. Like, do you look at ratings on Rotten Tomatoes? Read reviews? See what your friends say? Or is it 100% just your own opinion?
Lydia: For me I do just generally go with my own judgment. I don’t really do reviews and ratings; I prefer to go in with a blank state of mind.
Grace: But do you agree with someone like John Waters who says that, “to understand bad taste one must have very good taste”?
Maria: Don’t you think that sounds super elitist? And I hate to admit it but I kinda think it’s true. If you have never seen a trash film before you’re probably not gonna laugh along with it. I mean, using John Waters as an example again, if you haven’t heard or read about him before you watch his films you will be like “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?” and I guess that’s the point.
Grace: I think that’s the trouble with trashy films that are trying to homage old ones – unless you’re really self-aware and knowing of all the conventions of trash and B movies, you’re not really going to get it – and this is coming from someone who hasn’t watched very many.
Maria: Yeah and I think the more you watch the more critical it makes you. When I started getting into films I was watching loads of trashy cult films and I kinda wish I didn’t because, ironically, I’m not shocked by films as much anymore.
Lydia: I think I had the same phase as you – I definitely think that me at 16 was a lot more critical and selective about what I would and wouldn’t watch which is a shame.
Maria: At the same time, I think trash is still such an interesting genre because all those transgressive directors from the 70s and 80s deliberately made films that would irritate and annoy people – SO COOL! I watched Pepi, Luci, Bom the other day again and I felt so uncomfortable watching some of the scenes and when it finished, it was strange, I felt really happy because I felt like I reacted the way it wanted me to.
Lydia: There’s something really satisfying knowing you reacted and understood what they wanted you to. As if it was just made for you.
Maria: I kinda get the same satisfaction from watching Hilary Duff films though, but whenever I say that people think I mean it ironically.
Lydia: I don’t know, I think there’s something more acceptable about kid’s films because people automatically attach nostalgia.
Grace: That’s true! Although I’ve found that people always like to attack grown women who like Disney films? I swear that’s a thing on the internet?
Maria: Yeah that’s a thing! Like a category on Tumblr or on lame memes.
Grace: People stereotype them as being uber feminine and portray them as dumb; I’m guilty of having done it myself.
Lydia: I think my problem lies in that if people want to immerse themselves in a fantasy world where everything is sugary, why attack them for it? Nobody attacks horror buffs!
Grace: That is so true! Think we got a bit side tracked… what do you guys think makes a guilty pleasure?
Maria: It’s definitely the ones that have been made completely seriously without any awareness of how silly or over the top they are.
Grace: Yeah, I definitely think that the best ‘bad’ films are the ones that think their plot totally makes sense and it is totally fine – like New York Winter’s Tale which I STILL haven’t seen! “Flying horse? Will Smith as the Devil? Time travel? Colin Farrell? Yeah let’s totally sell this as a normal straight film”
Lydia: THE ROOM.
Grace: The Room is a weird one because it has no stars, no big budget, no big name director, so there’s no real “excuse” for people to watch it. Tommy Wiseau’s Wikipedia is potentially my favourite thing ever.
Maria: Yeah, it’s just the epitome of a film that is “so bad is good”. I still think he has just invested in this whole character and in 30 years time he’s gonna come out and confess that it was all a joke and he will receive and Oscar for being the best actor of all time.
Lydia: I kind of hope that that’s true?
Discussion by Maria Cabrera, Grace Barber- Plentie and Lydia Heathcote
Illustration by Jessica Butler