Three easy pieces

February 12, 2011 • 1:31 pm

1.  Brother Blackford has a new post on accommodationism and the anti-New-Atheism of other atheists, particularly Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse:

So I don’t have any reason to call these two authors accommodationists, but I do think that it’s very unfortunate that they have (a) distanced themselves from their natural allies in their post (and, possibly in their book? I don’t know yet), and (b) added to the popular myth of the gnasty gnu atheist who is thoughtless and uncivil when dealing with others.

I do hope they’ll rethink this and change their approach to this issue. You can damage your own cause in many ways: in this case, accommodationism is only one way to throw your allies under the bus. Anti-accommodationists can do that, too.

2.  At the Guardian, Anthony Grayling decries the trend of spoon-feeding students, and opposes new calls for increased professorial “contact hours” in the UK.  It sounds a bit curmudgeonly, but it’s still refreshing to hear someone stand up against the clamors of students for printed lecture notes, Powerpoint presentations, and make-up exams based on flimsy excuses.

Aristotle said: “We educate ourselves so that we can make a noble use of our leisure.” The idea that education is for the mind and soul, for the whole person – the citizen, the parent, the voter, the reader, the lover, the traveller, the human being in the round – is lost to view in trying to make university education a mere continuation of school for the same sausage-machine purpose of churning out employees.

3.  The Sixth Wall has a list of “Twelve movies so bad they’re good.” Two of them star Sylvester Stallone.  Sadly, the only one I’ve seen is “Reefer Madness” (a staple for Sixties stoners), but I very much regret never having seen “Showgirls,” which appears on many worst-movie lists (other perennial dogs are “Gigli”and “Glitter”). If you want a comprehensive list of the worst 100 movies of the last decade, Rotten Tomatoes (my go-to site for movie guidance) has one.

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen? Or the best bad movie?  For the first I’d nominate “Popeye” with Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall (although she does look exactly like Olive Oyl), and for the best bad movie I’d go with “Reefer Madness.”

53 thoughts on “Three easy pieces

  1. What?? Popeye was a great film! Maybe you had to be a kid to enjoy it but I was & I did! 🙂 The only bad film I’ve seen with Robin Williams in was August Rush. That was awful.
    Best bad movie? Possibly The Expendables. Though I like a lot of ‘good bad’ movies so the line is a little blurry…

  2. Liked the Grayling article.

    I have to say that Over the Top, a movie about arm wrestling has to be the jackass movie idea of the 20th century.

    1. hahaha, when I was an undergrad at Berkeley, our hilarious humor magazine “The Heuristic Squelch” did a lot of lists in the margins and I can never forget this one:
      “Top ten movies about arm wrestling”
      7. Over the Top

  3. Blackford writes,

    “I do hope they’ll rethink this and change their approach to this issue. You can damage your own cause in many ways: in this case, accommodationism is only one way to throw your allies under the bus. Anti-accommodationists can do that, too.”

    It’s a little hard to take it seriously when Gnus make calls for solidarity. Attempting to turn allies into enemies, simply for not adhering to the harshest possible anti-religion line, is pretty much the defining feature of Gnu Atheism. Flexibility and acknowledging that there might be multiple reasonable points of view on religion and our reactions to it are pretty much treated as weaknesses rather than strengths.

    1. Attempting to turn allies into enemies, simply for not adhering to the harshest possible anti-religion line, is pretty much the defining feature of Gnu Atheism.

      That is pure crap. I can’t tell if you are just lying or if your comprehension is really that bad.

      You may well fool others that are predisposed to think as you do, but most people that are up to speed with these arguments, possessed with a reasonable level of reading comprehension, and able to be intellectually honest about this issue, will dismiss you as nuisance level noise.

      1. What? You do a lot of random pissing, but there is no information in your post. What the hell, Mr Darrell E, are you talking about?

        Darwin said evolution was driven by natural selection. That is Darwinian evolution. Anyone who tries to add something supernatural to explain it all away is guilty of a primary sin against science, lack of parsimony. Evolution science (Darwinian) works just fine without adding a bunch of supernatural stuff to make it easier for theists to understand. Sorry.

        1. I appreciate your attitude, but you may want to go back and reread both the post I was responding to and my post. Or am I the one missing something? Seemed pretty plain to me.

          I am not sure where you are coming from, but I was not discussing Darwin or evolution. I was talking smack to an apparent accommodationist troll who was in turn talking smack, inaccurate of course, about gnu atheists.

          How you got the idea that I am any kind of supernaturalist from my comment is just mind boggling.

      2. In the endless stream of strawgnus that Matzke spews forth without really thinking about it (because, really, who will entertain such ludicrous ideas about state of affairs except the already deluded) that was indeed a whopper.

        However, this is a repeat I think (but I can’t find the original claim now; it was a few weeks back I believe; help would be appreciated):

        the harshest possible anti-religion line

        Maybe the source is running dry?

        Btw, the “harshest possible anti-religion line” would be something like trying to prohibit freedom of religion and freedom of thought.

        That criticizing religion for being non-factual myth is taken as “harshest possible” doesn’t make it true, or right to do so. In fact, it is dickish to try.

      3. That is pure crap. I can’t tell if you are just lying or if your comprehension is really that bad.

        Yes, you’re absolutely right, it is.

        Nick has been posting this strawman on every even remotely related to atheism blog I have visited in the last 2 years.

        he’s been corrected on this innumerable times (at least dozens on this very forum), and yet repeats it as if nobody had ever said a word or ever posted a response.

        there are only two possibilities:

        -He is doing it intentionally, just for kicks.

        -He actually has some sort of psychological issue regarding the intersection of religion and science, and for some reason has decided to project his angst onto anti-accomodationists.

        either way, since he used to be on the NCSE staff, was instrumental at the Dover trial, and is now a grad student at Berkeley; these kinds of statements concern me much more than they would coming from some standard troll.

        Nick, you either need to stop this, or get help.


        it’s getting pathetic to watch.

        don’t become another JAD, please?

        1. either way, since he used to be on the NCSE staff, was instrumental at the Dover trial, and is now a grad student at Berkeley; these kinds of statements concern me much more than they would coming from some standard troll.

          Wow, I didn’t know his background. I fully agree with you. Much more disturbing coming from a person with such a background rather than a standard troll.

    2. The issue that divides gnus and accommodationists is the latters’ insistence that religion and science are compatible. Wildebeests note that they frequently are not, the existence of scientists who are religious notwithstanding.

      Wildebeests also do not accede to the ecumenical notion that religion is a way of knowing in any way comparable to the practical sort of knowledge afforded by science.

      Is this indeed the “harshest possible anti-religion line”?

      1. The issue that divides gnus and accommodationists is the latters’ insistence that religion and science are compatible.

        It remind me of the old Python “Argument Sketch”.

        one side is patiently explaining the details, the other responds with simple contradiction.

  4. Just off the top of my head. Worst movie I’ve seen? Titanic. I actually found the plot moving, but the dialogue was excruciating. Best movie (recently)? Other People’s Lives.

  5. I think it was called Rollerblade. It was about a futuristic street gang of rollerskating nuns (it was before the invention of actual rollerblades) armed with butterfly knives that had the power (the knives, not the nuns) to heal. The bad guy in the film was actually a hand puppet.
    At one point, they had rescued one of their own from another gang who had abducted her. She had been repetedly sexually abused by her captors, so she needed cleansing. At that point, their altar split in half to reveal what I dubbed the “jacuzzi of salvation” where they all stripped and washed her down.
    I’ve seen a lot of bad movies in my time. My friends and I had bad film weekends where we would compete to see who could find the worst. This one was the all time champ. It was horrendous.

  6. I’ve seen:

    Refer Madness (but fell asleep)

    The Last Dragon (and it was good in a very, very weird way…)

    Over the Top… Horrible movie, but there were not any options in the one-theater town I was in at the time…

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzi… That’s a classic. I love that movie and I have a copy of it on VHS.

    Death Race 2000… That was on TV I think… Fell asleep…

    They Live… I actually liked that. I mean, when you go to see a John Carpenter movie, you’re expecting certain things (none of which could in any way, shape or form remind you of, oh, Hamlet) and the movie delivered.

    Plan 9… That’s a cult movie. Saw part of it. Didn’t finish it. Never will.

  7. OK, Showgirls isn’t so bad it’s good. It’s just bad. But that’s the writing and directing. It’s a shame that it’s held against Elizabeth Berkley. It’s only her movie because it’s entirely about her character. Her acting (and singing, and dancing) is actually quite credible, and her time on screen makes it an impressive marathon performance. Don’t take that as a recommendation to watch the movie, though. It’s truly bad.

  8. I’ve been in a bad-movie club with some friends in the nineties, I’ve seen so much crap (properly vaccinated with beer of course) I can hardly remember it all. Guinea pig, Ilsa she-wolf of the SS, many many Troma productions, Ed Wood, you name it.

    One of the best bad films may well be Bad taste, Peter Jackson’s premiere, because in all its amateurishness you can see the enthusiasm of someone who might become a great director one day. That this came true is evidenced as we all know by his later magnum opus, Braindead.

    I also have a weak spot for Paul Verhoeven, whether he’s on course for an Oscar or a Razzie.

    1. “One of the best bad films may well be Bad [T]aste,”
      You can’t exactly call it “bad” because it knows very well it’s B-grade (or lower) and mocks its own cheapness. It also has quite a few in-jokes for New Zealanders.

      “you can see the enthusiasm of someone who might become a great director one day.”
      I can truthfully say that I said that before he did.

  9. Worst movie ever made in my opinion, “The Final Sacrifice”. But the best time I’ve ever had watching a movie (indirectly) was an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in which they did their schtick while watching “The Final Sacrifice.” Comedy gold! Apologies to my neighbors to the north.

  10. My favourite bad movie is “Timecop”

    It has Jean Claude VanDamme (who is a classic good/bad actor – tries so hard!), all the horrid fight cliches (like kickboxing sequences where the bad guys actually have guns, just chose not to use them), lots of fun posturing and sci fi cliches.

    My two favourite bits of the movie are when VanDamme goes to an alternate world and convinces someone to basically commit suicide because he (VanDamme) says that the buddy’s wife’s cooking is awful. Even better is when VanDamme goes back in time to stop assassins from killing his family through unarmed fighting (just as he tried and failed to do in the past).

    Plot twists, horrid dialogue, earnest (but terrible) acting, sci fi cliches and a decent budget all conspire to make this one hillariously bad skinkfest. A classic.

  11. Well, androgynous teen heart-throb Justin Beiber has a debut movie out, and knowing nothing else about it, I would place it in the “so bad it is BAD” category.

    The 12 year old girls who swoon over Beiber are the same ones whose mantra is “my god is an awesome god” or “Jesus is sooo cute.”

  12. Highlander 2 was so awful, so nonsensical, so contradictory to the first Highlander movie (which was good brain-dead action-movie fun) that it actually made the first one worse. Plus Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert are both in it, as they were with the first one. It gets my vote.

  13. Oh, hell, I have to chime in on the bad movies part.

    First off, I liked “Popeye” too – very well-done atmosphere. It was intended to be surreal, after all, and I really didn’t think anyone could get that close to the Olive Oyl character.

    Worst of the big budgets:

    “Godzilla” – ’90s version with Matthew Broderick. When you’re cheering for the ingenue to get eaten, it’s bad. They could have left out 2.4 seconds of special effects and hired a writer or three.

    “Starship Troopers” – I waited through half the movie for a plot, and the remainder for a reason to give a damn about the characters. Vapid.

    “Little Miss Sunshine” – The most recent to make me regret lost time. “Vacation” trying to be semi-serious.

    “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” – For an avid reader of The Destroyer series of tongue-in-cheek pulp books, this movie was a lesson in how-not-to-get-it.

    Meanwhile, I still do not understand why “1941” was panned so badly while stuff like “American Pie” gets twelve sequels.

    Best bad movie: “Company Man,” a hidden gem. Several extremely weak spots, but some golden character performances as well. It’s easy to see why the major actors want to bury this film, but Denis Leary and John Turturro were excellent.

  14. I was unfortunate enough to be on a plane (to Port Moresby of all places, but that’s not why it was unfortunate) when the Nicolas Cage movie ‘Knowing’.

    Afterwards, I hated myself for watching it through to the end. The horror.

  15. Worst? Norwood, with Glen Campbell and “Broadway Joe” Namath. Less than halfway through, my Dad fired up the Chevy Kingswood station wagon and drove us out of the drive-in theater, with not a single protest from his yawning spouse and four sleeping boys.

    Best bad movie? Eraserhead or Pi. (Disclaimer: My own personal reefer madness may have played a role in these selections…)

  16. The Barry Miles biography Zappa describes the collaboration between Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet — a.k.a. Captain Beefheart — on p. 247:

    Zappa and Beefheart got into some very esoteric collaboration while on tour, resulting in such songs as ‘Debra Kadabra’, which opens [the album] Bongo Fury and is a reference to an ill-timed trumpet line in Chano Uretra’s 1961 Mexican sci-fi movie The Brainiac. Zappa: Oh God, it’s one of the worst movies ever made; not only is the monster cheap, he’s got a rubber mask that you can see over the collar of the guy’s jacket and rubber gloves that don’t quite match up with the sleeves of his sport coat. When the monster appears there’s this trumpet lick that isn’t scary. It’s not even out of tune, it’s just exactly the wrong thing to put there, it doesn’t scare you… That’s what that song [‘Debra Kadabra’] is about and when you hear in the background DA-DA-DA-DA-DAAHH [overblown by Bruce Fowler on trombone], that’s making fun of that stupid trumpet line in that movie… When [Captain Beefheart]‘s saying “Make me grow Brainiac fingers [but with more hair!]“, that’s what he’s referring to, because Vliet and I have both seen that movie and it’s so fucking stupid.

    Craving to know how a handful of notes on trumpet can be so wrong, I bought a copy of The Brainiac on DVD (in the compilation DVD “Serial Chillers” with Doctor Blood’s Coffin and Fury of the Wolfman). But after playing the DVD (and knowing the rest of the biography), I realized my DVD is the American release with the American release music — but Zappa and Beefheart saw the original Mexican release with the Mexican release music. So yes, I’ve seen a bad, bad movie — but I have yet to hear the bad, bad music.

    1. Beefheart’s lyrics describe the monster:

      Turn it to channel 13
      and make me watch the rubber tongue when it comes out
      from the puffed and flabulent Mexican rubbergoods mask

  17. For “Worst Movie” am I allowed to simply nominate everything that has “SciFi/SyFy Original Movie” at the beginning?

    1. Ugh, yeah. In interviews they seem to be saying that they’re trying to make cheap, bad, schlocky films and shockingly enough they say there’s a good market for them.

      Personally I’m a bad movie snob – if everyone didn’t pour a lot of money into it and at least try to make a good movie only to have it all fail then it doesn’t count 🙂

  18. My sis and I used to seek out the best/worst slasher films we could find. Texas Chainsaw Massacre–ROFL. Chopping Mall?–ROFLMAO. Return of the Living Dead?– laughed so hard we nearly flatlined from lack of oxygen… (note: that’s a 1985 sequel/remake, *not* Romero’s original)

  19. My two worst movies ever, (1) Faceoff and (2) Reindeer Games.

    In Faceoff there’s a gun battle near the end and the little kid is caught in the crossfire. The scene proceeds in slow motion as the music plays “When you wish upon a star..” It was so incredibly stupid.

    In Reindeer Games I counted, i think it was 17 or 18 times that Ben Affleck had a gun pointed in his face (or some other deadly weapon), and somehow he managed to escape. It just stretched what was credibly possible too much… and the additional bad acting makes these two movies, in my opinion, the worst i’ve ever seen.

    1. A friend of mine Jamshied Sharifi worked on the Michael Gibbs soundtrack to John Woo’s last Hong Kong action movie Hard Boiled (1992). The movie ends with a frenzied shootout in a hospital lasting 30 minutes (!) climaxing in a maternity ward (!) with nurses scrambling to scoop up the babies between the flying bullets and glass. The violence is beautiful, horrific, and comical at the same time. Jamshied told me he had mixed feelings about working with the violence, but the absurd stylization made sense as a response to worry about Hong Kong’s future. Then John Woo came to Hollywood and directed Face/Off (1997) with a similar stylization, and I can’t imagine the absurdity of the stylization having such a meaning.

  20. Any movie by Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg (Disaster Movie, Meet the Spartans, Vampires Suck, etc.) is so tortuously bad that it should be on any list of Worst Movies of All Time.

    The Star Wars prequels are fucking atrocious. The Phantom Menace especially is just plain horrible.

  21. Worst movie: Manos: The hands of fate. So bad it’s horrible.

    Another terrible one (though infinitely more watchable than Manos) is Robot Monster. Any movie where the “robot” is a guy in a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet, and was seemingly made to show off a bubble machine makes it into the “So bad it’s good” category.

  22. A family favorite from my youth is Clifford. The one with Martin Short, not the big red dog. I actually don’t agree that this is a bad movie, but lots of critics assure me it is):

  23. As so-bad-it’s-good movies go, I’m stunned that nobody has mentioned Troll 2 yet.


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