I’ve always liked movies that lots of people consider “bad.” Some of my very favorites in this category include Robot Monster, Troll 2, Teenagers from Outer Space, Godzilla Vs Megalon, and, of course, the immortal classic Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Although the general public considers these movies to be awful, I actually think they’re all works of genius. I’m not kidding. There are tons of truly bad movies out there, movies that make me feel like I’ve wasted precious hours of my life watching them. They’re movies without a soul, without any reason for being, movies that are just ground out to fulfill a need for product.
The “bad” movies I enjoy are not like that. Robot Monster attempts to make a very heartfelt statement about what it means to be human. Troll 2 is trying hard to tell us something but it’s anyone’s guess as to what that is. Teenagers from Outer Space appears to be an allegory about being different from society. Godzilla Vs Megalon is twisted and fun. And Plan 9 is just pure genius from start to finish, no matter what anyone may tell you to the contrary.
Tommy Wiseau’s movie The Room is getting a lot of attention now that James Franco’s film about the making of it, The Disaster Artist, won a Golden Globe. I first saw The Room maybe a year and a half ago. I’d been hearing about The Room ever since I moved to LA in 2004 and saw the giant billboard for it looming over Hollywood. People told me it was the new Rocky Horror Picture Show, with midnight screenings that attracted a similar level of wild audience participation. I put it on my to-do list to attend one of those, but never got around to it. Much later, when I found the DVD at a local Goodwill store, I bought it and took it home.
It was every bit as great as I’d heard it was. It’s not outlandish the way Plan 9 or most of the other films I cited earlier are. Superficially it’s a love triangle story set in San Francisco with no robots, or trolls, or Martian teenagers, and no giant cockroach monsters, or plans from outer space. But it’s just as bizarre as those films, nonetheless.
Rather than being a trip to the outer reaches of space, The Room is a journey into the mind of its writer / director / producer / star Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau is a deeply weird person. And I mean that as a compliment. He has a totally unique way of seeing life and he succeeded brilliantly in capturing that on film.
After seeing the film The Disaster Artist, I read the book it’s based on. The movie is great, but the book is even better. In both the movie and the book, we see all kinds of people trying to tell Tommy Wiseau how to make his film in what they consider to be the “right way.” He ignores them all.
Wiseau was right to ignore them. Because if he’d listened to those people, The Room would have been ordinary and boring. As it turns out, it is never ordinary, and, rather than being boring, it’s riveting.
In a way, I feel like The Room is a Buddhist movie. I don’t mean that it has a Buddhist message. Its characters are often sexist and generally kind of awful to each other.
Rather, the film itself is sort of a koan; you know it’s saying something, but it’s not altogether clear what that something is. It contradicts itself all over the place, much like Dogen’s writings do. It shows you life, as it honestly appears to Tommy Wiseau. The film is deeply weird, but it’s also endearingly sincere.
Also, Wiseau’s way of dealing with the way his film was seen by others strikes me as very realistic. I’m not sure what he thought the first time he heard people laughing at his attempt to make a heartbreaking drama in the style of Tennessee Williams. But he very quickly learned to live with and even love what his film became. When life didn’t go the way that he wanted or planned, he didn’t reject reality, he embraced it and made something of it. That, to me, is really admirable.
Usually when a movie wins an award, that means it’s worthless. Yet somehow The Disaster Artist won a Golden Globe and it’s actually really good.
But if you call the movie it’s based on, The Room, a bad movie you’re missing something great.
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