The big topic of conversation around the AfterElton employee break room this week — other than snicks stinking up the microwave with his damn tuna melts — was: “What is your favorite guilty pleasure movie?”
Some of the responses we heard were surprising, giving a disturbing glimpse into
the twisted dark souls of some of our writers. Meanwhile, some responses (like, you know, mine) just
stand as excellent movie recommendations. We thought we’d round up all the various answers in this new feature we’re trying out called “AfterElton Trending Topics.”
But we don’t want to just hear from the AE writers. As you might have noticed, most of them are blowhards. In the comments, we’d love to hear from our readers too. What is the biggest guilty pleasure in your DVD collection?
From the staff…
OK, so this is going to date me fairly precisely, but if I’m flipping
through the channels and Heathers or Pump Up the Volume are on
cable, I’ll call into work sick. I guess I’m too ashamed to actually own
the things, but I’m completely powerless when faced with teenage angst
and destruction delivered by Christian Slater and Winona Ryder. It’s not
like I ever felt the need to murder my entire high school, but I always
felt like I would have been a more interesting person if I had. And woe
be it to anyone in my life for several days after I catch Heathers,
because I’ll just bust out those dated 1980s catchphrases at the weakest
Pump Up the Volume
I confess, I have a collector’s copy of The Room
, signed by triple threat Tommy Wiseau himself! He acts, he
writes, he directs! Though bless him, none competently.
In case you aren’t familiar, Wiseau is this generation’s Ed Wood and The
Room is an earnest masterpiece of insanely amateurish film making. Femme
fatale Lisa is cheating on boyfriend Johnny (played by Wiseau) with his best
friend Mark. Also, random people stand around tossing footballs in front of
greenscreen views of San Francisco.
Oh I love it so, but most sane people in my life really don’t understand why. Here’s a taste.
Death Becomes Her (1992) is one of those movies that on paper looked like it couldn’t miss. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis, this cautionary tale about vanity, envy and greed run amok, should have been comic gold. Alas, it turned out to be fool’s gold in many respects (Rotten Tomatoes has it at 53% fresh although it made $150 million worldwide) with a lot of bad writing and pacing that felt off. (Did I mention this was from the man who gave us Forrest Gump?)
And yet this is one of those movies that I find myself sucked into watching every time I run across it on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Perhaps it is the gay boy in me, unable to resist the pull of Streep and Hawn who give fun, campy performances that belong in a better movie. And how can you not love a movie where the two leads great each other with their “pet” names Mad and Hell, short for Madeleine and Helen. (Ironically, Willis, the movie’s male lead, is a total turn off for me, though his performance here is a tour de force compared to the rest of his oeuvre.)
The movie also some wonderful sight gags that make it endlessly fun to watch. Goldie Hawn with a huge hole blown right through her middle, prompting Meryl Streep to cackle, “I can see right through you!” Then there is Meryl readjusting her head after her neck is broken, as well as the final scene — Madeleine and Helen’s decapitated heads still bickering to the bitter end.
Yes, it’s not a very good movie, but somehow it manages to be fun to watch anyway. And I guess it says something that Zemeckis directed another of my favorite guilty pleasure movies — Romancing the Stone.
Death Becomes Her
As an admitted fan of cheesy, well-choreographed action
films that are based on an existing, nerdy property with a female protagonist
(among them Elektra and the Resident Evil series), I have a
particular weakness for the Dead
or Alive movie. Movies based on video games are, as a rule, not very
good, and I’d hardly call this one good per se. But something about the Charlie’s
Angels vibe, the hokey humor, and the chicks in bikinis punching each
other is, to me, entirely delightful.
Dead or Alive
Also, sorry guys…I liked the Avengers
movie. No, not the upcoming Joss Whedon
superhero epic. The one based on the 1960s British spy show. The one everyone
hated but me. What can I say? Sometimes you just need to watch Ralph Fiennes
beat dudes with an umbrella.
For some inexplicable reason, I’m a huge fan of movies that
involve journeys to the center of the earth, even though these movies are
almost always bad. I own The Core, Journey to the Center of the
Earth [1959 — with Pat Boone!],
to the Center of the Earth , which I actually think can’t really
be called “bad,” because it’s wholly aware of its fun, campy roots. I
think it’s a “perfect” popcorn movie!
Pat Boone and James Mason in Journey to the Center of the
I also own At the Earth’s Core and a couple of others, and I’ll stop to
watch films like The Cave and First Men in the Moon (which is
about journeying to the inside of the moon!), but I can’t call them guilty
pleasures, because they’re not pleasurable — they’re just really, really bad.
As for The Descent, it’s a good horror movie (the sequel is a mere
retread), but there aren’t enough stalactites for my taste. Or maybe it’s the
lack of giant mushrooms that leaves me unmoved … and no, I’m not making penis
Then again, maybe I am. It might explain a lot.
You people are wusses. You want guilty pleasure movies?
Oh yes, I went there. While the (*cough*) plot was something a third grader
would be embarrassed to turn in for homework and the acting was occasionally wince-worthy, I thought it did a good job of reflecting American Society at the
turn of the century and captured the poignancy of the tragedy. And Gloria Stuart was totally
I admit it, I’m a complete disaster-movie nut. Armageddon had everything I love — cheesy dialogue, impossible
science, high drama and sh*t blowing up. Plus, it was wonderfully blatant in its
emotional ploys and refreshingly honest about how bad it was.
Reich — Okay, this movie was so nonsensical it’s hard to even criticize
the plot. In fact, it was so bad that it had me laughing out loud. And I am still
tempted to get a, “The Revolution is My Boyfriend” tee shirt. Plus,
uh, some of the sex was hot. *coughs*
And, just to make snicks choke on
his corn flakes, I have to mention Charlie’s Angels. I think Cameron Diaz is adorable and I’ve had a crush on Drew Barrymore for about 20 years now. I
thought the Angels were fun characters and the dialogue was perfect for the
This is the reality: My cinematic guilty pleasure involves
two of the great passions of my life, beautiful women and awesome shoes. If it
had dogs in it, I’d probably have it playing 24/7 on gigantic screens in every
room in my house.
I’m speaking of The Devil Wears Prada. Now, this isn’t necessarily an
embarrassingly bad film. It stars Meryl
Streep and anything she’s in has at least some credibility. But the real
reason I watch this movie all the time is that I am a hopeless sucker for a
makeover flick, and this is pretty much the only one in which the heroine
becomes totally stunning and dumps the hero and the soul-killing, shallow,
high-powered job and goes to work for a serious newspaper.
It’s like I get to eat my cake (shoes, hot clothes, beautiful women, and
glamorous locales — PARIS!)
and eat it, too. By which I mean I don’t have to see said beautiful woman end
up with the guy, as if that was the point of the whole amazing transformation,
nor trapped in some corporate hell as she sacrifices everything she believes in
for success. Excuse me — I think it’s time for my “Prada” fix.
The deep dark secret of my DVD collection is a copy of Timecode
I’ve only watched a few times.
Chances are good you haven’t heard of Timecode,
so I’ll try to explain its premise. Timecode is a
movie that’s more concept than story. The screen is divided into four quadrants
where different yet simultaneous scenes are happening. Thus, on one screen you
might be watching Salma Hayek seduce
a movie producer to get a part while on another screen you’re watching Salma’s
girlfriend Jeanne Tripplehorn as she
spies on Salma and reacts to the realization that her girlfriend is cheating on
Sadly, there are only a few moments that are interesting in that way. For the
most part, Timecode is an exercise in
waiting for something interesting to happen.
Still, I can really get drawn into the storytelling concept and thinking about
how it might be used to tell a better story. You can always win me over by
trying to play with the rules of how you tell a story, even if you fail to tell
an engaging story. (Along those lines, I always like it when TV shows do their
version of Rashomon.) No matter how bad the story, I still walk away with
something interesting to consider and discuss.
I have proper guilty pleasure movies on my DVD shelf (the more I know about
Watergate the more I appreciate Dick; the shy boy who underestimates
himself and gets an incredibly hot boyfriend in Trick certainly pushed my
buttons; in many ways Xanadu was ahead of its time and I’m
inexplicably obsessed with Lilo & Stitch) but Timecode is the one that will leave me
momentarily speechless when you find that I own it.
This is super embarrassing, but I have a big soft
spot for the teen/high school movies from the late ’90s. I need to
qualify that by saying that I never watched these flicks when I was
actually in high school in the
late ’90s, because I thought I was too cool for school. But now, when I
look back at my ill-spent youth, I appreciate it anew through the movies
of that era. And oh, man, the cheesier and more ’90s the better. We’re
talking 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions, American Pie, Varsity Blues, Empire Records, Can’t Hardly Wait, She’s All That.
10 Things I Hate About You
I’m also a fan of the disturbed,
unemployed older brother of the ’90s high school flick, the ’90s Teen Slasher Movie, which of course began, of course, with Scream, went straight through Disturbing Behavior, and died a sad, sad death with Teaching Mrs. Tingle.
But I’m less ashamed about admitting that than I am about loving the
films with no brutal slaughter and carnage. Which says something about
our collective societal value system, don’t you think?
Well, this is tough, because what most people consider “guilty”
pleasures, I just consider … “pleasures.” (After all, I do own the
complete Pia Zadora collection and most Golan-Globus films from the
But here are a couple that i’ve never spoken about in public. Until now. Color
of Night – Hysterically over-the-top Bruce Willis thriller that became
famous for showing Bruce’s wang. Has one of the greatest theme songs of
I also will cop to enjoying Jade – another ridiculous thriller that killed actor David Caruso’s film career.
And finally, Skyscraper has Anna Nicole Smith playing a helicopter pilot. The rest is gravy!
Oh, you want bad, I’ll give you bad. Try Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This movie is stuffed to the gills with so much melodrama,
awful music (it’s almost brilliant how bad it is), incorrectness (political,
sexual, hygienic — you name it, it’s just not right) that if one
were to accidentally take any of it seriously, the offense level
would be through the roof about a half an hour into it. But then again,
how could anyone take it seriously. Oh, it’s bad. So bad, yet it’s hysterical
and hypnotic. And that’s before it turns into a horror movie in the last half-hour.
It’s worth noting that the movie was directed
by B-Movie master Russ Meyers.
It’s worth noting even more that it was written by film critic Roger “Freakin'” Ebert.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Look, I know, OK? I know. But I’m going to say it anyway: Amanda Bynes and Mandy Moore movies. What a Girl Wants, She’s
the Man, Chasing Liberty, that one where Mandy Moore and Diane Keaton run around in circles
while Lorelai Gilmore tries to be the voice of reason. I mean, Chasing Liberty and What a Girl Wants are essentially the exact same movie: Teenage
girl traipses around Europe trying to get her
father’s attention and lose her virginity, back-to-back hijinks at panoramic
locations that are nowhere near each other on a map, girl finds herself,
father delivers cute boy into girl’s suddenly-self-aware arms. I
mean, good Lord. I’m a lesbian for Firth’s sake. Yes, see, the added bonus of
watching What a Girl Wants is Colin Firth spends a full 45 seconds
dancing around in leather pants.
What a Girl Wants
I remember once hearing my grandparents having a
conversation about how disgusted they were by a particularly gruesome scene in
a movie that they contemplated walking out.
To me, that sounded like the kind of movie I wanted to see.
So I filed away the movie’s name, and when it eventually showed up on cable, I
made sure to watch it.
You might be thinking it was some sort of slasher gore-fest.
But the movie, surprisingly, was a singing, dancing musical, complete with
pelvic thrusts and jazz hands …
I’m talking, of course, about All That Jazz.
The grotesque scene that so horrified my grandparents was
the graphically depicted open heart surgery that comes near the film’s
conclusion. But it was just one of many touches that showed me — a burgeoning
theater queen raised on family-friendly shows like Annie and Barnum — how dark and twisted a musical could actually be. Not to mention sexy, with
its simulated orgy (and multiple same-sex groupings) expressed through
Fosse-esque choreography. And jaw-droppingly incomprehensible, in a totally
awesome, psychedelic way.
Death, it appeared, was nothing more than a planetarium
laser-show, with furnishings provided by Spencer gifts, and hosted by limber
leotarded assistants on loan from an elementary school’s Mr. Slim Goodbody assembly.
All That Jazz
It had all that, plus the chick from King
Kong, and an ending that would out I-see-dead-people The Sixth Sense by two decades.
For me, it was love at first sight,
sparking a particular fondness for those musicals brave enough to go the route
of “mature content.” Meaning nudity.
Case in point … another one of my
guilty pleasure movies, The Best
Little Whorehouse in Texas, featuring a bare-assed locker-room hoe-down
with a bunch of chorus boys happily singing about how they can’t wait to go to
the chicken ranch and get laid. From the looks of them, I have no doubt they’re
going to get laid, just not by any chicks.
Little Whorehouse in Texas
For some reason, All That Jazz
didn’t become available on DVD until fairly recently. But now it’s a cherished
part of my DVD collection that I’m happy to spring on unsuspecting guests who
make the mistake of saying, “I’ll watch anything … you choose.”
That’s when I Razzle Dazzle ’em.