Welcome to the next CHUD List.
tackled our our disappointments, our essentials list and slowly exhumed
our Kills List from 2003, and now that we’ve begun the beguine, we must
The CHUD.com Top 50 Guilty Pleasures.
all got those little flicks that we know are wrong, but feel so right.
And after our preceding list of disappointment, we decided to cleanse
the palate by honoring our favorite guilty pleasures. These are films
that are flawed and often completely indefensible, but we can’t help but
love them anyway. As before, from a master list of over 100, the
involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and Nick) all killed
off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we’ll run a big list
at the end of this of the ‘ones that got away’. So, here are the Top 50
Guilty Pleasures. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no
Highlander II: The Quickening
(1991, Dir. Russell Mulcahy)
Why It’s a Guilty Pleasure: This is more an obsession than a pleasure. Highlander, that’s almost a guilty pleasure. So dumb, so much fun, but slightly too well made to qualify. Highlander 2 makes it look like lost footage from The Magnificent Ambersons. The original cut verges on incomprehensible and is a total retcon of the cult-fave universe, to boot.
At the time, the film’s shameless topical plotting made me cringe, but now it’s great fun. McLeod as the man behind an ozone shield? Wonderful! That the shield has made most of Earth look like LA in Blade Runner? Even better! Add hoverboards, gratuitous priests and Michael Ironside’s best wig and you’ve got a winning formula. That Mulcahy and a bunch of investors got Lambert to return and Virginia Madsen to appear isn’t much of a surprise, but I’m continually shocked and amused to see Connery back in action. Ramirez’s scenes without McLeod are comedy gold.
For a relatively cheap film, Mulcahy created something that often looks fantastic. Yeah, it walks off with looks from Blade Runner, Moonraker, The Black Hole and a bunch of other films like a crackhead with your TV, and is even comfortable blatantly reusing sets from the same angle for different shots. But the opening opera exterior is great, and much of the film earns a well deserved grin, visually at least. Lines like “exiled to the Future!” and “it’s a fish. Fish live in the lake” earn a different sort of grin.
And it doesn’t stop there. At this point there are no fewer than four and a half versions of the film, each relatively distinct from one another. There’s the original, truncated theatrical cut, in which McLeod and Ramirez are revealed as aliens from the planet Zeist, which I always thought was the Polish version of Sprite. Then there is director Mulcahy’s ‘Renegade’ cut, which re-orders scenes and snips the alien bullshit to restore the original film’s mythology, at the not terribly important expense of cohesion. Producers William Panzer and Peter Davis made their own ‘Special Edition’ cut, which basically adds new CGI, with a few other scene changes. Finally, there are two bootleg cuts (I haven’t seen either) which reportedly reinstate the Zeist plot/history while keeping the new scenes, sequence and (in one cut) effects introduced in the other two versions.
In 1991, who would have predicted that The Quickening would inspire so much post-production work? Not even Mulcahy. You can spend an entire weekend digesting the various permutations of this movie and on Sunday night you’ll be worse off than if you’d dedicated the same 48 hours to a bender with meth and the tranny bouncer down at the local drag club. At least it’s safer, if only barely.
Signature Moment: McLeod’s first big fight: the ersatz battle with two assassins who look like Hawkman on his way to a Micronauts convention. The sequence has everything wrong/right with the film: dumb toungue-wagging villains, over the top set destrucion, Lambert’s terrible old man makeup and voice, and a quickening that’s bigger and more destructive than ever, leading to a rebirth by fire. Nothing wrong with the train decapitation, though.
What It’s Missing: A personality of it’s own. Instead of the traditional sequel cop of tone and character, Highlander 2 goes whole hog and appropriates lines and scenes from the original film. The Kurgen stuck out his tongue to winning effect, so two guys doing the same should be double the fun! Lines like ‘it’s a kind of magic’ don’t work as well without the operatic underpinning of Queen’s songwriting (though a jukebox jokingly recalls the band) and Lambert and Connery seem unnaturally weighted down by their characters even before they have to cough out the same dialogue all over again, making the several versions of this film into a recursive fanfic take on the original.
My Personal Connection to It: I was enthusiastically in line for the film’s first local showing when I was in college. At the time I was willing to ignore deficiencies in movies like Highlander, and actually expected something out of the sequel. It was one of the most disappointing and mind-blowing theater experiences I’d had up to that point, and the film has remained a fascinating touchstone, like that thing they took out of my kidney one time, ever since.
Watch It With: People who can’t distinguish the past that’s in their head from the one that really happened.
– Russ Fischer
Belly (1998, Dir. Hype Williams)
It’s a Guilty Pleasure: Never
in the history of urban filmmaking has so much ambition resulted in such
meager, yet still entertaining returns. I mean, we’re used to cheap, quickie
crap churned out by people just looking to make a quick buck (I’m looking at
you, Who’s Your Caddy?) and/or decent, but middling yawners from
modestly-talented auteurs with good intentions (paging Antoine Fuqua…). But
for one brief shining moment in 1998, it looked like Hype (Irony Alert)
Williams was going to step his game up from his glossy video past into a future
as one of the rare visionary black filmmakers working with major studios and
actually arrived, and we had to settle for a different sort of greatness – the
midnight movie sort. Not since Showgirls has a slickly-made,
visually-stunning film been so utterly, fabulously clueless as to how campy,
overdone, and silly it truly is. The plot – such as it is – involves a couple
of rap-tors (DMX, Nas) trying (and failing) to play actual characters – in this
case, a diverse crew of street hustlers. Nas’
Robert DeNiro Sincere is
the one with a modicum of conscience and a vision for a better, less illegal
day. He’s also the family man, and his wife (T-Boz) keeps his soul from
disappearing altogether. DMX’s
Joe Pesci Tommy is his psychopathic
mirror opposite. Oh, right…I promised to say something about the plot.
There isn’t one. It’s more or less a collection of random bits kept afloat by
Malik Hassan Sayeed’s gorgeous cinematography (which particularly shines in the
film’s detour away from America
to the slums of Jamaica.
Along the way, key scenes from countless crime flicks are
referenced, capped by a blatant Scarface rip in which a
mush-mouthed Jamaican crime-lord singlehandedly defends his mega-mansion from
an onslaught of criminal invaders (with the help of a big ass gun) only to
catch it from behind from a cool-looking, but ill-defined female assassin.
Don’t think I’m slagging it off completely, tho. The randomness of the film,
coupled with the bad acting, and legitimately great visuals makes this an
entertaining misfire of the highest order. A couple of the films we’ve shouted
out have inspired cries of protest because they’re too good to be considered
“guilty pleasures.” No danger of that here, folks. Belly
does suck beyond even a shadow of a doubt, but you have to love it anyway. And
you have to give Hype credit…he at least failed like a champ.
film’s opening credits have it by a mile. Set to acapella Soul II Soul, our
heroes make their way to a score through a swanky nightclub in gratuitous
slo-mo wearing bizarre, black light contact lenses. Why? Who cares! It looks
cool. That’s pretty much the film in a nutshell.
What It’s Missing: Narrative. Decent acting. A point?
My Personal Connection to It: I remember talking with friends about how
excited we were for a visual stylist (which is sadly rare amongst black
filmmakers) to get a turn at bat with a major motion picture, and after we all
checked it out opening weekend…I think we got together and openly sobbed
while Busta Rhymes “Woo-Haa (Got You All In Check)” video played in
Watch It With: Hennessey. After all, it was ‘Pac’s role model…
– Micah Robinson