Volume 16, Number 21
March 16, 2010

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Damla OkayGood Film, Bad Film

Meet Ed Wood: Hollywood producer, director, writer and actor of the 1950s, who never has anything more than a few ten thousands to shoot movies in a week or so. He has been called many names, he often  find anyone to invest, and his films are considered simply “the worst of all time.” Among his works are Glen or Glenda (1953), which focuses on the turning point of a transvestite starring himself; and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1956), a combination of horror and sci-fi genres with flying saucers. His favorite actor to collaborate with is Bela Lugosi, the Dracula of the 1930s, also a transvestite.

Meet young Tim Burton: It's 1994, he's in his thirties, and he has already made a couple of famous  films: Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990). His works are promising, critically acclaimed, well-received by audiences. They are produced with and make a lot of money. His favorite actor to collaborate with is Johnny Depp, a real Hollywood star in bloom, and... well, he genuinely admires Ed Wood, so much that he makes a biopic of the filmmaker: Ed Wood (1994) starring Johnny Depp as the lead character.

But how so? How can this director of good films appreciate  that inapt, dysfunctional filmmaker?

The answer to this question lies in trash aesthetics. Those who are at least familiar with Pierre Bourdieu would immediately also remember the sociological concept of “taste,” one's system of choices and preferences that were acquired via his socioeconomic and cultural background and his “habitus.” Contrary to “taste,” which is obviously supposed to be good originally, there is also “bad taste.”

We consider, from our positions for example, a morning show with family scandals or the infamous Turkish film Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam to belong to the bad taste category. Cheaply and sloppily produced, these programs/films do not give us anything at all, except critical thinking about the whole context that they are produced in, and fun, which both come with the high position that we stand on. So, one way of admiring bad taste is your own understanding of irony and desire to find meaning in those ignored and despised cultural products.

The issue of bad taste is quite a complicated one that I would like to mention once again. Now, as space permits, I'll only move on to how to, at least superficially, distinguish between a good film and a bad film. One linguistic solution to overcome such problems would be properly differentiating between a “movie” and a “film,” even in daily talk. For most people, these two words have no difference from each other; the former is thought to be the more Americanized way of calling the latter. Directors, critics, scholars and, of course, audiences use the words alike, and sometimes use movie even more because the word is easier to say in the dynamics of a sentence.

Some others, like me, though, think that movie stands for a worse (or, honestly, less intellectual) kind of moving image, while film would be used to define a product of higher artistic capability both technically and by its content. To give an example, I could say that the pictures about our own national hero, Recep İvedik, or the works of Ed Wood are movies. In comparison, Tim Burton could be said to be making films. However, this is where the bluriness of this term starts, as one might find Burton's works shallow and call them movies, when comparing them to specimens of European art cinema. And as far as I have seen, perhaps in consideration of such reasons, this difference is not spoken aloud in academia. Therefore, I can say that at least I use these blurry, slippery terms so as to at least make it clear where I stand when a film is concerned.


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