Now and then over the last year, I’ve seen fellow film writers declare a film they just watched as “the worst”. For me, this goes beyond calling it “bad”, “really bad”, or even “terrible”. It projects a certain deafness, a certain absence of craft, an experience in torture unlikely to be repeated. In short, I don’t think my fellow writers really mean to speak in such hyperbole, because in the grand scheme of things, the movie couldn’t have been as bad as…say…ISHTAR…or SPICE WORLD.

I say this because this week, I watched ISHTAR…and SPICE WORLD…for the first time. Back-to-back.

Without getting too far into the specifics, I spent part of the holiday weekend with a friend who likes to show his Thanksgiving guests movies built around a theme, and the theme this year was music.

ISHTAR has long been a whipping boy for cinematic failure. One could say it was the JOHN CARTER of it’s day…only worse, because it actually came with a lot more pedigree than JOHN CARTER. In ISHTAR, we have Warren Beatty in his first film since REDS, and we have Dustin Hoffman in his first film since TOOTSIE. We have something that was marketed to the hilt, that actually failed to recoup its budget at the box office (unlike CARTER). It was also an example of a studio actually decrying its own product and sabotaging its chances.

Know what gang? Every bit of its failure is well-deserved. I could see how the movie wanted to be a Bing & Bob “Road to Morrocco”-esque romp, but it never gets there. Hoffman and Beatty have no chemistry together, helped in no small part with both playing against type. The songs are bad, but not “so-bad-they’re good”. The plot is inane and never once is this supposed “comedy” funny. Heaven knows, I like to look at picked-upon films and declare that they aren’t, in-fact, “that bad”. But ISHTAR is. How it ever got released in this state boggles the mind, except perhaps that by the time someone realized the problem, it was too late to go back.

You may eventually come across a think piece entitled “In Defense of ISHTAR”. Whoever writes it is wrong.

Now as if ISHTAR didn’t leave a deep enough bruise, its awfulness was followed by the awfulness that is SPICE WORLD.

SPICE WORLD – in case you’ve forgotten – is the vanity project for The Spice Girls, released at the peak of their fame. The “plot” is the misadventures the girls get into in the run-up to their first major concert at The Royal Albert Hall.

Now, in fairness, it doesn’t seem right to wail on SPICE WORLD for being a failure of filmmaking since its intentions are really to wrap the pop stars in a narrative and use it to sell them to their fans in just one more medium. However, hours before watching SPICE WORLD, I watched A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. What’s more, earlier this year, I watched JAILHOUSE ROCK. Now, neither one of these films are exactly what I’d call beacons of cinema, but outside of their starring idols, they are at least decent watches for the uninitiated.

That’s what I’ll never understand about films like SPICE WORLD, CROSSROADS, FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY, or even concert films like NEVER SAY NEVER. Why leave money on the table? Why not try just that little bit harder and try to pull in moviegoers beyond your fan base? I’m sure there are hundreds of scripts sitting around Hollywood about up-and-coming bands and singers. Dust one off and cast your pop idol.

So suffice it to say, I wasn’t impressed. Call me “Grumpy Spice”. The next time someone tries to convince me that a movie is “awful”, this is going to be my benchmark. “Awful” awful, or “ISHTAR and SPICE WORLD on one day” awful?


Here’s The Week at Hand…


MOMMY – My country’s submission for Best Foreign Film. I approve.
THE TRIP TO ITALY – I was one of two people in the cinema laughing at this, and there were plenty of us watching.

Blu-Rays/DVD’s I’ve Never Seen
ISHTAR- Believe the hype.
SPICE WORLD – No really, believe the hype.
SWING TIME – It all goes so well, until Fred Astaire does a number in blackface.
JOURNEY TO ITALY – Know what made a great follow-up to my screening of THE TRIP?

Blu-Rays/DVD’s I’ve Seen Before
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT – It’s like the anti-SPICE WORLD
HEAD – Absurdist awesomeness with The Monkees.
THE MUPPET MOVIE – This movie will never not make me grin like an idiot
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCHLindsay wants to revisit New York to see the new staging, I’m tempted to go with her.
SNATCH – How messed-up is it that I can understand most of what Pitt is saying?
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE – There won’t be a PTA bender in December, there will just be isolated watches between now and then.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVEGuess what blu-ray I got for my anniversary?

Boxscore for The Year
228 First-Timers, 163 Re-Watched
84 Screenings
391 Movies in Total

How’s about you – seen anything good?