Moviegoers are always talking about films or directors that do not get the respect they deserve. Brilliant films are slighted at the Oscars, while tripe and offal is honoured.Everyone sees the mass-produced Hollywood trash; nobody sees the hidden, low-budget, indie, foreign gems.
When Adam Sandler’s new film Pixels opened a few weeks ago, both the critics and the public jumped all over it. It was stupid. It was trash. It was Sandler’s fourth bomb in a row. It was pathetic. But there is a key point to bear in mind here: Pixels may have been a flop, but it was a high-profile flop.
The point is that big-budget bad films such as Pixels get released theatrically, they get reviewed, they get at least a one-week run in cinemas.They are mocked and ridiculed, and then, and only then, do they disappear.
Once upon a time, just about every movie was released commercially, and spent a full week in cinemas. If it was awful, it was savaged by critics, mocked by talkshow hosts, and ridiculed by the public. Awful movies became a key feature of the public lingua franca, with everyone trading wisecracks about films they would never actually see. Be that as it may, people knew of their existence. Now, however, these films are rarely released theatrically. Such movies never stir up any real public conversation. Only hardcore aficionados of bad films ever get to see them.
Movies are something that we all share. We can joke about movies in a way we cannot joke about other subjects because we have nothing personally invested in the films themselves. Moreover, many of us love bad films. But a bad film that no one sees is like a tree that falls in a forest that no one knows about. This is a tragedy.
This is just not fair. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: if the movie-going public can’t treat its terrible movies any more disrespectfully than this, it doesn’t deserve to have any.