So Bad It’s So Good That Maybe It’s Still Bad

Plus: The Lovebirds, Movies We Missed, and What’s Making Us Happy

by Linda Holmes
Welcome! It was the week we learned they were actually releasing some kind of a Snyder cut, because … sure, okay. It was the week we learned John Krasinski was done with Some Good News, but it will survive in some other form. (With, of course, lots of complaining about how — gasp — money might be involved!) And it was the week when the new Christopher Nolan trailer hit, amid much speculation about when it might see the inside of a theater that actually contains a lot of people. Let’s get to it.

Opening Argument: So Bad It’s So Good That Maybe It’s Still Bad

I watched a documentary this week called You Don’t Nomi, which is about Showgirls. More specifically, it’s about reexamining the reputation of Showgirls, directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas and released in 1995. The documentary screened at festivals last year and will be available on demand in June.

I have some quibbles with the way it’s made: it’s basically all narration over movie footage (from Showgirls and other films) and photos; it doesn’t appear anything was actually shot for the documentary. But the narration is a series of interviews that flit from person to person, and while captions on the screen tell you who’s talking, I found it very hard to keep up with who was who among the commentators without anything visual. The treatments of misogyny and racism as regards both the film and the shoot are a little rushed; both are touched on, but neither is really explored.

But it’s definitely an interesting piece; it examines how Showgirls was both scolded and buzzed about because of its explicit sex, how it was also derided as a terrible film, and how it gradually has worked its way through a kind of cult phase into what’s now a pretty wide base of support for it as a camp classic, beloved in drag performances and celebrated at midnight showings. I like the lines that the various commentators draw between Showgirls and other films, particularly Mommie Dearest and Valley Of The Dolls. There’s good and chewy material about whether critics gave the movie a chance at the time, even though I’m not persuaded by some of the arguments that the reviews were unfair as opposed to kind of irrelevant.

What surprised me the most was the sense throughout the film that this reexamination is specific to Showgirls, when in fact, people have wrestled for years with ideas about good and bad, camp and trash. Pauline Kael’s “Trash, Art, And The Movies” is a foundational document about all this specifically because this entire phenomenon long predated Showgirls and will continue to happen to film after film, book after book, album after album. (Mariah Carey just announced today, as I write this, that the Glitter album is finally coming to streaming.) 

I don’t have an opinion about Showgirls, which I don’t think I’ve ever watched all the way through, even though I feel (especially now) like I’ve seen so much of it that it hardly matters. The clips in the documentary certainly make it look ridiculous. But there’s something reassuring about this cycle, about the way people instinctively want to give things a second chance. It almost doesn’t matter whether Showgirls is any better than its reputation. It has a home, because people gave it a home.

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We Recommend:

Friend of the show Kumail Nanjiani and fave of the show Issa Rae have a new movie out on Netflix called The Lovebirds. I’m extremely excited to sit down with it.

ESPN very much would like to keep the momentum it built with the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance, so they’ve moved up some of their upcoming documentaries. The first, called Lance, is about Lance Armstrong, who sat for long and searching interviews. It starts Sunday night, and I liked it a lot.

Tre’vell Anderson, the writer and co-host of the wonderful podcast Fanti, had a great piece this week about Andre Leon Talley. Highly recommended.

Have you ever wanted 400 suggestions about how to use rhubarb? Have I got good news for you.

What We Did This Week:

Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae star in The Photograph, written and directed by Stella Meghie.
Emily Aragones/Universal Pictures
Our Wednesday show brought Margaret Willison into the studio to chat with Stephen and Glen about the Hulu series The Great

On our Friday show, we each picked a recent movie that we missed on its first go-round. 

Stephen talked about Jason Molina’s upcoming posthumous release. He also appeared over on New Music Friday.

What’s Making Us Happy

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
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