400 Screens, 400 Blows is a weekly column that takes an in-depth look at the films playing below the radar, beneath the top ten, and on 400 screens or less.


Lately I've been dreaming of a TV show I'd like to see. Ever since Roger Ebert hired Richard Roeper to be the permanent replacement on his review show, I've dreamed of something a bit edgier and funnier -- you know, like when Ebert used to fight with Gene Siskel. Now the network suits have made things even worse with the two idiots they have on now (I mean, really! Could they be any worse?). Here's my idea: Joe Bob Briggs and John Waters. That's a show I would pay to see each week!

For the uninitiated, Joe Bob Briggs was the world's first and only "drive-in movie critic." He was nationally syndicated from the early 1980s to the late 1990s and he reviewed horror and trash movies, rating them based on gallons of blood, number of "nekkid breasts" and so forth. (His favorite movie is the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.) John Waters, of course, is the director of such films as Pink Flamingos (1971), Hairspray (1988) and Cry-Baby (1990), but he is a big movie fan and occasionally writes about movies for magazines like ArtForum. (His favorite movie is Joseph Losey's Boom!) To put it mildly, they each have a slightly off-kilter view of movies that generally has nothing to do with hype; they tend to see through the B.S.




What I would give to see them review Gran Torino (363 screens)! I'm pretty sure Joe Bob would like it (he has given Clint Eastwood good marks in the past), but would it be too macho for Waters, whose tastes tend to run more to melodrama and camp? And, oh, to hear Waters rip apart something like Bride Wars (143 screens) or He's Just Not That Into You (261 screens) with their phony, annoying characters. (Or, on the other hand, maybe he could find something to like in those terrible, bitchy movies.) Would either of them have anything nice to say about The Reader (232 screens)? Or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (213 screens)? Certainly they both would be enthusiastic about The Wrestler (107 screens) and Let the Right One In (3 screens), but would they see the soulful humanism in Goodbye Solo (5 screens)? I want to know!

They might even devote an entire show to a movie like Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (69 screens), which is so bad that it deserves to be classified as an "event movie." How often does one get to witness one of the single worst screen performances of all time, as we do with Chris Klein? But most of all, we could use their voices of reason on dull, calculating stuff like Defiance (52 screens), Everlasting Moments (25 screens), Paris 36 (7 screens) and I've Loved You So Long (6 screens) -- movies that tend to fool the majority of mainstream critics based on packaging and hype rather than artistry or personality. Waters and Briggs would slice through and deflate all the parade floats, trash the fake characters, sneer at the hype and find the basic, human, flesh-and-blood essence of movies that really matters. So when can they start?
CATEGORIES Columns, Cinematical