blogiversary, Collaborative Blogging

A Short History of Films I Never Would Have Watched Without the Blog Collab

While I consider myself an open-minded person, I am very much a creature of habit. For this reason, I’ve accepted I will never actually watch Ben-Hur or The Tree of Life or The Human Centipede (it’s difficult to decide which of these films would be most torturous to watch). But keeping the Blog Collab going for 5 years means I’ve watched my share of films I’d never in a million years choose myself, whether they fall outside of my usual genre or off my radar. Whether I’ve expected to or not, I’ve ended up enjoying many of the films I’ve been less than thrilled to watch.

So let’s take some time to appreciate a few films–good and bad–that I never would have watched without the Blog Collab and enjoy the times we manage to step ever so slightly outside of our comfort zone.

Appropriate Behavior

The Premise: A young Persian American woman deals with the aftermath of a breakup and loss of her job while keeping that she’s bisexual a secret from her family.

I may have never discovered the work of Desiree Akhavan without the Collab, and what a damn shame that would be. Or perhaps I would have, as she’s gone on to work on films like The Miseducation of Cameron Post. One thing’s for sure: I’m glad we watched this offbeat comedy together, with its dry wit that brought us such memorable lines as “I’m looking for the grown-up underwear of a woman in charge of her sexuality and not afraid of change.”

Bar Bahar (In Between)

Three women stand outside on a balcony at night, drinks in their hands, the lights of Tel Aviv behind them.

The Premise: 3 Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv attempt to navigate the forces of tradition and modernity on their lives and future plans.

Like so many of my favorite films on the Blog Collab, this tale of unlikely friendship focuses on feminism and women supporting each other through harrowing challenges. The women in this film learn to love each other as they realize the divisions between them are largely artificial. Even though this broke my fucking heart, I’d do it all over again.

Black Christmas

The Premise: An unknown creep stalks and murders the members of a sorority house during Christmas in the 1970s. And it reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally looks like the ‘70s.

GLASS. UNICORN. MURDER. Those are the only words that matter to me in connection with this film. Everything else about this “classic” horror film is largely forgettable (except for, of course, the strong ’70s vibe), but the inventive murders really steal the spotlight here.

Bright

The Premise: Two members of the LAPD–one orc, one Will Smith–team up to prevent the prophesied return of the generic medieval fantasy-type dark wizard.

Considering how much Christa and I loved Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, we expected the bonkers premise of this film to come together into a story so bizarre it somehow worked. However, much like writer Max Landis himself, Bright turned out to be horrible and disappointing. Rather than an imaginative twist on the buddy-cop drama, this film was a boring police procedural with fairies thrown in, but I wear the experience of watching this like a badge of honor.

Divines

The Premise: Teens in Paris are determined to make money by any means possible to escape their tough neighborhood and family dysfunction.

Sometimes I need a push to watch a serious drama, especially when living in our world from day to day feels dramatic enough. However, I never regret a compelling drama that brings me outside of my everyday routine and gives me the perspective of a character whose life is so different from mine. The tough but determined teens in this film share a beautiful but heartbreaking friendship that made me ugly cry. No regrets, though.

Hellraiser IV

Pinhead, a demon wearing all-leather and with pins sticking out of his face and skull, looms above the camera, looking down.

The Premise: Pinhead returns (again) in past, present, and future timelines to end the bloodline that created the original demon Rubik’s cube.

I would have missed out on some quality(?) Hellraiser sequels if we hadn’t decided to sit down and enjoy the questionable (but actually quite perfect) Hellraiser/Ewan McGregor theme of our own invention. That includes this gem, which plays with timelines in a very confusing manner, but does give us an unexpected Pinhead appearance in 18th century France. You know I love a period drama, so combining Hellraiser and the French Revolution can only ever yield positive results in my opinion.

Holy Camp!

The Premise: Teen bffs at a religious summer camp must contend with secret parties, the crushing of their dreams, visits from an unexpectedly glittery God, and attractive nuns.

Teens at summer camp coming of age, realizations about budding sexuality, Whitney Houston songs sung by a rather campy God…this film should not work. Its premise is completely insane and has the potential to devolve into a sickly sweet after-school special. However, the humanity of its characters–teens, nuns, novices, God–turns a mish-mash of cliches into a fun and genuinely moving story that affirms love in all of its forms.

Lovestruck the Musical

The Premise: A successful choreographer becomes young again (not just in spirit) and tries to sabotage her daughter’s wedding.

I have watched more horrible made-for-tv rom-coms in the past 5 years than I have in my entire fucking life, I swear. I try not to dismiss entire film genres (especially as B-movies are so much fun to watch), but I admit that I frequently throw shade at these Hallmark-style cheese fests. Guess what: even sappy TV musicals can surprise you. Though not particularly memorable in itself, this film’s commentary on ageism in Hollywood and our culture as a whole reminds me that even light entertainment can have some depth.

The Lure

Three women face forward with somber expressions. A woman standing in the middle has her arms around the two younger women on either side.

The Premise: This loose modernization of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” features much more gore, cabaret numbers, and fangs than most adaptations.

Honestly, one of the more insane films we’ve watched for the Collab, period. Part horror, part musical, and entirely odd, this is yet another concept that shouldn’t work. However, we loved this film and its dark little heart, complete with creepy songs with mistranslated lyrics. The Lure is certainly not short on creativity or vision, and is satisfyingly feminist in a sort of “burn it all down” sense.

Planet of the Sharks

The Premise: Climate change has submerged nearly the entire Earth in water, transforming the world into…the planet of the sharks.

Is this the best shark B-movie out there? God no. All I know is a woman screaming in rage while kabobing sharks with a spear is my aesthetic, and I thank the universe for the divine inspiration that brought Shark Month into being.

How do you push yourself to go beyond your comfort zone?

Header photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash
Blogging 101

Who Are You? What Is This Blog?

Hello fellow bloggers (and readers)!

My name is Jillian, and I’m a blogger.

I am, among other things, a librarian, amateur chef, reader, cat lady, and occasional writer.

On this blog, I pretend to be a film critic. I started critiquing bad movies as a way to entertain a few of my friends on Facebook, then decided to begin blogging about the frequently terrible movies I watch.

I decided to switch from Facebook to WordPress for writing these posts for a couple of reasons. First, as a librarian, I DESPISE the way Facebook organizes notes; it’s so easy for them to get lost in time and space since it’s impossible to search by keyword. Blogging gives me more control over the look, content, and retrieval of my posts.

Second, I’m more likely to stick to goals for myself if I have a lot of witnesses. Everyone in the world can see when I don’t post on time (and I know everyone is personally disappointed in me when I neglect to post).

Blogging allows me to multi-task when it comes to my personal goals. Being critical comes naturally to me, so I decided to use this talent(?) to do something productive. I’d also like a low-risk way to get back into the habit of writing and gauge how people react to it. By blogging, I can stay busy, get some writing practice in, and meet new people without the slow torture that is small talk.

Soon I will probably just blog about whatever movies I watch, regardless of whether they are considered bad or not. (I can do goals for myself, but I always end up breaking any limitations I place on myself.) I might eventually review books, TV shows, recipes, or anything else that strikes my fancy—anything that will keep this blog interesting for me (and hopefully for you). My hope is to trigger other writing projects by working on this blog, but I’m not sure I’ll ever post any of that here.

Through this blog, I’m taking the Teddy Roosevelt approach to life: “There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid” (yeah, I’ve been watching The Roosevelts). I probably won’t be a Teddy Roosevelt-level badass, but I’m determined to stand my ground when facing the grizzly bear that is blogging.

Please feel free to ask me anything at all!  I’ll probably answer you as long as you don’t ask me something creepy.