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JRS: Bad Movies and Why We Love Them

ENGL 4997.301
Tuesday 10:15-1:14pm


What is a “bad” movie, and who gets to decide? Can we still look at “bad” movies as an object of study? If, indeed, the movie is so “bad,” then how is it so bad that it’s good?  This course urges students to embrace the good, the bad, and the low-budget film object as a means of advancing and practicing film literacy. Together we will reflect on methods of film criticism/theory and the practice of reading film itself.  The emphasis of this course will be on how to apply methods of film criticism onto films that critics have deemed “unworthy”. The approach is premised on the idea that both individual taste and world motion picture canon are open to question and revision. Each week we will grapple with an area of film criticism in tandem with a “bad film” and work towards applying an analytical frame to the film in question. We will begin by discussing the nature of a film object and question the hierarchies of taste that are attached to such objects. We will then interrogate the nature and history of cinephilia (and cinephobia) and film criticism, both as it is manifest in individuals and groups of individuals (a.k.a cult followings). Are all cult films created equal? What is a privileged moment or why do we like what we like, and can this be the basis for a coherent aesthetic? What critical traditions and exhibition conditions form the canon? Is it a matter of history, pedagogical necessity, audience demographics, critical fashion or personal taste? 

If one person’s trash is another’s treasure, then this course invites students to dig through the wasteland of “bad cinema” in hopes of bringing theories of film criticism to task on a broader range of films than ever imaginable. Yes, you can write about that movie, and no, no one actually says you can’t. 


fulfills requirements
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Junior Research Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major