Occasionally the Dames are all dressed up with nowhere to go. Or, in this case, there’s nothing going on this week to inspire a Dame 5. So we end up going to the Patrons and unsolicited suggestions on Twitter for inspiration, and thus you get this week’s 5 courtesy of Keith Derrick. Keith suggested we share our favorite guilty pleasure films, but since the Dames have nothing to be ashamed of we’ve decided to share our five favorite (not so) guilty pleasures!
The Dames, Mama Lopez, and nearly everyone who knows me will tell you this is a highly partial and somewhat glossed up list. There are FAR worse movies I could have included on here, from Armie Hammer’s turn in Mirror Mirror, Wild Things, the Lindsay Lohan movies I’ve argued are secretly genius, to the Jon Bernthal movie I almost considered including. But, I went with the ones that have stuck with me the longest, the ones that have defined my particular tastes in guilty pleasures.
Xanadu share a weird shared universe with Gene Kelly’s Cover Girl (1944), so I’m never sure whether I should cite this as a remake or sequel. Regardless, Xanadu was meant to be the charming musical romance that would catapult Australian songbird Olivia Newton-John into A-list territory while reviving the dying musical. Did it do all that? No. BUT it is charming in all the best ways. ONJ plays a Greek muse with an Australian accent meant to inspire two men – one of whom is the infinitely delightful Gene Kelly. Said inspiration yields a nightclub, Gene Kelly on rollerskates and the best soundtrack ever! I dare you not to listen to ONJ crooning “Xaaandu. Xaaaanadu” and not be in love!
Showgirls is the filet mignon of guilty pleasures that it’s almost a cop-out to include it here. I maintain Showgirls is a brilliant, trashy send-up of All About Eve (1950) with its Vegas-set story of a small-town NOT prostitute, Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkely) and her attempts to become the toast of the Strip by stripping. Gina Gershon is queen in this movie. Only a true thespian can ask about tits and dog chow without coming off as hokey. There are so many one-liners from this movie I quote in everyday life. And Robert freaking Davi is in this movie! I mean, it’s got everything you want in life and I adore it. (Except the choreography. The dancing in this is trash.)
Hollow Man (1999)
You knew one of my boys would make this list. Hollow Man is a special film in my house. For the last six years, yes, SIX, my best friend and I made it a New Year’s Eve tradition to watch this and find something new to poke fun at. One year it was the homoerotic love story that is TOTALLY there between Josh Brolin and Kevin Bacon’s characters. The year before that it was deconstructing the button budget on this movie which is seemingly low because everyone’s shirts are only buttoned to mid-navel. Like Showgirls it’s also directed by Paul Verhoven and tries to do something new with the “invisible man” tale by adding in boobs, assault, and so much Josh Brolin abs. I swear, the man gets paid for every time he doffs his top in this movie and I still live for it. Do I believe he’s a scientist? Fuck no, but I don’t care! Slap some glasses on him and I’ll call him “doctor.” Wow, that sounded worse than I meant.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Another one that most would anticipate on this list, Mommie Dearest is a great landmark in the celeb biopic world. Yes, I know it hasn’t eliminated the taint that follows Joan Crawford around, and that Faye Dunaway refuses to talk about the movie because she believes she’s “haunted” by Joan. But I still believe Dunaway is fantastic in this movie. Sure, she’s over-the-top but the real figure did become a bit of a caricature by the end. The costumes in this are beautiful, the acting is pretty solid throughout, and who doesn’t want to slap the little girl playing Christina at some point?
How can I share my thoughts about why I love this movie in a way that doesn’t make me feel like a pervert? I mean, the entire reason this is on the list is because one feels guilty for even admitting they enjoy it. Yes, I know that compared to Kubrick’s original film – which I found too silly – and the original Nabokov novel, this doesn’t work. But without it I wouldn’t be in love with Jeremy Irons. I also think what Adrian Lyne does with the movie is really make you think about how movies have created their livelihoods off the exploitation and sexualizing of young women. He films the movie like a 1940s romance, all gauzy filters and male gaze, which distracts the audience from seeing the amazing acting work Dominique Swain does. It’s a bait and switch. And Jeremy Irons is so damn good-looking. I’m sorry.
I do NOT feel guilty about any of these films. But no, I will NOT tell you how many times I’ve watched them.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Yes, this movie lives up to its name, and you know what? I LOVE IT. It’s stupid in ways that always make me smile when I just need to turn off my brain. I never bothered with the sequel or the prequel. This movie needed neither. It’s perfectly, delightfully, terribly brilliant just as it is.
The Notebook (2004)
Do not ask me how many times I’ve seen this movie because I can’t tell you. I just know it’s a lot.
Billy Madison (1995)
Okay, fine, so I enjoy watching dumb men do dumb things. Sue me. Also? This movie has one of the best mini monologues ever. And no one in this room is dumber for watching this movie.
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
I can’t really explain this one. I don’t care a whole lot about cars. (Although, damn, that Eleanor is a fine looking vehicle.) I have never understood the Nicholas Cage thing and yet, I watch this movie every single time it’s on TV. And I always do that hand gesture thing he is doing in the picture above. I can’t NOT do it.
The Mummy (2017)
Tom Cruise’s worst movie? Perhaps. But you know what? I DON’T CARE. (Although I maintain there’s one that’s worse.)
I have way more than five films that I am not even remotely guilty about loving. So this is really just a sampling of my excellent taste in cinema.
Van Helsing (2004)
By no stretch of the imagination is Van Helsing a good film. It’s a random, campy take on Universal Horror monsters that isn’t quite certain if it wants to be campy or dead serious. But I love it so much that I went to see it in theaters twice. Most of this is to do with the supporting—Richard Roxburgh’s Count Dracula noms the scenery so thoroughly, enjoying a decidedly polyamorous relationship with his three Brides and, um, pretty much everyone else in the film. Shuler Hensley is a Halloween-masked Frankenstein Monster, roaring and emoting and generally being very Universal. And Kate Beckinsale, who enters the story swinging on a rope in slow motion, her hair rippling in the wind, has the best bad accent ever. The weakest link is actually Hugh Jackman, apparently under the impression that this is a Very Serious Film. But it’s not. It’s a piece of ridiculous camp, whether intentional or not, and I love every second of this big, stupid, delightful film.
Mamma Mia! (2008)
Is this really a guilty pleasure? Doesn’t everyone love Mamma Mia! and its amazing lack of irony? I mean, if you don’t love this film, I guess you just hate joy. KRISTEN.
The Howling (1981)
Keep your self-serious An American Werewolf in London. The Howling is the best werewolf movie of 1981 and, yes, I will die on this hill. Part of this is because Joe Dante absolutely adores the movies he’s aping and part is because it’s just this side of crazy (the story centers around a werewolf serial killer and a pseudo-hippie retreat in California). None of this has to do with the fact that it has Patrick Macnee in the world’s best cardigans, waxing eloquent about man’s fundamentally animal nature and making werewolf puns.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
“A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon. Words fail me, gentlemen.”
Nothing more needs to be said, but if you must know: this film stars Vincent Price as a doctor who goes around killing off fellow doctors he believes caused the death of his wife. He bases all his murders on the Biblical Plagues (because why wouldn’t you?). Somehow this involves brass unicorns and, um, Brussels sprouts. It’s the best.
Call Me Madam (1953)
Um, OK, so…here’s the thing. I do truly love musicals, and musicals of the 1950s have a certain batshit madness to them that is both ridiculous and highly enjoyable. Call Me Madam isn’t the best musical, but God is it fun. Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Vera Ellen, a fake country with fake traditions and fake accents and fake political crises, George Sanders being a charming bastard and singing? Yes, please. Also, Ethel Merman looks at George Sanders the way we all should look at George Sanders.
This was a surprisingly challenging list to write. I’ve gone through a lot of phases (who are we kidding, mostly for love) and watched a lot of movies I’m not necessarily proud of. However, I have very few guilty pleasures. There are bad movies out there, of course. The way I think about it though, if I’m enjoying myself, are they really that bad?
Ocean’s 11 (1960)
Everyone knows I’m a sucker for vintage everything. First everyone went crazy for George Clooney’s Ocean’s Eleven… now everyone is ready for Ocean’s 8. My guilty-pleasure taste goes old school. I first watched this when I discovered the joy that was Frank Sinatra (right after he died, ironically). This movie has fueled a number of phases: Richard Conte, Peter Lawford, Henry Silva. Yes, if I ever got my hands on a time machine, I would travel back to 1960 Las Vegas. The Rat Pack bro-ey mentality makes my head hurt to this day, and, no, it is not a good movie; I need to push my feminism to the very back of my head to enjoy the narrative. However, I will love this movie till the day I die. I don’t feel guilty, darn it!
This is a fairly standard choice. There is no way the ending of this movie can be seen as anything but problematic. However, I’ve been watching this for years. Grease is actually the movie which started me watching musicals. It was the “old” musical I discovered before I truly discovered the classics. To this day, Marty (Dinah Manoff) is my spirit animal. There were lots of back yard performances of musical numbers from this. I probably shouldn’t be proud.
Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
Deep cut coming up. It’s a push to call this movie a not-so-guilty pleasure, it is pretty guilty. Back when I was in middle school, AMC aired a string of American International Pictures fare (and standard drive-in movies) every Saturday night, and this one was one of them. Why did I watch it? Easy. Nick Adams. It’s kitschy, strange, and over-the-top in that pleasant (but painful) MST3K kinda way. However, I’ve always enjoyed the hell out of it.
George of the Jungle (1997)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I knew this was a remake when it came out. I was brought up on reruns of the original cartoon. Believe it or not, I will fight to the death on this one. It’s a fun remake and stands up well when held against the original one. Is it stellar? No. However, it’s fun and features an incredibly well built Brendan Fraser running around in a loin…butt flap. Plus, if you’re mouth remains closed during Fraser’s scene in the horse stables, I wonder about you.
The Spirit (2008)
Gabriel Macht should be a bigger thing, dangit. I’ve been singing his praises since American Outlaws (which would probably be number six on this list). This movie came out in that period right after Sin City and 300. In fact, this movie actually stands as director Frank Miller’s follow-up to Sin City. However, everyone was trying to make their movies look cool at that time. Remember Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? Anywhoo, The Spirit gets a lot of crap, a lot of it not deserved. It was a fun and entertaining movie with some campy, delightful performances at a time when movies not quite sure what they were.