Before this week’s selection took a turn for the wildly offensive, I was actually kind of excited to share one of my favourite movies, which I’d found on Netflix a while back and re-watched a couple of times. That movie is the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink. I love everything about this film, from the Art Deco visuals to the climactic fire scene to the comfortingly vague ending to pretty much everything John Goodman says and does. Even the fairly minor bell-boy role is made oddly unforgettable by Steve Buscemi.
But, as you may have guessed, Barton Fink has disappeared down the Netflix memory hole. It was there once. It is there no longer.
Not relatedly, but to explain how I ended up stumbling upon what is easily the worst movie I have ever seen on Netflix, I should point that I recently discovered the search feature on the service. It’s actually not much of a feature – just a Google-like search box that brings up a pretty normal set of results (although the version of the search feature on my PlayStation has recently started bringing up actors and directors as well as movie titles).
The reason I started using the search feature is because once Netflix gets a sense of what you like watching, it tends to fill your home screen with similar fare. For most people, that’s a good thing. But it brings the serendipity quotient way down. Also, since I’m constantly subjecting myself to utter drivel for the purposes of this column, my Netflix recommendation algorithm is probably hopelessly confused.
The great thing about the search function on the Netflix web site, however, is that it is mildly insane. After bringing up movies and shows that fit your search term, it will start showing you results that have little to no connection to what you searched for. Sometimes the search term shows up in the extended description, sometimes it sounds similar to another word in the title, sometimes the director might have been thinking about the term while filming the movie, I have no idea. The end result is that searching for any random term – flower, sandwich, helicopter, whatever – inevitably brings up random stuff you weren’t expecting.
So a few days ago, I was searching for the term “Undead,” because I couldn’t recall if previous Watch Out pick The Dead Undead was made by the same people who made Nazis At The Center Of The Earth. But halfway down the search screen, something caught my eye, something that I could tell from the title would easily make the cut as a Netflix lowlight. Little did I know just how bad it would be.
And with that preamble/warning, here are this week’s picks, which I am telling you now are absolutely not PG.
Louis C.K.: Chewed Up
It’s always a dangerous thing to recommend a stand-up routine. You’re basically telling someone, “Hey, give this performer an hour of your life, I promise they’ll make you laugh.” Except stand-up is a pretty personal thing, and unless any particular comedian lands exactly on your wavelength, you’re just watching someone on a stage talking. Of all the stand-up shows on Netflix, I only enjoyed this one and Zach Galifianakis at the Purple Onion, and even that latter one was kind of self-indulgent.
Recommending a Louis C.K. stand-up routine is even more dangerous, because even by stand-up standards, his material is profane. Literally the first word he utters in Chewed Up is offensive, and things only get worse from there. The first 10 minutes of the show are a meditation on the power of words, and I can’t quote a single sentence of it here without violating the Globe’s style guide. In fact, pound for pound, Chewed Up is probably more offensive than this week’s lowlight, which I’m going to reiterate just one more time is the worst movie I’ve ever seen on Netflix.
So why does Louis C.K. pull it off? Because he’s honest, and because he shows his work. As he tears through a minefield of topics, from the perks of being white to his miserable parenting strategies to a violent late-night encounter with a deer that I can’t even expand on in this space, you never get the sense that he’s faking whatever psychological pathologies that led him there. Even as he sprinkles self-hatred over all this material, you know he knows he can’t be the only one collecting this trophy case of indignities – you’ll laugh, but inevitably he’ll relate an experience that hits a little close to home, and you’ll laugh a little more nervously.
In truth, I didn’t really want to recommend Chewed Up. What I really wanted to recommend is Louis C.K.’s current TV show, Louie, which is my favourite show on TV right now and which you could be watching if you had U.S. Netflix. Like its predecessor, the underrated (but not nearly as good) Lucky Louie, Louie picks at the nerve of everyday humiliation and finds something profound. But since you can’t yet watch Louis C.K.’s masterwork on Canadian Netflix, you can give his stand-up routine a try and see how he laid the groundwork.
Regular readers of WI/WO will know that I consider Sex In The City 2: Something Something Orientalism to be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. That is in large part because – in addition to the terrible writing, acting and everything else – it was a big film. People spent lots of money to make it, paid lots of money to watch it and wasted a lot of time talking about it. That mass impact is pretty much the only thing keeping Blubberella from dethroning SITC2.
Normally, in this paragraph, I would at least try to give you a sense of Blubberella’s plot. But really, what’s the point? It’s about a fat woman who’s also half-vampire and also kills Nazis. It’s basically what you’d get if you mixed Inglorious Basterds with B-movie slapstick and a colossal elephant turd, and then removed Inglorious Basterds and the B-movie slapstick.
To be sure, campy schlock serves a purpose. All this vampire/zombie/undead material tends to make for a good late-night cringe-fest when you just want to turn off your brain and laugh at a really bad movie. And that’s how Blubberella lured me in. On a quiet Wednesday night, I made some popcorn, kicked back on the couch and hit Play on what I thought was just going to be a run-of-the-mill pile of garbage. I mean, look at the name of the movie. I figured an hour and a half later I would have fodder for the Watch Out portion of my column, and we could all laugh about how bad this film is.
But Blubberella is just hateful. Within the first 20 minutes, the viewer is subjected to a grotesquely lazy parade of racism, sexism, fat jokes, rape jokes, antisemitism, homophobia and even blackface. Consider the otherworldly level of comedic talent and originality needed to make any of these things funny – Blubberella possesses none of this, and actually possesses the exact opposite.
In fact, Blubberella transcends the realm of so-bad-it’s-terrible, and then skates right past so-bad-it’s-funny and into a kind of netherworld of pure awful so complete that it makes the viewer genuinely unhappy – not just at having watched the movie, but that such a movie was made. This is a comedy made by people who not only lack a sense of humour, but seem to actively oppose humour, a film not only incompetent, but anti-competence.
Take the whole deliberate continuity error thing, which makes multiple appearances throughout the film in the form of laptops, Segways and similar gadgets showing up during The Second World War. It’s a pretty lame gag to begin with, but it doesn’t even reach the level of lame gag. Instead, it seems like something antagonistic, thrown in haphazardly because the people who made this movie simply couldn’t care less about the movie or its viewers. This film is the cinematic equivalent of the creepy guy at the party who breaks the ice by telling you a lazy racist joke and then gets offended when you don’t laugh.
Blubberella is the brainchild of Uwe Boll, a German director who has become infamous for buying up the licenses to various video games and then turning them into some of the lowest-rated movies of all time. For a sense of what a critically panned Uwe Boll movie looks like, pick any Uwe Boll movie. Being relatively new to Mr. Boll’s work, I can’t tell you if Blubberella is his most painful outing – maybe there exists some kind of conceptual art film that involves Mr. Boll personally urinating in the viewer’s drinking water.
Mr. Boll also pulls acting duty in Blubberella. He plays Hitler.