Sunday, August 16, 2009


In 1978, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John teamed up to make one of the most popular movie musicals of all time, "Grease." Sure, the story was hokey and the film has remained wildly, perpetually popular due to its ridiculously over-the-top performances and dance numbers, but it still at its core at a rambunctious energy that audiences have enjoyed watching for more than three decades.
Seeing how they achieved such great success with that film, Travolta and Newton-John surely thought another trip to the musical well would produce equally great results and sustain their red-hot career momentum. Little did they know that their respective decisions for Newton-John to star in 1980's "Xanadu" and Travolta in 1983's "Saturday Night Fever" sequel "Staying Alive" would instead prove to nearly kill their careers (OK, in Olivia's case it DID). And leave it to the American Cinematheque to preserve these long-lost cinematic lumps of coal for our modern viewing pleasure, long after the stars wished we would just forget the films ever existed.

Friday night, as part of the Cinematheque's "So Bad They're Brilliant" series (a concept that is itself brilliant!), these two films were paired together to provide three hours of toxically, unintentionally funny entertainment. Film journalists Stephen Rebello and Alonzo Duralde were on hand to kick off the evening with a brief history of both troubled films' productions, particularly noting that the decision to fund the big-budget rollerskating musical "Xanadu" was stunning in light of the utter box-office failure of "Roller Boogie" and "Skatetown USA," two prior films that attempted to exploit the late-'70s craze. But these films spoke for themselves!

From ridiculous plots to embarrassing performances, from atrocious dance numbers to godawful tunes that sound like they could have been written by tone-deaf monkeys rather than professional human composers, "Xanadu" and "Staying Alive" (which had a slightly better plot and much better performances, but songs that were far greater offenses against humanity) offered up campy entertainment at its finest. And the rather large crowd of more than 100 didn't disappoint either, loudly guffawing and shrieking throughout both films at the most hilariously inappropriate moments as well as catcalling the screen and even taking over singing en masse when the sound went out briefly during a romantic musical number in "Xanadu."

Saturday marked the fabulous Miss Diana Ross in her landmark epic of egotism, "Mahogany" and Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward acting like they have zero chemistry in "A New Kind of Love". Sunday brings the musical version of "Lost Horizon" (trust us, it's BAAAAAAAAAAD!) and next Wednesday brings the series of bad films to a thunderous conclusion with two of the Internet Movie Database's 100 worst movies of ALL TIME: Mariah Carey's 2001 epic misfire "Glitter" and the so-bad-you'll-wanna-burn-the-print "American Idol" spinoff "From Justin to Kelly." I'll be there hosting that night, so come on out for some outrageous and unintentional laughs!