If you look at my top 10 list of guilty pleasure movies last month, you'll find a lot of great stuff.
As I mentioned in that post, the term "guilty pleasure" isn't a slur or attempt to disrespect all the awesome contained within such classics as Big Trouble in Little China and Starship Troopers. However, these aren't movies you'd recommend to your boss's boss or mother-in-law. If the President of the United States asked you to pick 25 films to go into the national archives or be sealed in a time capsule for future generations, the vast majority of you wouldn't pick titles off this list.
Sure, some of you would choose to have a deliciously cheesy selection on your person if you were trapped on a desert island with a working TV and DVD player, but then if you're reading my blog, chances are you're not normal. You're either some kind of weirdo or adult with the angstful longing for sword & sorcery escapism as a 15 year old boy (hey, I'm both). Guilty pleasure movies are for the fringe. We may not feel any guilt about watching them, but perhaps a small part of us feels something akin to alienation or shame when confronted by society's judgmental perception.
Anyway, without further ado, the ultimate "guilty pleasure" movie would have to be Fight Club. It had been many years since I'd seen it. Just watched it again a couple weeks ago. God damn. This expose is spoiler free, so read on without fear.
Ok, let's get to it. There's a lot of great things to talk about...
- The sounds: The Dust Brothers (remember those guys?) created some dark, intense, electronic beats and tones. It's not really like any other soundtrack. Original is one word for it. Iconoclastic is another.
- The look: Directed by David Fincher, this film has a specific look. We see everything through the glass of a beer bottle or maybe it's a transparent tumbler of absinthe mixed with Jagermeister. Reality is saturated by some kind of unnatural subjective ichor - it makes an impact and stays with you.
- The time: Fight Club came out in 1999. Sure, you can see some questionable CGI (back when a lot of people would have asked, "What's CGI?") but it's also that in-between area where technology was prevalent but not quite to the point where our culture was strangled by it. Also, on the cusp of Y2K (if you're a teenager, ask your parents). Movie making at that time was dark but sleek - eschewing the sleaze, grime, nudity and general degeneracy of the 70's and 80's. However, Fight Club is grimy like a used condom of syringes full of dirty puddle water. It's kind of a grindhouse classic from 42nd street (ask your grandfather).
- The philosophy: There's a lot of it! How can you not love a movie that embraces/showcases nihilistic Buddhism, national socialism, rugged individualism, anti-consumerism, domestic terrorism, the dichotomy between self-perfection and its antithesis, as well as, a downward spiral of esoteric thelema?
- The cast: Edward Norton and Brad Pitt with Helena Bonham Carter, Meatloaf, Jared Leto, and a bunch of other dudes. This was before Edward Norton sold out and started appearing in tons of shitty movies (Ed, you've been in the same boat with Ewan MacGreggor over the last 15 years). And this was before Brad Pitt became a super-super star power couple with Angelina Jolie. Great acting from everyone. These guys made this movie because they believed in it (artistically speaking), not because they thought it would catapult their careers or net them huge wads of cash.
- The writing: Based on a book by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club isn't your typical airport novel. In Chuck's own words: "...bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to make an American Quilt. These were all novels that presented a social model for women to be together. But there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives."
- The ending: I won't spoil the big reveal in case you haven't seen it, but suffice it to say Fight Club concludes with a bang rather than a whimper.
All of these things made Fight Club a flop but also one of the best films of the year. However, then, as now, it's so weird, dark, intense, and over-the-top that it'll never be heralded as anything other than a cult classic or guilty pleasure by society's standards. So, fuck society's standards. Watch and re-watch Fight Club a dozen times or a hundred times! It's got something that 99% of films don't have: an uncompromising aesthetic.