Movie Mettle is a weekly column for moviegoers with weak constitutions. Wish you had the balls to sit through the goriest of horror movies? Want to build up your resistance to weepy rom-coms? Each week we’ll give you a range of five movies that will test your limits, you cinematic thrillseeker, you.
While racking my brain to come up with a type of movie to tackle this week, I thought back to the Movie Mettle list of weepy films. What kind of cinematic experience could prompt a similar, full-body reaction? Then I realized: awkwardness. Ridiculously lo-fi costumes, absurd sexual scenarios, dialogue that should never have been greenlit let alone put into actor’s mouths. It all prompts such a visceral response in the viewer: Squirming, eyes screwed shut, turning your head away as if you could tune out the sound, muttering “nonono” futilely.
So I give you five movies that will have you scrabbling for escape like Buffalo Bill’s captive in Silence of the Lambs. As always, it ranges from the only slightly awkward to the oh god why why. This is only a small list, and based on my personal experience. Please share your cringeworthy films in the comments, because I need me a challenge.
Warm-Up: Zack and Miri Make A Porno[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4msQUCUAjE&hl=en_US&version=3]
Confession: I actually love this movie. It’s astonishingly sweet and sold Seth Rogen as a viable love interest in ways Knocked Up couldn’t. But I also remember watching it the first time with hunched shoulders and headphones. Because it’s a movie about a bunch of average folks who set out to document all the flailing, panting, questionable-facial-expression awkwardness of sex. It’s definitely the kind of movie where you have to gauge if your buddies are on your wavelength of humor before popping in the DVD. To make things even more awkward for you, I’ve included the red-band trailer.
Novice: There’s Something About Mary[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGjXwDYpOLE&version=3&hl=en_US]
Long before Ben Stiller made the worst first impression in Meet the Parents, he was the hapless hero of this raunchy rom-com. For all that Cameron Diaz’s titular Mary has every guy going after her, of course her soulmate is poor Ted (Stiller), who has to deal with every possible obstacle on his way to actually sealing the deal. It’s like the Final Destination of cockblocking, where the universe conspires with unfortunate zipper accidents, questionable hair gel, and a damn dog. It’s awkward because in some way or another, we’ve all been there.
Intermediate: Borat[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TDcioAgsVU&version=3&hl=en_US]
It makes sense that smack dab in the middle of the list would be a movie that’s actively trying to play chicken with its viewers. Back when we didn’t know to anticipate such antics from Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat got awkward fast with Cohen’s foreign alter ego tricking students into spewing racist rants, not to mention a naked wrestling scene that gets way too close for comfort.
Expert: Eraserhead[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7OqGCIcak&hl=en_US&version=3]
I know I’m supposed to give this a pass because it’s David Lynch, but all I can remember is gasping and cringing my way through this at the IFC Film Center. A guy named Spencer suffers through dinner with his girlfriend Mary X’s family? There’s a question mark because I truly don’t remember much of this movie, so forcefully was I nope-ing out of there.
BAMF: The Star Wars Holiday Special[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXcb7VPw59s&hl=en_US&version=3]
Technically a television special, this awkward experiment in how not to capitalize on a franchise has to beat the other movies on this list. Han, Leia, and Luke go to Chewbacca’s home planet to celebrate Life Day — Chewie’s family have names like “Itchy” and “Lumpy” — Leia sings the Star Wars theme — Vader pops in — gah, it’s just the worst. Just try to get through all of it with your self-respect intact. And thank God that it was broadcast only once.
Have a genre of movie, specific trope, or actor that you wish you could sit through? Leave your request in the comments and I might take it on in a future column!