So much has already been said about Birdemic, the 2008 James Nguyen classic. So many have already found comedy gold within it’s awe-inspiring 90 minute runtime that writing a Best of review for the film might seem like a challenge.
Birdemic, as it relates to us, is a clear example of how Yakmala, the group, operates. It reveals preferences, tolerances, and even the stamina of those who join us in our love of bad movies. Also, as we’ll find, the rabbit hole just keeps going deeper.
So, let’s go back to 2010 or so when I first started hearing about a film that, so the claim went, rivaled The Room in its incompetence. To me, that’s a tall order, so I went into the research with skeptical eyes. Coming upon a trailer for Birdemic on YouTube I decried it as pure shenanigans.
VIDEO EXHIBT A, THE TRAILER:
I’m actually quite quick to use my shenanigans card and this trailer — which clearly knows what its doing — set off all the alarms the bells for me. As often stated in these Yakmala reviews, the intention of quality is key to a great entertaining film of questionable quality. There has to be a passion for the work that supersedes logic, common sense, or simple know-how. On my first look at that trailer, I saw a work so full of errors that my mind recoiled and assumed the filmmakers were in on the joke, like that Italian Spider-Man that was making the rounds. It had to be a product of knowing ineptitude, right?
At some point, internet reviewer Obscurus Lupa took on Birdemic, and though she made a good case for the film being entertaining, I was still not convinced that it was right for our purposes. In the pursuit of bad movies, there are many blind alleys and films like Theodore Rex that don’t actually make for a good time. If the intent is wrong, it could lead to a painful filmgoing experience.
Nope, it took Clint’s testimony to convinced me that, yes, James Nguyen meant it.
VIDEO EXHIBIT B, THE MOVIE CLOSE UP APPEARANCE:
Holy hell! There’s no self-understanding at all in that man, is there?
Soon afterward, Justin and I arranged to watch Birdemic as it had sat quietly in my Netflix queue for many months. Ninety minutes later, I knew the error of my ways. This was an important film. This James Nguyen had earned a place at the table of champions. He was fit to be held in the same esteem as Tommy Wiseau, Edward D. Wood Jr and Harold P. Warren. He actually sprinted to the finish line ahead of Godfrey Ho on the strength of one single film. Amazed, we scheduled a special screening for the sole purpose of making Birdemic eligible for Best of nomination. No other films were shown and the results were decisive. Within a few months into 2012, we already knew two movied that would ascended to the Hall of Fame as the class of 2013.
That other film will be a story for next week.
Birdemic became that film we couldn’t stop talking about. David, who occasionally comes to Yakmala events, became so intrigued that we watched it during his bachelor party festivities. He subsequently showed it to people who missed that screening. I’m pretty sure he’s watched it three times at this point, but he’s welcome to correct me.
When the Best of screening finally arrived a couple of weeks ago, I learned something important: not all of us can handle bad film grammar. What’s film grammar, you ask? It’s the almost imperceptible rules that make cinema work. In the films schools and editing bays, these techniques have clever names like “breaking the stage line” and “cutting on action,” but they’re just the simple time-honored conventions for composing aesthetically appealing shots and compiling them together in a progression that fools the mind into believing that the story is playing out in a seamless, logical progression.
Oh, and how I love it when a filmmaker cannot get those things right.
Birdemic, for me, is so utterly entertaining for how gleefully ignorant Nguyen appears to be to the most fundamental tenets of filmmaking. His shots are imbalanced. His editing has little regard for seamless cutting. Oh, and his sound design! His sound design is non-existent and with each fluctuation in audio level from shot to shot in the film, I am reduced to a giddy mess. Even The Room, for all its mistakes, has a basic competence in regard to sound. Birdemic‘s audio is at the level of high-schoolers who haven’t figured out how the onboard mic in their cameras works. It’s utter genius in its failure.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the Yakmala group is as entertained by such disregard for film grammar as I am. Oh, Justin and Clint were with me for everyone jerky camera pan and end-of-scene held uncomfortably too long, but for others, this was the film of pain.
This meant extra beer was required for those who could not take the film on with a healthy love for poor cinematic arts. This meant the flow of conversation disintegrated as many could only engage with the film at a level of hate. The bile poured onto the screen with a special acidity usually reserved for the likes of Zach Snyder. Suddenly, Best of Yakmala morphed into a videographic Worst of surprise.
And in that, Birdemic rises to meteoric heights, offering both our finest and vilest moments in the pursuit of entertaining movies of questionable quality.
Then, a few days after the Best of screenings, my friend Jeremy linked me to this amazing page about Nguyen’s less than professional behavior on the set. Apparently, he can be grabby when auditioning actresses. I find that revelation both surprising and kind of hilarious as his portrayals of women and the men that court them would lead me to believe that Nguyen has little experience with either. And, of course, like a certain fertilizer salesman from Texas, he has a hard time being forthright with his cast and paying them. If all of this wasn’t already making the Birdemic auteur seem like the most distinguished of filmmaking basket cases comes this stunning quote:
He makes up credits at the end of his films to look more professional.
The great thing about the 21st Century is that every fevered-ego gets what they want and I get an unending hose of hog-slough from which movies like Birdemic appear to entertain me. Truly, this is a golden age and it only gets better. This July, a sequel will descend upon us like so many diseased eagles. Of course, one must wonder if Nguyen’s incompetent genius will survive the arrival of an actual crew from Hollywood. Will fame ruin James Nguyen?
For another look at weighty subjects, check out Justin’s review of A Matter of Time or Louis’s capsule reviews of Lifetime movies.
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