UPG Guestperts: Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh
This month we interviewed Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh, writers and editors who produce a biannual zine called I Love Bad Movies. In each issue, more than two dozen writers, artists, comedians, critics, and nerds examine their favorite bad films.
UPG: What made you decide to edit a publication about bad movies?
Matt: When you start watching bad movies on purpose, it becomes clear that they are often more fun than good ones. They’re strange, flawed, and rewarding to varying degrees.
We’ve found many of our favorite bad movies via friends’ recommendations, video store cast-offs, or neighborhood trash cans (as with our VHS tapes of Lifeforce and Graveyard Shift 2). I Love Bad Movies is our way of sharing the joy of discovering these great-bad films, through intelligent and entertaining essays & comics. This way, you don’t have to dig through actual detritus to find the good ones.
UPG: How bad does a movie have to be to be included in I Love Bad Movies? What qualities elevate a movie from mediocre to (entertainingly) bad?
Kseniya: Not as bad as you might think. We’ve included plenty of flops, but we’re also open to movies that just didn’t age well or have an element of ‘wrongness’ about them that is worth investigating. We shy away from the rich mines of classic b-movies that have been covered by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and numerous publications/blogs, and focus on less-campy selections from the 1970s to the present that tried harder and failed bigger.
One way a mediocre movie can be elevated to “bad” (the kind we like) is if it suffers from genre confusion. For instance, the reason movies like Gigli and Old Dogs are hilariously bad is that they both started out as dramas but were eventually converted into… what someone at the studio thought was a “comedy.” They are laugh-out-loud funny but for all the wrong reasons.
UPG: Have you encountered bad movies out there that are so bad they remain completely unlovable?
Matt: Oh my word, yes. It’s All About Love: Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix’s divorce proceedings are hampered by her being cloned against her will. She is a famous ice skater and he occasionally has an accent. African people float into the air, everyone else catches heart attacks like a common cold, and Sean Penn spends the entire movie on an airplane narrating an incomprehensible e-mail to no one. Eventually Danes and Phoenix freeze to death in the arctic wilderness. It is the slowest, moodiest, worst junk.
Our contributors are careful to note when it’s more fun to read or write about a particular movie than actually watch it. In I Love Bad Movies #3, comedian Matt Koff explains that while his Robot in the Family essay might make the movie sound wacky and fun, viewing it will be an unpleasant, harmful experience. We should have listened.
UPG: What can “bad” art offer us that is enjoyable or insightful in ways that “good” art can’t?
Matt: Everyone likes feeling superior to something. Having a humdrum day? Looking at a Monet will probably remind you that you haven’t done anything with your life. Laughing at a dumb movie, on the other hand, will help you feel better about yourself. At least you could’ve done better than this.
UPG: In a hyper digital age in which each topic has its own blog and niche subset blogs, and print media of all kinds suffer financial and identity crises, what lead you to publish this zine in paper form?
Kseniya: Because we want people to relax, get a cup of coffee and actually read I Love Bad Movies. We strongly believe that reading printed text on paper is a more enjoyable and satisfying experience, and we wanted to make that a reality. There are so many things that we read online everyday, and only a fraction of them stick. We hope people’s experience with I Love Bad Movies is special.
Since our contributors put so much time and thought into helping us publish this zine, it’s important that we reward their work with a tangible finished product. Plus, aside from the police blotter, this is the easiest way for Matt and myself to get our names in print.
UPG: Each issue of I Love Bad Movies has a theme (“children’s movies,” “visions of the future,” etc.) Your current issue’s theme is “before and after they were famous.” What prompted you to explore this?
Matt: Among some more forgettable actors, our first four issues are riddled with bold names — stars who, way back when they were struggling young things or long after they’d peaked, made choices they probably aren’t proud of. We wanted the fifth issue to be packed with those fresh-faced/wrinkle-faced mistakes. Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, and Spielberg’s favorite cinematographer Janusz Kaminski at the start of their careers (BMX Bandits, Cruel Intentions 2, and Cool as Ice, respectively), or Mae West and Orson Welles at the end of theirs (Sextette and The Transformers: The Movie).
Like a case of the flu, bad movie roles seem to affect otherwise famous people when they’re either very young or very old. This issue explores the fringes of fame and what results when talented people make untalented choices.
UPG: You are co-organizing the Brooklyn Zine Fest along with writer/contributor Eric Nelson. Tell us about the event.
Kseniya and Matt: The Brooklyn Zine Fest, like I Love Bad Movies, was born out of a desire to showcase people and projects we love and support. Many of the literary/art-book festivals that take place throughout the year in New York come with either high brows or high barriers to entry. Until now, there has been little opportunity for smaller and scrappier publications like ours to reach the public on a larger scale.
On Sunday April 15th at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, more than 60 independent writers, artists, publishers, thinkers, doers, and maybe one candlestick maker will come together to celebrate what Brooklyn does best: create interesting, entertaining, and occasionally weird stuff. We’ve curated a wide variety of zine makers, so there will be something for everyone who likes at least one thing. Pick up a zine, grab a “marzini” at the bar, and of course, stop by our table and say hello!
Matt and Kseniya are offering a special discount code for PhLog readers! For a limited time, you can use code UNEMPLOYED20 at ksen.etsy.com for get 20% off all purchases!
Matt Carman is the author of Taken for a Ride, a collection of essays about his game show experiences. He hosts movie screenings with his co-editor, gives unwarranted scholarly credence to films like Gigli and Mac and Me, and is currently mapping the geographical setting of every U.S. prime time television show from 1946 to the present. carmanmatt.com
Kseniya Yarosh is a writer, illustrator, and researcher in Brooklyn whose zines have been featured on Flavorwire and Syndicated Zine Reviews. Kseniya’s presentation on “Love Story Disease” examines “dying girl” movies of all eras, and she is currently working on a zine about the ’90s Russian rock band Бра́во (Bravo). ksen.tumblr.com