What Cinema Craptaculus Means to Me
At ten, my favorite film was Free Willy. A lovely tale about a boy, a killer whale, and one hell of an interspecies bond.
I loved the movie so much, I decided to be a killer whale for Halloween that year. As you might imagine, this was not a popular Halloween costume, though now that I think on it, “killer whale” is actually a brilliant Halloween costume.
Imagine it: a full-body orca getup, drenched in fake blood and accessorised with a butcher knife. Maybe even a ski mask.
Yes, that would have been a great killer whale costume. Unfortunately, that’s not how things turned out for ten-year-old me.
I’ve never been much of a DIY-er. I once tried to make cat cupcakes after coming across an adorable recipe on Pinterest. I bought green icing for the eyes, black icing for the pupils. I crafted the little ears, just like the recipe instructed. But when my cupcakes were done, all the cats looked like they had glaucoma.
As a child, I was even worse at crafts. So when I decided to use a box, two pieces of black and white felt and a roll of tape to design my own costume, my mother failed as a parent when she neglected to stop me.
“This is not a good idea,” she should have said. “You’re not talented and you don’t have the right resources,” is what she should have told me.
But she didn’t. So I cut. I taped. I made two arm holes and a head hole. I made oblong, orca-print shapes out of the black felt. And then I did the same with the white felt. I taped, not even glued, them to my used, brown cardboard box (which had the word “KITCHEN” written on it, in permanent marker, from my aunt’s recent move). Voila! I looked craptaculus.
That night, head and arms sticking straight out of my ill-fitted cardboard box, I went trick-or-treating, unintentionally dressed as a confused, homeless child.
If you can believe it, I was also not a popular student, and my failed whale costume didn’t help matters.
“What are you supposed to be?” asked my classmate, Peter Myers. “Garbage?” The kids laughed.
“No, you dumb idiot!” I scoffed. “I’m Free Willy!” The kids laughed harder.
And when I walked down the street to my aunt’s house, knocked on her door, and my twelve-year-old cousin answered, he immediately laughed, too. I didn’t even have time to say, trick or treat.
“I’m sorry,” he said between gasps of air. “It’s just--why? Why would you do this?”
This was a person who loved and cared about me. He was my family. But that didn’t matter. My costume was so terrible, he couldn’t help but point and laugh, even as I cried.
It was a great Halloween that year. Not for me, but for the rest of the children in the neighborhood, who had a good laugh at my expense. My costume went in the garbage, but at least a few people were mildly amused before I laid it to waste.
Failure happens. You learn from it, you cry about it, you move on and become better. Maybe not better at making whale costumes, but at other things.
Like most people, I’ve seen some really terrible movies in my day. Poor Tommy Wiseau. Laugh at him all you want--there is a piece of Tommy Wiseau in all of us. Tommy is that excited feeling you get when you come up with what you believe is a brilliant idea. Tommy is that brief moment of pure delight you have at the thought of seizing the day and trying something new. Tommy is that little voice in your head that whispers, “I only get one shot. Eminem is right. Success is my only (motherfuckin) option.”
Sometimes, that idea works out well, and we become wildly successful. But more often, we make The Room.
What I’m getting at is, most of us have at least a couple of massive failures that embarrass us. Those failures are simply a part of getting off your ass, putting yourself out there, and trying to create something for the world.
The ambitious and brave among us attempt to produce creative things, things that require passion and soul and guts. Unfortunately, more often than not, the thing we produce sucks. You learn from it. You move on with your life.
All of the movies we watch for Cinema Craptaculus are botched whale costumes. These aren’t good ideas that just weren’t executed properly. They were just bad ideas from the start, projects about which someone’s mother should have said: “A story about Paul Bunyan becoming an axe murderer? Son, this is not a good idea.”
But it didn’t happen that way. And the movies were made. Sure, we can lay these failures to waste, forever forgotten, broken down and tossed in the garbage like a butchered cardboard box with remnants of felt and tape stuck to it. We could do that.
Or, we could at least get a good laugh out of them.