What makes a B movie a B movie?

Discussion in 'Entertainment and Movie Talk' started by Art Andrews, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. Art Andrews

    Art Andrews Community Owner Community Staff

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    Yesterday, in a stroke of stupidity, I watched the first 30 minutes of 2-Headed Shark Attack on Netflix because of the shark being featured on Monster Man. After 30 mins, I just couldn't endure it any more and had to stop, but in watching those 30 minutes, a number of questions came to mind that I have actually pondered for years; namely, what differentiates a B movie from an A movie.. or more appropriately, a bad movie from a good movie? Before you just say "money" hear me out.

    The things that always stand out to me in a B movie is the amount of cheese, the lack of self-awareness, the 1/2 dimensional characters (they aren't even good enough to be called 1 dimensional) and the horrible lines for the characters.

    I understand that when you have a small budget you can't afford big effects or big name actors. I have no issue with that. I also can accept that you probably aren't going to get any oscar winning acting. However, it seems that some movies just don't even try and they pick their stereotypes straight off the shelf at Wal-Mart. Why? Why not try to rise above and be more than your budget? Why not create people instead of cardboard stand-ins that fall into a handful of so easily identified stereotypes; the roid jock, the trashy girls, the misunderstood nerd, etc.

    Is it really THAT hard to write something that isn't 100% pathetic? I am not asking for Shakespere and of course, more money will get you better writing, but is it really so hard to write dialog that isn't contrived from start to finish?

    Speaking more on the writing, why is it that 90% of the characters have attitude? When did that become the default? It feels like the only emotion this level of actors can offer is annoyed and perturbed... I tend to see this a lot in fan films as well, and it is most often seen in the female characters. Why does everything that happens need the response of eye-rolling followed by "like, yeah... whatever."

    Why the lack of any reality at all? Two things that made me laugh because it just seems like it should be obvious how silly it is; 1) In the movie a boat hits a large shark and it gets stuck on the front of the boat... now we are talking at least a 12 ft shark. The professor hooks the shark with a gaff and pulls it down the side of the boat, while the boat is going at a good clip. Now, really, think about that. There is no way that guy could have gotten the shark off the front of the boat due to the pressure, and once the shark was on the side of the boat, the drag would have pulled the guy right over instantly. 2) they end up on an island and the same dude says to his students "we are going to be here for 24 hours so the first thing we need to do is search for food." What? 24 hours and you think you are Tom Hanks in castaway?

    Now, even big budget movies do things that are ridiculous, but it just seems like someone would have pointed out how silly these type of things were.

    I don't know, maybe I am just not getting it. I understand when a movie is tryinng to be purposefully campy, but so many of these low grade movies seem to be taking themselves seriously, yet are just horrible, and all in the same way, many of which don't seem to be directly tied to money. Help me understand, why this is and what I am missing.
     
  2. DARTH SABER

    DARTH SABER Master Member

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    Originallya B movie was one of the films shown back in the 40's and 50's.
    Back in the day when you could buy a movie ticket for 10 cents and got to see a news reels, half an hour of cartoons, and two or three movies. (Jeez, where have those days gone!??).
    The first film usually a big budget film with big stars (A movie), and the second film was usually a low budget schlock film with unknown actors (B movie)...In todays standard B movie no longer applies to it being the second movie shown in a theater but a movie with a cheezy concept, low budget with virtually unkown actors.



    From my understanding there's actually and audience for these types of films.
    I have a friend of mine who is a sci fi nut. He's into ALL things sci fi, no matter how bad it may be. He's got a giant collection of Sci Fi films , most of which ive never heard of, and some that are so that are so bad that they've probably only aired once or twice on TV (Mostly bootlegs, because theyre so hard to find on DVD).
    When i ask him about this films he flat out admits they are corny and moronic, but he says he simply enjoys it.


    So while you and I may not be into these movie, there certainly seems to be an audience for it....The Sci Fi channel seems to cater to this small demographic.
     
  3. DaddyfromNaboo

    DaddyfromNaboo Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    It´s probably because all participants are chosen because of the "B". If you don´t have the money for a good author, then all is lost right before the beginning.
    You may have a good script, but then you get a B-list director and B-list DOP, and voilá! A-list script, probably, and still, B- or C-class movie.

    Maybe it´s the producer who is responsible for the B-factor, making decisions that make it a B-movie.

    It´s all about producing cheap content, and not about art. "Industry" has unfortunately no place for art, too sad. For the budget of one Transformers movie you can make about 30 to 50 B-movies. 1500 to 4500 minutes of "entertainment". And I bet there are some movies in those 50 movies that are more fun than Transformers.

    Sad, really sad. But then again, there are always the exceptions to the rule. I am curious about "Iron Sky", which would have cost about 12 times its budget if made in other countries than Germany, Australia or Sweden.
    And England, I love "Death Machine", great budget movie.

    But yes, I too think that "budget" does not have to necessary mean "bad".
     
  4. EyeofSauron

    EyeofSauron Master Member

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    mall rats and clerks?
     
  5. Gigatron

    Gigatron Sr Member

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    What you're forgetting, Art, is that anyone who owns a PC with MSWord, or a typewriter, can produce a script. There's no laws saying that you had to have graduated film school, or even have a basic understanding of story development and progression.

    There's no law that says movies can only be produced by the big movie houses or that creature effects have to come from Stan Winston Studios. If you have a friend with a video camera, some friends who think they can sculpt and mold, and friends who think they can act, chances are you can put a movie together.

    Now, these half-assed productions aren't going to attract Speilberg (Lucas,maybe :lol) or Scorecese, but probably the guy who directed 2 headed shark attack, or Hellraiser 2.

    And because there are no laws on restricting movie making to pros, these people will work for peanuts and film credit. They're not going to demand the high price salary of the guy who put out 5 blockbusters in 2 years. And without the financial backing of the big studios, they can't even get Urkel to do a role. They get the cousin of a guy who played a redshirt in 2 episodes of Star trek.

    This is why bad movie exists - there's no laws to stop them :lol.

    -Fred
     
  6. Contec

    Contec Master Member

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    B movie: Goofy monster [​IMG]
     
  7. YenChih Lin

    YenChih Lin Sr Member

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    Ach komm' schon Michael, red' mir mein geliebtes Transformers nicht madig :behave:lol (Com'on Michael, don't talk maggoty about my beloved Transfomers)

    Well, there's another example, of how a B-movie can enter the A-movie list, Terminator. Though the budget was non comparable to mainstream movies, it got a near A story, enough for people to say, "I feel entertained, I would watch again, but later…"
     
  8. micdavis

    micdavis Master Member

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    There really aren't B Movies any more.

    As stated above they were lower budget movies shown in double/triple features.

    Also if you wanted to show the A movies in your theater you would have to buy some of the B Movies. That's where the A and B labels came from. The lists of films from a distributor.
     
  9. Wes R

    Wes R Legendary Member

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    I agree Bayformers could have funded a ton of lower budget films. To me the "B" movie has a lower budget and tends to focus more on story than effects. Corman is still the king of the low budget film even though some of them are more gore and goof than storyline. Oddly enough a lot of the scifi and horror movies that folks love from the 50s were originally B movies.
     
  10. Art Andrews

    Art Andrews Community Owner Community Staff

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    I guess I should have asked, why are low budget films so badly written. I look at something like Terminator, which was mentioned in this thread and you have a relatively low budget film that elevated the material, and brought something to a film that could have been very forgettable. Maybe I am wrong, but I feel like on some level this isn't impossible to do. Not everything will be a diamond, but it feels like a lot of these low budget movies are purposefully turds. I just don't know why you would purposefully make a bad movie.
     
  11. Wes R

    Wes R Legendary Member

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    It's because for some reason B movies have become like the scifi channel stuff where they don't care about quality as long as they get it made. I wouldn't want my movie to be badly written if i was making it. I think it's also the fact that these days anyone can make a low budget movie even if they have no skills.
     
  12. terryr

    terryr Sr Member

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    B originally meant Budget. Most Humphrey Bogart movies were B. So it's not bad by itself.

    I don't think they purposely made bad movies. They just Suck. And don't know it until the movie is made.
    Writing a script is one thing. Selling it is another. They are two separate skills. Some people can sell, but can't write. So they take the money and then worry about 'fulfilling the contract'.
    Get some unknowns or ex-stars, spend a few bucks on effects, and pocket the rest.
     
  13. Art Andrews

    Art Andrews Community Owner Community Staff

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    I guess it is easy for me to sit here in my chair and be critical, but it is just hard for me to imagine being on set on the day and NOT realizing "dear God, this is absolutely awful." That is the part I don't get. How can you not know it... but then again, I would also like to think it would have been painfully obvious the the Anakin and Padme thing was painfully bad as well, yet no one stopped Lucas who had limitless money to spend.

    Maybe you guys are right and it is just about getting the job done and getting a paycheck. I tend to look at movies as an art form and have a hard time imagining it being done without SOME type of artistic integrity, but these low budget movies seem to have very little.

    However, some of the same issues do creep into fan films which I know are created out of love and passion. The most prevalent issue is the annoyed girl with an attitude character who is always rolling her eyes. Why does that character crop up so much in fan films? It never comes across the way I imagine the writer intended and always seems so forced. STOP DOING THAT!
     
  14. DaddyfromNaboo

    DaddyfromNaboo Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Because GL did not have to answer to anyone, neither creatively nor financially. Absolute power ...

    The paycheck is * important. I changed my look on a lot of things after I had made my third tv movie. Very disappointing.

    Because too often there are no actors and no directors involved, but only fans. Ambitious amateurs ;) But aren´t we all?
     
  15. YenChih Lin

    YenChih Lin Sr Member

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    I don't think they really pondering about: "That's awful" - mostly I guess they do the best, what they can do with the available resources at hand. May it be manpower or budget wise. You can never tell it's gonna be a B until the audiences decides…

    Well, it can also go the other way round for the SW CGI overload - you obviously can do too much with too much money at hand… if the script isn't good at all, you won't get A material, as anyone says: garbage in garbage out.
     
  16. Wes R

    Wes R Legendary Member

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    I think if you have to hire "The Monster Man" to do the effects it's a b movie lol.
     
  17. terryr

    terryr Sr Member

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    I was one of several dozen extras on Southland Tales. They had a building for 2 days so had to go around the clock, so there was big money to be made on 'golden time'.

    All of us quickly realized the movie sucked. We also asked several crew, and they couldn't figure it out either.
    Yet the director and stars kept charging ahead in blissful ignorance of the car crash.
    I guess they get caught up in details and don't see the big picture.

    And yes, it was delayed for years and then snuck out.
     
  18. Funky

    Funky Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    One of the many topics me and the group of "movie snobs" I hang with often discuss.
    I'll keep this short and sweet. I hear people argue that a "B movie" is a movie that has a limited budget. If you really think that then you have to pretty much group every independant movie in that catagory. Personally I've seen MANY independant movies that I favor over high budget ones.
    But...I have an unsusual taste in movies.

    I love Napolean Dynamite and almost all of Micheal Bay's movies.

    Yeah? So come and get me!!!
     
  19. Timmythekid

    Timmythekid Sr Member

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    Absurd monster attacks; corny dialogue; element of junk science; hackneyed moralizing...you know, like Jurassic Park :angel

    Oh jeebus I just couldn't help myself....

    No, I think whoever said above that there are no true 'B's anymore is absolutely right. However there is an awful lot of aiming for the light-touch of a B sensibility ever since Jaws and Star Wars showed how you could make that sensibility fun and extremely profitable.
     
  20. MFP 2020

    MFP 2020 Sr Member

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    I work with a guy who was a PA on a no-budget movie that had a couple of recognizable names from TV. The feeling on the set was that it was the worst thing any of them had ever worked on.

    From a writing standpoint, it's faster and easier to throw down the first words that come into your head than it is to agonize over every word, particularly if you're on deadline. Or a rap "artist." And even if you've crafted a piece of literary high art, there's no guarantee the producer and/or the actors aren't going to dumb it down later. (Barton Fink, anyone?) And although I understand the idea of writing well because that's what you do ("These are my WORDS!"), I also understand the temptation to just get it on paper, collect your check and move on.

    James Cameron is an interesting example because he came out of New World with no-budget sensibilities, did some remarkable things cinematically as a writer/director, and then sort of let the writing become secondary to the visuals. A friend of mine is a writer/director/art designer and I keep telling him he needs to start outsourcing, because he doesn't excel in any one of those fields, and the whole project suffers for it. But some people are like that.

    I highly recommend Lennon and Garant's book, Amazon.com: Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! (9781439186756): Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon: Books
     
  21. Spirit Juggler

    Spirit Juggler New Member

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    Sci-fi & fantasy do seem to very easily fall into the 'b' movie category. I think a big part of the reason for this is because the props and costumes for sci-fi & fantasy are so difficult to get looking good without some budget going into them. And then if you're trying to do special FX on a less that groundbreaking system with a less than groundbreaking team it will never look as clean and realisitic as the current cinema a list movies.

    I think another problem or perhaps symptom of the b movie *particularly todays 'b' movies* is the massive over acting. The innability of actors to fine tune their performances to offer any kind of subtlety in expression or voice. And when every member of the cast is doing the same it tends to look aweful.
     
  22. terryr

    terryr Sr Member

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    The Writers Guild registers about 50,000 scripts every year, for 20 bucks a pop. [ka-ching]
    And yet there are less original ideas every year.

    [​IMG]
     
  23. WarPig

    WarPig Sr Member

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    My views, for what they're worth...

    As stated before, the original meaning was a movie that cost less to produce, had lesser or unknown stars, and were used as a vehicle by the studios to promote those stars.

    These days, the stars that are "past their prime" (in the eyes of the industry) are usually the headliners, with the rest of the cast virtually unknown.

    A "true" B-movie (for me) is a movie that's low budget, but has some redeeming factors. Whether it's unintentionally bad acting, writing or Fx (or unexpectedly good of same), if I can say "well, *that* was entertaining!" when it's over, it was a good B-Movie. In addition, I do not feel obligated to watch the entire thing if it sucks - unlike some big-budget films that I watched hoping it would get better.

    B-Movies are best enjoyed with people; the more the merrier. Some adult beverage can make them even more fun (who needs MST3K if you have a couple of wise@$$ friends?).

    This topic would be fun to discuss in the chat room, or at a gathering. :)
     
  24. Krel

    Krel Sr Member

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    B-movies used to serve many purposes during the studio era. The movie studios used to own their own theater chains, so it put product in the theaters. It served as a training ground for the studio talent. Producers, directors, writers, camera operators, the whole spectrum of people needed to make movies, received training in the B-movies. It kept the studio workers employed, so that the different departments always had something to do.

    Now, the independents seem to serve that purpose.

    David.
     
  25. Spirit Juggler

    Spirit Juggler New Member

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    The problem with that is that there are so few independents now. Virtually none in the UK, so there's nowhere for up and coming film makers, writers, camera men to get their work shown.

    Who knows though, we're already starting to see a shift away from big block busters as they simply aren't sustaining the film industry enough. We're starting to see a few more less budget FX oriented and more acting. Things like The Kings speach & marigold hotel. Things to draw older cinema goers back to theatres.

    So who knows. Maybe the next step of that is to bring back the b movie reel into film showings as well.
     
  26. Krel

    Krel Sr Member

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    That is a problem in the U.S. also, and has been for quite awhile. Back in the 80s and 90s, there were direct-to-video films. I don't know how the market is for that now, as all of he video stores around me have gone under. Some films were sold to the cable movie channels, but that never was a very big market.

    Thinking about it, I don't believe that the problem is a lack of independents. If there was a market, then you would see independents, I think that the problem is distribution. There is no distribution for the independents. There are a lot less movie theaters in the U.S. then there were 20 years ago, so less theaters for independent films. Now, just about the only hope is that one of the big distributors will become interested in your film enough to book it into some theaters.

    David.
     
  27. terryr

    terryr Sr Member

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    I think Hollywood is like General Motors of the 1980s; Old and top heavy and set in their ways.
    Cut out thousands of B.S. Execs and prices will drop right there. Actual results will be needed for the remainder, not 'failing upward'.

    With digital film making Hollywood is not really necessary, but financing still may need some 'central focus point'.
     

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