There is a whole category of narratives -- movies, books, TV shows, calendar designs -- that one knows are not very good. They are derivative or implausible or melodramatic or manipulative, and yet -- this is the YET -- one enjoys them anyway. Guilty artistic pleasures, the equivalent of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup instead of organic, fair-trade, dark chocolate with an 85% coca content.
Recently I saw two such movies. One is UNSTOPPABLE, about a runaway train. The film is based on a real incident, and the heroic measure that finally stopped the train did, at its most basic, actually happen. But the "basic" has been tricked out with lots of heroic flourishes, ridiculous near-misses, and general derring-do by cardboard characters who have been severely injured but don't seem to notice. So why did I like the movie? Because it is exciting, and because there is something mesmerizing about several tons of out-of-control metal hurtling through countryside and city, set in motion by human carelessness and stopped by human effort. I am not, mind you, actually recommending this movie to anybody. But -- a personal guilty pleasure.
It's also a guilty pleasure to watch Cher in BURLESQUE. I grew up watching Cher, all the way back to her and Sonny Bono standing side by side on TV singing "I Got You, Babe," she all the while trying to keep that long floaty black hair from drifting over her face in invisible, TV-mysterious breeze. In BURLESQUE she has two musical numbers. I am no judge of music, but I liked seeing her sing again. She also has top billing over Christina Aguilera, who can sing, can dance, and is actually the star. Cher has had so much plastic surgery that her face doesn't move any more, which is a little eerie, but she puts a lot of vocal expression into her part, a club owner who cannot meet the mortgage payments. The plot was a cliche in the 1950's, and some of the songs date from then, too ("Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend"). But the dancing is fun (Fosse-style choreography) and I had a great time watching the film. Guilty pleasure.
This indulgence also extends to some books that I like but know are bad. However, I am not saying which ones, for fear of losing all credibility with whoever out there reads this blog.