Birdemic: I feel Shock and Terror

Last night I rested from sanity and watched Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

That the film is a marvel akin to Plan 9 or Manos tells certain folk all they need to know. If you love bad movies, you have already seen Birdemic, a plausible candidate for Worst Movie Ever.

One personal rule for this title is that the film could not intend to be bad. No “ironic” frat boys with a camera need apply for Worst Movie Ever: one always fears that they are talentless hacks covering up for their inability to make a good film by making a “bad on purpose” film and then winking broadly at us. Any interview with the writer and producer of Birdemic will let you know that this movie was the best his cast and crew could do.

And this is where one wonders: do these people have friends? Doesn’t someone warn the actors on this film that they cannot . . . act? In college, a kind voice teacher pointed out to me that nobody, ever, would pay to hear me sing without having been cheated. This was hard to hear, but shouldn’t someone have said the same to the folk making Birdemic?

Since I know people who have met at least one of the actors it is hard to mock . . . hard but not impossible. They made this film themselves after all, voluntarily, for free. They thought a movie with the worst CG birds I have seen since the Commodore 64 would advance their careers. Perhaps. Wikipedia has, after all, noticed them which is more than we can say who laugh . . . as William Shatner points out we were never famous enough to be “has beens.”

The shock of the film to me is that it is still possible in the age of HD phones to make a movie this fuzzy or in a time of unemployed actors willing to work for screen time that one would choose this group. The “board scene” where the software company discovers they have been purchased for “ONE MILLION DOLLARS” can be viewed multiple times to glory in the stereotypes, the reaction shots, the editing, the finger-pointing boss . . . everything. Nothing is done right, but it is done with enthusiasm.

This of course brings up the terror. Anybody who writes where the public can see his work must know where I am going. I watched a review of the film (entitled a “rant”) on You-Tube and it was pretty bad . . . not quite as bad as Birdemic, but as accidentally revealing of the soul. The writer of Birdemic loves software design and Silicon Valley, because it makes money. The reviewer likes snark, because he cannot be bothered to get out his room and shoot Birdemic.

He has a symbiotic relationship with bad films. His bad reviews and lazy writing are made worthy by the awfulness of Birdemic.

And so the shock of knowing that I too do not seem myself as others see me.

A poet asked God to give him the gift of seeing himself as others see him, but I am afraid to ask for that gift. It is terrible, because the “charity” in which I veil the judgments I should make about myself is missing altogether in others.

Even this worry strikes me as a kind of worrisomely tired Internet meme. First, mock a film, then praise the sincerity of those making it, then ostensibly worry about being like the makers (all the while hoping you are not). There really is no end to this self-ironic examination. It leads naturally to the worry that I am worrying about this in public only to take the superficial “self-realization” to the next level in order to look clever.

This points to a limit to self-examination, especially in a public forum. Our spiritual formation cannot take place here, because nobody is so pure that there is no posturing involved. Much as I try to be honest, and I do try, some “veiling” takes place. It is here that my conversations with my priest and spiritual fathers and mothers cannot be duplicated, because they would spoilt if made public. It is there, with almost, God help me in the almost, nothing to gain or almost no desire to hide that progress is possible.

Public art is confession that  is revealing, but mostly for others. God is giving them a gift to see us, but usually not as we wish to be seen!

Birdemic is a bad movie. That the men and women involved made it points to a failure in their community or in their view of themselves. They need to let God steal their dreams or temper them with learning so that they can do what they actually wish to do. I need to realize the limits of art for the public and make sure that I am living in a community that can come alongside me.

Mostly, though, at the end of this reflection I realize: Birdemic is a very bad movie.

You have been warned.


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