‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’
10 Images

Trash or art?

By Patrick Day, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

TRASH: The title says it all. Redneck cannibals? Women on meat hooks? Low grade fodder for the midnight movie junkies at best.

ART: Low-budget, relatively bloodless prototype for the many slasher movie clones to follow in the ‘80s. The film was a commentary on the era of the Vietnam war, Watergate and the disintegration of the hippie movement. ()
‘Plan Nine From Outer Space’

TRASH: No one doubts that Ed Wood loved cinema and the act of making movies. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit through the amateurish, talky and dull results of his delusions of grandeur.

ART: There’s been thousands of amateurish, low-budget movies to come and go through the years. The fact that this one still remains the worst of the lot has to count for something, if for nothing else than as a reminder to never give up. This photo could be a Sucessories poster. ()
‘The Passion of the Christ’

TRASH: Sunday school and repeated Easter viewings of “The Greatest Story Ever Told” never prepared us for director Mel Gibson’s bloody, bloody, bloody version of Christ’s crucifixtion. Crucifixation is more like it, as Gibson lingers sadistically over every whip-lash and drop of blood.

ART: While it may fail to stimulate the mind or engender theological discussion, it certainly works on an emotional level. As a success of pure filmmaking, Gibson makes his audience feel all-too-present for every step of Jesus’ path to Calvary. (Philippe Antonello / Newmarket Films)
‘Natural Born Killers’

TRASH: Overdone “Bonnie & Clyde” with a headache-inducing mish-mash of media inserted in the place of style. Even though Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis eventually meet their fate, director Oliver Stone only seems to glorify their overly violent deeds.

ART: An in-your-face multimedia commentary on how the media creates its own monsters, both through how it emotionally deadens us as children and then glorifies our darkest natures as adults. (Warner Bros.)

TRASH:A crew of beer-swilling, skateboarding punk rock dudes voluntarily submit themselves to gross-out, pain-inducing stunts like getting shot with a pellet gun at close range, eating cow dung and getting branded on the rear. Did we mention that nearly all of these stunts involve putting one’s genitalia at risk in some form or another?

ART:Spike Jonze’s social experiments gives the Jackass boys some credibility and you can’t help but ponder mortality while watching the Jackasses writhe, grimace and eat the pavement in spectacular fashion. (Paramount Pictures)
‘Deep Throat’

TRASH: Just because it made a lot of money, somehow became a media sensation and has a pretty unique premise doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a pornographic movie. It’s not even listed on IMDB.com, for crying out loud.

ART: If great art should reflect the society from which it sprang, then a sex movie like “Deep Throat” is an appropriate mirror for America in the 1970s, a decade in which women’s sexual liberation was part of the zeitgeist after decades of repression. (Documentary Productions, LLC)
‘The Exorcist’

TRASH: Subverts the iconography and deeply considered values of the Catholic faith in favor of some cheap scares and stunt shocks.

ART: Even in an age of so-called torture porn and the latest in visual effects, the simple practical effects of director William Friedkin’s thriller are still as effective as the year they were filmed and serve to goose a powerful meditation on the power of faith and the temptation of doubt. (Warner Bros.)
‘Pink Flamingos’

TRASH: A live chicken is crushed and killed on-camera between two people making love. A human sphincter dances in time to the music. Semen gets injected by syringe. Oh, and a drag queen eats dog doo-doo.

ART: It’s all true. But director John Waters somehow manages to conjure a sense of bemused detachment and innocent fun that’s the film’s saving grace. It’s like he’s beside us all in the theater howling “Can you believe these people?” (Fine Line Features)
‘Bad Lieutenant.’

TRASH: Intended to shock, with a drug-addicted police detective, played by Harvey Keitel, investigating the rape of a nun. At one point, we also get a shot of full-frontal Harvey.

ART: It can’t always be the neat-and-tidy cases of “Law & Order.” Instead we get the no-holds-barred portrayal of a self-destructing policeman told in a frankly adult manner. (Aries Films)

TRASH: The filmmaker’s obsession with underage sex is unsettling and more than a little lurid. With children’s values being corrupted at earlier and earlier ages, a film about the deflowering of young women is the last sort of example that should be set for suggestable youth.

ART: This film tells it like it is. Larry Clark and screenwriter Harmony Korine depict a realistic view of aimless teenagers that’s more accurate than any parent would want to admit to him or herself. (Aries Films)