It’s so much fun to enjoy things you know you shouldn’t. The art world is full of such guilty pleasures. Like that DVD of “Purple Rain” you throw on every now and then, or the stack of “Weird Al” Yankovic CDs you listen to when no one’s around. Yup — we know about those.
And you know what? It’s OK. We understand. The things most easily enjoyed aren’t always the most respectable. Every once in a while you have to just swallow your pride and admit it.
In honor of this sentiment, Daily Arts gives you our own guiltiest pleasures, the stuff so few would admit to liking. Maybe you wouldn’t, either — you have a reputation to worry about, after all.
Death Cab for Cutie
Ben Gibbard has all the angst of a 12-year-old girl with a snaggletooth whose dog just died and her current flavor-of-the-week boyfriend just called things off. But he does sing about his emotional issues eloquently, and that’s only half of the enticing elements surrounding Death Cab. Their talent for melody and catchy “bah bahs” somehow trump lines like “All I see are dark gray clouds / In the distance moving closer with every hour” and “If there’s no one beside you / When your soul embarks / Then I’ll follow you into the dark.” Don’t feel bad if someone calls you out on humming any lines — just say those damn songs got stuck in your head and put your headphones on. Then quietly enjoy the fluid angst.
You all have a friend who bitches your ear off about his or her life problems. And even though you’re sometimes irked by his or her vexations, part of you enjoys the vicarious thrill of witnessing someone else’s misery. Germans call this Schadenfreude. Canadians call it “Degrassi.” Imagine 25 friends like that one, all with emotional issues — from cutting to bulimia to alcoholism and back again — all revolving in a fucked-up carousel, each coming back at just the right moment with a new hang-up or foible. You can either disembark to puke or stay on for the ride. I’ve stayed on — for five years and counting.
“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”
Watching “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” is like gorging on candy when no one’s watching.
What’s the plot? Please. There might not have even been a script. All that has to be said is that it’s a nearly two-hour-long parade of blindingly bright colors, beautiful people in skimpy clothing and over-the-top explosions. When Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu hop on stage mid-movie for a ridiculously prolonged striptease, it becomes clear the filmmakers weren’t going for high art.
The film is a curiosity: It simultaneously demonstrates why Hollywood should be chastised and why it should be celebrated. In other words, it’s the definition of a “guilty pleasure.” Savor it — behind closed doors.
100.3 WNIC Christmas Music
I’m not afraid to admit it. Unlike most, who cringe at the thought of sleigh bells put to percussive use, I actually look forward to WNIC’s “100 percent Christmas music, 100 percent of the time.” I can’t help but smile when Nat King Cole croons about chestnuts, or when Rufus Wainwright prods about my plans for New Years Eve, not to mention the embarrassing annual sing-a-longs during the rides home for the holidays with my like-minded roommate. So to all you closet-carolers, quit being grinches and admit you love Rudolph, Frosty and the wintry wonder that is WNIC.
In 1997, we thought Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy were gonna change the world and legitimize electronic music.
Today? It’s probably the most bedeviled and mocked genre, as people assume it’s all about club kids, wailing background vocals and “beep boop” sounds. That’s only half true — thanks to assholes like Paul Oakenfold and DJ Tiesto.
But the DFA, Jazzanova, Justice, Daft Punk, DJ Shadow and a host of others could out-groove any band or pop songstress. Acid jazz, jungle and turntablism are experimental sounds worthy of respect. Even if they sometimes sound like they belong on the soundtrack of an old video game …
“Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen”
It’s probable that everyone, whether he or she wants to admit it, loves Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the classic Rat Pack picture “Ocean’s Eleven.” What fewer want to admit is they actual liked the sequels. Less coherent narratively? Perhaps. More self-indulgent? Definitely. But with an incredible soundtrack from David Holmes and a cast including the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Andy Garcia, it’s simply too appealing to balk at. I’m sorry, sue me. But in my book, “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen” occupy a secret but substantial page.
NOAH DEAN STAHL
“The George Lopez Show”
I’m a sucker for corny implicit-life-lesson family sitcoms. Deal with it. And as much as I love me some “Fresh Prince” and “Home Improvement,” without my occasional dosage of “The George Lopez Show,” I’d probably spontaneously combust.
I don’t care what people say, Lopez’s comedic timing is flawless. Plus, anyone who can get laughs by poking fun at his dyslexic son and still appear convincingly compassionate at the end of episodes deserves a medal. And, of course, you’ve got to love his individualistic brand of Hispanic super-slang.
“You’ve Got Mail”
If you enjoy browsing through Pottery Barn catalogs and dreaming of upward mobility untouched by moral hazard, you’ll love “You’ve Got Mail.” The story depicts a New York of unfussy leather armchairs, gaily dressed children and holiday food motifs. Yes, it’s a philosophically bovine world, but it feels so good. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan act out a slightly silly but humble courtship. Greg Kinnear, Dave Chappelle and Parker Posey are a tease for indie fans. The soundtrack recognizes Harry Nilsson’s talents beyond that lime/coconut song. This is cinema’s equivalent of Thanksgiving leftovers, and I challenge you to refuse it.
ABIGAIL B. COLODNER
“Not Another Teen Movie”
Let’s face it: Almost all of the parody movies suck. The ever-looming problem with satire is descending too far into stupidity. It’s at its best when it seems to really love its subject. That’s why “Not Another Teen Movie” works so well. The film pays wonderful homage to those guilty pleasure teen comedies — from “She’s All That” to “The Breakfast Club” — while also showcasing why they’re so loved in the first place. It’s absolutely ridiculous while simultaneously being outrageously brilliant. More importantly, it’s freaking hilarious, and the more you watch it, the funnier it gets. It just goes to show that a good “Movie” movie can actually be made.
This earnestly goofy indie comedy had the misfortune of being an unexpected smash hit upon its release, meaning that soon everyone from frat boys to your grandma was wearing a “Vote for Pedro” T-shirt and spouting bizarre catchphrases like “Gosh!” Naturally, the next step after “popular” is “overrated,” followed closely by “sucks” — which is why I now have to feel guilty for enjoying the movie. But here’s the truth: Napoleon is a legitimately creative, original character; the film’s cinematography perfectly conveys the comic desolation of the barren Idaho plains; and those dance moves were awesome. Also, Rex Kwan Do wins every time.
As the official musical ambassador for the blue-collar everyman, Garth Brooks has sold more albums than any single human in American history (combined, his albums have gone platinum 128 times). He can make you laugh (“Friends in Low Places”), cry (“The Dance”) and sometimes both at the same time (the unintentional, tragic hilarity of the video for “Standing Outside the Fire”).
But there was one thing ol’ Garth could never quite do: look cool. Between his bizarre cowboy-chic fashion sense and that wholly baffling “Chris Gaines” fiasco, there are plenty of reasons why I must seek some alone time before I can comfortably fist-pump along with “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).”
Don’t look at me like that.
Look, the Wayans Brothers should never be discounted. They created a benchmark of ’90s humor with “In Living Color,” and “Scary Movie” (the first) was funny as hell, right? Right?
But 2004’s “White Chicks” was met with unsurprising hostility both critically and commercially. Brothers Shawn and Marlon play two FBI agents that go in disguise as two Paris Hilton-esque girls. Sounds awful, yes, but it’s actually really clever. Seriously.
Think culture clashing meets fart jokes, and this movie ain’t half bad. And break-dancing combined with bro-bashing is funnier than you think.
“So You Think You Can Dance”
Once you get past the melodrama and glitter, “So You Think You Can Dance” is one of the most genuinely entertaining and inspirational reality competitions I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. The contestants are extremely talented and have struggled to make a career in the fickle industry of professional dance. They perform every style, from Krump to Viennese Waltz, often outside their comfort zones. That’s what the show’s all about: Bringing the vibrant, diverse world of dance to the masses. Sure, the show sometimes suffers from “American Idol” cheesiness, but all the sequins, gimmicks and product placement are greatly outweighed by the deeply emotional and technically proficient dancing it displays.
Sex, scandal and underage debauchery — in prep school outfits. What’s not to love about “Gossip Girl”? The CW-teen drama follows the travails of two oft-feuding Upper East Side prep school hotties, played by Blake Lively and Leighton Meester. The show has all the elements of “OC”-inspired trash, including murder mysteries, virginal conquistadors, hormonal teenagers, characters who often fall out of character and an “OMFG” ad campaign that revels in the show’s bad press for its depictions of underage sex and drug use. Despite all this, the show still gets an A+ for entertainment value and is becoming one of the most watched shows on the Internet. It’s safe to say that in spite of its eccentric writing and vulgarity, “Gossip Girl” will continue entertaining for a while.
When it comes to juvenile band names, “Barenaked Ladies” falls right behind “Butthole Surfers” at the top of the list. And while BNL’s embarrassing moniker may have been the reason I became infatuated with them during 5th grade, somehow their lame, hyper-Caucasian adult contemporary has kept me hanging on ever since. (OK, even I fall off when they go Canadian white-boy rap.) But it’s impossible to ignore the strength in Steven Page’s voice, and when he pours it all into “Brian Wilson,” “The Old Apartment” or, yes, even “If I Had $1,000,000,” the enjoyment I receive is more than just the feeling of nostalgia.