How to make a bad movie

After writing almost a hundred film reviews, interviews, and articles in four years for The Hurricane, this will be my last one. As a reviewer, I’ve seen 611 movies, including DVDs, since the first review ran in 2002, and for my last article there’s no way to really say goodbye, and no need to, either.

When Ben Stein made a stop at UM as part of his Longwinded But Amusing Statements of the Obvious tour a couple weeks ago, he included in his speech a list of ways to ruin your life. As part of a long-term personal goal to apply all commencement speaker advice to filmmaking, I’ve come up with 10 great ways to ruin your movie.

1. The Ashley Judd Rule Cast Ashley Judd. If you have the means, clone her and cast her in every role. Meryl Streep has been nominated for 13 Oscars, but only because Ashley Judd turned down all those roles first.

Seriously, she should be in every movie.

2. The Morning Rule Why not start your movie with your main character waking up? This has never been done, beginning a movie at the beginning of someone’s day. But don’t stop there. We want to see him brush his teeth, eat breakfast, read the newspaper, and drive to work. Leave nothing out.

3. The Roommate Rule Always have a quirky but likeable roommate character who creates awkwardness at formal gatherings. Any movie can be saved by this. The only reason Saving Private Ryan didn’t win Best Picture was that Lisa Kudrow refused to participate.

4. The Trunk POV Rule Whenever any of your characters are in or around a car, make sure to have a shot looking up at them from inside the trunk. We want to see what the trunk sees.

5. The Fleetwood Mac Montage Rule Don’t forget to include a long emotional montage set to Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. If possible, have a character running down a long hallway in desperation.

The best scene in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is the hallway/ Landslide scene, although most people remember the desert more.

6. The Clever Character Name Rule If you have a character who’s a writer, why not name her Paige Turner? That’s a real name, and it applies to being a writer. Cleverness like this wins Oscars, every time.

7. The Sleazy Meeting Location Rule All meetings between morally ambiguous male characters must be set in strip clubs, where all tables should be shaped like semi-circles.

8. The Physical Attractiveness Rule Remember that no ugly people are allowed in movies. That’s what radio is for.

9. The Karaoke Rule Are your characters depressed? Are you afraid your movie’s too somber? Nothing says fun and character building like a lengthy karaoke scene set to a song whose lyrics perfectly describe the movie’s plot.

10. The End Ending a movie is always hard. If you can’t come up with a great surprise ending, like all your characters were asleep and the whole movie was a dream, or the good guy was really the bad guy, then try this. Have your two main characters talk. One says something funny.

They both laugh. Freeze frame on them laughing, showing that they’re happy, then hold that for five to twenty seconds, and fade to credits. The end! Shawn Wines can be contacted at