'B Movie Bombs' Opens at Camera 3

New monthly film series highlights the guilty pleasures of B movies
FLYING FISH: A freakish weather phenomenon bombards Los Angeles with shark-filled twisters in 'Sharknado.' Camera 3 holds a screening of theso-bad-it's-good movie as part of the B Movie Bombs series.

You know what you're getting when you buy a ticket to Sharknado, during its Aug. 23 one-night-only appearance in San Jose at Camera 3: you're auditing a wake-up call to the world. This time, the sharks jump you! Sharknado proposes that man's interference with nature could result in literal cyclones of snapping, ornery sharks. In the face of this frighteningly plausible event, divided families learn to pull together.

Some would say Sharknado hits its plot points like a Taiko drum. Nate Havoc might be one of that rhetorical "some." He's a booker of different sorts of Bay Area entertainment; among his projects are free movies in Oakland's Jack London Square and our monthly Rocky Horror Picture Show. He intends the B Movie Bombs series to be what he calls "a fun interactive experience." Havoc passes out cards so that the audience can play a form of Bingo, marking off the cliches as they roll past. Viewers win a small prize if they get five in a row. Will the dog survive? Check it off the card if, against the odds, the Labrador leaps through the wall of flames into safety. Can two former enemies—the cold professor, and the tough military man—learn to put aside their differences?

Last month's presentation of John Carpenter's They Live (1988) was billed as a B-Movie Bomb, but is this ace political satire truly a bomb? Havoc demurs: "I wouldn't say They Live is a bomb, but it does have a lot of common cliches, which I refer to as B movie bombs." On Netflix currently is the 2012 A Pervert's Guide to Ideology, a documentary by Sophie Fiennes featuring a series of extrapolations by the Arch-critic, Slavoj Zizek. Considering They Live, which he admires, Zizek even finds a purpose in that film's weak link. I mean the endless fight scene between hero wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper and his bro Keith David: the man won't put on the damn glasses and see the aliens in their midst.

It's not the most compelling fight ever filmed. Carpenter later said that his purpose was to try to top the kind of marathon brawls John Wayne fought in The Quiet Man and Red River. Trying to outdo the Duke is a sucker's game, though admittedly Carpenter captured Kurt Russell channeling Wayne in Big Trouble in Little China. "The wings of libertyÉmay they never lose a feather!"

Fighting his usual Slovenian catarrh, Great Zizek suggests They Live's fight scene symbolizes the reluctance of the public to see the ideologies that guide us. The end-of- history milieu of capitalism, victorious and unquestionable: we don't notice it any more than a fish notices water, or a shark notices its tornado. Zizek's lectures reminds us that populism has at least two edges—could it be that They Live, understandable as a lefty parable fit for the Occupy movement, is being jacked online by anti-Obama cranks accusing the sheeple of drinking the Kool-Aid? I Googled for the tell-tale images of a skull-faced, zombie-eyed alien Obama. Why bother. They were, of course, easily found.

Zizek had a few words about what the shark in Jaws means to different viewers: Fidel Castro called it his favorite film, and saw it as an anti-capitalist attack. This would surprise your Republican brother who saw Jaws 70 times. The point is that Jaws leads inexorably to Sharknado—proof that the world is becoming a far more fearful place.

In the meantime, Havoc has Troll 2 slated for a screening. What freight of significance does this so-called "Best Worst Movie" carry: perhaps a warning against unregulated Airbnb? Bedbugs in a rental unit is bad enough, but trolls? Havoc hopes his series will continue with cinematic singularities such as the best film ever shot in Santa Cruz, Attack of the Killer Klowns, Sylvester Stallone's Coca-Cola product-placement drenched Cobra, Army of Darkness and Snakes on a Plane. If that serpent-loaded plane were to fly into a sharknado, the survivors would envy the dead.

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