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My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin

June 8, 2012

My Year of Flops: The AV Club Presents One Man’s Journey Deep into the Heart of Cinematic Failure grew from Nathan Rabin’s online series at the AV Club (the movie/tv/music spin-off of The Onion) documenting his reflections on watching movies that are widely considered to be flops. After writing a series of weekly reviews, he collected them into a book and added some bonus book-only reviews.

Rabin’s purpose is not to excoriate the already widely hated; in some cases, he argues that widely reviled movies – such as Ishtar, a movie so synonomous with flopitude that Waterworld was dubbed Fishtar by some pundits – are Secret Successes; they may have failed at the box office, but viewed separately from the context in which they were released, they have their charms and are worth watching. Some movies are just Failures – the unloved movies that simply failed to succeed, like the now nearly forgotten Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Where flops get really interesting is with the fiascos – the giant movies that go not only go down in flames, but often do so in such an over-the-top style that you probably won’t forget them, such as the movie that gave Rabin the idea for his rating system, Elizabethtown. These are the movies that, when you watch them, you wonder who, exactly, thought it was a good idea. Susan Sarandon doing a stand-up comedy routine followed by tap-dancing when asked to speak at her husband’s memorial is such a WTF moment, in a movie filled with them, that one can’t help but wonder how the movie progressed from development to filming to release date.

Rabin has a curious affection for the flops he details; you feel that he is searching through the detritus of pop culture looking for gems to polish off and share with the rest of us, rather than engaging in snarky schadenfreude at the failures of others. The care with which he approaches these forgotten failures, fiascos, and the occasional secret success makes My Year of Flops an engaging read.


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