Even grading on a sliding scale — as one must when assessing what are essentially amateur films — Bad Ideas is pretty hard to praise. Writer-director-producer-star (and 12 other credited positions) Ryan W. Martin notes on the film’s website, ”I was a rapper. What the hell did I know about movies?” Fair enough — and honest, to judge by the film. Now, I admire the fact that anyone can see a film like this through from idea to finished product. That in itself is laudable. I might also salute the fact that Martin — for better or worse — has made a movie about ideas. The problem is that Bad Ideas is a masterpiece of self-indulgence — and self-indulgence is a criticism I have all but banished from my lexicon. I have come to view the term as lazy and pretty silly (all art is essentially self-indulgent), but I feel compelled to trot it out here.
To start with, the film is not without interest, but the interest is buried in a punishingly overlong running time, no clear point, and a fondness for every cheesy post-production video effect that Martin’s editing program came packed with. Much of the film — especially, the interminable opening in a public restroom where Martin eats his own intestines out of a toilet (don’t ask) — could have been trimmed or cut outright. He has also bogged his cast down with too much dialogue that they’re just not up to. But there are glimmerings of talent here, too. On several occasions, I found the film strangely mesmerizing — in a David Lynch manner — but this was a quality it never sustained for very long. In the end, I almost think that what really hurts the movie is that it’s not crazy enough. However, if Martin would ease up on the video effects, cut down on the dialogue and learn to prune more effectively, he’d be onto something. I’d watch a second attempt.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Bad Ideas Friday, Sept. 13, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com