“I’m not sure if Animal House is as cult-y as Harold and Maude — it might be a little bit more mainstream,” says Lauren Turner, marketing and communications coordinator for the Museum of Photographic Arts.
“The first one we showed was Dirty Harry, because the name of the artist’s exhibition on view was Harry Callahan. Animal House doesn’t tie in with the current exhibition so much as it does the start of the new school year. We were concerned about not having a big turnout for Harold and Maude [shown in February to coincide with Valentine’s Day], but apparently it has a huge cult following — 350 people showed up. People were wild about that movie.”
Turner is expecting an even larger turnout for Animal House, which the museum will screen on Thursday, August 28, as part of its Photography off the Prado Thursdays program, which features a different cult film every three months. A committee of 12 museum employees who, Turner says, “went online to research what a cult film is,” selects the films to be screened each quarter.
Cult films may be defined as movies that are deemed unsuccessful in theaters but later develop a limited but obsessive following. “I would define a cult film as a film that speaks to a person’s inner child,” says the museum’s film and public programs manager Priscilla Parra. “A fan of cult films can look past things like absurd story lines, horrible acting, unnecessary musical numbers, strange camera gyrations, fake guts, and still see a precious gem in cinematic history.”
“The most recent cult film is Dark Knight,” says Scott Marks, local film critic and founder of emulsioncompulsion.com. Bucking traditional definition, Marks believes that a cult film is any film that “attracts a die-hard audience of fanatics” and inspires repeated viewings.
“‘Cult’ can also indicate schlock, or films that were so bad they’re entertaining,” says Marks. “When Pink Flamingos opened, I was so young that I didn’t know what a transvestite was — I thought Divine was just a fat chick. I was so taken by the depravity and honesty and crazed originality that for one year I went to see it every weekend.”
Marks says that his favorite cult film is Blade Runner. “Blade Runner is my Star Wars,” he says. “When they brought that back, I saw it four or five times — I wanted to see how it would look digitally projected, enhanced, at the CineramaDome. I love that movie.”
Nearly any film can generate a group of obsessive followers, but Marks says there are some he could never see making it into the category of cult. “Ben Hur is not a cult film. In most cases, I think that if a film becomes so big that everybody sees it, it tends to lose some of the originality that may have contributed to its cult status.”
According to Parra, “Films that you probably never see on a cult film list are Daddy Day Care, High School Musical, Daredevil, and The Mummy.” Tragic dramas also need not apply. Marks cites Schindler’s List as an example of a non-cult drama. “I just can’t imagine people dressing up as concentration-camp guards and standing in line.”
Cult-classic aficionados often impersonate their favorite character. To invoke that fanatic feeling, some museum committee members have volunteered to dress in togas for the screening of Animal House. The movie will also be shown in the atrium as backdrop (or, according to Marks, “video wallpaper”) for a performance by local DJ P. Prez. Drawing pads will be available in the atrium for anyone interested in sketching one of the scantily clad live models who will be circulating.
“The models for this event will be members of San Diego burlesque troupe a Bit o’ Burlesque,” says Lily Jackson, who runs the San Diego branch of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. “The models have been asked to improvise on the drunken frat-party theme. I expect some slightly naughty fun.”
“If they really wanted to capture the spirit of the film,” says Marks, upon hearing that burlesque models will be frolicking about in bits of toga, “they would get a bunch of fat alcoholic guys with beer guts in togas. Because that’s what Animal House is.”
POP Thursdays: Animal House
Thursday, August 28
Event begins at 6 p.m.;
film begins at 7 p.m.
Museum of Photographic Arts
1649 El Prado
Info: 619-238-7559 or www.popthursdays.com www.popthursdays.com