I was recently invited back as a returning guest on an episode of the We Love to Watch podcast to discuss the ELO-scored disco musical Xanadu. In our recent Movie of the Month discussion of Cool as Ice, the rap-oriented Vanilla Ice reimagining of the Marlon Brando classic The Wild One, I rambled loftily about the beautifully absurdist space where art & commerce collide in the precious few cult classic movies that actually live up to their “so bad it’s good” designation. Xanadu is a perfect example of the exact dynamic I was getting at in that conversation, the sublimely strange accidents where cinema is nakedly exposed to be both art and commerce, cynically so. Instead of selling Vanilla Ice as a tough guy leading man material, however, Xanadu is tasked with marrying the spectacle of Old Hollywood musicals (represented in the film by Gene Kelly) with a then-fresh sense of disco futurism (represented by Olivia Newton John & ELO). As you’ll hear in the episode, the results aren’t consistently cohesive or competent, but they are always memorably bizarre. More importantly, they also point to a very specific kind of movie magic where blatant commercialism accidentally stumbles into the territory of fine art.
Besides having the chance to further explore this idea of cinema’s dual role as art & a product, it was super fun to return as a guest to a show I listen to regularly. Aaron & Peter were incredibly kind to invite me back after we discussed The Fly (1958) last October. Their podcast is wonderfully in sync with the sincere & empathetic ethos we try to maintain on this site (especially when covering so-called “bad movies”), so I highly recommend digging through old episodes & clips on the We Love to Watch blog & YouTube page. And, of course, please start by giving a listen to their episode on Xanadu below.