'The Citizen Kane of bad movies': Credit Conn prof Ross Morin with that classic quote about ‘The Room’
As the new movie “The Disaster Artist” has been making its way through screenings and positive reviews, one phrase about “The Room” — the notoriously and enjoyably awful 2003 film that serves as the basis for “The Disaster Artist” — keeps bubbling up.
“The Room,” you have no doubt heard, is “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
It’s a genius phrase and one that gave “The Room” a certain the-world-is-upside-down cachet.
That quote was originally uttered in 2008 by Ross Morin, a Connecticut College alum who is now associate professor of film studies and film department chair at the school.
A reporter from Entertainment Weekly called Morin back then for an article about “The Crazy Cult of ‘The Room.’” At the time, Morin was an assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, and he and his friends were hosting screenings of “The Room” that were drawing more and more viewers.
That Entertainment Weekly article, as Morin notes, propelled “The Room” to fame.
And it turned Morin’s assessment into a calling card of sorts for the movie.
“It’s not one of the more interesting things I’ve ever said, but it just sort of stuck,” Morin says. “It was a string of many things I was saying (to the reporter). You never know what you say that people are going to latch onto.”
He has since been interviewed by publications ranging from The Huffington Post to The Sunday Times of London about the strange little movie.
Morin uses “The Room” — directed and written by and starring Tommy Wiseau, it’s about a banker’s fiancée seducing his best friend — in classes he teaches at Conn College, since seeing a movie that goes so wrong can be a valuable learning tool for students.
“As a film professor, I see lots of people making films for the first time, and I see a lot of mistakes. I see a lot of baby-steps bad filmmaking mistakes,” he says. “‘The Room’ doesn’t just make mistakes. It exaggerates the mistakes in epic ways. … ‘The Room’ repeatedly exaggerates failure, and that exaggeration of failure and that exaggeration of wrong decision-making is fascinating. I love bad movies. I’ve always loved bad movies. But this movie, from top to bottom, makes the wrong choices of what to do. It’s wrong not just because, oops, the camera is in the wrong place or, oops, it’s out of focus, although that’s certainly a part of it. It’s like it gets humanity wrong in some way. It gets what it means to be a human wrong …
“It really does feel as though someone from another planet observed sitcoms from the ’80s and ’90s and maybe they watched a little porno, too, and they were like, ‘OK, that is humanity, and I’m going to make a movie about it.’”
Morin has been a “Room” enthusiast since he first saw it, as a grad student at Ohio University in 2007. His roommate bought a “Room” DVD with some friends, and a small group screened it — and then screened it again the following month, with double the number of people showing up. The audience grew in size again the following month. By the end of the year, hundreds gathered to watch “The Room” projected on the side of a building.
A newspaper in Ohio wrote about these screenings, and the Entertainment Weekly writer must have seen that article and so contacted him, Morin surmises.
“We inadvertently were responsible for helping to create the cult following for ‘The Room.’ I had no idea that was happening. I just knew I was part of something magical and really, really special,” Morin says.
As for “The Disaster Artist,” Morin hasn’t seen it yet. (“The Disaster Artist” had been riding high on a wave of awards-season buzz — until star/director/co-producer James Franco won a Golden Globe Award on Sunday for his performance. After that, a series of women went public with sexual misconduct allegations against Franco.)
“The Disaster Artist” is based on the book of the same name by “Room” star Greg Sestero and with the subtitle “My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.” Morin loved the book, saying it “was one of the most special experiences I had reading a book. I laughed tears to the point of throwing the book across the room.”
He was moved, too, by the touching relationship portrayed between Sestero and director Tommy Wiseau.
Sestero came to Connecticut College in 2013 to talk in a public session about the book and the movie, and Morin recalls the two of them sitting in High 5’s in New London and Sestero discussing whether he should sell the movie rights to the book.
“I feel very protective of my personal experience of reading that book,” Morin says — hence his reluctance to see the movie adaptation.
But Morin remains a devoted fan of “The Room.” “Citizen Kane” might be widely considered the most important film of all time, but Morin says, “I guess my argument is ‘The Room’ is just as important, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. It deserves to be taught in every class in some way. There’s something to be gained from it. It’s one of the most important films ever made, and it’s the most important bad film ever made.”