Last week, I introduced you all to the best so-bad-it’s-good movie you’ve never seen. The above video is a compilation of my favorite parts, and here is my full review I promised:
My Streets (2009)
Written & Directed by Justin Kady
Some spoilers I guess, but who cares.
In Shelby Township, Michigan, the kids shop at the mall, do a lot of trendy drugs, get good grades, and go to Michigan State University. Justin Kady was the pretty kid at school destined for stardom. But he let the attention go to his head, and thought he could make a movie without really trying, like that Greek dude who flew too close to the sun.
There’s a reason they say ‘write what you know’. When you don’t, the result is a mess. My Streets is basically what happens when privileged, upper middle class kids get caught up in a culture of Scarface, rap music, drugs, ‘clubbing’, and ‘street movies’. I may sound like a 65-year-old curmudgeon, but there is no better way to describe it. Justin Kady comes from the same place I do, and we went to the same high school. There is no crime, there are no cartels, and there are no gangsters. In that way, My Streets is kind of a documentary about the stupidity of getting caught up in urban culture.
Every scene in My Streets is a film class in how not to make a movie. The lecture topics range from Performance, Lighting, Music Selection, Editing, Composition, Dialogue, Storytelling, and sometimes just plain old Logic. (Did Buck really just fly his airplane all the way to Jimmy just to tell him he doesn’t have any leads for him? Do phones not exist?)
The film opens on a guy’s face. He has tape over his mouth, and he looks really dopey. I think he’s supposed to be waking up from a beating or a drugging of some kind. We then cut to the reverse—a sloppy-looking, directionless shot. It just looks lame. And then in walks Justin Kady, playing Jimmy Angel, a character name that I can’t type without laughing, and the shrimpiest most non-threatening tough guy in cinema history.
It’s immediately distracting how uncomfortably bad Kady’s performance is. As he launches into a speech about his father and some crime deals that have gone awry, not only does the wide angle lens and poor shot composition make him look tiny and harmless, his high-pitched Michigan accent and total lack of rhythm destroy any and all credibility for the character.
Over the course of the movie, Kady displays an amazing ability to completely ruin the flow of a scene. Sometimes he even makes other terrible actors seem decent simply because he’s so bad. But mostly, the scenes just play out like twisted bad acting duels where Justin and his scene partner try to out-bad act each other.
It’s very difficult to understand the conflict in this movie. There basically is none. Jimmy is out of jail because of a technicality set up by a crooked cop, and he lives in a mansion and appears to have unlimited money. We even see him buy a Lamborghini on a whim. So what exactly is the problem?
Even expository scenes are confusing. Early on in the film, Jimmy and his right and left hand men (geniusly named Tommy Land and Johnny Vain) discuss their new enterprise—meth. Jimmy says that pills are lightweight and easy to move, but not profitable (being friends with a few drug addicts, I can tell you that they certainly are) and so they decide to turn to meth. However, they have no resources to get into the meth business, so Jimmy says they should lay low for a while and “take a breath”. But then he continues to say, in the very same sentence, that they will get a spotter and a dealer, literally going against his own advice that he just said. No idea. The scene itself is also difficult to watch due to misplaced eye-lines, feeble attempts at banter, and the lighting choice of just shining bright lights on the side of the actors faces.
The first act of My Streets is basically a series of meetings that Jimmy has after getting out of jail. He meets with a lawyer who tells him that “Money is power.” He bumps into his old girlfriend in a scene that I call the “Pepsi Machine Scene” (you’ll see why). He visits a Cuban drug dealer who hangs out in a crusty old building by himself, reading a newspaper, with a pile of cocaine and a gun on the table in front of him (you know, like all drug dealers do). That scene is basically the ‘we gotta have a really cool part where we have like a Cuban drug lord tell a story or something’ scene. From what I can tell, it achieves nothing story-wise, but has a great moment where Kady says “we’ve been working together for nine years”, which is a great setup for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 silhouette to quip “…since I was nine years old” in their best Jimmy Angel impression.
The Cuban drug lord scene is very telling of the major pitfalls of the story at large, and the idea behind the entire movie. The cocaine and the gun on the table is an obvious Scarface nod, but it very blatantly looks like what it is—a dumb idea by a bunch of twenty-two-year-olds who thought it would be really cool to have a pile of cocaine on the table and a guy with a Cuban accent in their movie. There’s not one shred of understanding of how a narrative works. We never see the Cuban again, and their interaction means literally nothing to the rest of the plot. All that happens is Angel drops off some money and leaves. The scene is in the movie because Kady saw a bunch of crime movies that had scenes like that (scenes where criminals go into thoughtful stories) and felt his crime movie needed one. My Streets is like a shitty imitation of movies that are already shitty. That’s why all of the characters speak to each other in cliches, and why the totality of these cliches amounts to nothing.
If you really think about it (and I’ve thought about it a lot) not one scene in My Streets has anything to do with any of the other scenes. Occasionally there are plot-related cause and effect circumstances, like a guy will say they’re going somewhere, and then end up in that place, but apart from that, the movie is essentially just built out of the most banal moments of other bad movies, redone in an even more banal way.
Take the scene where the detective guy comes to Jimmy’s to tell him the crooked cop guy is dead. Jimmy mentions fishing and then, out of fucking nowhere, the cop launches into a bizarre, melodramatic speech about his father taking him fishing when he was a kid. It’s one of the funniest bad movie moments in the film.
One of my other favorite aspects is the total lapses in common sense. Like, why did the stripper have a gun under her vagina in the strip club? Why the fuck did Buck fly his goddamn airplane just to tell them about nothing? (The answer is clearly that they had access to an airplane.) Why is Tommy Land so broken up over hitting a girl with his car if he’s supposed to be a homicidal maniac? And why did the cocaine make him drowsy? And my most favorite one, which generally goes unnoticed on the first few viewing: Jimmy is on the phone with Buck late in the film, and Buck asks to meet him. Jimmy says it’ll take him 45 minutes to get to where he is, but then he remembers that he just bought a Lamborghini and says, “Wait, give me 15 minutes”. Does that mean Jimmy is literally going to drive two hundred miles per hour to get there? I seriously don’t get it at all. I really could go on forever—dissecting My Streets was an obsession of mine for about a month. But I’ll let you discover most of these for yourself.
Although it might not seem like it, I actually have a lot of respect for what Kady did. After High School, he moved to LA to go to the New York Film Academy. (I know?) I did the same thing—I moved to NYC after I graduated to go to the LA Film Academy. (Kidding—I went to the New York Film Academy in NYC, they have hubs around the world.) Being from the same place, it’s cool to know about somebody else who moved away to pursue a dream in filmmaking—everybody else just became a teacher or some shit.
When I moved back home in 2011, I heard that Justin was working at our local cable access station, Shelby TV, which is inside the library only a mile from my house. I reached out with a Facebook message just saying hello and introducing myself. I’d never met him in person, but knew of him from high school. No response. I wasn’t fazed though—networking can be pretty lame, and some people just don’t care. That’s when I discovered My Streets.
In the years since, Justin actually made another movie, a short called Time Machine, which is actually worse. It’s included below.
But what did Truffaut or Godard or one of those guys say? “If you’ve made a film, I already love you”? Justin, I extend that respect to you. And dude, I honestly think that if you had a sense of humor about yourself and your work, you could be a self-aware version of Tommy Wiseau. Unfortunately, the Making Of documentary you did for Time Machine is pretty staggering evidence that you and him are quite alike.
0 out of 1 stars.