August 21, 2007

10 movies I am supposed to like, but don't - and why

You know that awful feeling when you don't like a film that has received unanimous critical and popular acclaim? You're sitting around with your friends, and they're talking about how great it is, and you don't know whether to pipe up with your opinion and risk being ridiculed and ostracized. Well, I am about to take that risk, and share with you movies that I am "supposed" to like, but don't - and why. Hopefully none of you know where I live. WARNING: Spoilers follow.

- Children of Men
Why I should have liked it: Several Oscar nominations, solid cast, promise of a good story.
Why I didn't: As promised, this film delivered amazing cinematography and visuals - I can't deny that. And I was very intrigued by the premise that woman worldwide suddenly became infertile and the human race risked extinction. Too bad they didn't flesh out that idea AT ALL. I wasn't looking for a scientific play-by-play of why...I just wanted them to explore it more. The film, despite praise for its provocative rendering of the future, is so minimalistic and unexplained that it's basically a glorified road/chase movie. A girl becomes miraculously pregnant (again, no reason given) and Clive Owen and Co. have to smuggle her to The Human Project, which they don't explain either. The characters get killed off carelessly. Julianne Moore, whose character shows promise and an interesting backstory with Owen's, dies unceremoniously about 8 minutes into her screen time. That, my friend, is a waste of Julianne Moore. Michael Caine gets offed too, and Clive-dawg dies right at the end. I get it. These individuals have to die so mankind can survive. What's that vague throbbing pain I feel? Oh, it's this movie whacking me violently over the head with its message. Plus, they just show the pregnant girl (who has since given birth to her baby) arriving at a boat that supposedly contains members of The Human Project. They don't even show her getting on the boat! I kept thinking how funny it would be if the boat didn't see her and left. Maybe her baby is sickly (um hello, it was about six weeks premature and spent the first couple of days of its life in a war zone) and it dies the second she gets on the boat. Oops, sorry, human race.

- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Why I should have liked it: Won the coveted 5-Oscar sweep (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay), inclusion in the AFI Top 100, Jack Nicholson finally channeling his craziness into a movie about a mental institution.
Why I didn't: You'd think that a movie about crazy people would have a lot of energy, but this film just seemed lethargic to me. Maybe it's the 3-hour running time. You see, I have a short attention span. I am not opposed to long movies, but if it goes for one nanosecond over two hours, it better be fucking captivating. I had absolutely no problem with Gone With the Wind being four hours long, because I feel that every minute was entertaining and justified. But a film this slow and psychological just can't be this long. Plus, everyone's obsessed with Louise Fletcher's performance as Nurse Ratched (for which she won an Oscar) but I wasn't terribly impressed. She just reminded me of my uptight 11th-grade chemistry teacher who really needed to get laid.

- M
Why I should have liked it: It's a universally praised 1931 German thriller by Fritz Lang starring Peter Lorre as a child killer! Fun!
Why I didn't: Seriously though, I was kind of excited to watch this. It let me down. In fact, I only got through about 30-45 minutes. Petey didn't even show up til pretty far in, so it was just a bunch of unknown German actors running around with mild concern because they couldn't find their kids. I could see that at a playground. Maybe it gets better later on, but I don't know if I can sit through enough to find out.

- Blade Runner
Why I should have liked it: Hailed by some as the greatest sci-fi movie ever, just got included in the revamped AFI Top 100 list, cult favorite.
Why I didn't: In the film's defense, I think its 78 different versions hurt it. Okay, there's only about 6, but that's still a few too many versions. I saw the director's cut, just because it was the version available to rent. I did think that the futuristic vision of L.A. was pretty cool. But Harrison Ford's acting ineptitude is just unbearable to watch. I recently read an article that accused Ford of constantly having his mouth hanging open to look dramatic and pensive. It's painful. He shows the dramatic range of celery. The still unanswered question as to whether Ford's character is a replicant is also problematic. It'd be fine to just leave it open, but Ridley Scott and Ford keep having these arguments about it (Scott allegedly said he was a replicant; Ford said that he and Scott had explicitly agreed that he wasn't) that I think weaken the film. The love story seems forced, and Daryl Hannah's character is just fuckin weird. Sorry, Blade Runner.

- Lord of the Rings
Why I should have liked it: The third one won best picture and got included in the new AFI Top 100, film snobs and Tolkien nerds alike hold it in high regard
Why I didn't: I only saw the first one, but I already know I couldn't deal with the other two. I think to fully enjoy them, you have to have a huge boner for the books, or at least the characters. I didn't. We read "The Hobbit" in 7th grade and I was not impressed (although I did deliver a stunning performance as Thorin in our class' movie adaptation). Also, I am not interested in movies with such an epic scope. Whether it's the Civil War or Middle Earth, I don't like wrapping my brain around that much in one movie. I prefer movies that focus on the lives of just a few people. When Return of the King won Best Picture in 2003, resulting in a united asthmatic wheeze of joy from nerds everywhere, I found it strange that among its numerous nominations, there was not a single acting nomination. How do you have a strong movie without good acting?

- My Fair Lady
Why I should have liked it: Won Best Picture and Best Actor, inclusion in the AFI Top 100, my undying love for musicals.
Why I didn't: The movie should really be called "An Hour of Audrey Hepburn Screaming, Followed By a Forced Love Story." Seriously, the beginning of this film made me want to honorably retire my ears. I get it, she's a Cockney flower girl - but I didn't know that "Cockney flower girl" was synonymous with "autistic indecipherable screaming bitch." Once Rex Harrison's character "tames" her, she falls for him. Because if there's one thing women love, it's men that spend months torturing and ridiculing them until they have proper grammar. At the end, AuHeps runs away, decides she loves him, and goes back, and then it ends with him telling her to get him his slippers. Great. A blissful life of chauvinistic domination awaits her. Oh, and did I mention that it's 3 hours long?

- The Sting
Why I should have liked it: It won Best Picture in 1973, and it stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
Why I didn't: I made it through about an hour. It's all fine and good, but I realized the problem - it has no oomph. It was in the drama section at the video store, but it's not dramatic. It's not that funny either. It's not really action-packed. It was just kind of matter-of-fact, like someone describing their day at work. That's not what I want from movies. Oh, and I think I was expecting Paul Newman to look as delicious as he did in the 1950s. Damn aging!

- Sideways
Why I should have liked it: I liked Alexander Payne's other directing work, Oscar for best adapted screenplay, seemingly indie and quirky.
Why I didn't: I saw this in the theater, and perhaps my impression of it is tainted because I was new to driving at the time and got terribly lost on the way home. Anyway, this must have come out amongst a sea of pure cinematic crap, because it got hailed as the most unique and indie thing of all time. It's not. Writer/director Alexander Payne is very hit or miss. He wrote the (adapted) screenplays for Election and About Schmidt...but he also wrote the screenplays for Jurassic Park III and some softcore porn. Hm. Thoms Haden Church's character is fun, but Paul Giamatti's character in this is just plain unlikeable. He's a grumpy, frumpy, whiny alcoholic. As we all know, women totally go gaga for men like that, and Maya (Virginia Madsen) is no exception. That would never happen. The part where I really threw up in my mouth a little, though, is when Maya and Miles (Giamatti) are talking about pinot wine, during a Deep Moment of Mutual Sharing. What transpires here is a Blatant Comparison of Miles to Pinot As Written By A Developmentally Delayed Third Grader. "Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression"?!?! Oh wait, you guys, see, like, Miles is socially challenged, so I think A. Payne is actually talking about MILES here and saying you have to be patient with him or something. WHOA.

- Manhattan
Why I should have liked it: I like Woody Allen, and this is hailed as one of his best.
Why I didn't: I don't like watching Woody Allen carry on a relationship with a 17-year-old for two hours. It was just too creepy - and prophetic. Plus, the entire movie was just really depressing, but then Muriel Hemingway says some catchy happy bullshit at the very end and it's all better? Not.

- Vertigo
Why I should have liked it: I'd never met a Hitchcock movie I didn't like, it soared up the AFI list this time around.
Why I didn't: I don't know. Something just didn't click with me. I found the plot confusing, the characters unsympathetic, the ending weird. I know I am probably alone here.

So there you have it. I have probably made many enemies here today, but hopefully I've also made some friends who can sympathize with the feeling of not liking a popular movie. What movies tickle everyone's fancy but yours? Comments welcome, but please don't try to convert me to liking the above selections. Live and let live, people.

Wild Hogs Bonanza

At the video store I work at, the manager ordered 14 copies of the movie Wild Hogs.


Let me give you a sense of scale here. We're not Blockbuster, we don't have 50-75 copies of the hottest new movie. We're small and independent. Some numbers for you:

- Norbit, which was a box office success and highly asked about in the months preceding its DVD release: 4 copies
- The Departed, which eventually won the Oscar for best picture, boasted an amazing cast and director, and had everyone from film snobs to grubby townies excited because it took place in Boston: 20 copies (I think 20 is our maximum)

So that puts Wild Hogs, which had been asked about to a moderate degree, nearly in a league with arguably the most popular movie ever to hit our store. None of the employees can explain this. There are just too many. One employee decided to have some fun with it.

This employee is usually rather quiet and serious, so I wouldn't expect this from him. His claimed that the maneuver was in the name of profit, but I think it was a dry sense of humor. He mentioned something about a Wild Hogs "section" that he organized. I went over to take a look, and found that he had arranged the copies to take up an entire shelf, and added the following sign:

Yeah, the manager might be mad, but this employee has his last day this week, so it doesn't matter. So awesome.

August 17, 2007

Marquee Makeovers: Imaginary Re-Dos of Current and Recent Movies with Classic Directors

I'm not going to take the fatalistic approach of many self-appointed film scholars and say that modern-day cinema is all crap. It's not. I've seen some great movies this summer - why just a few days ago, Superbad renewed my faith in the teen sex comedy. (The fact that it was written by a 14-year-old Seth Rogen and his friend - and has writing that kicks the ass of most of its peers - is a huge slap in the face to Hollywood. But I digress.)

Having said that, there IS a lot of crap out there. For everyone who moans about the demise of artistic, meaningful cinema, I have news for you: mad scientists in a volcano somewhere have discovered that these here moving pictures make MONEY. Money can buy you toupees and sports cars so people will have sex with you. As aging Hollywood bigwigs do not wish to remain celibate, they make crap. I know this is the system, but still a little part of me dies whenever somebody rents Wild Hogs at the video store.

I can't change the system. But I can create fantasies in this blog. So, without further ado, I present to you my dream "marquee makeovers" - pairing classic, talented directors with recent craptastic movies to see if they couldn't fix em up a little.

1. License to Wed, as directed by Alfred Hitchcock
The real movie: Sadie (Mandy Moore) and Ben (John Krasinski) are engaged, but a wacky reverend (Robin Williams) insists on putting them through a series of tests to determine their readiness for marriage.
The Hitchcock version: Hitchcock once lamented that he was a typecast director, and that if he directed Cinderella, "the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach." Well, sorry, Hitch, it's gonna continue here. Lovely Sadie has a whirlwind romance with dashing Ben, a man with a mysterious past. Despite knowing little about him, she enthusiastically accepts when he proposes. Her family doesn't approve of the union, so to get their approval, she enlists the blessing of a local reverend who is new in town. He agrees to bless the couple and perform the wedding only if they undergo a series of tasks to prove their devotion. Unbeknownst to Sadie and Ben, this man is only posing as a reverend to hide from the police, as he is wanted for several murders! The reverend's tasks are just an excuse for him to monitor their every move. Meanwhile, Sadie's relationship with Ben has become strained, as he has started acting strange. He is fed up with the tasks and just wants to elope somewhere and begin anew. One day, Sadie goes to the reverend to discuss the tension in her relationship, and he suggests they go for a walk. Back at the house, Ben is reading the newspaper and there is a picture of the reverend and a headline describing him as a wanted killer. Realizing that his fiancee is alone with this madman, he races to the church. By now, the reverend has already led Sadie into the woods, so Ben runs around like mad trying to find them. He sees them in the woods and shoots the reverend dead. He explains it all to Sadie, and they go to the police. Except you never know if the reverend was really trying to kill them OMG!

2. Blades of Glory, as directed by Billy Wilder
The real movie: Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder) are figure skaters disqualified from competing in the mens' singles anymore, so they compete as a pairs team.
The Wilder movie: Billy Wilder takes you inside the cutthroat and ethically ambiguous world of men's figure skating. Chazz Michael Michaels used to be the figure skating king back in the day, but an aging body, a flurry of scandals and a love of liquor caused him to fall from grace. Jimmy McElroy is the new kid to the sport, unspoilt by its demanding nature. Despite his skill and youthful optimism, Jimmy doesn't make the cut for the Olympic men's singles competition. Chazz, desperate to get back in the game and reclaim his glory, pounces on the naive Jimmy and offers to defy convention and become a pairs team with him. Jimmy idolizes Chazz and accepts the offer immediately. The trouble is, the public doesn't want any more of Chazz, and their partnership starts to tarnish Jimmy's image. Jimmy realizes this, but dumping Chazz would mean sacrificing his spot in the Olympic team. He tries to wait it out, knowing he'll lose the dead weight immediately after and be a star in his own right. Chazz, meanwhile, realizes that his plan to use Jimmy has backfired, and seeks his revenge. At the Olympics, Chazz gets violently drunk and takes several pills before he is to compete. He is a disaster out on the ice, dropping Jimmy in almost every lift and causing him to be seriously injured. At the end of the routine, Chazz collapses dead from the drugs next to a stunned and wounded Jimmy.

3. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, as directed by Woody Allen
The real movie: Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) are two hetero firefighters who fake a domestic partnership for the benefits.
The Allen version: Chuck is Jewish, which is half the screenplay right there. Then add a lot of shots of New York. Then the two actually fall in love, and date for a while, but decide it won't work out.

4. Rush Hour 3 as directed by John Huston
The real movie: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker are back, and now they're fighting the Chinese mafia in Paris or something. Whatever. Hey, isn't it funny that they have trouble understanding each other?
The Huston version: Chan and Tucker (does anyone even know their character names?) are jaded cops who reluctantly go to Paris despite fatigue and indifference. They're hunting for an enigmatic and charismatic mobster who is smuggling a valuable and stolen amulet across country borders. Their search takes them to the Swiss Alps, where they get lost among the terrain. There are signs that the mobster was there, but they are difficult to follow. The days are long and the pair engages in lots of intense dialogue about life. Chan starts to go kind of nuts and becomes suspicious that Tucker wants to kill him, so he runs away while Tucker sleeps to hunt the villains on his own. Tucker awakes and figures that the bad guys have captured his trusted partner, so he goes in heated pursuit. He encounters the mobster and his posse, who outnumber him and shoot him to death. Chan, meanwhile, sets up a complicated trap utilizing his natural surroundings, which the villains fall into nicely. Victorious, Chan delivers a scathing monologue to his captives, and then walks off into the sunset.

5. Evan Almighty as directed by Orson Welles (and yes, I am familiar with Welles' directing career outside of Citizen Kane)
The real movie: In this sequel to Bruce Almighty, God (Morgan Freeman) warns Evan (Steve Carrell) of an impending flood, and instructs him to build an ark, a la Noah.
The Welles version: Evan grew up poor, but has worked his way up and became a successful businessman. Now rich and arrogant, he believes that he begins to hear the voice of God telling him to build an ark. He does. He alienates his family and friends and becomes a huge jerk. But he also employs lots of people to help, and soon creates a thriving ark-building empire. The police get word of this profitable operation and decide to steal it from Evan and claim it as their own, because it's an Orson Welles movie so the cops are corrupt. Evan doesn't really notice this, because one of his workers has a femme-fatale-ish wife who hangs around all day and flirts shamelessly with Evan, who falls hard for her. They make secret plans to escape together on the ark. But then the woman's husband turns up dead, with Evan as the prime suspect. Scared for his life, he forgets all about the woman and runs away. He falls ill, and unable to seek medical attention because the police would surely find him then, he dies alone, leaving a trail of broken hearts and corruption. Did I mention that all of the above is shadowy and full of deep-focus cinematography?

What other good makeovers can you think of?

August 16, 2007


So I know that people who read my blog are movie nerds. Well, here's hoping that you're music nerds too! For you see, dear readers, my boyfriend happens to be a part of a talented music group that just finished their new album, and it is my girlfriendly duty to inform you of this. It's hiphop, but it's hiphop that even non-hiphop lovers can appreciate. They don't rap about bitches and hos over dirrrty Southern beats, but rather compose thoughtful and clever rhymes about life, love and music over beats that could stand on their own. So head on down to and give their first three singles a listen. (I'll know if you do, because I get up-to-the-minute reports about how many plays they've gotten courtesy of my ecstatic bf.)