June 11, 2008

Is this actually a movie? #1

Being a cinephile, as I am, I try to keep up on the latest developments in the world of film. I'll read magazines or articles on the Internet about the latest movies, and I'll watch trailers of upcoming flicks. But every now and again, I find myself asking of a certain title, "Is this actually a movie?" Not just because it seems bad, but because you can't think of more than two people on God's green earth that would ever want to bring this film into existence. My mind starts reeling at the number of people who must have thought this movie was a good idea in order for it to get made. Directors, producers, actors showing up every day to put their heart and soul into something that anyone could see is a piece of crap. It's simply stunning. I think perhaps the first time I uttered those exact words was when I saw the trailer for Norbit. My response was the same as if I had seen a unicorn prance by the window: is this real?

So, in order to better share this phenomenon with my darling readers, I will begin a series called "Is this actually a movie?", featuring films that elicited that reaction from me. Let's begin!

The inaugural title is actually one I had known about for a while, but I am still in disbelief that it actually came through. It is called You and I. Sounds harmless, right? Well, the original title was Finding t.A.T.u. Yeah. As in the faux-lesbian rocker duo from Russia that had a hit song like five years ago. Oh yes.

The source material for this movie may be the only thing in the world crazier than the movie itself. It's based on a novel about two lesbians who meet at a t.A.T.u. concert in Russia. Yes, there is a novel about that. And do you know who wrote it? A Russian politician who was a member of the Russian Parliament, a manager for several bands, and the director of a porno. I am not creative enough to make all of that up.

The movie is directed by two-time Oscar nominee Roland Joffe (nominated for The Killing Fields and The Mission), although his last film was the let's-put-a-hot-girl-in-a-cage classic Captivity.

The star is Mischa Barton, doing a ludicrous Russian accent and apparently working in a meat processing plant. Interestingly, Barton refuses to promote the film, and was MIA at the premiere, fueling speculation that even she thinks it sucks.

And yes, the internet is portrayed as a series of neon tubes.

Anyway, just watch the trailer, because as is the case with most of these can't-believe-they're-real movies, you really just have to see it to believe it.

Well, at least there's a guaranteed audience of horny dudes who like lesbians. Then again, some crazies are still disturbingly obsessed with t.A.T.u....

Why the remake of "The Women" is an abomination to cinema

Today I saw a trailer for the 2008 remake of The Women, based on the 1939 original.

(trailers for the original and the remake )

I am not happy.

I had a sneaking suspicion that the remake would be awful, but the trailer confirmed my worst fears. It is not just going to be awful, it is going to be pure blasphemy.

(I should note here that I am not opposed to the concept of remakes in general. Some of cinema's beloved classics are actually remakes [like The Maltese Falcon] and sometimes an original and its remake are both good/famous and can happily coexist [the two versions of Scarface - 1932 and 1983]).

The basic plot is that a bunch of women backstab each other and steal each other's men, ascending and descending the social ladder in the process. Isn't that kind of a ludicrous premise to translate to the modern day - that your social status and your worth as a woman depend on who you are married to? Aren't we past this?

Let's take a look at what we're getting in the original as opposed to the remake.

- Director: The director of the original was Oscar-winning George Cukor, lovingly referred to as one of the "queens of Hollywood" due to his homosexuality. Working with the most respected stars of the day (largely female), he directed such classics as Dinner at Eight (1933), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944) and Adam's Rib (1949), winning an Oscar for My Fair Lady in 1964. He directed five actors in Oscar-winning performances, and is largely considered one of the best directors of all time.

And the remake?

Directed by Diane English, who has never directed anything before and is known for writing for the TV show "Murphy Brown." Oh, but let's not forget that she served as a production accountant on a few Nickelodeon shows in the 90s.

- Writer: The source material of both films is the same: a play by Clare Booth Luce. The screenplay for the original, however, was written by Anita Loos, who was one of early cinema's foremost screenwriters. She had a long working relationship with D.W. Griffith, and also wrote the novel that became Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

And the remake?

Written by Diane English. See above.

- Role of Mary Haines: In the original, the main role was given to Norma Shearer, then known as "the first lady of MGM." She dominated this studio in the 30s, being nominated for six Oscars and winning one for The Divorcee (1930). She also starred as Juliet Capulet and Marie Antoinette, and was offered the role of Scarlett O'Hara.

And the remake?

Mary Haines is played by Meg Ryan. Yeah, Meg, you were cute in When Harry Met Sally (1989), and you might even be talented, but you're mired too deep in the romantic comedy ghetto for anyone to know.

- Role of Sylvia Fowler: In the original, Mrs. Fowler was deliciously portrayed by the inimitable Rosalind Russell, who was nominated for four Oscars and memorialized such characters as Hildy in His Girl Friday (1940), Mama Rose in Gypsy (1962), and Auntie Mame in the movie of the same name.

And the remake?

Sylvia Fowler is being played by Annette Bening. I actually don't have too much of a problem with this, although she's gonna have to play really bitchy, and not just that uptight and surprised thing she usually does.

- Role of Crystal Allen: In the original, this juicy part went to the ultimate screen bitch: Joan Crawford. She won an Oscar for her role as the titular character in 1945's Mildred Pierce, and was another of MGM's top stars, appearing in other classics such as Grand Hotel (1932) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Mostly, she was known for her larger-than-life personality.

And the remake?

This role goes to Eva Mendes. Probably most known for her role in Hitch (2005), her primary claim to fame is being hot.

- Role of Miriam Aarons: In the original, this role was played with sass and wit by Paulette Goddard. Starting out in the Ziegfeld Follies as a young girl, she later married Charlie Chaplin and starred in two of his most famous films: Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). She was nominated for an Oscar for 1943's So Proudly We Hail!

And the remake?

This role is being played by Jada Pinkett-Smith. Yeah, she was pretty good in Collateral (2004), but her role in this movie, judging from the trailer, looks restricted to speaking in hilarious ebonics for the amusement of her white friends.

I'm confused about the other characters, because the names are changed, so I can't make a side-by-side comparison.

Anyway, watch the trailers. The remake just looks decidedly unfunny and bland. The original - the trailer of which is crippled somewhat by its old-timey style of including major plot points instead of funny parts - is a witty, bitchy classic that everyone should watch before this new piece of crap storms theaters.

June 2, 2008

A public service announcement regarding sex with celebrities

Picture this scenario: You are happily involved with a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/partner/significant other. You are at home alone, and they are out somewhere. Suddenly, without any rational explanation, the celebrity you have always fantasized about appears naked in your doorway and states their intent to make sweet, sweet love to you. What do you do? Forget momentarily that this would never, ever happen. Readers and friends - do you have a protocol in place for this situation?

I do.

My boyfriend and I, early in our relationship, each established our own List. The List refers to an assembling of celebrities chosen by your partner that you permit him/her to sleep with should the situation arise. The key is keeping the list short. Is it okay if your significant other hooks up with some reality TV slut at a party? No. But if they've been fantasizing about Jessica Biel for years, it's really only fair to let them have her if possible. Plus, that means you could shag your celeb of choice! (Retroactive additions to the list cannot be permitted.)
Please do not send me hate mail accusing me of being a homewrecker. I am in no way endorsing the active pursuit of the stars in question, because obviously no one should be doing that in a relationship. This is only if said celebrities fling themselves at you.

I think 3-5 celebrities is a fair number for your List. Mine includes Paul Rudd, Patrick Wilson, Simon Pegg, James McAvoy and Tony Leung. My boyfriend's consists of Scarlett Johansson, Tina Fey, Kristen Bell, and sometimes Kirsten Dunst ("drugs have not been good to her," he says). I conceded that Scarlett Johansson is so ridiculously attractive that if I found the two of them in a compromising position I would probably hop right in. I'm completely straight, but this line of reasoning provides a bonus for couples of a gay or partially gay persuasion: List overlap.

So, fair readers, I strongly recommend that you have this conversation with your loved one today - because somewhere down the line, it could save your relationship. One a more practical level, it proves whether or not they have the sense of humor necessary to engage in completely serious conversations about absurd hypothetical situations and can do so without freakish jealousy and possessiveness - because if not, you should probably break up with them anyway.

A perfect day composed of movie scenes

What if you could construct your perfect day out of movie scenes? A whole day of movie moments that you’ve always wanted to experience for yourself. This task is harder than you think, because at the center of any good story is conflict - and while watching shootouts may be fun, participating in them probably wouldn’t be. You can completely disregard geography for the purpose of this exercise, however - I’ll grant you back-to-back escapades in New York and China, for instance. But aim for the general time frame - if it took place at midnight in the movie, you can’t do it at ten in the morning. There’s also flexibility regarding if you would take the place of a specific character, or just tag along a yourself (you can do both/either). Here’s what my day would look like:

- I would need to get an early start, and what better way to start my day than assuming the role of Marge Gunderson in Fargo (1996) in the scene where her adorable stay-at-home husband Norm gets up with her to make her breakfast?
- Time to see what the neighbors are up to - I’d indulge in some old-fashioned voyeurism like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window (1954).
- Oh, what a lovely day it is! I'll frolic through the Alps a la Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1964).
- Time for lunch! Since I’ve decided that calories don’t count today, I’d join the five lucky kids and their chaperones to stuff my face in the all-edible factory center in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
- Uh oh! It started raining! No worries - I’ll find myself trapped in a gazebo with Fred Astaire in Top Hat (1935), where we’ll sing the song “It’s a Lovely Day” and tap dance.
- Since I’m already a little wet, I’ll join the gang of Center Stage (2000) in their sponge and soap fight that occurs when they’re sentenced to clean the mirrors in the dance studio.
- I’d spend some time at the Mayflower Dog Show from Best in Show (2000), because in addition to having tons of cute doggies, it features the absurd commentary of Fred Willard.
- Speaking of animals, I’d have an underwater adventure with the gang of The Life Aquatic (2004) - I want to see that glowing animatronic shark in person!
- I’d want to burn off some steam by mid-afternoon, so I’d join Peter, Michael Bolton, and Samir as they smash the copy machine out in a field in Office Space (1999). (Oddly enough, this is the first thing that came to mind when I came up with the idea for this post.)
- If I’m still a little stressed, I’ll hop aboard the old truck with Garden State’s (2004) Zach Braff and Peter Sarsgaard and scream into the rain.

- Move over, Kate Winslet - it's my turn for gratuitous sex with Patrick Wilson in Little Children (2006).
- Although I could get stuck on that last one for days, I'll have to eat eventually. For dinner, I’d replace Uma Thurman as John Travolta’s date to Jack Rabbit Slim’s in Pulp Fiction (1994), where we’d dance the night away, five-dollar shakes notwithstanding. (I think I’ll pass on the subsequent drug overdose though.) I considered the “Be Our Guest” scene in Beauty and the Beast (1994) for this, but then I realized I would have to be captive in a castle and surrounded by inanimate objects come to life. No thanks.
- After my meal is digested, I’ll go on a nice after-dinner magic carpet ride with Aladdin (1991). Good thing I already know all the words to “A Whole New World” (no joke).
- Late at night I’d wander around the abandoned mansion with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

- My late night/early morning would be spent wandering around Vienna and philosophizing with Ethan Hawke - basically the entirety of Before Sunrise (1995).

What would your perfect movie day look like?