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Two Thumbs WAY Down!
PAGE TWO
July 2004

So, my Movie Experience is spotty, but I've managed to collect a list of movies that EVERYONE, it seems, but me, just LOOOOOOOVED. AND I'M NOT GONNA FEEL GUILTY NO MORE! So there! *huff, huff, foot stamp*

Titanic:It's the obvious choice, I'm sure, but remember, when it was in the theatres, no one else would admit that it was 3+ hours and two hundred million dollars and 882 feet of SUCK! No, instead it was all "EPIC!" and "SPECTACTULAR" and "OSCAR!" But every single second of it was heavy-handed and predictable, bolstered by the worst dialogue committed to film (well, until The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones). And, pardon the pun, but there was no depth to the film or to the characters. Okay, so Cameron had 'em build a full-scale replica of the Titanic. Wow. That's big, expensive, filmmaking, innit? But it would have been nice if all the spectacular replica stuff had been matched with something even remotely interesting in regards to script.

I got dragged to this movie by The Husband-Type Man, who'd stopped in front of the Megaplex entrance to examine posters, and was curious (and was craving popcorn, which is the way I get dragged to most movies, in fact). Lordy. It was all "Spot the clichés!" time from Scene One. There's the Bohemian artist and the genteel society girl. There's the oppressive and pushy mother and the swarthy, evil fiancé (and we know he's especially dastardly because, ah ha!, he wears more eyeliner than Rose!). The only remotely interesting character was Molly Brown, and she ended up being, like, Jack's cheerleader for one scene before disappearing entirely, her already-meager storyline completely unresolved. Moreover, the action was full-body cliché too. I mean, Rose is distraught and goes running to the ship's prow, ready to throw herself to her death, until sensitive Jack talks her out of it. And I leaned over to THTM and whispered snarkily, "That's where they'll end up when the boat sinks, and one of 'em'll say 'Hey, this is where we first met.'" Yeah. Gee. Or then Rose's mother is all talking about how OPPRESSIVE and DIFFICULT it is to be a woman… while violently lacing up Rose's corset-strings. Geddit?! It's CONFINING to be a woman, JUST LIKE A CORSET! Good GRIEF! People are so dumb that anything less subtle would go over their heads? Really? (Which I guess is why the whole theatre just cracked up with the bit about the Monet and Picasso paintings! Oh, the wit! The irony!)

What was romantic about Jack and Rose, anyway? It was like Grease, but on a doomed steamer instead of at a hot-rod race or graduation carnival, where the girl has to come down from her high-horse and prove to the boy that she can party with the rest of them and keep it real, dawg. She has to get drunk and spit and fuck and sweat and show her boobies to prove that she's brave, that she's worthy of her man. Romance? For the two or three whole days of their big love affair, Rose and Jack pretty much just giggle and repeat each other's names a zillion times and run around like twerpy 12-year-olds. (For that matter, Leo LOOKS like a twerpy 12-year-old!) And we're supposed to believe that this twee 3-day "romance" had more of an impact than her marriage of how many decades…? Oh, excuse me, I forgot: soulmates!

And what about these multi-million-dollar special effects…? The falling bodies and green-blue corpses looked so fakey GCI that it was nearly impossible to muster up any real horror for the actual lives lost.

To make it worse, Cameron just left a whole pile of things unexplained. What happens to Rose's mother and erstwhile fiancé after Titanic? Rose's mother never saw her daughter's picture in newspapers, never saw the movies Rose acted in or nothing? Never tried to find out what happened to her own DAUGHTER, for pity's sake? Swarthy Eyeliner Guy never did either, before he croaked (especially when the necklace was in the pocket of the jacket he gave to Rose)? And what about Molly Brown; they couldn't show or mention anything about her remarkable life? I suppose the framework plot with Old Lady Rose had potential to be interesting, but even that blew. I mean, wow… at the end… how (*rimshot*) DEEP! Does Old Rose die, or is she just dreaming?! Isn't ambiguity RAD? *eye roll* Of course, the whole movie is Symbolism and Irony for Retards, what with the stars showing the pattern of the stupid heart-necklace, and Jack still having the handcuffs on when he dies, and roses and dolls and art objects and flying- But then again, when the director of a movie that is ostensibly about the hubristic foibles of human arrogance re: making things then proceeds to declare himself "King of the World!" after winning an Oscar without blink or blush, one can only assume that he's wading in the shallow end of the irony and symbolism pool, along with all the 13-year-old fans of the movie.

And, all the more, the movie that I saw the week after Titanic was The Godfather. From one directorial extreme to the other, man. Jayzuz.

Little Women (with Katharine Hepburn): I wanted to like this movie, and I wanted to like Kate in it, but… I loathed it. The actress playing Amy made the character seem one-dimensionally annoying and cloying, the actor playing Laurie was gruesome. And I'll risk the wrath of all by 'fessing that (<whisper>) I don't really like Katharine Hepburn at all; I don't get why she's considered such a great actress (</whisper>). I can see where her Yankee sensibilities, her strength and toughness and straightforwardness and independence are considered intrinsic to the character of Jo. She SHOULD be Jo to me, but… she wasn't. She isn't. Maybe it was because she was more Kate than Jo. I dunno. She looked too old for the part, and I didn't believe for a second that this gritty dame ever felt insecure about her writing, or was chums with Laurie. And did I mention that Laurie was totally icky? Blech.

The Grinch: It was The Husband-Type Man's birthday, and he wanted to go to a movie and eat popcorn. He chose The Grinch. We both sat in silence throughout the entire movie, and, when it was over, he turned to me and said, "I'm sorry I made you waste three hours of your life."

There was NOTHING redeeming about this movie at all. It's ludicrous that someone thought we needed the Grinch "fleshed out" more. I mean, the point of the Grinch was that he was MEAN and he HATED CHRISTMAS! I don't need some unreasonable semi-half-assed back-story with contemporary pop-culture references to Mrrtha Stewyrt to try to explain HOW or WHY he was mean and hated Christmas! He just WAS! That's all we need to know! Hell, if Dr. Seuss didn't think it was intrinsic to the story, where does Ronnie Howard get off thinking he has the right to add to what Seuss did originally? The nerve! The arrogance!

The Grinch surpassed Titanic as the worst movie I've ever seen; I mean, at least in Titanic the costumes were good! But what shocked me most was, as everyone was filing out of the theatre, NO ONE ELSE looked as pissed as I felt. No one else was offended by the raping of a children's classic. No. Everyone was SMILING and CHUCKLING and talking about WHAT A CUTE SHOW it was! Were we watching the same movie?!

The Matrix. What a boring-ass waste of time. Okay. Wow. Special effects. I'm sorry, but not even the fanciest camera effects in the world can cancel out the horror of Keenoo going "Whoa."

Any Film Version of Any Frances Hodgson Burnett Books. Hollywood loves The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, but I've never been even remotely happy with any film version, save maybe parts of the BBC ones, even a leetle bit. The Secret Garden, in particular, has such cinematic possibilities, with the lush garden bursting into full bloom. But - and I am the first to admit that the book is totally all about sex, what with enclosed female space and rebirth and flowers and all that - I get pissed that every movie seems set on pairing Mary up with Colin… when it's CLEAR to anyone who reads the book that Mary is aligned as a partner with Dickon, not Colin. It's Lady Chatterley's Lover, Junior Version! But, because Dickon is a simple cottage boy, and Colin is Mary's socio-economic peer, the stupid movie versions link Mary with Colin the Rich Boy (despite the fact that he's her cousin). As if. And I say this (*haughty head-toss*) from a scholastically objective point of view, because I've written a butt-load of criticism on Dickon and Mary being "robins in their nest" raising Colin to fly. I'm not just saying this because DICKON IS MY FAVORITE LITERARY CHARACTER EVER! Which reminds me: I never am happy with the movie versions of Dickon. They just aren't quite right. Prolly the creepiest is the one in the Margaret O'Brian version. He's like a demented Peter Pan. With way too much eyeliner.

The 1990s versions of these movies were intent on injecting Girl Powah into the plots, even if it was incongruous with the original texts (see also: Little Women starring Winona Ryder), and this is what I think totally ruined the latest studio offering of A Little Princess. The book is about Sara's survival and coming of age, as a strong and independent young woman. She is "a little princess" because she is inherently noble, and it is this inherent nobility that is Sara's chief strength, and that allows her to enact the set of circumstances that lead her to her father's best friend and her own lost fortune. But, ah, there was the cheese-tastic Shirley Temple movie (as if anyone with those round cheeks and curls could even begin to portray the starved and odd-looking Sara Crewe!), which had to completely change up the ending and BRING BACK SARA'S DEAD FATHER AT THE END (as if Sara Crewe tap-dancing wasn't bad enough). For some reason, the 1995 version of the movie saw fit to keep that ending! Admittedly, I liked that there was more emphasis on the Eastern/Indian aspects of Sara's life in the Liesel Matthews version, and I didn't even mind the relocation from London to New York. But… but… they totally simplified Sara and turned her into a celebration of the spoiled Daddy's Little Princess instead of showing her with any inherent nobility, strength and resilience of her own! "All girls are princesses!" she shrieks at Miss Minchin… who, of course, is so evil because HER daddy never told HER that she was a princess! Watch me puke. Sheesh. If the movie was set in contemporary times, Sara's daddy would've bought her a new custom-pink Miata for her 16th birthday, which would have represented the confirmation of Sara's strength and fortitude. The movie's just about that shallow.

Gigi (NOT GIGLI!): I expected to love this movie. I loved the Colette novelette, I love Maurice Chevalier, and the settings and costumes were amazing. But I cannot put into words how creeped out I was by Chevalier singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." That Icky Vibe permeated the whole movie for me. I tried convincing myself that "things were different then" but it didn't work. What was tolerable in the book just became vaudevillian skeevy onscreen. I'll stick to my collection of Chevalier CDs instead, thank you.

Steel Magnolias: What a piece of shit. By the time the end credits rolled, I wanted to punch every single character in the face. I cheered when they pulled the plug on Julia Roberts! (Well, so, I hate Horsey-Face, and would root for her character's death anyway, but in the context of this movie, I was hoping one of the sassy southern ladies would snap and choke her with a skein of embroidery thread or pour hair-permanent solution down her throat.)

Yeah, you're supposed to be all moved that the Julia Roberts character LOVES HER HUSBAND SO MUCH that she will RISK and ULTIMATELY SACRIFICE HER LIFE to GIVE HIM A BABY! But all I could think was 1) get some therapy and a hobby, bitch, and 2) great, you gave your husband the baby he wanted so much… but now the kid's gonna be scarred for life because his mom "abandoned" him by dying when he was too young to deal with it, and 3) you never considered adoption or a surrogate or anything? Oh, sorry, how silly of me, of COURSE she had to CARRY AND BIRTH HIS BABY HERSELF IF SHE LOVES HIM. Selfish dinks.

Histrionics aren't my thing. Plus it goes along with the whole cloying Southern Belle deal… starting with Gone with the Wind (which at least did it first), and decaying into How to Make an American Quilt and Fried Green Tomatoes, things that've gone well into Formula Movie Territory. It's Girl Powah time, y'all, while Dolly Parton's "Truvy" and other quirkily-named sassy Southern Gals are all crackin' cute jokes about their dumb husbands, or Sandra Bullock and Ellen Bernstein trading quips and screaming "ya ya!"- YEESH! If I want to immerse myself in Southern-ness, I'll drive to Savannah or read Flannery O'Connor, not watch stupid stereotype-riddled bullcrap completely lacking in any real character development or insight! I know that I'm SUPPOSED to be moved, especially because these're movies about WOMEN and GROUPS OF WOMEN and FAMILIES OF WOMEN and WHAT WOMAN WOULDN'T FEEL THE IMPACT OF THAT?! But, sorry, a bunch of women screaming "YA YA!" doesn't do it for me. The fact is, the mother in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is an abusive alcoholic, and all the girl powah nicknames and screaming of "YA YA!" isn't going to change it. Sorry. No girly bonding over that. It's Typical Deep Thoughts, or, like, all Insight for Dummies: wait, you mean… our relationships with our mothers affect us?! Whoa, as Keenoo might say.

Take that "Sisterhood" b.s. and shove it up your steel magnolia ya-ya. This crap is as sexist as any episode of "Father Knows Best."

Possession: Even though I'm no Gwynnie fan, I'd heard enough positive buzz about this movie to want to see it when it came out. Turns out, this ended up being my payback to The Husband-Type Man for The Grinch. The Victorian romance of Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte was like a bad soap-opera parody of every Barrett-Browning convention, with a titillating but-not-as-homely-as-Gertrude-and-Alice lesbian thing thrown in. And the modern-day lovers were bad parodies of English scholars (as well as their own nationalities); I mean, come ON, we don't ALL carry messenger bags around, or wear our hair up in neat buns (symbolizing our deep inner repression). Guh!

And speaking of "Guh!" it's The Uptight Englishwoman meets Scruffy American thang! Aaron Eckhart is pretty, sure, but everything he did in the movie made me want to dunk his gel'd head in a toilet and flush several times. Ditto Fishstick. By the time the movie was over, I was spitting mad at all the COMPLETE AND UTTER STUPID INACCURACY of how academia was portrayed! The worst? I dunno…. Was it the implication that both lesbians and feminist scholars are all cold and repressed and just in need of a good fuck (by a man of course) to free them?! Was it the inconsistency of one LaMotte poem used as a "clue" for finding the lost letters (as if poetry is that literal)… but none of her other poems are literal "clues"?! Or was it the scene when THE RARE BOOKS DEPARTMENT OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM SUPPOSEDLY MAILS AN EXTREMELY RARE AND FRAGILE VICTORIAN TEXT IN RESPONSE TO A PHONE-CALL REQUEST… BY REGULAR MAIL!?! For the love of the Bloomsbury Group, if the movie's primary scenes take place in the rare books departments of national museums, could someone please DO A LITTLE RESEARCH on how said rare books rooms work?! 1) You can't just wander in and start looking through stuff, even if you are a grad student; you have to make an appointment and request the texts you need (and there's usually a limit), and they will be brought to you at your desk. 2) You cannot take your backpack (or messenger bag!) in with you; usually, they will allow you to bring either a laptop, or a pencil (not pen!) and maybe your own scratch paper. Not even a notebook. That's it. No bottled water or coffee. No piles of other books. Nothing that might cause damage to the rare texts. 3) There is ALWAYS at LEAST one person supervising the rare books researchers. You will NEVER be left alone with the materials. Period. They will be WATCHING YOU and there will also likely be SECURITY CAMERAS, ESPECIALLY IF IT'S A MUSEUM, so even if you are a hottt-but-scruffy English student, the chances of you SLIPPING RARE LETTERS FROM A DEAD FAMOUS POET INTO YOUR NOTEBOOK are FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE! 4) I don't care if you're gawd-damned Toni Morrison or Harold Bloom, YOU CANNOT GET RARE MATERIALS SENT TO YOU IN THE MAIL, especially NOT WITH A PHONED REQUEST, and CERTAINLY NOT IN THE PLAIN OL' NON-INSURED US MAIL, MOTHERFUCKERS!!

Hang on… I think I just burst a couple blood vessels.

(And yes, I hated Shakespeare in Love, too.)

Dances with Wolves: This is one of those movies that I really enjoyed the first time I saw it, even though I was minoring in Native American Studies at the time and was all super-aware of the Noble Indian stereotypes. But the scenery was beautiful and I was all caught up in the storyline (well, until Dunbar shaved and became Kevin Costner).

The second time I saw it, though, I loathed it. Not just for the totally formulaic stuff; I mean, the Noble Indian hijinx felt over-the-top (Cah-fee? Totonka? Ha ha ha ha!), as did the Bad White Man stuff (Gee, think they'll kill the wolf AND the horse AND burn down the cabin? Not only that, but someone'll use the pages of Dunbar's journal to wipe his ass with! You know, IN CASE YOU DIDN'T GET IT!). But, I also just couldn't get past "Hey, that's Kevin Costner." Which isn't what you want to be at the forefront of your movie-watching experience.

The Wizard of Oz: Maybe it's a childhood "loss of innocence" thing, but as soon as I realized that Dorothy was not, in fact, in an enchanted land, but instead could clearly see the painted backdrops and fake trees on a studio sound stage, this movie fell forever out of favor with me. As a child, during the tornado bit, I was horrified that the family went and locked themselves in the storm cellar without looking for Dorothy, and then didn't hear her or let her in when she was trying to open the door! As I grew older, other things about the movie bugged, particularly how everyone says "DAR-a-thy" (although I suppose it's a Midwesternism, considering that's the way most of my great-aunts and uncles sound, but it's still grating). Moreover, I never cease to get pissed off that the whole movie is about Dorothy wanting to return to black-and-white Kansas, where she was lonely and miserable. Go back home where you belong, little girl! No more Technicolor adventure for you! Git!

A Beautiful Mind: Okay, there was the moderately kewl (if highly illogical and unrealistic) plot twist that several of the characters were products of Dr. Nash's schizophrenia, but other than that…?

The movie did nothing to shed light on either geniuses or the mentally ill, other than the same old tired clichés about how "different" they are (but they're still human 'neath it all). Especially, I wanted to SCREAM when the Jennifer Connolly character, the woman behind the man, was whimpering about how she stayed with him because, on rare occasion, she could catch a glimpse of the man she loved when she married him. Okay, wow, how touching and romantic. AND HOW MANY STUPID WOMEN WILL STAY WITH THEIR SUCKY-ASS DRUNK AND/OR ABUSIVE AND/OR EMOTIONALLY DISTANT AND/OR UNHEALTHY PARTNERS BECAUSE OF THE SAME SO-CALLED "LOGIC"?! As if Russell "Grumpy" Crowe's repertoire of tics and twitches and bad accents wasn't annoying enough. And hey, isn't it INSPIRING how Hollywood has tried to portray an inspirational love story between two people who divorced back in the 60s? Oh, you mean they didn't mention that in the movie? They didn't mention that John Nash had an illegitimate child, or bisexual relationships? No, not Hollywood! And if you're surprised by that, then you'll be surprised to find out that the, ahem, "pen ceremony" and the hokey Nobel Prize "speech" are also a complete fabrications. Ah, all in the name of gut-wrenching schmaltz, I suppose.

Plus, I'm still pissed beyond belief that this piece of maudlin claptrap could win a fucking Acadamy Award, but an incredibly innovative and genre-challenging film like Moulin Rouge didn't? ! What an amazing movie that was… from the first second, whirling and dumping you right into the middle of fin de siecle hedonism… is it 1899 or 1999? Does it matter? Moulin Rouge fucked with your mind and your emotions and the very way you WATCHED a movie. What on EARTH could A Beautiful Mind achieve beyond that? Nothing! Moulin Rouge made me finally "get" that pure bliss is possible in postmodern pastiche! It was a brilliant commentary on musicals and musical conventions, from Gilbert & Sullivan to modern-day raves. It was hysterically funny! Was it a cartoon? Was it a parody? Was it cinematic deconstruction? Social observations? All of these? Holy shit, what a movie! And Ewan was SO HOT, and even Nicole was funnier than I thought possible, and I-

Wait. *blink blink* What was this Blather supposed to be about again?

 

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