Saturday, February 22, 2014

What's New Pussycat

Year 6, Day 53 - 2/22/14 - Movie #1,652

BEFORE:  It's finally here, my Woody Allen chain that I've been planning from day 1.  Of course, it took me a while to get copies of every Allen film, some of which I've seen before - so I'll be concentrating on the ones I haven't.  Eventually premium cable ran all of them, for some reason the last holdout turned out to be "Manhattan Murder Mystery".  They haven't run "Blue Jasmine" yet, but I've got about 33 days to figure out how I'm going to watch that one.

I really thought I was going to get to these last year, but after focusing on the James Bond series, I found myself with only so many open slots left.  But I think the timing is right this time, using Woody's films to finish off the romance chain and then lead me into Oscar season.  Plus, what's great is that by waiting until year 6 of the project, I insured that these films could be judged on their own merits, without being tainted by any tabloid scandals. Umm, yeah.

Linking from "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", Elliott Gould was also in a horrible film called "Picking Up the Pieces" with Woody Allen, a film I'm going to otherwise ignore.


THE PLOT:  A playboy who refuses to give up his hedonistic lifestyle to settle down and marry his true love seeks help from a demented psychoanalyst who is having romantic problems of his own.

AFTER: Ugh, this one was tough to watch.  But it does represent Woody Allen's film debut, as both an actor and a screenwriter.  I'm sure it was a dream project for him to work with Peter Sellers, but the film toggles between unfunny and just plain dreadful, managing to sell both genders short.  Men are all letches with uncontrollable hormones, who'll sleep with any available women, or pretty much the unavailable ones too.  Which seems to be a problem in Paris (I assume this takes place in Paris, because all the women speak with French accents, but who knows..) because beautiful women keep throwing themselves at men, or even falling out of the sky and landing in their motorcars.  And these women don't seem to care if the men are attractive rich fashion magazine editors, or weird psychotherapists, or just lowly strip club costume assistants.

The main character is that fashion editor, who has a problem that most male viewers would not even consider a problem, namely all the available beautiful women he encounters at his job.  It's so tough for him to remain faithful to his girlfriend, who lives downstairs, that it seems like most times he doesn't even try.


Women don't fare much better - if they're not taking off their clothes and seducing men, then they're hounding their boyfriends to get engaged, or just plain acting hysterical or suicidal.  Sorry, ladies of the 1960's, those are your only choices.  I had trouble telling the different female characters apart, because their accents were all hard to understand, and they were all more or less painted with the same brush.  It seems like this was written by a man who had no understanding of the whole gender.  In fact, Woody Allen is seen in bed with a woman, but singing to her.  I'm not sure he knew what else to do.

Another connection to last night's film, which featured the song "What the World Needs Now", which was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, who also wrote the title song for this film.  Too bad it's one of the worst songs ever recorded, as sung by Tom Jones.  I think it's all that Whoa-oh-whoa-oh WHOA riffing in the chorus, but then the verse starts up with its bad rhymes and weird syncopation, and that's even worse.  My wife and I often sit in restaurants and make fun of silly songs from the 1960's and 70's and jokingly say, "This could be the worst song ever..." but I think in this case the ruling really does apply.

The movie doesn't seem to know what to do with its own characters, so it sends them all to the same hotel for the weekend, which calls to mind the bedroom farce genre, but then everyone ends up in the same room, so instead of everyone screaming at each other in pairs, they start screaming at each other en masse.  This devolves into a go-cart chase scene, and a chase scene is the equivalent of just adding more Whoa-oh-WHOAs to the chorus to lengthen the song.  Benny Hill learned everything he needed to know from films like this.

All in all, the audience gains zero insight to the battle of the sexes, and rather than learn how to be faithful to one woman, the male lead ends up back with his girlfriend almost by default.  And the therapist will continue to fight with his wife the opera singer - who HAS to wear her Valkyrie costume all the time, and HAS to sing opera every time they cut to her, because that's what an opera singer does.  Duh...

What utter nonsense.



Also starring Peter O'Toole (last seen in "Troy"), Peter Sellers (last seen in "The Ladykillers"), Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, with a cameo from Richard Burton.

RATING: 2 out of 10 caf├ęs

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Year 6, Day 52 - 2/21/14 - Movie #1,651

BEFORE: I honestly had no idea that "Cheatin'" had a love quadrangle in it - two pairs of romantic couples, that is.  Now it's looking like a real genius move to program my boss's film when I did, because tonight's film is also about two pairs of couples.  Obviously it's from the swinging 60's, the era of "free love" so I'm kind of expecting the real hippie ethic tonight.  Actor linking will resume after tonight, so this is really the start of a new actor chain as well.  And this is the last programmed romance film before I turn things over to the Woodman.


THE PLOT:  Couples Bob & Carol Sanders and Ted & Alice Henderson are best friends. After attending a weekend self-help self-discovery session, Bob and Carol feel newly enlightened, and want their friends, Ted and Alice, to feel the same way.

AFTER:  Yeah, this pretty much went down the way I thought it would.  The opening sequence (set for some strange reason to "The Hallelujah Chorus", which puts me in the mind of Christmas) is all about people getting in touch with themselves, via group therapy, couples therapy, scream therapy, and nudism.  That's what we now remember about the late 1960's, besides "free love" and Woodstock.  People who may have married young were then questioning their path once they got a little older, or people who are already older trying to act young, though not explicitly stated you can consider the changing politics and the peacenik/beatnik zeitgeist as a motivating factor.

Everything that happens between these two couples starts in a therapy session - initially Bob is there just as an observer, because he's planning to make a documentary about, umm, you know, they never got around to telling us that.  Let's assume it's a film about therapy, or people in therapy.  But the rules of therapy focus on honesty and feelings, so a few weeks later he admits to his wife that he had an affair while on a trip to San Francisco.  She seems OK with it, and even mentions it to their best friends Ted & Alice, who are a bit more uptight.  

The wheels are set in motion, resulting in Carol then having her own affair, which forces Bob to confront his own jealousy and possessiveness, and then once they've all broken through this barrier, all bets are off.  I think what rings true here is the very real possessive nature that most people in long-term relationships tend to have.  In nearly every marriage there is that time when one or both people will start thinking about other people, and then they have to choose how they're going to deal with this.  For some people, this is the end of the relationship, and for others, it's just the beginning of something else. 

Yes, this was a different time.  An affair did not necessarily mean the end of things, especially since everyone was trying to be more modern and enlightened and not get bogged down in the limiting rules that their parents lived by.  The characters in this film are able to make a distinction between casual sex and a loving relationship, with the new theory that one wouldn't kill the marriage, but the other one might.  

What's weird is that the pendulum seemed to swing back the other way for a while - people in the Reagan era were talking about a return to old-fashioned values, family values, giving tax breaks to married couples that stayed married, and of course once herpes and AIDS hit the scene, I'm guessing that the era of swinging and swapping came to a swift close.  For some people, anyway.  

Nowadays, we've got Baby Mamas and starter marriages, surrogate kids and blended families, not to mention gay couples and polygamous relationships making everything even more confusing, not to mention bisexuals and pansexuals and transgenders.  And still we've got Conservative nuts wishing things could be more like the 1950's.  Sorry, but you just can't un-ring the bell that was the Sexual Revolution.  

I don't quite get the ending of this film, though clearly it echoes the therapy session seen in the beginning, it's also quite obtuse.  And the four-way sex scene, despite it's potentially scandalous nature, ended up being quite anti-climactic.  Obviously there would be limits as to what they could show on screen, but by not showing anything substantial happening, it almost comes off as a non-starter.  Did they all just quit after a little making out and decide that it didn't feel right?  Did kissing other people in front of their spouses start to feel a little ridiculous, is that what happened?

Perhaps they each gained a new appreciation for their husband or wife by making out with somebody new.  If that's the case, what a ridiculous notion.  Only in a Hollywood film, (or a Bill Plympton animation...)  I suspect that once the average person takes that step and cheats on their spouse, it's much harder to remain faithful in the future, not easier.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably just looking for a bit of strange...

Of course, it's not cheating if your spouse knows about it.  Maybe that's what happened at the end - since the husbands both had permission to cheat, that took all the fun out of it.  Sounds about right.

Starring Natalie Wood (last seen in "The Candidate"), Robert Culp (last seen in "Spy Hard"), Elliott Gould (last seen in "Ruby Sparks"), Dyan Cannon (last seen in "Kangaroo Jack"), Leif Garrett, with a cameo from Bill Cosby.

RATING: 4 out of 10 cop-outs

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cheatin'

Year 6, Day 51 - 2/20/14 - Movie #1,650

BEFORE:  Tonight's film is the latest feature from acclaimed indie animator Bill Plympton.  If you happen to know me in the real world, you might think the fix is in, and say, "Hey, don't you work for a guy named Bill Plympton, and hasn't he just completed a new feature about infidelity, which could benefit from some promotion?" 

OK, you caught me.  I've been running this blog for over 5 years, staying up late every night watching movies and posting reviews just to gain your trust - the 1,649 reviews I wrote were all just lulling you into a false sense of security, so you wouldn't recognize my clever marketing when the time was right.  You have to admit, it's a bit of genius, since you never saw it coming.

Yes, I have been employed by the director of tonight's film for over 20 years, so for me to review it seems at first like a massive conflict of interest.  But where I used to serve as his producer, on films like "I Married a Strange Person" and "Mutant Aliens", my role in his studio now is about 98% administrative.  We have other employees who get producer credit, and I work mostly on film festivals, accounting, merchandise sales, and Comic-Con matters.  I've been there three days a week over the last four years while this film was created, and honestly I've been so busy that I never had time to sit down and WATCH the film.  I wanted to see it when it premiered at a festival, but that time came and went at Slamdance, and I wasn't able to make it.

Then a few other things happened - I programmed my February romance-based films as usual, and I came to a definite break in the actor linking.  Plus I noticed that a lot of this year's films dealt with lies and infidelity, and I started to feel that "This Is 40", the film originally programmed for tonight, might not fit with that theme.  That's when I said to myself, "Hey, don't you work for a guy named Bill Plympton, and hasn't he just completed a new feature about infidelity, which could benefit from some promotion?"

Well, when I put it that way, it seemed kind of weird that I wasn't going to review the film.  I started this process to watch all the movies in my collection I hadn't seen, and technically this film is not in general release (we're working on it), but all I had to do was bring home a spare DVD from the studio - boom, it's in my collection.  Conflict resolved.

If I have any qualms about the ethics of all of this, I think that's a minor concern.  Go ahead, call the blog police on me if you want.  It's very likely that I'm so close to the film that I might not be able to review it at all - the only way to find out is to watch it.  If anything, I expect that I will be overly critical of the film, because I expect so much out of my boss and co-workers.  You don't just become the "King of Independent Animation" by calling yourself that.

No linking tonight, because this film has no name actors.  In fact, there's no dialogue.  More about that later.


THE PLOT:  In a fateful bumper car collision, Jake and Ella meet and become the most loving couple in the long history of romance. But when a scheming "other" woman drives a wedge of jealousy into their perfect courtship, insecurity and hatred spell out an untimely fate. With only the help of a disgraced magician and his forbidden "soul machine", Ella takes the form of Jake's numerous lovers.

AFTER:  Well, it's sort of as I feared.  I can't really give an unbiased review, but for different reasons than I suspected.  I've been working in the world of animation for over two decades, and my role has changed a lot.  I've fixed scripts, edited 2 books, and have dealt with many problems concerning logistics, scheduling and mechanics.  You say this festival in France lost the print, and we might miss three scheduled screenings in Germany as a result?  I'm on the case, give me the phone and I'll yell at some people, plus get another print diverted to Germany so we don't miss a festival.  You need these four big boxes shipped to San Diego to arrive on time, but not too early?  I've got that down to a science.

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't work at a busy animation studio, but I mostly fix problems all day long.  That creates a certain level of stress, which produces adrenaline, which is kind of like a drug.  Fixing a problem (or organizing something) makes me feel good, which creates dopamine, which is another kind of drug.  So I ride this roller-coaster of stress and relief for 6 to 8 hours a day, and it's like yo-yoing between espressos and vodka shots - when I'm on vacation sometimes I miss it, I crave it.  But I've been conditioned to look at this man's work and spot the typos, or in the case of his films, any continuity mistakes.  As a result I can't really see the forest for the trees.

On another level, I've also conditioned myself not to challenge him on story issues.  Not only has he earned the right to make whatever story he wants to make, I suspect that in a way the film already exists within his head, and my role as an employee is to get out of his way, and not prevent him from making the film his way, so that it will match the vision in his head.  In a way I think I'm like Adam Richman of "Man vs. Food", who claims to have worked in nearly every major job in the food industry.  That word "nearly" leads me to believe he's never been a chef, and the difference between a chef and a cook is that a chef can create his own recipes, and a cook can only make other people's.  In the animation world, I try to be a good cook and not question the chef.  I can help the animator tell his story, but I don't think I could create a piece of animation on my own.

That being said, animation is all about exaggeration and overkill.  Think about Daffy Duck getting shot in the face.  It's not funny if he gets a hole in his beak and bleeds, but it's hilarious if his beak gets blown to the back of his head, his face turns black from the smoke and he gives a dirty look to the camera.  But I was always the kid watching Road Runner cartoons thinking, "A coyote can't really survive a fall off of a mountain, right?  Or getting squashed by a boulder?"  I had to get it straight in my own head that I wasn't watching reality before I could enjoy it.

I need to have a conversation with the director about some technical issues - one should never try to put out an electrical fire with water, for example.  And I wish that he would take a few minutes to learn how a fire hydrant works, or the way that women apply make-up, because then he would be able to draw those things better.  But since this is the cartoon world, and since he can draw just about anything, he just makes things happen the way he thinks they should.  Anyway, we've locked picture and it's too late to fix these things, so I probably should have watched this film a year ago.

In the story, we have a male character, Jake, who believes that his new bride, Ella, has been unfaithful.  So he goes right out and cheats too, but not with 1 woman, with many.  That's the exaggeration inherent to animation, but you have to wonder if it comes from a genuine place.  Every gag has an element of truth to it, after all.  Bill has stated at screenings that this film is based on a previous relationship, and not his wife.  That's a relief, because I know his wife and she seems like a very nice person.  Jake is not Bill, of course, but yet maybe he is, in the way that you are every character in your own dreams, and this film is sort of like Plympton's dream.

Everything is sort of sexual in this world, from filling up a gas tank (obviously), to making breakfast (eggs boiling, coffee percolating).  Yeah, this is an adult animation for adult people, which hearkens back to the sex scenes in his film "I Married a Strange Person", where objects in the room like shoes and electrical outlets all started fornicating around the main characters.  There are also references to shots from "Hair High", where the sexual electricity between two characters was expressed as a very literal spark of energy between them.  Anything can happen in this world, and metaphors are sometimes expressed quite literally - to depict a character having her heart broken, we can see that heart splitting in two.

Of course, it's hard to express emotion in a film without dialogue.  I know why this is done, because a large part of Bill's audience is overseas, and this film is already scheduled for release in France, under the title "Les Amants Electriques" ("The Electric Lovers").  The less dialogue, the better it will translate to foreign markets, without the extra cost of subtitling.  But I think this is also something of a storytelling challenge - can this story be told just through visuals and music?

The music here was coordinated by Nicole Renaud, a great French singer and songwriter.  There are a number of familiar classical pieces, like the Drinking Song from "Il Trovatore", and the famous "Can-Can" theme, from "Orpheus in the Underworld", which you may never think of the same way after seeing the visuals that accompany it in this film.  I do get to learn the names of some classical music this way - the rest of the music was composed or sung, or both, by Nicole, and she did a great job.  It all helps set the tone for scenes where dialogue was not used.

Speaking of dialogue, I know that I was never asked to type up this screenplay - why would we need a screenplay if there are no actors to read from it?  It makes sense on some level, but going into production on a feature film without a solid script (I assume he made some form of storyboards, but still...) is kind of equivalent to jumping out of a plane without a parachute, and saying you'll figure something out before you hit the ground.  That requires guts, or insanity, or perhaps both.

I'm trying to get back to the plot here - Ella hires a hit-man when she learns about Jake's infidelity.  Bill has also stated this film was greatly influenced by the work of James Cain, who wrote the novels that noir films like "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity" were based on.  The addition of the hit-man and his girlfriend sets up a sort of love quadrangle with Jake & Ella, which is made more complicated by a machine which allows Ella to send her soul into other women's bodies.

I'm not sure what this says about the characters, if the only way that a woman can be intimate with her husband is by taking the form of his mistresses.  There's something almost Shakespearean about that, like mistaken identity caused by cross-dressing, which is what The Bard favored.  It's also kind of kinky, like someone who can only get off by wearing a particular costume.  But again, it's only in the cartoon world that someone can become more intimate with their spouse by having sex with someone else.  And the "Soul Machine" is quite literally a "deus ex machina" of the highest order - the effects of the machine determine whether this relationship can be saved.

So, does Jake cheat?  If his wife's soul is inhabiting the body of his lovers, isn't he sleeping with his wife?  I guess this becomes a debatable point.  And what does this all mean?  Again, I think I may be too close.  Imagine if you were personal friends with Martin Scorcese, and you played bridge with him every week.  If he went and made a film about someone cheating at cards, you might watch that film very closely to gain some insight, and you might not be able to stop wondering if he's cheating during your weekly game.

I'm still glad that I watched this, because I'm entering it in film festivals, and we'll be promoting it at Comic-Con for sure, and knowing what takes place in it will help me out a lot.  Perhaps I should recuse myself from giving a rating tonight, because if I rate it too high, it won't seem genuine, and if I rate it too low, I'll stop getting a paycheck.  I'm going to just go with my gut, pick a number and move on, like I do every night.  It is what it is.

And if you'd like to find out when this film might be playing at a film festival near you, please visit:
http://www.cheatinmovie.com/screening-list/

RATING: 6 out of 10 motel reservations

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Happy Accidents

Year 6, Day 50 - 2/19/14 - Movie #1,649

BEFORE:  New York is finally melting.  Temperatures are going to be above freezing for the rest of the week, and the rain is doing its part, plus people are outside chopping up the snow piles so they will disappear faster.  I think that says a lot about how much everyone hates winter right about now.

Linking from "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry", Michael Buscemi carries over, having played a firefighter last night, he plays a pedestrian tonight.  Yeah, I'm pretty desperate for links at this point.


THE PLOT:  Ruby has man trouble: she tries to fix them, so she's stuck herself with a string of losers. Her current lover, Sam, informs Ruby that he's from the future.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Time Traveler's Wife"  (Movie #424)

AFTER: I can't say that this film consciously set out to be like "The Time Traveler's Wife", because it predated that film and the book it was based on, but often there is a successful film that leads to a less-successful, low-budget knock-off, and in this case, I'm betting that this film is riffing off of "Twelve Monkeys".  That great film also featured a man from the future, or perhaps a man who thought he was from the future, sent back to our present for mysterious reasons, who also falls in love and then starts to question the nature of his reality.

The thing is, "Twelve Monkeys" had big-budget effects, and this one doesn't.  To its credit, it tries very hard to do more with less. And here we never see the alleged future world, so we're just left with a man and what he says about it.  This creates a very talky-talky film (or screamy-screamy when the couple starts to fight) and we have to make judgments based on little more than dialogue alone.

You know I'm going to start trying to figure out the endgame right from the start, and again to this film's credit, it's a long time before we get any definite answers.  Oh, there's plenty of evidence that this guy is from the future, but it's all potentially explained by his insanity - plus there's plenty of evidence that this guy is insane, but it's all potentially explained by his time travel.  So I'm saying that this one could keep you guessing.

I suppose a time traveler could easily be mistaken for a nut, asking people "What year is this?" or talking about what year the icecaps melted, or how there are no housepets in the future because of some virus.  And it's easy to see how a crazy person would retreat into a fantasy about being from another time, a better time where things are better, in order to escape some harsh aspect about the present.

Thankfully this fits right in with this year's romance chain, because it's all about lies and deception, or people not revealing the whole truth about themselves, and falling in love when they seem to have very good reasons not to.  In the end you have to decide for yourself whether the time travel is real, or a fantasy, or a metaphor for something else.  Fate and coincidence certainly play their part, but they're no substitute for going with your gut.

Also starring Vincent D'Onofrio (last seen in "Brooklyn's Finest"), Marisa Tomei (last seen in "The Ides of March"), Holland Taylor (last seen in "How to Make an American Quilt"), Jose Zuniga, Tovah Feldshuh, Nadia Dajani, with a cameo from Anthony Michael Hall (last seen in "Six Degrees of Separation").

RATIN: 5 out of 10 bar codes

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

Year 6, Day 49 - 2/18/14 - Movie #1,648

BEFORE:  I know the snow season's almost over (I hope) but I ran out of ice melt about a week ago, and I need to melt the mountain of ice that's blocking our driveway, so last night I carried home two 25-lb. bags of de-icing salt.  I gave one bag to our neighbors this morning, to repay them for all the times that they shoveled our part of the walk this winter when I was late getting up.  I'm not sure if they completely understood its value, or the fact that the salt is really only helpful when the temperature is at freezing or just below, because I don't speak Chinese, but I think they got the drift of my gesture.

Linking from "Hitch", Kevin James carries over.  Easy-peasy lemon squeezy.


THE PLOT:  Two straight, single Brooklyn firefighters pretend to be a gay couple in order to receive domestic partner benefits.

AFTER: Last year I set aside one day out of the romance chain to celebrate diversity by watching "Brokeback Mountain", but any attempt to do so this year with this film was just ill-advised.  I think this movie actually sets gay rights and acceptance back, despite whatever intentions it might have had.  The main problem is, it just fundamentally does not work, in that it does not accomplish what it set out to do.

Let's start with the premise: a widower firefighter has a brush with injury, and realizes there is a problem with his benefits, namely that they are in his dead wife's name, and his kids are not named.  Supposedly there is a one-year limit on making this clerical change, a window he missed, presumably because he is a busy firefighter, or just plain too lazy to open his mail or read his policy.  But right off the bat, I can't buy this premise because if you're having trouble with a city clerk, you should ask to speak to her manager.  A dead person cannot receive benefits, so a simple submission of his wife's death certificate would negate her status as a beneficiary, allowing him to make the change.  And even if that failed, if he were to die on the job, the worst case scenario would be that his estate would go to his wife, and with her being dead, it would go to HER beneficiaries, which would be the kids.  Problem solved, or rather, there wasn't really a problem to begin with.  Even if he didn't have a will, his estate would be settled by the state - it might take a little longer, but the children would be taken care of, in one form or another.

The plot then alleges that the only way to make this correction is if there is a change in his marital status.  So the firefighter panics, concerned with the fact that he could die on the job tomorrow, and rather than talk calmly to a benefits manager and explain the situation, he gets it in his head that his best friend should pose as his husband, and with the new laws extending benefits to domestic partners, this would change his marital status, allowing him to refile the beneficiary paperwork.  OK, fine, but then a week later after filing that paperwork, there should be some way to file to dissolve the domestic partnership, and with the kids now named as beneficiaries, problem solved once again.

But no, the two men get it in their heads that they have to live together for appearance's sake, which puts them on the hook for insurance fraud, makes them social outcasts (except in gay circles) and puts their squad commander and their entire squad at risk as co-conspirators.  All because someone couldn't file a damn form?  Give me a break.  I got my ex-wife's name taken off our mortgage without refinancing the loan, which wasn't easy - but I visited a good lawyer BEFORE I did something illegal.

Even this accusation of so-called "insurance fraud" is clunky - they are accused of ripping off the system, but how exactly?  They're both receiving similar benefits and pensions as firemen, so where's the fraud?  Two men and two kids were receiving benefits before the fake marriage, and two men and two kids are receiving benefits after, so where's the added fraud?  If either or both had fake-married non-firemen, and those people were added to their policies as additional covered parties, that would be costly fraud.  But in this case, it seems like the city would be SAVING money by having them both covered on the same policy, and each receiving the other's benefits in case of death.  So clearly there is a fundamental lack of understanding here regarding how insurance policies work - and if you don't understand a process, I suggest maybe writing a screenplay about something else.

Some good does come out of the wacky mix-up - stereotypes are challenged (but unfortunately, just as many seem to get reinforced) and their co-workers are forced to confront their latent homophobia, and a couple are even encouraged to face their own identities and self-hatred and come out.  But honestly this is a long way to go for a small payoff.

The main problem here seems to be a tendency to deal in absolutes, which as I mentioned a few days ago, is always a tricky thing.  A character is either 100% gay, or 100% straight - when in fact most people in a free society may fall somewhere in between.  Why does nobody identify as bisexual?  Experience shows us that people can identify as one thing, and then years later, perhaps after meeting the right partner, they can swing the other way - so aren't they bisexual over time?  Why can't a guy who was once married but now (apparently) with a man call himself bi- or omni-sexual?  Because he doesn't want to appear indecisive?  This is ridiculous and short-sighted.  And if his fake partner is uncomfortable being thought of as the "woman" in the relationship, wouldn't calling himself bisexual sort of soften that blow?  When the world sees evidence that he's been known to have sex with women, why isn't he thought of as bisexual?  Why is the explanation that he's a self-hating gay a more believable option?  Again, ridiculous and short-sighted.

I realize that this film is 7 years old, and much has changed even in that short span of time, but somebody, somewhere, should have known better and realized that this was not an accurate portrayal of events in the gay community, or anywhere really.  The fact that a prominent college football player recently outed himself, and what effect this apparently will have on his draft choices, coupled with reactions from current NFL coaches and players, just shows how far some people still have to go - but a film like this is not how we're going to get there.  You either acknowledge that humans have some basic rights to be who they want to be, or you don't - and if you do, you don't belittle their choices.

And I haven't even covered the repugnance of Rob Schneider playing an Asian wedding officiant - whatever I said about Mickey Rooney in "Breakfast at Tiffany's", just double that.  Just when you think we've made progress, something like this just knocks us back into the racist Stone Age.  If you want to have an Asian character, you simply must hire an Asian - yes, casting should be race-blind, but this is not what people have in mind when they say that.  This is just despicable.

Also starring Adam Sandler (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Jessica Biel (last seen in "New Year's Eve"), Dan Aykroyd (last seen in "The Campaign"), Ving Rhames (last seen in "Casualties of War"), Steve Buscemi (also last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Nicholas Turturro (last seen in "Here Comes the Boom"), Gary Valentine (ditto), Nick Swardson (last seen in "Just Go With It"), Rob Schneider (last seen in "Muppets From Space"), Mary Pat Gleason, with cameos from Richard Chamberlain, David Spade (also last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Rachel Dratch, Blake Clark, Lance Bass, Dave Matthews, Dan Patrick, Robert Smigel, Rob Corddry, Tila Tequila, Matt Winston (last seen in "Zodiac"), Adam Herschman.

RATING: 3 out of 10 porno mags

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hitch

Year 6, Day 48 - 2/17/14 - Movie #1,647

BEFORE:  This is rapidly turning into the year of the very-average romantic comedy.  On the other hand, these films are all making "The Notebook" look really good - that film may end up being the winner of the month.  Not that it's a contest - romance shouldn't be a game.  Or should it?

Linking from "Celeste & Jesse Forever", Andy Samberg was also in "Hotel Transylvania" with Kevin James. 



THE PLOT:  While helping his latest client woo the fine lady of his dreams, a professional "date doctor" finds that his game doesn't quite work on the gossip columnist with whom he's smitten.

AFTER:  Continuing the theme of people who are running away from love - but tonight it's all about the ladies playing hard to get.  And the men who've got no game in wooing them, and need help doing so.  So yep, we're right back at "Fake it 'til you make it" once again.  The main character is a dating expert who helps men with the faking.  Because what's better than a relationship based on deception?  Those always work out so well.

But I think the worst offense here is perpetuating the stereotype that women judge men only with a first impression, decide whether they want to sleep with them or not after just one kiss, and that three good dates is all that is necessary to form a lasting bond with a woman.  All across the board, this really sells the female gender short.  What happened to the notion about women being able to change their minds?

Of course, the dating expert has some learning of his own to do - he eventually learns that by building up a library of slick moves, he's accidentally prevented himself from appearing vulnerable or letting his guard down, and perhaps that's what women really find attractive.  The apparent "failures" he has on his own dates are not failures at all, but chances to show that he is fallible and approachable. 

What's kind of annoying here is that this film has to deal with broad stereotypes in order to get its point across.  Beautiful women are hard to approach.  Handsome men are absolute pigs (except the central character, of course).  Fat guys dance funny.  Plus it relies on too much coincidence - Hitch's main client wants to date his girlfriend's gossip target.  So the mysterious "date doctor" she's trying to expose turns out to be the guy she's falling for.  Considering how many clients Hitch has, and how many celebrities his girlfriend writes about, it means I haven't seen a coincidence so unlikely since "The Departed".  

Also starring Will Smith (last seen in "Anchorman 2"), Eva Mendes (last seen in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"), Amber Valletta, Adam Arkin (last seen in "The Sessions"), Michael Rapaport (last seen in "Big Fan"), Jeffrey Donovan, Paula Patton (last seen in "Precious"), Nathan Lee Graham, with cameos from Kevin Sussman, Matt Malloy, Joe LoTruglio (last heard in "Wreck-It Ralph"), Matt Servitto.

RATING:  4 out of 10 client referrals

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Year 6, Day 47 - 2/16/14 - Movie #1,646

BEFORE:  I may not have realized it at the time I drew up the schedule, but this is sort of a companion piece to last night's film, which was about a couple taking a long time to acknowledge they're in a relationship.  This one's about a couple taking a long to time to acknowledge that their relationship is over.  Linking from "No Strings Attached", Kevin Kline was also in "The Ice Storm" with Elijah Wood.



THE PLOT:  A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.

AFTER: This film is all about maintaining a friendship through and after a marriage, which might strike most people as impossible, or at least odd.  But I'll wager that is was inspired by a real situation, and in fact caused me to have a few flashbacks to my own first marriage.  It has to do with compartmentalization, and the down side of being a friend, confidant and lover all at the same time.  One aspect of the relationship might crumble, but instead of making a clean break, someone might try to hang on to whatever remains, which is a mistake in one respect, but then again, who's to say what's normal in this situation? 

In my case, the breakup was nearly a two-year process - even when it was acknowledged that we would both need to find new partners (though she'd already had somebody in mind...) there was still the matter of the paperwork, plus dividing up all our stuff, and then there's trying to make the emotional break in a positive way (not possible...).  My point is, there's lots to be done, and it takes time.  But is it possible to be cordial to each other and make jokes, even when signing the papers?  My own experience confirms that it is. 

The female character is a bit of an odd duck, the one less likely to face the truth and more likely to be in denial.  After three films with Natalie Portman running away from love, perhaps it's just jarring to see someone trying to hold on to it.  Ironically, her character is a trend forecaster, yet she's unable to see the possible results of her own actions or inactions when it comes to her relationships.  And still she's depicted as the more mature person in the couple.

So I give the film high marks for accuracy, and credit for covering a topic that is rarely depicted on film, but I have to base my score on my overall enjoyment, and in the end it wasn't that enjoyable to watch.  Too many hipsters doing hipster activities like yoga and listening to obscure bands.  And the side plot featuring a Britney Spears-like pop-star just felt like filler.

Also starring Andy Samberg (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Rashida Jones (last seen in "The Social Network"), Emma Roberts, Eric Christian Olsen, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina (last seen in "Ruby Sparks"), Will McCormack, Rebecca Dayan, with cameos from Rob Huebel, Chris Pine (last heard in "Rise of the Guardians").

RATING: 4 out of 10 German accents