Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Own Private Idaho

Year 7, Day 52 - 2/21/15 - Movie #1,952

BEFORE: I'll release my Oscar predictions tomorrow, because today I want to talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.  My first impulse is to treat this as another hokey made-up disease, like ADHD or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for one simple reason: the weather sucks.  And it's all right to feel down when the weather sucks, in fact I encourage it as a rational human response.  Friday it was so cold that our pipes froze, and we had no water.  I should have re-programmed the thermostat to make the heat come on during the day, instead of letting the house get cold while we were both at work, so as a result I had to play a plumber to hold a blowtorch to our pipes for an hour.  Eventually something melted somewhere and our water was restored, but of course not until after we bought two big gallons of Poland Spring at the corner deli, for use in making tea and/or needing to refill the toilet tanks.  

Should I be smiling during all this inconvenience?  Of course not, getting frustrated would be a natural response, so it's allowed.  When I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, I noticed some new boxes on the intake form, relating to depression.  The first asked if I was often sad and listless, and the second asked if I frequently found myself disinterested in doing things.  This is roughly equivalent to the form reading, "Do you want to talk about it?  Check Yes/No".  Yes, I am often sad, and yes, I'm frequently disinterested in doing anything - but I don't consider that depression, because I consider both of those reactions to be appropriate responses to my life, considering my age and job situation.  

What I mean is, I believe that life is generally tedious, frequently disappointing, and ultimately pointless.  For me to start each day with a smile, or whistle while I work, that would seem out of place and very unrealistic.  Besides, for any medication that they could give me to improve my attitude, the side effects would be worse than the disease - they all list things like "suicidal thoughts" as side effects, and that sounds a lot worse than being grumpy and disinterested in things.

Keanu Reeves carries over from "Something's Gotta Give" - 

THE PLOT: Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way.

AFTER: I'm also not having a good run with movies lately - nothing's scored above a 5 for some time now.  Now, this may be partially due to the enforced romance theme for February, which has forced me down some cinematic roads that I might not otherwise traverse.  It's also possible that I'm burned out on movies, having watched well more than my share in the last 6 years and 2 months.  I've lost all my perspective, I can take in the basic plot elements of a film, but I'm having trouble seeing the deeper meanings behind things.  

Or, there's another possibility - it feels to me lately like everything sucks because EVERYTHING SUCKS.  Maybe I haven't lost my perspective after all, maybe I just don't like certain movies because they're not made well, or they're not aimed at me to begin with.  Maybe I'm not seeing a greater meaning behind a story because it's not there to begin with.  I remember last month that I enjoyed films like "Birdman" and "Moonrise Kingdom", right?  OK, so they weren't perfect, but what films are (outside of the 2 perfect 10's I've discovered)?  I'm usually able to see the bigger picture, but today I just felt like there's no "there" there.

This sort of echoes a problem I've been having lately with comic books.  I've been a hardcore Marvel collector since 1983, and also have kept up with DC's Batman and Superman.  But it's impossible for me to discern if I still enjoy reading the books, or if I'm just buying them out of habit.  Frequently I've read books like "All-New Ghost Rider" or recent crossovers like "Axis" or "Original Sin" and afterwards I say, "I just don't get it."  The reason may be that these books are aimed at teenagers, and I no longer have the mindset required to enjoy them.  I had a good run, enjoying these comics into my mid-forties, but I soon have to face the fact that I've aged out of the program.  They no longer entertain me, because they're not designed to.  Marvel's upcoming "Secret Wars" crossover is promising to combine all their various alternate timelines into a new, coherent, focused timeline - basically, they're razing their continuity to the ground and most likely re-building it to match Disney's Marvel movie universe, so maybe this will be a good opportunity for me to cut myself loose.  I started collecting with the original "Secret Wars" crossover in 1983, so ending with the new one provides some symmetry.

Anyway, back to the film - "I just don't get it."  Maybe it's not aimed at me, maybe it was aimed at disaffected teenagers, and I am no longer one of those.  Maybe I didn't see a larger meaning to the story because there wasn't one.  At least with a disfunctional family wedding comedy I can point to things and say, "Ha ha, my parents are clueless too!" or "Boy, aren't weddings crazy affairs?" but here I've got nothing to relate to.  

Maybe I just don't get Gus Van Sant - I remember having problems with the storytelling in his film "Elephant" also.  The IMDB summary calls it a "Surreal character study" which seems to me like a veiled way of saying "Confusing film with no real story."  This came out in 1992, when the independent film movement was in full swing, but why does that so often translate into "What the heck was this movie even about?"  OK, so "Good Will Hunting" was an entertaining film, but does the guy have anything else even comparable on his resumé?  

(I think I missed out on a lot of the 1990's "independent film" movement because I was busy, working on producing independent films.  The irony of this is not lost on me.  I got to attend the Sundance festival three times, in 1998, 2001 and 2004, and each time saw as many films as I could - the indie films that came out in other years, I simply didn't get to see.)

And how does William Shakespeare get a screenwriting credit for this?  It's loosely based on "Henry IV, Part I"?  Sorry, I'm not familiar with that one.  If you're going to riff on Billy Shakes, why not pick a play people know, like "Hamlet" or "Macbeth"?  I mean, I guess that explains why the characters here spoke in archaic, flowery language, but again, to what purpose?  What does that even accomplish?  I don't get it.  Maybe it's a Portland thing, I had to watch a few episodes of "Portlandia" before I found it even remotely funny, and before that it was another head-scratcher, just like this film.

Also starring River Phoenix, James Russo, William Richert, Chiara Caselli, Flea (last heard in "The Wild Thornberrys Movie"), Udo Kier (last seen in "Melancholia"), with cameos from Grace Zabriskie (last seen in "Wild at Heart"), Brian Wilson, Jim Caviezel (last seen in "The Thin Red Line").

RATING: 3 out of 10 wheat fields

Friday, February 20, 2015

Something's Gotta Give

Year 7, Day 51 - 2/20/15 - Movie #1,951

BEFORE: Diane Keaton carries over again, and February's got just a little over a week left.  The end of the Diane Keaton chain is also the start of another actor's chain, just as February will soon give way to March, the romance chain will give way to other topics, and someday it will cease being Moscow-level cold outside.  I have to believe all of that.

THE PLOT: A swinger on the cusp of being a senior citizen with a taste for young women falls in love with an accomplished woman closer to his age.

AFTER: I really expected this one to suck, and it didn't, not totally.  At least not when compared with real stinkers like "The Big Wedding" and "Crimes of the Heart", which might be making tonight's film look a little better by comparison.  Still, you should probably steer clear of this one if you have any problems with seeing senior citizens in the buff, or if thoughts of people your parents' age being sexually active makes you at all queasy.  

I know, I know, sixty is the new forty and all that.  I'm solidly in my mid-forties (though on my birthday I just tell the new office crew each year I'm turning 39) and physically, I'm starting to feel it.  I went to the doctor this week for my first physical in 3 or 4 years and got the usual blah-blah about losing weight, plus steering clear of salt, alcohol and caffeine - which would be easy if those weren't three of the things that make life worth living.  Salt's just hard to avoid if you eat as much restaurant food as I do, and life without the highs and lows of caffeine and alcohol - well, to me that's just flat-lining.  

The lead male character here does have a heart attack, and afterwards his main concern is getting back to being sexually active - but for some reason he's not told to cut back on salt or saturated fat or even alcohol.  Should we presume that conversation takes place, but off-screen?  I guess none of that relates to romance, and this is a romantic film.  But one which raises the question - should people only date within their own age bracket?  

To be fair, it shows both genders dating young - an older man who dates only younger woman falls for an older woman, but she's also being courted by a younger man.  It's a modern twist on the love triangle, which could have easily been a love rectangle since he was originally dating her daughter, but I think that would have been the safe, simple story route, and they took it in a different direction.  

That said, once the triangle was established, the film feels like it goes on too long - there are too many reversals, and there should only be so many of those in any particular film.  There are also too many scenes with people chatting back and forth with instant messages (this was released in 2003, texting wasn't so popular yet) and worse, at one point the people talking via AIM are in the same house at the same time, proving that the screenwriter and/or director didn't quite understand its purpose.  

NITPICK POINT: They WAY overplayed the reaction Jack Nicholson's character had when he bumped into Diane Keaton's character in the buff.  If you turn the corner in someone's house and see them walking around naked, there's maybe a second or two of shock, after which the appropriate action would be to cover your eyes with your hand, and if you're feeling rakish, maybe peek between your fingers - total elapsed time, no more than 5 seconds, through which you've gone through mild shock, embarrasment, and perhaps curiosity.  The display here is at least 30 seconds of every possible emotion: surprise, fear, disgust, mild shock, great big shock, surprise (again, but bigger), greater disgust, even bigger shock, followed by bumping into the wall with all the picture frames on it.  Damn, Nicholson was allowed to do every possible reaction take except for teetering on the edge of a staircase while holding a tray of champagne glasses.  It was just much too much - plus it wasn't fair to Diane Keaton, who did not look bad at all.  From Nicholson's overblown disgusted reaction, you'd think he was looking at the Cryptkeeper, which she most certainly is not.

NITPICK POINT #1.5: By the way, what's with her walking around her house nekkid, anyway?  Is this the only house in the Hamptons where the bedroom doesn't have a door that can be closed?  Did she somehow forget that she had a houseguest?  Seems unlikely.  OK, it's great that she's an older woman who's comfortable in her own skin, but she's also portrayed as an uptight character who wears turtlenecks, so which is it?  Is she uptight or not?  Is she comfortable being naked or not?  I mean, at first she is, then she clearly isn't, so the whole situation is just too darn far-fetched.  You can't even say her character is just comfortable living alone, because if you live alone, there's hardly any reason to be that naked in the first place. 

NITPICK POINT #2: Now I'm also supposed to believe in Keanu Reeves playing a cardiologist.  Nope, no way.  Not when he still sounds like Ted "Theodore" Logan - I could barely accept him as an action hero in "The Matrix". Heck, I can barely accept him as Keanu Reeves, so I certainly can't buy him as a doctor. 

Also starring Jack Nicholson (last seen in "Ensign Pulver"), Keanu Reeves (last seen in "Hardball"), Amanda Peet (last seen in "Identity Thief"), Frances McDormand (last seen in "Moonrise Kingdom"), Jon Favreau (also last seen in "Identity Thief"), Paul Michael Glaser (last seen in "Butterflies Are Free"), Rachel Ticotin (last seen in "Don Juan DeMarco"), 

RATING: 5 out of 10 hospital gowns

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Crimes of the Heart

Year 7, Day 50 - 2/19/15 - Movie #1,950

BEFORE: Diane Keaton carries over from "The Big Wedding", for a film that was on the schedule for a long time to screen on Valentine's Day itself, due to the presence of the word "Heart" in the title.  But I shouldn't program by title, that causes too many problems.  Look, I've got four films this month with the word "wedding" in the title - starting with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", and two more to come.  But they're very different films, and didn't share any actors, so they've been separated, and rightfully so.

THE PLOT: Three sisters with quite different personalities and lives reunite when the youngest of them, Babe, has just shot her husband. 

AFTER: I'm scratching my head after watching this one, because I just don't get it.  It's based on a play, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning play no less, and I guess it's just one of those things that works on a stage (very talkie-talkie) but under no circumstances should have been made into a film.  I think back to plays like "A Doll's House" or "The Glass Menagerie" and how they were very introspective, darkish dramas about women who were lonely or shut-ins or who just don't feel like going outside today.  That may kill on a stage set, where all of the action is designed to take place in one room, but it absolutely sucks in a movie.  Movies need to be big, bold, things where we can travel to Paris or Oz or outer space and exciting things happen.  

(Maybe I've just seen too many introspective romance films in a row.  I'm really longing to watch some sci-fi, or even just an action film...)

I'm not going to say NOTHING happens in this film, but darn if it doesn't feel like it.  OK, so the sisters reunite (ho hum) and one has shot her husband the day before (we eventually get to see it in flashback, but still...) and we eventually learn the romantic histories of all three sisters.  I'm at least glad there's some romance in the film, justifying its inclusion in the February chain, but it's another case where everyone's love life is screwed-up, just in different ways.  

One sister had an affair, the second starts seeing a married man, and the third is the spinster-y type, who eventually gets herself to a place where she's ready to take a chance and start dating.  Unless I missed something, that's about it.  The drama over the shooting of the husband, the WHY of that, is mildly interesting, but it's nothing we haven't seen before in other stories about meat-headed bigoted Southern husbands.  

Pointless, pointless, pointless - it just doesn't GO anywhere, and a movie is supposed to go somewhere.

Also starring Sissy Spacek (last seen in "Coal Miner's Daughter"), Jessica Lange (last seen in "Sweet Dreams"), Sam Shepard (last seen in "August: Osage County"), Tess Harper, Hurd Hatfield.

RATING: 3 out of 10 birthday candles

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Big Wedding

Year 7, Day 49 - 2/18/15 - Movie #1,949

BEFORE: OK, another change in plans.  I was going to watch "The Family Stone" next, since Sarah Jessica Parker would carry over, and that would set up the Diane Keaton chain.  But as I started watching the credits, it started to feel more like a Christmas movie than a romance movie.  And I wasn't in a Christmas-ey mood, it being February and all.  So I'm tabling that film until the X-Mas holiday season rolls around again - but I'm still using it as my connection to link to Diane Keaton (last seen in "Interiors").

(Alternately, Sarah Jessica Parker was also in "New Year's Eve" with Katherine Heigl...)

Enter "The Big Wedding", a film I just put on a DVD with "Last Vegas", and I was planning to watch it later this year, which would have given me options to link to more DeNiro films, or even to the Robin Williams chain.  I lose some of those options by watching the film tonight, but c'est la vie.  And hey, I get to follow up a Mia Farrow film with a Diane Keaton film, a move I'll call a "reverse Woody Allen". 

THE PLOT:  A long-divorced couple fakes being married as their family unites for a wedding.

AFTER: As a result of my last-minute substitution, this film ends up next to "Miami Rhapsody" and the two movies actually share some things in common.  They both depict large families with adult children, and everyone in the family is screwed up in some way.  Last night it was a constant issue - nobody had any success being faithful or monogamous, and tonight it's a whole host of problems.  The groom's adopted parents are divorced, and have settled into a happy equilibrium, the patriarch with his live-in girlfriend, and the matriarch happily single and independent.  

Meanwhile we've got a daughter who's fresh off a break-up and sickened by the sight of babies (since they remind her that her biological clock is ticking, how quaint and sexist...) and an adult son who's still a virgin and waiting for true love.  And the adopted son finds out that he has to either has to lie to a priest to get the Catholic Church's approval, or tell the truth about his relationship and be branded a sinner.  Been there, done that.  It's great when an organization that has 10 big taboos forces you to do one of them in order to get their blessing - not hypocritical at all.

The family order is thrown into chaos when the son's real mother arrives from Latin America, and she was never told that his adoptive parents were divorced.  So rather than have an awkward conversation with her where they explain in a calm, rational manner what the truth is, everyone figures it's easier to maintain a lie for three days.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, everything, as a matter of fact.

Also arriving from Latin America is a previously unmentioned sister - and she's very free and often naked, and our in-house virgin starts questioning his lifestyle.  Ha ha, horny men are so funny.  So eight or ten family members bounce around a house, snarking at each other while confusion reigns, old affairs are uncovered, people learn a bit about themselves, and finally two people are married to continue the cycle.  

And very little of it is funny, I swear.  Not even in a "isn't life funny?" kind of way.  Nope, not a bit.  Someone took an average situation, went out of their way to make it more complicated, just to have everything fixed at the last minute.  It's a long way to go for such a small payoff.

NITPICK POINT: The whole scene with the priest at the Pre-Cana just didn't work.  Why would Alejandro be so clueless about what the Catholic Church's pre-marital rules are, when he was later so concerned with what his conservative birth mother might expect?  Wouldn't those represent the same set of expectations?  And having been through the Pre-Cana myself, I'm fairly sure that a priest is not allowed to ask such direct questions about a young couple's sex life.  If a priest asks, "Is her hymen intact?" I think the correct appropriate response would be "None of your god-damned business!" or at least a punch in the face.  This is not the Dark Ages!

Also starring Robert De Niro (last seen in "American Hustle"), Robin Williams (last heard in "Happy Feet Two"), Susan Sarandon (last seen in "Cloud Atlas"), Katherine Heigl (last seen in "New Year's Eve"), Topher Grace (last seen in "Predators"), Amanda Seyfried (last heard in "Epic"), David Rasche (last seen in "United 93"), Christine Ebersole, Ben Barnes, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora, with a cameo from Kyle Bornheimer.

RATING: 3 out of 10 confessionals

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Miami Rhapsody

Year 7, Day 48 - 2/17/15 - Movie #1,948

BEFORE: Valentine's weekend is over, but I'm locked into the romance theme through the end of the month.  I tend to ignore President's Day, it's a largely meaningless holiday - I mean, the guys who got to be U.S. President had things pretty good, all things considered (except for maybe William Henry Harrison, Millard whats-his-name, oh and JFK got shot, for that matter so did Lincoln, McKinley did too).  So what the hell, give them their own day, most of them aren't even around to appreciate it any more, but it's just an excuse to sell cars and mattresses, right?  We Americans haven't even found a way to turn it into an eating holiday - somebody should get on that right away.  In the meantime, Kelly Bishop carries over from "Friends With Kids".  

THE PLOT:  Gwyn Marcus has just accepted the proposal of her boyfriend Matt, but she has misgivings about their future together as she learns of the various affairs that her family is having.

AFTER: It first seems like this is going to be something along the lines of "My Big Fat Jewish Wedding", which would be fine, don't get me wrong.  I'll take Jewish deli food over Greek food any day.  But then with the long introspective narratives about the nature of relationships and affairs, intercut with jazz instrumentals, this starts to look like a film that Woody Allen might have made if he ever relocated out of New York in the 1990's.  Oh, he eventually went on to make films in London, Rome and Paris, but to my knowledge he never felt strongly about Miami - maybe if his parents had moved down there and he'd visited them, he would have found some stories there.  

All of his trademarks are here - family members discussing their affairs with each other, the jazz music, the professional ad writer who wants to write TV scripts instead, and the anecdotal missives about the meaning of it all.  OK, the central character is a woman, but he directed a few films like that too.  The presence of Mia Farrow as the lead character's mother sort of seals the deal.  This was maybe the 2nd film she was in after splitting with Woody, I wonder if making this film gave her a sense of deja vu.  

I can't even surmise that it was done as a parody, like "Airplane" was to the "Airport" disaster films, or if it was meant as a pastiche tribute, like the way "High Anxiety" assembled bits from various Hitchcock films.  If that's the case, then they didn't take things far enough.  (Hmm, that's not a terrible idea, to do a style parody of all Woody Allen's films together.... "Bullets over Broadway Dannie Hall and Her Sisters" or something...)  

Anyway, if you take this film at face value, it just makes the same point over and over, which is that marriages are fragile, nearly everyone is miserable or eventually cheats, and then they move on to the next relationship, which they'll probably screw up as well.  I'm not saying the film is wrong exactly, but it does exemplify sort of a defeatist attitude.  As Woody might say, "Nothing matters, we're all going to end up dying alone.  But at least we'll be with someone we love."

Also starring Sarah Jessica Parker (last seen in "New Year's Eve"), Gil Bellows, Antonio Banderas (last seen in "The Legend of Zorro"), Mia Farrow (last seen in "Husbands and Wives"), Paul Mazursky (last seen in "Into the Night"), Kevin Pollak (last seen in "Hostage"), Carla Gugino (last seen in "Snake Eyes"), Jeremy Piven (last heard in "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"), Naomi Campbell, Barbara Garrick, with cameos from Donal Logue (last seen in "Comic Book Villains"), Ben Stein.

RATING: 5 out of 10 Cuban cigars

Monday, February 16, 2015

Friends With Kids

Year 7, Day 47 - 2/16/15 - Movie #1,947

BEFORE: My sleeping schedule is now completely shot - the cold has subsided, and as a result I slept on Sunday from 5 am to 3 pm.  That's some championship sleeping, and that was on top of all the sleeping I did while I was sick.  I had some very vivid dreams, and I remembered them, which I don't often do.  In the final one I was in a Chinese buffet restaurant with cafeteria-style service and trays, and right after getting my tray, I was given a free cup of beer.  So far so good, right?  But as I worked my way down the line, the people already seated in the restaurant would get up, jump into the line to get small plates of food and then return to their seats, while I was trying to move my tray down the line in a less chaotic fashion, so I could see all of the available food choices.  But I kept losing track of my tray, or I would leave it on a part of the serving line that wasn't sloped properly, and it would fall off.  This meant I had to go back to the beginning and tell the people that my beer spilled, to try and get another free beer, and they didn't want to give me another one.  For one reason or another, I never got around to enjoying the delicious food, which is kind of par for the course for a dream, because you never taste anything anyway.  

What does it mean?  I don't know, maybe it's frustration at work from doing the same thing year after year, or maybe the lack of progress in never getting to the end of my movie watchlist, who can say?  I guess it shows that the more time I spend planning and organizing (or avoiding) something, the less time I have for the DOING of the thing.  Anyway, Kristen Wiig carries over from "Girl Most Likely".  

THE PLOT:  Two best friends decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic, so they can avoid the toll kids can take on romantic relationships.

AFTER: It was completely unplanned, but this film fell into a time-slot just hours after NBC aired the SNL 40th Anniversary Show, and it stars two former SNL cast members - another in a long line of happy accidents.  I was going to just speed through it because I expected an average clip show, God knows they've cut together clip shows for every major holiday, including Election Day and Veterans' Day, because they have that kind of library to draw from.  But there was new material (and yeah, plenty of clips too) some of which was above the low standard of comedy set in the most recent season.  SNL is sort of like my list - you just assume it can't go on for another year, and then it does.

But I want to use SNL to illustrate the two most basic components of acting, outside of "know your lines".  Since they use cue cards, this element gets sort of nullified, leaving the comedians with just two basic jobs: speak your lines coherently, and maintain the proper expression.  Simple, right?  In the end that's all that acting is - however, at least two of SNL's most recent hires seem incapable of doing either thing.  I won't name names here, but watch any recent episode and they'll stand out.  

Unfortunately, so does the lead actress here, for the same reasons.  OK, so she was simultaneously directing this film, perhaps she was distracted and forgot that her character needed to display emotions that changed over time, but I've acted enough to know how easy it can be, provided you can speak clearly, deliver the line, and match it with the proper expression.  I could barely understand her lines, a major problem because as the lead actress, she had so many.  It's like she couldn't move her mouth to form words in a coherent fashion and could only mumble.  I don't think she fell for that Botox trend that was going around, which admittedly could explain lack of facial movement - or perhaps it's connected to the fact that she had only one facial expression throughout the entire film.  Sort of a half smile but also quizzical, and looking like she could start to cry at any moment.  

OK, rant over, let me move on to the plot.  A pair of friends, who both eventually want kids of their own, witness the difficulties that two other couples go through while trying to have it all - happy marriages, fulfilling sex lives, and well-raised children.  They try to beat the system by having a child together without being romantically involved, concluding that this will leave them both free to find their ideal mates, provided they split the costs and responsibilities of raising the child down the middle. 

Right away, I spotted their error in logic, did you?  Or maybe it's a math error.  They saw how difficult it was for a couple to raise one child together, and even assuming that one person spent all of their time on the kid (impossible, but bear with me) and the other one pitched in part time, that would be the work of 1 1/2 people to raise the child.  Their plan was to each spend half of their time with the kid, and 1/2 + 1/2 equals 1, not 1 1/2.  Plus they both wanted to keep their jobs, maintain active social lives, and even sleep occasionally.  No matter how you slice it, there just aren't enough hours in the day.  Let's say they each work 8 hours per weekday, and then 8 hours is devoted to sleeping, eating and dating (I'm assuming some overlap here, because they're probably planning to dine out with their dates, and sleep with them as well).  That means each has 8 hours left per day to devote to the child - but 8 plus 8 equals 16, and last time I checked, there were 24 hours in a day.  So the plan could only work provided the kid can be left unattended for 1/3 of the time.  

Maybe they worked out some kind of firehouse schedule, where each one is on duty with the child for 16 hours at a stretch, but I doubt it - each seemed to maintain a standard 9-to-5 job, so I've got to call shenanigans.  Plus the cost factor doesn't work out if you want to believe that they could each maintain separate Manhattan apartments (the really good ones, like you see in movies, with multiple rooms) AND pay for child-rearing costs AND still have money for restaurants and other dating expenses.

The other problems with the plan are less practical ones, but they similarly are based on faulty logic - they assume that supporting each other means that they'll always be cool with watching each other date other people, that jealousy will never be a factor, that they'll always agree on what's best for the child, and that they'll never develop romantic feelings for each other.  The one constant thing in life is change, so you can guess what happens here over time.  

But by planning to avoid marriage, they forgot that marriage itself is a logical impossibility sometimes.  At least it is for the people who go into it thinking that their feelings will never change, that they'll love another human forever and ever, they'll have perfect kids who won't aggravate them in any way, and they'll be able to handle whatever comes up.  This is an impossibly high set of standards, basically setting people of that mindset up for failure.  Forget gay marriage being a threat to marriage, the real threat to the institution of marriage is defining it so strictly.  

My wife and I have attempted an end run around the problem by choosing not to have kids.  On one level this seems selfish, because we both enjoy having some free time and some disposable income, plus we can go out with friends (separately or together) or drive off on a road trip to Atlantic City on short notice, we just need to call the cat-sitter.  But the lead characters here manage to put us to shame - they want the (perceived) benefits of having a child (which are what, again?) with only half of the work and none of the downsides of marriage. 

NITPICK POINT: I don't have a kid, and even I know that you don't save breast milk in the fridge if the mother has recently had alcohol.  My co-worker had a baby and clued me in on the "pump and dump".  Why would the woman in this film have milk bottles labelled "one glass of wine" or "two mojitos"?  It makes no sense, there would be no reason to save this milk, the baby can't drink it.

Also starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott (last seen in "Our Idiot Brother"), Maya Rudolph (last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Chris O'Dowd (last heard in "Epic"), Jon Hamm (last seen in "Bridesmaids"), Megan Fox (last seen in "The Dictator"), Edward Burns (last seen in "Life or Something Like It"), Kelley Bishop, Cotter Smith, with a cameo from John Lutz.

RATING: 4 out of 10 strollers

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Girl Most Likely

Year 7, Day 46 - 2/15/15 - Movie #1,946

BEFORE: I wasn't exactly sure if this even belongs in the romance chain, but I'm taking a chance.  I had taped this to go with "Young Adult" and the two films were next to each other in the line-up for a while, only separated by my recent re-organization.  Andrea Martin appears in a cameo, and carries over from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". 

THE PLOT: A failed New York playwright awkwardly navigates the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year's News.

AFTER: Well, there is a romance within the film, but it's really a small part of the plot.  The film does begin with a break-up, however, so that qualifies it too.  And the secondary theme for the week, which runs through "Young Adult", "The Heartbreak Kid", "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and this one, is all about the central characters realizing who they are, often after a romantic setback, and then struggling to find a way to re-invent themselves.  Tonight, Imogene (much like Toula in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") has to come to terms with her strange family if she's going to be stable enough to move forward in her life. 

The film opens with Imogene as a kid in a school production of "The Wizard of Oz", and as Dorothy she's clicking her heels but refusing to say the line "There's no place like home," primarily because she doesn't believe it, given her strange home life.  But it points out an interesting NITPICK POINT about that 1939 film - if Oz was such a magical and wonderful place, why was Dorothy so eager to go back to Kansas, where she worked on a farm, and they hadn't even invented color yet?  

Fast-forward to Imogene as an adult, and she's a playwright in NYC who can't seem to produce a valid second work after being named "most promising" by New York magazine, and when her relationship crumbles, a fake suicide attempt is mistaken for a real one, and she's released into the custody of her mother, who she hasn't spoken to in years.  Returning to Ocean City, NJ, means coming into contact with a bunch of weird characters like her loser brother, a young man renting her bedroom, and her mother's odd boyfriend who's either a compulsive liar or delusional about being in the CIA.  

For all I know, this could be someone's actual life story, or a proper depiction of the type of weirdos who live in Ocean City - but I think I cracked the code on this film when it made another "Wizard of Oz" reference, using the song "Tin Man" by America as background music.  (The song accurately points out that the Wizard's rewards to the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion were merely symbolic, they already possessed the desired brain, heart and courage.)  Imogene's quest to get to NYC with two odd companions started to closely resemble Dorothy's trip down the yellow brick road, at least to me.  The young male singer with the car represented the Scarecrow (he went to Yale, so he's got "brains"), and her shy brother was a combination of the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man (he invented this weird metal armor, like a crab shell, that he can hide in).  

Remember how Dorothy's companions were played by the same actors as the three farmhands in the Kansas scenes?  The actress who played the Wicked Witch also played Miss Gulch, and the actor who played the Wizard (and several other characters in Oz) played Professor Marvel.  That's all fine, whether you believe Dorothy's trip to Oz was a real trip or a dream - but then who was Glinda, the Good Witch?  Why didn't she have an analog in the Kansas framing scenes?  

I think there's a reason for this - perhaps she represents Dorothy's (late) mother.  Might Dorothy not remember her or imagine her as the most good, helpful being possible?  Another theory then suggests that Professor Marvel is a stand-in for Dorothy's father, either as a symbolic figure or perhaps even her real father, who left Dorothy's mother for a life on the road as a traveling psychic.  So Dorothy's dream about traveling to Emerald City to see the Wizard can be interpreted as the story of a young girl seeking out her father, who abandoned her, guided by the memory of her mother.  

They sort of hinted at this in that recent "Oz the Great and Powerful" film, where the same actress who played Glinda also played Annie Gale, who had a romance with...wait for it...the guy who becomes the Wizard!  Sure, she goes on to marry John Gale, but maybe it's not too far of a stretch to think that she might have been pregnant before marrying John Gale, which would kind of make the Wizard Dorothy's biological father, right?

I'll try to research this interpretation, but Wikipedia does mention a scene cut from "The Wizard of Oz" that implied a future romance between Dorothy and Hunk, the farmhand.  Remember, she did tell the Scarecrow, "I think I'll miss you most of all."  This would seem to also support the connection between "Girl Most Likely" and "The Wizard of Oz", because Imogene has a romance with the Scarecrow analog - and her best friend fits nicely into the Wicked Witch role.  Maybe I'm just making connections where there are none, though.

Also starring Kristen Wiig (last seen in "Anchorman 2"), Annette Bening (last seen in "Postcards From the Edge"), Matt Dillon (last seen in "Armored"), Darren Criss, Christopher Fitzgerald, Natasha Lyonne (last seen in "Comic Book Villains"), Bob Balaban (last seen in "Moonrise Kingdom"), Brian Petsos, June Diane Raphael.

RATING: 5 out of 10 glitter tattoos