Monday, February 29, 2016

The Wedding Planner

Year 8, Day 60 - 2/29/16 - Movie #2,261

BEFORE:  Jennifer Lopez carries over from "Maid in Manhattan", and she's joined by Matthew McConnaughey, who won the Best Actor Oscar two years ago for "Dallas Buyers Club", and who was featured in a 9-film chain I watched last September.  This one either came in too late to make that chain, or I held it back for the month of romance, I can't recall.  But today marks the end of regulation play, though I think the next few films have a bit of romance-y stuff in them, so I'm kind of going into overtime.  But if I manage to get my list down to nothing and this does turn out to be my last year of the project, then this is the last time I have to watch a month full of Hollywood rom-coms.  Thank God for films like "Gone Girl", which kept things interesting.

Now, as for the Oscars last night - I really don't have any complaints, which I know is rare, but neither do I feel very pleased, since I haven't seen the vast majority of the nominated and winning films.  I'd only seen "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", which I believe won nothing, and the only other nominated films on my watchlist right now are "The Martian" and "Fifty Shades of Grey", which I'll get to in early April, I think.  Where are the other films?  Well, the watchlist only keeps track of the films that I already have copies of - there's a secondary list of films that I definitely want to see, but I don't have copies yet.  I try not to record more than one film every 2 days, so that the list will continue to shrink. 

A couple of 2015 nominated films are running now on premium cable, and I'll be adding them to the list over the next 2 or 3 weeks, and those are "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Inside Out".  The other films I definitely want to see are: "Spotlight", "The Big Short", "The Revenant", "Steve Jobs", "Joy", "Room", "Spectre", "The Hateful Eight", "Amy", "Creed", "Anomalisa", "Shaun the Sheep Movie" and "Ex Machina".  I'll consider "Carol", "Brooklyn", "Bridge of Spies", "Trumbo" and "Sicario" but I'm not really feeling any urgency on those. 

But I thought that the Oscar telecast went really well - but I should point out that I started two hours late, and fast-forwarded whenever I could.  I just wanted to know who the nominees were, and who won.  Boom, done.  OK, and Chris Rock's monologue and jokes.  OK, and the "In Memoriam" segment, I can't miss that.  But everything else, zip zip zip - so I didn't hear anybody get played off by the music, since I didn't listen to any acceptance speeches.  Regarding the minority issues, I only wanted to hear the funny side of it, and I zipped over any serious discussions.  And sexual abuse on campus, I'm sure it's an important issue, but I haven't got the time.  Zip zip zip.  It still took me 90 minutes to watch on fast forward, but I saved at least two hours by not watching it live.  

I did like the overall presentation, starting with the writing awards, then costumes, then production design, hair + make-up, cinematography, editing, sound, visual effects - all mimicking the order that production companies go through when making a film.  So simple, so elegant, and this way the program didn't need to grind to a halt for a 5-minute montage of great costumes from the last 80 years, they could just keep on going.  Then came the awards for completed films, animated ones, documentaries, live-action shorts, foreign language films.  Finally they wrapped things up with music and the "Big Four" awards.  This appealed to my sense of OCD, and I hope they do things in this order again.  

Here's the next-to-last line-up for TCM's "31 Days of Oscar", for March 1:

Una O'Connor carries over from "Random Harvest" to:
"The Informer" with Heather Angel carrying over to:
"Lifeboat" with John Hodiak carrying over to:
"Battleground" with Ricardo Montalban carrying over to:
"Mystery Street" with Don Shelton carrying over to:
"Them!" with James Whitmore carrying over to:  
"Battle Cry" with L.Q. Jones carrying over to:
"Torpedo Run" with Robert Hardy carrying over to:
"Sense and Sensibility" with Emma Thompson carrying over to:
"The Remains of the Day" with Patrick Godfrey carrying over to:
"A Room With a View" with Maggie Smith carrying over to:
"The V.I.P.s" with Orson Welles carrying over to:
"Citizen Kane".

I'm hitting with 5 films today - Hitchcock's "Lifeboat", "Sense and Sensibility" (watched it 2 weeks ago), "The Remains of the Day", "A Room With a View", and of course, "Citizen Kane".  So now I'm up to 107 films seen, 235 unseen, with 7 on the list.  One day left, get your Oscar-nominated films watched while there's still time.    

THE PLOT: San Francisco's most successful supplier of romance and glamor knows all the rules. But then she breaks the most important rule of all: she falls in love with the groom.

AFTER: This is a tough one to rate, because it claims to be a "romantic comedy", yet it's barely funny.  I guess it's supposed to be "slice of life" funny that this hyper-organized person who plans weddings can't plan one for herself, because she's got no romantic life to speak of.  Then when she does fall for a man, she goes in head-over-heels, then finds out he's already engaged.  That's not really funny, in fact it seems rather unfortunate.  Then late in the film, we find out the real reason she can't commit to a relationship, and it's due to a previous boyfriend who cheated on her - again, not funny, and even kind of tragic.  

I'm not even sure that a person who came close to being married, but failed, would find any kind of solace in planning weddings for others.  As a psychological profile, it just doesn't make much sense.  It seems a bit like "American Sniper", where the veteran sniper found solace in helping other veterans who were having a tough time adjusting to civilian life - but the analogy doesn't hold, because that would equate marriage to PTSD.  Then again, she does take bets on how long each marriage will last, so perhaps she really is that cynical in the end.  

The real problem here is, her personality doesn't seem to go far enough in any one direction.  She's not really hyper-organized, she's just good at her job, having planned wedding after wedding, she's familiar with everything that can go wrong.  Kind of like the way I run a booth at Comic-Con, I've done it so many times that I know in advance all the supplies we'll need and which forms need to be filled out and when.  She doesn't seem overly scarred, or borderline psychotic, or overly romantic, she's just pitched as a normal, single person - so it comes as a bit of a shock later in the film when she's revealed to be some combination of those things. 

And then the film feels the need to rewrite the set-up about every 15 minutes, so it ends up like a game where the rules are constantly changing.  She's a single person, happily unattached.  Now she's found someone, so she's starry-eyed and romantic.  Now she finds out he's engaged, so she's petty and spiteful.  Now he has doubts about his wedding, so she's hopeful again.  There are so many contrived reversals that it's a wonder any of the actors could keep anything straight regarding how their characters were supposed to feel about each other. 

He's engaged, and she's planning his wedding - contrivance!  It's the biggest society wedding of her career - another contrivance.  The bride needs to go away on a business trip, leaving them to plan the wedding together - yet another contrivance.  It's enough to serve as a constant reminder that you're watching a film by a screenwriter who really, really wanted these two to get together, yet in a godlike manner felt the need to torture them by putting obstacle after obstacle in their way.  At some point, you've got to say, "Enough, already!" and hope that they just get a room or end their relationship, anything that would serve as some kind of definitive resolution.  

NITPICK POINT: A poor casting decision was made, because Jennifer Lopez is not Italian, doesn't look Italian, and shouldn't be playing a woman of Italian descent.   Unless her character was adopted, which is possible, but was never mentioned as an explanation.  

So that wraps up the romance chain for another year - I'll end it with some quotes on love from some of the authors referenced in the latter half of the chain, which I believe are relevant to this film.

First, Jane Austen: 
"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment."    

Leo Tolstoy: "Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them."  

Charles Dickens: "Love, however, is very materially assisted by a warm and active imagination: which has a long memory, and will thrive, for a considerable time, on very slight and sparing food." 

Also starring Matthew McConnaughey (last seen in "The Wolf of Wall Street"), Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (last seen in "Nixon"), Justin Chambers (last seen in "The Musketeer"), Alex Rocco (last seen in "The Stunt Man"), Judy Greer (last seen in "Jurassic World"), Joanna Gleason (last seen in "The Skeleton Twins"), Charles Kimbrough (last seen in "The Front"), Kathy Najimy (last seen in "The Guilt Trip"), Lou Myers (last seen in "Cobb"), Frances Bay, with cameos from Kevin Pollak (last seen in "The Big Year"), Fred Willard (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Dan Finnerty, Bree Turner, Marc Shaiman.

RATING: 4 out of 10 brown m&m's 

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