Friday, February 3, 2017

What Happens in Vegas

Year 9, Day 34 - 2/3/17 - Movie #2,534

BEFORE: Before I get to TCM's programming for tomorrow, I have to announce some changes in my own schedule.  After all, we're three days into February, so that means it's time to tear apart my plans for the second half of the month and then try to put them back together again, only better.  Here's my dilemma - I just got four films with Debbie Reynolds off of TCM, and they're all about romance and relationships, so could there be a way to work them in?  Well, to find out I started focusing in on February 13, where I was going to have to rely on the first of THREE indirect links for the month.  I was going to watch "The Bachelor" on Valentine's Day, but I had indirect links on both sides of that film - that's usually a sign that the film doesn't "belong" in the chain, despite being on topic.

So I found a new link out of my Feb. 13 film, and it's obscure - but it rescues an "unlinkable" film, moving an animated fairy-tale (fairy tales count as romances, right?) up from the bottom of the list, and that film HAPPENS to share an actor with one of the Debbie Reynolds films - that's a sign, right?  And another one of the Debbie Reynolds films has Frank Sinatra in it, and I was already going to watch four other films with Sinatra this year - so bingo, Debbie's pencilled in for four films right after Feb. 14.  A little shuffling of the Dean Martin films and I've got myself a new plan for February's chain, which is now going to push the Fred Astaire fims well into March - and I've got a tentative plan that, with two additions, lasts until March 23 AND links back up to the film I was going to use as an outro to the romance chain anyway.  Previously I was going to depend on an indirect "Star Wars" co-star link between Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford, and now I don't have to do that. 

So, to sum up - instead of a chain with three indirect links that took me to March 6, I now have a chain with ONE indirect link that takes me to March 23, that seems much better.  And I worked in a chain with Debbie Reynolds, and another one in March with 5 Michael Caine films - plus I rescued another film from linking limbo, and I only had to jettison one film to next February, where it could link up with "Bridget Jones' Baby", for all I know - so that's a win all around.  And best of all, most of the Fred Astaire chain got moved into March, and I was unsure which of those films are about dancing and romance, and which are just about dancing. (I wasn't looking forward to watching two Astaire films a night, just to make everything fit into a 28-day month, anyway...)  There's definitely precedence for extending the romance chain past February, which I've done before with the Cary Grant chain, and the films directed by Woody Allen.  So now I stop fretting about the schedule until, oh, let's say the first week of March.  

Now, here's TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" schedule for Saturday 2/4:
6:15 AM Boom Town (1940)
8:15 AM Boomerang (1947)
9:45 AM Born To Dance (1936)
11:30 AM Bound For Glory (1976)
2:00 PM The Boy Friend (1971) 
4:30 PM Boys Town (1938)
6:15 PM The Brave One (1956)
8:00 PM Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
10:00 PM Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
11:30 PM Bullitt (1968)
1:30 AM Cabaret (1972)
3:45 AM Cabin in the Sky (1943)
5:30 AM Caged (1950)

As much as I hate this alphabetical organizational format, I can see the logic in it - they clearly wanted to put a popular film like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" right in prime time, and then I realize how much of the early morning and daytime program is filler by comparison - but this does make for some strange bedfellows - I can't imagine "Bullitt" and "Cabaret" back-to-back entertaining the same audience.

(Now, me, I'd put "Boomerang" before "Boom Town" because the letter "E" comes before the letter "T", but that's just me.  TCM is favoring the system where you count the blank space as a letter, and you finish all the titles with "Boom" followed by a space before you extend the word.  This may be the preferred standard for alphabetizing, but I disagree with this when I sort MY movies.  Yet I do give them credit for ignoring A, AN, and THE at the beginning of titles, which the IMDB seems incapable of doing.  Can you believe they file "The Birds" under "T"?  What a joke.)  

I've seen "Breakfast at Tiffany's", of course, and also the three films following it, but that's all.  I probably SHOULD record "Bound For Glory", with Keith Carradine, because I just got "Nashville" next week, but I just can't bring myself to care about Woody Guthrie's life story.  Another 4 seen out of these 13 means my record now drops to 20 seen out of 45.  I hope to do better in the days ahead. 

Cameron Diaz carries over from "The Sweetest Thing".  I could have dropped in "In Her Shoes" here, but I don't think that has as much focus on romance, it seems to mainly be a film about two sisters, and I may need that film for linking later this year, with two other Toni Collette films on the watchlist.  

THE PLOT: A man and a woman are compelled, for legal reasons, to live life as a couple for a limited period of time. At stake is a large amount of money. 

AFTER: No channel is currently running this film, and I needed it for linking purposes, which will become clear tomorrow.  So I checked iTunes, which isn't even renting it, but is SELLING it for $14.99.  Sorry, that's more than I was willing to pay - but it was available for rental from Amazon for $3.99 - that seemed more reasonable.  OK, so I rented it, only to find that my new computer won't PLAY movies from Amazon, because I don't have some stupid Silverlight plug-in for my browser.  (Which, of course, they don't TELL you until you rent the movie...GRRRRR!)  Good thing I still have the old computer plugged in, I haven't made the swap yet - so the old computer's still good for something - playing movies rented from Amazon.  I'm going to have to get the new computer up to speed really fast, before the next gap in the schedule.  

But finally, mission accomplished, the film got watched, and it's not as bad as I thought it would be.  At first it just looked like a continuation of everything bad about this week's films, with people being horrible to each other - they even pull some of the same pranks, like when Jack put some substance in Joy's morning smoothie, and I'm not even quite sure what it was, because it made her really jacked up and energetic for her morning meeting, and that seemed to be counter-productive - so the gag just plain didn't work.

But let's back up for a second - the film takes place in Las Vegas, obvi, and it seems like the two things that movies know about Vegas are this: 1) people can win (or lose) a lot of money there, and 2) people can get married quickly there, or drunk married.  So two things predictably happen in this film - two people get drunk married, then they win a lot of money.  But even though this situation relies on stereotypes about the city, it leads to a complex legal situation - whose quarter was it?  Who put the coin in the machine?  (NITPICK POINT: Do the slot machines even USE quarters anymore, isn't it all dollar bills and credit slips now?)  And is the jackpot automatically community property, and if so, how should it be divided?   

This brings the couple in front of my favorite character in the film, the judge (presumably a NYC judge, so NITPICK POINT #2, does he even have jurisdiction over how the money won in Vegas gets split?  But let's table that for the moment...)  This divorce judge, much like me, is fed up with these damn millennials and their internets and their macchiatos and their "gimme it, I WANT it" selfish attitudes, so he sentences them to 6 months of being married to each other, forcing them to try and work it out.  If either one fails to attend counseling or behaves in a counter-productive way during that time, the other one will get the money. 

I know, it's an outlandish premise, but what do we expect from a Hollywood romantic comedy?  Do you think for a second that a screenwriter would do a little research or consult a legal expert while writing a pitch - that sounds like actual work, after all.  So Joy has to move in with Jack, and this leads to the pranking and bad behavior I mentioned before - each trying to get the other to give up, or cheat on their "spouse" or miss a counseling session so they can have the whole jackpot after the divorce - minus legal fees, of course.    

But then in true Hollywood fashion, they find a way to meet in the middle and turn the whole crazy bus around.  She's trying to move forward in her company, and Jack turns out to be a big hit at the company retreat.  He's been fired from the family furniture business, but after Joy stands up to his father, Jack learns the value of sticking with a project and seeing it through.  So while you might expect familiarity to breed contempt, and of course it does for a while, spending time together and focusing on something, even something imaginary, turns out to be just what these two people need in their previously shallow lives.   

Unfortunately, to get there the film has to use some really worn-out stereotypes, like "Women spend a lot of time in the bathroom" and "Men forget to put the toilet seat down".  "Women are tough in the boardroom, because they have to be" and "Men are lazy slackers, because they can be."  Ho hum, haven't we seen all this before?  It's just this shy of "Women are bitches" and "Men are dirty dogs", isn't it?  I'm only forgiving it here because eventually, they learn to be better roommates, and eventually better people - so unlike the films from earlier in the week, there is some character growth.

But NITPICK POINT #3, the film can't decide if Jack's friend Hater (horrible character name, BTW...) is a good lawyer or an incompetent one.  He's incompetent when the script requires him to be, but has good legal advice when it's needed.  So come on, pick a lane here.

I'd like to think that marriage is more than an adult staring contest, where the last one who "blinks" (cheats or otherwise loses interest) gets everything and the other person gets nothing.  Relationships in real life are rarely this simple.  Probably.  And I'm with the judge on this one - in this fast-paced, download-the-next-update, like-me-on-instagram-no-wait-snapchat world, you millennials have no idea, like NONE, about how to have an adult relationship.  I sentence you all to watching a month of Hollywood rom-coms along with me. 

A word about the couple's apartment - not the interior shots, which I'm sure were filmed on a soundstage somewhere.  (Even though it's quite messy, space-wise it's one of those imaginary New York City apartments, complete with pinball machine and full dining area...)  The exterior shots of their building are very familiar to me, I know exactly where that building is, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge - and I could tell the building from the sign for the ground floor restaurant, Pete's Downtown.  I got engaged in 1999 AND married in 2001 in that restaurant (2nd time for both...) but I haven't been there in a while - turns out Pete's closed down in 2011.  I hope they made a bundle for appearing in this film, maybe that kept them in business another three years.  

Also starring Ashton Kutcher (last seen in "Jobs"), Rob Corddry (last seen in "Hot Tub Time Machine 2"), Lake Bell (last seen in "In a World..."), Jason Sudeikis (last seen in "Sleeping With Other People"), Treat Williams (last seen in "Hollywood Ending"), Dennis Farina (last seen in "Another Stakeout"), Zach Galifianakis (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Dennis Miller (last seen in "Disclosure"), Queen Latifah (last seen in "22 Jump Street"), Krysten Ritter (last seen in "Big Eyes"), Deirdre O'Connell (last seen in "St. Vincent"), Michelle Krusiec, with cameos from Andrew Daly, Billy Eichner (also last seen in "Sleeping With Other People")

RATING:  5 out of 10 nut-punches

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