Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Holiday from Cliches

Since my weekend was uncharacteristically full of wide-open leisure time, I decided to catch up on my Netflix queue. I watched a movie on Friday that looked good in the trailers, but turned out to be an awful piece of shit in full-length. I guess it's fitting that the trailers made the movie look good, since one of the main characters is a movie-trailer maker.

The Holiday made me groan, roll my eyes, and sigh in frustration throughout its two-hour-and-sixteen-minute runtime. Sometimes a movie annoys you but you're not really sure why. It has great stars and a good premise, and yet it just feels too forced, too manipulative, too movie-like. It's just trying too hard. That was the problem with The Holiday. It was one tired old movie cliche (yes, I recognize that that phrase itself has become cliche) after another.

I like reading reviews of movies after I've seen them, but I usually only bother with movies I really loved or really hated. And when I found reviews of The Holiday, I was delighted to see that many of the critics hated it as much as I did. And they brought up the same exact points that I made about the movie. Yay, validation!

Richard Roeper tears it a new one in a review that, unfortunately, I can't link to. For some reason the Sun-Times doesn't offer it for free online. So I found it on a library database, and here's some of his best lines:
This is a romantic comedy filled with moments we recognize from other, mostly better, romantic comedies.
He then lists several examples, and adds:
You get all that and more in "The Holiday." I guess you could say I've just spoiled some of the surprises in the film, but the surprises would be surprises only if this is, like, your fourth movie ever.
Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post writes a brilliantly funny review where she chronicles her thoughts as she watches the movie. This review alone was worth enduring the two-hour movie. Some of my favorites:
8:00 Did Kate Winslet's house in Surrey spring fully formed from the forehead of Thomas Kinkade?

8:15 Kate Winslet is so real. So winning. So utterly wrong for this movie.

8:30 Did Cameron Diaz's house spring fully formed from the forehead of J.W. Marriott?

8:55 I wonder if Kate will add this to her American Express commercial. ("At 31, I fired my agent for putting me in a piece of generic entertainment-industrial product with no redeeming artistic value.")

9:07 Jack Black is so funny. So winning. So utterly wrong for this movie.

9:30 For the love of all that's holy, please stop talking and end this movie.

In my schadenfreudic investigations, I discovered that the movie was written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Some consider her to be "Hollywood's queen of the chick flick." She's also responsible for Baby Boom, Father of the Bride, What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give. Roeper contends that Meyers likes to emasculate her leading men. I never thought that much about that, but I do know that the movies of hers I'm familiar with have annoyed me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against chick flicks or romantic comedies. Love Actually and When Harry Met Sally are two of my all-time favorite movies.

When I gave The Holiday a bad rating on Netflix, it asked me if I wasn't interested in movies with strong female leads. That offends me, because I have no problem with strong female leads. What I have a problem with is bad Hollywood cliche.

As Wesley Morris said in another brilliant review, "Meyers can't sustain a convincing idea in her movies..." He starts his review with a summary of the scene in The Holiday where Cameron Diaz and Jude Law meet:


Who's there?

It's Jude.

Jude who?

Jude better sleep me with now. You've only got two weeks!

He adds, "That's cheesy, I know, but welcome to the universe of Nancy Meyers, where low-grade cheesiness is contagious."

Sometimes it can be really fun to hate bad art, so I will say this about Nancy Meyers: her horrible movie has provided me with much great entertainment as reviewer after reviewer has outdone themselves cleverly tearing it to pieces.

To use another Hollywood cliche, that alone was worth the price of admission.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Relative Conflict

My family is a large diverse group with lots of different interpersonal styles and priorities. Some of us are very high-strung. So we argue a lot. It seems that someone is always mad at someone else.

But two stories in the news this week have made me realize that we are a model of harmony.

  1. Rod Blagojevich, the sleezy impeached ex-governor of Illinois, is on trial for being a political scumbag. His brother, Robert, has also been mixed up in the scandal, and this week testified as a co-defendant. He said that his relationship with his brother is "strained." Yeah, I'll bet. Can you imagine the next Thanksgiving in the Blagojevich family?

    "Moooooom, Roddie tried to illegally sell Obama's vacant Senate seat and shook down a children's hospital and now I might have to go to jail for it!!"

    The Chicago Sun Times reports:
    "Who am I to give him advice?" Robert answered, acknowledging that his relationship with the ex-governor is "strained." "He doesn't listen to me, you should know that by now."
    As a little brother, I know the feeling.

  2. Last night a local man was arrested for shooting his brother in a grocery store. Presumably it was about more than what kind of beer to buy.
When I consider these two stories, it really puts our family's problems into perspective. Where family feuds are concerned, it's all relative.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gayest Ad Ever

I'm convinced that the makers of this Shake Weight video knew exactly who they were marketing to. It's got to be the gayest ad this side of Fire Island. Even without the sound, the phallic repetition of the exercise just kinda thrusts itself into your face. Ripped men holding a throbbing, shaking, skin-sliding cylinder right in front of their face? I'm not even gay and it's turning me on. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.)

The models groan and grimace as if they're having the sex of a lifetime with this contraption. After a slow motion segment that clearly evokes a porn money shot, they speed up the video. The model grimaces in exquisite pleasure/pain, bites his lip, then suddenly stops and says, "Whoo, that's it."

The text from the video (delivered in deep, tough, male voice) is further evidence of the clear homoerotic theme:
  • This is shake weight, FOR MEN.
  • And it's going to kick... your... BUTT.
  • ...add SIZE, definition, and strength...
  • Technology is all about PACKING megaperformance in less space, right?
  • The FASTER YOU SHAKE, the more INTENSE and challenging your workout.
  • Think you can HANDLE it?
Seriously, if this was not intended for a gay male audience, then it's also the funniest ad ever made.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Free Drinks

I was at Qdoba in the Indianapolis airport, watching them make my fat yummy burrito, when a lady came up to the line and asked, "Do you provide free drinks to armed forces people?"

The Hispanic man behind the burrito prep station had no idea. He looked to the next guy down the line, who looked at the cashier. Finally one of them said, "No."

The lady turned to the two other people in her party and said, "I guess they don't do that at this one." She was clearly upset. "We'll go to McDonald's instead," she said and left in a huff.

I mean no disrespect, but the lady's response seemed really silly to me.

Who are soldiers to demand free drinks from a private business? And then get all bent out of shape if they don't get them? What, are we living in imperial Rome? A British colony? I thought this was one of the things we rebelled against England for-- that soldiers were demanding accommodations from private citizens.

If it's about honoring their service, surely soldiers are not the only people who protect our way of life. What about teachers, doctors, military contractors, cops, firefighters, judges, sanitation workers, public defenders? Don't all of those people also contribute to the American way of life? They all protect our ideals in different ways, and yet I've never heard, for example, a teacher demand that they get free services from a business while they were off-duty. If the only thing that keeps America "free" is our military, then surely North Korea also deserves to be called "free", because they happen to have a pretty formidable military.

A lady I know once said to me, "I think our troops should get the best possible medical care." I said I agreed. "Just like everyone else," I added. "No, I mean, the best," she said. Yes, exactly. And I think everyone should have that same level of medical care. Her frustration made her unable to continue. Clearly I was too much of a pinko commie to understand what she meant.

It's a free drink, for chrissake. Not comprehensive health care coverage or proper body armor or a fair retirement plan. The cynic in me wonders whether all this trivial respect we are supposed to pay to soldiers is a way for politicians to neglect to take care of them in more substantial ways. Encouraging token acts of respect toward soldiers is a lot easier than considering the effect that sending them off to fight in unnecessary wars will have on their bodies, minds, and families.

I appreciate the dangerous and horribly stressful jobs that soldiers have. But they're not the only ones. Police and firefighters also have very dangerous and stressful jobs. I've never heard them demand special treatment because of it. If soldiers aren't making enough money, that's a separate conversation I'd be happy to have. But don't get all bent out of shape because the poor workers making minimum wage at Qdoba (and have no authority to make such decisions) didn't give your military ID card the proper deference.


UPDATE: I have added an addendum to this post here: