Today the morons in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released the nominations for the 24 categories for the Academy Awards which take place on March 2. As usual, they missed the mark (according to this guy) in many different spots again this year. Let’s get down to what sucked and what didn’t…
Make no bones about this, the Coen Brothers‘ Inside Llewyn Davis getting only two nominations (a well deserved nomination in cinematography and one for sound mixing) is robbery. The Academy should be brought up on charges for this shit. A friend who is also a film professor aptly stated. “Ignoring [Oscar] Isaac‘s performance is bad, but how can it not even be nominated in any of the music categories?” Well said, Seth. This is arguably the Coen‘s best film since No Country for Old Men, and I would give an argument that A Serious Man was similarly gypped for awards back in 2010. Isaac‘s aforementioned performance is spectacular, and that he sang his own vocals is all the more amazing. Surrounded by a fantastic cast, which surprisingly includes Justin Timberlake who was at least tolerable in his time onscreen, this film deftly evokes the early 60s music scene in New York so well. I’m flabbergasted that it was basically shut out. It will lose both of its categories to Gravity. And to address the snub this film received in the Original Song category I have this to say – pick one song, any one song, from the soundtrack and you have an infinitely better choice than the four of the five chosen for that category (Karen O – I dig your song, you’re cool in my eyes). The predilection of the Academy to give nominations and awards to songs from animated films is a fucking trend that has to stop. Please. Shit is tired. Has anyone even heard of the film Alone Yet Not Alone, by the way?
The feature documentary category was where perhaps the two biggest other snubs occurred. That Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s Blackfish and Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell didn’t make the cut is as criminal asInside LlewynDavis being nearly shut down. Both are fantastic films that have an incredible reach far beyond the screen. Blackfish has been the centerpiece of criticism focused on SeaWorld and their bullshit literally being the catalyst behind massive protests at places like the Rose Bowl Parade, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and causing 12 of their 14 scheduled musical acts to cancel upcoming concerts at their flagship park in Orlando, Florida. This film is as pertinent as Louis Psihoyo‘s Oscar-winning The Cove with regards to treatment of marine mammals and I just can’t see how it missed out. I will say that Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act Of Killing and Jehane Noujaim‘s The Square are exceedingly deserving of their nominations (Act of Killing I would list as the second best film of the year and The Square would certainly make it’s way to my top 20) and I really enjoyed the other three nominees as well. I just don’t think the other three (Dirty Wars, Cutie and the Boxer and 20 Feet From Stardom) were as good as Blackfish or Stories We Tell.
I still think it’s bullshit that La vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 et 2/Blue Is the Warmest Color didn’t make the cut for Best Foreign Film. Adèle Exarchopoulos being left behind for the Best Actress category is to me, the biggest acting snub of the year. I think it’s the best performance of the year in any category. That’s a hard thing for me to say since Cate Blanchett, my favorite living actress, turned in what I believe to be her best performance in Blue Jasmine, and who will likely take home the Oscar.
Let’s start with those that can be presumed as snubs…
I have yet to see Lee Daniels‘s The Butler, but I think most people thought, including me, that it would at least get one nomination, that being Oprah Winfrey for best Supporting Actress. It didn’t. I’ve not been a fan of either of Lee Daniels‘ other films (Precious had some fine acting spots and the story was gutting, but his direction is overwrought and if you recall correctly, The Paperboy got my vote as the worst film of the year last year) but I am intrigued by this one and do plan on seeing it.
Saving Mr. Banks also got no nominations, even for Academy favorite Tom Hanks, who didn’t even get a nod for Captain Phillips. I think most people expected at least Emma Thompson to get a nomination, but the Academy couldn’t pass up a chance to nominate Meryl Streep for the 1,456th time for August: Osage County instead. Thompson has been nominated three times already (and won 2 Oscars, one for writing Sense and Sensibility and the other for her acting work in Howard’s End) so I wouldn’t put it on the same level as Ms. Winfrey‘s snub.
While it shouldn’t surprise me, I truly think that both Benoît Debie and Bradford Young should have been nominated for their photography in Spring Breakers and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints respectively. While I think Spring Breakers was a mess, an interesting mess, but a mess nonetheless, I thought the photography was wonderful. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, however, lands squarely at #6 in my best of 2013 list (yet to be published).
The non-snub surprises would have to start with Jonah Hill earning his second Oscar nom for The Wolf of Wall Street. I loved the movie, but wasn’t too high on his performance. His teeth were sweet, though.
Sally Hawkins‘ nomination for Blue Jasmine has to be the next biggest surprise, and a pleasant one at that. I thought she was fantastic as Cate Blanchett‘s white trash sister, Ginger. Say what you will about Woody Allen‘s personal life, but the man can direct great performances. This is one of them.
Glad the Academy Didn’t Nominate…
I thought I would include this because there was buzz around it all year, but thanks to the Academy for not nominating James Franco in Spring Breakers. I’m not what you would call a Franco fan to begin with as I think his body of work is average at best, but this performance was ridiculous and didn’t stand up against those who were nominated and those who were passed over. Couple that with the fact that he reportedly based his character off of the literal worst rappers in history, I’ve got nothing for it. This might be one of the few things the Academy got right.
As writer-director Woody Allen continues to churn out material every year, one would tend to think there will be a drop-off in quality at some point. Many thought, including this guy, that his decline started with the incredibly awful Curse of the Jade Scorpion in 2001 (I would put this one on a top 25 worst films I’ve ever seen list) and the 2003 dud Anything Else. But Allen recovered nicely with three of his most lauded films over the next decade in the Hitchcockian thriller Match Point, the hilarious and poignant Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and his best film since Deconstructing Harry and one of the finest in his oeuvre, Midnight in Paris. I firmly believe that Blue Jasmine belongs in the same company as these three films.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) getting acclimated to her new home in San Francisco.
The story follows Jasmine (the peerless Cate Blanchett) as a former Manhattan socialite forced to move in with her low-rent sister Ginger (played so perfectly by Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. The source of Jasmine’s blues is her financier ex-husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) who has been jailed because he was the chief leader of a Bernie Madoff-like ponzi scheme. Once the toast of the town, Jasmine has now been forced into living in a small apartment, much different than the expansive apartments on Park Avenue and beach houses in the Hamptons she’s used to, with her grocery store clerk sister and her two young sons. Couple that with the fact that Ginger’s mechanic boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Canavale), is always around, it’s enough to cause her to rely on her best friend Xanax even more than before.
Hal, Jasmine’s knight in shining armor, or so she thinks.
Through a series of flashbacks, we see how Jasmine and Hal used to live – dinner parties and charity balls. Totally enamored with one another from the outset (with Blue Moon playing in the background), Jasmine feels like nothing can break she and Hal apart. But then the rumblings begin of his extra-marital affairs, which Jasmine chooses to deny…until her best friend confirms not just one affair, but multiple affairs. Yet Jasmine lives with this behavior because Hal keeps her in the style of living to which she has grown accustomed. She dropped out of college and has no career prospects after Hal goes to the clink and that’s the dilemma she’s left in when she arrives in San Francisco. Her “top 1%” sensibilities, as well as her extreme narcissism, make it nearly impossible for her to function without the aid of pharmaceuticals or high end vodka.
Jasmine’s sister Ginger and her first husband Augie on a visit to NYC.
Couple that with the illumination that Hal was responsible for Ginger and her first husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay, who is fantastic in this role…wait did I just say that?) losing $200,000 they won in the lottery and one can understand the tentativeness of Jasmine’s position.
Dwight, Jasmine’s new savior.
So as Jasmine navigates this new reality she has found herself in, she takes a job at a dentist’s office as a receptionist, in which she flounders at first. Just as she’s beginning to find her feet, the slimy dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) comes on to her, causing her to quit her job. She had been studying how to use use a computer (because I guess rich-heads don’t even have to bother with using a computer) so she focuses full-time on it so she can do interior design consulting, her true passion (of course). When her friend Sharon (Sharon Finn) from her computer class invites her to a house party, she is back in her element. She meets a dashing, handsome man Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) who works in the diplomatic corps and has political ambitions. They of course hit it off and begin a whirlwind romance. Of course, Jasmine lies about her past and what happened with Hal, so the relationship is a house of cards ready to fall at any time. In typical Allen fashion, the film comes around to its inevitable ending in a really smart manner. The final flashback sequence (even though it doesn’t come at the actual ending of the film), fills in the holes of how it came to be that Hal was arrested and why.
Jasmine…losing all hope.
To say Cate Blanchett‘s performance is fantastic is the understatement of the year. To me, this performance is a younger sister of Gena Rowlands‘ Mabel Longhetti in John Cassavetes‘ A Woman Under the Influence, which also happens to be what I believe is the finest performance on film I’ve ever seen. I will be shocked if Blanchett does not earn her second Oscar for this role. She should have two already but Gwyneth Paltrow‘s smarmy ass stole it for that shit show Shakespeare in Love. It is far and away the best performance I’ve seen all year and this film is worth watching solely for it. That Sally Hawkins is almost as good is testament to her craft and Allen‘s for coaxing suchgreat performances from his actors. The cast of characters that Allen wove around the sister relationship are wonderful and perfectly Allen-esque. Filled with humor and tinged with dark moments, Blue Jasmine is a triumph and the continuation of a fantastic career. I highly recommend this one. I see all of Woody‘s film as I’m curious to see what he comes up with next. That he is able to mine basically the same scenario over and over again (relationship dysfunction) and deliver something fresh, funny, insightful and intriguing is a testament to his abilities. Bravo!
John Hughes would have been 63 today. His death in 2009 shocked me even though he had been out of the public eye for years and hadn’t directed a film since Curly Sue in 1991. Hughes was the absolute MAYOR of the 80s. His youth/teen films raised the bar for the genre and, in my opinion, have yet to be eclipsed. But he was more than just a teen film director. His adult comedies were as pertinent as anything he did in the teen realm, echoing the same themes of acceptance and understanding all while bringing the funny sprinkled with moments of levity.
I knew you’d come around…
Hughes‘ films are important to me. I hold them as dear to my heart as any film(s) that I’ve ever seen. I saw Weird Science at the Rivoli Theater in downtown Muncie, Indiana, when my parents were in court over visitation rights. I couldn’t imagine a better way to have staved off the nervousness I felt that day. I happily recall watching Sixteen Candles with friends, rewinding about a hundred times the scene where Anthony Michael Hall is dancing with Molly Ringwald and farts, laughing equally hard each time. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may or may not have been the inspiration for my own two-week school skipping streak in 7th grade. These films helped me with the rough road through adolescence, showing me that insecurity, dysfunction and all of the other problems of youth were the norm, not the exception. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that and I believe that’s why his films resonated so well then and continue to do so to this day.
You know, there’s going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll… chips, dips, chains, whips… You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I’m not talking candlewax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no.
I have been trying to rack my brain and I can’t think of another filmmaker that had a run of success in such a short time as John Hughes did from 1983-1987. As prolific as Rainer Werner Fassbinder was (is this the first time Hughes and Fassbinder have been mentioned together, I wonder?), I don’t think he even put up the resume that Hughes has. Woody Allen has had some good runs in his life, but none quite so strong as Hughes. Let’s take a look at the the films that Hughes either wrote or wrote/directed in this time period:
Mr. Mom (1983) – wrote
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – wrote
Nate & Hayes (1983) – wrote (I had never heard of this one)
Sixteen Candles (1984) – wrote and directed
The Breakfast Club (1984) – wrote and directed
National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1984) – wrote
Weird Science (1985) – wrote and directed
Pretty in Pink (1986) – wrote
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – wrote and directed
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)- wrote
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) – wrote and directed
By my count, that’s 11 films, eight of which represent some the most well-known and iconic films of the decade. Hughes only directed three other films past this period – She’s Having a Baby, Uncle Buck and Curly Sue – all fair films, I suppose, but none match the beloved status of the bulk of the list above. While he continued to write mostly family films (Home Alone series, Beethoven series) for years after pulling his best Keyser Söze (And like that, poof. He’s gone), he never quite captured the magic he had from 83-87. That’s a pretty tall order in the grand scheme of things.
As is the norm, here are my 5 (cheated, really 6) favorite works to which John Hughes contributed and why they still rock:
5) Mr. Mom (tie)
The Wall Street Journal just declared the caricature of inept stay-at-home dads depicted in Mr. Mom dead just a couple of weeks ago. However, the appeal of this movie still endures. Michael Keaton‘s portrayal of Jack Butler, the former GM engineer who lost his job and now stays home with the kids, is incredibly funny and I believe was probably pretty spot on for the time. I was raised by my father and I can certainly say that he was far more able to raise three kids than poor Jack, but this would seem more the exception rather than the rule. I think that’s why this is so enjoyable for me as it gives me an insight to what my childhood could have been like with a more maladroit father. Keaton is loveable despite his cringe worthy displays. For example:
All this aside, this film was pretty groundbreaking. Showing a woman, Caroline (played magnificently by Terri Garr), who is out in the workforce while the children are at home, succeeding and moving up the corporate ladder? I can’t recall a single film like it at the time. And as is typical, Hughes gives his characters some really great, memorable lines:
How’d you like a little trim on that moustache, Ron?
If Mr. Moms are indeed dead, then I’m glad we will always have this record to remind us of their haplessness. For that, John Hughes, I say thank you.
Here’s the trailer:
5) National Lampoon’s Vacation (tie)
The first in the Vacation series by National Lampoon, and undoubtedly the best, Hughes adapted a short story he wrote while working for advertising/public relations firm Leo Burnett (you can read it here) to start the journey of the Griswolds on-screen. Hughes seems to be especially hard on fathers in his films, and this one is no exception. Released in the same year (1983) as Mr. Mom, they seem to be perfect companion pieces to one another.
We watch his program… We buy his toys, we go to his movies… he owes us. Doesn’t he owe us, huh? He owes the Griswolds, right? Fucking-A right he owes us!
As most everyone knows, this movie follows the Griswold family – Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) – as they traverse the country from Chicago to California on their way to Wally World, America’s Favorite Family Fun Park. Convinced that driving is the only way to travel, the Griswolds stop at roadside attractions as well as seeing some family. Randy Quaid makes his first appearance as white trash Cousin Eddie and is in fine form. After a series of car breakdowns, getting lost in the ‘hood of St. Louis, nearly getting arrested for animal cruelty, a dead aunt, and a near adulterous encounter, Clark glides the finally happy family into the parking lot of Wally World…only to find out that it’s closed for two weeks. The final punctuation on a road trip where not much else could have gone wrong. So, he takes matters into his own hands…
An homage to all shitty family road trips, National Lampoon’s Vacation hits the proverbial nail on the head. Even as stupid as Clark seems, he still has a the biggest heart and wants nothing but the best for his family. Unfortunately, he fucks it up every time, a motif that plays itself out over the course of the three other films in this series – European Vacation (without a doubt the absolute worst of the bunch – that Hughes had anything to do with this one makes me sad), Christmas Vacation and the awful Vegas Vacation, whose only saving grace is the appearance by Wayne Newton.
Far and away the best part of this movie, I still laugh hysterically each time I see it:
The edited version for TV is nearly as funny: What I look like – Christopher Columbo?
So if you’re preparing to take the kiddos to Disney (as I am in May – God help me) or any other long road trip, give this one a watch and learn what not to do.
Here is the trailer:
4) The Breakfast Club
The quintessential 80s angst film, The Breakfast Club has comedic moments, but this one hits a closer to the bone than the rest of his films. Set in Saturday detention, five seemingly different high school students – a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), a freak (Ally Sheedy), a popular rich girl (Molly Ringwald), a popular wrestling star (Emilio Estevez) and a hood (Judd Nelson) – are charged with writing an essay telling the tyrannical Assistant Principal Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleeson) who they think they are. As the day progresses, the group of teens go back and forth, attacking one another, reconciling, telling each other their tales of why they are there. The more time they spend together, the more they realize they are alike.
Obscene finger gestures from such a pristine girl…
This was one of the two films (St. Elmo’s Fire being the other) that spawned the term The Brat Pack and solidified Molly Ringwald‘s short-lived status as Hollywood’s “it-girl.” This of all of Hughes‘ films still seems to resonate the most, ring as the most timeless. These characters still exist in today’s high schools (watch Nanette Burstein‘s documentary American Teen for easy examples), so it’s no wonder why Hughes is/was the teenager’s poet laureate. Its anti-authoritarian message certainly helps.
The ending sequence is pretty unforgettable (pun intended), as Vernon reads the essay that the five left behind, Anthony Michael Hall narrating. That Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” plays over it (flush with a Truffaut-like freeze frame) really is the perfect accompaniment, an anthem that all high schoolers echo just wanting to be noticed.
I always adored this moment. Even though I was only in fifth grade when this came out, it struck a chord. While I couldn’t know the rough waters I’d have to tread when in high school, this was a nice primer and one of the many reasons I cherish Hughes‘ oeuvre. I think it was this film that Hughes found his full voice as a writer. You could see traces his craft coming together in his previous films, but this is a fully realized work that melds the comedic and serious perfectly.
Here is the trailer:
3) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
It doesn’t get much more iconic than Ferris Bueller. This movie drips cool, well…with the exception of Cameron’s (Alan Ruck) stupid ass Detroit Red Wings jersey. That sucks. Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick‘s signature role) is the guy everyone wants to know in high school – friend to all, big and small, cool or not.
When Ferris decides to fake being sick (who can be expected to go to school on a day like this?), an elaborate process that dupes his clueless parents, but not Vice Principal Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Rooney decides to catch Ferris and make him an example, in order to show other students that the path Ferris has chosen is wrong. Thus unfolds an epic game of cat and mouse between Rooney, Ferris and Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara),best friend Cameron and his sister Jeanie/sometimes Shawna (Jennifer Grey).
When Cameron was in Egypt’s land…let my Cameron go.
Cameron is actually sick, but Ferris cons him into driving Ferris around for the day. Cameron is also a tight ass (if you stick a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you get a diamond) who needs to have some fun. So they embark on a journey for the ages, taking in the sites of Chicago and breaking through some barriers for each of the characters.
If you didn’t want to be Ferris Bueller in 1986, then I don’t know what to say about you. Who didn’t want to sing Wayne Newton and The Beatles on a float in a German parade through the streets of Chicago?
Incidentally, I lost a bet to my mother on whether the person singing “Danke Schoen” was a man or a woman watching this movie the first time.
This is one of the most fun movies I’ve ever seen and may well be Hughes‘ finest creation. I think it, along with The Breakfast Club, is probably the most enduring as its themes are also universal. As Polonius said to Laertes in Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” I think Ferris followed this advice better than anyone. He never misrepresents himself to anyone he’s with, even to Rooney, and I think that’s why he’s such a relatable character. This was Hughes‘ biggest strength as a writer. It is evident in every film discussed here and why we are still talking about these films.
I hope The rebelliousness of Ferris is alive and well among the youth of today. If not, you must be a bunch of boring bastards…
Here is the trailer:
2) Sixteen Candles
I’m not sure how I originally stumbled upon Sixteen Candles when I was a kid. I can’t remember if we just happened to pick it up at the video store (yes, kids, there used to be actual stores where you could go rent videos, not DVDs) or if we had seen some preview for it. I wasn’t exactly following certain directors’ work back when I was 9. Or was I? Nonetheless, this movie floored me with its humor, its depiction of family as insanely fucked up, and the hope that things you wish for may actually come true.
Well if it isn’t Sammy Baker Davis Jr!
The story centers around Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald in her first real starring role) who turns 16. However, her birthday happens to fall on the day before her older sister Ginny (Blanche Baker) is getting married. Since her family is up to their eyes in wedding details, they forget that it’s Sam’s birthday. An obvious nightmare for anyone, let alone a girl on her sweet sixteen. The scene when she realizes this is perfection, truly setting up each of the family member’s characters in a short 45-second scene. Watch:
Sam has one more big issue in this film as well, and that’s Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling). She has a crush on him, but he is the most popular guy in school, very rich and is dating the hottest girl in school, Caroline Mulford (Haviland Morris). When she passes a note that falls to Jake accidentally, he finds out about this. As she tries to make things happen with Jake, she is followed around by a geek and self-professed “king of the dipshits” named Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), who incessantly tries to pick her up. Couple all of this with being saddled with taking her grandparents foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), to the school dance where Jake will be, and she’s got a lot on her plate.
No more yanky my wanky…the Donger needfood!
One of the biggest successes of this film is that it is also Anthony Michael Hall‘s coming out party. He really established himself as a quality comedic actor in this film. He had obviously worked with Hughes material in National Lampoon’s Vacation before, so perhaps that was to his advantage. His character is so slimy, yet so endearing that you feel sorry for him. Also, he is the chief architect of a few of the film’s funniest scenes, e.g. when he and his friends (one being a young John Cusack) meet Long Duk Dong for the first time at Jake’s party, the aforementioned dance sequence, and when he takes a drunken/passed out Caroline to meet his friends in the middle of the night.
But ultimately, this is Samantha’s journey. We ride the roller coaster with her, and at times, it is difficult. The talk she has with her father (Paul Dooley) after he realizes they forgot her birthday was very real and quite spot-on. Or I imagine it is as I’ve never had this talk with a teenage girl or been a teenage girl, but Hughes situated it where I could empathize. Not an easy task. While this film has its share of juvenile humor (it is a film about high school after all), it has a heart and certain characters end up showing this even when you think that they aren’t able.
This is for you ladies:
Here’s the trailer:
1) Weird Science
So this is number one. With a bullet. This may be one of the three funniest movies I’ve ever seen. A absolute riot from start to finish, this was kind of a surprise from Hughes who with Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club had added more drama to each film leading up to Weird Science. It’s juvenile, filled with raunchy humor and is a departure from the prior formula he employed. And it works. WELL. At least in my opinion. It is far and away the Hughes film that I watch most and that it why it grabbed spot #1 on this list.
The basic premise is two losers, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall in his finest role) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), can’t fit in. Picked on, abused by cooler kids, and ignored by all girls, they decide to build their own woman using Wyatt’s souped up computer while his parents are away for the weekend. They cull the most beautiful images from Playboy magazines, give her genius intelligence and finish the job by harnessing the electricity from a thunderstorm to give her life a la Dr. Frankenstein all while wearing bras on their heads (ceremonial). And BOOM! They have Lisa (Kelly LeBrock).
What would you little maniacs like to do first?
So it becomes Lisa’s mission to help make the guys transition from being nerds to cool. Not an easy process considering what she has to work with. She starts off with them in a night on the town, which quickly goes from bad to worse. But then, Gary hits his stride amid the funniest scene in the entire film. Watch:
Fats, man…let me tell you my story, man. Were funnier opening words to a story ever uttered? Methinks not.
And let’s credit Hughes for maybe the best part of this film – the creation of Chet (Bill Paxton), Wyatt’s older brother and caretaker while his parents are away. Abusive and gross in every sense of the word, Chet represents what these two are up against every day of their lives. And Wyatt, chicken shit that he is, takes everything Chet has to give, served in a dirty ash tray. Chet extorts him and abuses him verbally and physically. But when Lisa enters the story, things start to change even with Chet. All that aside, I would argue that Chet is the second best movie character next to Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman) in Slap Shot. And Paxton‘s performance pretty much rules. Who else can say, “But first, I’d like to butter your muffin…” any slimier than he does? I dare you to find someone. DARE YOU.
That is a severe behavioral disorder!
The guys have their eyes on two girls, Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson) at school, but they happen to be dating Gary and Wyatt’s arch nemeses, Ian (a very young Robert Downey, Jr.) and Max (Robert Ruslan). Lisa decides to help the guys out and throw a BIIIIG party at Wyatt’s house and invite everyone. When the guys stay in bathroom, Lisa does what she can to coax them out and prove their meddle so Deb and Hilly will see them for who they are. This of course yields two of the funnier parts of the film, but it’s here they make their final transition from nerds to being not necessarily cool, but noticeable, shall we say.
You’re dropping wolf bait, and there’s chicks outside! Light a match, light a fire. I don’t know.
While it doesn’t have quite the same touching ending that both Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club have, Weird Science earns its ending. While Hughes moved on to more adult and family friendly fare after this (with exception of maybe Uncle Buck which treads some of the same water here), I’m so glad he squeezed this one in.
Here’s the trailer:
So as I said before, Hughes left a mark on my childhood – his films helped me navigate the unsteady times of adolescence. These films are signposts that me and many of my friends can point to as we continue to try and make our way through this world. Hughes‘ passing in 2009 was tragic because he gave voice to my generation. While he hadn’t spoken for it in quite some time, he still held that title when he died and I believe he continues to do so. There are rumors that one of his unproduced scripts in moving into production. PLEASE DON’T. Let the man rest. There is a reason that project went unproduced.
So it was posted today on Indiewire that writer/director David Gordon Green will be tackling an adaptation of the 70s and 80s TV show Little House on the Prairie. Sweet f-ing Jesus in a dumptruck with an ice cream cone. As if that show wasn’t terrible enough, here is who I once believed to be the most promising young American filmmaker tackling another project that seems a million levels beneath his talent. First PineappleExpress and Your Highness (a film I would easily rank in my top 10 least favorite movies of all-time – what an unfunny piece of shit), now this.
David Gordon Green as I remember him prior to his slide into mediocrity.
Green’s George Washington and All the Real Girls are two of my favorite films of the 2000s, the former so well-received that the Criterion Collection scooped up its DVD rights. Criterion is a label that instantly brands a film as important in the eyes of the film world. Here’s what Armond White had to say about it:
GeorgeWashington was quickly recognized upon its debut at various film festivals and subsequent theatrical release as one of the triumphs of the current American Independent movement. Its original perspective transforms what is appallingly familiar in American life: destitution, nihilism, bewildered youth, and the history of racial deprivation. Green’s unpretentious approach to the backwater setting revels in Southern atmosphere and casual intimacy. It’s not a social protest, as done in past movies that grew out of social-reform movements, but a private, delicate perception unconnected to Hollywood trends and cultural expectations. It comes from Green’s personal feelings about youth, race, and cinema, and these feelings can be felt.
The kids from George Washington.
Stoner comedies and melodramatic TV show adaptations don’t follow in the tradition of the above and makes the choice to do LHotP all the more perplexing. I was fortunate to see DGG at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2004 when Undertow played there. He seemed to have a good head on his shoulders and spoke so highly of the films that influenced it, in particular Night of the Hunter. He spoke with regret about the collapse of his film version of A Confederacy of Dunces as he didn’t want to be in Harvey Weinstein‘s (then head of indie-juggernaut Miramax, now head of The Weinstein Company) pocket. He was dripping with integrity and spoke of how great it was to make movies with his friends.
Karey Williams, Zooey Deschanel and Danny McBride in All the Real Girls.
However, it may well be that DGG’s collaboration with friends Jody Hill and Danny McBride is the source of his downfall. I will admit that their collab on HBO’s Eastbound & Down is amazingly funny, when put into context with the rest of their collective effort, I give the whole a thumbs down. As stated above, Your Highness is one of the absolute least funny things I’ve ever seen and Pineapple Express isn’t far behind. Every director has hits and misses. I get that and accept it. Even Woody Allen made Curse of the Jade Scorpion. However, where Allen went on to make films like Match Point and Midnight in Paris, Green has yet to show us that type of rebound. And this announcement isn’t any indication that said rebound is going to occur anythime soon. He has a healthy slate of releases this upcoming year including a remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (once again, why?), a film with Mr. One Note himself, Paul Rudd and another with Nicolas Cage. Perhaps one of these will surprise me and bring about a return to form for Mr. Green. Suspiria is the only one I would believe to have a shot to do so. I have been wrong before…but not very often.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that Abi Morgan, who wrote Steve McQueen‘s Shame and Phyllida Lloyd‘s The Iron Lady, has penned the script for the LHotP film. Shame was amazing and she is to be commended for that. I wouldn’t watch The Iron Lady for all of the Guinness in the world. Margaret Thatcher can suck it.
I’ll just say I’m a Woody Allen fan. I own every one of his films on DVD with exception of Curse of the Jade Scorpion – let’s face it, it’s an unfunny piece of shit. I try to see every one of his films in the theater and fortunately for me, living in Bloomington, Indiana, doesn’t keep that from happening. For some reason, every film of his makes it here to at least the local AMC (which dubs Allen’s films “arthouse”). I was lucky to see To Rome with Love at the world-class venue, the Indiana University Cinema, which is the best thing to happen to Bloomington since Breaking Away was filmed here.
Allen is the pure embodiment of consistency – he has made at least one film each year since 1982 and at 77 years old, he’s still going strong (he ain’t no Manoel de Oliveira, but who is?). His newest effort is typical Allen – characters stuck in many quirky dilemmas revolving around love with their ability to win or lose it hanging in the balance. Allen centers his film around a few couples – a newlywed couple Milly and Antonio (Alessandra Mastronardi and Allesandro Tiberi) and who move to Rome to start a new life together pending a job from his wealthy uncle, an American architectural student Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend Sally (Greta Gerwig), and another American student Hayley (Alison Pill, who rocked in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and a left-wing Italian lawyer Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti).
This film runs long for an Allen film, which are normally around 90 minutes, at almost two hours and you can feel it. Some of the story lines run past their freshness. Unfortunately, the Jesse Eisenberg narrative is the weakest of three, even though Sally (Ellen Page from Juno) was inserted as a new love interest. Greta Gerwig, who is so special in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, is criminally underused. Her bright charm is so muted and Allen made her look dumpy. Shame, really. The only part that is enjoyable in this storyline is Alec Baldwin showing up (in spirit) as Eisenberg’s devil’s advocate.
Jesse Eisenberg (Jack) and Greta Gerwig (Sally)
The Antonio-Milly thread allows Allen’s sexual comedic talents to shine. When small-town Milly gets lost in Rome, things go awry. Her shy husband (who was a virgin when they married) is confused for another man and a hooker, Anna (played so wonderfully HOT by Penelope Cruz), shows up in his hotel room just prior to an important meeting with his virtuous uncle who is to give him a job. He has to pretend that Anna is his wife throughout the day. His wife, still lost, later ends up on the set of a film and is introduced to her favorite actor and goes back to his hotel room. As you can guess, shenanigans involving both parties ensue. The best surprise of this plot line is seeing Ornella Muti again. I hadn’t seen her since her turn in the ever awesome Flash Gordon (1980).
Antonio (Allesandro Tiberi) and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi)
Anna (Penelope Cruz)
The final thread (Hayley/Michelangelo) yields some funny moments as we see Woody being Woody as his character Jerry, a former classical music-exec and avant-garde opera director, discovers the father of Hayley’s fiancée, Giancarlo (famous tenor Fabio Armiliato), is an amazing opera singer…but only when he’s in the shower. This plot line plays itself out in very funny fashion and is reminiscent of Allen’s earliest work like Take the Money and Run.
The best part bar none, however, did not revolve around these three main narrative pieces, but around Leopoldo Pisanello (played pitch-perfectly as always by Roberto Benigni). Leopoldo one morning starts to go to work when out of the blue he is surrounded by paparazzi and Entertainment Tonight-esque reporters asking him the most inane questions about what he had for breakfast and other thoughts. He is immediately swept up as a beloved “famous” person whose opinion on anything is now valid, revered, important and worthy of news. Allen’s send-up of celebrity and the arbitrariness to whom we ascribe celebrity is hilarious. Leopoldo is given a promotion at work, gets invited to movie premieres and is chased after by beautiful women who want to sleep with him. When he asks what’s he’s done to deserve this, he is told he is “famous for being famous”. Sound familiar Kardashian and Hilton clan, you worthless cultural leeches?
Leopoldo Pisanello (Roberto Benigni) being chased by paparazzi.
All in all, this film is a middle of the pack release for Mr. Allen. Midnight in Paris was so amazing, the follow-up was bound to be a letdown. And it was somewhat. By trimming the Jack/Sally/Monica plot line, this film would have been more cohesive and funny. I still enjoyed this film and I look forward to Woody’s next project, still untitled, starring my fave Cate Blanchett.