THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL:
TERRIBLE MOVIES VIEWED FOR THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE IN THEM
The James-Younger gang. The 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team. The hair metal supergroup Damn Yankees. History has brought together great collaborators of all ilks, creeds and backgrounds, but only The Pink Smoke offers a team-up the likes of which the film-writing community has only dreamed of in the few hours of sleep between facebooking fellow Fellini fans or twittering Tati tidbits to each other. And it's only here in the rare arena of the "Collaborators' Special" that they come together to sound off an a specific subject. This week, that topic is: Name three actors or actresses you've pined over now or at some other point in your life. Then discuss a movie you watched, knowing in advance it would be terrible, solely because the actor/actress was in it. This was posited to our all-star line-up: 'smoke editor-in-chief Chris Funderburg, Pinnland Empire emperor Marcus Pinn, notorious gentleman of leisure and occasional blogger Paul Cooney and photographer/Green Lantern non-hater Jordanna Kalman, by 'smoke head writer John Cribbs. Their answers - ranging from flippant to harrowing - can be found below...
The same way the average guy looks at an actress like Scarlett Johansson is pretty much the same way I look at Alia Shawkat. And the thing is, I seriously think we would hit it off if we met. No, seriously. I honestly believe I have a shot with her. Her freckles, my sideburns...we'd be the greatest looking couple ever. For those of you reading this that know me well and are familiar with Alia, don't you think we'd be perfect together? If I were to ever get famous at something, my ultimate goal would be to somehow work my way in to her social circle, meet her and sweep her off her feet. Of course if she ever happens to read what I'm about to say I'm pretty much screwed, but whatever...
It wasn't until only a few years ago that I could even legally express how much I loved her, but ever since April 18, 2007 I ended my crush on Natalie Portman (we'll get to her later) and made it well known that I was all about "Maeby." Over these last couple of years she's become one of those actresses where no matter what movie she's in, I'll watch it. The problem is that she hasn't really been in anything good outside of Arrested Development (which as we all know isn't even a movie.) You wouldn't believe some of the shit I've sat through: Prom Wars, Cedar Rapids (highly disappointing except of course for any scene that she's in) and Whip It. Yup, I actually went to the video store and rented Whip It. And I was so insecure about renting it, I checked out an "art house" movie along with it (something from the Claude Chabrol section that I didn't even end up watching) so I didn't look like a jackass. And yeah, needless to say Drew Barrymore's directorial debut wasn't good. It was another one of those "girl power" movies, where Alia Shawkat played the sidekick to Ellen Page, which is pretty insulting as far as I'm concerned.
The most upsetting movie featuring the future Mrs. Pinn that I sat through was last year's Runaways, the biopic about the all-girl rock band from the 70's. I had NO intention of seeing it. I don't listen to that kind of music and even though it was based on a true story, it looked like a remake of Ladies & Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains, one of my favorite movies as a kid. Then I happened to be IMDB'ing Alia one day and saw that she was in it. Well, that was enough for me. And as luck would have it, Runaways was playing at the Landmark Sunshine. This meant I didn't have to go to one of those "regular" movie theaters like LOEWS or AMC where people clearly go to just hang out, whisper loudly, text and NOT watch the movie. What was also great about it playing at the Sunshine Cinema is that it gave me an excuse to go to this cafe down the street and kill time by ordering coffee I don't even like just to look at this one tattooed waitress that works there.
Before I went to see it, a friend of mine had warned me that the character Alia was playing didn't have any lines because the real person she was portraying (Runaways bassist Jackie Fox) did not agree to have her name or likeness in the movie. I still didn't expect for her to LITERALLY have NO lines, which ended up being the case. She didn't have ONE line in the whole fuckin movie. Anytime she spoke it was during a group conversation where you couldn't even make out what she was saying over anybody else. But what's strange is that she's actually in a good portion of the movie. WTF?! I sat through almost 2 hours of Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning trying to break their teenie bopper images by doing coke and having sex with each other only to see Alia Shawkat essentially play bass in the background. I was pretty pissed. The only positive thing about Alia being in this movie is that in most scenes she was dressed in really short hot pants and tight-fitting t-shirts. Plus she smiled a lot in the movie. It's kind of impossible for her to not be cute. But even that got old after a while.
Are directors blind? Am I the only one who notices how awesome she is? Why won't any good directors give her a shot? She's got that dry delivery that would fit right in to a Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch or even a Bertrand Bonello film. I watch so many movies where she would have fit in perfectly.
Alia, if you ever read this, I'm sorry for bashing all of your movies, but I know that you can do better. Oh and I love you.
Even though I'm over Natalie Portman, my crush was way too intense for me to not mention her and the stupid movies I sat through just to look at her pretty face. I'm talking V For Vendetta (sorry, but that movie was NOT good), Cold Mountain, Garden State, Paris Je T'aime, My Blueberry Nights and many more. Recently I saw her in what's probably the worst movie of the year so far, Your Highness. But the strangest movie I sat through (more than once in a short period of time) was Where The Heart Is. Natalie Portman plays a pregnant teenager who's dumped by her boyfriend in the middle of nowhere and eventually gives birth to the baby in a Wal Mart. Eventually, Ashley Judd takes her under her wing and after a few predictable conflicts everything works out for everyone in the end. Most people confuse Where The Heart Is with Anywhere But Here (yes, I watched that too), because it's practically the same movie and they got released within a year of each other.
I didn't go to the theater to see Where The Heart Is. Sorry, but I didn't want to stand out in a theater full of all middle-aged white women. Someone would easily spot me walking out of the theater and that would have been too embarrassing. I mean let's be honest, a film co-starring Joan Cusack, Stockard Channing, Sally Field and Ashley Judd ONLY appeals to that demographic. That line-up practically sounds like a bad sequel to Steel Magnolias (which oddly enough is a movie I have a strange connection with due to my diabetes-induced kidney disease just like Julia Robert's character.)
Anyway, Where The Heart Is was on cable all summer long in 2002, my break from college during my junior year. I happened to be clicking around and tuned in to the movie in the middle. For some strange reason, I wanted to see it from the beginning. I actually made it a point to check HBO's schedule and find out the next time it was going to be playing. And of course it was the very next day, because HBO plays the same block of movies for like 2 months straight without any variation. As I watched this "chick flick," I kept asking myself "why am I watching this?" I mean the movie was just WAY too corny. But then there'd be a scene where Natalie Portman would give a great big smile and then I'd go "Ooooh yeah, that's why." Watching this felt like such a guilty pleasure that every time I thought I heard someone coming in to the room, I quickly changed the channel as if I was watching porn or something.
What the hell happened to Neil Labute??? From In the Company Of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors to an all-black remake of Death at a Funeral and that Wicker Man remake in only a few years. In 2008, I was able to get tickets for the New York Film Festival Screening of The Wrestler the day of the show after waiting in line a few weeks earlier for 2 hours only to have Darren Aronofsky's actual mother screw over everyone standing behind her by purchasing like 8 tickets. Are you serious? The director's mom waited in line with us normal people and bought 8 tickets to her son's movie? You mean to tell me her son (you know, the guy who directed the movie?) couldn't hook up a few comp tickets for his own mother and her entourage? Anyway, I needed time to kill before The Wrestler started, so I went to a nearby theater and checked out Lakeview Terrace. I thought about how Neil Labute nicely addressed racism in In The Company of Men, although it usually gets overlooked because he did it in a clever and subtle way (and I'm not just talking about the scene where Aaron Eckhart belittles the young black employee.) What topped it all off was that I would get to see Kerry Washington's BEAUTIFUL face. Just like Alia and Natalie, Kerry is another actress whose imperfect filmography doesn't stop me from watching anything she's in. I've watched Save The Last Dance, BOTH Fantastic Four movies (yup, I watched those for her and Jessica Alba's overrated ass) and Spike Lee's disappointing She Hate Me (which is basically 2 bad movies in one.) But Lakeview Terrace is probably the worst thing she's ever been in.
Now I know you guys may think it's pretty typical for the black guy to dislike a movie that shows a black character being the racist villain against an innocent white guy, but this movie was just ridiculous. Lakeview Terrace is the tale about a married interracial couple played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington who are terrorized by their racist black neighbor, Samuel L. Jackson, because he doesn't approve of relationships between black and white people. And Sam Jackson's character just so happens to be a high ranking police officer, so he can pretty much do whatever he wants. Just imagine a remake of Pacific Heights with a racist twist. Sam Jackson is Michael Keaton, Patrick Wilson is Matthew Modine and Kerry Washington is Melanie Griffith. Later on in the movie we learn that Sam Jackson's wife died a few years earlier, and he had been suspecting that she was cheating on him with a white guy before she passed. *GASP!* THAT was his (shallow) reason for not liking ALL white people. There are so many stupid scenes in the movie. For example, at the beginning, Jackson makes his son take off a Kobe Bryant jersey because "this family doesn't support him anymore." And somehow every black male in the movie is a complete asshole to Patrick Wilson just because his wife is black. The creepiest scene in the movie is when Jackson and his cop buddies hold Patrick Wilson down while a stripper forces herself on him. This movie is a mess.
The ONLY positive thing in this movie is the scene where we see Kerry Washington's awesome body in bathing suit, only to have that scene ruined by Jackson pulling his pants down and shouting "HOLLAAAAAA!!!"
Lakeview Terrace must have really hit home with Kerry Washington as she use to be married to the actor who played little Tom Hanks in Big. Oh and Kerry, if you ever read this I want you to know that you're currently #2 on my list after Alia Shawkat.
When I was in 7th grade I saw Sid and Nancy for the first time. I wasn't into the Sex Pistols or anything, I think I probably saw it because Mötley Crüe had done a cover of "Anarchy in the U.K." I REALLY liked Mötley Crüe at the time. Regardless of why I saw it, it introduced me to Gary Oldman and was the start of my watching movies for specific actors. I tried to get my hands on everything Oldman had done, and being it was 1991, I had to rely on the local video store and my parents. Limiting as that was I did get to see a fair amount of his movies, my favorite being Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead which in turn introduced me to Tom Stoppard (I somehow overlooked Tim Roth in that one and didn't follow his work until I saw Rob Roy. After that I saw everything he was in). I think the great thing about seeing all those movies was that each one led me down different paths, like reading Tom Stoppard's and Joe Orton's plays, reading Dracula, and being introduced to other terrific actors like Alfred Molina (Prick Up Your Ears) and Jean Reno (The Professional.) Not to mention the thrill of the hunt for those more obscure movies that I'd never have heard of otherwise.
As much fun as it is hunting down movies and broadening my horizons, sometimes supporting actors by watching their oeuvre can be really really painful. However although I will never forgive Gary for having to sit through Lost in Space in the theater, this article is supposed to be about attractive dudes I saw movies for so he's off the hook. Tim Roth too, they are my "classy actor" crushes where my admiration is strictly platonic.
My first example of painful cinema is when I went to the theater to see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starring the svelte Mr. Stuart Townsend. My dear husband John insisted I use Queen of the Damned as an example, but that egregious film was in fact where I first set eyes on the agreeable Mr. Townsend. So as horrible as that movie was, Mr Townsend is not to blame for me seeing it. I do believe John had wanted to go see it. What did John not want to go see? League of Extraordinary Gentleman. He flat out refused to see it with me! All alone I suffered through 110 minutes of absolute nonsensical crap for only a few scenes that Stuart was in. He looked good, but was it worth it? I think Sean Connery retired after he made that one, probably a good decision. Did anything positive come out of seeing L.Ex.G.? Did I go on to read the comics it was based on? Nope, the movie was just too awful to spark any interest in anything but forgetting about it.
Next, let's all think back to 1996 when a little movie called Trainspotting came out. I was in my freshman year at college and I was desperate to see it so I drove back to my hometown of Rhinebeck to meet up with a friend for a screening at the terrific Upstate Films. I loved this movie. Absolutely LOVED it. After seeing it I read everything Irvine Welsh had written and had two new actors to follow: Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller, who are my next two examples.
In both cases I didn't have much back catalog to go through, I saw Shallow Grave and Hackers, but that was about it. So when I heard that McGregor was going to be in a new movie called The Pillow Book (penis shot and all!) I was excited. I'd seen Peter Greenaway's The Cook the Thief His Wife and Her Lover (for Tim Roth) and liked it, so I was no stranger to arty films (arty=penis shots.)
I went to a screening at Upstate Films and made myself comfortable on the couch they had in the front row, ready to be dazzled by the vibrant Ewan McGregor and his Scottish wang. I should preface that this was a time in my life when I was open-minded, curious and not particularly wary of pretentious bullshit. I sat through that whole movie and was pretty disappointed. It was a brutal 40 minutes before Ewan briefly appears. Then he's absent for another intolerable stretch before he reappears and spends about 40 minutes being written on and humped by the very bitchy and unappealing lead who drives him to suicide. He is also subjected to some naked heavy petting and nipple sucking by an old man that I definitely could have lived without ever seeing. I couldn't follow what was going on because I was so bored, and who wants to see a penis anyway? A big problem I have with pretentiousness in art is that it projects this notion of "if you were smarter, you'd like it - it's your fault that it sucks." I think The Pillow Book helped to initiate the beginning of my now finely tuned bullshit detector. For one thing, the film is supposedly all about these beautiful things - calligraphy, books, love, sexy sex - but it looks so ugly: washed out and grainy. The lead actress is no looker, especially compared to Ewan with his flowing hair and dangling lightsaber. Also, there's so many naked dudes running around at any given point flopping around, by the end of the film I was suffering from major penis exhaustion. The full title of the film should've been The Pillow Book: Wangs Ahoy.
I still really like Ewan. He's somehow able to make terrible movies tolerable, and good ones like Down With Love or Young Adam even better, but these days I'll rarely see something specifically for him. A few years ago I was bamboozled by Deception which doubled down by having Hugh Jackman in the cast as well as McGregor. I was sure it would be a charm fest...I was deceived!
And now the most difficult of my actor crushes: Jonny Lee Miller. Where to begin? He was so appealing in Trainspotting, and what an adorable wreck of an American accent in Hackers! But I had a really hard time finding other movies he was in. I could talk about Plunkett & Macleane, but it's too painful. I was pretty excited for Dracula 2000 (which John actually went to go see with me in the theater!) what a letdown. Sadly I missed Mindhunters upon its late, limited release, but I caught Aeon Flux (cameo with Stuart Townsend!) but I fell asleep before Miller made it onscreen. Last year I found out Miller was in some TV show called Eli Stone which I watched two minutes of and couldn't take it, it was too awful. JLM, it has been 15 years since Trainspotting and I still try to stand by your side and you have given me nothing. Nothing! I feel like maybe you know that we're in trouble because I see you've made some effort to get back on my good side. You were on the last season of Dexter, a show I've kept up with you noticed; and you were in the production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre, hitching your wagon to the rising star of Benedict Cumberbatch (my new favorite classy/charming/unattractive actor.) So maybe you're trying to make things work between us, I can only hope.
Until then however, I suppose I will wade through your back catalog which is more readily available now, although I'm not sure it's a good thing. I watched Love, Honor and Obey recently - I'm sorry, make that I winced through Love, Honor and Obey from 2000, also "starring" Jude Law (total screen time about 10 minutes.) Although Miller is billed second and is the narrator (in a clown suit, yikes) and all the plot summaries I've read say that the film is a comedy about a young man (Miller) who wants to be involved with the local mob, this film is actually about one of the mob guys (who also happens to be the writer/director) and marital problems that arise due to his impotence. It seems like the mob plot was something that took up 15 minutes of screen time, and it was obviously shot in a day with "name" actors (including the very famous, first-billed Sadie Frost) and this whole other subplot was put in to stretch out the running time. I will go ahead and say it's one of the worst films I've ever seen - that's right, even worse than Dracula 2000. JLM, if I have to sit through another piece of garbage like that, I am going to have to find another actor to broaden my horizons.
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