Archives for posts with tag: old favorite

You know how New York in movies now is always clean and, even if people aren’t rich, everything is nice? This was not always the case. New York used to be gross, and housewives from Fort Lee might get amnesia and be mistaken for prostitutes.

Our titular Susan (Madonna) is the sort of person who keeps all her possessions in a hatbox and mooches shamelessly off her friends. They find this charming. In fairness, it is the early 80s and everyone has a completely fake job (magician’s assistant, cinema operator) but a giant apartment, so maybe that’s just how things were. Through a completely absurd sequence of events, another small blonde ends up with Susan’s distinctive jacket, and then gets hit in the head, so everyone thinks she’s Susan and she doesn’t know any better. This small blonde, Roberta (Rosanna Arquette), is married to a jacuzzi salesman, Gary Glass (Mark Blum), and he is the worst. His sister Leslie (Laurie Metcalf) is gloriously insane in the Joan Cusack mold. In a crisis, when everyone is stress-eating, she yells, “Take a Valium like a normal person!” They get involved in mix-ups but are largely off-stage.

mv5bmtizmza5njizof5bml5banbnxkftztywota2nti5-_v1_uy268_cr20182268_al_So: Roberta has no memories, Susan’s clothes, and only her own common sense. That is not much. She is like a polite woodland animal, caught in 80s New York and surrounded by people who think she’s a wild free spirit. Fortunately, both onstage and sympathetic is Dez (Aidan Quinn), who lives an enormous loft in Tribeca and works in the projection room at the Bleecker Street Cinema.

It is delightful nonsense. There is both antiquities theft and a murderer on the loose, but that doesn’t detract from how surprisingly appealing Roberta’s cluelessness is. The movie is well encapsulated when Dez asks Roberta if she wants a drink, and she says Diet Coke or Perrier would be fine.

“There’s Miller Lite, or Heineken,” he deadpans.

Director: Susan Seidelman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 104 minutes
Score: 4/5

PS OMG SO EIGHTIES

Tcheky Karyo makes every movie about nine thousand percent better, and this is no exception. Between Karyo and Jason Isaacs chewing scenery, you are almost able to forget about Mel Gibson’s painful earnestness.

Look, you definitely think this movie is stupid and refried Braveheart. You are not wrong. But this movie is also tremendous, because somehow all the emotional beats hit, and also America is awesome.

Which is what it comes down to. The plot is silly, and the romances are unremarkable, and the Brits are ludicrously cartoonish, and Donal Logue recovering from his terminal racism is almost insulting, but…I cry every time Susan speaks to Benjamin, and I love America.

Stray observations:

  • Just…shoot him again, Gabriel. Don’t be dumb.
  • Can someone just make a supercut of all of Jean Villeneuve’s sick burns and mic drops? “I want accuracy and precision!” “If I die, I will die well dressed.”
  • Chris Cooper doesn’t lack for knives in the gut either.

Director: Roland Emmerich
Rating: PG-13
Length: 165 minutes
Score: 1,000,000/5

There was a time, in movies, when Gwyneth Paltrow would make out with John Hannah and audiences would go, “Okay, sure,” and not be sarcastic. It’s hard to imagine. But we don’t have to imagine it, because Sliding Doors is on Netflix and we can just watch that.

The premise is simple: either Helen (Ms. Paltrow) makes a train or she doesn’t. If she makes the train, she meets James (Mr. Hannah) on it. She also catches her boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), cheating on her with Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). If she doesn’t, she doesn’t. We watch both options play out.

Helen is that rare thing in films: a woman who has more than one thing going on. She cares about her career, she cares about her boyfriend, and she cares about her friends. She gets drunk and is sad, she worries that he hasn’t called, she sometimes doesn’t know what to do. It’s great, and Ms. Paltrow is good in both parts: the Helen that catches Gerry and makes immediate major life changes (you might remember that adorable pixie cut) with the help of her friend Anna (Zara Turner), and the Helen who…doesn’t. You’re initially disappointed in Helen for ever falling for Gerry’s particular brand of nonsense–he’s a writer, and she supports him, plus of course he’s a spineless cheating jerk–but then she mostly starts making much better decisions, so it’s not irritatingly hard to watch.

James is charming, and maybe slightly too quirky, but it’s also nice to see how he likewise has a family and a life and doesn’t spend all his time creepily following Helen around, as he would if this were a normal romantic comedy. He just notices that she’s sad and buys her a milkshake, and then things develop. Perhaps one of the things I look for in films is a plot that doesn’t demand weird dramatic gestures or fairy tales. It’s much better to see characters make a connection through reasonable common ground and plausible physical attraction. You know, like people.

On the other hand, Lydia is kind of a caricature, and she intermittently draws Gerry into her absurd orbit. These are the weakest bits of the film. Fortunately you have Helen and James to pull your focus back.

Oh, yeah, the clothes are awful. Even Ms. Paltrow almost drowns in some of the horrible boxy garbage. And only she can wear those slips people wore as dresses for outside back then.

Stray observations:

  • “Shagging” used as an explicit gerund is maybe the worst example of awkward bowdlerizing I’ve ever seen, and if people actually used it habitually in London in the late 90s, then London in the late 90s was a sad place.
  • John Hannah has infinite goodwill with me, but I guess your mileage may vary.

Director: Peter Howitt
Rating: R
Length: 99 minutes
Score: 4/5

It’s hard to remember how great this movie is, because the sequels were so catastrophic. I’m completist when it comes to DVD collections, but I own only Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest. Likewise I will never ever own The Phantom Menace. If I ever get it as a gift I will use it as a coaster.

The only thing about this movie that doesn’t hold up is the animation. The zombie-pirates look a little goofy now, in a way that they didn’t when it came out.

What do I love about it?

  • It never stops. Even when you think you’re going have a slow, serious moment, right after the Interceptor explodes, Orlando Bloom immediately swims across to disabuse you of your misapprehension. This is a movie written by hummingbirds on speed, and it is fantastic.
  • We’re sick of Johnny Depp’s mincing weirdness now, but it’s new in this, and it’s well-deployed and hilarious. If you don’t still cry with laughter about the whole “why is the rum gone?” sequence, you have no joy in your soul. There’ll be no living with her after this, indeed.
  • Orlando Bloom is still super hot, and his air of bewildered self-righteousness is, as always, his best asset. He even gives some good side-eye a few times. And that hat!
  • Norrington really comes into his own in the third movie, with his drunkenness, his hopeless but blameless love of Elizabeth, and his badassery in the face of Davy Jones’s crew. That said, Jack Davenport puts a surprising amount of exasperated verve into a pretty one-note character, and Norrington’s tedium is itself a lesson in drollery. [Side note: I was trying to explain who Jack Davenport is, and began with “He plays Commodore Norrington.” At that point I was cut off by my interlocutor, who started shouting at me that he did not watch as many movies about old boats as I do, because he is a normal human being, and I had to finish, somewhat lamely, “…in Pirates of the Caribbean.” At which point my friend subsided in embarrassment.]
  • Almost all the jokes land. Pintel and Ragetti are amazing (Mackenzie Crook never fails), Royal Navy officers are convincingly stuffy for comic effect, and Geoffrey Rush perfectly walks the tightrope between menace and hilarity. The corset line crashes and burns every time, but, for nearly two and a half hours, the laughs keep coming.

Director: Gore Verbinski
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes
Score: 4/5

I saw Jerry Maguire in cinemas, which is pretty amazing because I was way too young to see it. But I think I like it more for that precise reason. See, if you’re way too young to see Jerry Maguire, you have no idea what’s going on with Kelly Preston (on any level) or Renée Zellweger (again, on any level). But, if you’re way too young to see Jerry Maguire AND you love sports, you still know exactly what is going on with Cuba Gooding, Jr., and the film is just a great sports movie with vestigial romantic drama. Also the little kid is amazing.

As a grown-up, different things come to the fore–Ms. Zellweger’s sadly bygone charm, the amazing Regina King, and Bonnie Hunt as the superbly judgemental older sister. You understand about medical insurance and also about what a sports agent is (sort of). You notice that the logo and uniform transition in Philadelphia was not seamless–the Eagles stuff has the new logo but they’re still wearing the (infinitely better) kelly greens (as far as I can tell/remember, this is accurate, and was happening precisely when this movie was being made). Real Al Michaels!

But, all that said: I still think this is a great movie. It’s funny, it’s touching, it has peak Cuba Gooding, Jr. as well as near-peak Tom Cruise and very-near-peak Renée Zellweger. There’s a reason that “You complete me” and “You had me at hello” have entered our consciousness–they work.

Also, for all that this movie is nearly twenty years old… The clothes have aged horribly, but the football stuff is either oddly prescient or has a sad air of plus ça change. Concussions, squirrelly deals, the general treatment of athletes like so many pieces of meat, it’s all there. Not sure how I feel about this.

Stray notes:

  • If given the pair Jay Mohr/Tom Cruise, is Jay Mohr really going to be the asshole?
  • Donal Logue and Eric Stoltz both have tiny parts in this movie. Oh, the 90s.
  • Relatedly, Mel Kiper has not aged; still terrifying.

Director: Cameron Crowe
Rating: R
Length: 139 min.
Score: 5/5.  REVISED: Because on consideration, with the exception of Dorothy’s inexplicable shoelessness en route to her big date, this movie is basically perfect. Solid sports movie, solid romance, solidly humorous, solid performances, all adding up to more than the sum of its parts.

Haters gonna hate, I know, but I love this movie. I love that it shows a teenage girl who is good at some things and bad at others, and, because of the vagaries of the adolescent mind, thinks that she’s bad at everything. I love that her validation comes chiefly from the women in her life, but that she has the courage to stand up even to them when necessary (as we know from Dumbledore, this is one of the hardest things to do). I love that she has a stupid crush on the stupid cute boy (and, boy, is the casting spot on for a boy you’d be mad for at fifteen, and hate yourself about forever after), and knows that it’s stupid, but falls for it anyway. I love the car, I love the quiet but great love interest, I love Joe the security guy, I love the wonderfully supportive gym teacher, and I even love Sandra Oh’s sycophantic but ultimately worthwhile Principal Gupta.

You can bitch and moan about the centrality of the makeover, if you are joyless and naïve. People, even deep people, care about how they look, and learning to do the best you can with what you have (even if you are not beautiful like Anne Hathaway) is an excellent first step on the way to confidence. Blame the patriarchy if you like, but that won’t necessarily make you feel better.

Stray notes:

  • I do not love the M&M pizza. That ruins two amazing things.
  • The second movie is funnier but less touching, perhaps because more exaggerated and silly. By the time you graduate from Princeton, you should stop falling in fountains at fancy parties, even if Chris Pine is involved.
  • In the Princess Diaries books, the grandmother is amazing and mean and has tattooed-on eyebrows and a general air of capable evil, and, if it didn’t mean giving up the joy of Julie Andrews, I wish she were that way in the movies, too.

Director: Garry Marshall
Rating: G
Length: 115 min.
Score: 4/5.