oh, the shame: a confession by @midairalmacita

I’ll admit it.  I’m stubborn.  A bit of a rebel.  When people tell me to do something, I mostly do the exact opposite.  Because I’m an adult, damnit.  Only I was like this as a kid, too.

When people tell me I just have to do this or that, I mostly just roll my eyes.  I’ll do what I want, okay?

So, this way of being has led me to a lifetime of watching really obscure, bizarre movies or hopeless romantic comedies (that are really quite bad) while missing all the “classics” of my generation.  I also attribute my lack of exposure to certain films to my sheltered childhood.  Growing up with very little, we never got to see films in theaters.  I can only really remember watching Crocodile Dundee.  Most of the time, we were stuck with what was on TV.  Basic TV, at that.  (I think we had cable for 3 months during all of my childhood).  By the time I was a teen and could rent movies, I had pretty weird taste in movies. And well, everything.

Now that I’m 35, I’ve realized that I kind of missed out on some pretty fun stuff.  Or seemingly fun (since I haven’t seen these things, I can only assume…people look like these things make them happy).  I’ve also found myself in many conversations where I have no idea what the Hell people are talking about.

I have a thing called a Mighty List, and–at some point–I decided that I wanted to watch a bunch of movies.  I really wanted to expose myself to new things and get out of my comfort zone.  So, this is part of that.  My list is mostly based on other people’s shock when I tell them that I have no knowledge of said films.

Without further ado…

  • Labyrinth (1986) – I attempted to watch this once, back in 2004. My then-fiance was completely perplexed that I hadn’t seen this movie.  He was a big science fiction geek who tried and tried to expand my horizons.  (He once gave me every Kurt Vonnegut book ever simply because I’d never–gasp–read anything from that guy).  I was actually trying really hard to watch the movie–even though I had a hunch I probably wouldn’t like it.  I’m not much of a science fiction/fantasy person, to be honest.  But it was weird, and there was David Bowie–and ooh, Jim Henson.  Yea…totally fell asleep ten minutes in.  Like dead to the world asleep.
  • ET – The Extra Terrestrial (1982) – This is another one my ex-fiance tried to get me to watch…that I tried to watch.  I passed out about 15 minutes in.  This one really took some doing to get me to agree.  I’ll admit–I avoided it on purpose my entire life simply because people said it was an Alma film.
  • Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977) – I think this is the one I get crap about the most.  I’ve had past boyfriends try to convince me to watch it, telling me all about the mythology (which does seem cool).  But I always refused.  I had to draw a line somewhere, and I just couldn’t go there.  I guess I am now a bit more curious about all the fuss.
  • Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – It just never occurred to me to willingly watch this movie.
  • Inception (2010) – Another movie that all my friends said was an “Alma” movie.  I just could never go there.
  • The Matrix (1999) – I once had a friend who would talk for hours about this movie, and I had no clue what they were even talking about.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Absolutely no excuse. They do midnight showings every weekend at the theater in my neighborhood.
  • The Godfather (1972) – I have absolutely no good reason for avoiding this one all my life.  I actually love a good mob flick.
  • Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – I actually think I’ll like this one.
  • Bull Durham (1988) – I adore Susan Sarandon, so I pretty much have to see this one.
  • Road House (1989) – For me, Patrick Swayze began and ended with Dirty Dancing.
  • Die Hard (1988) – I still have no clue why this is a Christmas movie.

There you have it.  Make fun of me.  Share awesome romantic comedies.  (I swear I’ve seen all the good ones, and everything else is just terrible).  I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

March #1: Get ready for greatness, Kerry. Say Anything

say anything

Say Anything (1989)

“I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.”

Lloyd Dobler, a bright, sweet underachiever loves Diane Court, class valedictorian. It writes itself, doesn’t it? She’s headed for a promising future and he’ll be lucky if he graduates. Opposites attract and they do sort of a modern Romeo and Juliet thing complete with dueling parents and Lloyd wedging a cross into the door of the high school gym at graduation. Or…they have a short romantic summer in which they learn to be open-minded about people and not take them at face value, then have a moving break-up scene and we see them at different colleges starting their lives apart. Be still, my heart. Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut could have skated by on a thin premise and the charisma of John Cusack, but the plot, characters, and acting chops of the entire cast lift Say Anything to a higher level of teen angst films.
First, the plot allows us to see Lloyd and Diane fall in love, but it also deals with their relationships with family and friends. It’s not all dates and necking and will they or won’t they. Diane has a dad and a job and a desire to step outside her academic life and see the world. Lloyd has military parents stationed overseas and a grown sister (real-life sister, Joan), her young son, and nagging doubts about his own future.
The characters and the actors who play them make this a denser film as well. John Mahoney, as Diane’s father never disappoints and his single-minded single dad gives a terrific performance as both Diane’s best friend and the first guy to let her down. He also has a wonderfully touching scene. He flirts with the attractive saleslady in a shop and asks her out as he acts the big man and places a large order. She tells him, awkwardly that his credit card has been declined. Embarrassed, Mahoney makes an excuse and leaves the store. The scene speaks to Mahoney’s character and part of the motivation for his misstep. Joan Cusack is solid, as usual. Lili Taylor has a nice smaller role as one of Lloyd’s close friends and has a great line. When Lloyd decides he won’t try to get back with Diane he says it’s “because I’m a guy. I have pride.” Lili says, “The world is full of guys. Be a man; don’t be a guy.” Eric Stoltz, Lois Chiles, Jeremy Piven, Chynna Phillips, Philip Baker Hall, and Bebe Neuwirth have small roles and the entire ensemble works together nicely.  Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson even appears as Lloyd’s martial arts coach.
Cameron Crowe wrote Say Anything’s screenplay and his dialogue has a natural sound to it. Nothing is forced and the story flows along nicely. The iconic scene with Lloyd holding the boombox over his head playing “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel has less impact in the film than I thought it would, but it carries more emotional weight for me now that I understand it in context.
Say Anything had fully formed characters, an interesting plot, and John Cusack.  It didn’t fit into the usual teen mold and had a less stylized ambiance than a John Hughes film. I enjoyed Say Anything and I’m glad Cinema Shame gave me a reason to see it.
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Barbarella…It was what I thought it was. And I was still surprised.

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Oh 1968. A great year in film that brought us 2 seminal science fiction pictures, Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey. However we forget there was a third.

Barbarella.

That mind shattering Science Fiction epic starring Academy Award winner Jane Fonda in a groundbreaking roll.

To answer your question, I did not use the incorrect word. I meant roll as in the opening credits that have Fonda rolling in zero-g as she removes her space suit.

As far as legitimate substance in the movie Fonda’s body is all you get. Which isn’t bad when you get a chance to see it. However you do have to go through portions of the actual movie to get there.

I know I’m being unfair, it was a bad movie that became a cult classic. I get that. For me however it just wasn’t fun to get through. Every movie doesn’t have to be The Godfather, but I do like to have fun. I’ve seen plenty of B Movies and love those as much as I love my classics.

One thing I will say about Barbarella. I don’t know what Fonda’s thoughts were while making the movie, but I don’t think for one second she phoned it in. Maybe that’s because of her bloodline or she legitimately had fun while making it. And if either one of those assessments are correct, then she certainly is one of our treasured acting gems.

Despite that I didn’t enjoy it I am glad that I have gotten this off my list of shame. It is a part of cinema lore and should be seen whether you like it or not.

This is pretty much all you need. Part of me wishes I could see Jane Fonda back in the 60s

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A Spur of the Moment Shame: Cape Fear

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I was fortunate to have had a day off today and took a moment to watch a movie on demand. I was searching for something old to watch and noticed that both versions of the thriller Cape Fear were on demand for free. I then realized that I had never seen either movie and so I figured this would be a great opportunity to add to my list. I then sat down and prepared myself to view the original 1962 version of the movie.

Based on the novel The Executioners by John D. McDonald, the film is about a lawyer Sam Bowden played by Gregory Peck, and his psychological standoff with criminal Max Cady, played by Robert Mitchum.

First I must say, I loved Peck’s performance in this. Perhaps even more than his Oscar winning role in To Kill A Mockingbird. He doesn’t come across as the all-out “good guy.” From the very beginning he is finding out out how to get Cady out of his life. He tries talking with his police chief friend portrayed by Martin Balsam (A nice little get-together of Hitchcock alum). He tries to have him investigated with a private eye (Telly Savalas). He hires thugs to beat him up and then resolves to kill him. I loved that the film did not have its main protagonist fall to old school hero tactics. This must have been a sign that the times were changing as Bowden does everything he can both within the law and outside of it to protect his family.

I also enjoyed Robet Mitchum as Max Cady. He presented to me one of the most despicable villains I have seen in a movie. That is unless when I see Scorsese’s version and De Niro’s take I find superior. I felt he was the worst kind of monster, one that knew the law and knew how to find a loophole to avoid trouble. Mitchum’s performance brings to mind Robert Walker as Bruno in Strangers on a Train. You could just sense the brutality he was capable of and the fear he instilled. It just seemed that you could never escape him.

As a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, this movie reminded me of him in so many ways. The biggest thing I can think of is the approach to the subject of rape. Cady is a rapist, although you do not hear that word directly, it is clear the type of predator he is. And he is not above the assault of a child either. Perhaps it was the film censors but this scenarios of this nature harken back to Psycho and the sexuality that was present in that film.

A tense and taut thriller, I was on the edge of my seat throughout. Alright that’s my clichéd film review speak for the day. But all in all I really enjoyed this. I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner and I can’t wait to watch the 1991 version.

Side note: Look out soon for my main shame for March, the Sci-Fi campy romp Barbarella

The Seeds of Cinema Shame

I meant to post an origin story (they’re all the rage after all) about the beginnings of Cinema Shame but the whole project took off before I could toss this out there. Better late-ish than never. Sometime in high school (1995-ish) when I became obsessed with haunting video stores, my parents bought me a book called THE ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY GUIDE TO THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE. It had just been published in 1994 and was the most up-to-date guide on movies I’d ever seen. The lists contained within were broken down by genre: Drama, Comedy, Action, Sci-Fi, Western, etc. It even contains an awesomely nostalgic time-capsule section on the best Laserdisc releases.

EW GUIDE TO THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE

Anyway, as I went through the book I marked the movies I’d seen and immediately set forth watching every movie counted off in the book. Suffice to say, twenty years later, dog-earned and falling apart at the binding, the book remains a constant around my TV. I’m still marking off movies I’m just seeing for the first time. A few months ago, I began wondering how I could encourage myself to tackle those films I hadn’t yet watched when the notion of crossing another movie off the list hadn’t yet compelled me. I’d tossed about the idea of live tweeting the movies but the rigors of #Bond_age_ made that impossible. Then when @campbelldropout offhand mentioned his 12-film list on Twitter, I had a EUREKA! moment and the ensuing conversation begat Cinema Shame.

In compiling my list of 12, I consulted the EW Guide for a few picks. I looked at the movies I already owned for some others. Perhaps the best aspect of this book is that the lists aren’t routine regurgitation. They contain some surprise entries among the hard-and-fast staples. This might be the result of it being compiled pre-Internet and free from widespread public ridicule. Whatever the reason for it’s longevity, this book has guided my movie watching for as long as I can remember, and I feel like I owed it this fleeting moment of fame.

A sample page from the Sci-Fi/Horror section.

A sample page from the Sci-Fi/Horror section.

Here’s a sampling of how the book ranks the most listed films by our Penitent Moviewatchers:

Drama

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No big shock. Kane takes the #1 spot in Drama.

Citizen Kane – #1 Drama
Gone With the Wind – #2 Drama
The Godfather / The Godfather: Part II – #3 Drama
Casablanca – #4 Drama
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – #11 Drama
Raging Bull – #22 Drama
It’s A Wonderful Life – #27 Drama
Taxi Driver – #35 Drama

Comedy, et al.

Maybe I love this book because it picked Airplane! as it's #1 Comedy.

Maybe I love this book because it picked Airplane! as it’s #1 Comedy. Nobody’s watching Airplane!, however. I do hope everyone’s seen it… ahem.

Dr. Strangelove – #11 Comedy

Enter the Dragon – #27 Action

The Wild Bunch – #9 Western
Rio Bravo – #12 Western

North By Northwest – #10 Mystery/Suspense

Psycho – #1 Sci-Fi/Horror
Close Encounters of the Third Kind – #4 Sci-Fi/Horror
2001 – #10 Sci-Fi/Horror
Blade Runner – #50 Sci-Fi/Horror
Dracula (1931) – #51 Sci-Fi/Horror

Singin’ in the Rain – #3 Musical

…the only thing I really don’t like is the way the book handles the “foreign” category… just an arbitrary grouping of everything that’s not in English…

The 400 Blows – #48 Foreign
Rashomon – #61 Foreign
La Dolce Vita – #71 Foreign
Breathless – #75 Foreign

The Apartment – #51 Laserdisc (Ha!)