oh. my. gosh. caroline: day four

caroline ought to open an amusement park. with the roller coaster ride she has provided me this week she could make millions. hello, and welcome to day four!

undoing all the goodwill for kid's movies generated yesterday, we start the day with thor freudenthal's diary of a wimpy kid (2010). on behalf of wimpy kids everywhere who are suffering by association with this movie, i hereby petition that they officially change the name of this franchise to diary of a self-serving little jerk. in a nutshell:

this kid is a jackass. smug, myopic, prone to self-martyrdom.

this kid is the heart and soul of the movie. if there were any justice in the world, the entire movie would be about him and the protagonist we are unfortunately saddled with would be reduced to the impotent villain of the piece whose only function is to stick around long enough to get his comeuppance.

and this kid is a goddamned hero, a national treasure. he is operating on an entirely different plane.

adapted from jeff kinney's monstrously (and now that i have seen this, i mean that in the most disturbing sense) popular series of kid's books, this thing gnaws at me. i haven't been this bothered by the implications of a kid's movie and what its popularity says about the culture at large in a long time. actually, considering that i don't see many kid's movies, maybe ever. the protagonist, greg heffley, is entering his first day of middle school. for 94 minutes we watch as he embarks on an all-consuming quest to be popular, every other concern be damned. he's like the tiniest reality television whore you've ever seen. he talks his sidekick into always doing the shitty/dangerous jobs, once breaking the kid's arm. when he realizes the broken arm means popularity and girls signing your cast, he gets angry that he is not getting credit for injuring his friend. he lies, cheats, steals, endangers smaller children, abandoning them in a rain-drenched construction site to save his own neck, sells out his best friend and constantly obsesses over making it into the yearbook. his self-interest obliterates all other considerations. he is constantly scheming to turn every little thing to his advantage even while demonstrating no appreciable skills or talents, relying on the triumphs of others who actually have it together for achieve a sort of secondhand glow. it's like eat pray love (2010) had a baby with jerry seinfeld or ben stiller. he does get his "redemptive moment" in the final reel but it's a complete sham, as he's less interested in saving his best friend from embarrassment and ruin than grandstanding. it's obvious he is remorseless and in the end all he's done is con his best friend into forgiving him. too little, too late, chump. i hope you parents who have children that enjoy these books are reading them also and discussing them with your kids. if this adaptation is accurate at all, they are getting some bad information. i know the older/smarter kids may pick up on the fact that he's a mini-douchebag, but younger, more impressionable kids may just think he's funny and cool. he's not. as if that's not enough, the movie's just not very good. i imagine it is wildly popular among kids who are going to grow up to watch a lot of sitcoms and be good consumers. avoid this one.

what's that? do i detect the stench of another tv movie wafting in on the breeze? i believe i do. it is hidden somewhere there in the mists of avalon (2001).

uli edel adapted marion zimmer bradley's novel for TNT, which nearly bankrupted ted turner when the bill for the fog machines came due. it is a recasting of the arthurian legends, delivering the story from the point of the view of the female characters. it's a brilliant idea, as we've heard the same old takes on this tale time and time again. the maternal politics involved are rife with dramatic possibilities. i have not read the source novel for this and, unfortunately, now i have no desire to. as i scanned the credits, trying to pinpoint who to blame for that, i noticed one glaring omission. i feel quite sure there was a special consultant called in whose name was not even mentioned. this is a crime, a travesty really, for you can see this man's influence all over this thing:

how do you get to avalon? there are two routes. the main one, apparently, is to go over the top. king arthur and the knights of the overwrought table. i haven't seen this much wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments since the old testament. almost every single line is delivered like it is the last one that actor is ever going to utter. the other way to get there seems to involve a lot of standing up in boats, in which the characters sail from one shoddy set to the next, as the filmmakers are about as familiar with production values as they are with restraint. drench all of it in fog, ladle a hearty serving of stonehenge-y music over the top and half-bake for over three hours and voila! i also give it a demerit for the most ineffectual arthur this side of dudley moore. i assume the casting decision was made so that he wouldn't overwhelm the story, as the focus was on the women of the legends, but king arthur needs to have gravitas. he should have a powerful and regal bearing, not the air (and wig) of a refugee from a third rate passion play. just bad all the way around. the next time i see the letters TNT i hope it's on whatever is being used to blow up large quantities of this dvd.

we close the show with allan moyle's empire records (1995).

i got next!

in case you haven't seen it (i hadn't), it's about that time the breakfast club (1985) worked at a record store that was in danger of being taken over by a corporate chain. i didn't necessarily dislike this movie as much as i simply don't respect it. it obviously wants to be a musical. it just doesn't have the balls to commit to that notion completely - the hyperactive choreography, the utter lack of anything moving the story forward except through musical interludes, the magical universe where you never have to stock a single cassette (!). come on, you gutless wonder! go all the way! i want a chorus line. i want gold lamé top hats and fishnet stockings. i want you to save the store by putting on a real show, not by having renée squintweger squeak at me while not knowing what to do with her hands from on top of your marquee. and oh, those quirky characters! what do you think lucas does when he isn't cultivating hidden depths? aren't the girls the most 90s version of demeter, persephone and hecate ever? how does mark get to work on time with so many shiny things between here and there? here's what happened in 1995: kids everywhere saw the coolest movie ever and for the next two weeks (in some cases a lot longer) started acting like their favorite empire records character. lots of mini-skirts and turtlenecks were purchased. there was some talk about going to art school in boston. some cryptic brooding was introduced to the mix. turbosluts everywhere realized there was an awesome name for what they were. and they all got jobs in record stores only to find it was nothing like that. you don't have confirm it. i know it. just tell me which one you were. oh, and when someone puts this on broadway, and they most certainly will, tell them they owe me a check.

what a day. it's never a good sign when you have to start things off with a no-account punk. tomorrow is another day.

or maybe it isn't.


  1. empire records on broadway really is a fantastic idea.

    i was the right age for it and, of course, dreamt desperately about someday working a record store (............, i know). i'll actually give it credit for introducing me to one of my favorite songs (that dire straits song romeo and juliet), and for allowing me to make "it's rex manning day" metaphors for the rest of my life. that said, i can certainly imagine that watching it as anyone other than a fifteen year old girl or someone reminiscing about being a fifteen year old girl is a pretty tedious exercise.

    i love these entries so much.

  2. Ahem, according to Wikipedia, Diary of a Wimpy Kid cost 15 Million to produce and market, and returned a gross of 75 Million. That is in rough figures, a quintupling, a five fold return on Mr. Murdoch's money. It boggles the mind.

    Yet another reason, I ♥ hate. Where'd Snowball go? The pig!

  3. I hate it when actors escape from passion plays and wander onto the sets of television movies. Go back to Arkansas!

    My favorite thing about Rex Manning is that he married Tabitha from Passions. It's a damn shame she wasn't cast as Gina.