jon: day two

"you're maudlin and full of self pity. you're magnificent."

and with that sentiment from all about eve (1950) as our jumping off point, day two begins our magical glimpse behind the curtain of this business we call show. you didn't seriously think i was going to suffer this indignity by myself? ladies and gentlemen, for your approval, the star of larry peerce's hard to hold (1984), rick springfield. feast your eyes, folks. i had to, as what you see there made no less than three separate appearances in this film. i am completely dumbfounded by this one. check me on this, but i thought the object of a vanity project was to make you look good. this is one of the most sub-television pieces of crap i have ever seen. as near as i can put together, the plot goes something like this: rick springfield is a bigtime rock star. he smashes into a girl's car and it's love at first sight, for him. he stalks her. her dad is a drunken longshoreman who may or may not have died some time during the movie. rick's band is populated by fat nerds from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and billy mumy from lost in space. his songwriting partner is his ex-wife, i think, who brandishes broken bottles at people. rick and the girl wander around san francisco falling in love to varying degrees. rick wears a sailor suit once. if it sounds disjointed that's because it is. i have never, and i mean never, seen a movie where it made less of a difference in what order the scenes occur. it's like a choose your own adventure in which, regardless of the page you turn to, you end up stuck in a synth-driven spider web, waiting to be consumed by rick springfield's bare ass. it's filled with scenes of rick and his girl inexplicably running from one meaningless, awkward scene to the next, him regularly pumping his fist in the air, celebrating some victory that exists only in his mind. every camera angle is the least flattering one you could have chosen. it's clumsy, stupid, not sexy and exists solely to sell us rick's hit single, which is the finale of the film. in case you missed it, they replay the exact same hit single forty-five seconds later, under the closing credits, during which they show a condensed version of the movie all over again in three minutes. it's a horror show. how would you like to open your window to find you're being serenaded by this gangly oaf and a tony bennett impersonator straight out of david lynch's worst nightmares?

queue de grĂ¢ce is always a cornucopia of new experiences for me. i never thought i would ever be embarrassed for rick springfield and yet, here we are. it probably didn't help rick's cause that another musical vanity project came along a month later and kicked the living shit out of his.

sorry, rick. bad timing, buddy. also, next time you might want to leave the running gag about you having herpes out of your musical romantic comedy.

i wish joe jackson had gotten to make an early eighties musical vanity project movie.

from there we move into the most pleasant surprise of my day, bob fosse's all that jazz (1979).

i thoroughly enjoyed this. it's fosse having the last laugh way ahead of everyone else in the form of a hallucinatory, semi-autobiographical musical that is about as obsessed with death, the little and the large, as any picture this side of ingmar bergman. the damn thing is fascinating. roy scheider is a great, and far from obvious, choice to be fosse's surrogate in the film and it's pretty riveting to watch him push relentlessly through the days, the work and the sexual conquests, consuming little more than alka-seltzer, dexedrine and cigarettes. he's a completely unrepentant bastard whose lack of acknowledgment of boundaries jeopardizes every one of his relationships, enables him to create intricate works of mesmerizing art out of the human form and eventually kills him with a smile on his face. there are no limits. he even, literally, flirts with death. the fosse behind the camera is just as self-indulgent as the one on the screen, creating his own myth, eulogizing himself before someone less talented and less consumed by genius botches the job. he moves - sometimes fluidly, sometimes jarringly, always effectively - between past, present and fantasy and has the nerve to show you just how he gets away with it all. he just dares to. i am an avowed non-fan of most musical theatre, but even i can recognize unparalleled skill when i see it. the central segment where he transforms a banal song and dance into an erotically overcharged production number is simply astounding. not bad for a genuine son of a bitch. a lot of folks refer to this as fosse's 8½ (1963), but i think that's pushing it a bit. he's still no fellini. call it 6¼. thanks, jon. i might never have seen this otherwise. i'm glad i did.

can't say the same about this.

when i saw baz luhrmann's moulin rouge! (2001) on the list, i wasn't exactly thrilled. i enjoyed the scrappy upstart-ness of his strictly ballroom (1992) somewhat, but haven't really been a fan of anything since. the story here is unremarkable, kind of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink melodrama. boy meets girl, they fall madly in love against the odds, girl gets tuberculosis and dies. did nicholas sparks have a story credit somewhere that i missed? when you're this short on substance, you make up the difference with style, i guess. it definitely has style, it's just a shame it's not exactly stylish. it reads more like an infernal, candy-colored video game, as if i were playing a version of myst where they replaced the puzzles with medleys and mashups. just once, i wish redefining something for a generation - in this case, the musical - meant slowing it down and being more thoughtful about it. it shouldn't always have to equate to cramming in as much sensory overload as your imagination can conceive and cranking it up as fast and as loud as it will go. lacking story as it did, it really only needed to be about fifteen minutes long to get its point across. it would make an exceptional long-form music video. but, since it's over two hours long, you get a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. too often, it confuses being frantic with being funny, so john leguizamo probably felt right at home. in his defense, luhrmann can be awfully adept at weaving something new out of a lifetime of pop culture touchstones. from looney tunes to nirvana, and all points in between, he crafted something unique and never derivative. for his opposite number, i refer you to pastiche artist quentin tarantino. i give luhrmann credit for being bold, but i think i would rather talk to him about movies than watch one he made. next!

ending up the day we have michael hoffman's somewhat disappointing soapdish (1991). you had me at elisabeth shue. then you lost me. i had high hopes for this one. a nice ensemble comedy, perhaps? an interesting new take on the screwball tradition? andrew bergman, the man responsible for one of the funniest films i have ever seen, the in-laws (1979), wrote it, so it had pedigree on its side. it just didn't work out that way. it follows the machinations of the characters on a fictional daytime drama, both offscreen and on, and you would think that scenario is a potential comic goldmine. in fact, i still think so, as its potential remains untapped. there are a couple of amusing bits of business here and there but i think, for me, it lacked bite. this could, and should, have been savagely funny but wound up far too polite. kevin kline, as often happens in light comedy from this time period, is the real standout but even he isn't given much to do. oh well, as consolation - mostly to myself - here is another glimpse of elisabeth shue.

join me again tomorrow to see what surprises jon has in store for us. rumor has it, there's an underrated gem somewhere on the horizon.


  1. That Hard to Hold review should be engraved in gold.

  2. it's like a choose your own adventure in which, regardless of the page you turn to, you end up stuck in a synth-driven spider web, waiting to be consumed by rick springfield's bare ass.

    What a great line.

    I love it when a movie's so bad it can inspire genius on the part of the person creatively basing it :)