day six begins with a double barreled blast of schmaltz with julie anne robinson's the last song (2010).
for those of you who don't work in bookstores, and therefore aren't surrounded by more copies of them than you can give away, nicholas sparks has built an empire on writing the same book over and over again: two american eagle outfitters customers fall in love, against all odds, one of them probably traveling from the other side of the tracks to do so. just when things are going well, tragedy strikes, usually in the form of cancer, cancer or cancer. about half the time they are standing in or near the ocean. rinse. repeat. for the last song apparently sparks turned out the script before he actually even finished the novel. i wonder if this new approach will inject a breath of fresh air into the proceedings and take sparks in bold new directions. let's see. here's the movie, in a nutshell: hannah montana is a troubled teen spending the summer with her estranged father in a coastal town. hanging out at the beach, she meets a nice-guy rich kid who courts her until he breaks through her gruff exterior. even though his parents don't approve, they spend all summer making out in or near the water. third act? her dad gets cancer. you can fill in the rest. on nicholas sparks' website it describes the novel as being "in the tradition of his beloved bestseller, a walk to remember". how do you have the nerve to refer to sucking from the same exploitative, manipulative teat until all it produces is dust as "tradition"? i notice that he describes his latest book, released about six weeks ago, as being about "two small-town former high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks". i haven't read it. i'm afraid it will give me cancer. the movie was awful, of course, unless your favorite thing to watch are films that look like extravagant massengil commercials. the only thing i was really prepared to compliment was the fact that miley cyrus and liam hemsworth seem to have genuine chemistry, as the bulk of the film is miley's weird, crooked face mashed against liam's big buffalo head. let's be honest, though. how hard can it really be to find two teenagers that want to bone each other in the summer vacation, all-bets-are-off atmosphere of a three month film shoot at the beach? way to shoot fish in a barrel, gang. meanwhile, keep throwing your money at sparks, you saps. if there's no incentive for him to do anything else, why shouldn't he carry on his grand "tradition"?
having now gotten through all the worst films of the week, i would like to point out, while we are in the coming-of-age section of the program, that kate's original list contained françois truffaut's the 400 blows (1959). netflix didn't have it available to stream and she didn't notice i owned it. this image from that fine film expresses how i feel about how that all worked out.
c'est la vie.
on we go, learning a few lessons from patrick read johnson's angus (1995).
this wasn't too bad, if a bit predictable. i've seen it done better but i've seen it done a lot worse. angus is on the verge of high school, a smart kid, decent football player, but insecure about his weight and awkward with girls. tormented by the attractive, popular quarterback and his henchmen, he is considering opting to attend a prestigious magnet school where he will fit in a lot better and not spend every day admiring the unattainable girl from afar. in angus' favor, he has grandpa george c. scott in his corner reminding him on a daily basis that if they don't like you then "screw 'em". i couldn't agree with grandpa more. eventually, angus takes it to heart and has his moment, learns that maybe the girl of his dreams isn't unattainable after all and delivers a speech at the big dance that makes it so that every disenfranchised, picked on, or even just plain normal kid can hold their head a little higher the next time they walk down the school hallway. it's pretty standard fare but its strength lies in the fact that nothing (except maybe how articulate angus' big speech is) is exaggerated. angus is smart, but not too smart. the villains aren't so cartoonish that they don't show a little bit of their own insecurities, which fuel their bullying. the best part of this film? these kids are actually working this stuff out as adolescents - when you're supposed to. if only everybody listened to angus we wouldn't be inundated with movies like this week's you again (2010) - just one example, but they are legion - where grown-ass adults live in abject fear of things like their high school reunions. take a page out of angus' book, screw 'em.
and, finally, like a fat, jolly zombie, santa rises again to feed on our holiday cheer with jeannot szwarc's santa claus: the movie (1985).
i swear to god, i watched this thing three times (a queue de grâce first) to try to make heads or tails of it. couldn't do it. it begins as a santa claus origin story and then, in the second half it splits time between chronicling the exploits of a less than charming street urchin and an ambitious elf unknowingly gone over to the dark side, assisting an evil toy manufacturer. what a botchjob this is. the performances range from dudley moore's bored elf to john lithgow eating scenery like it's so much peanut brittle to christian fitzpatrick as a thoroughly unappealing orphan. do you know how many kids must have auditioned for this? surely a number of the others didn't make you prefer that they stay homeless and destitute. much like every salkind family production, it hasn't exactly aged gracefully and it generally looks pretty terrible. at first i thought it was just a bad print but then i realized it probably looked just like this in 1985. at times it is so dark that it makes mccabe & mrs. miller (1971) look like days of heaven (1978), the special effects would have knocked you out of your chair in 1945 and santa's workshop looks like you and i made it over the weekend. the first half is at least minimally interesting (note, i am not saying clever) in the way they work in tidbits of santa's mythology while trying to keep the story moving. once it gets to the second half, though, and santa is out of the picture a lot of the time, you quickly realize that you just don't care about anything or anyone on the screen. there is a small handful of films that are universally held examples of films that broke hollywood/destroyed studios, et cetera. they almost all have a certain look and feel to them - a sort of incompleteness, a cheapness, a general missing of the mark. though, historically, this isn't one of those, it bears all the hallmarks. it seems dashed off and conflicted, like every element of the production was constantly being reconsidered at each step of the filming and editing processes. it is utterly baffling, not charming, even as kitsch, and is not the least bit entertaining. one more time this week, christmas loses.
home stretch now, gang. check in tomorrow for the showstopper.
you, me, dolly and a six million dollar santa.