Hidden Netflix Gems – Earth Girls Are Easy

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

In an oddball blend of ’50s science fiction classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still, combined with much stronger elements of beach musicals and screwball comedy, director Julien Temple‘s Earth Girls Are Easy explores interplanetary sexual politics with a light and infectiously fun touch. This is one of those ’80s movies, much like The Lost Boys, that is objectively silly and perhaps unimportant to the history of cinema, but is nonetheless one of my favorite movies of all time.

Valerie (Geena Davis) is a sort of ditzy manicurist who works at beauty parlor in San Fernando Valley with her gloriously superficial and oversexed friend Candy (co-writer Julie Brown). After discovering her physician fiancée, Ted (Charles Rocket), attempting to cheat on her with a nurse he brings home, she kicks him out and wrecks most of his belongings in a musical montage of destruction and bittersweet flashbacks of the better times they spent together. Of all the film’s musical numbers, this is the weakest, but still great visual fun and prime ’80s nostalgia, as when Valerie shoves a box of Ted’s cigars into the VCR, or when she sends a bowling ball crashing into his Commodore 64 computer. As if her relationship troubles aren’t bad enough, the next morning a spaceship full of furry, horny aliens lands in her pool, and Valerie has to figure out how to keep them secret until they can fix their flooded ship and head back to their home planet.

The aliens are Mac (Jeff Goldblum), Zeebo (Damon Wayans) and Wiploc (Jim Carrey), and of course the solution to the problem of how to hide their alien identity is a makeover. Candy assists, removing the aliens’ colorful fur and revealing “three major cute guys” underneath. Valerie falls for Mac in particular, becoming enamored with his innocent, childlike ways, a result of the culture clash experienced by all three aliens, which is a major source of the film’s comedy. In perhaps the funniest scene in the movie, Zeebo and Wiploc, en route to a beach trip with Valerie’s aging surfer pool cleaner, Woody (Michael McKean), take his suggestion that they pick up “bread and junk” for sandwiches very literally. Brandishing a realistic toy gun accidentally stolen from a child earlier, they tell the frightened cashier, “Give us bread. We need junk.”

Though Earth Girls Are Easy could fairly be labeled predictable and certainly inconsequential, it has an undeniable charm, and only the severely humor-deficient will be unable to find something to like about it. For whatever reason, this movie is actually something of an addiction for me, a film I have to rewatch at least once a year or so in order to feel that all is right with the universe, to remind me that even with all the problems of the planet earth, at least its female humans don’t play too hard to get.

  

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RIP Patricia Neal

Patricia Neal circa 1963One of the finest, most beautiful and purely believable of film actresses has past on at age 84 of lung cancer. She had survived numerous personal tragedies and hardships including the loss of a child, a horrifying accident involving another, a beyond problematic marriage to author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, etc.) and multiple strokes suffered when she was only 39 years old and pregnant.  Despite all of it, she has been consistently outstanding in numerous films and television shows, including three classics that likely wouldn’t have been classics without her, so much depth and believability did she bring to her roles in the “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “A Face in the Crowd,” and “Hud.”

You could reach much more about her amazing life and her even more amazing skill as an actress via two first-rate remembrances by The Self Styled Siren and Sheila O’Malley, and I really think you should. In the meantime, her’s an example of what I think is probably her finest portrayal, from “Hud,” made only about a year after the death of her daughter. For some reason, her three greatest roles have her being involved in some way with men who were just no good, and this is the most vivid example. Her scene starts at about 5:00 or so.

Mubi has a lot more. Joe Leydon, in particular, is worth a read.

  

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Movie moment for an alien nation #1

With “District 9” likely to be one of the most important films released this year, as well as a healthy moneymaker, I thought I’d do a few movie moments reminding us that Neill Blomkamp’s film is hardly the first politically charged movie about resident aliens. Actually, they all are, it’s just that some are more upfront than others.

I’ll start with the trailer for probably my favorite science fiction film, ever. It’s also the first movie I know of about an alien that openly addressed politics.

For more, check out my review of the DVD of 1951’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” which was put out last year to coincide with the release of the 2008 remake.

  

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