This week, most of whatever suspense there was was not at all about which movie will be #1 or, as it turns out, #2 (not quite a 100% sure thing earlier). It had to do with what actually matters when the show business rubber meets the audience road: how much cash did the movies generate from the summer’s biggest holiday weekend but amid gloomy news and gloomier punditry regarding the economy? The answer seems to be what Joel McCrea learned at the end of “Sullivan’s Travels,” people in dire straights need entertainment and fantasy more, not less. I only wish they were getting something as thoughtful as “Ants in Your Plants of 1939.”
Over the three day Friday-Sunday weekend, Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” earned an estimated $69 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart. For the broader and potentially confusing numbers covering the extended movie weekends for the two new major new releases this week, I’ll rely on Anne Thompson’s pal Anthony D’Alessandro. He tells us “Eclipse” earned an estimated $175 million and change, just a few million bucks below the similar six-day frame of 2004’s “Spiderman 2,” though not adjusted for ongoing movie-ticket inflation.
This is the point in the series ordinarily where some might wonder if interest is starting to flag, but this is a long-running movie/book soap opera and a continuing tale similar to the Harry Potter in terms of fan interest/involvement. Also, this entry overall got significantly better reviews than the second film in the series, which might indicate the film itself is more boyfriend friendly for this very female-driven franchise.
It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud at something a person says. Witty is one thing, but genuinely funny is another beast altogether. And when I say laugh out loud, I’m talking about involuntary spasms of laughter, the kind that take a couple of minutes to subside. There is no formula for it, and I have no criteria for what form it takes. I just know it when it see it. Unfortunately, I don’t see it often enough. Sometimes they appear in otherwise unfunny movies, at which point I usually get angry, but that’s a subject for another day.
In the first of a long list of decade-oriented blog posts about the movies of the 2000s, here are the lines that made me laugh the hardest at the Googoplex. Be advised, potential SPOILERS abound here, so I don’t want to hear that I ruined such and such movie for you. What are your favorite lines? Let’s hear ’em in the comment section.
#10: Up – Somebody always loves you
This is more of a laughter-through-tears kind of thing, but it’s my list, my rules, so it counts. Pete Docter goes straight for the heart in this movie, almost mercilessly so. The “married life” sequence makes me cry like a little girl every time I watch it, and this scene, where the loyal Dug comes to comfort Carl, is quite possibly the “Awwwwwww” moment of the decade.
#9. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story – Peter La Fleur learns just how small his problems really are
Next time you think about quitting something, anything, remember this exchange between the defeated gym owner Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) and cyclist Lance Armstrong:
Lance Armstrong: Could I get a bottle of water. (Looks to his left) Hey, aren’t you Peter La Fleur? Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong! Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that’s me. But I’m a big fan of yours. Peter La Fleur: Really? Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late. Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit… Lance. Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals? Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like… shame. Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you, Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.
#8. The Simpsons Movie – Albert Brooks loses his mind
Albert Brooks is the fifth Beatle of the “Simpsons” writing staff. The writers love him, and he loves the show. No guest performer has played more characters – the RV salesman, Brad Goodman, Jaques the bowler, the megalomaniacal Hank Scorpio – but his role as the power-mad director of the EPA vaults “The Simpsons Movie” to another level. The scene where he tricks President Arnold Schwarzenegger into doing his evil bidding is the better overall scene, but as single lines go, my favorite is when he’s confronted with his thirst for power. As Fat Tony once said, it’s funny because it’s true.
EPA Officer: Sir, I’m afraid you’ve gone mad with power Russ Cargill: Well, of course I have. You ever tried going mad without power? It’s boring, no one listens to you.
#7. Zombieland – Woody Harrelson settles a debate the old fashioned way: by threatening an ass kicking
With apologies to when Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) tells Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) that he’s “like a giant cock blocking robot, like developed in a secret fucking government lab,” my favorite bit is this sly moment where Columbus tells Tallahassee that he’s heard there’s a place where there are no zombies, at which point Tallahassee assures him that such a place doesn’t exist.
Tallahassee: You know, you’re like a penguin on the North Pole hears the South Pole’s really nice this time of year. Columbus: There are no penguins on the North Pole. Tallahasee: (pause) You wanna feel how hard I can punch?
#6. Burn After Reading – Tilda Swinton forcefully illustrates that thing she…doesn’t do
She won the Oscar for “Michael Clayton” – which, in my mind, was a totally unwarranted example of the Hollywood welfare system at work – but this is bar none my favorite Tilda Swinton performance to date. As Katie Cox, Swinton is the coldest, most humorless succubus of a human being that you’ll find. (Even better, she’s a pediatrician.) Why George Clooney’s character Harry would choose her for an ongoing affair over the other women he beds during the movie is a mystery, but their relationship does produce the movie’s funniest moment, when Katie discusses destroying her husband while Harry suggests playing it cool and not hammering him while he’s down. “Is that how you see me? Hammering him?” The rest speaks for itself.
#5. Get Smart: Driving range car crash
All hail Alan Arkin. No one else could have made this line as funny as he does.
#4. 1408 – John Cusack speaks a universal truth
Mike Enslin (Cusack), a man who writes about supposedly haunted locations, wants to check into room 1408 at New York’s Dolphin Hotel. Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to talk him out of it during a meeting in his office.
Gerald Olin: You do drink, don’t you? Mike Enslin: Of course! I just said I was a writer.
Saw this at a critics-only screening. Big, big laughter followed that exchange.
#3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – Billy Mitchell equates himself with one of the most hotly contested issues in our nation’s history
Arguably the greatest movie villain the ‘00s had to offer – even more terrifying when you take into account that he’s real – video game wizard and restaurant magnate Billy Mitchell is awesome. Just ask him, and he’ll tell you. Hell, you don’t even have to ask him. He lays it all out on the table in this one line:
No matter what I say, it draws controversy. It’s sort of like the abortion issue.
That’s right, people, he compared himself, and his status within the video game community, to Roe vs. Wade. To be that fond of yourself, yet be completely lacking in self-awareness or tact, that is a gift. A gift wrapped in a denim shirt and a feathered mullet. Thank you, God.
#2. Finding Nemo – The seagulls
It’s one of those head-slappers of a commentary. But of course that’s what seagulls are saying when they crow. What else could it be? It’s not as if they’re picky about what they eat or anything. Even better is the line from the pelican Nigel (Geoffrey Rush), where he calls them “rats with wings.” Even the animal kingdom hates seagulls.
#1. Sex Drive – Andy and Randy hitting on the church girl
It made about a buck and change at the box office, but “Sex Drive” is without a doubt my favorite comedy of the decade. I could have made a list of nothing but quotes from this movie alone, but if I have to choose one, it’s unquestionably the scene where Lance (Clark Duke) has his shy friend Ian (Josh Zuckerman) observe the seduction technique of classmates Andy and Randy, in order to convey the message that confidence is a powerful aphrodisiac. That it doesn’t work on our little donation-soliciting friend only makes the exchange funnier. Imagine what Andy and Randy will be able to accomplish once they learn how to close.
I’m in the midst of a crazy day that for me that will include a screening tonight and then a quick jaunt across the street over to the New Beverly, which is in the midst of Dante’s Inferno, to catch a movie I’ve literally been trying to see for decades. It’s 1967’s “The President’s Analyst,” a political-thriller/spy comedy satire, which is basically three or four of my favorite genres all mushed up together. Writer-director Theodore J. Flicker went on to create “Barney Miller,” so there’s that, too. Sadly, I’ll miss the even more obscure first feature which I featured here just a couple of weeks back, “Cold Turkey.”
Anyhow, I shall be brief, or not. Starting now, anyway:
* It looks like there may be yet one more “last Kubrick movie” to come and it’ll be a Holocaust-themed drama to be directed by Ang Lee. Something tells me we’re looking at a Fall or Winter release here.
* Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” is attracting strong studio interest, not surprisingly. And I can still remember a time when they’d have to put a picture of a donkey on the film poster in order to get away with that title.
* Some of the best, or at least most interesting, news I’ve heard in a while regarding the film business is the announcement, as reported by Indiewire‘s Eugene Hernandez, of the formation of DF Indie Studios. Presumably named for the project’s two chief executives, Mary Dickinson and Charlene Fisher, the group’s press release says the company plans to release 10-12 “multi-genre” films annually with a budget of $10 million or less. The group’s slogan is “Indie Style – Studio Dependability,” which I think a lot of filmmakers might describe as something like heaven on earth, relatively speaking. Among the big names who’ve become publicly involved with the project are indie mainstay producer Ted Hope, whose associated with most of Ang Lee’s films, among many others, and “Michael Clayton” Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (also “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and numerous indie productions you’ve never heard of).
Personally, I think most mainstream films are way too costly, and I’d like to see a variation of this idea applied to all kinds of films, not just traditional indie subject matter. So, I like the idea that they say they’ll be doing “multi-genre” films that will be, of course, “commercially viable.” (They still need investors.) Personally, I’m hoping that they take a fairly loose approach and include a bit of the old wild and wooly Roger Corman ethos alongside more refined productions. If they’re a success, maybe the big studios might want to copy them. They copy everything successful.
* This simply stinks. Whoever’s responsible for releasing the material (which I haven’t seen and absolutely won’t be linking to) should be ashamed. As for those who’ve raised moral/health objections, I ask: Would we critize straight show business types and call for the sexual responsibility police like this? All around very not cool.
I’m perhaps a little extra mad about this because back in 2003 I interviewed Dustin Lance Black for this way-geeky piece. (It’s got a very long set-up, explaining my personal connection to the very good documentary Dustin had just finished at the time, the actual interviews starts here.) The guy couldn’t have been nicer or more unassuming, we had a great talk, and I’ve been rooting for his success ever since. (He even mentioned to me, post interview that he was starting work on a script about Harvey Milk, to which I said sagely, “good idea.” Now, I ask: Where’s my profit participation?!) He does not deserve this.
On the other hand, when was the last time anyone was interested in a writer’s sex life?
There are times when we swear that “Entertainment Weekly” has either bugged our office or is tapping into our conference calls. Numerous pieces of ours wind up on their pages at almost the exact same time, be it a list of the best sequels, cinematic stoners, or our long-gestating piece on the Bullz-Eye Fantasy Band Draft, which will drop later this year. They’ve even named their hot/not meter “The Bullseye.” Hmmm.
And sure enough, they scooped us once again, when they put the top awards from various Academy Awards results to a new vote, to see how the current Academy would fix the previous generation’s “mistakes.” We’ve been throwing that idea around for over a year, and just when we begin to put pen to paper: boom! — they beat us to the punch. We’re not at all surprised that they saw the appeal in such a topic; every year there is at least one head-scratching moment, one that usually owes more to awarding a long-overdue actor for their overall body of work than for the performance at hand (ahem, Al Pacino, “Scent of a Woman”). Enter Bullz-Eye, Mighty Mouse-style, to save the day and make sure justice is served. We’ve examined recent Academy Award winners and their competitors, and we found a few, um, irregularities. Revisionist history begins now.
Elaine Benes summed up our feelings for “The English Patient” as well as anyone. Actually, that’s a tad unfair; we didn’t think “Patient” was awful, just long and, in the end, anti-climactic. Without Juliette Binoche carrying her co-stars from start to finish (her Oscar, unlike this one, was well deserved), we wonder if “Patient” would have received half the praise that it did. Then there’s “Fargo,” which featured invaluable contributions from its leads, the supporting cast, and even the characters who were only in a scene or two (Marge Gunderson’s Japanese high school classmate had us in tears). It’s funny, shocking, coy, and best of all, normal, an expertly crafted movie all the way around. Guess the Academy wasn’t quite ready for the Coen brothers yet.
To be fair, this one isn’t a staff pick; it’s mine and mine alone. My colleague Jason Zingale loved “Crash,” as did most people. I, however, loathed it like no movie I’ve seen since “Shrek.” The manner in which people would instantly spew the most hateful, ignorant nonsense in scene after scene was just unbearable, and I wanted to throttle Sandra Bullock’s ridiculously underwritten shrew of a character. Granted, “Brokeback Mountain” is not a perfect movie by any stretch, but I’ll take it over “Crash” any day of the week and twice on Sunday for the sheer fact that it didn’t try to beat me into a coma about what a racist pig I am. Fuck you, Paul Haggis.