My limbs have begun to feel strangely limp, and my head is spinning a little. I’ve been here for 9 hours. I’m out of food, so I give in and buy a hot dog and popcorn. It doesn’t help. It’s still light outside. I’d like to be weeding my garden right now. I put on my hat and sweater, but can’t be bothered to even go into the bathroom to do it. Approaching the theater for another movie, I feel like I’m at the carnival and going in for my fifth piece of fried dough. I assume there’s some mental equivalent of puking in the parking lot in store for me.
The Karate Kid
This is another 1980s classic I love but don’t feel all that attached to. The problem for me is Jaden Smith, who everyone seems eager to like. He’s fine in the role, but comes across as a child with an excess of self-regard more than an excess of talent. In a child actor, I think you can confuse the two. I’ve already begun pre-hating his adult obnoxiousness, if only because of his childhood wardrobe (see left).
The strange choice here, to me, is moving the action to China. Karate, as the film acknowledges, isn’t really Chinese, and what li’l Will learns is Kung Fu. I assume they abandoned the Southern California of the original to add sightseeing appeal. But isn’t Japan, you know, kind of neat-looking, too? Couldn’t they have just gone there and had the same fish-out-of-water story? Whatever the reason for the change (ahhhhhfocusgroupchoooo!), it has some inadvertent consequences. Japanese culture looks very different in LA than Chinese culture looks in China, and what we lose is the thrill in the original that in Mr. Miyagi, Daniel (here the character is named Dre, a white screenwriter’s idea of what a black kid from Detroit should be named) was coming to a deeper understanding of something he thought he knew already, but really only knew in a superficial, self-aggrandizing way. In so doing Danial was, you know, growing, which is of course the essence of any story. Here, all Dre discovers is that old Hollywood truism: That other all other cultures are magical and pure, and that Americans are lazy and self-indulgent.
Trailers: Flipped, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Food: Hotdog, popcorn—shit, I forgot to refill my Nalgene, so after consuming eleventy billion grams of sodium I have to sit through this bloated thing with nothing to drink.
I feel better physically, sitting back on my bench, just tired. But my brain isn’t working. Thinking is generally a sort of stream, but now everything’s fragments. Above this bench is a pattern of lights arranged in a swirling design and strobing in a pattern I can’t quite make out. I think about criticism. I can watch a movie like, say, I Am Love, which I saw the day before, and notice things. Watch that movie and see what they’re doing with water. It’s interesting. But aside from me, who cares? A film can have personal relevance based on an individual viewer’s experiences or emotional state. But is there any relevance beyond the personal? In the A-Team, the guy next to me, every time Murdock said something crazy or Face offered a good quip, would buck and rock in his chair and howl with laughter and pound his hands together like a fat, retarded seal. Now that is personal relevance. For him, the A-Team will be well-remembered and meaningful. What else matters?
One film to go. Screw the hat and sweater.
Why do they keep pairing Marisa Tomei with such epically unattractive men? Think about this: Mickey Rourke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joe Pesci, and the entire cast of Wild Hogs. This is just a partial list. And now, John C. Reilly. I love John C. Reilly, but he is, as they say, uglier than a hatful of assholes. In Cyrus, he compares himself to Shrek, and when he says it you can only think, “Hahaha—actually, yeah.” Is it possible that Hollywood casting agents look at Tomei and, because she doesn’t have giant fake breasts, isn’t blond and wasn’t born during the first Clinton administration, fail to realize she’s a complete fox?
Cyrus is a fine little movie, but I can’t help feel they wasted something here. First, you have a masterful, perfectly cast group of actors. John C. Reilly’s everyman guilelessness is a perfect match for Jonah Hill’s lumbering, off-kilter deviousness, and Tomei’s adult sweetness assures that however quickly Reilly’s face could turn you to stone, their relationship still feels plausible. The story, too, is full of rich, dark humor and promising undercurrents. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that in the third act there’s a shift from black comedy to earnestness that not only doesn’t quite work, but almost feels like a broken promise.
Trailers: Get Low, Middle Men, Inception, Conviction
Food: None. Thinking about purging.
7/11/10, 12:05 a.m.
I make my way out of the theater, now almost empty. A woman in a green dress darts across my path, from the ladies room back into the 10:35 showing of Grown Ups. I hope she hasn’t lost the plot. A clutch of teenagers is gathered around the claw machine, whispering and looking around guiltily. A chubby theater employee shuffles down the main hall, dragging a bag of trash behind him. His head is hung, he has a squawking walkie-talkie on his belt, and his black T-shirt reads, “Eat, Pray, Love. Let yourself go August 13th.” On my way down the escalator, I make a note to tally some numbers when my brain has recovered (math right now is out of the questions). They up end up looking like this: 1) If I’d paid for all these movies, it would have cost me $75.90 (sorry, declining film exhibition business), 2) I was at the theater for about 14 hours, 3) I saw a little over 12 hours of movie and trailers.
So was this, after all, a good idea? I’d never do this with movies that actually interested me, but there was a certain gung-ho abandon that made it all fun. And hey, I found a feminist subtext in a movie starring Quinton Jackson. That’s worth something, right?
I go home to sleep it off. Tomorrow, only books.[Image of popcorn & soda courtesy of Scypax Pictures. Portrait of Larry Fahey by Jon Adams. Photo of Despicable Me advertising by Kara Brugman. All other images are from publicity materials.]