Stupid Tuesday questions, Groundhog Day edition

Imagine you are casting a movie.

You are, as it happens, a British casting director.  And the movie you are casting is a romantic comedy about four friends, one of whom falls in love with an American woman.  You settle on your British actors without much trouble, choosing as your lead a handsome, floppy-haired man named Hugh Grant.  And then you pick your American love interest.

If you are the real casting director of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” you make one of the most epically bad calls in filmdom.  Because the actress you choose to play the woman for whom Hugh Grants falls is Andie MacDowell, a performer with all the dramatic talent of a blue spruce.  In so doing, you totally ruin the movie.four_weddings_and_a_funeral_andie_macdowell

You see, midway through the movie we learn that another member of the British foursome is herself in love with Hugh Grant’s character.  (I realize this is technically a spoiler of sorts, but that movie came out in the 1990s, which in pop culture terms means around about the Pleistocene.)  That character is played by Kristen Scott Thomas, an actress who is not only astoundingly gorgeous but also has more charisma in her elegantly manicured little finger than Andie MacDowell has from stem to stern.  And we are meant to watch with sympathetic interest as Mr. Grant chooses the latter instead.

A character who coughs up some of the worst romantic dialogue in cinema history, at least until Hayden Christensen showed up to vie for the title. That’s who Hugh Grant chooses.

To which I reply, “No.”  No.  I refuse to care about that character’s happiness by the end of the movie.  That character is a moron.  Yeah, yeah.  Le cœur a ses raisons blah blah blah.  No.  If your cœur has raisons that lead you to make that decision, then your raisons are full of merde and I’m out.  Not only does Andie MacDowell’s performance louse up all the scenes she’s in, it louses up the whole movie, which would otherwise be a pretty decent romcom.

So that’s this week’s Question — what single aspect or attribute fatally flaws an otherwise good end-product?  What solitary substitution would you make or have made that would have rescued a movie or performance or event or whatever from the doom that befell it?  God help me, in the interest of fairness I will even accept answers like “If only [coach] had put in [player] to make [play] during [sporting event], [team] would have won and the universe would be a happier place.”

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153 thoughts on “Stupid Tuesday questions, Groundhog Day edition

  1. The plot of Knowing. I was watching it (The ex wanted to see it) and it was starting to get interesting, what with the realization that the (SPOILERS) list of numbers was a historical/future list of accidents.

    Was it God telling a few worthy people a warning?
    Was the universe really this precise?
    Lot’s of extistential questions to ask.

    No, it was frickin ALIENS. Jesus, what a crappy plot. It had…potential

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      • I saw a movie, straight to DVD I think, or at least limited release, with Cage and Cusack about a serial killer in Alaska in the 80s. Cage was really pretty good, and Cusack was remarkably creepy. It’s not a very good movie, but their acting was spot on. Frozen Ground, I think it was called.

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      • Russell,

        I think some actors learn that they can just make a very easy living playing variants of the same guy over and over again.

        All of these actors (and they tend to be men), were really serious actors once upon a time. Sometimes they still are. They usually have very bro-dude followings for their roles. Robert De Niro is in this category (who has more or less been doing variations of Young Corleone and Travis Bickle for decades) with some exceptions. Also Al Pacino (a combo of Scarface and Scent of the Woman).

        This might be partially type-casting but I think it is also an easy paycheck.

        I find it interesting and revealing that it is largely a kind of bro-dude fandom that allows certain actors to do this.

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      • Jack Nicholson. That man’s career spans decades, during which time he played pretty much the exact. same. character. He won an Oscar for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and somehow won two more for minor variations on the same performance.

        Does he play that character well? Sure, yeah, fine. But the man has no range.

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      • At least in male actors, range may work against wide recognition for their skills. Think of someone like Don Cheadle – he is SO good, at first I sometimes don’t recognize him from part to part.

        That’s good ACTING; but it works against star recognition.

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      • Adam Carolla has his “pass the hat” theory with Nic Cage. There is no doubt that Nic Cage does, or at least did, possess real talent. Yet he has done so many shitty films which were so obviously just cash grabs, that we’ve missed out on what he could have offered. So, rather than shell out money to be disappointed by yet another shitty Nic Cage movie, every few years we should just pass the hat, everyone throws in a few bucks, and we hand it off to Nic. That way, he doesn’t have to do shitty movies for a paycheck. I’d gladly play $5 a year if it meant he turned out one good film every 3 years rather than a shitty one each and every year.

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      • I am convinced that Nicholas Cage is under some sort of magic curse. He built his house over the an ancient Hollywood-producer burial ground or something.

        I mean, he’s not the greatest actor in the world, but he can indeed act to some extent. And usually the reason the movie is bad has very little to do with him. In the movies he himself is bad in, it usually looks like bad _direction_ to me instead of bad acting, or sometimes just stupid casting.

        Why can’t he find some sort of moderately good movie to be in?

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      • I once heard some boneheads on the radio talk about how bad an actor Dustin Hoffman was because they didn’t even know it was him in “Hook”.

        Yikes. The actor I always think of for that little trick is Gary Oldman. It took forever for me to even figure out what the man actually looks and sounds like in real life. He’s the “Where’s Waldo” of movies.

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      • Ditto, T-Frog. I’m always amazed at how far into a movie I get before I realize it’s Oldman. As a consequence, he’s my favorite actor. A guy like Harrison Ford is tremendously talented, but each time I see him on film I immediately recognize him, which makes it harder to believe in the character.

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      • I should make clear that “Con Air” is a decidedly terrible movie, but in a remarkably fantastic way.

        “The Rock” is slightly less terrible, though the nine hour running time detracts from the finished product.

        Both are movies I have subjected Zazzy to. The other one I insisted she watch was “Demolition Man”. She still doesn’t get my three seashells jokes. Ugh…

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      • “I find it interesting and revealing that it is largely a kind of bro-dude fandom that allows certain actors to do this.”

        I daresay though as the Pacino/Nicholson/DeNiro* generation passes into retirement, there do not seem to be counterparts in the Xer and post Xer acting ranks (with the exception of Cage**). At least I can’t think of any. Everyone that’s came of age in the last two decades seems to just work as many projects as possible while their ‘property is hot’. Some are like Brad Pitt, and have been able to sustain a career over different phases in their lives, while others like Keanu Reeves***, not so much. (another example is how Chris Hemsworth is in everything now, and a couple of years ago it was Bradley Cooper. And a couple of years before that it was Ryan Reynolds(!))

        Plus, while there’s the typical Hollywood sexism asymmetry, Helen Miriam and even Dame Judi Dench seem to be falling into the same habits as Pacino/Nicholson now that they’re the most famous non-Meryl Streep female actors of their generation.

        *arguably DeNiro is still ‘method’ even in his most phoned-in roles – in contrast with say, Joe Pesci, who is no doubt a lesser name and talent, but has definitely played the same guy for 2 decades now.

        **and Cage could just be sui generis

        ***the man did co-produce recently a pretty good documentary on the rise of digitally shot movies and how they’re supplanting film.

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      • Pacino runs hot and cold for me. Sometimes he does his thing real well. And sometimes he does a poor (or exaggerated) caricature of his good jobs, with a bunch of random, frantic yelling.

        Jack Nicholson. That man’s career spans decades, during which time he played pretty much the exact. same. character.

        I partially disagree. I think he went a little bit out of character in “Good As It Gets,” even though he still played it up. And personally, I love his performance in “About Schmidt,” one of my favorite all time movies.

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      • In fairness to Jack Nicholson, I never saw “About Schmidt,” but I heard that he was very good in it and turns in a performance quite unlike his usual stuff.

        And it’s not like there’s no variety in his characters. He was a little bit different in “A Few Good Men” than he was in “Something’s Gotta Give” than he was in “As Good As It Gets,” etc. But really, they all seem like pretty much the same performance to me, tweaked here and there as the script demanded.

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    • I felt similarly about “The Adjustment Bureau”, which took an interesting idea and made it about God. Or something.

      There is nothing wrong with God, perse. But they took an interesting movie that dealt with matters as complex as fate and free will and wove a seemingly-complex sci-fi/fantasy world around it and then just explained everything away and said, “All that mysterious stuff? Yea… God…”

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      • Philip K. Dick is not your typical sci-fi writer. His best stuff was all about fate and free will and such, and it turns out it was all about God in the end. Jason did a post about Ubik last year that you might find interesting. I haven’t seen The Adjustment Bureau, nor read the story, but as soon as I read your comment I thought “I bet that’s based on a Dick story.”

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      • Yea, but you probably think ALL things are based on dick stories. Ba-dum-CHA!

        FWIW, my issue is not so much that the ending was God but that nothing up to that point really suggested it would be God. It was quite literally deus ex machina. “Oh, all this unexplainable stuff keeps happening? Let’s just make it all God.”

        I’ll look into the story, since I found the story interesting until the end and I imagine it might work in more talented hands.

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  2. Star Wars: Episodes I, II, and III.

    Based on characters by George Lucas.

    Produced by George Lucas.

    But scripted by dyslexic squirrels running across computer keyboards because they’d have turned out a better script than Lucas did on his own.

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  3. My father also has a low opinion of the acting talents of Andie McDowell.

    I suppose the first two seasons of the new Doctor Who. I don’t think Billie Pipper can act, I think she slurs her words. And I’ve heard she is even worse as a singer. But all in all the first two seasons are still good to excellent.

    I actually thought that Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was an amusing romp until the revelation at the end. It had all the snappy dialogue of the original movies and was fast-paced. Action scene cliches did not seem that way (like fights and chases on moving vehicles.)

    Semi-related: I’m tired of the overall angst that is ruining action movies. Some heroes are meant to be jaunty and generally upbeat like Robin Hood and Superman. Superman should always be done with Christopher Reeve charm. The best Robin Hood was the 1938 production with Erroyl Flynn and Olivia de Haviland.

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    • I agree with your last paragraph heartily. Enough already with the angst and dim color schemes. Meh.

      And your father and I would get along swimmingly, it seems. Because Andie MacDowell cannot act. At all. She’s undeniably quite a beautiful woman and comes across as a nice person, but her acting career baffles the living daylights out of me. Why did people keep paying her to be in their movies? She’s terrible in all of them! (She was least terrible in “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” but still about a light year away from “good.”)

      The other actress whose career baffled a certain best friend and me for the same reasons is Winona Ryder (who I at least enjoyed in “Beetlejuice” and “Heathers”). Of all the cast members of “The Age of Innocence,” she gets the Oscar nod? I… just… cannot…

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      • I did not mind Winona Ryder in the Age of Innocence. She was kind of bland compared to everyone else but that sort of worked with May Welland and a good source of tension for Newland’s desires. I can see how everyone would think May is the kind of woman, a man like Newland should marry and rally behind her.

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    • Wait, Andie McDowell is a human being? I thought she was a very well-built android.

      I actually thought that Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was an amusing romp until the revelation at the end.

      Which is why I didn’t think anything was wrong with the entire movie. If you find yourself caring about the actual McGuffin nonsense and what it’s all about in Indiana Jones, you’re probably watching the wrong movie. All those movies had magical thingies with goofy nonsensical ending premises, it’s just the others based theirs on incorrect religious myths instead of sci-fi myth.

      I’m tired of the overall angst that is ruining action movies. Some heroes are meant to be jaunty and generally upbeat like Robin Hood and Superman. Superman should always be done with Christopher Reeve charm.

      The problem with the latest movie wasn’t that Superman had angst. Superman can have angst…about the fact he can’t save everyone, about the fact he has to keep his life secret, about all sorts of things. He’s Superman, not fricking Captain Marvel, he can be a little angsty and unhappy, as long as he still does his job.

      What he can’t be is a lazy shiftless bum. What he can’t be is someone who will let people die to keep his secret. What he can’t be is someone who never even tries to help people.

      People who thought the end of that movie damaged his character were wrong. Superman can, indeed, do that if he _must_. The problem is that he never had a character _to start with_.

      I mean, compare it to Smallville, which often was very stupid, but at least understood _Clark Kent_. And Jonathon Kent.

      And, of course, I think I’ve already mentioned here the other problem with that movie, that General Zod was completely correct to attempt a coup of a government that had _blithely caused, and then completely ignored the destruction of their planet_. He only became the bad guy because they made him want to kryptoform earth, instead of literally any other planet in the galaxy.

      So, to get back on topic…I want a Man of Steel where General Zod is not handed the idiot ball and says ‘Hey, we’re a super advanced society and we’ll share with you, if you find Kal-El and _give us Mars_.’ Of course, this is would not actually work as a movie, but, seriously, it’s just so stupid it’s hard to get past.

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  4. When I was a kid, I loved the Thundercats. It came on before GI Joe and I started watching it waiting for the latter to come on, but I eventually liked the opener more than the headliner. I saw an episode a year or two back and it… does not stand the test of time. Tragic, but common. But they were making a new Thundercats show, and that had me excited. It was going to have better animation for sure, and would have the better sensibilities of modern cartoons.

    They changed the backstory, though. The fact that they were alien explorers on a new and strange planet was, for whatever reason, one of the things that I loved about the original. It wasn’t as though the characters were interesting, the animation good, or the plots noteworthy. But it was an entire planet with all kinds of interesting things in the nooks and crannies.

    I still haven’t watched the reboot, which only lasted one season.

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    • I did watch the reboot Will. Though they didn’t get into it directly, per say, the Thundercats are still definitly transplants on 3rd earth, albeit their landing was much further in the past.

      I enjoyed the reboot, it was pretty cute and fun plus they silenced Snarf which is worth the price of admission by itself. Plenty of corny hokeyness too though. I’m sad it didn’t get renewed.

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      • I would have totally loved it if they’d make it a sequel series instead of a reboot. A look at New Thundera some time long after everybody landed and the first series. I think it might have worked, too. I don’t think there was a whole lot of attachment to Liono and the others, per-se. Having a team of their descendants wouldn’t be a huge blow. Have Mumrah re-ascend. Heck, have some flashbacks to Mumrah and gang fighting the old crew. That I would have tuned into almost immediately (the same way I am going to tune into Girl Meets World on episode one, but wouldn’t for a reboot.)

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  5. Recently and obviously, having Russell Crowe sing in the Les Mis movie. Don’t know with whom I would have replaced Crowe, but it shouldn’t have been too difficult. (actually, since Norm Lewis’s performance is on PBS every single pledge drive, it’s hard for me to see Javert as anybody other than him – and since they picked a stage actor for Eponine, why not cast Lewis?)

    Completely unrelated, the decision to make WTC memorial access a security gauntlet instead of making the site an open air park – as for instance, the Pentagon one is, made the experience more annoying than mindful.

    Also, the Mars company putting a pretzel into an M&M. The option there is to not put a pretzel into an M&M.

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    • Yeah, Crowe was an unfortunate casting decision for such a singing-heavy role; however, I found myself able to overlook his singing, as I thought the non-verbal aspects of his performance were pretty decent. But the part of that movie that really irked me, even though on the whole I thought it was very good and reminded me of why Les Mis is such a wonderful story, was Anne Hathaway.

      Now, I’m not a Hathaway-hater; frankly, I was pretty much unaware of her acting and/or reputation for about the last decade, and I always assumed she was basically harmless, and I had assumed going in that her Oscar for the performance was warranted.

      But to me, once I actually watched it, her scenes were so incredibly overacted as to make me lose sympathy with her character, which should be nigh-impossible given that her character is one of the most sympathetic in history. Then again, that overacting is what a lot of people seemed to love about the performance, so maybe it’s just a matter of taste. My favorite part of the film was that a lot of the other performances were restrained and understated, and thus more realistic than the stage performances we’re used to seeing, but that actually seems to be the part of the movie that critics were most likely to pan.

      So what do I know?

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    • Re: WTC Memorial

      We just visited the site last month. According to the brochure, the security procedures are only temporary until construction is finished. However, if the purpose of the security is to direct people through the limited access/egress paths to the site, it doesn’t really explain why everyone visiting has to go through a metal detector. What threat are the metal detectors meant to address? And why don’t they think they’ll need to address that threat with metal detectors once all the construction is done and open access is possible from all four sides?

      Right now, anyone interested in mayhem could do a lot of damage in the queue that forms before the security checkpoint. The security theater at the site is an unintentional performance art piece about the kind of place we live in post-9/11 — a memorial to how we’ve taken leave of our senses.

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  6. Russell,

    I’m in 100% agreement with you about both McDowell and Cage (and the warm spot in my heart for you has grown exponentially with your revelation of having Raising Arizona in your top 10).

    But for me the biggest killer in movies is when the CGI effects violate the laws of physics. That is, for characters and events that are supposed to be bound by them. Wizards and superheros’ specialized powers get the exception granted by the willing suspension of disbelief. But for ordinary people and objects, the laws of physics rule, and I will not suspend disbelief.

    So, when objects go off cliffs, buildings, roads with the bridge out, they immediately begin a downward trajectory. They. Do. No. Go. Up.

    People who are falling do not catch themselves with one hand, and especially not with the fingertips. They. Fall. To. Their. Deaths. (unless you arrange a relatively soft landing for them.)

    This is non-negotiable Hollywood.

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    • “Raising Arizona” is a gem. I would consider the Coen brothers geniuses if that were the only movie they had ever done. I think I wrote a previous post (maybe back when Blinded Trials was still its own wee fiefdom) about the ending, which never ever fails to choke me up something awful.

      Edited to add: I also have a similar objection when any television show or movie has something occur in a medical setting that is ridiculous or impossible. Like the ending of “Outbreak,” when they capture the monkey that’s the vector for the epidemic, isolate the virus and BOOM, get cracking on a vaccine that saves everyone. Because once you’ve isolated a virus, apparently a vaccine is mere hours away.

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    • I hate the ridiculous physics in movies, especially how they treat vehicle physics, or guns & getting shot, or the effects of explosions, etc.

      Get hit with a shot gun, you fly back 20 feet through plate glass, and the ghost of Newton can be heard weeping in the rafters.

      And don’t even get me started on movies that are supposed to take place in space (& are not meant to be fantasy, ala Star Wars). I haven’t seen Gravity, ohg gur vqrn gung lbh pbhyq tb sebz gur Uhooyr gb gur VFF ba n guehfgre cnpx vf, jryy, gung vf whfg n pnfr bs gur jevgref rvgure univat ab pbaprcg bs beovgny zrpunavpf, be ab vqrn ubj gb fnyintr gurve fgbel.

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      • Well, for me, the Japanese approach to this counts as a special exception. But I opened the door, and I can’t criticize you’re approach. You’re right, after all–the fact that I have to treat those as an exception is pretty strong evidence of that.

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      • I think it’s important to treat a lot of Kung Fu stuff (at least the stuff from Chinese-speaking nations) as magic realism, complete with a mythology. The wire-work is just the magic part of the magic realism. If you’ve seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, then you’ve seen this made pretty explicit.

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      • Well one of my other reasons for not watching those is just plain old lack of interest in the genre. And by that I mean most of the sword & sorcery stuff, not just the oriental variety.

        And… I make exceptions if it has a certain playfulness about it, like Merlin or Once. And I also fully realize that a lot of sci-fi is basically just magic wrapped up in a load of techno-babble. And… I started out with a point and I’m not sure what that was now.

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      • After watching parkour videos, I am pretty open to the acrobatic element of martial arts in movies. What gets me is the actual fighting.

        Being good at some martial art means that you are good at that martial art; it doesn’t make you some superior fighting machine. And it certainly doesn’t mean, for instance, that a 5’3 Scarlett Johannson could take out a couple few 6’4, 250-pound Russian henchman and other assorted instances of waif fu that one finds in movies.

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      • jr,
        depends. one trained person against a bunch of untrained people can oftentimes do a good deal of damage.

        one person with a decent yoyo (including monofilament wire) can pretty much clear a room.

        But, um, that would need to show dismemberment. Unlike Elfen Lied, Americans are somewhat squeamish.

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      • Bruce Lee was 5’7″, and he weighed about a buck-forty for a good chunk of his career, iff’n I remember correctly.

        I would put him up against a 6’4″, 250lb night guard, myself. Well, not now. I mean, he’s dead and all.

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      • With martial arts, a lot depends, again, on the physics.

        Could ScarJo punch a 250lb brute & send him flying? No, inertia must be conserved. Besides, that is a move best used by Cap, Thor, or Hulk.

        Could she perform an acrobatic jump that got her legs around the brutes head & spin herself such that she can send him ass over teakettle. Oh you bet she could, provided he isn’t fast enough to get his hands up to stop her rotation. Rotational inertia, coupled with the natural tendancy of our bodies to follow where our head wants to go, will do all the work.

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      • Neither would I, but then I suspect neither of us is a highly trained, nearly super-human secret agent in a fictional universe.

        Besides, it only looks sexy when she does it.

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      • FWIW, when it comes to judo-style moves (anything using leverage, throws, and the body against itself) not only is it amazing what can be done with proper technique, but women tend to be better at it. (Wider hips, lower center of gravity = easier and better leverage).

        Hard martial arts is all about conditioning, focus, and targetting — hit the soft squishy bits with the hard bits, so to speak. :) Done properly, there’s generally just a nasty noise and screaming. Done improperly? Same thing, but different person screaming…

        Not very fun stage fighting. :)

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      • Besides, it only looks sexy when she does it.

        Yeah, that’s the point, but this is a conversation about unrealistic things in movies that are personal pet peeves. I feel similarly about Batman and his arsenal of non-lethal but extremely effective weapons, but if you’re going to see a Batman movie you have to suspend. However, when it’s Johannson or Anne Hathway putting the beatdown on men who are pretty close to twice their size, it gets to be too much. Perhaps because Hollywood starlet types trend towards the tiny. I don’t have any problems watching Brienne of Tarth put the beatdown on male adversaries in GOT.

        I should also say that the old-fashioned, two guys standing up slugging it out blow for blow is pretty unrealistic as far as fights go as well. Real fights are inherently chaotic and tend to come down to basic things like size, strength and speed. Fighting technique can overcome those things, but only if you’re trained in a technique that prepares you for street fighting. Generally speaking, the more acrobatic the fighting style, then less it has to do with actual fighting.

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      • When I practiced Akido, I was pretty impressed with the ability of the women in the class to throw much larger men around. Granted no one was trying flying scissor spins or the like.

        Still, ScarJo seems to actually have some meat on her frame, whereas the like of Ms. Hathaway does not. It was much easier for me to buy into the Black Widow than it was the Catwoman.

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      • of course, monofilament (i.e. a filament wire that is one, or just a few, molecules across, with molecular bounds strong enough to be useful in macroscopic applications, especially for cutting) is fictional.

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  7. Four Weddings and a Funeral wasn’t for you. It was for straight women. It’s like when the girl picks the nerd instead of the jock. Is there an analogous trope in gay movies?

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  8. I want to know who thought it was a good idea to cast Pierce Brosnan in a singing part in the theatrical release of Mama Mia? Or rather, who listened to him sing & said, “Oh, yeah, the sound of sandpaper being dragged over a muffled cat is exactly what we want to hear!”?

    (And yes, I saw Mama Mia, my wife & I like ABBA and it was on NetFlix, or something – don’t judge…)

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  9. The movie Magnolia. I would have excised the preachy law school hypothetical lecture/scenes at the beginning and toward the end. It still wouldn’t’ve been the best movie ever, but those took away a lot of the movie’s appeal for me. And to be sure, I still liked it, but I would’ve liked it much better.

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  10. So a long time ago no one had really heard of Anne Hathaway (much) and there was this goofy series of stories called The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Hathaway read the audios (and starrred in a couple of movies) and SHE WAS PITCH PERFECT. Kind of like Brendan Fraser’s reading of Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider…. the reader both meeting the spirit of the book, and also transcending it. I loved listening to those audios, they were my perfect kick-back-and-remember-the-good-parts-of-being-13 relaxation technique. Then Hathaway broke through to minor stardom with the Devil Wears Prada, and she became a lot more expensive to hire.

    (The above is all by way of being backstory.)

    CLEA LEWIS STARTED READING THE AUDIOBOOKS AND SHE MADE THE MAIN CHARACTER WHINY AND UNLIKABLE INSTEAD OF WHINY BUT OVERWHELMINGLY LIKEABLE AND IT WAS THE WORST THING EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jay had to hear about it for ages.

    Actually I think nothing ruins a good book so quickly as a terrible audiobook reader.

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    • Heh, I have a great fondness for Princess Diaries because when the movie came out daughter #1 was just young enough to not quite understand get the title. She liked to run around proclaiming “I’m Princess Diaries!” Then her aunt, who worked for Princess Cruises, gave her a sweatshirt with the company logo, and you can guess the rest.

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  11. Well I wouldn’t say it “fatally flawed” the movie, but Mickey Rooney sticks out like a sore thumb in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and his role is so horribly misconceived and performed that it takes the whole thing down a notch.

    The Phantom Menace might have been beyond saving no matter what, but Jar Jar Binks was so awful that I wouldn’t bother giving it a second viewing for anything less than a princely sum.

    The Driver’s Seat is a not-exactly-successful-but-still-interesting short Muriel Spark novel about madness that was turned into a resounding unsuccessful vehicle for Elizabeth Taylor in the Eurotrash phase of her career. The whole thing is a misfire, albeit fascinating once, anyway. I kinda think someday someone might make a really imaginative adaptation of that book, or might already have were it not for the botched attempt.

    And speaking of Muriel Spark, I still chafe at the way the revelation about Brodie’s treachery is handled in the film adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The film is still worth it on the strength of Maggie Smith alone, but the venomous aplomb with which the novel handles the reveal and retribution is lost in the film.

    A bonus reverse answer: My very favorite film from the ’80s Hong Kong boom is A Chinese Ghost Story, which I first saw at the Museum of Modern Art’s New Directors/New Films festival, and then dragged people to every time it played in Chinatown. One thing that added to the entertainment value of this breathtaking film was the error-ridden subtitles, with memorable lines like “That bearded gay is a killer” and “Some humans are more scareful than ghosts.” Hopefully they never fixed the typos and translation.

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