Archives For July 2015

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Micehelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage in PIXELS (photo: Sony Pictures)

Last week the Internet’s movie and pop culture neighborhoods were abuzz with a particular film critic’s existential meltdown over PIXELS (d. Chris Columbus, starring Adam Sandler, from Sony/Columbia Pictures). The aforementioned critic’s takedown of the movie got a lot of traffic and an almost equal amount of amens. I’m linking here but I warn you – it’s NSFW, NSFGrandparentsWithHeartConditions, NSFKidsWhoHaven’tDoneAStintInJuvie, and may be a trigger for rage-a-holics and movie bloggers who live in their mother’s basement.

I saw PIXELS on its opening day with my wife and 12-year-old son. I will grant for the record that the plot holes are huge and laughable. We laughed anyway. There’s not a single honest or honestly wrought emotion in the whole film. We get it. This ain’t REDS. In other words, PIXELS is no different from BILLY MADISON and HAPPY GILMORE. The jokes are the same. The holes in logic are the same. The Big Dumb Happy Endings are the same. The only difference between those Adam Sandler movies and this Adam Sandler movie is that today Adam Sandler is a well fed, 50 year old, multimillionaire Company Man and back then he was a hungry, 30 year old, up-and-coming Disruptor.

Sandler is doing the same thing he’s done for most of the last 20 years. His shtick hasn’t changed. He used to be young, subversive and on the vanguard of a fresh style of humor. Now his brand is safe for families and passé for a chunk of the public that lapped it up in the mid-90s, grew up and moved on. Times change, tastes change. Some performers and fans stick together, some don’t. Hey, 15,000 people filled Verizon Arena the other night to see the Eagles – much to the chagrin of Eagles haters who felt compelled to take to social media to question the taste of Eagles fans.

In Sandler’s case, I suspect he’s a guy who likes to work, likes to work with his friends and likes to deliver to his fan base what they expect and want. These days he only has to work when he wants to and only has to work with people he wants to. But to dismiss Sandler’s work and career because he’s figured out a way to do what he wants says more about us than it does about him. He’s taken some risks (REIGN OVER ME). He’s done some remarkable work (PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, SPANGLISH, FUNNY PEOPLE). FUNNY PEOPLE in particular explored the complexities of the real human being behind a one-dimensional movie star. That film was written and directed by Adam Sandler’s good friend and former roommate, Judd Apatow. FUNNY PEOPLE is not making a joke about Sandler’s career as much as it’s saying, look, there’s a human in there. (Read more about Apatow, Sandler and FUNNY PEOPLE in Apatow’s book, “Sick in the Head”)

I also suspect Sandler’s a smart guy who knows his fan base will shrink over the years. If he’s lucky, he and his fan base will fade out at roughly the same time. I don’t expect that PIXELS’ soft-opening means that Sandler is out of the dumb movie business and I don’t expect it means that studios won’t release more dumb movies. Not to worry, we will survive.

Last week I walked up to a ticket booth and bought tickets to see three movies in my local cinema: PIXELS, TCM’s Screening of DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and MR HOLMES. PIXELS did not inhibit my ability to enjoy the other two films, which are feasts for the eyes, ears, mind and heart – for me, anyway. I am neither threatened nor offended by PIXELS’ existence. You and MovieBob don’t have to be either.

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Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

SOME LIKE IT HOT (NR, 122 min., B&W, Released May 29, 1959 United Artists)

Woody Allen was once asked to name a film he always has to defend not liking. He answered – “Some Like It Hot”.

Some Like It Hot is (in my opinion) the creakiest of the big films in the Billy Wilder Canon. It simply cannot stand up next to Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, Sunset Boulevard, and The Apartment. Yet there it is, coming in on AFI’s Top 100 at #16. And it is almost universally praised and glowingly reviewed.

There are things I like about Some Like It Hot. The inside jokes, for one — the nod to Jules Stein and MCA’s origins, Curtis’s playful Cary Grant impersonation, George Raft playing George Raft. I still marvel at the bawdy jokes and gags they were able to get into the film in 1959. Ms. Monroe’s wardrobe alone is a physics-defying feat worthy of mention. Her performance is sweet and has some nuance to it, sad and poignant in retrospect. I.A.L. Diamond delivers a taut and competent screenplay, but that’s to be expected. His screenplay for The Apartment is flawless.

Some Like It Hot feels to me like a curious museum piece, interesting in part, entertaining at moments, completely of another time. In fairness to the filmmakers the film was made in 1959 and set in 1929. They were having a bit of fun making an “old fashioned” movie about those pre-Crash, Prohibition-skirting, Roaring Twenties. But all that makes it feel that much more of a relic to me.

Wilder’s fondness for kicker last lines is famously on display here. And it is the perfect capper for Jack Lemon’s over the top performance.

 

Director: Billy Wilder, Writers: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond (Screenplay), Robert Thoeren, Michael Logan (Story), Producer: Billy Wilder Cinematographer: Charles Lang Jr. Composer: Adolph Deutsch, Editor: Arthur P. Schmidt

CAST: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown

 

Watched on DVD from MGM Collector’s Series

*Most Mondays I watch a classic or historically significant movie that falls into one of these categories: 1) Have never seen it, or 2) Have never seen it uncut, or 3) Have only seen it once, or 4) Haven’t seen it in a very long time.

Some information from: IMDb Pro, BoxOfficeMojo