September 13, 2007

We All Watched Punky Brewster, Too

Apologies for the lack of updates; the good news is, I have been writing, just not here—so really, not so slacky as you would be tempted to believe. Between work and the running and copious eating of bagels, I haven’t got much life left—and what I have, I spend sleeping. Last night I fell asleep just before the judging portion of Top Chef and had to check who was kicked off this morning (CJ; so, there’s one hour a week I’ll get back). At the urging of my favorite pregnant lady, I’m back on the posting horse (just in time for the penultimate weekday. Whatev; I’ll buy her some Similac).

My site reading has also fallen behind, which is fine, because it meant that yesterday I could read the homage to bad cable movies on TWoP just when I really needed it. It’s refreshing to read something that makes you feel seven years old, and watching Just One of The Boys with my grandfather—curled on the brown velveteen couch, hair still wet from the pool, not getting any of the jokes—is one of the best memories my youth. It’s also a handy excuse to watch it during the Comedy Central summer lull (although it actually loses something now that I get the jokes).

Other midday movies, however… I have no excuse. And neither do you, because whether it’s Starship Troopers, Save the Last Dance or One Crazy Summer, there exists a film that was made to be your own personal kryptonite. Movies you treat like a dorky schoolfriend ("oh yeah, I um, saw that *cough*") or a dirty mistress (vehement, offended denial). Whether you enjoy them on a familiar, friendly level or delight in the fullness of their awful like lollipops of suckitude, you cannot not watch.

I place City Slickers firmly in the first category. The “man does X to overcome midlife crisis” storyline is not nearly as annoying as usual because most of the jokes are solid (and also because the activity in question is cattle wrangling, not pursuing the virginity of your daughter’s best friend). Billy Crystal is still funny at this point, with the exception of the ubiquitous “Helloooo?” which will become unbearable about five minutes before the credits. But what keeps me running into the living room, fridge-cleaning forgotten, is the leathery performance of one Jack Palance.

JACK-A! PALANCHHHE! What sells a yuppie-cowboy movie better than a million-year-old man-skeleton gasping and growling his way through the desert? Equal parts Yoda and Godzilla, he Tango and Cashes his way over the male-bonding motif, employing two modes of acting: taking a painful shit, and relaxing menacingly (as though he had just a rather painful shit). All this in addition to the dynamic duo of Bruno Kirby’s mustache and the only Daniel Stern performance worth standing—how does an overdue term paper stand a chance? Especially when there’s a sequel? Which, although half as good, I still watch anyway (the big plot point being that Palance is now his dead brother’s twin, when really, re-animated cowboy corpse is actually easier to believe)?

By happenstance, all the bad movies I like have a sequel that doesn’t suck enough for me to turn off—case in point, Grumpy Old Men. I watch this movie at the first hint of snow every year, because cable programmers are no dummies, and know that that’s exactly when people will willingly fold their laundry to the likes of Groundhog Day. The best of these programmers will follow it with the sequel, because you have to have the deep pity for Walter Matthau’s satchelly face losing Ann Margaret fresh in your mind, or you’ll be unable to suspend your disbelief that he could pull Sophia Loren. Without that first movie, you can’t make the leap—even if he is Walter Matthau, even if Man of La Mancha was thirty years ago, even if she is the only unattached hottie in a town of nonagenarian Svens—but watch them in tandem, and I’ll buy it every damn time.

Other than that point, the second film stands well enough on its own; Millie Helper rebuffing the Penguin’s advances in an embroidered Italian accent, Kevin Pollack’s menschy good-humor—it’s a mac and cheese casserole of Midwestern comedy. And just you try not crying when Burgess Meredith dies, and Jack Lemmon makes you realize how much you loved your grandfather and how little you actually told him that. There, crying on your couch at two in the afternoon for the winter and the wisdom and everything you ever lost, lies the reclamation of your soul. Daryl Hannah is a small price to pay.

Fever Pitch, though… I got nothin’. Won’t even lie.

So come on, ante up: which particular celluloid misdemeanor keeps you from turning things in on time?


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with Groundhog Day and Grumpier old Men. Scrooged will also do it every time. How lame are we?

Well, I know how lame YOU are...


Sarah Beedoo said...

Take that number, and add eleventeen.