MOVIE DIARY 2018 is back with another installment of the hottest blog series of the summer: WILD THINGS MONTH! This week we've got Aubrey Bellamy back on board with a look at her very first viewing of Wild Things (1998), and me on four movies, only one of which was good. (Full disclosure: the one that's good is a Wong Kar-Wai movie so the other three movies are completely outclassed. It wasn't a fair fight.)
Wild Things (1998)
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: AUBREY BELLAMY
The first big heatwave Los Angeles saw this year came at the end of July and -- I’m really sorry for this: it was a hot one. The air was thick, immovable -- not unique, I guess -- completely different from the dusty, dry heat I had confidently manipulated in my AC-less apartment in years past. Close to midnight one evening, I was sitting on the steps leading into my studio, watching the leaves on a huge, moody palm submit to the soft wind finally cracking through. “It’s Wild Things weather,” I thought and then tweeted.
Now it’s August and I can tell you I feel shame for making this public observation (worse, “joke”) because up until yesterday, I had never even really seen Wild Things. I wasn’t allowed to watch it in theaters and my mom actively steered me away from the box at Blockbuster; so my rebellion came at sleepovers with friends whose parents were more lax. Adults on both sides of the aisle miss the point, though: we were watching Wild Things, but we weren’t like, watching it. Everyone knows you haven’t seen a film until you’ve watched it the way it was meant to be seen: as a grieving adult at 10am on a workday, hoping that in six days you’ll remember to cancel the free trial of the streaming media service you’re using.
“What is a sex crime?” asks Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), a high school (!!!!!!) guidance counselor and Florida resident. He is leading a discussion on sexual harassment, among the students being popular Kelly van Ryan (Denise Richards) and not popular Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell) -- who storms out of the auditorium after Sam introduces his peer adult, Detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon).
Interesting to think about what might have been widely considered a sex crime in 1998. “When I’m not getting any!” a student (naturally a boy named “Jimmy”) in the assembly shouts. The scene cuts at the height of laughter ringing through the auditorium. It feels prescient, or maybe persistent is a better word. Enduring. Static.
Following a series of increasingly incredulous events, Kelly’s mother, Sandra, finds Kelly sullenly shooting skeet in the backyard instead of being at school one afternoon. “I was raped,” Kelly tearfully exclaims, “by Sam Lombardo.”
The next day, rumors and the law catch up to Sam for his part in a yarn that -- it becomes clear -- was spun long before it began. The swift and affluent hand of justice sides fully in support of Kelly as Sam lawyers up with Ken Bowden (Bill Murray) and Suzie is approached as a witness in the investigation. It should be noted this is the first time we’ve seen her in 35 minutes. She essentially backs up Kelly’s story by recounting one of her own about a similar attack she endured. At this declaration, Sam is arrested.
It is my belief the one thing keeping this movie from being critically great is Bill Murray. I groaned when he was on screen, after every utterance. “We stand up now” he says to Sam, too proud, in one courtroom scene as the judge enters -- a “Murraryism” no doubt. Every time he appeared, the movie turned into a comedy and Wild Things is not a comedy!!! I get so mad being upset about casting because it forces me to show my hand.
The way Wild Things ultimately unwinds is not wholly dissimilar from The Talented Mr. Ripley or a classic noir like Double Indemnity (fuck me up), but it plays itself. On the other hand, maybe the game is just bad!
Anyway, I loved it.
**As Tessa pitched her app last week, I want to posit the perfect format for the Wild Things property is: STARZ limited series. Give the new, troublingly hot teens something to do.
Aubrey Bellamy is an up and coming piece of shit (👼) in Los Angeles, CA. She writes, also.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
I’m not even really sure I remember what happened here, Bella gets dumped by Edward because he doesn’t want to turn her into a vampire, and then she rebounds with Jacob, who is a werewolf. Somewhere along the way we find out that vampires have their own government and that werewolves have an endless supply of cutoff jorts, which honestly seems like a pretty sweet deal, cutoff jorts are great.
The best part of the movie is the section where Bella is putting herself in increasingly dangerous situations under the guise of thrill-seeking. She just got dumped and she’s a wreck of course, and she’s also got a chip on her shoulder about getting older after finally realizing that she’ll keep getting older while Edward will continue to be young and hot. She takes a ride on the back of a gross stranger’s motorcycle, she gets into cliff-diving, she tries to convince her friends at school that she’s into action movies now, all while Edward’s ghostly apparition pops into view to whisper his limp disapproval. “Bella, don’t you see that riding a dirtbike is betraying me?” “Bella, women shouldn’t be jumping off of cliffs,” “Bella, isn’t that movie rated R?” It was never clear to me whether or not this was a crazy mental projection power of Edward’s or if these were just voices in Bella’s head taking the form of a ghostly Edward, but either way the conclusion here is Edward is a wiener.
It’s a bad movie, but I’d be lying to you if I told you there weren’t any worthwhile moments in this. There’s Bella’s death wish, every part where the werewolf boys are just hanging out in cutoffs and no shirts just roughhousing, Taylor Lautner doing his own stunts and sucking at them, those parts are fine, and it’s actually kind of an improvement over the first one in that the terrible material is paired with an equally terrible hack director to make the kind of run of the mill bullshit you’d expect from this secretly Mormon text, as opposed to the first one’s mismatch where you walk away thinking that even with all her talent Catherine Hardwicke wasn’t able to make even this palatable. This is just uncomplicated mediocrity, completely un-self aware, and existing solely out of a burning desire to cash in on that shining moment of Twilight being the hottest thing on the planet. Not so enjoyable as a whole, but these movies will always be an interesting reference point for the early days of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s careers. They’ve come so far, we’re all so proud of our aloof indie darling babies.
In The Mood For Love (2000)
This movie is incredible, and Wong Kar-Wai rules. It’s Hong Kong in the 60’s, and Chow (Tony Leung) and Su (Maggien Cheung) are two neighbors who’ve found out that their spouses are cheating on them with each other. The two begin to spend more time together when their spouses are off “on business” or “working late,” and they commiserate over their fucked up situation, quietly developing feelings for each other as they practice what they’re going to say to confront their unfaithful spouses.
The movie is shot so beautifully. Every color pops, every location, from the cramped apartments to the smoky offices to the back alley noodle shop, has such a sense of weight and atmosphere. These are real places, real people, real relationships, and real hearts breaking. There’s this deep sadness that permeates the mood of the movie, and that works as a counter to the vivid setting and visuals. Chow and Su love each other, but they stop themselves from acting on it out of a misplaced desire to maintain the moral high ground and their obligation to their wedding vows. They know they’ve fallen in love with each other, but they’ve both got this misplaced sense of duty that’s keeping them from what they both want, and this overall sense of longing is amplified when set against this backdrop of this vibrant city where it seems anything is possible.
I don't know, you've all probably seen this one, right? It makes my heart hurt just thinking about Chow and Su, and I'm not sure I'm equipped to talk about how this movie fucked me up so deeply yet.
Portal To Hell!!! (2015)
This is a short film where Roddy Piper plays a building super who comes across two tenants in his building’s basement trying to open a portal to hell. It’s trying very hard to keep it tight and funny, and I guess it’s pretty tight as it’s mercifully only like twelve minutes long, but I don’t know, the jokes just didn’t work for me. There’s just something about goofs on Lovecraft and Cthulu that just seem so nerdy and out of touch, and I kind of just (maybe unfairly) lump it all in together under that big steampunk genre that I have no interest in. It’s in the same league as when the internet was obsessed with bacon or something, I don’t know, has Elon Musk seen this, it seems like it’d be up his alley of trying to put together this quirky nerd persona using a sense of humor that’s trapped in the late aughts to cover for being an amoral cretin who makes cars for people who cut in line and tell you they’re in a hurry, that’s what this movie is, fuck this movie, I've just decided.
Police Story (1985)
This is very hard for me because I love Jackie Chan, and I know Police Story is well-liked, but I thought it was pretty disappointing. Maybe my expectations coming in were too high. I’d always heard that Police Story is an essential Jackie Chan movie, and I love Supercop, the third installment of the Police Story series, and the beginning of this movie got me so fired up, but the rest just felt like a let down that even Jackie Chan fighting like twenty dudes in a mall couldn’t save. The middle section is an unfocused mess that flirts with some interesting ideas, but never really follows through on them, favoring instead goofy schtick that would have worked out fine if it weren’t running for so long. That scene where he’s alone at the police station and juggling a bunch of different calls should have been half as long (also it doesn’t help that there’s a half-assed joke about how police don’t take rape reports seriously??). I don’t know, it seems dumb to say, but this movie needed more action and stunts to break up the long stretches of Jackie Chan not knowing when to end a bit. Or maybe it could have better explored the parts about how the politics of the police force and crooked lawyers have gotten in the way of busting criminals. There’s a pretty good part where Jackie Chan, after being drugged and framed for a cop’s murder, is pushed to his limit and he takes his own police chief hostage to escape arrest. More of that kind of thing would have been great! And I’m not saying I don’t like the funny bits of Jackie Chan movies, I just think the balance was off, it needed to be edited down or something. Anyway, sorry! I still love you Jackie Chan!