MOVIE DIARY 2018 is here, and we're saying goodbye to WILD THINGS MONTH with the final guest piece on Wild Things from Sean Witzke! This month of reflection on the divisive 1998 classic Wild Things has been so much fun, and I'd like to take a moment to thank all my special guests this month for doing such a great job, and you MOVIE DIARY 2018 readers for enduring such a self-indulgent event.
Wild Things (1998)
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: SEAN WITZKE
Here’s the thing about this movie — I like Wild Things fine. But you know what movie I love? Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer. Did you know John McNaughton directed both movies? Because I did not! John McNaughton is a weird guy, in that he did the Peter Bogdonovich thing where he did a game changing horror movie as his first film and then got out as quick as he could. He didn’t really do much else worth a damn except Wild Things, though. Did some tv, directed Mad Dog and Glory… have you seen Henry?
When I wrote about the history of con man movies a few years back, I got a lot of people @-ing me about Wild Things and… it’s not a con man story? It’s a crime story. Does having a twist count as a con man story? Maybe I don’t like this movie. I’m sorry Geoff and I apologize to the refined and tasteful audience of Geoff’s MOVIE DIARY 2018.
Tessa wrote about this being a vhs movie but to me it feels like the most public face of Skinemax/Mr. Skin culture. Denise Richards and Kevin Bacon are like an upgraded David Duchovny and Angie Everhart. People watched this movie for the pool scene. It’s up there with Cruel Intentions, and the dude in science class in10th grade who got vocally mad at me for not liking U-Turn because Jennifer Lopez was so hot in it. How could anyone not like that movie. Fuck you dude, seriously. She’s so hot in that movie. Get the fuck out of my face, Witzke.
Matt Dillon doesn’t feel as fun here as he does in To Die For or Something About Mary, both of which would be better characters in this situation. Even then, Matt Dillon is the absolute best thing in this. Maybe in everything he’s in. He’s always credible but also, conniving. There’s not a lot of movie star caliber people you would buy pulling this many double crosses without dinging as being too trustworthy (this is what kills so much of McConnaughey’s turns as a scumbag). He never feels like he’s a pretty dude pretending to be bad, he never feels like he’s trading on his charm. You buy him in the film’s first section, and you buy him once the whole “PLANS UPON PLANS UPON THREE WAYS” shift occurs.
Neve Campbell is great. Denise Richards, I really only think she works in Starship Troopers. I think Verhoeven could get a wig on a broom to make me cry, though. I mean, he got me to like Kevin Bacon in a movie. But this movie exists for the 3 way makeout. It’s not edited very well. The music is appallingly 90s. BUT. There’s something there. I think the erotic thriller is something we can never have enough of, and we’re kind of starving for it. This is one of the last major ones. As a story device I think it points that we’re in a weird time where movies are less sexy than every other media. Maybe it’s the normalization of porn or the conservative nature of big movies… have you seen Unfaithful? Have you seen Basic Instinct?? It’s a beautiful thing we’re missing out on.
I do think this movie is one of the only reasons people still think false rape accusations are a real thing. I mean, everyone in the world has seen this movie. Even in neutered, cable format with commercials. It’s probably been bad for our culture. I don’t know. Movies are weird. Sorry I ruined Wild Things month.
Sean Witzke (July 24, 1900 – March 10, 1948) was an American socialite, novelist, painter and wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Westside Story (1961)
I’d never seen this before! It was fun! The Jets are some real pieces of shit! The cops are unsurprisingly the worst ones of them all! Everyone needs to leave The Sharks alone and let them live! Did you know that this movie was a big influence on Michael Bay?? The way shots are composed and how almost every shot has some kind of dynamic motion, I guess it makes sense. Westside Story is a lot of fun mostly, but I just could not get my head around Natalie Wood, famously a white woman, playing a Puerto Rican woman. And I know like almost none of the actors playing the Sharks are Puerto Rican (shoutout to the Filipino guy who plays Chino), but Natalie Wood doing a caricature of a Puerto Rican was a little much. Anyway have they cast Scarlet Johansen as Maria in the upcoming remake yet? (Just a little sort of current humor for you, MOVIE DIARY 2018 likes to keep up with current-ish events.)
Your Name (2016)
Tessa already wrote about this one here. I just love this movie. I love how it takes that goofy teenage body swap comedy premise and it turns it into something so ambitious and heartbreaking while being so genuine throughout. The slow burn of the two of them developing a connection with each other as they live in each other’s bodies culminates in that beautiful scene at twilight where they finally do get to meet and confess their feelings for each other, and there’s this swell of emotion and it’s so sweet and uplifting, and then the sound and music cuts out and it’s all taken away from them in an instant— that’s a moment that I think is just gonna stick with me. That scene so perfectly captures that high you feel when you and your crush confess your feelings to each other, and it also manages to cruelly pull that away via the indifferent march of time and circumstances completely out of their control. It’s a perfect depiction of the rug getting pulled out from under you in a cosmic sense, that idea of how big love can make you feel and how the universe can remind you how small you are in an instant.
The Karate Kid (1984)
The Karate Kid holds up! It’s one of those movies that’s been endlessly parodied to the point that maybe its most iconic moments have lost some of their punch, but it all still works! This movie is carried by Ralph Macchio. He’s very charming and he kind of reminded me Tom Holland in the newest Spider-Man movie, a smart kid who just can’t manage to avoid trouble. There are also a couple of pretty interesting bits that are kind of left unexplored. The Mr. Miyagi back story is surprisingly heartbreaking, and the movie gives you enough to let you know that he thinks of Daniel as the son he never had. Would’ve been cool to really dig into his feelings as a Japanese man who was a Veteran of the US Army, but the movie’s not really about that, so, fine, I get it. I also would have loved to get more on the leader of the Kobra Kai dojo and his Nuke-lookin’ ass, but again, not that kind of movie. We get enough to know that he’s an asshole and that works fine. Also, the main bully, Johnny, has a line in the beginning where he’s talking about how it’s senior year, and he’s really going to try to make an honest go of it, hinting that Johnny’s got a pretty interesting interior life. Like he’s trying to redeem himself for all the bad he’s done before this year, and maybe Daniel’s showing up just derailed him. Who knows!
Into The Blue (2005)
They could’ve just released this as a glossy magazine and called it the Paul Walker and Jessica Alba Swimsuit Issue and it would have been just fine. It’s kind of weird how sexless this movie is considering it’s filled with wall to wall hot people, but then again, I’m not really sure that this movie knows what it wants to be. Pretty nice, though, to dip into a movie from a time when studios were a little less hung up on developing things into an action movie franchise. I don’t know, I don’t think I have a whole lot to say about this, everything is pretty predictable, it goes exactly where you’d expect it to go, it’s just so middle of the road. Just like, do something, you know? Throw in a fun twist, kill off a character (a main character!), steer deeper into a cliche, I don’t know. There should’ve either been more action, or more sex, more anything really. Maybe then it’d come off as at least a memorably bad movie.