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Seduced and Abandoned (2013)
Written and Directed by James Toback
The title of this review contains one of the greatest puns I’ve ever made in my entire life. (To get it, you have to be aware of the song ‘You Are Worthless, Alec Baldwin’, which plays at the very end of the credits of Team America: World Police.) What makes my pun so great and so apt is that this documentary, Seduced and Abandoned, is literally about Alec Baldwin thinking he’s worth a lot more money than he is actually worth, and constantly being reminded by various knowledgable people that he isn’t, and him not understanding. That’s the majority of this movie, which might make it sound like the greatest movie ever made, but unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s downright grating in its unrelenting narcissism. There are parts where you’ll damn near groan your throat off, and eye roll your eyes off. But you should still watch it. It may not be a good film, but it sure as hell is an important one.
In my earliest Smug Film piece, I reviewed a movie called ATM and introduced this idea of ‘Roomies’—movies where the characters are trapped in some kind of room and the whole point is figuring out why they’re there and how to get out. Exam, The Breakfast Club, and Cube are some popular examples. Now I’m going to introduce you to Twisties, which have become quite prevalent lately.
I saw the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion in the theater by myself. I like going to the movies by myself. It’s cool. There’s something about being by yourself in the grandeur of the theater that always reminds me how much I want to make movies.
These characters are so. Fucking. Boring.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Travis Beacham & Guillermo Del Toro
Warning: spoilers ahead.
2013 was supposed to be the year that saved big screen science fiction. When this summer’s lineup began filling out, I had more anticipation for this movie season than I’d had in years. Names were popping up like Blomkamp, del Toro, Shyamalan (fuck the haters), Abrams, Cuarón, Wright (and Pegg and Frost), and startlingly, there seemed to be more original properties on the horizon than sequels/adaptations: Elysium, After Earth, Gravity, Pacific Rim, Oblivion, Ender’s Game, Star Trek Into Darkness, The World’s End, etcetera. From what I saw of the trailers, these movies didn’t look like your typical disaster porn invasion movies, á la, Battle: Los Angeles or Transformers (except Pacific Rim, though its premise justifies, and even necessitates it) nor were they part of the insufferably relentless deluge of Marvel/DC sequels and spinoffs (except Into Darkness, whose trailers gave it the tone of a Dark Knight movie; y’all looking forward to Thor: The Dark World?). I loved the designs I saw in the Oblivion trailer, I liked the visual approaches of After Earth and Ender’s Game, and I love the idea of Sandra Bullock leading a stranded-in-space drama.
Field of Dreams. The undisputed king, for sure. But here’s ten other great ones.
It was a really tricky thing putting this together because they’re ranked on niceness, not goodness. Number two and number five are the best movies on the list. But they aren’t the nicest.
Niceness is even harder to define than coolness. Niceness is a warm and fuzzy feeling that a lot of art can generate. Probably the most popular example would be Norman Rockwell paintings. Niceness, like coolness, taps into our primal brains somewhere. We’re wired to feel it because it connects us to each other. But the problem with niceness is that it borders so heavily on cheese. Cheese done right is transcendent. But cheese done wrong is, well, cheesy.
When I was in junior high school, Scarface was the most talked about movie in the hallways. It was 2000, and those hallways were a reflection of the culture at large. One time a kid asked me, “Who directed Scarface, Scorsese?” He had never heard of Brian De Palma.
There’s a popular book called Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. It’s a gossipy, oral history of 60s and 70s American movies. In the back of the book, they summarize the directors integral to the movement and give a filmography for each. Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, and Malick are featured, but not Brian De Palma—despite being mentioned heavily in the book. You’d think the guy that gave Robert De Niro his first on-screen appearance (The Wedding Party, 1969) and gave him steady work way before Scorsese ever did, would be important enough to mention.