Subgenre: Dingo Ate My Baby

A David Thomson review refers to the “Dingo ate my baby” subgenre of films. Sitting here in Bali, I’ve generated some script ideas for upbeat family-oriented versions of the subgenre:

1. Dingo takes my baby, changes mind, gives baby to lactating gorilla.

2. Dingo takes my baby, trades her to old sow for suckling pig. Piglets are cruel to my baby due to her lack of a snout.

3.  Dingo takes baby, loses interest, baby joins dingo playgroup, eventually comes home on all fours and doesn’t tolerate highchair well after that at all.

4. Yes, baby gets eaten, but some interesting menu ideas are included.

5. Dingo takes my baby, raises her to the age of fourteen, at which point my baby tells her I hate you I hate you I hate my real mom too whoever she is, and then she goes down to the mall to hang with her buds.

Women over 45 in the movies

From the reader: “Could you explain why there are almost no women over 45 in movies or in magazines that cover the film industry? Has there been an epidemic of some kind that’s wiped out only women over 45 and only in the Greater Los Angeles area? Is this happening to men over 45? And if not, why not? And if you were a woman over 45, where would you live?”

I’ve addressed these issues previously here and here. The reader’s premise is no longer accurate. Female stars are no longer consigned to the movie-star boneyard when they enter their 40s.  Back in the day, female stars lived hard and by the time they were 40, many of them could pass for 60. Today, female stars in their 40s, 50s, and 60s still look great (and of course, can still act, if they could in the first place).

What is true is that strong female parts can be hard to find, and women are less likely to carry a film in Hollywood than are men. Such is not the case in, for example, France.

Some female stars over 40 (I contend that those in the list who are between 40 and 45 will continue to work when they hit 45; there are many in this list who won’t see 60 again; a Sophia Loren or Ursula Andress still has credits in the 2000s):

Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Geneviève Bujold, Charlotte Rampling, Nicole Kidman, Lucy Liu, Laura Linney, Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Holly Hunter, Meg Ryan, Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Mary McConnell, Felicity Huffman, Teri Hatcher, Alfre Woodward, Geena Davis, Stockard Channing, Frances Conroy, Glenn Close, Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, Angelica Houston, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Palin, Debra Winger, Catherine Deneuve, Signorney Weaver, Isabella Rossallini, Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Adjani, Lili Taylor, Jane Curtain, Janeane Garofalo, Julie Delpy, Sharon Stone, la Streep, Renee Zellweger, Parker Posey, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Dianne Weist, Blythe Danner, Adrienne Barbeau, Ana Belen, Ann-Margaret, Blythe Danner, Cheryl Ladd, Cheryl Tiegs, Betty White, Ann Savage (sadly deceased, but she made it into My Winnepeg), Cristine Rose, Concha Velasco, Cybill Shepherd, Diane Keaton, Faye Dunaway, Fionnula Flanagan, Gemma Jones, Jaclyn Smith, Helena Rojo, Jacqueline Bisset, Jane Seymour, Jean Smart, Jane Badler, JoBeth Williams, Karen Allen, Kirstie Alley, Linda Gray, Lynda Carter, Mary Kay Place (sister wife!), Morgan Fairchild, Olivia Newton-John, Pam Grier, Peggy Lipton, Raquel Welch, Sally Field, Shelly Long, Sonia Braga, Sophia Loren, Vanessa Redgrave, Ursula Andress, Wendie Malick, Renee Russo, Lena Olin, Jane Fonda, Fanny Ardant, Julie Christie, Tina Turner, Tanya Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Shannon Tweed, Nancy Sinatra, Sela Ann Ward, Rita Wilson, Phylicia Rashad, Mia Farrow, Madonna, Melody Thomas Scott, Melanie Griffith, Kim Cattrall, Julie Newmar, Katie Sagal, Kathy Bates, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jennifer Tilly, Jessica Phyllis Lange, Joan Allen, Gena Rowlands, Grace Jones, Cloris Leachman, Debbie Morgan, Debbie Harry, Diahann Carroll, Ellen Rona Barkin, Emma Thompson, Andie MacDowell, Angela Bassett, Annette Bening, Kristin Davis, Emmanuelle Beart, Jennifer Beals, Mariska Hargitay, Carrie-Anne Moss, Mädchen Amick, Marisa Tomei, Madeleine Stowe, Sela Ward, Linda Fiorentino, Tia Carrere, Kristian Alfonso,Teri Hatcher, Sandra Bullock, Julianna Margulies, Ashley Judd, Gina Gershon, Famke Janssen, Caitlin Keats, Phoebe Cates, Kate Walsh, Courteney Cox, Elizabeth Hurley, Sophie Marceau, Salma Hayek, Patricia Valasquez,
Kari Wuhrur, Ayelet Zurer, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Julie Dreyfus, Sofia Vergara, Monica Bellucci, Brooke Langton, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brooke Shields, Lauren Graham, Vanessa Marcil.

Have there always been “summer movies”?

Summer Glau was born in 1981, so in that respect, no.

If time is a construct introduced by humans because they don’t have the ability to see the totality of action in an absolute universal sense, then yes. Everything has always been and will always be, including summer movies.

In the more limited sense of U.S. cinema, my thoughts before turning to Google:

Before television, movies were produced and released in a constant flow. There were seasonal inflections caused by the advent of holidays such as Christmas. Whether release considerations went beyond that, I don’t know. But I doubt it.

With television came the concept of TV summer reruns. It may be that the studios regarded this fallow TV period as a time to introduce especially attractive movies. No data in my memory bank on this.

Also, in the late 50s and early 60s, the first baby-boomers entered their teen years. Hence, movies like Where the Boys are (1960) and the Funicello/Avalon beach-blanket movies, such as Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), were made. Perhaps these youth-targeted movies were introduced in the summer months. Could be wrong.

The summer movies that I’m considering here are seasonal offerings aimed at a youthish demo. Summer blockbusters are a whole different animal, from both marketing and genre perspectives, targeted even more tightly at the teen demo, with, also, the world market in mind. Summer blockbusters were invented with Jaws in 1975.

Finally, off the subject, I’m thinking of adults who are recently out of school and in the workforce and who now no longer have a clear concept of “summer,” as their year blends together for them with a vacation or two thrown in at arbitrary times – as opposed to youth free from school for several hopefully halcyon months. For such adults, if there were summer movies, perhaps now there aren’t, at least until kids of their own come along.

Turning to Google:

So much for my thoughts above. “Where the Boys Are” is a classic movie about summer, but its release date was three days after Christmas. “Beach Blanket Bingo” was released in April. So movies about summer and movies released in summer are two different things. Wet Hot American Summer (2001) came out in the summer. Random? Endless Summer (1966) was released in August in Japan. Ok. I know nothing about the relationship between “release” and “opening,” or why a movie would be released first in Japan. You can explain all this to me in a comment or guest post. Or not.

Now I’m thinking that there is no special seasonal-release category for summer movies (movies released in the summer), only for “summer blockbusters.”

There have not always been summer blockbusters. “Jaws” represents a change in Hollywood’s business model. Gone with the Wind (1939)  was released in January. Ben Hur (1959) in December. Old-fashioned blockbusters.

So, bottom line, there have not always been movies about summer  that were released specifically in summer; but there have always been movies about summer – a summer-movie genre. Let me see if I can turn up some titles from the 30s and 40s.  Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939). Summer Bachelors (1926). Say, here’s a summer-camp movie rated 8.9 in IMBD: Thrill of a Lifetime (1937), with Ben Blue, Judy Canova, and Betty Grable. Uh oh. Frank Nugent in the NYT: “You have, in point of accuracy, an insipid concoction of sour japes and flat romantics which Fanchon (of Fanchon & Marco) has strung together like one of her old stage shows at the Roxy.” Oh, well. Would movies about county fairs count?

Who could have guessed, back in the day, that the drive-in would go away. Sitting out under the stars on the benches in front of the concession stand, we automatically classified whatever we were watching as a summer movie.

Which brings me to a treasure trove of summer-movie lore: the page that is displayed when you Google “summer movie memories.” For example, seven New Yorker essays on the subject. Based upon this veritable landslide of summer-movie nostalgia, to mix my metaphors, there have always been summer movies.

Unwelcome Films

From time to time I’m faced with a film that I’m obliged to watch, but don’t want to. How about you? If the setting is social, I must sit down and take my medicine like a true cinephile. All film contains good. However, if I’m alone, and the film is one that I’ve agreed to review, or that resides on a list that I’d like to complete, or that represents a genre that I feel obligated to visit at present, then, here in this post, I present you with five strategies that I use to overcome my resistance to watching the film, or to moderate the pain of watching the film, together with an example upon which I’ve used one of these strategies. (Or does one use a strategy to develop a process or procedure, and then apply that process or procedure to the film in question?)

1. Metropolis (1927) – I dodged this one for years, for decades, but finally resolved to watch it. The version I had in hand ran 153 minutes. I watched it at the rate of five minutes per day, with a couple of days off, over a period of five weeks. This can be the five minutes before your actual movie viewing, when you’re settling yourself, arranging the cats around you, flossing, clipping your toenails, doing a couple of situps or squats, or rolling a joint. It can be five minutes during which you sit and stare stonily at the screen, doing nothing but watching, as if attending one more episode in an endless series of them. You can watch any of the movies that you wish you weren’t watching, using this method, even that portion of the Antonioni ouvre that was created, in particular, to bore. As for Metropolis? It’s about this guy and his girl robot.

2. La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) (1939) – Yeah, one of the greatest, they say. You’ve got to watch it if you want to hold your head up at film maven cocktail parties. I managed not to see it for ages, but my soul suffered. My soul knew that a shaming hole existed at the heart of my movie-watching resume. Runtime, 106 minutes. So what I did was, I went to minute 53 and started watching from there. Less than an hour to the end of the movie and I made it to the end in several sessions. Voila. Then all I had to do was watch the first half, which turned out to be a lot better than the second half, so that was good. The movie is about rich people in France. The rules are for the game of… what? Being rich or something like that? Whatever the game was, the Nazis canceled it.

3. Yi Yi (2000) – 173 minutes. Try holding your breath for that long. I managed to not watch Yi Yi for a decade but finally committed myself to a review of it. I ended up loving the movie and watching it three times, but that in no way helped me to get going in the beginning. What I did was, I cut out 18 slips of paper and wrote a number, one through eighteen, on each one. Then I put the slips in a baseball cap, shook them around and mixed them up, and then pulled them out one slip at a time, recording the numbers as I did so, so that I had generated a random sequence of eighteen numbers. Each slip represented ten minutes of the movie – the first ten minutes, the second ten minutes, so forth. Then I watched Yi Yi in ten-minute segments, in the random order that I had generated with the slips. Interestingly, the first number I pulled out of the cap was “one,” so at least I got to start the movie at the beginning. Not so long after that came “eighteen,” and I got to see the end of the movie pretty quick, which produced a sense in me of accelerating downhill toward completion. The point? If even five or ten minutes of a film, in sequence, is too much for you to bear, scrambling the numbers causes you to watch vignettes rather than a three-hour film. Yi Yi is about a family. A lot of stuff happens, in little ten-minute spurts.

4. The Lake House (2006) – For me, Sandra Bullock is sort of like Jennifer Aniston or Lucy Liu. She’d like to be glamorous and once in a while she gets tricked out so that she appears glamorous, but in her soul she’s just a normal, ordinary human being. I like to watch her onscreen. Sometimes, though, I’ll add Spanish or French subtitles to the movie. They can distract you from lame dialog or a stupid plot and give you a chance to work on your language skills at the same time. Or, I’ll change the audio track to dubbed Spanish or French with English subtitles. Same idea, but even more diverting. Or, finally, when I’m feeling serious about the language thing, more serious than I am about eyeballing Bullock, I’ll set the audio dubbing to Spanish and the subtitles to French, or vice versa. The Lake House? It’s about a magic mailbox. If I had written the screenplay, when you opened the box, there would have been pizza and coke from the future in there, in addition to the letters.

5. Infestation (2009) – I like to take in a horror film from time to time. I check the reviews, look for something on the Blockbuster shelves that some horror maven enjoyed. Sometimes, though, when I get the thing home and stick it in the DVD player or computer, on impulse I’ll turn on the commentary track and watch the movie with that instead of with the film’s audio. The director yakking is often superior to the screams of the members of the group, getting knocked off one at a time. Then, if the movie seems OK from that perspective, I’ll sometimes run it again with the director silenced and replaced by those actors’ screams. Infestation? I don’t remember… Oh yeah. There were cocoons. And, from the title, I’m guessing, bugs.

Why don’t ex-presidents appear in the movies?

If someone asked me to be in a movie, I’d say yes. Just for fun. Just to act, although I know zilch about acting. Just to be there on set and recite my lines and do multiple takes and then to sit down that evening for rushes and to see myself up there on the silver screen.

If Clinton or Bush wanted a part, they could get one in a second. I’d write one for either of them in half that time. Look, Schwarzenegger is already back on location, with no wife or office to moderate his groping. If Reagan hadn’t been deep into his bout with Alzheimer’s before his second term was up, he would have mounted El Alamein, his favorite horse, once more. I’ve seen the scripts. The studio was going to film on his ranch, with his Secret Service agents lurking behind the cameras. Before he got too sick for the project to be practical, Nancy kept the negotiations going, which included her comeback as well as Ronnie’s. Sunset Blvd. moves north to Santa Barbara!

Chester Arthur died too soon, but Benjamin Harrison might have snuck onto early film before his death in 1901. Cleveland, too. TR died in 1919. Perhaps he appeared in an early flicker or two; it wouldn’t surprise me. Taft went to the Supreme Court. Wilson and Harding died too soon. Coolidge just wanted to go back to Vermont and stay there. Hoover was a brainiac who couldn’t be bothered with the movies. FDR died too soon, and his disability was never shown in the media, which would have ruled him out anyway. Truman would have done it, would have brought Margaret with him, but Bess wouldn’t let him go. She had put up with him out of Missouri more than enough; no way he was going to Hollywood. Eisenhower and LBJ had bad tickers, or something might have been done there. JFK became the subject of movies, not the star in them.

Now, Nixon, that guy… My dad begged him to come over to the studio for a talk. Nixon was right there at San Clemente. He wanted vindication. Sure, he was writing his books, but he knew in his heart that nobody would read them, especially after a few years had passed. My dad sent a screenplay over to him, in which, yes, Nixon played a President brought down by a Democratic (sorry, Democrat) conspiracy. Nixon was interested. For one thing, Pat was on the sauce again and he needed something to help distract her. His books sure weren’t doing it. There were the San Clemente gardeners (undocumented, of course, in both senses), but I’m not going there. Anyway, my dad set up a meeting with Nixon, but then the studio heads got wind of it. Nixon was a bigger anti-Semite than Mel Gibson, of course, and the studio heads put the kibosh on the meeting in a thrice. They especially hated the part in the screenplay that suggested that Nixon was mainly brought down by the Jews.

Nobody cared about Ford, or ever wanted to see him again. Carter was off being a do-gooder; no time for fun. GWB was so intertwined with the Washington bureaucracy and Texas oil and Haliburton that he was never going to be allowed outside the fold and onto film.

Which leaves Clinton and Bush. I have feelers out to both. Maybe it’s a little low, but my Clinton feeler is a Lewinsky lookalike with the morals of a skate.

Product Placement coke

So what if the new James Bond movie gets $45 million bird’s eye for a little product placement? The world dr. scholls is full of products. You’re looking at them playtex all the time. Does that bug you? metamucil  If it helps the Bond movie mabelline get made, it’s worth it. four aces bail bonds. Look, even bloggers have families to fe science diet ed. Pennies here or online poker! there couldn’t hurt.

Try this. The next time you go for a walk, don’t look at any products. See how enlargement systems you get. (If you’re in the woods, you have to notice the litter. You would anyway.)

Inappropriate Viewing!

I was about to watch some silly movie last night when it struck me that millions are now suffering from the Japan catastrophes and war in the Middle East. This gave me pause. No man is an island, even though at the time I was sitting alone on the couch with nothing but a bottle and a bong to keep me company. I felt a sudden jolt of energy as I realized that my caring and concern could make a difference to others! Instead of that silly movie, I rewatched Earthquake (1974) and Hell is for Heroes (1962).

Elizabeth Taylor

As the Baby Boomer icons die off, I prefer to ignore their passing and the slow recession of the 50s and 60s in memory’s rear-view mirror, as I ignore the living icons themselves in their variously decrepit states. Why would I have anything to say about Liz now? I tuned her out back when Burton died. Say, are they together again, up in heaven? Is he drunk and are they already raging at each other? I hope so.

Anyway, there are three items, factoids, memories that do pop up in my brain regarding Ms Taylor:

1. The rich guy she married, who got killed in a plane crash? He was supposed to have the circumference of a beer can. It was presumed at the time that this was Taylor’s main reason for marrying him. Mind you, this was back when crushing a beer can with one hand meant something, because the cans were still made of tin.

2. Roddy McDowell shot a lot of nude pictures of Taylor at the height of her powers and got some of them posted in a Playboy article. By this time, McDowell was best known as an intelligent ape with a suspiciously high voice. This new window into the relationship between Taylor and McDowell seemed somehow revelatory to me, although no further nude pictures eventuated.

3. Christmas of ’63 I was visiting my girlfriend’s family in Salt Lake City. One night we went out to eat and then on to Cleopatra (1963). It was playing in one of those old movie palaces that are long gone now. We sat up rather near the front in a packed house. As I waited for the movie to start, I was reminded of my excitement when I went to see Ben-Hur (1959). I was in the front row for that one, and it didn’t disappoint. But I think we already knew that Cleopatra, famously the most expensive movie ever made, mostly because of Ms Taylor’s salary, was something of a stinker. Still, one can hope. You had to go see it, and by “you,” I mean everybody. I was disappointed. Instead of a chariot race, we got Ms Taylor visiting Rome on a float.

Watching Vivien Leigh act up in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) the other night, I thought that it might be fun to watch the Taylor Cleo again, just to compare the two screen queens. Checking Netflix, I see that it’s available. Somehow over the years, I don’t remember noticing it on the library shelves. Maybe I’ve just been ignoring it. Roddy McDowell as Caesar Augustus. Another reason that he got to take the nude photos.

P.S. The nation learned a lot about tracheotomies – I mean, what they are, so forth – when Elizabeth got plugged up that time. Her scar photos ruled the magazines for a while.

P.S.S. I haven’t been looking closely, but I would have expected more National Velvet shots.

Why I don’t review, or even comment on, Woody Allen movies

I was reading a review of a Woody Allen comedy from the early 2000s the other night. There were some comments in it about his proclivity for starring opposite young and beautiful women. Like a lot of aging actors, he had a terrible run with this; let’s hope it’s over with. Also in the review and the comments that came with it appeared the words “pervert,”  “perverse,” and “creepy,” presumably because he’s been married to Soon-Yi Previn for the past 14 years and has had two children with her.  He was doing ok with his marriages and relationships, public-relations-wise, first married to  Harlene Susan Rosen and then to Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976), if you can remember back that far), then “dating”  Diane Keaton, and then married  to Mia Farrow, with their three children. The public image started to go bad with the custody battles. Then the marrige to Soon-Yi saddled Allen with the P and C words. Oh well. I myself am not ready to handle an eighteen-year-old girl eager to have children with me, that’s for sure. But hey, as a sister wife, in training, helping out She Who Must Be Obeyed, now that could work.

Anyway, the thing is, Allen is eight years older than me. This means that when I was in college, he was doing standup and writing for TV comedy shows. He showed up in his first movie just as I got out of school. Over the next ten years, his comic movies just kept getting better. I was 25 – 35 during that period, ready to appreciate sixties humor.

The ten years after that, he made all the great ones, as my cohort moved into its 40s. By then we were all grown up and ready for his masterpieces. They were part of the cultural landscape. Something to watch and appreciate, Fine Art. Part of the Baby Boom inheritance.

The next 25 years? Some good stuff, some not so good. My part of his audience, like him, is showing some road wear.  We’re mostly philosophical about his career at this point.

The thing about Allen: a movie a year, done his way. Scheduled nights out playing jazz clarinet (does he still do that?). Years and years, and then some more years, on the couch (does he still do that?). Still the occasional New Yorker piece. Every major actor hopeful of working with him and him just always working, his favoirite camera shots, his favorite tropes, whatever.

So one of the blog comments I was reading said, “Oh, I didn’t like [whatever], which Allen made in [some year], but I did sort of like [whatever], which he made is some other decade.” And I had the thought, what if someone were commenting on some work by my father, for example, and said, “Oh, I liked this thing that he did in 1991, but not this other thing that he did in 1960” and I’ve got this heavy memory-load associated with my father and his works – how we were getting along in 1960 and in 1991, his health, the family, and I’m thinking that somehow, a simple liking of one thing and not of another out of his life’s work becomes so unbelievably trivial to any person who was there living it all the way through, that it isn’t worth noticing or responding to, beyond a polite “that’s nice.” Woody Allen isn’t my father, but there are sufficient connections between my life and his movies, that the effect of casual pronouncements about him cause me to begin dredging up memories of the time, his career, my life. Sort of as if a stranger were shuffling through a basket of your old family photos and plucked out a shot of everyone at a beach party in 1957, when so much happened to you for the first time, and casually said, “I don’t care for this shot. I don’t know why, but I just don’t.”

Allen’s great period was about being in your 30s and 40s, full bloom. It was about all the things you’re up to before you start slowing down. He had a public persona of one type before he became one of the best, and now he’s way out at the other end. He’d be ready to slip into Eric Rohmer sainthood, if it weren’t for his young family. He’s always been afraid of death; maybe this is one of his startegies to hold it off.

Why teen sex at the movies is so over

All these recent posts about teen sex at the movies – they’re written mostly by fogies in small towns and by pastors in their studies.

For example (I’m quoting copyrighted text here):

Q: Should me and my girlfriend do it at the Rialto?

A: While sex during a screening at the Rialto may be pleasurable, you should consider a few things first:

  1. Are you prepared to get caught and possibly charged with a fine for indecent exposure by Officer Josephson?
  2. As you’d be in a public place surrounded by other people, can you get away with not disturbing them, as they are paying customers as well, and that includes me if it’s a family film?
  3. Is this something both you and your partner really feel comfortable with and aren’t just being pressured into because it sounds cool?

Sex of all types should be a comfortable experience. Unless, you know, you’re into something a little kinky ha ha.

Ok, I added that last sentence, but still. Check out the multiplex parking lot. It’s full of SUVs, minivans, and Escalades, which I know are  SUVs but in certain neighborhoods, you know, an Escalade is an Escalade your ride you feel me? What would you be doing with sex in the movies when you could be out in one of those on a furry carpet with a little wine, a little weed, your player tuned to… well, you get the idea.

Except for oral sex, if you’re counting that as sex. And by oral sex I’m referring to some girl going down on you, not that other thing. Because for one thing, movie seats have changed. They’re bigger than they used to be. Some of them rock. They’ve got the big cup-holder. They don’t squeak when you’re squirmin.

Also, the audatoriums are a lot smaller than they used to be. You can walk in these days and there might be two people in there, no more, everybody else spread out at the other 31 screens, two people in there, some mom and her kid or two old retired guys. This is not the big dark cavernous moviehouse of old, with Egyptian scrollwork to admire whilst your head is lolling back.

For example, in the following poll:

If you saw two people having sex in the movie theater what would you do?

– Report them to a staff person?
– Watch?
– Move seats?
– Ignore them?

The most popular response was to record them on a cell phone and post the results. I’d include a link to one of these – the one made during a screening of My Bloody Valentine, in which the couple are both wearing their 3D goggles – but then my mom might see it. She forbids me to go to horror movies.

With respect to a similar poll about how to do it, we find that “Have her wear a skirt” and “Have her sit in your lap” are popular responses, but so is “Why would you want to?”

“Wear a skirt”? What geezer came up with that? “Sit on my lap”? Sit on my face! Ok, that doesn’t make any sense, but when you’re arguing with your teen, they’re liable to say anything. Might as well be prepared.

None of this applies to a couple going recursive with a couple onscreen who are doing it at the movies.