Sunday, July 25, 2004

A few popular culture notes written while watching my favorite Michael Gross movie:

There are several summers of my life that I consider to be inextricably linked to a particular song. 1988 will always be the summer of Pour Some Sugar On Me, which seemed to be played every other song on the jukebox at the pool. I seemed to spend the entire summer of 1994 driving around with a girl who would crank her car radio to full blast for the line "I want to be Bob Dylan" (even though she didn't really like Bob Dylan) everytime Mr. Jones came on, which seemed to be pretty much all the time. (When Mr. Jones wasn't playing that summer, Basket Case inevitably was.) In 1998 I literally couldn't escape Torn. It was the runaway pop hit of June and July, and then when I went to Europe in August, it was the runaway pop hit there in August. In 2001 Tim and I drove across the country winding our way north and south, and then I drove back across using a different route, and we never once made it through a state without hearing Follow Me somewhere in that state. (Except North Dakota, where I literally heard the song within 500 yards before entering and after leaving the state.) Sadly, it was always the Uncle Kracker version, never the John Denver version.

The practical upshot here is, I don't know about the rest of the country, but in L.A. 2004 is now officially the summer of Float On. Congratulations to Modest Mouse for achieving the requisite ubiquity; may your career be more Green Day than Imbruglia. Another month and I'm sure I'll be wishing you the opposite.

In other pop culture news, Jeff and I took the ironic movie plunge last night and rented Gigli. In short, the verdict is that it's not as bad as you've heard. It is almost as bad, but for different reasons than you might think. I don't think Jennifer Lopez was particularly awful, and I don't think Ben Affleck was particularly awful. We were ready to hate them when the movie came out, so the fact that they weren't very good somehow turned into them being horrible. I'm also not going to attack the premise--premises can be better or worse, but you can make a good movie with a bad premise and vice versa.

The problem with Gigli is that it is absolutely miserably written and directed. It can't find a tone, which is bad. It has scenes that could be played for comedy or drama but you can't tell which, and that's worse. And sometimes it has those scenes and then piles on some really over-the-top music that forcefully tells you how to feel, but that's even worse yet.

The plot is equally muddled. The love story itself is clear and is either clever or offensive, depending on how fluid you think sexuality really is. But the rest is just a mess. The lead couple are hired guns, and there's a kidnapping, but it's totally unclear why they've kidnapped this person, on whose behalf, and to what end. Then there are characters who are apparently important and hold clues to these questions, but they show up for one scene and then are gone and forgotten. Christopher Walken shows up and does a five-minute quirky Christopher Walken scene, and then is gone. Later, Al Pacino shows up and does a five-minute quirky Christopher Walken scene (which, Jeff points out, can be a lot like a quirky Al Pacino scene), and then two-thirds of the way through it, suddenly turns and shoots his agent.

There is some campy fun to be had out of Gigli, particularly with the highly manipulative music and the rare non-Oscar-nominated mentally retarded performance by Justin Bartha, but beyond staring at J-Lo's ass (let's not forget, she's a star for a reason; specifically, that reason) there's not a whole lot of fun to be had here.

If you want real campy movie fun, check out the $17 the special effects department budgeted to show you how The Legend Begins.

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