POSTED ON JULY 29, 2009:
The Last Picture Show
Columnist bids adieu, reveals list of films he actually liked
No Kidding. The Ugly Truth is perhaps the crudest mainstream romantic comedy I've ever seen. I'd have been embarrassed to be sitting there with my mom. But it was funny.
I know this is going to break a lot of your hearts, but this is my last column. Yes, that first part was sarcastic.
Notice I said column. This has always been a column with movie reviews, not the other way around. Back in college, I wanted to be Dave Barry (funny, I know). Only I'm no humorist.
I always imagined it as having a conversation with someone about movies, and acted accordingly. It was about sharing the experience of going to the movies, which I think is more valuable than some jerkoff film critic telling you how great some director's use of mise en scene was in a particular film.
I tried to entertain you and give you a heads up in picking your flicks. Movies aren't cheap. You shouldn't have to go in unprepared.
In conversations with individuals over the years, once someone learned I was a film reviewer, the question generally revolved around "what was good?" I'd respond with a question, "Well, what do you like?"
As a reviewer, if you don't answer that question in a way that has value to someone, there's no point in answering it at all. Someone who hates action flicks is not going to believe you when you tell them the new Star Trek flick was good.
Movie watching is ultimately subjective, and one opinion's as good or as worthless as another. You like what you like. See enough of them, however, and you'll start to notice the difference between the good ones and the ones for which you'd like to get a refund.
I have many reasons for "retiring," but it comes down to this: I'm tired of doing it. I'm tired of spending my weekends in movie theatres paying for overpriced popcorn, sitting through movies that aren't worth the hours, minutes and seconds of my life they steal. I'm missing my daughter growing up watching crap like Year One.
The more films I watch, the worse they, as a medium, seem to become. It's just not worth it to me anymore. I, like you, would rather just go to the movies when I feel like it.
For sure, I'll miss it. While I complain about the state of movies, I'm still a movie junkie. I've already made a list of all the movies I'm watching between now and January. I'm happy to say I'll be skipping some weekends.
Contrary to what you might think, I actually did like a movie or two during the last 11 years, and here some of them are. The following list is by no means comprehensive. It's not in any kind of order. If anything, it's a bit excessive, but just to prove I didn't hate everything, these are movies I reviewed that I enjoyed. Some of them I even bought...
The Dark Knight, Fight Club, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, anything by Pixar, No Country for Old Men, Saving Private Ryan, Children of Men, Babe, Brick, Shakespeare in Love, The Matrix, Office Space, Notting Hill, American Beauty, The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Galaxy Quest, Shaun of the Dead, the Bourne trilogy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hot Fuzz, Casino Royale, Pitch Black, High Fidelity, Gladiator, The Hours, Unbreakable, Let the Right One In, Snatch, Chocolat, Star Trek (the new one), Déjà Vu, Man on Fire, From Hell, A Knight's Tale, Memento, Batman Begins, The Fast and the Furious, Moulin Rouge, Hearts in Atlantis, Serendipity, the Harry Potter flicks, starting at film three, The 40-year-old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, V for Vendetta, The Royal Tenenbaums, Black Hawk Down, The Count of Monte Cristo, Minority Report, 300, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Devil Wears Prada, 3:10 to Yuma, Dawn of the Dead (remake), Seabiscuit, Religulous, The Fountain, The Prestige, Finding Neverland, The Departed, The Rundown, Stardust, The Last Samurai, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Munich, Catch Me If You Can, Constantine, Primer, Pi, X2, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Lost in Translation, Juno, City of God, Garden State, The Machinist, Hotel Rwanda, Downfall, The World's Fastest Indian, Millions, Kung Fu Hustle, Sin City, Murderball, Serenity, Capote, Donnie Darko, The Weather Man, Hard Candy, The King of Kong, Pan's Labyrinth, Disturbia, Fargo, In the Shadow of the Moon, The Kingdom, Michael Clayton, 30 Days of Night, United 93, Frost/Nixon, In Bruges, The Station Agent, Iron Man, Redbelt, City of Ember and Tropic Thunder.
Don't ask me how long it took me to come up with that list. I'm sure I'm leaving some really good flicks off it. But if you're ever in need of a rental, I guarantee any flick on that list is a good time.
Before I get out of here, there're still a couple films to address. You didn't think they'd just let me write some farewell article and not review anything, did you?
One is a documentary, the other a romantic comedy. Both reviews are short and sweet. It'd figure the last week I'm on the job, I'd have to sit through a romantic comedy . . .
Don't See It with Your Momma
The Ugly Truth is perhaps the crudest mainstream romantic comedy I've ever seen. Then again, I guess it's just living up to its name. But past its uncouth demeanor, it's just an average romantic comedy.
Abby (Katherine Heigl) produces a television show. She's fantastic at the job because she's a control freak, more or less. But what works on set doesn't in her love life. She has no clue how to date.
Mike (Gerard Butler) has a tv show on the local public access channel where he takes calls and offers up relationship advice. He calls it, The Ugly Truth. Mike is candid, and the wisdom he espouses is apparently clean of any bs. He's not afraid to say men are only interested in good looking women. He's outrageous. He's inflammatory. And he's not afraid to say anything at any time.
Abby's morning show is slipping in the ratings, so her boss hires Mike to jazz up the show. Abby hates Mike and hates the idea and does everything in her power to run him off.
So Mike makes a deal with her. If he can get her hooked up with the "man of her dreams," then she has to eat crow and work with him. If not, Mike'll leave the show.
Things play out more or less predictably from there.
It's a romantic comedy. That's what they do.
This one stands out on the unvarnished "truth" that spills forth from Mike's mouth. More than once, the audience gasped in that did-he-just-say-what-I-think-he-said sort of way. Hell, I'd have been embarrassed to be sitting there with my mom.
But it was funny. Much funnier than your standard rom-com fare, which is enough to make it not bad, but not great either. Butler and Heigl have some chemistry, though it seemed like they were both playing it up just a bit too much. Blame the director for that one.
End result is that it's not a bad date flick. I just don't know if it's a good first-date flick. Got it?
Know Where That's Been?
Food, Inc. is a doc about the big business behind the food we shovel into our mouths every day.
You think that Americans are overweight just because of our lifestyle? That we're lazy and eat too much fast food? Sure, part of that is true, but there's more to it than that. You have to consider what your food options actually are. What if the stuff you can buy in the grocery store isn't really that much better for you than the crap you get from McDonald's?
That's part of what's going on in Food, Inc.
It is by far one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. The film visits slaughter houses and grocery stores. It traces the food from the field to our mouths, and all of the story is revelatory.
Oh, sure, as with all docs, it has an agenda, and you'd do wise upon watching to go home and do some research of your own. But it's one of those times where I'd have a hard time believing the case against it.
Did you know, for instance, that one of the ways beef producers get rid of e-coli bacteria is to rinse the meat in ammonia? That means that juicy steak you ate at Outback last week might've been sprayed down with ammonia before it ever met the grill.
As soon as I finished the film, I thought, "I'm only ever buying organic food again." Certainly, it has the effect of a "wake-up call." Again, even if you don't 100% buy what the film is selling, it's well-crafted enough, convincing enough to make you want to go find some things out for yourself.
As for me, it left me with this question: What in the hell am I supposed to eat now?
Food, Inc. opens at the Circle this weekend. Highly recommended.
I shouldn't have to tell you this after all these years, but... make sure you're attending films at the Circle. There's nothing else like it in town, and nine times out of 10, it's showing the best films on any screen in Tulsa. It's local and its heart is in the right place. Don't let me down on this. The town'll be a sorry place indeed if ever it was to lose the Circle and what it represents.
You might also want to watch your mainstream flicks at The Riverwalk in Jenks. It's locally owned and operated, which is more than you can say for the rest of the multiplexes in town. Also, I'm pretty sure it has the only digital projectors in Tulsa. Digital projection is a far superior cinematic experience. No scratches on the film, no breaks. The picture is brighter, sharper and the sound fidelity is outstanding. Try it out.
Be smart. Don't be easily parted from your entertainment dollars.
I won't flatter myself to think I'll be missed by everyone. Nevertheless, it's been a pleasure and privilege writing for you.
Thanks for reading.
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