Monday, June 29, 2009

Fall of the Legends. Thoughts on Good Actors In Bad Movies.

As I started to watch Terminator: Salvation, I received a genuine jolt during the opening credits. Among the actors in the movie was Jane Alexander. The name may not be familiar, but she is a great talent. She portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt in Eleanor & Franklin, one of the most popular mini-series made, so much so there was a sequel: Eleanor & Franklin: The White House Years. She's a Tony and Emmy winner and four-time Oscar nominee. A veteran of Broadway, she took time from her career to lead the National Endowment for the Arts. As I stated in my review for Salvation, I expected a great performance & an important role for an actress of her caliber. Instead, what I got was a tragedy: a first-rate actress reduced to screaming a lot and having nothing to do with the plot. Maybe she wanted it that way: I have no knowledge of her thinking. However, I can't help but think that she got shafted big time, and that her reputation will suffer because of the debacle that is Salvation.

That led me to think who else has endured a project not worthy of their talent. Tragically, I found some more examples.

John Hurt in Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. This is Caligula in I, Claudius (along with Roots the best mini-series ever made). This is Kane from Alien, one of the most shocking moments from one of the GREAT sci-fi films (and yes, his spoof of it in Spaceballs shows he has a sense of humor about it all). This is The Elephant Man. With those kinds of performances, why was he reduced to babbling in the worst Indiana Jones film? Whoever would think that Shia LeBouef deserved more screen time? It might have worked better if Hurt weren't just looking like he was crazy (although he was for taking the part) and instead served as a guide for the Jones boys, but what did he add to the overall story except the excuse needed to go down into the jungle? I will say this: his little "Fireside Dance" in Crystal Skulls was no match for his I, Claudius dance number (still one of the most jaw-dropping moments on television). The latter was part of a brilliant performance, while the former was just... so pointless (rather like the movie itself).

Sir Sean Connery in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I suppose even he has to pay his mortgage, but did he have to agree to THIS? A loud, pointless picture which had no action for an action picture, no fun for a graphic novel adaptation, and a submarine the size of two or three aircraft carriers floating easily through the canals of Venice? Connery is the rare character in film: an action star who is also an excellent actor. It made sense to cast him as Henry Jones, Sr. in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade--Harrison Ford is also like Connery in being able to do action and acting...sometimes at the same time (example: Blade Runner). However, while he was right to decline appearing in Crystal Skulls he was wrong, oh so wrong, to agree to helm this. He needs to make another film, if only to rescue his legacy and not let LOEG be his final film appearance.

Peter O'Toole in Supergirl. The fact that O'Toole has appeared in projects not worthy of his talents and abilities is no secret. However awful the film itself was (Troy being a contemporary example) he at least managed to bring his skills (and Irish charm) to the project. However, no amount of alcohol intake could possible justify (or improve) his turn in this wildly misguided entry in the Superman franchise. To think that Lawrence of Arabia is trapped in the Phantom Zone...just a nightmarish memory that won't ever fade. Should he get a Kennedy Center Honor or AFI Lifetime Achievement Award (he is worthy of both), I hope they don't show clips of Supergirl...unless they want to kill him.

A special mention goes to Laurence Olivier in Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow. It's one thing to be in a bad movie. It's another to be in a bad movie after you're dead. In fairness to Lord Olivier, he gave the best performance in the film; it was also the best performance of his career since his death (what that says about talented performers like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law I'd rather not think about). However, his estate erred in agreeing to allow footage of him reciting the opening chapters of Genesis to be an important plot point. He had no control over how he would appear, and for an actor of his rank, that is almost unforgivable.

At least he has the excuse of not knowing what his voice & image would be put to do. Marlon Brando in Superman Returns doesn't get off quite so free. Yes, that footage was from & for the original Superman: The Movie so at least it relates (loosely) to the story. However, just because you add an actor who is part of the Superman legacy doesn't mean you tie it all together. Instead, you only remind audiences about how good the original is, and how far you fell. Not since I saw Fred Astaire dance with a vacuum cleaner did I feel so sorry for a legend who had been so shamefully reduced (no pun intended).


Sad. So Sad. What next? Ernest Borgnine in BASEketball? Sir Derek Jacobi in Underworld: Evolution? Oh...really? Never mind.

I guess we all have to eat.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thoughts On Expanding The Best Picture Oscar Nominees.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is the grand title of the organization best known for the Oscars (they are called the Academy Awards). In their 81+ year history, it's not surprising that they've made a few mistakes.

For example, giving Louise Rainer TWO competitive Oscars (back-to-back no less!) while never giving one to Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Burton, Marlene Dietrich, Claude Raines, Rosalind Russell, Peter O'Toole, Myrna Loy, Albert Finney, Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock, Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, William Powell, Rita Hayworth, Buster Keaton, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Fred Astaire, Carole Lombard, Kirk Douglas, and Irene Dunne (who suffered the indignity of losing to Rainer back-to-back, the second time for The Awful Truth no less!).

How the music of 100 Men and a Girl could be considered better than that of Snow White & the Seven Dwarves is a puzzle (which would you whistle while you work?) and why Bernard Herrmann's music for Psycho or Vertigo went WITHOUT a nomination is sheer lunacy. We won't even get into the Saving Private Ryan tap-dance or Bjork's "Bird-Brain" performance.

Now, the Academy has decided to multiply their errors by two. It was announced that there will be 10 Best Picture nominees next year (all other categories will remain at minimum 3, maximum 5). That's TEN. DIEZ. JU. DIX. I think WE'RE the ones getting dissed. This is the daftest, dumbest, destructive idea the Academy has come up with recently.

I suspect the increase came because of the criticism the Academy got when The Dark Knight did not get a Best Picture nomination. There had been speculation that it would, and it did earn seven nominations with two wins. However, because it didn't get one for the Top Prize, certain circles believed the ceremony was now tainted.

I personally feel The Dark Knight is WILDLY overrated and the fanboys were at the forefront of pushing for Best Picture, along with their lackey critics who were convinced it was the Citizen Kane of graphic novel adaptations (some critics I suspect think The Dark Knight is GREATER than Kane, but I digress). In fairness however, perhaps a re-watching of The Dark Knight may temper by views. Now that there will be ten, there will be a greater chance that films like The Dark Knight--popular films that were hits with both critics and the public--will get nominated and perhaps even win.

However, the Academy needs to be careful what it wishes for. With the field opened wider, there will be a greater chance that second-rate films will find their way into the running. All that one will need to get a not-so-good or even a bad film nominated are enough votes and enough muscle & pressure from the studios or companies. If people think Harvey Weinstein stole Best Picture from Saving Private Ryan in favor of Shakespeare in Love, just think what could happen when you get double the shot of getting your flop into the mix.

If you think about how the campaigns for such notorious flops as Doctor Dolittle and Hello, Dolly! got them Best Picture nominations (and how dangerously close they came to actually winning) you will see how this move won't guarantee wins for films like the non-nominated Dark Knight or Dreamgirls. It can't even guarantee them nominations. It will only end up splitting the vote among more films, and the Academy may be in the embarrassing position of ranking something like a Pearl Harbor or GOD HELP US a Transformers alongside Lawrence of Arabia or Schindler's List, Casablanca or The Godfather. For those who hate the idea that Gladiator beat out Traffic or The Greatest Show on Earth won over The Quiet Man, just think what WILL happen when people vote for the most popular film over a smaller film that might be better in terms of quality.

In short, it's a cynical ploy to boost ratings. The idea is with more popular films in the running, more people will watch. There is a certain merit to that thinking: one of the lowest-rated Oscars was when the critically-beloved (but public-rejected) No Country for Old Men won, while one of the highest was when Titanic overwhelmed its competition. However, it might only end up blowing up in the Academy's face. I suspect it will go no longer than this year, five at the most. I think it will bring ratings down in the long run (if it brings them a short-term gain at all).

If the Academy wants to get higher ratings, it would help if Hollywood gets around to making good films that don't insult the audience's intelligence, films that don't cater to 14-year-old boys, and/or films that don't lecture us. It will help if the studios break away from groupthink and aren't afraid to make films that won't break box-office records but will earn them a good reputation. Watchmen was the number one film when it opened, but it came and went fast. Money isn't everything.

Tragically, Hollywood has become too isolated from its audience, and rather than fix the internal problems (overpaid stars, underwritten scripts, lazy formula films, endless pre/sequels), they focus on external matters ranging from "Passion dollars" (catering films to Christians with weak biblical trappings) to enlarging the Best Picture nominees to ten. I have one question for the AMPAS: if you're going to bump up the Best Picture nominees, will you also bring back the traditional "And the winner is..." to replace the "And the Oscar goes to..." or are you more concerned about hurting the non-winners feelings than you are about your reputation?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Up (2009): A Review (Review #11)


A Lovely Flight of Fancy...

I find it curious that American filmgoers think animation is a purely children's genre. My theory is that people think animated films are the same as the cartoons they watched on Saturday morning. That is like saying Roots is the same as Homeboys in Outer Space because both of them ran for a short time on television and had African-American casts. There is a wide difference between Scooby-Doo and Grave of the Fireflies, between The Snorks (I am dating myself, aren't I) and Fantasia.

This might explain why parents took their progeny to watch UP, the latest Disney/Pixar collaboration, and why some people may avoid it. Truth is, UP is one of the truest films made this year: a beautiful, thoughtful, mournful and ultimately uplifting film (no pun intended). You realize this even before the film starts with the animated short Partly Cloudy. You see right away why Pixar continues to add films to the list of the greatest animated films ever made--when you can make people care about characters in a five-minute short, you can make them care in a full-length feature.

UP begins with an old-style newsreel telling the exploits of Charles Muntz (voiced by Christopher Plummer), an explorer who is determined to prove the existence of a bird after the skeleton of the animal he brings back is declared a fraud. Muntz is still a hero to Carl Fredericksen (Ed Asner), a child who dreams of having similar adventures in the wild. Carl meets Ellie, a girl who shares (and even exceeds) his passion for Muntz-worship, and soon we see they marry and build a life together.

Tragically, Ellie dies, and their dreams of going to Paradise Falls together die with her. Carl, alone, continues to live in the house they shared while major construction goes around his house. He is interrupted in his mourning by Russell (Jordan Nagal), an eager Wilderness Explorer who wants to help Mr. Fredericksen in order to get his final badge, which is the "Assisting the Elderly" badge. Carl wants nothing to do with him or anyone really. An incident forces Carl to be sent to a retirement home, but on the day he is suppose to leave, he takes all the balloons he has and literally pulls up stakes to fulfill the shared dreams of living beside Paradise Falls. Unfortunately, he didn't count on Russell accidentally being carried away along with the house.

They do make it to the falls--the wrong side. Together, they trek toward Carl's goal, using their body weight to carry the house to the right side, only to be sidetracked by Kevin, a large bird whom Russell takes to his heart (but whom he doesn't quite realize is a female), and Dug, a sweet (albeit slightly dumb) dog with a talking collar that allows him to communicate with them. They discover Muntz is still very much alive...and unhinged in his quest for the bird. Carl realizes Kevin IS that bird, and that Muntz is no hero but rather insane and will stop at nothing to get at them.

UP is more than an adventure story with a fantastical premise. It really is about life, and how it goes on even when we lose people important to us. Each of the characters has a loss in their life (Carl his wife, Russell his father) and they find that while the people they would WANT to be there may not be, there are others who can be there for them. More than anything, UP continues in the Pixar tradition of making the most human of animated characters. They continue to show just how important it is to CARE about your characters. We CARE about Buzz and Woody. We CARE about Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson. We CARE about Carl and Russell--we even care about Kevin and Dug. Although they are computer-generated, they have more emotion than John Conner in Terminator: Salvation or Logan in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Curious that animated characters have more life and heart than actual humans, isn't it?

Neither of those films, with their large budget and louder explosions, has the power of UP. When Carl takes his house up into the air, it is an extraordinarily beautiful moment on film, which is a rarity these days. If I had been alone and been true to myself, I would have been man enough to cry like I was about to in a beautiful montage late in the film. Carl is finally at the right side of Paradise Falls, and he begins to look at the scrapbook his wife kept, "My Adventure Book". Before, it had been a collection of her early life with space left over for "Stuff I'm Going to Do". He looks at it mournfully, but then he discovers these formerly blank pages are filled...filled with their life together. At the end, there's a message from Ellie, telling him their life together WAS an adventure, now go and find the next one. Even now, it's one of the most moving and beautiful scenes I've seen all year.

Not enough credit has been given to the beautiful score by Michael Giacchino. It's reminiscent of the music for another film that features flying balloons: Victor Young's Oscar-winning score for Around the World in 80 Days. I hope that the Academy will remember the music come nominating time. It seems clear that UP is the Heath Ledger of 2009--a sure bet to win an Oscar (Best Animated Feature). It just seems a shame that it might be overlooked for Best Picture. True, it is too soon to make those kinds of predictions, but UP is the best film I've seen all year.

Ultimately, UP is about the importance of human connection, the importance of love--both giving and receiving, and, to quote Peter Pan, about how "living is an awfully big adventure".


Friday, June 12, 2009

White Christmas: A Review


That Old White Christmas Has Me In Its Spell...

I have never liked Danny Kaye. I find him quite annoying. Up until White Christmas, the only Danny Kaye film I'd seen had been Hans Christian Andersen, and I couldn't get through it. I remember him singing, "I'm Hans Christian Andersen", and then promptly getting arrested for insulting the king by singing on his statue. I then remember him in jail singing Thumbelina to a child outside his window. It was at this point I changed the channel. I was six at the time so my memory is hazy. In fairness, credit should be given where it is due: his charity work, especially for UNICEF, is to be applauded and he rightly won a Humanitarian Oscar and a Kennedy Center Honor for his work. That still doesn't make me like him as a performer.

Perhaps that is why I had not seen White Christmas...until now. I now see how wrong I was to have waited so long just because I have a dislike for one of the stars. What I found was a sweet, charming, light, and delightful musical, one that is unashamed in its desire to entertain and doing it so well.
This might come as a surprise, but the song White Christmas did not originate from the film White Christmas. Rather, it's the reverse: the song (which earned an Oscar for Irving Berling from the film Holiday Inn) became such a hit that an entire film was built around the song. Not surprisingly, the man most connected with the song (Bing Crosby) is one of the stars.

The story starts in 1944 in Europe in the last Christmas of World War II. Crosby is Bob Wallace, a song-and-dance man who as a captain is entertaining the troops along with Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye). Davis saves his life, and from that schemes his way into making the already-established Wallace make him his showbiz partner. After the war, the double-act is a hit, and they get into producing. As part of that work, they scout the Haynes Sisters act, Judy (Vera-Ellen) and Betty (Rosemary Clooney). Judy and Phil are apparently in cahoots to get Betty and Bob together, and Bob is hoodwinked into going to a Vermont ski resort with the girls.

Coincidentally (as coincidentally as any musical would make it), the inn is run by their former commanding general who's fallen on hard times. The old Army buddies decide to put on a show to help the general out. Soon romance begins for Bob & Betty (love the names), but, in the tradition of all good musical comedies, a classic case of misunderstanding takes place that separates the lovers. Eventually, it's all cleared up, allowing the lovers to reunite and sing White Christmas one more time.

White Christmas gleefully is what it pretends to be: a film where the plot is just an excuse to have big musical numbers and revel in the non-reality of them. Take the number Snow. Here, the leads sing in a dining train car about what they're going to do when they get to the lodge and see 'snow'. It's so nice to see a film where people sing to describe their plans without it being considered odd and being unapologetic about it. The filmmakers trust the audience to know they are not trying to be 'realistic' and to go along with the ride.

It is hard to believe that there could be a barn in Vermont big enough to host such a lavish musical number like the Minstrel number (mercifully it did not have people in blackface like the title suggests), complete with sets and a full orchestra with backup dancers. Like other musicals of its time, it wasn't going for strict logic as it was for entertainment value. In this, it is a brilliant success.

It's obvious in the film that Crosby is not a dancer. He certainly wouldn't have been able to do the The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing number that is a showcase for Kaye and Vera-Ellen. However, he certainly shows his charm with his duet with Clooney in Count Your Blessings. Clooney has her own highlight with Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me, looking so elegant as she sings of a broken heart.

White Christmas also has the always reliable Mary Wickes as the general's wife. It is also more evidence for the case that director Michael Curtiz should be thought of with higher regard and should be remembered by people for more than Casablanca (though that would ensure anyone's reputation).

My only slight complaint is the Choreography number. It reminds me why I find Kaye so irritating. His habit of making faces, his vocalization and rubbery body movements that many find endearing I only find annoying. Still, that's a minor issue that I'm willing to overlook.

White Christmas the movie is exactly like White Christmas the song: sweet, gentle, and nostalgic. For someone who has lived in the desert Southwest all his life, I too 'dream of a white Christmas/just like the ones I used to know'. White Christmas is a beautiful, lovely film. As for Danny Kaye? I'm still not a fan, but I gladly make an exception in this case.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marnie: A Review


Tippi Cannot, And Hitchcock Too...

I have held that The Birds was Alfred Hitchcock's last masterpiece. The five films he made after (Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy, and Family Plot), are not remembered with the passion and respect that The Birds, Vertigo, Psycho, or Rear Window are. Of course, it's unfair to judge a film before watching it. With that in mind, I decided to watch the post-Birds films and see if they are undiscovered treasures or the floundering efforts of a declining genius.

First on the list is Marnie, and while there are a few things to recommend it, it has to be considered a minor Hitchcock film. It was as if he tried to bring another version of Spellbound (in terms of plot and greatness) but ended up with another version of Suspicion (one of his weakest films).

Tippi Hedren stars as Marnie, a thief who has robbed her employers of thousands of dollars, from what I saw to help her mother and keep a horse (her only indulgence). Sean Connery is Mark Rutland, the head of the company she's planning her next heist on. She eventually commits the planned robbery, but Rutland is on to her and blackmails her into marrying him. Once married, she wants nothing to do with him, repulsed by his touch and disgusted by even the suggestion of sex with him. Mark recognizes that Marnie has some secret that even she's not fully aware of. Eventually, after a horse-riding accident, he cajoles her and her mother into discovering the strange history of Marnie, and now that the truth has set her free, she and Mark can start a life together.

There are certainly signs that Hitchcock is still a visual craftsman of the first rank. When we first see Marnie's face, it's a pure vision of exquisite beauty, accentuated by Bernard Herrmann's beautiful score. Another flash of genius is when Marnie finally pulls of her heist. In the scene, she is suppose to be alone, but we see in the wide shot that parallel to her is a cleaning lady. When Marnie starts to leave, she realizes there may be a witness. She takes her heels off and tiptoes out, but we see her shoe start to slip out. When the other shoe literally drops...well, why ruin it for you?

However, there are problems. This was Tippi Hedren's second film, and while she was excellent in The Birds here she seems a little out of place, a bit lost. I don't think it's fair to fault her for this: she was doing her best with little to any experience. Connery, however, is a different matter. He had much experience in film and on the stage, and in Marnie he is oddly cold and remote, without any passion (or in some cases, interest) in his performance. The phrase "phoning it in" seems apt. Connery is a first-rate actor, but his has to be one of his weaker performances.

The performances aren't central to the issues Marnie has. The story is a bit odd. Mark doesn't appear at any time to be in love with Marnie, so why would he want to marry her? His motives are even more strange when you consider Marnie absolutely wants nothing to do with him sexually. On their honeymoon she is physically revolted at the thought of a kiss, and I couldn't help but wonder if she had been horribly abused, or maybe even a lesbian (not that I'm suggesting a woman 'becomes' a lesbian due to abuse). Still, there has to be a reason why she's so repulsed by the idea of going to bed with him that she would try to drown herself in a pool. It would have made more sense to either turn her in or just have someone following her. It doesn't help that some scenes (the fox hunt or when Connery is suppose to be looking down a hall searching for Marnie) are obviously fake with unconvincing effects and poor sets.

There is one good thing in Marnie: Bernard Herrmann's beautiful score. The title music and the music for the fox hunt are especially good and memorable. The soundtrack is worth getting, and it's unfortunate that both the studio and Hitchcock disliked it--the director wanting a pop score instead of the traditional, lush music that was Herrmann's forte. Tragically, this would be their last collaboration--Hitchcock dumping Herrmann when the music for Torn Curtain wasn't pop. That should be remembered as the first step in the fall of Sir Hitch.
Ultimately, Marnie can't compare to the films that came before. It wouldn't have mattered if Marnie had been played by Tippi Hedren or Grace Kelly (who was on the verge of coming out of retirement to play the role). There would have been war with Monaco if the citizens had seen their Princess having her clothes ripped off, even if we only say her face and legs. In the final analysis, Marnie the movie was like Marnie the character: cold, distant, remote. I love Hitchcock, and my love for his work might have me buy it.

However, Marnie appears to be the start of Hitchcock's slow descent.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Made of Honor: A Review (Review #8)


It's Not Love.  It's Codependency...

It is a truth universally acknowledged in modern romantic comedies that a man can screw all the women he wants because every woman he meets not only wants to get screwed by him but believes she should be treated like a bargain basement hooker in exchange for the pleasure of his time.

This has been a curious trend in what passes for rom-coms, one where the male lead is catnip for women, all women want him, and the only one that has some sense of pride and/or brains eventually will learn her life was empty and meaningless until she finally falls to his charms. Then and only then will she realize that now, to quote the song, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.

Made of Honor is in that vein, but curiously, it goes one worse in making everyone either incredibly dumb or incredibly narcissistic.

We start in 1998 when Tom (Patrick Dempsey) meets Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) in college in the cutest way: he tries to practically rape her. Actually, he's just trying to have sex with her roommate who had agreed to meet him in the room and mistook Hannah's sleeping form for the other girl. Hannah's horrified, Tom (who already is a slut) merely confused. It's this night that a friendship emerges between Tom & Hannah. We also learn Tom's invented a revolutionary product: the coffee collar, which will prevent people from burning themselves when picking up a cup.

Fast forward ten years. Hannah looks on with bemused disapproval on Tom's many, many, many affairs with women eager to be treated like doormats just for a chance to spend a night with McDreamy. She seems happy to accompany him everywhere, even to his father's sixth wedding (played with glee by Sidney Pollack in his final screen role--what a way to ruin an Oscar-winning reputation). However, her job as an art restorer finally has her leave Tom's side: six weeks in Scotland.

In that time, Tom falls apart: he can't find any other woman who knows what he likes to snack on or take a bit of cake from her plate. He goes so far as to wake her at 3 in the morning just so he can tell her banalities. With her absence, Tom realizes...he's in love with her. He'll tell her once she returns, but wouldn't you know it--she comes back engaged, and engaged to the Perfect Man (former Journeyman/future Mc-Something Kevin McKidd). Being her best friend, Hannah asks Tom to be her Maid of Honor (hence the pun of the title) and he agrees, just for the chance to ruin her wedding and, to quote his buddies, "steal the bride".

Let's start by asking the obvious question: why would these two want to be friends (let alone best friends) with the other? Tom's never treated ANY woman with a modicum of respect, while Hannah should be independent enough to find people who will respect her. If they existed in real life, neither of them would want to be around the other.

However, the first real problem is that this is not a romantic comedy. For it to be one, there has to be romance. As I watched, one thought kept emerging and reemerging in my mind:

This Isn't Love. It's Codependency.

Tom's never thought of HER feelings. He's never cared that she's almost thirty and has no romantic relationship or life outside of him. He seems oblivious to the fact that she has few if any friends beyond him. If her leaving him for six weeks makes him so miserable, what would happen were she to go on vacation, or a girl's night out? (I figure she didn't: her whole life it seems, is devoted simply to cater to HIS needs/wants. This was confirmed in the movie when we see the wallpaper on her cell phone--it's of them together--and when we see a picture of them from a previous vacation).

He comes to the conclusion that he's in love with her only because she knows him so well. In short, he's so in love with HIMSELF that he decides he loves a woman because she has subjugated HER life for him. When she finds another man who actually cares about HER and treats HER like a Duchess (more on that later) it sends him into a panic, and he is determined to keep her in HIS life by any means necessary. Never was such obscene narcissism portrayed as romantic.
Another problem came to the forefront with a line. When Tom spends the day with Hannah to 'help' her in his role as Maid of Honor, she says that he didn't have to "clear his day" to do so. It's at this point when my friend Fidel Gomez and I look at each other in sheer disbelief. "Cleared his day of WHAT?" we asked each other almost simultaneously and incredulously. "He does do anything except play basketball," Gomez said. "And schtup beautiful women," I added. The only outside activity Tom ever engaged in was playing basketball with his friends (and one character who added nothing expect a chance to poke fun at him). He never does anything. As much as I love Starbucks, I don't think they sell enough for him to live such a lavish lifestyle year in, year out.

Add to this sorry mix Colin McMurray, Hannah's fianceé. He's suppose to be perfect: rich, handsome, incredibly endowed (does anyone else think a group of straight men gawking at another man's penis is just a touch creepy), and finally, a Duke. A genuine, titled Duke. Here's where I think a brief explanation on titles is required.

In order for Colin to be a duke he would have to be the eldest surviving son of the previous Duke or the son of the reigning monarch. Since both of Colin's parents are alive and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state in Scotland, how can he be a duke (unless it's of Earl). I could believe a viscount, or earl, or even a knight (Sir Colin), but a duke? Furthermore, when they are in Scotland for the wedding, no one ever addresses him as His Royal Highness the Duke of ..., but as plain Colin. I doubt anyone would refer to them as Phillip Mountbatten or Andrew Windsor instead of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh or HRH the Duke of York. It's patent nonsense and shows how wildly inconsistent, illogical, and poorly thought-out  the film is.

We're suppose to believe that Colin, Duke of Earl, and Hannah travelled together for a month and will get married in two weeks. That lead me to wonder if those four weeks were tied to the six weeks she was suppose to be working or if the museum just let her take gobs and gobs of vacation time. Yet for all the time they spent together, she was unaware that Colin played the bagpipes every night (I guess they hadn't slept together in all the time). I digress to point out HRH Edward, the Duke of Windsor did the same thing (though not every night I believe), much to the annoyance of his wife Wallis. At least she had been his mistress beforehand and knew he did that. They might have had real comedy if they had shown Colin perform His Royal Highness' other hobby: needlepoint. I digress.

Here, when Colin doesn't let Hannah take a slice of cake from his plate, it's only then that she realizes Tom may be a better fit. What, they never shared an intimate dinner in those six weeks? I kept wondering what the rush was.

You also have some truly awful scenes. Perhaps it's to my credit or a sign of my naïveté, but at Hannah's bridal shower I had to have "thunder beads" explained to me. My friend Fidel Gomez was especially bothered by the fight between Tom and Hannah afterwards (Tom had taken the credit for the party). It was an extremely gentle fight which had no circumstances and was basically a waste of our time...and a chance to have an elderly woman snap thunder beads around her neck like a necklace. (Yes, I've forgotten what exactly they are, and take the course of innocence being bliss).

You also have the journey to Scotland. While you have beautiful Scottish scenery to admire, the bridesmaids were not funny, the future in-laws horrid, the Highland Games embarrassing (do you think any of the women said the medieval outfits were a touch too much), and the church scene clichéd to the max.

I will confess to having laughed once. It was at hearing a particular line spoken by a bridesmaid who had slept with and been dumped by Tom. I laughed because I thought this could be one of those immortal lines that will be remembered by generations of film goers. Here's a partial list:
  • You ain't heard nothing yet (The Jazz Singer).
  • I want to be alone (Grand Hotel).
  • Made it, Ma! Top of the world! (White Heat)
  • Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn (Gone With the Wind).
  • Here's looking at you, kid (Casablanca).
  • Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up (Sunset Boulevard).
  • May the Force be with you (Star Wars).
  • I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse (The Godfather).
  • I'll be back (The Terminator).
And now, add to those:
  • Service me, bitch (Made of Honor).

I feel bad for Michelle Monaghan. She's proven she can act in Gone Baby Gone, so why is she wasting her talent in nonsense like this or Eagle Eye? Kevin McKidd may be good (I was one of the five viewers of Journeyman where he did an excellent American accent and have heard good things about his performance in Rome), but even with his native accent he can't rise above the shoddy material.

As for Dempsey, this was clearly a vehicle for him, capitalizing on his success on Grey's Anatomy to get him back into film and perhaps erase memories of such early efforts as Can't Buy Me Love or Loverboy. He didn't. Worse off is Sidney Pollack. He did the best job as Tom's philandering father, but to think this was his final film...sad, so sad.

Ultimately, the film is misnamed. Tom isn't Made of Honor. He's actually quite dishonorable, along with slutty, shallow, lazy (any man who has no job by choice is lazy) and devoid of any qualities that a sensible woman would want in a spouse.

I conclude with this: Bogart was no pussy.