Embracing the Melodrama Part II #73: St. Elmo’s Fire (dir by Joel Schumacher)


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Oh my God!  Aren’t rich, white people just like the worst!?

Actually, usually I would never say something like that.  I usually find class warfare to be tedious and I personally think poor people can be just as annoying as rich people.  I had no interest in the whole Occupy Wall Street thing and I once referred to V For Vendetta as being V For Vapid.

No, I may not be much of a class warrior but then again, that may be because I never met any of the characters at the center of the 1985 film St. Elmo’s Fire.  Seriously, if anything could turn me into a slogan-spouting, window-smashing revolutionary, it would be having to deal with any of the self-centered, entitled characters in St. Elmo’s Fire.

St. Elmo’s Fire is about a group of seven friends, three of whom are played by actors who co-starred in The Breakfast Club.  These friends all met at and are recent graduates from Georgetown University.  St. Elmo’s Fire follows them as they laugh, love, drink, do drugs, and try to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

For instance, there’s Billy (Rob Lowe), who has big hair and wears one dangling earring.  Billy was in a fraternity and spends most of the movie wishing that he still was.  Billy also plays the saxophone and he has a wife and a kid who he has pretty much abandoned … well, you know what?  I like Rob Lowe.  He seems like a fun guy and his DirectTV commercials were all classics but oh my God, does he ever give a bad performance in St. Elmo’s Fire.  Some of it is because Billy is not a very likable character.  He’s supposed to be the rough-around-the-edges, secretly sensitive rebel type but ultimately, he just comes across as being a loser.

And then there’s Jules (Demi Moore), who does too much cocaine and, as a result, finds herself fearing that she’s on the verge of being sold into a sexual slavery.  Jules doesn’t get to do much other than be rescued by the other characters.  Fortunately, when it looks like the group is drifting apart, Jules attempts to commit suicide and brings everyone back together.  Way to be a plot device, Jules!

Wendy (Mare Winningham) is the sweet but insecure virgin who has a crush on Billy.  Wendy works as a social worker and ends up getting insulted by the very people that she’s trying to help.  Winningham gives one of the film’s better performances but you can’t help but feel that Wendy deserves better friends.

Speaking of good performances, Andrew McCarthy also gives a pretty good one.  McCarthy plays Kevin Dolenz, the idealistic writer who everyone is convinced is gay because he hasn’t had sex in 2 years.  However, Kevin is actually in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.  As written, Kevin runs the risk of coming across as being insufferably moralistic but McCarthy gives a likable performance.  He turns Kevin into the nice guy that we all want to know.

And then there’s the Breakfast Club alumni.

Alec Newberry (Judd Nelson) was the vice-president of the Georgetown Democrats but now, because it pays better, he’s taken a job working for a Republican senator.  Alec’s girlfriend is Leslie (Ally Sheedy).  Alec obsessively cheats on Leslie, claiming that he can’t be loyal to her unless she’s willing to marry him.  The group of friends is largely centered around Alec and Leslie though it’s never really clear why.  Alec and Leslie are boring characters and, as a result, they’re a boring couple.

And then there’s Kirby (Emilio Estevez).  Estevez gives a likable performance but he often seems to be appearing in a different movie from everyone else.  Kirby is working on his law degree and he’s in love with a hospital intern named Dale (Andie MacDowell).  Unfortunately, Dale isn’t as interested in Kirby as he is in her so Kirby responds by stalking her and trying to change her mind.  There’s an earnestness and sincerity to Kirby that makes you like him, even if his behavior is actually rather creepy.

As for the film itself — well, it’s directed by Joel Schumacher and there’s a reason why Schmacher has the reputation that he does.  As a director, Schumacher is good at gathering together an attractive cast but he has close to no idea how to tell a compelling story.  St. Elmo’s Fire plods along, dutifully telling its story but providing little insight or surprise.

If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you’re probably expecting this to be the point where I argue that St. Elmo’s Fire works as a time capsule.  But, honestly, this film doesn’t have enough insight to really work as a time capsule.  I mean, if you love 80s hair and 80s fashion, you might enjoy St. Elmo’s Fire but, then again, you could always just do a google image search and have the same basic experience.

Crimson Peak’s Visually Stunning Gothic Horror


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Guillermo Del Toro has become the one filmmaker who seems to excite both the elitist cinephiles and the geek community whenever he comes out with a new film. He’s done both pop-friendly extravaganzas (Pacific Rim, Hellboy) to critically-acllaimed arthouse fares (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone). His name has been attached to so many projects of all stripe that one wonders if he ever gets time to rest.

Most of these projects never get past the concept stage, but when one does and he goes all out in directing such projects we get something that excites the fanbase like his upcoming gothic horror film Crimson Peak. It looks to be Del Toro’s love letter to gothic horror of the past with his own visual flair for the morbid and the beautiful in one package.

The film stars a who’s who of powerful performers from Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston to Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam.

Crimson Peak is set to haunt the public this coming October 16, 2015

Song of the Day: Stayin’ Alive (by Bee Gees)


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The last week or so we’ve seen Lisa Marie review two films which shares a close connection with the latest “Song of the Day.”

First there was her review of Saturday Night Fever by John Badham. Then she follows it up with the so very awful, but mesmerizing sequel by Sylvester Stallone, Staying Alive. The original film had as part of it’s disco-based soundtrack the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the group Bee Gees. The sequel literally borrows the song’s title and just runs with it.

The song itself has become not just a classic, but has also become part of pop culture both good and bad. It’s been portrayed as a great example of the disco-scene of the mid-to-late 70’s, but also become a sort of a joke to some.

No matter where one stands on the merits of this song it’s one hell of a catchy one. No matter how much we all fail every guy will try to hit the high notes achieved by Barry Gibbs. We never succeed, but we never fail not to try over and over as we sing along.

Stayin’ Alive

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk
Music loud and women warm,
I’ve been kicked around since I was born

And now it’s all right, it’s OK
And you may look the other way
We can try to understand
The New York times effect on man

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breaking and everybody shaking
And were stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive

Well now, I get low and I get high
And if I can’t get either, I really try
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I’m a dancing man and I just can’t lose
You know it’s all right, it’s ok
I’ll live to see another day
We can try to understand
The New York times effect on man

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin
And were stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive

Life going nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me, yeah
Life going nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me, yeah.
Stayin’ alive

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #72: Terms of Endearment (dir by James L. Brooks)


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I have to admit that, when I first sat down and watched the 1983 best picture winner Terms of Endearment, I was actually taken by surprise.  Before I actually saw it, I was under the impression that Terms of Endearment was considered to be one of the weaker films to win best picture.  I had read a few reviews online that were rather dismissive of Terms, describing it as being well-made but overrated.

But then, a few weeks ago, I watched Terms of Endearment on Netflix.  The film started with a scene of new mother Aurora Greenwood (Shirley MacClaine) obsessively checking on her daughter, Emma.  Stepping into the bedroom, Aurora is, at first, scared that Emma’s dead.  Without bothering to take off her high heels, Aurora nearly climbs into the crib to check on her.  Fortunately, Emma starts to cry.

And I laughed because I’ve been told about how my mom used to obsessively check in on me when I was a baby.  And, while my mom was never the type to wear high heels around the house, I could still imagine her climbing into a crib to check on me and my sisters.

And then, when Emma (now played by Debra Winger) married Flap Horton (a very young Jeff Daniels) over the objections of her mother, I smiled but I didn’t laugh because, in this case, I was relating to Emma.  Because the fact of the matter is that every girl has known a boy like Flap Horton, the smart and funny guy who is destined to ultimately hurt her.

And when Flap got a job in Des Moines and Emma moved from Houston to Iowa, I knew — as did Aurora — what was going to happen.  I knew that Flap would deal with his insecurity over not being a good provider for his wife and children by cheating on his wife.  And when he did, I wanted to cry with Emma.

But then I wanted to cheer when Emma has an affair of her own.  In the role of Sam, John Lithgow doesn’t have much screen time in Terms of Endearment but he does get the best line.  When a rude cashier claims that she doesn’t feel that she was being rude to Emma, Sam replies, “Then you must be from New York.”

Meanwhile, the widowed Aurora is having an affair of her own.  Jack Nicholson plays Garrett Breedlove, a former astronaut who now has both a drinking problem and a house with a pool.  Garrett gets Aurora to loosen up.  Aurora makes Garrett realize that he actually is capable of being a decent guy.  MacClaine and Nicholson both won Oscars for their performances here and they deserved them.

And then, Emma was diagnosed with cancer.  And I cried and cried because, at this point, I had come to think of Emma and Aurora as being real people.  And when Emma told her friends that she was dying and she spent her final days with her children, I sobbed because it made me think about my mom.  And now I’m sobbing as I write this review.

But it’s a great film, even if it did make me cry.  Because, in the end, you’re glad that you got to know these characters.  And, even through the tears, the film leaves you happy that you got to spend some time with them.

And isn’t that what a great film is supposed to do?

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for May!


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Well, here we are!  The year is nearly halfway over and the Oscar picture … well, it’s really not that clear yet.  The Cannes Film Festival just opened and maybe that will help clear up the picture a bit.  Or maybe not.

Anyway, here are my early Oscar for predictions for May.  (In previous months, my Oscar predictions were “way too early.”  But now that we’re 5 months into 2015, the “way” can be dropped.  They’re just “too early” now.)  As is usual for any predictions made at this time of the year, these are mostly guesses, some random and some educated.  Be sure to check my predictions for January, February, March, and April as well!

(I know that rumor has it that the Academy is going to go back to only nominating five films this year.  However, I’m going to continue to make ten predictions because that’s more fun for an obsessive list maker like me.)

Last Dinosaur

Best Picture

Black Mass

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Carol

Crimson Peak

The Danish Girl

The Good Dinosaur

Icon

In the Heart of the Sea

The Sea of Trees

Ben Foster in Icon

Best Actor

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassebender in Steve Jobs

Ben Foster in Icon

Eddie Redmanye in The Danish Girl

Jason Segel in The End of the Tour

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash

Lilly Tomlin in Grandma

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Best Supporting Actor

Jim Broadbent in Brooklyn

Albert Brooks in Concussion

Joel Edgerton in Black Mass

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

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Best Supporting Actress

Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Seinna Miller in Black Mass

Parker Posey in Irrational Man

Meryl Streep in Suffragette

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Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro for Crimson Peak

Stephen Fears for Icon

Todd Haynes for Carol

Ron Howard for In The Heart of the Sea

Gus Van Sant for The Sea of Trees

Oscars