Back to School #41: Pretty In Pink (dir by Howard Deutch)


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“Blane!  That’s not a name, that’s a major appliance!” — Duckie (Jon Cryer) in Pretty In Pink (1986)

(SPOILERS!)

Blane or Duckie?  Duckie or Blane?  Which one should Andi have gone to the prom with?

That’s the question at the heart of the 1986 film Pretty In Pink.  In Susannah Gora’s excellent book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried (which, incidentally, has been an important source of information for this entire Back to School series of reviews), a good deal of space and debate is devoted to whether or not Andi (played by Molly Ringwald) should have ended up going to the prom with either Duckie (Jon Cryer) or Blane (Andrew McCarthy).  What’s interesting is just how passionate the arguments on both side of the debate get.  Those in the pro-Duckie camp, like producer Lauren Shuler Donner and director Howard Deutch, frame the debate as almost being a moral one.  Those on the pro-Blane side — people like John Hughes (who wrote the film’s script) and Andrew McCarthy — make a convincing argument that the audience wanted to see Andie with Blane.

Perhaps most importantly, Molly Ringwald — who not only played Andie but upon whom the character was largely based — makes little secret of which suitor she preferred.  Molly Ringwald is pro-Blane all the way.

Myself — well, I’m going to hold off on saying which side I come down on.

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Both Blane and Duckie have their flaws and their strengths.  Blane, for instance, comes from a wealthy family and spends too much time worrying about what his loathsome friend Steff (James Spader, who gives a wonderfully evil performance that justifies why he is quoted in Gora’s book as saying, “I figure I got a lock on this whole teen asshole thing,”) thinks.  But, at the same time, Blane is obviously more sensitive than the rest of his rich friends.  There’s a soulful sincerity to McCarthy’s performance and, until he breaks Andi’s heart by giving into peer pressure, he truly is every girl’s dream boyfriend.

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And then there’s Duckie.  As played by Jon Cryer, Duckie is the type of best friend that we all hope we’re lucky enough to have.  You never have any doubt that he’ll always be there for Andie and it just takes one look at how he’s dressed to understand that Duckie doesn’t care about peer pressure.  Duckie may be an outcast but, unlike Steff and Blane, he’s confident in himself.  And whereas Blane is always wrestling with doubt, Duckie knows that he loves Andie.  And if your heart doesn’t hurt a little when he confesses that fact to Andi, then you probably don’t have one to begin with.  Add to that, as cute and charming as Blane is, you know he’d never break out into a random dance routine.  Blane is no Duckie but, at the same time, Duckie is also no Blane.

And who Andie should take with her to the prom (or if she should even go at all) is an important question because, if anyone deserves to have the perfect prom, it’s Andie.  Not only does she work hard to support her alcoholic and depressed father (the great Harry Dean Stanton) but she has great taste in music (or, at least, she does for someone living in the 80s) and she makes her own clothes.  One reason why we love Blane is because he discovers that, even if Andie isn’t rich, she’s still the most interesting girl in the entire school.  One reason why we love Duckie is because he didn’t have to discover this.  He already knew it.

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The film, of course, originally ended with Blane giving into peer pressure and canceling his date with Andie.  Andie is heart-broken but refuses to surrender.  Wearing the pink dress that she specifically made for the event, Andie still goes to the prom and, as the film ends, she shares a dance with Duckie, the one who, all along, loved her unconditionally.

As is recounted in Gora’s book, test audiences loved the movie but hated that ending.  And so, a new ending was shot.  Blane shows up at the prom without a date.  He apologizes to Andie.  He shakes Duckie’s hand.  He tells Andie that he always believed in her, he just didn’t believe in himself.  (Watching at home, Lisa says, “Oh my God!” and wipes away a tear.)  As he leaves, even Duckie realizes that Andie belongs with Blane.  Andie and Blane are reunited in the parking lot and Duckie goes off with Kristy Swanson.

And you know what?  That ending — that ending is perfect.  Because yes, Duckie did love Andie but Andie loved Blane and the prom is a time to be with someone who you think you’ll love forever.  (Little realizing, of course, that you’ll eventually only think of your former prom date as being that guy who keeps inviting you to play games on Facebook.)  Pretty in Pink is one of the most romantic high school movies ever made and one reason it works is because the ending is all about celebrating that romance.  It may not be realistic and yes, it might even be borderline immoral to allow Blane to be so easily redeemed after breaking Andie’s heart but who cares?

The wonderful thing about romance is that it doesn’t have to make sense.

It just has to be.

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2013 In Review: The Best of SyFy


It’s been quite a year for the SyFy network, even if the network’s most widely-seen original film, Sharknado, was actually one of their weaker offerings.  As a proud member of the Snarkalecs and a Snarkies voter, I’ve certainly enjoyed watching, reviewing, and live tweeting all of the films that SyFy and the Asylum have had to offer us this year.

Below, you’ll find my personal nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of 2013.  (Winners are listed in bold.)

End of the World

Best Film

Battledogs

Blast Vegas

*End of the World

Flying Monkeys

Ghost Shark

Zombie Night

Best Actor

Neil Grayston in End of the World

*Greg Grunberg in End of the World

Anthony Michael Hall in Zombie Night

Frankie Muniz in Blast Vegas

Corin Nemec in Robocroc

Tom Everett Scott in Independence Daysaster

Best Actress

Maggie Castle in Blast Vegas

Lacey Chabert in Scarecrow

Kaitlyn Leeb in Grave Halloween

*Maika Monroe in Flying Monkeys

Ariana Richards in Battledogs

Mackenzie Rosman in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actor

Barry Bostwick in Blast Vegas

William B. Davis in Stonados

Brad Dourif in End of the World

Dennis Haysbert in Battledogs

John Heard in Sharknado

*Richard Moll in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actress

*Shirley Jones in Zombie Night

Nicole Munoz in Scarecrow

Jill Teed in Independence Daysaster

Jackie Tuttle in Flying Monkeys

Dee Wallace in Robocroc

Kate Vernon in Battledogs

Best Director

Griff Furst for Ghost Shark

Robert Grasmere for Flying Monkeys

John Gulager for Zombie Night

W.D. Hogan for Independence Daysaster

*Steven R. Monroe for End of the World

Jack Perez for Blast Vegas

Best Screenplay

Shane Van Dyke for Battledogs

Joe D’Ambrosia for Blast Vegas

*Jason C. Bourque and David Ray for End of The World

Silvero Gouris for Flying Monkeys

Paul A. Birkett for Ghost Shark

Rick Suvalle for Scarecrow

Flying Monkeys

Best Monster

*Skippy from Flying Monkeys

The Shark from Ghost Shark

Robocroc from Robocroc

The Scarecrow from Scarecrow

The Tasmanian Devils from Tasmanian Devils

The Zombies from Zombie Night

Battledogs

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with my picks for the 16 worst films of 2013!

What Lisa Marie and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #78: Battledogs (dir by Alexander Yellen)


On Saturday night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the SyFy original movie, Battledogs.  (Also watching was a mentally unstable moron from Buffalo, NY named Michael Conklin.  But more about him later…)

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Why Were We Watching It?

Because we’re snarkalecs and that’s what snarkalecs do.

What Was It About?

Donna Voorhees (Ariana Richards) is a nature photographers who visits our friend to the north and gets bitten by a Canadian lycanthrope.  When she returns to New York, she ends up transforming into a werewolf  herself and manages to kill nearly everyone at JFK Airport.  Everyone that she doesn’t kill is infected with the werewolf virus.

Donna and the rest of the infected are captured by the military.  Under the watch of the sinister Lt. Gen. Monning (Dennis Haysbert), the infected are doped up with tranquilizers and left to aimlessly wander around a prison.  With the help of a sympathetic major (Craig Sheffer) and a scientist (Kate Vernon), Donna and the rest of the infected escape the prison and soon New York is overrun by werewolves.

Meanwhile, the U.S. President (Bill Duke) spends a lot of time sitting out in the middle of Central Park and looking depressed…

What Worked?

Battledogs was produced by the Asylum.  As soon as I saw the words “The Asylum Presents…” at the beginning of the opening credits, I knew that Battledogs was going to be a lot of fun.

Battledogs was surprisingly well-cast.  While Craig Sheffer made for a dull hero, Dennis Haysbert was a great villain.  Admittedly, he was one of those villains who spent the whole movie talking about his plans as opposed to actually carrying them out but, fortunately. Haysbert has a great voice.  Haysbert turned Lt. Gen. Monning into a genuinely menacing character.

The scenes in which the tranquilized infected wander about in a daze had a nicely surreal feel to them.  While watching them, I actually compared them to a similar scene from Jean Rollin’s Night of the Hunted.  That’s probably going a bit too far but still, they were handled very well.

On a final note, Bill Duke plays perhaps the most ineffectual president in the history of ineffectual presidents.  Speaking as someone who has little faith in governmental authority, I found Duke’s performance to be the most realistic part of the film.

What Did Not Work?

Oh, I suppose there are things I could complain about.  I could point out that the film may have been set in New York but it was obviously (and I do mean obviously) filmed in Canada.  (Actually, no, it was not!  As Mike Conklin so politely points out in the comments below, Battledogs was filmed in Buffalo and yes, a look at the imdb does confirm that this film — despite seeming very Canadian, was indeed filmed in New York.  I apologize for the careless error. — LMB)   There were also a few plot holes that I could talk about if I felt like being nit-picky.

But you know what?

There is nobody worse than someone who would actually get nit-picky about an Asylum film.  Asylum Films are made for audiences who have a sense of humor and their “flaws” are ultimately a very intentional part of the fun.  The Asylum makes fast-paced, unpretentious films for people who want to be entertained for 90 minutes.  You know what you’re going to get when you see “The Asylum” name and, unlike most major studio films, Asylum films can be counted on to deliver exactly what they promise.  This film promised battle dogs and it delivered.

Therefore, the entire film worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

To be honest, despite featuring not one but two female leads, Battledogs was a pretty masculine film.  The emphasis was definitely on people either shooting guns or beating each other up.  That’s not necessarily a criticism because, if New York was overrun by werewolves, I imagine there was be a certain amount of societal breakdown.  However, the fact of the matter is that I’m scared of guns and the only fights I’ve ever been in have involved a lot of hair-pulling and little else.  As a result, there really weren’t any “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in Battledogs.

That said, Ariana Richards’ character reminded me of my sister, the Dazzling Erin, because they’re both talented photographers.

Lessons Learned

Apparently, the best way to avoid being killed in a nuclear blast is to jump into the Hudson River right when the bomb goes off.  In today’s unpredictable world, that’s a good thing to know.