Bad Movie, Good Company

The ironing is delicious, as Bart Simpson once said. Here I am, carping about people who don’t get their facts straight, and I go and make the same mistake myself. I’ve been telling people all day that Roland Emmerich’s 2012 was written by two Germans. However, Emmerich’s co-writer, Harald Kloser, is Austrian. Oh, the indignity! I hang my head in shame.

Why am I writing about 2012, which I had the misfortune to sit through yesterday? Well, while it isn’t a horror movie, it most certainly is capable of instilling horror in the poor viewer. But not in a way the filmmakers intended.

In its own empty-headed way, 2012 is far more reprehensible than even the most morally dubious horror movie could ever be. The message seems to be that as long as we see global mayhem from a distance, in slow motion and aided by an elegiac orchestral score, this is good, clean spectacle. And I’m fine with that. 2012 isn’t competent enough, story wise, to provoke indignity. But I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that a lot of the viewers who lap up this dehumanizing carnage, would sniff at the tactile, direct, brutally honest approach of a good horror movie. Because that stuff’s for sickos and pervs, right? Like that Nutsferatu guy over at OP-dEaD. Let’s just watch a toppling St. John’s Basilica grind people to a fine paste and enjoy the ride. Hypocrites.

“The two-hour-and-40-minute 2012 is overstuffed with special-effects set-pieces, but the Curtis family’s mad dash out of town is the closest the movie gets to actually being fun, if only because it’s easier to relate to a man navigating bad traffic than one trying to outrun a newly formed volcano.”

– Chuck Wilson, The Village Voice. (Read his full review here.)

I agree. That sequence, in which Los Angeles goes up in cataclysmic smoke, really is the balls. Otherwise, 2012 is crud. Seriously, if you’ve seen the trailer, the movie has nothing more to offer. Nada. El zilcho. Bupkis. In fact, it’s even more emotionally hollow than you might have feared. The talented cast give it their all, but when the last shred of momentum is lost about halfway through, you have to sit there for 75 more minutes and watch everybody perform CPR on the dead material. Eventually, even the grand special effects become dull, and that takes some doing.

My major beef is with the sloppy storytelling. Are we expected to be so distracted by the wholesale destruction so as not to notice the glitches in the script? Example: A woman thanks her limo driver ex-husband for bringing the kids home early from a camping trip, only for a waiting client to call and criticize him for being late—in the same scene! Yeesh! The dialogue is horrendous, the heavy-handed symbolism is enough to give you bruises, and much of the humor is just plain terrible. At one point, a couple behind me actually laughed and clapped at one of the jokes. Yes, mankind is doomed, but not because of shifting tectonic plates. It might seem we’re doomed because of our rock-bottom standards.

Oh well, at least I still had a nice night out with friends.

But you know what? Raking 2012 over the coals has left me feeling kind of dirty and grumpy. I need something to help cleanse my mental palate. I need something a little more sophisticated and refined. The night is still youngish, and I think I’ll go and watch something with zombies tearing people limb from limb.



Get Your Freakin’ Facts Straight!

I watched a rerun of Friends today. It wasn’t funny. At all. Which isn’t to say that I never liked the show, but smug humor doesn’t age well. And I was mildly annoyed with its complacent tone even back in the nineties. “People get paid for writing this?” I wondered. “Hell, stuff a wad of cash in my fist and I’ll write lazy, sarcastic one-liners till the cows come home!” But graver still than ten seasons of crime against quality humor, was the crime once perpetrated against my favorite genre—more specifically, against The Shining.


In episode 13 of season three, Joey and Rachel decide to read the other’s favorite book. This means that Joey has to plow through “Little Women,” while Rachel gets to have some quality time with “The Shining”. Now, when this episode originally aired, a few years had passed since I’d read Stephen King’s tale of hotel madness. But I remembered the plot well enough. And since I’d already seen Kubrick’s adaptation a couple of times, I was especially attuned to the differences between source material and movie. Clearly, nobody who worked on that episode of Friends had read the book. Or if they had, they disregarded the facts for the sake of a stupid joke. In my book (geddit?), that’s cheating.

It's not what she expected, but still a gripping read ...

Joey: Oh, all blank and no blank makes blank a blank blank!

Say what? Forgive my confusion, but isn’t Joey supposed to be referring to the novel? They’ve exchanged books, not VHS tapes. Why is he talking about a scene that only appears in the movie? If you’ve seen The Shining, you no doubt remember the moment when Shelley Duvall riffles through her husband’s monotonous manuscript and grasps the true depth of his dementia. It’s a “whoa” moment, for sure. But like I said, you won’t find it in Stephen King’s original book. And in case you didn’t already know, it really bugs me when people don’t get their facts straight.

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