HOW CAN I GO WRONG?
Famous Last Words of Video Customer
Video rental customer during
main credits of the latest
Sandra Bullock film
Video rental customer after
first 20 minutes of the latest
Sandra Bullock film.
How a diehard movie fan
can blow it really bigtime
By PATRICK McFADDEN
Years ago a couple of friends and I were sitting around the house watching Philadelphia, when one of them popped off with an observation that Ive never forgotten.
You know Philadelphia, right? Tom Hankss first Oscar performance, where he plays an AIDS sufferer pursuing a discrimination suit against his former employers, who had mercilessly canned him upon discovery of his condition. Hes represented by Denzel Washington, in a fine bit of homophobe finds redemption acting.
If I can tax your memory for a moment, do you recall the money shot for Hanks in that movie? The clip that was played while his nomination was being read at the Oscars? Well, Denzels over at Toms place talking about the case, and Hanks is playing some opera or other and waxing poetic about what it all means.
Suddenly, the light in the scene goes red. I mean, a shocking, vivid, do not adjust your screen, I havent seen this much red light since Amsterdam, they should have called this Phila-red-phia, type of red light, okay? The camera takes this high angle of Hanks who is really emoting away with everything hes got, and BAM, hes suffused in a red glow.
Anyway, after Hanks is done pouring out his soul on the beauty of the opera, the lights return to normal and everyone exhales and wonders what the heck the deal with the red light was. Guess the director decided he really had to show his chops or something, I dont know.
So, at that precise moment, my friend turns to me and says, You know the greatest thing about that scene? At the end, you dont even realize the light has changed.
Swear to God, thats what he said. We scooped our jaws up from the floor, looked around at each other, and started throwing popcorn at him.
I bring this up not to embarrass my friend, whom I hope no one will tell about this column. This guy, trust me, is one of those achingly intelligent people who can do pretty much anything. He basically decided to go to medical school on a whim, as far as I can tell, okay? But sometimes even otherwise reasonable people can put something so stunningly goofy on the table that you just cant keep quiet about it, and you have to reach for the popcorn.
My personal blind spot also tends to rear its ugly head regarding the cinema. Specifically rental decisions. For someone who really, really likes movies, I am occasionally capable of some truly astonishing floaters.
Let me give you a recent example. Harts War. Wow.
I mean, I was standing in the video store, looking at the huge display theyd put up (Im such a sucker, I know) and I thought to myself, Bruce Willis? W.W. Deuce? Prisoner of war camp movie? How can I go wrong?
How can I go wrong, is usually a bad sign when it comes to my internal monologue. How wrong can I go? Let me count the ways. My friend, when the only character youre rooting for by the end of a movie is the Nazi head of a POW camp, you know you need to ask for a mulligan.
I think my all-time turkey rental came upon thinking, Burt Reynolds? Sylvester Stallone? The thrilling fusion of man and machine that is auto racing? How can I go wrong? Yes, I rented Driven. Ouch. Go ahead, I deserve it. I think forcing your spouse to giggle, eye-roll and snicker her way through this entire movie is probably grounds for divorce in some states.
Im not alone. One couple I know has a turkey rating system, where one person chooses a movie and, if its really bad, the other can apply up to three, um, stars to it. Each star gets the innocent spouse a no-questions-asked movie rental of his or her choice. This poor guy brought home Con Air one night, and, if memory serves, it was good for a full three turkey-stars. And I totally understand how it happened. He had a how can I go wrong with Nicholas Cage, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi and John Cusack. Thatll be three chick flicks for you, buddy.
My wife and I do not use this system, which is good, because otherwise Id still be paying off Driven. Words fail me.
If theres any hope for redemption at all, its that at least Ive started breaking myself of the masochistic need to plumb the depths of turkitude by sticking around to see how it all works out. I dont know why, but when Ive got a real stinker playing, Im compelled to watch it to the end.
But Im getting better about that. Twenty minutes into Sandra Bullocks utterly unwatchable Murder by Numbers, I knew perfectly well that no good could come from this insult to schlock. Wed only been gone from the video store 30 minutes total when we came screeching back into the parking lot to try again.
Yes, Murder by Numbers. I know. What can I say, I didnt even realize the light had changed.
© 2002 by Patrick McFadden. The illustrations are from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
You can comment on this column online. Please address your message to either "The Editors" or Patrick McFadden. To send an email, click here: email@example.com
Home About Us Archives Talkback Shopping Mall