Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I loved Lady in The Water. Just hear me out.

As some of my more faithful blog subscribers will remember, I defended M. Night Shyamalan when his much-maligned film, Lady in The Water, came out over the summer. Thanks to the good people at Time Warner Cable, I got to see the movie in the privacy of my own home without having to endure the judgment of video store employees. Did I like it? No.
I loved it!!

Are you still reading? Good. I am still in full possession of my reasoning and taste, so I understand why some people would have trouble sitting through this movie. It is a fantasy film with mystical creatures, and it has a very childlike tone to it (the story is taken from one that Shyamalan tells his kids at bedtime). Because of films like Lord of the Rings, fantasy films have found a huge modern audience, but Lady in the Water is fairly different from other fantasy fare. The movie's primary characters are a young female narf (sea nymph) and a middle-aged handyman (Paul Giamatti, in an un-nymph-like performance), which apparently isn't nearly as cool as a movie about two hobbits that secretly love each other. The gender differences are worth mentioning, though. Lady in the Water has several significant women's roles, while female characters in other fantasy films are often relegated to being the love interest. Nothing against Liv Tyler--I'm just saying.

Another significant difference between Shyamalan's film and more popular fantasy films is the lack of emphasis on special effects. This, I believe, is where the director lost a lot of people (especially critics). Some of the creatures look a little cheesy, but they are seen only briefly. This actually reminded me of Jaws, which relied on characters' fears of the shark to instill fear in the audience, as opposed to the shark's actual appearance. Here the characters' dialogue is used as a form of storytelling in order to guide the viewers' reactions. So while The Tartutic didn't hold a candle to the Balrog of Morgoth, they got the job done.

The best way to approach Lady in the Water is with the belief and fascination of a child. This movie is not a Sixth Sense-type thriller written for cynical adults. While it is not action-packed, some amazing things happen. The dialogue is simple, but the complete story is beautiful and dreamlike. By no means would I recommend this film to everyone I know, but I think a lot of people are capable of appreciating it on its own level. I certainly plan on watching it again.

Speaking of movies, the movie I'm "Currently Watching" (see MySpace blog), Idiocracy, is excellent. It's made by Mike Judge, the man who made Office Space, but uses a very different kind of humor from that movie. Watch it when you're in a weird mood and willing to laugh at phrases like "your shit's all retarded."

Also, remember that Lost is starting February 7th, and I will be posting regular recaps and blogs for TV Squad (http://www.tvsquad.com/bloggers/erin-martell).

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Favorite Bad Lifetime Movie

I suppose the title should read "One of My Favorite Bad Lifetime Movies," because I loves me some bad Lifetime movies. When my sister, Kelley, told me that she doesn't own any of the Rocky movies (her faves), it got me thinking about all the lame movies that I love to watch but, for some reason, do not own. Note: Please don't send me any long-winded messages about how Rocky is awesome and not a bad movie. This means you, Kelley.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those hipsters who watches bad movies out of some misguided sense of irony, like I'm "in on the joke" or something. There are, however, some movies that I deeply enjoy but know that I shouldn't be caught watching. The Lifetime classic Sex & Mrs. X is one of those. Featuring seasoned actresses Linda Hamilton and Jacqueline Bisset, the movie sounds provocative and titillating, but contains many staples of the "female empowerment" genre. Consider it Legally Blonde in reverse: a serious businesswoman loses her man and needs to make herself sexier in order to win him back.

Where does a woman go to feel sexy, you ask? Why, Paris, silly! Everyone knows that going to Europe makes a woman prettier, smarter, more experienced, and alluring. That's a basic rule of these movies. Fired? Go to Europe. Dog died? Go to Europe. Brutal paper cut? Europe.

In a nutshell, Linda Hamilton plays a no-nonsense journalist named Joanna Scott who goes to Paris to write a feature story on Madame Simone, a woman who trains "promising" young women (read: lower class hot chicks) to court and marry middle-aged rich guys. It sounds creepy, but is packaged beautifully. The women learn about wine, lingerie, clothes, etc., at Madame Simone's gorgeous French home. Fresh off a separation from her lamewad husband, Joanna is naturally skeptical of this fairly tale arrangement. She was recently made into a cliche by her unfaithful spouse, and is well aware of the harsh side of romance. My favorite line of Joanna's is as follows: "He didn't even have the decency to leave me for a younger woman; she's my age!" I can totally identify with this. If my husband ever left me, it would have to be for someone significantly better than me, not just a different version of me. One should at least trade up when destroying another person's life, no? I've always liked that line because it seems to mirror Linda Hamilton's own life. She was married to Titanic director James Cameron, who divorced her and married Suzy Amis, a glorified extra in said film.

Madame Simone, in all her accented badassness, senses Joanna's negative vibes, aching heart, and low self-esteem, and makes her a proposition. Joanna will get Madame Simone's version of a sexy makeover, complete with striptease training videos and a book on kissing. There is, of course, a clothes shopping and salon montage, and it is glorious. Out with the turtlenecks and sensible shoes! In with the highlights and evening gowns!

But wait! What about that other signature plot point, the hot younger man who ignites a passion in our heroine that she never knew existed? Oh, he's there. And he's Italian. Joanna gets her groove back courtesy of Francesco, a flirtatious young photographer assigned to work with Joanna. In the fashion of films like As Good As It Gets and Titanic (I'm sensing a pattern here), Joanna must pose naked for Francesco--and sleep with him afterwards--before her confident sexiness is entirely restored. This is Lifetime, however, so all you ever see is Linda Hamilton's back. But hey, she bagged a young Italian guy, got the story, and learned a valuable lesson...about seduction (raises eyebrow suggestively).

What do you think happens in the end? Linda Hamilton returns from Paris hotter than ever, wins over her dorky middle-aged husband, and drops him like a bad habit. She uses tons of product in her hair and wears pashmina wraps, which translates into happiness. I love everything about this movie, particularly that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There are several good laughs, including the part where Joanna breaks a lamp during striptease practice, and when she gets caught watching soft core porn for "tips." Linda Hamilton stands in for the viewer in the latter scene, because I act the same way whenever someone walks in on me watching Sex & Mrs. X: the remote cannot work fast enough.

Feel free to check this movie out, or to share some of your guilty pleasure films in the comments section.