Aug 20

COVID-19 Diaries: Film holes filled plus newish movies

I did manage to watch some previously unseen and newish movies in addition to all the rewatches and Christopher Guest films (minus This Is Spinal Tap, which as of now isn’t included for free in any subscriptions). 

Holes filled

In Movie Crush parlance, I had the chance to fill a couple of holes, i.e., see films that I ought to have seen by now.

Dead Ringers. From David Cronenberg and starring Jeremy Irons, this 1988 movie is about a pair of creepy gynecologist twins who get into weird shit. Obviously it was really good. I had no idea it was based on a true story. Ick!

The Ninth Gate. Kind of random but Noel on Movie Crush mentioned it, and I realized I had never seen it. Troubling aspect is that it’s from Roman Polanski although that didn’t bother me enough to not watch it. Although it’s about the devil and his worshippers, there’s a weirdly cozy aspect about it since Johnny Depp plays a rare book dealer, and so there are a few scenes with nice libraries and collections. Not the best movie but I give it a thumbs up.

Newish movies

Midsommar. From Ari Aster of Hereditary fame, this horror film centers on a young woman who goes to Sweden and gets much more than she bargained for. It got mixed reviews. Movie Crush did a “crush to judgement,” but I held off on listening to it until I watched it. All I knew was that Chuck and Noel liked it overall except for some aspects. So I think my expectations were slightly lower.

In a nutshell: I thought it was great. There was this ominous feeling throughout, made even more so by the backdrop of an endlessly sunny day. So when crazy shit goes down, it’s really disturbing. As for how it compares to Hereditary, it’s tough to say. They are two very different movies. But I guess I’d say I loved Hereditary (although the first time I saw it, I was like what the fuck) and I liked Midsommar.

Knives Out. I had heard people say (namely Chuck from Movie Crush) that this was the best movie ever, but while I liked it, I thought it was just pretty good. It’s a delightful, well-done murder mystery with a stellar cast. I certainly enjoyed it, but I didn’t keep thinking about it afterward. 

The Lighthouse. Unlike with this movie. Very weird and interesting, The Lighthouse is about, well, a lighthouse, and the two men (or “wickies” as they’re called) keeping it. At first nothing seems to happen, then all kinds of weird shit happens, and then in the end it all makes sense. At least that’s my impression. The acting is phenomenal — Willem Dafoe of course but also Robert Pattinson. Damn, Cedric Diggory can act!

Nocturnal Animals. I had heard good things about this one, and while it was well acted, I feel like in the end it amounted to nothing. There are some harrowing scenes but those are from a novel within the movie so there’s nothing at stake. While that story is about a horrific tragedy, the main one is about a failed marriage. I mean, obviously there’s an analogy there, but I didn’t buy it.

Uncut Gems. Another one that earned high praise from Chuck, and this time I agree. About a jeweler with a gambling problem, this film was really well done and acted, and also extremely stressful. One bad decision after another. Not a movie to unwind with.

The Goldfinch. Although I had heard this wasn’t that good, I still watched it. My friend Aki said it wasn’t bad and she hadn’t even read the book. And it wasn’t! The acting was great, and I loved the Boris character and the dynamic between him and Theo, as I did in the book. It wasn’t a masterpiece but I still liked it.

The Lovebirds. My friend Yiannis mentioned this was a fun movie, and I love both Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani so why not? It was a little bit dumb (their characters’ fights didn’t seem like real rights) but it was entertaining and like Yiannis said fun. A good pick for if you’re stuck on a flight or at home because it’s a pandemic.

Horse Girl. This looked intriguing and stars my woman crush Alison Brie. She plays a lonely woman who may or may not have — well, I don’t want to give the whole thing away. Basically it’s unclear what’s reality and what’s not. While well acted, the film wasn’t satisfying to me overall. But I wouldn’t say it’s a bad movie.

The Vast of Night. Unlike this one. I feel bad saying it was bad because it’s not just some dumb schlock. It’s trying to be something and do something different, but it was boring as fuck. I thought I had heard it recommended on some podcast, but maybe I got the title wrong. Set in the 1950s in a small town, a girl operator hears a weird noise on the line, and it all goes from there.

I think the problem was there’s not a lot of action, just so much talking. The first 15 minutes goes on for so long with just talking talking talking about something trivial, and then there are these two long monologues. I wonder if it would have been better as a radio or podcast play. From what I read, it’s an homage to the War of the Worlds broadcast so maybe that was the idea. Doesn’t quite work on film.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Overall I liked this movie but I had a few problems with it. Number one, the anti-Asian vibe, not just the ridiculous and insulting portrayal of Bruce Lee but the scene with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in the theater watching herself on screen, how people cheered as her character beat up Nancy Kwan. 

The second thing I hated was all the women’s feet. Quentin Tarantino famously has a foot fetish, and it was SO OBVIOUS in this film, from Margot Robbie’s dirty feet in the theater to Dakota Fanning as Squeaky Fromme pointing with her toes to even more I won’t get into. The third thing was (SPOILER ALERT) the brutal deaths of two of the Manson girls. Their beatings seemed a lot more violent than the one guy’s.

Of course all the acting was awesome, and I was totally engaged the whole time. It didn’t feel like almost three hours. 

The Old Guard. This, on the other hand, had strong, fully realized women characters. Netflix was promoting it a lot, and I sort of just ignored it until I heard someone on a, you guessed it, podcast rave about it. Then I watched the trailer and was like I’M IN. It was so fucking good. The concept, the characters, the action scenes, the acting. Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne are both badasses. They totally set it up for a sequel, and I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over so it can come out.

Bonus: Yorgos Lanthimos catalog

I watched these before March so they don’t count as pandemic watches, but I still have strong feelings about them.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I watched this because I saw someone recommend it on the Movie Crushers Facebook page. They wrote something like, “What the hell did I just watch?” which intrigued me. I had the same feeling. At first I thought, What in the world is going on here? because of the characters’ very deliberate way of speaking. But that grew on me and gave the film a sinister, creepy atmosphere. Plus Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan were so damned good. I was rapt the entire time and thought about it a lot afterward.

The Lobster. I really liked this film too. Surreal and somewhat disturbing, the film is set in a world in which single people are condemned to a very strange life. After watching this movie and Sacred Deer, I thought, I’m spoiled for “normal” movies now. They can only be as strange and interesting as these two.

The Favourite. Speaking of which, this was the most normal of his movies that I’ve seen. Of course it was great and I liked it, but I liked The Lobster and Sacred Deer better. 

Now I want to see Dogtooth, one of his earlier films. Looks like it’s free on something called Tubi.

Aug 20

COVID-19 Diaries: Movie rewatches and Christopher Guest

Video streaming has been a very good friend during the pandemic. Not only have I watched (and am watching) a lot of TV shows, I’ve seen quite a few movies too, more than I realized. And this isn’t even including rewatches of all the Harry Potter movies and the Lord of the Ring trilogy.


The Sure Thing. For some reason this is one of my favorite movies. I’ve rewatched other ‘80s teen comedies in recent years (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink) and I think this one holds up the best. Maybe because the main characters are in college and therefore more adult-like (although John Cusack was only 17 when he filmed this).

I love the dynamic between Alison and Gib so much. I also love the way Alison dresses. She’s very preppy but also kind of tomboyish. And you can still see she has a figure. Her wardrobe totally holds up and I would wear it now (well, not literally now because it’s almost 90 degrees). She’s just the right amount of pretty, and I love that the uptight, brown-haired girl gets the guy in the end.

One Crazy Summer. That sent me off on an ‘80s John Cusack rewatch, and unfortunately this was one of them. All I can is at least I didn’t pay for it. It is not a good movie. I mean, there’s a sweetness to it, but it’s pretty dumb. 

Better Off Dead. This one is also dumb (the saxophone for instance) but holds up better, mostly because of Monique and that love story. I love Monique because she’s an outsider who gets the guy in the end. She’s tomboyish (sensing a pattern here) and skillful without being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I also love her sense of style.

Groundhog Day. I feel like I’ve seen this movie many times (hmm, strikes of irony), but there was a lot I didn’t remember (for instance, Rita’s favorite drink is just straight sweet vermouth). It totally holds up and is just as good, maybe better, than the first time I saw it. 

The Secret of Roan Inish. The last I watched this Irish movie was around the time it came out, so the mid-90s. It’s just as beautiful as I remember. And the music is so lovely. No wonder I owned the soundtrack (and it’s still on my old ass iPod). This time around it brought tears to my eyes, making me remember the time I watched the movie, when I was so young.

Magnolia. I rewatched this after hearing it discussed on an episode of the Movie Crush podcast. I only saw this once back around the time it came out. One of my coworkers told me the ending was unexpected and bonkers, and early on I made some assumption (I thought the William H. Macy character was the grownup version of the kid quiz star) and so when (SPOILER) it started raining frogs, I was like, “Huh?” 

I think I didn’t appreciate it back then (although again I bought the soundtrack). But this time around I really loved it. So much of it is so heartbreaking.

Tootsie. I enjoyed this, but I didn’t realize how many times I’ve seen it because it was as familiar as an old shoe. So ‘80s.

Sleepless in Seattle. This was dumber than I remember but again, brain candy. I cried a lot more this watch during the scenes of the kid missing his dead mom.

Christopher Guest catalog

Best in Show. This is technically a rewatch, but it sent me on a Christopher-Guest-hole-filling quest. I wanted to watch Best in Show so badly, I was contemplating paying for it on Prime, but then suddenly I saw it was available on Hulu (I think). It’s so wonderful and heartwarming and hilarious.

A Mighty Wind. I thought I had seen this one about folk singers but turns out I hadn’t, or I have zero recollection of it. Like all his movies, it’s pure delight. The last song performance made me bawl.

Waiting for Guffman. How many times can I say delightful? In this one, a theater in a small town puts on a play and anticipates the arrival of a Broadway producer. Only more fun than the play are the audience’s faces watching it.

For Your Consideration. This was great too. Different than his other films in that it’s not a mockumentary. I feel like I got a pretty good taste of the filmmaking world, and it seemed realistic, and kind of sad, in terms of film careers and vying for awards and recognition.

Mascots. This is his most recent movie. It wasn’t as good as the others, but I still enjoyed it. It also made me look up if there really is a World Mascot Association championship.

As always that was much longer than I expected. Another post for the rest!

Aug 20

Gavin & Stacey: Some crackin’ Welsh slang

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been watching a lot of random British shows during the pandemic, and one of my favorites has been Gavin & Stacey (a huge hit across the pond but as a dumb American, I’ve never heard of it). I like it because while it’s sweet and heartwarming, it also has a dark and biting humor, and some awesome Welsh slang.


Cracking seems to be UK slang in general for something good or excellent, and might also be used as an intensifier (“He’s got a cracking good voice”). From fan favorite Nessa to Stacey: “You’d be a fool to let that one go. He’s cracking. Even if he is a bit short.”


Something like cool or great in response to something else, tidy is something Nessa often says.


One of Stacey’s favorite words. She’s used lush to refer to her relationship with Gavin, Nessa’s hen night, and Mick’s lamb marinade. 


“Give us a cwtch,” Stacey tells Gavin. What the hell is this word with no vowels? Referring to a cuddle or hug, cwtch comes from the Welsh term meaning a resting place. Another meaning is a cubbyhole or hiding place.

fair play

Seems to be similar to fair enough.


I love it when Nessa says “Oh!” (seems to be similar to “Hey!” or “Oi!”). Only better is when she says it a zillion times in a row.

now in a minute

Described as an oxymoron, the phrase seems to mean “Soon but not right now.” The only American English phrase (which I’m only guessing is American English) I can think of that’s in the same category is “Yeah, no” and “No, yeah.” 

where to she now

An iconic scene from the show. Instead of saying, “Where is she now?” about Smithy’s girlfriend, Ness says, “Where to she now?” I’ve also heard this construction on another show, but for the life of me I can’t remember which.

what’s occurring

Depending on the tone, what’s occurring could mean a casual, “What’s happening?” or “How’s it going?” or, like in the clip, “What’s going on here?” It’s also a phrase I plan on using when I start hanging out with people again.

Aug 20

COVID-19 Diaries: The rest of my pandemic watchlist

So I’ve been watching a lot of British TV, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching other stuff. In the below list, I’ve left out a few shows that I had already been following or that are not as top of mind right now (The Magicians, The Crown, Killing Eve), not because I didn’t enjoy them immensely.

Locke & Key. This wasn’t the best show but it was well done and enjoyable. Based on a graphic novel, it’s about a family who’s moved in the weird family home of their dad who has passed away. They discover these, you guessed it, magical keys that lead them into strange worlds. A little bit of tension and darkness but not too much. It’s almost like it was made for older kids. 

Never Have I Ever. THIS WAS SO FUCKING GOOD. I had heard good things but was resistant for some reason. Then my friend Yiannis raved about it and I had to watch it. It was better than I even expected. Bitingly funny and heartwarming without being sentimental. From Mindy Kaling, it’s about an Indian American teenager, her friends and family, a hot crush, and dealing with the recent death of her dad. I laughed! I cried! I loved how the cast was so diverse.

Avenue 5. From the creators of VEEP (although not as funny), it’s about a pleasure cruise space ship that’s gone off course and is stranded in space for an ever-changing amount of time (weeks to years). It was a little too close for comfort in terms of the quarantine: being stuck inside for an inderminate amount of time. In one espide (SPOILER ALERT) some people start to think they’re not actually in space and that the outside is a simulation, and against their better judgement go into the airlock and promptly die:

Sound familiar?

It stars Hugh Laurie playing a Brit pretending to be an American and also has Rebecca Front as a literal Karen character. I had no idea she was British until I saw her on Love, Lies and Records.

The Witcher. This wasn’t that great. I had high hopes because it’s a fantasy with witches and magic and fantastical creatures. But I hated it at first. I had no idea what was going on. There seemed to be three different plotlines and I didn’t get the connection. It wasn’t until about the fourth episode that it became clearer. Also, it was confusing because the show is a combination of one-off adventures but also a larger plotline that, like I said, doesn’t become evident until a few episodes in.

Yes, I’m complaining about it, but I still watched the whole thing. It was brain candy and Henry Cavill looks awesome with his shirt off.

Outlander. Although partly British produced, I don’t really think of this as a British show. More of an international sensation and the main reason I subscribed to Starz. Netflix only has up to season three so when I saw that Starz had not just one but two seasons, I said sign me up.

It has not disappointed. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are so fucking good together (and an impossibly beautiful couple). At one point I thought, “I want Claire and Jamie to be my parents.” It’s a combination of comforting and stressful/upsetting. I like that they don’t whitewash things like slavery and the mistreatment of Native Americans (at least as far as I can tell).

Discovery of Witches. This show wants to be Outlander but lacks the chemistry between the two costars. The love scenes are stiff (not in a good way) and cringey. But again I watched the whole thing on Shudder (which is nicely offering a whole month free) because I had read all the books and enjoyed their so-bad-they’re-good-ness.

A kind of Twilight for adults, it’s about a woman, Diana Bishop, who was born into a family of witches but isn’t into being a witch until a mysterious book and a mysterious man (a doctor vampire who doesn’t twinkle) comes into her life. Although not fantastic, the show is well done and I like Teresa Palmer who plays Diana. She’s an Australian who does a decent American accent. Alex Kingston, on the other hand, who I normally love, does a super exaggerated one that’s pretty distracting. Anyway, if there’s a second season, I’ll still watch it.

Red Oaks. Set in 1980s New Jersey, this show has been on Amazon since 2015 but I’ve never heard of it. Emily and Chuck on Movie Crush talked about it as being comforting so I gave it a go. It’s delightful. I wouldn’t say I love it but it’s enjoyable. And I just learned the guy who plays David, Craig Roberts, is Welsh! I had no idea.

Derry Girls. SO FUCKING GOOD. Set in northern Ireland during the Troubles in the 1990s, it’s darkly hilarious. All the characters, especially Erin, Orla, and Claire, crack my shit up constantly. Another show for which I have to watch with subtitles. Hmm, I guess this technically counts as a British show, but it doesn’t have the same old-fashioned vibe. It’s much more hip.

GLOW. I’m late to the game on this one about professional women wrestlers set in the ‘80s. I wasn’t very interested until I went looking for half hour comedies. And I love Alison Brie. (I watched Horse Girl recently, and while I’m not sure I liked the movie, she was fantastic in it.) GLOW is even better than I expected, and I’m happy there are a few seasons of it.

Ghost Hunters. Dumb but comforting. This was a show I watched a lot after my divorce, and for some reason I found solace in it. It’s been off the air for a while but was recently brought back, with Grant Wilson only and minus Jason Hawes. I miss their dynamic as well as pairs, Steve and Tango and Amy and and Adam, but I’m enjoying the new team. I don’t think I realized that there’s something oddly soothing about ghost hunting in the dark. Maybe it’s all the whispering. Paranormal ASMR.

More shows to come I’m sure.

Aug 20

COVID-19 Diaries: Rewatches and British TV

In addition to educational art videos, I’ve been watching a lot of other stuff. Outside of movies and shows I had already been following, much of it is comfort fare — in other words, rewatches of old shows and random British TV.


Designing Women. This was funnier than I remember, especially Delta Burke as Suzanne and Jean Smart as Charlene. Of course there are a lot of problematic aspects (the word “bitch” and fat/slut shaming are thrown around quite a bit). Other surprising things: Julia (Dixie Carter) gets on her soapbox a lot more often than I remember and when Suzanne gets “fat” she’s only chubby. They make it seem like she’s obese. 

I stopped watching when Suzanne and Charlene left. I had also forgotten how utterly unlikeable Julia Duffy’s character is. At least Jan Hooks is funny.

A Different World. This holds up better than I expected. The first season is SO DIFFERENT from the rest, but still enjoyable. Also problematic aspects (fat shaming again, accepted sexual harassment from Ron, and Whitney’s racist attitude toward Kinu). But unlike Designing Women, I’ll most likely watch until the end.

British TV

For some reason I love British television shows. I think it all started with Doc Martin (which I watched after a heartbreaking breakup) and Midsomer Murders. During the shutdown, I was looking for the same kind of comfort.

Agatha Raisin. I ended up signing up for Acorn TV because Midsomer Murders left Netflix. (I had also canceled HBO because it was no longer compatible with my Apple TV.) Agatha Raisin was promoted like crazy so I gave it a go — and LOVED IT. Agatha is in her 40s and divorced. She’s left her high-power PR job to settle in a small town she vacationed in as a child and has fond memories of. So it’s like single independent woman with quirky townsfolk. Then someone gets murdered and she gets roped into solving the case. So good. I only wish there were more episodes.

Queens of Mystery. Needing more of a murder-mystery-with-women-investigators fix, I checked this out and was not disappointed. A young woman returns to her hometown to take a job as a detective sergeant. Her aunts are all mystery writers and always try to butt into solving the murders. Again, need more episodes of this.

Dead Still. This was terrific. Set in Victorian England, the show is about a photographer who takes pictures of dead people, which was a thing back then. The photographer is a loner with a troubled yet unclear past. Things change for him when his spunky, independent-minded niece joins him and he unwillingly takes on a new assistant. Macabre yet humorous.

Pitching In. This show wasn’t as good as the others, but I still enjoyed it. Set in a beachtown in Wales, it of course has a cast of quirky characters and the plotlines aren’t too stressful. I also found the seashore environment very relaxing. 

Love, Lies and Records. This, on the other hand, was pretty stressful. I mostly watched it because Ashley Jensen from Agatha Raisin is in it, and I kept watching because it’s very much like a soap opera. The scenarios are a bit ridiculous, but I wanted to keep watching. And it’s just one season so not much of a commitment.

Gavin & Stacey. This more-than-10-year-old show co-stars and was co-created by a pre-Late-Late-Show James Corden. It’s also really good. So funny and heartwarming. It also has Mathew Horne from Agatha Raisin as Gavin. Ruth Jones who plays Nessa cracks my shit up, and the slang and accents are so crazy, I have to watch with subtitles. I’ll be dedicating an entire post to the Welsh slang of Gavin & Stacey. So bummed I’m done watching it except for the 2019 Christmas special (which for some reason is on BritBox instead of Acorn).

Mount Pleasant. Kind of dumb but still entertaining. A light and funny soap opera type with a whopping seven seasons, five of which are on Acorn. I’m only on season one now. The agro husband from Love, Lies and Records is on it as a deadbeat husband, and Nico from Killing Eve is completely unrecognizable as flirty neighbor Jack.

Lark Rise to Candleford. I just started watching this BBC production (on Hulu rather than Acorn). It’s not my favorite show but it goes down easy. Set in 19th-century Oxfordshire, it’s about a young woman who takes a job at a post office and all the lives of the people in Lark Rise (more rural) and Candleford (more citified). It’s extremely wholesome and has a post-Ab-Fab Julia Sawalha (Saffy) and pre-Downton-Abbey Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates).

Whoa, that’s a lot more than I realized. I’ll save the other shows for another post.

Sep 15

‘Kate & Allie’ go to Paris

Kate-and-AllieMy travel buddy Yiannis and I are both TV junkies so it was pretty much imperative that we had something to watch while we were in Paris. Because we were outside the U.S., we were limited in terms of what we could watch on the interwebs. Netflix (to my joy) was available although with different content.

For some reason I mentioned Double Trouble, that ‘80s show about teenage twins. It was absolutely awful (we watched one episode; it doesn’t hold up) but we sixth grade girls were obsessed with it. A few in my class even put on a “play” that was just an abbreviated version of the dance contest episode (you know the one, don’t pretend you don’t).

Anyway, I was describing it to Yiannis, who had somehow never watched it: “It was about twins named Kate and Allison…not to be confused with Kate & Allie,” which inspired Yiannis to look for it on YouTube and set us up for several nights of binge-watching.

I loved the show when I was younger, and maybe it, along with Madeleine L’Engle’s Vicky Austin series, made me want to go to college in New York. As for how it holds up, it’s way cheesier than I remember (and soooo ‘80s) although still enjoyable.

Something we kept noticing, aside from Kate’s insane outfits, were all the pre-famous famous guest stars. Here are five of the most memorable.

  1. Kelsey Grammer

The very first episode! Kelsey Grammer plays someone Kate goes on a date with, only to find that she’s not into him. Turns out he’s not into her either and prefers former Connecticut housewife Allie.

  1. Ben Stiller

In the one with the sit-in, Stiller plays a rebellious college student.

  1. Stephen Baldwin

The youngest Baldwin brother is a high school student in The Trouble with Jason, which introduces later soap star Ricky Paull Goldin as a guy who has a (rather stalkerish) crush on Emma only later — spoiler alert! — to date Jenny.

  1. Ricki Lake

Lake and her pal think they have a problem with Emma in Send Me No Flowers, but it’s actually a different Emma they have a problem with. I hate it when that happens.

  1. William H. Macy

What do you know, Kate has hurt her back and is in the hospital (really, the actress, Susan Saint James, was pregnant, which the show was trying to hide). Allie also checks in — in her case, to have a mole removed — gets doped up and runs away. Hilarity ensues! Trying to catch her are two orderlies, one of whom is a pre-Oscar nom William H. Macy.

And those are just the episodes I watched. Who knows how many more there are?

This concludes my 2015 series on Paris. Got time to kill? Read them all!

Apr 15

More ’80s Movies Redux: ‘Better off Dead’

betteroffdeadFor a few posts now I’ve mentioned wanting to watch Better Off Dead. The other night, I finally got my fix.

But unlike The Sure Thing and The Breakfast Club, and like Pretty in Pink, the movie is much worse than I remember.

Better off Dead came out the same year as The Sure Thing, and as always John Cusack is hilarious. (He was only 16 or 17 when the movies were made.) But unlike The Sure Thing, which is a simple focused story, Dead is all over the place.

As a kid I read a review that called the film “uneven,” and uneven it is. It’s as though it can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. Romantic teen comedy? Slapstick? The Karate Kid but with skiing? All three? And let’s throw in some animated burgers and cheesy saxophone playing while we’re at it.

Lloyd (Cusack) and Monique (Diane Franklin who, by the way, isn’t really French) each have too much going on too. Lloyd can ski, play the sax, and draw. Monique is a tomboy who likes the Brooklyn Dodgers (which by the way had been the Los Angeles Dodgers since the 1950s), knows car repair, and effortlessly skis the most difficult ski slope, the one that plagues Lloyd and puts the ski shop owner in traction.

While Williams and of course Cusack are youthful, the actors who play Beth and Roy look about 25.

However, there’s no denying that Dead is a beloved classic (although not beloved by Cusack himself apparently), especially for those of us who grew up with cable and watched it five billion times. Every ’80s kid knows the catchphrases, if not whole swathes of dialogue, by heart.

“French…fries. . .French…dressing. . .French..bread.”


“I’m really sorry your mom blew up, Ricky.”

“He’s skiing on one ski!”

And of course, “I want my two dollars!”

If only there were no sax playing or romantic ski duet.

Apr 15

More ’80s Redux: ‘Tootsie’ and ‘The Sure Thing’

SureThing_817Ever since rewatching The Breakfast Club, I’ve been on an ’80s kick, at least where movies are concerned. So earlier this week at my parents’ house with Netflix for some reason not working on my iPad, I settled for Amazon Prime and YouTube instead and watched for the billion time two ’80s classics: Tootsie and The Sure Thing.


Dustin Hoffman’s female-impersonation vehicle, I’m happy to say, still holds up. On a recent episode of The Americans, a couple of characters see the movie and the one from Russia says, “That would never happen in the Soviet Union.” The American answers, “That would never happen here either.”

And it’s true. While the film is hilarious and great storytelling, “Dorothy” is clearly a man in drag. There’s no way that absolutely everyone would be fooled.

But all the actors are wonderful, and although I’ve seen it so many times, I still laughed out loud at certain parts, like when Julie, flustered by Dorothy’s advances, answers the phone but picks up a corn cob instead.

“That’s a corn cob,” Dorothy says.

Or when a dejected Michael watches a mime “balancing” on the curb for a few minutes before pushing him over.

I also love that Bill Murray plays straight man second fiddle to Hoffman. You kind of forget that it’s Bill Murray. I read in the IMDb trivia that he agreed to omit his name from the opening credits so that audiences wouldn’t expect something like Caddyshack or Meatballs.

Some other takeaways: Dabney Coleman plays sleazy very well, and Terri Garr was rather Jennifer Aniston-esque, or rather Aniston is Terri Garr-esque.

The Sure Thing

As I said in my Breakfast Club post, I’ve been obsessed lately with 1980s John Cusack.

While I was really in the mood for Better Off Dead (as a short dark-haired Chinese girl, I always identified with the short dark-haired French girl), I only now just found that it’s available for free on YouTube, so I made do with The Sure Thing (also free on YouTube).

While there are a few very ’80s aspects about the movie — the music for one as well as the guys’ short shorts — it holds up well. Cusack was only 17 during filming and Daphne Zuniga was four years his senior, but they’re a good match and have good chemistry. While Zuniga’s character is supposed to be uptight, I actually love her preppy L.L Bean outfits, which unlike Cusack’s turned up collars and rolled up shirt-jacket sleeves, don’t seem dated.

But enough about the clothes. I’m always a sucker for a good meet-cute and two characters who hate each other but end up falling in love, and that’s what Gib and Allison are. What makes The Sure Thing well above average is that Gib and Allison have convincing character arcs as well — not only do they fall in love, they change, which makes the falling in love possible.

Next up in my ’80s queue are Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, Moonstruck, and 9 to 5.

Apr 15

Rewatching ‘The Breakfast Club’: Some Takeaways

MSDBRCL EC016I recently rewatched The Breakfast Club (purely for research, I swear).

While it’ll always be my favorite John Hughes movie (Sixteen Candles has a bit too much broad humor for me and Pretty in Pink just doesn’t hold up well), I couldn’t help but be bothered, and also surprised, by some things.

Bender’s verbal assault and sexual harassment of Claire. Or perhaps verbal and sexual assault?

It’s well-known that Judd Nelson stayed in character and continued to abuse Molly Ringwald when the cameras stopped rolling. While Ringwald “knew what he was doing” and so wasn’t bothered by the terrorizing, John Hughes was “fiercely protective” of her and almost had Nelson fired.

What’s extra disturbing is that Claire ends up with Bender, which is what we all wanted as teenagers, but now I worry that the abuse wouldn’t have ended, and might have gotten worse.

Ah adulthood, ruining everything.

I forgot how cute Emilio Estevez was. He was truly the nice guy in the movie, and for the billionth time, I was glad when Ally Sheedy’s Allison ended up with his Andrew Clark.

Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall are really good in this. So are the others but those two especially. And Hall was only 15 when shooting started!

I identify much more with Allison now than before. When I was younger, I probably wanted to distance myself from someone like her, but now that I’m older, I really admire her, dandruff, purse full of tampons, and all.

How did the library not reek of pot smoke? And while we’re at it, wouldn’t have the principal noticed the broken glass of the language lab?

I’m now obsessed with imagining John Cusack as Bender. Apparently John Cusack was close to getting the role of Bender. Ringwald said Cusack was great but different, “funnier and more sly and cute,” and, it seems, “not enough of a dick.”

Now I can’t stop imagining an alternate Breakfast Club universe with a cute, funny, sly Cusack version of Bender, rather than the scary and dangerous Nelson. I guess I’ll have to make do with One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead, The Sure Thing, and Say Anything, all of which I guess I’ll have to rewatch as well.

Jun 13

My inner monologue during the ‘Red Wedding’ of Game of Thrones

Spoilers follow. (Duh.)

Okay, something bad is supposed to happen in this episode. Someone or someones die. Which important character will it be? Those Green People? Osha maybe? That would be sad. I like her.

Everything okay so far. Is it Jon? Maybe he loses an eye from the eagle? No, he’s okay. Oh, and he’s running away. Hmm, nice.

Is that the caretaker guy from Harry Potter? I think it is. Wow, what a dick. Maybe Robb will kill him? No. So which girl will Robb’s uncle have to marry?

Oh, he hasn’t even met her yet. Well, luckily she’s pretty. God forbid she were ugly.

That sucks they’re not letting in the Hound and Arya. Oh good, Arya ran inside.

Hmm, Catelyn seems nervous they’re closing the doors. I wonder why. And the music is more somber. Hmm, is something happening? Why is she staring down at that guy’s arm? Wait, is that chainmail?

Oh no. Oh no! OH NO!!!

[Silence. Hands over mouth.]

Oh no, Arya don’t go in there. Why does this keep happening to her?

Okay, Robb is still alive. His wife and baby are dead but at least Robb is still alive, and Catelyn. Jesus, that’s that guy’s wife? Cold-hearted.

Oh no!!! Holy shit!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!