Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unstuck in Time with One Fluffy Freak and a Handsome Couple of Freak Chasers

Movies I Saw Over the Weekend, 8-9 April 2011

I didn’t know we had nudie channels in our satellite TV package but there she was in the pool, big brown nipples like cartoon eyes to the sky, helped along on her backstroke by a guy with his head between her legs. Curiously, the bald spot on the guy’s head intensified the sleaze factor.

It turns out this scene is playing on a TV in a limousine, where a young Kevin Spacey is attempting to seduce a plain, square-jawed thing with big, fluffy, wet-finger-in-the-socket hair. Appalled, the girl demands to be let out of the car. Naturally, it’s raining, and naturally her humiliation is exacerbated by another car splashing a puddle behind her on the other side of the median. Somehow she makes it to her lousy cubicle-farm gig (are there any good ones?) where her hateful boss (is there any other kind?) snarls, “You’re late.”

Okay, I get it! It’s Working Girl. I haven’t seen Melanie Griffith in ages and I can’t say I’ve missed her. The hair blown up and away from her face in this film accentuates her masculine-shaped head. Then there’s that horrifying scene in which Griffith is dressing for some function in front of gal-pal Joan Cusack. Griffith sports a black bra and a network of garters which emphasize what a vast and weirdly oblong backside she has to match her large and oblong head.

The limo porn scene was playing as I walked into the bedroom where my wife was watching this. We traded banter over the hideous Big ‘80s Hair on the ladies, and that’s all there is to really talk about except there’s a respectable gaggle of name (or soon to become name) actors in this movie, and that there’s an unsettling amount of T & A for a movie that’s ultimately about working-class female empowerment.

It’s not even good T & A, either. As part of the Initial Nigh-Catastrophic Put-Down necessary to such Rise of the Underdog stories Griffith walks in on her boyfriend (hey, Alec Baldwin, so young, so thin) with some skinny thing riding on top of him. The breasts on this poor creature looked like the flaps of skin left behind after a drastic weight loss. The effect was more “eew” than “ooh” when they jiggled. Then again, at least she had a normal-shaped head.

I walked out, then for some reason came back just in time for the Horror of the Garters scene. I left again and therefore missed Sigourney Weaver playing Mean Old Woman to Melanie Griffith’s Good-Hearted Girl Just Trying to Get Ahead. I did note when I walked back in for the final scene that Griffith is wearing a much more flattering hairstyle. Apparently a large part of the moral of the story is, if you want to be taken seriously as an adult, don’t dress and style your hair like some silly peasant dance-club tramp circa 1988. Who knew?

We do love our moral-to-the-story, even from a director who never misses an opportunity to show some skin. What I wonder is, did Mike Nichols put all that nudity in at the behest of producers who figured it would gratify the poor suffering boys taking their dates to this ostensible chick flick, or did he just get off on ordering young actresses to remove their clothes?

The correct answer is, of course, who cares? The good news is you can see butt-nekkid wimmin on Fox Movie Channel. The bad news is you had to watch this tawdry ‘80s relic to see any last Saturday night.

*  *  *

On BBC America Sunday night I fast-forwarded ten years to a decade I actually miss. There were a couple of grins and groans at the outdated tech — the cell phone with the monochrome screen, the big fat CRT monitor on the desk — but I’ll take the ‘90s over the ‘80s any time, and not just because the technology and fashion are closer to what I’m used to now. The 90s were a happier, greatly less ridiculous time, especially once we got past the deep recession that haunted the first couple of years.

Therefore I found nothing so ironic as The X Files: Fight the Future, a movie about global paranoia in an age when there was absolutely nothing to be paranoid about. It was all charming make-believe back then, and lots of fun, besides.

Oh, the goosebumps when I heard Mark Snow’s synthesized whistling-past-the-graveyard theme! It’s all of four notes, but you know what’s coming. That is, you’d know if you’d watched The X Files from September 1993 until May 1998, when it was the most exciting show on television. 

Unfortunately, if you hadn’t seen the show you’d have a hard time following the movie. You’d find yourself wondering why it’s so significant that a certain mismatched trio is the first thing the hero sees when he wakes up in the hospital after being shot. You wouldn’t know that the wrinkly-faced guy with the cigarette is Cancer Man, though you might guess he’s something of a nemesis. Hell, even I’d forgotten the name of the group of powerful elites who had negotiated with the aliens to hand over Earth’s human population as slaves. It’s been that long, and the point is made: the movie is too dependent on episodes of the old TV series to stand by itself.

As someone I knew at the time said, the show’s creators should have just let everything be after the movie. He was right. Lead actor David Duchovny turned diva and demanded that the TV show’s shooting location move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, starting with the sixth season. Sunny L.A. canceled the show’s spooky vibe Vancouver’s rain and gloom had so effortlessly provided. Worse, the show’s writers were either changed out, or had forgotten how to write.

While the first five years of The X Files had many notable episodes, I couldn’t describe one show of the sixth season to you. By season seven Duchovny had himself written out of the show by way of an alien abductions, as Gillian Anderson had done during her pregnancy a few years earlier. From that point on The X Files went from unmemorable to unwatchable, so I didn’t. The end came three seasons too late in 2001 with a busy, not-sure-what-happened-here finale that I did watch, but couldn’t say much about, except it was made extra-special clear that Cancer Man got killed.

Fight the Future (which doesn’t show in the opening credits, by the way, just The X Files) was everything X Files was at its peak. It was great when I saw it during the summer of 1998, and though I’d forgotten bits of the mythology, it still looked pretty good when I saw it Sunday. Gillian Anderson sure as hell looked good, anyway, and I still can’t get over how X Files’ creator Chris Carter had to fight for Anderson’s casting as Scully, as Fox studio execs thought her not pretty enough for a television lead actress.

One of these has top billing in a “sexy comedy” with Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford. 
The other isn’t pretty enough to play the lead in a TV show. I need a drink.

Like Griffith, you don’t see Gillian Anderson anymore. In a neat switch, it was Anderson who had to be talked away from her London home to do the second X Files movie, 2008’s I Want to Believe, while Duchovny is already begging to do a third movie. Every movie Duchovny was in following the first X Files movie bombed, and, sadly, the second X Files movie was no exception. The hell of it is, I Want to Believe wasn’t bad. If anything was to blame, it was the last three seasons of X Files that happened after Fight the Future. People forgot who Special Agents Mulder and Scully were, and why they cared.

I remember, though. Even now, the melancholy of good times gone forever still lingers. One would like to think our fictional friends are still out there, still mixing in matters ectoplasmic and extraterrestrial, but it’s impossible to suspend disbelief. The horror and paranoia are just too real these days.