of all the roles in twin peaks imagine getting the guy who explains to a courtroom leo johnson’s brain waves on a chart
Lauper was in ROCK N RHYME too, but sadly, she was not also in twin peaks
Ms Matched (2016): The wedding planner subgenre gets increasingly hermetic - in this one, the wedding planner’s love interest is in fact a DIFFERENT wedding planner, who threatens to undercut her business by advocating weddings done on the cheap. I hope this trend continues and that we eventually get romantic comedies where every single character either is or used to be another wedding planner, like the action movies where everyone either knows martial arts or has a shady past with the CIA.
Anyway, the real conflict in this movie is between the plotline mentioned above and the general Hallmark movie policy of avoiding the question of money entirely. At one point a baker (“Cake Kyng”) is referred to as pricing in the “four dollar signs” range, and the word debt comes up exactly once as part of the backstory for how the love interest ended up as such a weddings cynic. But this is as far as it goes, we’re still in a kind of curious situation where having a wedding at a five-star resort in Hawaii can be treated as a realistic option BUT, you know, a bit of a stretch, so any real stakes are difficult to judge.
One good thing is that the insularity of focus does mean we get a more thorough than usual deep-dive into the everyday details of this profession. We see the protagonist (Alexa PenaVega from Spy Kids!) stress about running low on capital, she goes to an industry conference, she appears on a panel and floats about trying to snag clients… One of her arguments against the cheap weddings guy is that he’s attacking not just her livelihood, but also that of the florists, dressmakers, bakers in attendence etc. The movie kind of implies that he’s an ex-financial-services bro, and I think these scenes and his focus on money above romance are partly meant to play on an old opposition in these movies between the Good Capitalism of Main Street and the Bad Capitalism of Wall Street (as tangled as that distinction can be - the dressmaker at one point claims “competition is one thing, but driving people out of business and ruining their livelihoods is another!”) But, like, he’s technically also trying to SAVE people money, and you could imagine a ‘Moneyball’ type of movie being shot from the opposite perspective in which he’s the insightful outsider taking on the entrenched cartels of the Wedding-Industrial Complex.
One weird thing is that the heroine of this movie constantly seems like she’d be the villain in the other, as with the scene where she reacts to a suggested discount wedding by snapping “Why not just get married by Elvis?!” Maybe it is because I am a shiftless milennial currently engaged in destroying the mortgage, diamond and restaurant industries, among others, but I found it weirdly hard to place who the movie was expecting me to root for at any moment.
Being set mostly at an industry conference means we get to see some good minor weirdo characters hanging out. There’s a wedding magician that everyone seems improbably enthused by (“I could watch this stuff all day!”) and a power couple called Bobby D and Bobby G who run a “Bodies By Bobby” workout programme. At one point we also glimpse a DJ who plays a kind of public domain disco version of the wedding march.
Anyway, the two leads eventually have to team up and the ultimately complementary nature of their apparent differences is demonstrated fairly unconvincingly, it turns out that budget and glamour CAN be combined if only the exact right wedding dress happens to be on sale and also you’re close friends with somebody who owns a yacht. But the couple that they’re organizing the wedding for elope to Fiji and leave the wedding planner with the bill! So the only way she can save her company, and recoup her investment, is… by throwing her own surprise wedding instead, using all the stuff she just bought? Is this a tax write-off or something? The movie ends before any of this can be explained. I guess it’s still implicit that the wedding planner will end the movie as the wedding plannee, we haven’t got to the point yet where they can just vanish into the night while awaiting their next mission.
French Kiss (1995) - Meg Ryan hates the French but must become one. As the movie starts she is boarding a plane to chase down her fiance who absconded in Paris, she finds herself sitting next to a swarthy french criminal (Kevin Kline, ‘Wild Wild West’??). He secretly conceals a tiny plant inside her luggage and she is drawn into a whirlwind european intrigue. The main cultural difference we encounter on touching down in France is that everyone perpetually dresses and acts like it’s a 1970s crime film, there’s lots of soundtracked funk, people yelling at each other on the street, an inexplicable car chase, characters either wear big brown leather jackets or hang around in their vests in shabby rooms. Jean Reno (Onimusha 3) appears as a police official with a heart of gold! At one point Meg Ryan accidentally leads a character to believe she has a piss fetish.
I don’t know if it’s just this movie or the comparatively restrained Hallmark ones I’ve been watching but she seems to play a character as significantly crazed and manic, even for her, there’s lots of abruptly yelling weird monologues at people. It’s possible this is meant to represent an “american abroad” type of character but weirdly the movie plays down that idea in advance by making her an american in the process of aquiring a canadian visa. This combined with a previous felony conviction for smoking weed makes her a “person without a state” in France, although weirdly this didn’t seem to have any plot implications I can remember? Also to modern eyes it’s hard not to think she looks/dresses like a young Ellen DeGeneres and is extremely gay coded, IDK if that as as noticeable when this first came out or not. Maybe if a woman back in the 90s wore her hair shirt and wore a dress shirt and baggy chinos everywhere people would just say “I guess she must be a fan of Meg Ryan”.
Anyway Kevin Kline helps her get revenge on her fiance using his worldly french ways. He’s hoping to use a stolen necklace to buy back his vineyard(?), she secretly delivers it to Jean Reno but then gives him the money out of a “nest egg” she was secretly saving up since college ($45,400!), the last scene of the movie is them both kissing in a vineyard while La Vie En Rose plays. Basically, that’s France!!! C’est la vie!
This movie was directed by Lawrence Kasdan, perhaps best known for writing the screenplay to “Shadows Of The Empire” for N64.
Jean Reno is Hollywood’s only hardboiled Frenchman
Aloha (2015) - Cameron Crowe goes Hawaiian!! I was kind of excited to watch this one since I got the impression, from the name and fact that I hadn’t heard of it before, that it was gonna be… one of those very slight movies directors make when they’re just sort of looking for an excuse to hang out and film in a location they enjoy… I’m trying to think of an example but the closest thing I can come up with is My Life In Ruins (sponsored by the greek tourist board) or maybe Before Midnight. Just a kind of mild, low-key movie, as in, not a movie where Bradley Cooper is a private soldier who must destroy a weapons satellite launched by Bill Murray while dealing with his attraction to two different women and also trying to reconnect with the daughter he didn’t know he had, and who is also at least hinted at being the human incarnation of the Hawaiian deity Lono. But that’s what I got, so this ended up having a surprisingly JRPG feeling to it. Like Chrono Cross the island setting is just to lower your guard against the plot barrage to come.
It seems like the main thing this movie is known for is gratuitously whitewashing the island of Hawaii (which, yes) and also for having a character written as quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian, and played by… Emma Stone. Which indeed was pretty disconcerting but it was hard to get hung up on feeling like that part of the character didn’t make sense as acted because NOTHING about this or any character makes sense as acted. Emma Stone plays an air force pilot who starts out, like, cartoonishly officious and protocol-obsessed, like a Hot Shots Part Deux version of an uptight career lady. But then within about ten minutes she’s in full-on manic pixie mode and reeling off random factoids about her life and the universe (“tell me you don’t believe in the sky. you think it’s just AIR up there?” “there’s a lot of mana up here…”) while gushing to her mom in easily overheard fashion about how this guy is such a fascinatingly complex character, a wounded coyote, etc. And then the next day he lets her know he overheard by suddenly breaking into screaming wolf howls in the car and then saying “im sad” in a baby voice.
So, I mean, the Bradley Cooper character is at least equally crazed and much given to breaking into a scream at random before stalking around holding his head like it’s gonna explode. At least part of this is presumably because he had his “balloons popped” in Afghanistan. I’m not sure if this means his testicles or is just a very weird reference to Mario Kart. The third main person is Rachel McAdams who is sort of scripted like a sad Raymond Carver wife and played like… the chirpy life-affirming girlfriend in a Cameron Crowe film. I respect weird acting choices but it does suck some of the energy from a romance plot if you can’t tell what any of the characters are feeling or thinking about.
Anyway it turns out Rachel McAdam’s young son accidentally filmed, uh, a major violation of international law when he just happened to see a truck pull up to a big space rocket and attach a nuclear weapon to it. The plot is that by opening up space travel to private corporations, of the kind headed by Bill Murray, we risk weaponising the sky itself. That’s cool and I can get behind it, but why are the heroes fighting against “militarising the sky” the US army and in particular the air force?? It turns out they didn’t know the weapon was gonna be up there, so what was Bill Murray doing with it? Holding the earth hostage? There’s a part where the rocket ship is “hacked by the chinese” so Bradley Cooper has to furiously tap on a work laptop for around 45 seconds to boot them off again. And then he destroys the satellite by sending it “every recorded sound in human history”, which turns out to mean an early MTV adbreak segue of multiple wellknown sound clips (from The Jerk, Ghostbusters, etc) until it explodes. Bill Murray is subsequently captured by Interpol.
There are a few good scenes incl an interesting segment based around exploring tensions between Hawaiian nationalists and the US army. But, like, I think we don’t have to be pro-Musk or pro-Bezos to be a little surprised that a movie about the threat of a militarised outer space so thoroughly lets the actual military off the hook. The website SpyCulture https://www.spyculture.com/updated-complete-list-of-dod-films/ claims that an “untitled Cameron Crowe project” is listed in the Air Force Entertainment Liason schedule for 2014, which I think might make it the first movie on this list to be made in collaboration with the Department of Defence.
Eat, Pray, Love (2010) - kind of feels like one of those films made by stitching together episodes of a tv show except here each episode is a different Julia Roberts movie (fantastic value!!). And actually it kind of has the rhythm of a show like The A-Team or whatever where every episode they go to a different location and learn something and also help people solve their problems. It’s one of those movies where every single minor character starts out telling the protagonist some kind of gnomic life lesson and then within the course of ten minutes is saying stuff like “you’re a wonderful person… maybe the best person i ever met! you taught me to live again! i know you won’t settle down here though… you’re what we call a [VOCABULARYWORD], which means ‘restless heart’. good luck upon your travels my friend. thank you so much” and then they disappear forever except for appearing in a montage at the end.
There’s also that vibe of important background details feeling chopped out while stuff that seems incredibly tangental ends up occupying a surprising amount of running time. You may think that when Julia Roberts leaves her husband ten minutes into the movie and immediately gets into a rebound relationship with James Franco(!) as a new-age actor called “David Piccolo”(!!) that this will very quickly prove to be a terrible mistake and then get wrapped up in like a couple of scenes. And you’d be nearly right but in fact it gets taken extremely seriously for around 20 minutes, there are date scenes and tearful breakup scenes and some flashbacks and yelling character insights at each other etc. Just really playing on the audience’s curiousity as to whether this David Piccolo fellow might really turn out to be the one.
And then it never turns out to have much influence on anything again. But then later in the movie Julia Roberts is writing about her travels, and it turns out she’s sending those emails to the James Franco character still! It’s like a weird back and forth of significance and insignificance that I kind of like honestly but would enjoy more if the film weren’t so long as a result.
The way she meets James Franco is because she wrote a play called The Permeable Membrane which he starred in. The Permeable Membrane never shows up again either.
Anyway after a lot of build-up and support from best friend Viola Davis, Julia Roberts makes a travel itinerary and sets off to have episodic adventures in Rome, India and Bali. The Rome section is extremely in the same vein as the other americans-in-europe romantic comedies in this thread, there is a sexually frank grandma, there are some crude plumbing arrangements, there are lotsa shots of statues and Mozart music cues and gesticulating men on scooters. She makes friends with a man named Luca Spaghetti who claims to be a member of the family that invented spaghetti. Also she learns to be sassy and eats lots of italian food. But it doesn’t fill the hole in her soul, as demonstrated by scenes where she hangs out in her apartment whispering “i am alone” in italian or sadly stroking a fancy dress while saying “but for whom…?” Just european things.
The camera style in the movie is weird in a kind of lowkey way - the shots and composition etc are very glossy and fine and generic, but there are also some very strange cuts and zooms where you wouldn’t expect them. In the Italy section especially whenever somebody gives the name of a food there is a SMASH CUT to the food being prepared in commercial-break style. Also, the way she learns to pronounce words is by extreme close-up.
After that she’s suddenly in India and living in a temple, there’s a very infodump teenage girl who she befriends and consoles over her arranged marriage, and a curmudgeon guy from Texas who calls her Groceries (because she “really puts away the groceries” meaning food - again, this is Julia Roberts) and yells orders and complaints like a Call Of Duty NPC but secretly has a heart of gold. She meets an elephant and listens to M.I.A.
After THAT she is in Bali and helping a medicine man transcribe some 1000-year-old documents, which she does by secretly stuffing them into a bag and then taking them to a photocopy place. She also meets Javier Bardem whose hobbies include making Phil Collins mixtapes, calling his teenage son “darling” and kissing his teenage son on the lips. I don’t know why these are his character traits but I respect it… I wonder if it’s sort of tacitly taken for granted that older divorced guys are gonna have a weirder repository of character features than love interests who are still in their 20s.
The movie ends with her finding balance and happiness and etc but there’s also a totally pornographic scene where she emails all her american friends and gets them to secretly donate money to build a house for this balinese woman she befriends, and then she gives the lady a big cheque and the lady immediately gets really happy and grateful and at no point says anything like “what are you talking about? wait, for real? i barely know you, what’s happening here”. After that it’s kind of a blur, it was a long movie, but I do hope to see Julia Roberts return to build more fully-operational armoured cars out of scrap metal and fire assault rifles at hapless guards while mysteriously never hitting anything. stay tuned for the further adventures of Luca Spaghetti!!
i googled lucca spagjetti and found out he’s a real person and there’s basically a sequel tp eat pray love about him coming to america
My Perfect Romance (2018) - a Harlequin novel adaptation from Brain Power Studio, also known for A Very Country Wedding, Christmas Wedding Planner, A Very Country Christmas, Christmas With A View, Christmas With A Prince, Christmas Catch and Operation Christmas List. This is a bold departure in being neither Christmas nor Country themed and I wish them luck in expanding their portfolio.
In this one a technology company desperately lights upon the idea of releasing a new dating app to inflate their sinking corporate fortunes. Except that it’s repeatedly identified as an “algorithm” rather than an app, and apparently works by using “your social password” to look through “your digital footprint” in the process of constructing a profile, like a romance themed version of Palantir. The female lead is the main programmer, the male lead is… the company’s incompetent millionaire CEO who was given the job by the whim of his rich mother? His main interests are planning the production of a golf app (“people love golf”), saying things like “I don’t have to believe in something personally to trust that it has monetary potential”, lifting weights alone in his house with the lights off, looking like the guy from American Psycho and hanging out with his brother who looks like one of the guys from Funny Games. Despite spending a comparatively large amount of time on the business end of things the movie never really moves past the weirdness of the CEO/hireling relationship that develops. When they finally kiss her immediate response was “that wasn’t in the job description”. Unionise romantic comedy protagonists!
Anyway the main pleasures of a corporate milieu are of course seeing all the weird little office details and this movie did NOT disappoint on that account. The stars of the show are these four abstract paintings, which then turn out to be reused in the background to nearly every office shot (sometimes turned upside down first)
Also: whenever the heroine has to go to the boss’s office there’s a little functionless scene of her walking across this (greenscreened??) airportesque bridge between the two domains. It’s like the canned animations that repeat every time you travel somewhere in an adventure game.
Though not part of the office there’s also an EXTREMELY hallmark movie mcmansion which appears at one point:
Anyway since this is effectively a movie about online dating there is the obligatory collection of dates gone horribly wrong. The only one we see in detail is with a Thor looking dude whose camel-back-breaking offense is owning a prizewinning iguana, which frankly sounds cool to me. I think the tipping point for me would have been when he taps her forehead while saying “we share the same B-R-A-I-N… brain.”
The app (or algorithm I guess) is represented in movie via pop-ups of large cartoon hearts that make a twinkling sound. The movie also does a minorly weird thing where it does an awkward splitscreen effect when two characters are talking on the phone (to remind us who they both are?). But the strangest effect was in one of the later scenes where suddenly the office would be tinted blue at regular intervals. The effect was sort of like there was a police car outside but there was no mention of anything like that at all. Was there really one outside while they were filming or is it just an odd atmospheric effect? Waiting for the director’s track on this one.
Morgan Fairchild appears and gets to wear a powerful, jedi-esque pantsuit.
Mannequin (1987) - this was on TV once when i was a kid and i always meant to rewatch it, remembering nothing but the core premise (a guy falls in love with a department store mannequin that only comes to life when they’re alone, and they decorate the store window displays together(?)) and a handful of scenes (being caught dancing with the dummy and a weirdly intense part at the end involving the static mannequin slowly gliding along a conveyor belt towards a trash compactor). These were basically all i needed to see it so here is just a list of things i’d forgotten about this movie:
it starts with a sally cruikshank animated sequence!!
we’re introduced to the male lead within the first five minutes as he dances around holding a limbless female mannequin with carefully sculpted breasts while singing along to “my girl”. so right away i’m kind of into how direct the filmmakers are about the weirdness of their premise and their desire to give the audience all the mannequin related activities they presumably came here to see. over the course of the movie we get all the obvious gags (dancing with a mannequin, kissing a mannequin etc) plus some more inventive ones (romantic motorcycle ride with a mannequin, at one point the mannequin goes hanggliding through an empty department store, a frankly mesmerising visual image that ends when she rams into a cop).
bootleg seinfeld cast members:
there’s a surprisingly robust background cast incl james spader as an evil yuppie, gw bailey as a mall cop and estelle getty as like a benevolent oligarch. the movie does that thing where the big business owners are presented as fundamentally good and down with the kids but their will is constantly being subverted by power-craving underlings (see also gremlins 2).
the plot involves the main guy saving the ceos life so he gets hired as a warehouse guy but he goes into a fugue state when he’s with this mannequin (which he himself sculpted earlier) and starts redecorating the shop windows. and these shop windows are like a huge deal and every day there’s now suddenly this huge appreciative crowd gathered around admiringly to see what tableau he comes up with next. there’s another, evil company which craves his window-decorating powers and tries to lure him away… at one point we see a newspaper headline which says the company is “down 46”, 46 what is never stated, or whether this is directly caused by the rival store windows, but i guess it’s implied?
at one point we see the main guy’s apartment and I guess he keeps the toaster on top of a 6ft high shelf, with some fresh apples on the 10fthigh shelf next to it
the mannequin is actually the spirit of an incongruously blonde ancient egyptian princess, who i guess descends to earth every so often since she also mentions dating christopher columbus. does this movie take place within the xanadu extended universe?
there’s an extremely good soundtrack of unintelligibly chintzy synthpop. at one point she sits on a mixing board and an Alisha song comes out.
for a movie about assembling a woman out of gunpla parts it’s surprisingly low on hangups! the main character doesn’t spend much time feeling weird or embarrassed about dating a mannequin / reanimated egyptian ghost woman, the question of whether he’s hallucinating also doesn’t really come up, there are only a few scenes of dealing with anti-mannequin prejudice or blackmail etc. for the most part it’s treated as a kind of mild idiosyncracy and point of office gossip. at one point they’re riding around on a motorbike and pass an old couple who immediately exclaim both “look at him with the dummy!” and “who are you to criticise!” before never being seen again.
it’s actually kind of pleasant to have this level of unexpected permissiveness throughout, although of course it’s not rolled out to everybody. one of the weirder parts of the movie involves the flamboyantly gay comic relief character who dresses and acts sort of like ruby from the fifth element. so, at one and the same time, this character is presented both as a comedy grotesque to marvel at (the protagonist appears both amused and mildly repulsed by his antics, chatter etc) and also as a kind of mysteriously protective all-encompassing spirit presence who continually deflects any trace of disapproval away from the protagonist. the main character gets to look good in siding with him against the bigoted mall cop, but also by comparison gets to seem like less of a deviant. at the end of the film the sidekick shoots a firehose into a corridor full of bumbling policemen while the protagonist runs off to rescue his girlfriend from a conveyor belt. solidarity in action??
(also - maybe contentious, but my personal read as to what if anything the mannequin relationship symbolises in this movie is cross-dressing; it’s treated by the other characters as a bit kinky but ultimately a private idiosyncracy, it’s mocked by bigots but also carefully distinguished here from homosexuality. there are a lot of references to wearing women’s underwear or carrying around lingerie, he dresses the mostly female mannequins and at one point hangs out in the women’s bathroom, but is nevertheless shown as essentially gender-conforming throughout in contrast to the camp, “effeminate” gay friend.)
a utopian rhapsody: “windows are only the start… what if we could design an entire city”. mannequinopolis…
at one point the mall cop finds him at night and starts beating him up, and new-wave music plays to let us know that it’s actually a funny scene and there’s some mild gags to do with warding him off with a tennis ball machine etc. but it’s actually quite distressing as shot! he has a nightstick!!
- at the end of the movie there’s an unexpectedly nightmarish return to the disembodied limb and torso imagery of the mannequin factory as the magic mannequin is dumped in with a bunch of (presumably) non-magic mannequins on a big conveyor belt leading to an enormous shredder machine. they show a bunch of plastic body parts falling in and getting chewed up, there’s a shot of a chopped up nude torso bouncing around on top of the blades before getting pulled down. very eerie additions to the many mysteriously dreamlike shots within this film.
this is 2 years before Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)
was there a stealth ‘passing off inanimate objects as people’ boom in the late '80s?
we don’t seem to have a strong legacy of dolls as metaphoric objects the way, say, east asian media does, so idiosyncratic interpretations and motivations seem a lot more plausible, here.
andrew mccarthy just played really well against the inanimate
this is a brutal knock on ally sheedy’s acting in st elmo’s fire
wow you weren’t kidding about the soundtrack
here’s a pop song with accompaniment by a morning DJ on his wacky SFX board
That title sequence is extremely good and it should not be shocking I’m disappointed that this isn’t a movie about a cat girl bill-and-tedding her way through history.
Oh hey it’s The 80’s Cop
I know I watched this movie (and maybe its sequel?) several times as a child and the details you mention kept pinging memories I didn’t know I had
did we have it on tape? why did we have it on tape? most of our tapes were things we taped off of television?
am slightly nervous to revisit
2nded, reading this excellent short recap brought up long forgotten images suddenly, though i am not sure whether i’ve seen a different take on the same formula…
palanquin is legit one of my favourite 80s movies, i watch it when i wasnt a good stupid ass feel good movie. the main song plays in supermarkets here ALL the time. i was perplexed by the attention store displays got, but i recently visited an up-market mall in sydney with captivating displays and i was like I GET IT NOW
the sequel is pretty bad, but bring backs hollywood who i like despite being problematic and it has the original buffy
people may also get the movies confused with the olivia newton john movie A MOM FOR CHRISTMAS
catamites when are you going to do tammy and the t-rex, the whole movie is on youtube (no dvd release YET) and it is incredible
it also has a problematic black camp character which really seemed to be a thing back then
(from the director of mannequin 2 and… mac and me)
Every time this movie comes up now, I feel the need to point out that it’s based on the same woman Coyote Ugly is about.
There was also Today’s Special