Peggy called me this morning from Shanghai. She'd just flown in from the rural city of Yangshuo and was getting ready to sleep. It's almost noon there now, and it's nearly eleven at night here in Georgia. Everything's still going great on her China trip, she's having fun and seeing crazy foreign-type things. Then, in the afternoon, my brother came over and we went to see Fun With Dick and Jane. Patrick makes a point to see everything Jim Carrey does, good, bad, and middling, and so we went to see the thing before it disappears from theaters forever. Which will probably be... tomorrow.
There were a bunch of funny moments that made me laugh out loud (some of the disguises they used to rob banks were pretty hilarious), and there were some moments when the satire of corporate culture and what it's done to the American workforce was sharp and well-done, but overall it got to be pretty obvious that the Ship of Production was adrift, and never really knew exactly where it was supposed to go. The "Screenplay By" title card had, I think, about 6 or 7 writers on it, one of them being Judd Apatow. Maybe he was responsible for the funny parts. Who knows how many script doctors had a hand in this thing. I think part of the problem with this movie was that it had so much obvious trouble deciding what kind of comedy it was going to be, riding that line between smart, funny, mainstream comedy, and more slapstick Jim Carrey fare, that it had a meandering, unsettled quality that ultimately sunk it (anyone else digging the maritime metaphors?). Comedy's hard and this one never truly clicked.
The thing is, if you DO manage to do comedy right, which everyone says is a hell of a lot more difficult than it looks, it ought to be appropriately recognized by awarding it with the one thing everyone in Hollywood covets above all else: Oscar. That's right, this year an Oscar nomination should go to The 40-Year Old Virgin for Best Picture. It was like the first or second best-reviewed movie of last year, and it's going to get no recognition next month. Only the movies that succeed at making folks weepy get accolades because laughter is cheap and weeping is, I don't know, expensive? A good time at the movies is never the gold standard for judging these things, and that makes no sense to me. Million Dollar Baby? Really? Did anyone have a good time watching that?
Ok. Last thing on the James Frey melodrama. I know folks are getting pretty bored with this, so after this paragraph, I'm moving on. Anyway, Frey was on Larry King last night, and while he was on the air, Oprah called into the show and made her proclamation: James Frey and his book are still all right in her book. And because Oprah is probably the most influential person in the country when it comes to popular culture, that, I think, will do it. Frey's golden again. Oh, and the refunds from Random House thing isn't true. They're fully behind him and no refunds. Michael Dirda, columnist, author, and all-around book maven, said an interesting thing about a similar occurance where what was presumed to be true in a book turned out to be false. "When I learned that Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines was, essentially, fictional, it turned a very good travel book into a so-so novel." This is what I think Frey's exaggerations and fabrications did to his book, turning an (apparently) explosive addiction-recovery memoir into a "so-so novel". On Larry King, Frey said that when all of the Smoking Gun's disputed pages, about 18 of them, are added up, it comes to about 5% of the book, which is, he says, "entirely acceptable for memoir". That sounds right, but I think when he says that, it shows he misses the point of the uproar. It's the fact that he completely made up the events depicted in those 18 pages that cast doubt on the entirety of the book. The stuff that can't be checked up on.
Anyway. You could tell he was nervous and rattled during his interview last night, and I felt sorry for him. Him and his newly-acquired, misbegotten fortune. What's kind of funny is that this controversy's just going to sell even MORE books and make him even more money. Next time, Oprah should choose a NOVEL. You know, like she used to do. Ok, I'm out.