Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Mini-Review of Fun With Dick and Jane and the Very Last Word (this week) on the James Frey Imbroglio

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.

11 comments:

JudgeHolden said...

Completely unrelated: I just read Heath's comment on last Thursday's blog about the woman who said she had the ideas for the Matrix and The Terminator stolen from her. Matrix, maybe (even though I think everyone had that idea at some point in their lives before the movie), but Terminator? No. After the film came out, Jim Cameron was sued by Harlan Ellison, the Sci-Fi writer, because Cameron stole the idea for the Terminator from HIM. Cameron had to give him story credit and money. So this other chick doesn't have a leg to stand on with that one -(though maybe that's another case where most folks who write in that genre for any amount of time have thought up a similar idea).

Anonymous said...

I knew you would out yourself sooner or later...

blankfist said...

I never said I believed her. I just thought it was interesting. Anyhow, thank Allah you're no longer writing about Frey or JT... I was growing suspicious as to whether the name of this fine blog was to be changed to "Crane's Spewing of Boring Garbage About Authors Who've Lied About Who They Are"... .

BOOOOOOORRRRRRIIIIINNNNGGGG!

blankfist said...

By the way, Crane, I watched Pitch Black last night. The only reason I watched it was because you said it was good. It wasn't. I should've known it was awful when you said you enjoyed Chronic-what-cles of Riddick. That movie was really terrible.

It amazes me why I consider your opinions on films, when you enjoy movies like "Waterworld", which you will never live down, and the movies that are good you seem to hate, too. Man. I was duped. I want my money back. Never listening to you again. Get a job.

moran said...

Crane, you actually enjoyed Chronicles of Riddick? Speck rented that once, and it was one of the most hilariously awful pieces of crap I have ever seen. Truly, truly shitty with crappy digital sets and worse acting.

Judi Dench was pretty hot, though...

JudgeHolden said...

Oh God, don't get me started on Chronicles again. It's a good movie, all right? And Pitch Black was good, too! The writer/director did change some things from the theatrical release to the DVD, but I like the theatrical cut better. Anyway. And though Pitch Black feels a little like a high-budget SciFi Channel movie during the first half-hour,(that wonky colored filter they used to make the sunlit desert seem like another planet looked cheap instead of exotic), I thought the film quickly rose above that level as soon the lights go out. Are you sure you didn't fall asleep? Maybe that's what happened. It gets good after the opening credits, dude. Just try and stay awake.

And also. Dude. You OWNED Tank Girl AND Robocop 3 which you bought back when VHS tapes cost $98. As for me, I do NOT and never WILL own Waterworld. 'Nuff said.

Peter said...

Those movies you all are talking about are good.

Seeking Completion said...

I enjoyed Dick and Jane i don't care what you say. Jim's awsome... and yes i used him by his first name, tats how good i know him. And CRONIC what cles of Ridd was like Cable guy, you have to see it more than once.

P-

blankfist said...

Whatever, Crane, those movies are terrible. Never do another movie review on here, because we cannot accept your opinion as remotely in the ballpark as 'good'. Your taste in movies are terrible. The difference between you and I is that, yes, I own Tank Girl and Robocop 3, but I think both of them are terrible movies. You still like Waterworld. And, don't lie. You own the Criterian Edition on DVD! I own Tank Girl and Robocop 3 because I didn't have a Blockbuster card when I was in school -- so I had to buy VHS tapes and take chances. What's your excuse outside of bad taste?

Everyone owns movies they dislike. I own U-571 on DVD. And it's a terrible watered down version of Das Boot.

On a side note, I also own Das Boot on DVD. Best Buy was selling the superbit editions for 10 bucks! Wow!

JudgeHolden said...

Don't try and take the heat off yourself by saying I own Waterworld -- I don't. But you also bought and owned (and watched more than once) the Pam Anderson vehicle Barbwire. Taste in movies? Honestly. And you "took a chance" on Tank Girl? On Robocop 3? If you thought there was even money odds on those movies being good, I think we're all done here.

blankfist said...

Comic book movies, Crane. Back in the mid to late nineties the amount of comic book films were next to none, so those that came out I would buy without consideration. The were comic book movies. And, sadly, they were all bad. I didn't like them. Waterworld was a piece of dung, and you liked it.

See the difference? I didn't like Barb Wire or Robocop 3 or Tank Girl. You liked Waterworld. You liked it very much. This debate is over! Over! OVER!