I get a lot of email from would-be wordsmiths asking me how to go about learning the craft of screenwriting. The first thing I tell them is to mail me a cashier's check for 200 dollars. Then I tell them that the best way to LEARN how to WRITE movies is to WATCH movies. That's right. You'll glean more from a stack of DVD's than you'll ever get from 100 semesters at some fancy-assed rich-kid school like Wesleyan or USC. Which is why old Ronnie makes it a point to watch AT LEAST 3 or 4 movies a month, whether by sneaking into the 2 dollar theater or by stealing the Netflix envelopes from his neighbor's mail.
There were a lot of movies released in 2006. Some were hits. Most were shit. But I was able to learn a little something from even the worst of them. Below is a list of the ones I was sober enough to remember along with my thoughts. Hope you enjoy. And if you're at the Tit Pit in Van Nuys on December 25th just ask the bartender which drunken sod is Ronnie Pudding, and be sure to buy him a drink.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – Fox Searchlight is Rupert Murdoch’s “arthouse” division. What they do there is pretty much genius: Take 80’s sex comedies, put a bunch of dysfunctional middle-aged folks in ‘em, and wait for the Oscar buzz. Now why didn’t I think of that? LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was fine for what it was; however, I liked it better when it was called National Lampoon’s “Vacation.” Greg Kinnear: Chevy Chase you are not. And there will never be a Rusty as good as Anthony Michael Hall.
DEVIL WEARS PRADA – Anne Hathaway made her career playing the quirky waifish klutz who can’t walk in heels and probably drools milk from her nose. She’s like Ugly Betty, only hot. And a princess or something. This time the princess goes to Manhattan and gets a job as the assistant for a power-mad fashion-mag cooze (a character who embodies every reason why women should not be allowed to hold positions of authority) who is played capably by either Glenn Close or Meryl Streep. Of course there’s a gay friend, and a boyfriend who just doesn’t get her. Anyway, instead of stabbing her whack-job boss in the eye with a letter opener like I would’ve done, the princess discovers the vile old gash has a human side and learns a little something about herself in the process. This is the kind of movie Hollywood used to squirt out like Tequila shits. It’s serviceable, well-made, well-written, but unexceptional. Which in 2006 means it was one of the best films of the year.
YOU, ME AND DUPREE – Someone please kill all parties involved immediately.
THE DEPARTED – What a piece of shit. Like the rest of his Easy Riding-Raging Bull brethren, Marty Scorsese’s talent dried up with his coke drips. It’s ironic that Scorsese can no longer direct and Robert DeNiro can no longer act. Yet now DeNiro can now suddenly direct like a motherfucker, and Sorsese’s acting in various bit parts has been better than anything Bob’s done since CASINO. Maybe they switched bodies like in some wacky Whoopie Goldberg movie.
BORAT – For many filmgoers, Borat was their first experience of man-on-man tea-bagging in cinema. But as former lead jizz-mopper at the TomKat Theater I thought it was old hat. Still there were plenty of other laughs to be had, especially of the making-fun-of-foreigners variety. Just don’t let anyone fool you into thinking there was some sort of social commentary going on here. Inventing imaginary subtext is a great way to get over the guilt of laughing at Jew jokes, but it’s also 100% pure bullshit.
THE FOUNTAIN – Oh, okay that was… huh? So he was… wait. You mean -- huh? Yeah… okay, so but… what? Huh? HUH?
CLERKS II – With the exception of the original CLERKS, Kevin Smith’s films have the staying power of left-over Kung Pao Shrimp. Though this belated sequel doesn’t come close to reaching the same comedic heights of its predecessor, on my original viewing I LOL’ed several times. However, a recent screening of the DVD left me wondering was what the fuck I’d laughed at the first time through. It’s common knowledge that Kevin Smith is the worst working director since Ed Wood. Even Uwe Boll’s cinematic abortions come closer to hitting the mark. Watching a Kevin Smith film is like watching your brother’s now-middle-aged grunge band attempt a reunion show. It’s embarrassing as fuck, but the nostalgia keeps the forced grin from falling off your face during their butchered rendition of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.”
JUST MY LUCK – Just my tax-shelter. The reason Lindsay Lohan hasn’t been run out of town with a bag of rats over her head a la Chuck Norris in Missing In Action is obvious: Her tabloid coke-whore antics give her enough star-power to justify the huge padded budgets of her films -- enough so the Wall Street hedge funds won’t question all the zeros on the end of the bottom-line – yet she also packs enough box office poison to guarantee her films never enter the black. One off-shore account and a few invoices from ficticious CGI firms later, you’ve got a producer with enough cash to arm a small nation. Say in the Middle East someplace.
APOCALYPTO – Great fucking name for a metal band. Didn’t see the movie but I’m stealing that name. “Hello Reseda! We are… APOCALYPTO!” (crowd screams). “This song is called… “LYVYNN…YNN… SYNN!!!” (more screams followed by a salvo of soiled groupie-panties).
HOSTEL – Eli Roth is the like the former math-club dork trying to reinvent himself as a beat writer by putting on a beret, going down to the local Peet’s Coffee poetry slam and spouting 5 minutes of obscenity-laden word-salad about the drugs and deviant sex he’s never actually indulged in. I didn’t even make it far enough through Hostel to witness any of the supposedly graphic torture scenes. After 15 minutes I’d decided whatever fates Roth’s unbearable characters faced weren’t nearly as sadistic as what I was inventing for them (and Roth for that matter) in my head.
SUPERMAN RETURNS OR BEGINS OR WHATEVER – The latest Hollywood trend is the “reboot.” A young, hip director is given the task of reinventing a long-standing franchise so it appeals to the more “sophisticated” modern audience. The end-result is usually a boring, unwatchable, dreary piece of shit with dour heroes that have been made more “human” because they have AIDS or something. Such was the case with Bryan Singer’s “reboot” of Superman. Basically it was a remake of Richard Donner’s Superman without any of the pesky fun. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was perhaps the worst performance in modern cinema. She should stick to vomiting her lunches and leave the real acting to actors. And frankly Brandon Routh’s spin as Superman was so forgettable that I’m still not even sure Superman was actually IN the movie. I hope this franchise goes down like a 747 full of box-cutter-armed Arabs.
CASINO ROYALE – Yet another “reboot.” This one was a little better than the rest mainly due to the French hop-fu action care of Sebastien Foucan. But if you’re expecting a 007 armed to the teeth with Sharper Image on Viagra gadgets, saving the world from effeminate mad-scientists while railing a parade of hot sluts with names like “IVANA SUKAYACOCK” and “PLEEZ SHITONMYFACE” you’ll be SORELY disappointed. Worth a view, but it’s no VIEW TO A KILL.
FLYBOYS – Just kidding, I didn’t see it either.
HAPPY FEET – I’ve heard it’s great, but I hate penguins. FUCKING HATE THEM. I will never see a movie with penguins in it.
SLITHER – It’s a fucking SHAME that SLITHER slipped under the radar of, well… pretty much every one on Earth. Universal’s marketing team should be executed for sweeping this gem under the rug (and thus ensuring there will never be a laugh in any of the pointless, irony-free horror remakes Hollywood keeps spewing out like candida cheese). Full of subtle nods to 80’s classics like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, STUFF, BRAINDEAD and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, James Gunn’s SLITHER is easily one of the best horror films since the genre’s break-dancing era heyday. It’s also one of the best films of the year.
CRANK – Imagine eating three boxes of Sour Patch Kids, washing it down with a 10-gallon drum of Red Bull, snorting a WWII Nazi helmet full of pure Colombian booger-batter then shooting a crank case full of biker-meth straight into your eyeball. I have no idea what the fuck this movie was about, but I left the theater with my teeth ground down to stubs and a nest of imaginary tweak-bugs borrowed under my epidermis. Best movie of the year.