Can’t Hardly Wait
1998 • 101 minutes • Columbia Pictures
My brother is almost a decade older than me, which means that we’re, culturally speaking, part of two very different generations, although eternally linked through the Nintendo 64. (A specific Nintendo 64, in this case.) He was a teenager in the nineties, and I, a small child, watched his lifestyle avidly to try and prepare myself for the upcoming wild ride of adolescence. According to my findings, there would be parties! There would be shenanigans! And there would be frosted tips!
Of course, my acute observations were nipped in the bid the moment my brother discovered that his little sister would happily rat out his most embarrassing stories to any girl he knew willing to pay attention to me. I was thus banished from his high school kingdom and forced to seek other older kids who would let me watch movies my mother wouldn’t let me watch elsewhere. (It was the girl next door and it was Titanic.) But this is how I came to inherit a heavily nineties-tinged view of what teenage life was. And it somehow never really went away, considering that I spent my own aughts adolescence perfecting the arts of fandom lurking and terrible bangs.
2003 • 121 minutes • Columbia Pictures
Was Gigli the last movie America hated in unison?
I mean, let’s take a look at the nominees for this year’s Razzie Awards—we’ve got Fantastic Four, Fifty Shades of Grey, Jupiter Ascending, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2, and Pixels. They’re all worthy of the nomination (Jupiter Ascending ought to win, on the basis of being pure glory and also that Eddie Redmayne performance), but there’s little ongoing cultural fascination and professional fallout regarding those films. I mean, there is Until Death Do Us Blart, an annual podcast where Tim Batt, Guy Montgomery, and the McElroy brothers review Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 on Thanksgiving every year until they all die. There is that. But even The Cobbler, perhaps the most recent bad movie to stay in popular imagination longer than it was in theaters, didn’t derail the careers of either its star or its director or cause a larger cultural conversation about its ending. (HOW CAN YOU DO THAT TO YOUR MENTALLY ILL WIFE?!)
Was the world just a little smaller thirteen years ago, when even USA Today, a newspaper largely distributed by forcing it upon hotel patrons, published an article rounding up the most cutting reviews of the film? Or is Gigli just that bad?
2012 • 130 minutes • Columbia Pictures
Anonymous holds a special place in my biography—it’s the film that introduced me to theaters that serve real food while you watch, planting the seeds for my lifelong devotion to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. I saw Anonymous because I knew an underclasswoman in college who desperately wanted to see it. But the only place showing the film was a weird theater on the north side of town, so she needed somebody with a car, a free afternoon, and the willingness to submit themselves to Anonymous. And I, connoisseur of bad cinema, was that somebody. Off we went to Cinebistro, a restaraunt/theater joint with luxuriously cushy seats, a full bar, and twenty minutes of previews. I fell in love instantly.
And as for Anonymous? Well, Anonymous may well be one of the greatest bad movies of our times.
13 Going on 30
2004 • 97 minutes • Columbia Pictures
Alright, let’s just go ahead and call it a theme week: it’s (Clare Confronts the Inevitable Fact She Coalesced Into an Almost Person in the) Aughts Week! Between this and Wednesday’s review of Ex Machina, I feel like I’m floating in the goo what made me. It’s not so much that I desperately miss the early aughts—Bush was president, the fashion was terrible, and I was still too dumb to realize I was queer—but rather that the nostalgia I derive from it feels a lot sharper than the secondhand nostalgia I huff off of eighties ephemera. Sure, it comes with a lot more sighing and a lot fewer gleeful air guitar riffs, but that’s kind of special, too.
Not that I ever actually watched 13 Going on 30 when it came out in theaters. I was busy floundering in the wake of the end of The Lord of the Rings, holding onto Pirates of the Caribbean for dear life. In fact, my only impression of this movie was a vague conviction that Andy Serkis was the romantic lead instead of Mark Ruffalo. (I MEAN WHY NOT? IT’S WHAT AMERICA WANTS!) Of course, all it took was hearing that it took place partly in the eighties to get me to actually watch it.
So, a summary, for those of you who weren’t teenage girls in the aughts (you lucky ducks, you missed out on the Legolas/Aragorn wars): in the eighties, Jenna is excited to celebrate her thirteenth birthday with a party attended by the coolest guys and girls in school, but embarrassed by her best friend, the deeply uncool Matty. Despite Matty’s thoughtful gift of a Jenna-inspired Dream House covered in mail-order wishing dust, she nonetheless insults him to impress the cool kids. But they end up playing a hideous prank on her, locking her in the closet. Crying, she wishes to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving” (a la an issue of her favorite magazine, Poise). The wishing dust grants her wish, and she wakes up as an adult—seventeen years later. With no memory of the intervening years, Jenna tries to navigate her adult life as best she can. She’s delighted to discover that she has an amazing apartment, a well-stocked walk-in closet, and a great job at Poise, but she’s devastated to find out she’s alienated from her family and her childhood best friend. Jenna sets out to thrive in her new life, as only a thirteen year old from the eighties can.
1984 • 107 minutes • Columbia Pictures
Should we watch Ghostbusters for Halloween?
Normally, I simply announce home screenings by texting Captain Cinema (which is how she found out we’re watching New Year’s Eve for New Year’s Eve, which is one hundred percent because Seth Meyers is in it), but Ghostbusters was a question. You see, I should love Ghostbusters. It combines Saturday Night Live, science fiction, and the eighties. Had my brother, actual child of the eighties, introduced me to the film at a young age, I have no doubt that I would love and adore it.
But my brother was a Back to the Future kind of kid, who also naturally kept a small child who destroyed comics at an arm’s length from the things he loved, so I didn’t discover Ghostbusters until the universe took pity on my utter ignorance of American pop culture and I Love the 80s aired on VH1. It was one of the first movies I tried to get my hands on in high school, but I was ashamed to find that I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t really think about it (The Sound of Music is always a much more impressive example of the pop culture I’ve never experienced than any eighties film) until I was seized by an errant, quickly fading urge to watch it. If I was ever to watch Ghostbusters, it had to be Halloween.
And, having finally watched Ghostbusters, I can safely say: I don’t think I like young Bill Murray.
based on Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
2006 • 123 minutes • Columbia Pictures
“You know what?” I said to Captain Cinema after we finished up Marie Antoinette (the first new-to-me film viewed at our apartment; the first was, of course, the 2011 The Three Musketeers). “This would make a great double bill with Plunkett and Macleane.”
I actually say that exact sentence a lot, because I’m obsessed with the difficult to find Plunkett and Macleane after seeing it when it briefly streamed on Netflix. (A DVD copy of it may be my Christmas gift to myself this year, providing I can find a used one online.) The last time I said that, I was conceiving of a double bill of A Knight’s Tale and Plunkett and Macleane, since they both belong to one of my favorite microgenres—the willfully and purposefully anachronistic period film. Such films tend to be and far between on the scale that I prefer, to the point that I would occasionally threaten to watch A Knight’s Tale twice in a row in college and actively sought out Virgin Territory. Anything on the level of A Knight’s Tale and Plunkett and Macleane seems to be few and far between.
1997 • 93 minutes • Columbia Pictures
Oh, to have been a nerdy preteen in the mid-nineties instead of a glue-eating, cat-tossing elementary school student! I can see it now (then?)—watching Xena: Warrior Princess and developing a massive crush on Lucy Lawless, actually engaging with Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I might even love Joss Whedon in this timeline!), and, of course, convincing my mother to let me buy Spice Girls merchandise because they were British and so was The Vicar of Dibley, so there.