Category: D


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After the Steven Soderbergh disaster known as Bubble back at the beginning of September, I was hoping that it would be a while before I was forced to watch another complete trainwreck of a movie. Apparently, the blog gods hate me more than I suspected (after a surprisingly strong go around for my current 50 film block). Because 1989’s Shag is a strong contender to be the most unintentionally abrasive and tedious films that I’ve ever forced myself to sit through for this blog. Recently earmarked by Buzzfeed as a film from the 80s that all kids should see, let’s just say that I disagree heartily with that assessment. With absolutely reprehensible behavior rewarded in both its male and female characters, Shag is a loathsome moral lesson that indulges in the worst kinds of casual misogyny despite being a buddy comedy for women.

I sat through the kitschy schlock known as Forrest Gump, The Help, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close without letting my attention wander too greatly. Despite my immense dislike for those films, I sat through their entirety while giving them my total attention. But, like How to Marry a Millionaire, it took around an hour or so before I realized I had devoted all the mental energy that I possibly could. And even though it seemed like maybe the movie was finally finding something resembling direction or meaning for it’s last thirty minutes, the damage done by the film’s first two-thirds was irreparable and Shag had lost its ability to make me care. That’s a tried and true axiom of film-making. If you can’t grab your audience in the first ten minutes, you’ve lost. Shag failed to make any positive impact whatsoever for the first hour and was mostly insufferably bad.

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In the summer of 1963, four Southern Belle best friends straight out of high school, straight-laced Luanne (Page Hannah), wild child Melaina (Bridget Fonda), self-conscious Pudge (Annabeth Gish), and engaged Carson (Phoebe Cates), whisk themselves away for one last weekend of fun before they become adults once and for all. Luanne and Pudge are off to college, Carson is set to marry the dull Harley (Tyrone Power Jr.), and Melaina wants to pursue a career in Hollywood. And, so the girls head off to Myrtle Beach to spend time together one last time, meet boys, and have the last hurrah of youth. And at Myrtle Beach, they meet Buzz (Robert Rusler) and Chip (Scott Coffey) who begin to woo the engaged and hesitant Carson and the overly shy Pudge respectively. And, the whole time, you wish you were enjoying this movie 1% as much as these girls were enjoying their beach weekend.

I made the joke on twitter last night that Shag was the kind of thing the U.S. government might show to prisoners of war in order to get them to divulge military secrets, and while the movie may not actually qualify as torture, I’m probably going to regret the 98 minutes I lost to this movie for the rest of my life. There were three aspects of this film that weren’t utter failures. The soundtrack is actually really spectacular with lots of great early 60s/late 50s numbers and classic beach tunes. The soundtrack was easily the best part. Also, it featured Bridget Fonda at the peak of her undeniable attractiveness (she was even better looking than her aunt Jane in Jane Fonda’s heyday). And, Annabeth Gish (related to silent film darling Lillian Gish) was adequately relatable as the insecure Pudge.

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Everything else about the film was an abject failure. From its focus on absurdly self-involved Southerners (an aesthetic that is sure to drive me away) to its total misunderstanding of how bohemians actually acted (apparently, in Shag, they’re just cut-out copies of Rizzo from Grease) that it’s alright for a man to more or less sexually harass a girl until she falls for him, everything about the first hour or so of Shag drove me absolutely nuts. And, even if it looked like the final act was making things better, it wasn’t enough for me to suddenly start caring about this film. Roger Ebert gave this movie three stars out of four, and I have no idea what crack pipe the otherwise esteemed critic was smoking because this movie is bad, and unless you long for this fantasy world presented in this film, I can’t imagine any reason to ever watch it.

Final Score: D

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Watching this blog affords me the opportunity to watch a large number of movies that I would have never seen before, and quite often, those films turn to out to be spectacular movies that I would have been sad to miss if I had known how good they were. The Girl With the Pistol is not one of those movies. In fact, it’s easily a movie that I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing and I regret the loss of nearly two hours of my life that I spent watching this film. To be completely honest, after about an hour, I stopped watching it solely and began looking over my Netflix queue praying that the next films on my list will be more interesting than this film. While a glaring and technical problem (that I’ll get to shortly) caused some of my vast irritation, it was mostly that this was an incredibly boring and unfunny movie that I really wish hadn’t been on my list.

The plot of the film is such. Asunta is a young and beautiful Sicilian woman (she looks like a Sicilian Barbara Streisand) who is kidnapped by local mafiosi Maccaluso Vincenzo whose cronies think she is a different woman. They have sex on the promise that Vincenzo will marry Asunta. However, Vincenzo flees the next morning to England. In order to reclaim her lost honor, Asunta follows him with the titular pistol hoping to kill him. Nothing funny happens the whole film. God it was so boring. Also, for God knows what reason, this film was dubbed. So it was like watching a cheesy kung fu without the awesome kung fu. The only reason this isn’t getting a straight F is the possibility that the terrible dub job covered up good writing in the original Italian. Otherwise, this film has legitimately no redeeming factors and is easily the worst film that I’ve watched for this blog and one of the worst movies that I ever watched.

Final Score: D

 Here’s a weird bit of contradiction that makes me the strange little Don Saas that I am. My tastes whether it’s books or movies or music generally run in the artsy direction, and I would prefer to watch a Darren Aranofsky film to a Michael Bay or James Cameron pic any day. I like Animal Collective and Radiohead, and I love James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon. So, part of me is terribly ashamed that one of my favorite authors of all time is Stephen King. There’s just something about his books and his twisted imagination that I find really interesting. Film adaptations of his books, on the other hand, are a terribly hit and miss affair that range from the awesome (The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, The Mist) to god-awful terrible (Thinner, Needful Things). I just finished re-watching 1983’s Christine and it is easily the worst movie I’ve reviewed for this blog so far.

The basic story of Christine is more exciting than the film itself. Nerdy Arnie Cunningham buys a beat up 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine and restores it to its beautiful pristine glory. It’s a great looking car. However, the car is evil or possessed or something (you never really find out). As Arnie becomes closer with his car, his personality slowly starts to transform to something much darker and ominous, and soon Christine goes on a killing spree killing everyone that gets between her and Arnie. It’s up to Arnie’s best friend and his girlfriend to try and save him and stop Christine.

This movie is just awful. It’s not scary. It’s not interesting. The acting is terrible. It lacks any bit of subtlety or imagination. It was only an hour and a half long but I kept checking to see how much time was left and for it to be over. Stephen King’s novels are always as much about his characters and the theme of the book as they are about horror, and this film failed to capture King’s signature voice. I can’t recommend this to anyone and I regret the hour and a half of my life that I lost watching this.

 Final Score: D