The Carreón Cinema Club: The “Films That Make You Go Hmm!” Edition

The Carreón Cinema Club: The “Films That Make You Go Hmm!” Edition

We can spend a whole lifetime debating why some films connect with an audience while others remain left out in the cold. Yet, many titles endure as favorites, good or bad, and often for surprisingly personal reasons. That’s the focus of this edition of the Carreón Cinema Club: The “Films That Make You Go Hmm!”

When I started mulling over this episode’s topic, it was hard not to focus on just flops with cult followings. Every movie fan has a list of guilty pleasures, including box office monsters or monster flops. I’m notorious for not being able to differentiate between either. My good may be your bad, and vice versa. Besides, anyone who’s been on a set knows that it takes the same amount of effort to make a good film as it does a bad one. What kickstarted my engines to hit overdrive was a simple question: What is it about certain movies that straddle both lines of success and failure, the ones you wonder, “Was that the best they could do?” Those are the films that make you go Hmm. Depending on your tastes, any list can be chock full of surprises, but I’m only going to offer up three titles for now. Ready? Here we go!

FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) — Directed by Adrian Lyne

I will never forget the eager audience at the Mann Bruin in Westwood, CA, the night Fatal Attraction opened in 1987. You could feel the anticipation growing as the lights went down, and the trailers started playing. Blood was in the air. We wanted to see a crazy Glenn Close in action. What makes this significant is that the group excitement was driven only by TV spots and word of mouth. Before reality shows, recap culture, and the vast network of trash-talking platforms overtook all media coverage. The audience took pleasure that night in ’87, gaping at director Adrian Lyne’s ability to present a chic, upper West Side veneer of gloss and privilege sullied by curly haired madness and one, crowd-pleasing gunshot at the bitter end. It was like the opera diva hit a high note; the applause was deafening.

Fatal Attraction was a zeitgeist hit, its vision of infidelity gone wrong, becoming the topic of opinion pieces and talk shows for weeks. Audiences couldn’t get enough, turning the film into a major hit, becoming the highest-grossing film of that year worldwide. The title itself became synonymous with unhinged exes. It even earned six Academy Awards nominations , including Best Picture. But was it that good? More, does it hold up in the post-lions and Christians era of social media, reality TV, and the MeToo era? Not even close. Ha.

Watching Fatal Attraction today is to be turned off by its carefully designed vision of white male privilege and entitlement. Nothing happens to Michael Douglas, the lawyer husband who cheats on his gorgeous and wholesome wife with a rather intense book editor played by Glenn Close. His so-called punishments effect his pride and ego. Okay, she boils the family’s rabbit, destroys his car, kidnaps his daughter from elementary school to ride a roller coaster, and sends him a cassette of a profane rant. He got laid twice and freaks over why the woman in question can’t take no for an answer for his being a selfish asshole. No, the dirty is done by and to the women, a showdown between the perfectly wavy-haired Madonna and the frizzy permed whore. Instead of nuance, they represent extremes, trading looks of betrayal or outrage. It was hailed as visionary to have wifey Anne Archer shoot Glenn Close in the final, come-back-from-the-dead-moment. But it wasn’t. It was just slasher film lite nonsense.

Movie writers made much ado about the famed original ending, where Glenn Close commits suicide to the celebrated aria from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. The knife she used was one held by Douglas to threaten her in a previous scene. With his fingerprints still on the weapon, the police arrive at his home to arrest him, giving Close what appears to be the final word. Mama Archer is stupefied, with Douglas yells at her to call a lawyer. She runs into the house, goes into his artfully decorated man cave to make the call, only to stumble upon the cassette sent by Close. Archer plays it, rewinds one passage, hearing Close would just have to cut herself deeper, killing herself. With evidence of the suicide, not murder in hand, Archer bolts out of the room. We hear her saying to her daughter as she runs out, “Come on honey, we’re going to get Daddy.” Test audiences hated that Douglas was even punished a little, leading to a new ending, further underscoring the perils of a group vote in Hollywood. It did make a difference, though. Instead of earning a possible $15 million at the US box office, the film cashed out with nearly $160 million instead.

Fatal Attraction does hold a special place in history for being one of the trashiest films ever to be validated by Oscar nominations. It makes you go “Hmm” as to why so many people venerated the movie in its time. Close is a complex actor of incredible skill and depth, and you have to admire what she tries to do with the character. The idea of someone turning the tables on an unfaithful, arrogant partner is a good one. With violence perpetrated against women a major problem worldwide, seeing it done for entertainment purposes with a false ending of so-called female empowerment diminishes and trivializes what could have been a fascinating study of an age-old question. Why do people cheat? Instead, we get a passionate male fantasy dressed in white jersey and black leather, set in some gorgeous looking spaces in New York City. It’s fatal, alright.

Fatal Attraction is now streaming on Prime Video and Hulu.

CATS (2019) — Directed by Tom Hooper

Ah, what to say about Cats. The musical’s tag line was “Now and Forever.” The film version bears the legend, “What the Fuck Was That?” One of the most successful musicals ever produced, studios circled it for several decades. Besides its being a plotless show based on poems by T. S. Eliot, the underlying problem was how do you present it in a filmed medium. At one point, it looked like Cats would roam as an animated feature, which in hindsight, wouldn’t have been so terrible.

With musical films still doing surprisingly well at the box office, fans cheered when Universal announced that Cats the movie would be helmed by Tom Hooper. The man who shepherded the Oscar-winning hit adaptation of Les Misérables would now herd the kitties for the big screen. Its glittering cast led by James Corden, Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Hudson, who’d sing the legendary “Memory” on screen, felt like this years-in-the-making version of Cats was on the right track. Then we saw the first trailer. Oooof. Derided and dissed, hated and hissed, Cats looked like a dog.

Once you saw it, design-wise, Eve Stewart’s Cats is a dream to look at on-screen, filling it in a way John Napier’s original stage production set could not. The choreography earned comparisons, too. Fans found themselves divided over Gillian Lynne’s original choreography, a landmark blend of acrobatics and modern dance enhanced by feline movement, versus Hamilton‘s Andy Blankenbuehler’s edgier take. Yet, even with such glittering trappings, most audiences either stayed away or failed to enjoy the experience if they did go.

Whatever committee agreed to employ motion capture effects, projecting the cast’s faces onto feline bodies, doomed the film from the start. You can accept it in Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but the sight of La Dench doing a leg extension stretch like a cat was too much to handle. That was a “Hmm” moment for the ages. Of course, it did trigger cheers from the “It’s so bad it’s good” crowd, who turned Cats into The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the 21st century. Leave it to some folks to pull the one thread from this ball of wool to play with good fun.  

Some magic does exist in Hooper’s super-sized production. The appearance of Taylor Swift, late as it is, is welcome. Her natural gifts as a performer found the right space. The same applies to Jennifer Hudson, whose delivery of the classic “Memory” is one to remember. Francesca Hayward and Robert Fairchild also make good on delivering the dance elements with grace and excitement. But it ends there, at least for me.

In the end, Cats is for the curious only. However, I will never forget the sight of one little girl watching the film that Christmas week at a theater in Mexico City, where I saw the movie with my family. My siblings slept, but as I walked out to see why my mother hadn’t come back to her seat, I saw this child looking at the screen with a smile; you can see it was one of absolute wonder and joy. She loved the film. As for my mom, she was reading a magazine in the lobby.

Cats is now streaming on HBO Max.

THE BLACK HOLE (1979) — Directed by Gary Nelson

The unexpected success of George Lucas’s Star Wars in 1977 paved the way for special effects-driven narratives that could transport audiences further than ever before. In 1978, Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie had droves of moviegoers believing a man could fly. And in 1979, Disney unveiled the dark space mysteries of The Black Hole.

Young listeners, believe it or not, a time existed where Disney was floundering in leading the cinematic charge. Even its fabled animation division was struggling for relevancy. Tastes were changing, and audiences no longer sought the family films that were the studio’s hallmark. Disney had been developing a space-themed adventure for the better part of the 1970s, which eventually became The Black Hole. Instead of delving into the heart of darkness in space, the studio opted to rehash its famed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with wildly uneven results.

What makes you go “Hmm” over this film is when you ponder what could have been.

The famed imaginations of Harrison and Peter Ellenshaw and their visual effects team dreamed up visceral images of the black hole phenomenon in space. Their matte paintings also added plenty of fire to some of the widescreen sequences. The entire enterprise should have broadened Disney’s reach outside of kid-centric fare to keep the brand alive. Instead, the film was an awkward blend of its former self and its future goals, with neither coming out ahead. For all its visual wonder in places, you could see how the marketing team wanted to commodify its leading robotic players. The tie-ins were plentiful, the robots were cute and menacing, but the film’s failure meant no one wanted The Black Hole merch for Christmas 1978.

None of its accomplished ensemble cast led by Maximillian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, and Ernest Borgnine could do anything with the by-the-numbers script. And its lofty desire to visualize the descent into the Heaven and Hell of the black hole was laughable, along with some other less than effective sequences. What could have helped was having a director with vision, not Gary Nelson, the man who brought forth Freaky Friday and The Boy Who Talked to Badgers for the studio, as well as episodes of Gilligan’s Island and The Patty Duke Show.

Science dictates that nothing can escape the pull of a black hole in space. Trust me. People avoided its force on Earth that Christmas season, bringing Disney a sizeable lump of coal. Despite its failure, Disney did not give up on creating more mature   fare, as exemplified by the original Tron, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the notorious Watcher in the Woods in the early 80s. Still, a cult following has developed for The Black Hole, one that continues to grow. So much so, Disney is looking to revive the movie again. Given the studio’s revamped fortunes courtesy of Lucasfilm and Marvel, a black hole may be swirling our way sooner than later. In the meantime, witness the humble origins of a powerhouse genre.

The Black Hole is currently streaming on Disney+.

We could go on for a while longer discussing the films that make you go Hmm, but rest assured it will be back to ponder again. David Lynch’s baroque take on Frank Herbert’s Dune and the hateful, franchise killing sequel to Sex and the City both come to mind. Until the Club meets again, stay safe and healthy out there, mi gente.

How You (Don’t) Get the Boy — #themanthatgotaway

How You (Don’t) Get the Boy — #themanthatgotaway

Man, I hate when the end of the year starts manifesting itself. The holidays always seem to trigger a certain sense of loss in my heart. It’s a nagging sensation, on par with your Mom berating you for not cleaning your room before company is about to visit. But, in this case, it is just me still grappling with  “The One Who Got Away,” even though that event happened more than four years ago.

Right about now, my own group of friends is rolling its collective eyes over this admission, followed by this utterance: “Ayyyyyyy! Get over it already!”

Yeah, I know.

But my own Charlotte York mentality is at play here. I do believe you only get one real love. The rest are variations of that indelible experience. Some men are better, some are worse. Then, you click with someone enough to recognize your heart is still in working order. Still, I don’t think you ever forget the first moment you realize the person sleeping next to you makes you feel like the luckiest guy on Earth. And for a good part of four years, he did make me feel that way.

I’ve moved away from the Judy Garland-scored sense of loss that I’ve fostered with great care these last few years. Although, just to hear the first few bars of “The Man That Got Away” does encourage me to reach for a mental martini. The reasons for our break up have evolved over time. I see it today with a much calmer perspective than during the first year after I walked out his door. While I’ve been able to process it without the melodrama reserved for a cliffhanger episode of a Shonda Rhimes show, it may forever resonate strongly in my own life’s narrative.

I’ve gone into therapy over him. I’ve thought of how I will feel when I discover he has since married the gent that followed me. Sometimes, I am bothered over how we really don’t share much of a friendship. Sometimes, I smile over the good fortune of having him enter my life when he did. Sometimes, I wish I never met him at all.

These are the moments where I turn into a teenage girl, writing my heartbreak into a diary. I wonder if I ever reboot my own heart, does this mean all that data will disappear? At times, that feels like losing him again and it scares the shit out of me. Then, I remind myself that he moved on so completely, I’m a fool for still wanting to hold on to this info at all.

I’ve met quite a few gents since him, two even became boyfriends. Neither stayed. The self-sabotage I implemented made sure of that. I wanted to have the ability to think, “See? If they’re not him, they don’t stand a chance.” I have opted to stay out of the dating fray for longer periods. But, if there is one constant in this world, I can always count on a specific track from a Taylor Swift album to make me feel “this thing” all over again. And the recent release of her monster smash “1989” did not disappoint.

Taylor is certainly peppier than Judy, although I wonder how many other gay men out there are starting to recognize just how we can channel our own pathos through Swift’s music. With “Red” it was the title track that moved to me feel the many shades of emotion connected with losing him in the first place. With “1989” it’s “How You Get the Girl.”

Damn you, Taylor!

The simplicity of this track is insidious, a sentiment so unadorned and straightforward, you are conquered before the first chorus.

I have scripted so many reunion moments in my head. It’s either his choice or mine, a dramatic moment like his wedding or some random party. I’ve envisioned hospital scenes for both of us. I’ve worked out what would happen if he opted to stay with the other guy, complete with telenovela variations where I catch them in our bed. But mostly, I think about finally getting the boy, that love of my life, in the classic sense. It’s when I channel Nora Ephron, George Cukor and Woody Allen. And, these scenes are best underscored by that perfect Swiftian touch, that unabashed blast of earnestness that makes me surrender my rational self.

I’m not ashamed for any of this, but I recognize its limitations. Loss is something we all must learn to process and understand. It’s probably a good thing La Swift pulled her music from Spotify. Maybe now I’ll stand a fighting chance.

Nah.

But, as I was schooled one afternoon by a friend: ‘You’ll never get what you truly deserve…if you remain attached to what you’re supposed to let go of in this life.”

Taylor, if you’re reading, how’s that for a lyric?

Tuesday, November 5. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor.

“How You Get the Girl” by Taylor Swift

Stand there like a ghost
Shaking from the rain, rain
She’ll open up the door
And say, are you insane?
Say it’s been a long six months
And you were too afraid to tell her what you want
And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl
And then you say

I want you for worse or for better
I would wait for ever and ever
Broke your heart, I’ll put it back together
I would wait for ever and ever

And that’s how it works
That’s how you get the girl, girl, oh
And that’s how it works
That’s how you get the girl, girl

Remind her how it used to be, be
Yeah, yeah
With pictures in frames, of kisses on cheeks,
Tell her how you must’ve lost your mind
When you left her all alone
And never told her why
And that’s how it works
That’s how you lost the girl
And now you say

I want you for worse or for better
I would wait for ever and ever
Broke your heart, I’ll put it back together
I would wait for ever and ever

And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl, girl, oh
And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl, girl
Yeah yeah

And you-ou kno-ow
That I don’t want you to go
Remind me how it used to be
Pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks
And say you want me, yeah, yeah

And then you say
I want you for worse or for better
I would wait for ever and ever
Broke your heart, I’ll put it back together
I would wait for ever and ever

And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl, girl, oh
And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl, girl
And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl, girl, oh
And that’s how it works
It’s how you get the girl, girl

And that’s how it works
That’s how you got the girl

Here’s Taylor Swift talking about the inspiration behind the track, one of many stand out moments of her new album, “1989.”

http://youtu.be/jFT1tdGmuqA

This is NOT an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Video — #shakeitoff

IMG_8297.JPG

I had this all worked out to be a complete video message, but too many takes spoiled the soup. (TelePrompTer anyone?) So here’s what I wanted to say before throwing in the towel and getting to the good part:

Hi there, it’s the MediaJor. And no, this not another ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Video. However, I do want to commend those who have contributed to this very worthy cause. It’s been inspiring to witness, so much so, it inspired me to create a challenge of my own.

And here’s why:

For too long now, we have had to witness our own worst behaviors in the media, not just abroad, but here at home, too. I think it is time we take a step back from the negative and focus on something positive.

We get a lot of mixed messages these days. While some people out there have no regard for life, the rest of us spend way too much time telling other people what we think of them and in not so nice terms.

We know haters are going to hate. And thanks to Taylor Swift’s new track, “Shake It Off,” I think we should follow suit and, well, just shake all this hate off already.

So, here’s a new challenge for all of you to contemplate. Tell the world what you want to shake off. The idea being, if we can feel better about ourselves, maybe we can feel better about each other and maybe all the bad can turn into something good.

As for what I will shake off? How about:

I’m too old to be relevant.

That I’m too fat.

Too bald.

Too ordinary.

Too Gay.

Too Mexican.

Too American.

Too poor.

Too independent.

Too bold.

Too scared.

Too anything that isn’t part of the mainstream or trending at this very moment.

Here comes the challenge part. Just show yourself shaking it off to Taylor’s tune. Trust me. You will FEEL a whole lot better.  I mean, check out MY shake!

Now it’s your turn. Do it! And show the world why you’re shaking for good! Post on YouTube and the other social networking sites using #shakeitoff

Just dance…and thank you Taylor Swift for giving us a new reason to move!

#shakeitoff #stayhere #lifeisart #lifelesson #taylorswift #1989

Wednesday, August 20. Posted from Wayne Avenue Manor.

#shakeitoff…or “How to Embrace Life Like a White Girl!” (Taylor Swift Edition)

I now love Taylor Swift more than ever. Why? Because she’s delivered a jam to make us all feel, well, Happy.

I’m sure some of you are asking, “What would a 47-year old gay Latino male have in common with a 20-something country music chick with pop music leanings?”

Easy. La Swift is the boldest artist in music today.

Granted, the “gay” part of the earlier statement is the most obvious giveaway. And yes, those who know me well know that I score my own, living fashion montages when I go out for the evening with any variety of pop gems from Madonna to Ariana Grande. (God, this blog really is too gay to function).You know the drill. It’s the same if you were holding a hairbrush as a mic and sang to an audience of one in your mirror. Except now you fire up the iPod, start pulling together the wardrobe choices, try them on, look in the mirror, stop for a dance break, lather, repeat, rinse, finish.  Don’t lie. You know you’re doing the same thing.

Well, here comes Tay-Tay’s new track, “Shake It Off.” An infectious hook, the “I could give a shit about what you think about me, Haters” lyrics, the sassy video that apes a myriad of pop culture iconography, the “Center Stage”/”Black Swan” of it all.  I mean, who the the hell is the REAL Taylor Swift? Will she please stand up? But, that’s the rub.  She is standing, towering actually, over this generation of pop divas cluttering the airwaves.

Granted, the Max Martin-produced track does sound like something Ariana Grande (or facsimile thereof) would drop. But, you only have to listen to what Swift is saying in the lyrics to know that’s she’s completely in charge of her own artistic evolution. 

The Internet is aflame over the significance of Swift’s completed transition from country to full throttle, radio friendly pop. That’s not what intrigued me. What hooked me was the utter joy displayed in her strong vocals and in the awkward cool of her performance in the accompanying video. This is a young woman who is happy in her beautifully styled skin. She will gladly tell those critics where to go because she is going to “shake off” their negativity and embrace the positives on who she is on her terms.

Granted, we all can’t be multi-zillionaires with a team of artisans paid to make us look good. But, I was taken by the sights and sounds of what’s underneath, a positive message of empowering yourself to rise above the fray and shake it off. Groundbreaking? Hardly. As much as I’ve enjoyed singing about “problems,” “anacondas” and “all that bass,” it is nice to actually “feel” something for the ear candy I’ve been consuming. (Speaking of Meghan Trainor’s one-hit wonder, that video’s “dance like no one’s watching” cutaways seem like country fair sweet tea amped up with Ritalin by comparison to “everybody should just dance their own way” honesty that Swift and company deliver in her video.)

We have learned in this era of living and dying on the Internet that a fishbowl existence on any level is not healthy. People are going to have a comment about you no matter what you do. So, fuck ’em. They may be living vicariously through you. They will troll you. They will love you. They will ignore you. They will either “Like,” “Share” or “Unfollow” you. But, we can’t live to destroy or bully each other, just as much as we should not live for being validated by the other side of the spectrum.  (I write this after posting a particularly unflattering Ok! Magazine cover pic featuring Kim Kardashian. I know, I know. Glass houses.)

Swift is very much aware of the world thinks of her. She knows that as many as those fans/critics who put their names on their comments, many more will praise/attack anonymously. Thus said, the bold manner in which she takes creative risks is exciting to behold. In fact, this new look and sound is positively inspiring. Here’s an example where experience does wonders for art. It shapes narratives and perspectives, turning them into living and breathing organisms that should surprise you and everyone around you.

True, Swift chose to live her life in a public manner. She understands the importance of “giving people what they want” from a commercial sense. But I get the sense she wouldn’t keep doing this if she couldn’t give herself the artistic playing room to do what SHE wants as a musician. Which says something in this age of manufactured celebrities that allow only auto tune and stylists to speak for them. Swift puts her shit out there for everyone to see and feel, because chances are it’s our truth, too. 

No matter what happens next, or what is said next, know that she’s going to shake it off and focus on what is important: To keep giving folks something to sing along with at any age without restraint for a long time. 

And, if you have anything to say about this — or anything else I may post on this blog in the future, I, too, will shake it off.

Now, go be happy while I go and try on some clothes for tonight…

#behappy #shakeitoff #stayhere

Monday, August 18 from Wayne Avenue Manor. 

SHAKE IT OFF by Taylor Swift

I stay up too late, got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say, that’s what people say
I go on too many dates, but I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say, that’s what people say

[Pre-Chorus]
But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my body and it’s gonna be alright

[Chorus]
Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, Ishake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

[Verse 2]
I’ll never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see, that’s what they don’t see
I’m dancing on my own, I’ll make the moves up as I go
And that’s what they don’t know, that’s what they don’t know

[Pre-Chorus] + [Chorus]

[Refrain] (x4)
I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I shake it off, I shake it off

[Interlude]
Hey, hey, hey, just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and dirty, dirty cheats in the world you could have been getting down to this beat

[Bridge]
My ex-man bought his new girlfriend
She’s like “oh my God,” but I’m just gonna shake it
And to the fella over there with the hella good hair
Won’t you come on over, baby, we can shake, shake, shake

[Chorus]

[Refrain] (x4)