For no reasons other than tardiness and disorganization, I continue to amass problematic entertainment entities from 2008. So, even as we near the beginning of February 2009, my retroactive master list of nuisances continues to grow. This is the first official installment of “Where’s The Street Team?: The Online Version,” my own little inauguration into the practice of ongoing online creativity that isn’t a blog that no one reads (failedpilot.com).
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
In a recent Entertainment Weekly (one of the only periodicals I regularly read cover-to-cover), crap merchant Diablo Cody whines inaccurately that Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist suffers from underdog status. Doesn’t she hang out with the 20-year-olds she is obsessed with targeting and emulating? Cody uses the phrases “rarest of creatures,” “beautifully sincere” and “passion project” to describe a film that’s going to age like a big tub of uncovered hummus festering in the August heat. An astonishing dearth of foresight is in place when communication technology is used to accent/provide a film’s title or serve as a plot device. Though some mumblecore films are actually named after instant/text-message shorthand, using the word “playlist” will make Nick & Norah a nostalgic laughingstock in 10 years, a point of reference for 2025’s version of the emo/indie-robot who needs something to talk about at a party. Let’s say I’m a childhood friend of MAGNET senior editor Matthew Fritch and together we made a film in 1990 titled Matt And Andy’s Badass Sports Walkman. Now let’s say that Sandra Bullock starred in a 1995 film known as The Net …
If Napoleon Dynamite remains the gold standard in painful mediocrity disguised as seemingly original quirkiness, Nick & Norah is mainstream flock mentality disguised as instant underground cool for the high-school/college set. What the movie displays is a culture one notch below the uber-mainstream drivel of Britney Spears and the Jonas Brothers, and plenty of post-college adults worship this movie. They should know better. Nick & Norah’s very finite soundtrack wins kudos for including a Chris Bell song (“Speed Of Sound”) but more or less lapses into a road map of how “indie rock” as a qualifier has descended below meaninglessness and now denotes good-looking guitar/synth bands that invariably draw more than 400 people no matter where they perform.
Counterpoint: Maybe I’m just old, and Nick & Norah is another piece of popular culture that makes me feel like Bill Cosby hearing N.W.A. for the first time. Maybe a huge segment of the 18–35 age group has evolved into one that appreciates far superior music than what was absorbed by the jam-band followers and frat boys who used to tease me for listening to Superchunk and My Bloody Valentine.
Counterpoint to the counterpoint: Or maybe not. Regardless, I will optimistically approach the sequel as long as it’s written and directed by Tommy Lee Jones and titled Nick & Norah’s Infinite Back-Alley Beatdown.
“Douchebag” is perhaps the most overused slang in the parlance of the under-50 set. It’s so damn effective, and I love nothing more than to latch onto slang that’s either showing its expiration date or recently expired altogether. Unlike Lost, Cloverfield was not an attempt by J.J. Abrams to refine the collective taste and pop-cultural literacy of the massive cigar-nibbling/martini-sipping douchebag blob that roams quasi-urbanite downtown bars and sushi happy hours the country over. What I mean by that confusing mouthful is this: While Lost will always be a smarter choice than anything in the loathsome genre of reality TV, it seems to attract the same audience and still feels like a poor man’s answer to a bad HBO production. I’ll watch dumb horror and sci-fi until my eyes fall out, as long as what I’m watching knows what it is, so to speak. Cloverfield has moments that suggest an identity crisis, moments that say, “See, I’m not that dumb!” Sorry, try again! Just because the indie-film agenda (not solely the handheld-camera nature, but the aesthetic) is so fine-tuned and omnipresent that grandmas no longer turn their noses up, it’s not OK to overintellectualize a long-dead horror movie trick to suck in the sharp-witted end of the Details subscriber base. Cloverfield was an attempt to make a lot of money, and as such, it succeeded, though my entire argument could have been summed up with a look at the rating. If there is a genre created by and for the douchebag, it’s PG-13 horror.
One thing that always makes me look forward to a new year is a smattering of comedies about marginal, ultra-wimpy or non-existent sports. Once collected, these films will be responsible for supplying both “The World’s Largest DVD Box Set” and “The World’s Cheapest DVD Box Set” entries in the 2024 Guinness Book of World Records. Wait, most people won’t be watching DVDs in 2024! Movies will be downloaded via brainpower and played on the inside of sunglasses. Still, there will be a subset of the future-tastemaker/former-hipster demographic that lavishes DVDs with faux-nostalgia for a medium they don’t remember.
Semi-Pro causes personal conflict because the subject matter is A+ but the execution is subpar. What rubs me the wrong way is that the ABA (American Basketball Association), one of the more purely fascinating sports subjects of all time, suffers worse treatment than men’s figure skating. The ABA deserves Slap Shot treatment. No fault of writer Scot Armstrong (decent-to-funny films like Road Trip, Old School and School For Scoundrels), the problem may be with producer Kent Alterman’s directorial work (his first), but I’m no producer, so what do I know? I do know that “from the producer of … ” holds the same creative capital of “from the director of … ” in the minds of garden-variety moviegoers who rank ’70s vintage shop props and big afros on white men pretty high on the Side-Splitter Meter. A movie about the ABA should be created for funny people, similar to how David Simon created The Wire for a certain type of person and flipped a big middle finger to everyone else. Everyone else will have plenty of movies about, well, marginal, wimpy and non-existent sports.
A match made in … a boardroom somewhere. The guy who co-wrote 2000 Harrison Ford thriller What Lies Beneath (“Harrison Ford thriller” = another two-hour excuse for Ford to perpetually scream, “My wife!!” “Where is my wife?!?!” “She’s my wife!!!” or some variation thereof) and Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk team up to bring the latter’s literary crimes to the big screen. Palahniuk is the reigning king of cinderblocks and two-by-four bookshelves or tiny piles of Bukowski and Worst-Case Scenario titles. In short, it’s faux-transgression for quasi-intellectual college kids or grown adults who devour fucked-up-for-the-sake-of-it literature and nurture a love of clever art for stupid people (e.g., Kevin Smith films, The Matrix franchise, etc.). Until Todd Solondz unleashes his next work of tired shamesploitation, Choke, the plot of which doesn’t deserve investigation, will tide over film fans who love nothing more than wallowing in 90 minutes of negativity so they can convince unwitting (male) co-workers how “fucked-up,” “intense” and “real” a film is.