Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 8, 2007

A New Year For the Kid, But Same Old Recycled Movies

Graham in BloomGraham in BloomPirates Of The Caribbean- At Worlds End Poster

Graham in Bloom, Summer 2007

It’s going to take some time for me to adjust to my son Graham becoming a man of his own, especially now that he’s turned five and is such a hit with the ladies. That’s him in the photo above — or at least that’s apparently how he looks to all the little pixies and older women who will miss his swashbuckling sweetness at the daycare center (he “graduates” next week).

We went to the Deer Park daycare end-of-the-year picnic last night, and at least two little girls (Riley and Ella) gave him hugs so big that he was lifted off his feet. (Further proof that one need not be large to be in charge… he’s lucky enough to have my wife’s more slight body type instead of my own chunky version. I just hope he makes it to at least five foot six… that’s height, not width.) Then near the end, a teacher that’s had him for two or three years was almost in tears when I talked to her about his moving on.

Last Saturday, it was his birthday party that cemented his reputation as a sensitive soul who’s a hit with the chicks, as the girls who showed up outnumbered the boys by about 33%. Now don’t get me wrong: Graham’s no pansy. He’s beginning to show he can get rough with the best of the boys. It’s just that he’s more the Will Turner/standup guy type than the Jack Sparrow/bad boy. Kind of like Orlando Bloom’s character in Cameron Crowe’s underrated Elizabethtown (2005). If Graham has a “dark side”, I’ve barely seen it yet. But on the other hand, don’t we all have a dark side now and then?

Or if we’re lucky, maybe Graham will be more like George Clooney… all rakish charm and intelligence, but you know he’ll do the right thing in the end –like help out refugees in Darfur during his spare time, or make a real good political movie about a heroic journalist like Ed Murrow, with nary a concern about box office profits. And like Clooney’s characters, hopefully Graham will both “get the girl” and do right by her. I’m a big fan of Clooney and his former producing partner, Steven Soderbergh. Sadly, their partnership ended (amicably) a few months ago, but just look at the list of quality their Section Eight company put together in the last seven years and you’ll see what I mean. I saw Ocean’s 12 on TV the other night, and while I admit it’s just fluff, at least it’s offbeat, intelligently-written, well-acted fluff. So Ocean’s 13 will likely be more of the same, and therefore worth seeing. Hey, Pacino alone makes it worth the price of admission.

I don’t think the same can be said for several other sequels and remakes out in theaters in the next few weeks. Last night I saw the current XBox 360 commercial with the clay blob that turns into a spiderweb, Shrek, and the pirate skull. I think the movies those blobs coincide with are formless blobs, too — all have generally gotten bad reviews. (The commercial’s kinda cool, though I’m still not giving Microsoft any more money than I absolutely have to.) And why are these not-so-new new movies so bad? It’s the WRITING, stupid. Originality still counts for something, thus the derivative, warmed-over output of the big studios in the summer is generally all flash, no substance. (Yes, I’m stating the obvious. So sue me…)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten out of the habit of going to a lot of movies at the theater: Sue’s not a big movie buff, plus the expense and hassle can be annoying, and having a young child sort of limits what we can do with a night out anyway. Also, with the ratio of quality to crap, it’s hard to figure out what’s worth the extra effort, so you won’t feel gypped when you’re walking out.

Case in point: there’s a remake called Hairspray coming out in a few weeks — John Travolta in drag (ugh!), in an update of a Tony-winning musical, which itself was an update of a devilishly funny John Waters movie from 1988. Now if Waters’ quirky original was really good, which it was (thanks to his warped humor and indie sense of style), what are the chances that a big Hollywood version will dumb it down and make a mess of it? Pretty good chance, I’d say.

So why not find a little sleeper of a film instead, or rent PanPan’s Labyrinth (just out on DVD), or some other really original story. You can make your own popcorn, too. Hey, maybe I’ll even let Graham invite one of his girlfriends over. No heavy hugging allowed, though.


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