Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
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Oh, how cruel the singing competition gods are. Not only did their wrath result in the elimination of a relatively promising crooner and a horribly mismanaged group last night, but with his exit last week they denied Jason Brock the opportunity to shine his brightest in a themed night all but tailor-made for him on Wednesday: Diva Night. Somewhere in a more guyliner-friendly alternate universe he totally rocked the house, placed high in the ranking, and emerged as a new contender to win it all. Instead, we’re left to settle for fifth-place finisher CeCe Frey, who previously seemed one pitchy note away from elimination, for our power-ballad fix. Sigh.
It’s fascinating to see how Simon Cowell’s priorities have changed in the decade since American Idol first launched. Now, you could easily argue that the black T-shirt aficionado has always been more a marketer than a producer, more interested in the packaging of his artists than their actual talent. But back in the early days of Idol, he’d routinely diss packaged popstars like Jessica Simpson, and even his current judging partner Britney Spears, for being all-style, no-substance products. Now he seems to have little to no interest in vocal skill at all. Exhibit A: His shameful choice of Paige Thomas over Jennel Garcia.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. First of all, Lyric DaQueen and her funky crew, Lyric 145, got the ax. This is a perfect example of how out of touch Cowell & Co. really are when it comes to hip hop. When Spears made her introduction to television reporters earlier this year and talked the music biz, her declaration of love for rap at the time sounded as if there hadn’t been any evolution in the genre since Cypress Hill. Sure, the very concept of a rapping girl-group may be inherently anachronistic, but Cowell seemed hellbent on reinventing Lyric 145 as a ‘90s Salt ‘n Pepa-style troupe. If Don Cornelius hadn’t passed away last year, he’d undoubtedly have loved the result. So it was obvious that, in the era of motor-mouthed rappers like Nicki Minaj, Lyric 145 seemed hopelessly out of date. Maybe they should next try out for amateur night at the Apollo.
It didn’t help that, according to Lyric DaQueen, the group’s original number was unceremoniously nixed at the last minute by Fox. Instead, they ended performing an oh-so-obvious medley of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Katy Perry’s “E.T.” Ooh, they both have a stomp-stomp-clap beat, so they’re just begging for a mashup, right?! “We didn’t get the opportunity to show what we really had,” Ms. DaQueen said. “We had original lyrics, and we had a hip-hop song that got snatched away from us at the last minute.”
That left Demi Lovato’s mentees, Paige Thomas and Jennel Garcia, to fight for their X Factor lives. Okay, it didn’t help Garcia that she sang Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” while Thomas belted Coldplay’s “Paradise.” But in every respect, this was a vocals vs. marketing matchup. A showdown between art and product. And product, Thomas, won. Reid and Spears quickly decided to send Garcia home, but Cowell, though he knew his decisive vote would assure her exit, decided anyway to put pressure on Demi to make the reality TV equivalent of Sophie’s choice. And she chose…wisely. Recognizing more actual singing ability in Garcia, Lovato chose to send Thomas home. Not that it mattered, because Simon declared Thomas to have more “star power,” and cast the deciding vote that sent Garcia packing. Considering that peoples' career aspiration were hanging in the balance, it seemed like a cruel and unnecessary stunt--but sadly that kind of thing seems to be X Factor's stock in trade.
In the midst of the heartbreak, Taylor Swift unfurled her whole cheerleaders-and-unicorns thing by performing “State of Grace.” If only Simon had listened to Swift, when she said, after Mario Lopez asked her for her take on reality TV show judging, “No matter how tired you are, or how bad a day you have, be nice to people.”
And that’s a wrap, folks. Here’s the current rankings of the Top 10.
1. Tate Stevens
2. Carly Rose Sonenclar
3. Vino Alan
4. Emblem 3
6. Fifth Hamony
7. Diamond White
8. Beatrice Miller
9. Arin Ray
10. Paige Thomas
Like me, were you disappointed with the outcome last night? And can anything stop Tate Stevens from winning it all at this point?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Fox]
Britney, Demi, Simon, and Chloe on the Emotional Night at ‘X Factor’
‘X Factor’ Contestants Emblem3, Vino Alan, and More Talk Female Fans, Love, and Relationships
‘The X Factor’ Recap: Divalicious
As the premiere of the all-new American Idol approaches, we bid adieu to those “mean” audition practices that push the crazies through to the final rounds just so we can hear Simon tell them how awful they are as the other judges giggle and try to sugar coat the big, bad wolf’s real talk. But come on, most of these people are totally aware that they’re putting themselves in that situation – I said most! – they’re just looking for a reason to get on TV. Now, the voice of reason has gone on to greener pastures and left us a panel of music biz vets who are determined to be “uplifting” and “nice” – whatever that is. Just because Idol is kinder and gentler doesn’t mean we have to be kind or gentle. Since everything’s going to be all peachy keen once the show starts, why don’t you get your Idol crazies fix by imagining a few hopefuls attempting to woo the judges with these tunes. They aren't bad songs (well a few of them are); they're a selection of some of the worst choices if you actually plan on getting a ticket to Hollywood, but man would they make things a little more interesting for the folks at home.
"Party All the Time" – Eddie Murphy
Auditioner Category: Clueless Frat Boy
This is the guy who would probably have a decent or okay singing voice, but the fact that he most certainly “pre-gamed” during his entire 14 hour wait to audition ensures that all he’ll show us is his ability to recreate that awkward side-to-side dance that reminds us of the Super Bowl shuffle. Good effort, dude, but you're like, not going to make it to Hollywood.
"The Piano Has Been Drinking" – Tom Waits
Auditioner Category: The Delusional Immitator
This guy or girl thinks A: that they can be just as awesome as Tom Waits and B: that Idol is some sort of contest to see who can imitate their favorite successful musician the best. They will almost always insist that they are above the competition itself and they may exit their audition like this guy. He or she probably also considered doing Bruce Springsteen's “Nebraska” or Neil Young's “Hey Hey, My My” but decided those weren’t challenging enough.
"Loving You" – Minnie Ripperton
Auditioner Category: The Delusional Wannabe Prodigy
This girl would pick an iconic song that almost no one can successfully recreate. She’s probably been told by her great aunt and her mother that she’s the next Mariah Carey, but when it comes time to audition if those plastic Coca-cola cups could be shattered, the judges' table would be covered in little glass slivers. Even the best Christina Aguilera-style arm gyrations can't save you from that (you know, the ones that look like she’s trying to sing while wearing a blindfold and pop a slew of invisible bubbles).
"Shoop" – Salt N Pepa
Auditioner Category: The Angry Girl Who Thinks She’s Above the Show’s Premise
This girl swears she’s the best person the judges will see all day, but she’s failed to realize that it’s a singing competition, not a swagger competition. She’s probably still stuck in the 90s, rocking overalls and an unbuttoned plaid shirt or some other outfit seemingly inspired by Brittany Murphy’s character in Clueless pre-Chertastic makeover. “Rollin’ with the homies” isn’t going to get you a ticket to Hollywood, darlin’.
"Fernando" – ABBA
Auditioner Category: The Housewife Who Somehow Sneaks Past the 28 Year Age Limit
This very nice lady, sporting her mom jeans and dragging along her very bored teenage son and daughter, somehow managed to make it past the age limit and is determined to show the judges just how great of a singer she is. She’s probably not a terrible singer, but her awkward swaying movements, Lawrence Welk style vocals, and homemade “I Love Idol” sweatshirt probably aren’t going to make the cut.
"Die Another Day" – Madonna
Auditioner Category: The Hardcore Madonna Fan
He or she will come into the audition with far too much seriousness and a little drama. They may or may not be donning their favorite Madonna concert tee – probably a colorful one from the “Music” era – and their blind love for the Material Girl has caused them not to notice that this is by far one of the worst songs ever. In his or her head, they’ll sound like the spacey auto-tuned Madonna, but the rest of us will just hear some awful sing-talking and have the urge to run out and rent a James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry after hearing the title repeated a million times. Weird.
"Aqualung" – Jethro Tull
Auditioner Category: The Kid Who Loves Classic Rock Songs But Doesn’t Realize What They’re About
This kid thinks he can prove to his friends that auditioning for Idol isn’t something to be embarrassed about, so he picks one of his favorite classic rock songs. Too bad he’s never been that good at deciphering the meanings of lyrics. Even if he rocks the vocals, the fact that he failed to ask (well, anyone really) what the song is about will condemn him to the status as a creepy, laughable, YouTube-worthy audition.
"Cat Scratch Fever" – Ted Nugent
Auditioner Category: The Spastic Set Destroyer
This guy is the reason the producers of the show have to take out insurance on the set equipment. He’s like totally pumped to be auditioning for Idol and he’s totally psyched to be performing like one of his favorite songs OF ALL TIME, EVER. Too bad he’ll get way too excited, run into the judges table and knock over a few set lights before he even gets to the bridge. Randy will probably need a week off to recover due to “psychological damage” as a result of the event.
"Highly Suspicious" – My Morning Jacket
Auditioner Category: The Obnoxious New Arrangement Guy
This person has just discovered the concept of rearranging songs. Now that they don’t have to do an exact replica, they think they can re-imagine something like “Highly Suspicious” as a classy, jazzy tune and wow the judges with how unique they are. They think of themselves as a genius, the rest of us will just think they’re a douchebag. PS: Knowing how to arrange music doesn’t mean you can actually sing.
"Short People" – Randy Newman
Auditioner Category: The 15 Year Old Girl Whose Dad Chose Her Song
In her dad’s defense, he thought the “cute” irony of a short girl singing “Short People” would put her ahead of the game. The actual result is two uncomfortable minutes of a little girl singing a song that she probably doesn’t understand with a vacant expression, a pageant smile and her hands on her hips. Creepy much?