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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Well, twerking has officially taken over America. According to Billboard, rapper Juicy J has promised a scholarship to the woman who twerks the best, and New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia is planning to attempt to set a Guinness World Record for twerking. That's a lot of dancing butts, people.
Juicy J is offering $50,000 to a female college student between the ages of 18 and 25 who shows extraordinary talents in the areas of twerking. Applicants must upload a video to YouTube of themselves twerking to the rapper's track "Scholarship." Meanwhile, on Sept. 25 in Manhattan's Herald Square, Big Freedia is teaming up with Fuse to host "Record Breaking Booty Shaking: Break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® Twerk Record with Big Freedia." The event will include over 250 dancers twerking for two minutes.
Now, twerking is nothing new. It has been a style of dancing since before Miley Cyrus was old enough to shake what her mama gave her (which, granted, isn't much), but Cyrus' MTV VMA performance brought the Southern craze to the center stage of society. However, according to Fuse, it doesn't sound like Big Freedia is quite ready to include the ex-Disney star in her twerking world record event anytime soon.
"She was going too far," said Big Freedia in an interview with Fuse. "She's trying to twerk, but don't know how to twerk. It's become offensive to a lot of people who've been twerking and shaking their asses for years, especially in the black culture ... When something get hot, everybody want to jump on the bandwagon and act like they created it. That's totally understandable but they have to give credit where credit is due."
Did you get that Miley? You might want to leave the twerking to the professionals from now on.
More:2013 MTV VMAS: Miley Cyrus Pioneers the Movement to Sexualize Teddy BearsSexy Dance Crazes (That Aren't Twerking)We Interrupt This Broadcast So Morgan Freeman Can Talk About Twerking
From Our Partners:A Complete History Of Twerking (1993-2013) (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
In the grand tradition of modernizing classic brands, MTV2 announced that they will revive the game show property Hollywood Squares with a 21st century spin. Hip Hop Squares will feature familiar names like DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon while throwing in the occasional associated panelist, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and Jackass/Wildboyz star Bam Margera. Speaking to EW, MTV2's programming chief Paul Ricci the goal was to "refresh an iconic format and create a fun, dynamic series that's unpredictable, heavy on personality and much more 'party' than 'game show'."
That line-up carries serious weight, but there's a missing piece of the puzzle that helped the show's previous incarnations become milestones. Based on the released hip hop-centric panelists, there's a complete lack of diversity — specifically on the sexual-orientation front. That may not seem like a big deal, but for all of the game show brand's kitsch and silliness, Hollywood Squares pushed the envelope; in 1968, the original version anchored the show with Paul Lynde, who, while never revealing his personal sexual preferences, but retroactively became a gay figurehead. In the 1998 revival, comedian Bruce Vilanch was a permanent fixture, routinely cracking innuendo jokes that spoofed his sexuality. There's no written rule that Hollywood Squares needs a gay cast member to function or be properly executed, but it's boldly hosted them with little audience resistance and always for entertainment-driven reasons.
The hip hop industry is notoriously narrow and there history with the gay community has rough patches. Currently, there aren't openly gay rappers working with mainstream labels. But Hip Hop Squares panelist Fat Joe believes there are plenty working in the industry. In a 2011 interview, the rapper told VladTV that he believed there was a large gay community in the hip-hop world — but that they weren't coming out. “I think I’ve done songs with gay rappers. I’m pretty sure of that … I happen to think there’s a gay mafia in hip-hop. Not rappers — editorial presidents of magazines, the PDs at radio stations, the people who give you awards at award shows … They’re in power … So why wouldn’t a guy come out and say, ‘Yo, I’m gay’ and get that type of love? " Author Terrance Dean corroborates the idea in his 2008 book Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry — from Music to Hollywood. Gay hip hop artists exist — and may even be stars — but the industry pressure doesn't allow them to be open.
Even if gay artists aren't prominent in the big labels, they are working, and thriving, in the US. MC Big Freedia is breaking out in New Orleans, helping expand the Sissy Bounce genre out of its regional confines (he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year), while Cazwell has gained notoriety through the True Color Tour and LOGO promotion — but you won't find his music videos running in regular rotation on Viacom's sister site MTV.
In a strange way, MTV2 has an opportunity with Hip Hop Squares. Bring in the audience that comes for Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon and a handful of NFL stars then expose them to some wonderful gay talent. Based on the announced line-up, the show already sounds homogeneous. The rap world is dying for a breakout, an equality game changer that even the media seems unable to crack (The New York Times is profiling MC Big Freedia and yet few have heard of him). The new Hollywood Squares needs its Paul Lynde, its Bruce Vilanch, its diversity. And there are plenty of choices.
Thanks to @JenniMiller and @gmorse for additional research.
Find Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow @Hollywood_com![EW]