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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We are no longer living in a man’s world. This is not new information. Women now hold positions of high authority in basically every industry, showing the world that they are a force that refuses to be ignored. And just as art imitates reality, the entertainment world reflects women's dominance on television, especially on the CW. Look at all the shows that have become so female-centric on the popular network: Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, One Tree Hill, Nikita, the dearly departed Veronica Mars and even new series like Hart of Dixie. And with the return of Sarah Michelle Gellar in her new show, Ringer, the list only continues to grow. These ladies are leading the way to ground-breaking television drama where the women hold the spotlight. Take a look at some of the incredible leading ladies of our time as I rate their greatness and find out who to crown the Queen of the CW.
Sarah Michelle Gellar – Ringer
Let’s begin with the girl who helped pave the way for more female-focused shows: Sarah Michelle Gellar. She's got a new drama, Ringer, on the way, be we'll get to that next. First, we have to deal with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer legacy. When the series hit our screens, we were mesmerized by our heroine's exciting -- albeit dangerous -- lifestyle. We’re talking about a girl chosen by fate to battle the evil forces of the world. Gellar's Buffy had super physical strength, endurance, agility, clairvoyance, and accelerated healing abilities. We'd gotten used to men always playing the heroes while women played the obedient damsels in distress, but Gellar knocked all those preconceived notions out of the water with Buffy's awesome skills and abilities. This alone earns her 5 badass points (one for each ability listed, of course).
These days vampires and werewolves are all glorified and glittery, but don’t let those Twilight movies fool you – vampires are dangerous and the people of Sunnydale needed someone like Buffy to protect them from the powerful demons that walked among them. Of course, Buffy had her trials and tribulations in matters of the heart, but she never let it stop her from kicking butt and saving the day, proving that women know how to multitask better than anyone. The point is Buffy didn’t revolve around the show, the show revolved around Buffy and the program ended up benefiting from it, even making Time Magazine’s 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time. Now that’s impressive and easily earns 4 extra points.
So, now the actress has come full circle and will be returning to the network that spawned from the WB (the network that kick-started her career) in the highly anticipated series, Ringer, where we’ll get a double dose of Gellar's talent and drama. We’ve seen actresses play twins before (Parent Trap anyone?), but Gellar has the potential to really raise the bar and continue to move television drama to a whole new level. Instead of battling demons, she’ll take a whole new level of danger: mistaken identity. Throw in her sister’s disappearance, alcoholism, and deep, dark secrets and you’ve got all the makings for a phenomenal show with a woman leading the way. SMG is back and better than ever; set to relinquish that audience connection she forged many years ago. Although this show has yet to air, the amount of excitement and action surrounding it earns Gellar another solid 3 points, but since she’s playing twins I feel like I need to double it – so 6 points it is.
Total: 15 points
Nina Dobrev – The Vampire Diaries
Continuing on the leading lady rampage is Nina Dobrev who plays Vampire Diaries' Elena Gilbert, vampire magnet extraordinaire. This girl seems to have a knack for attracting trouble – and really cute guys. Like Buffy, Elena battles some vampires of her own. Of course we’ve all heard this kind of story before: two men (brother vamps in this case) fight to win a girl’s affection and she is torn between them. Boo-hoo, right? This in itself wouldn’t be the makings of great television, but if you add in the fact that her best friend is a witch, her mother was a vampire, and she herself is a doppelganger, and the fact that she escapes death on a daily basis, then you’ve pushed past the boundaries of tween drama and entered the sexier, more scandalous leagues. This girl comes with a lot of supernatural baggage, but deserves 3 versatility points for being able to adapt to dealing with all the craziness.
While Elena does at times play the damsel in distress card, she also plays a huge role in saving lives (or the undead) as well. She shows absolutely no fear in the face of danger and would die for her family and friends without hesitation. This of course can be seen as a huge flaw, but if she always played it safe and listened to her protective vampire suitor, then the constant battle against evil would not have been as successful. She’s got a backbone and plenty of spunk – and even if it is her fate to die, she’s come to the conclusion that she’s going to go down swinging. She receives an extra 2 points for pure gumption (I’d make it more, but the girl is pretty reckless).
Like Gellar, she too is getting a hand at playing a double role since she also plays her doppelganger vampire look-alike, Katherine. This allows Dobrev to play both an innocent victim and a hardcore enemy, which she seems to handle flawlessly. She makes both of their personalities and mannerisms entirely different, yet still gives them the same defining leading lady characteristic – they’re both fighters. Both of these women are self-confident, brave women that don’t cower away from a fight…even if it’s against the supernatural. This girl gets 3 more points on account of all her bravery and the fact that she’s got really great taste in vampire babes, but since she too plays a double role she gets double the points – 6 it is.
Total: 11 points
Leighton Meester – Gossip Girl
In case the title doesn’t say it for itself, Gossip Girl is a highly popular, highly female-centered show. One of the more complex characters whom I’ve always found most intriguing is the lovely Blair Waldorf, played by Leighton Meester. Her character wears many different hats and has many complicated layers that make her lovable, adored, hated, and pitied. It’s not an easy feat, but Meester seems more than up to the task. This girl’s got a little bit of everything: beauty, popularity; she's the ultimate Queen Bee, but she’s flawed. B has many insecurities, not to mention a pretty rocky love life, but it’s what makes her unique and an asset to the show itself. This girl is all about the drama, but that’s what keeps things interesting. Granted, she doesn’t do any actual fighting (other than with her boyfriend), so I can’t award her any badass points, but she more than makes up for it in her wardrobe. She gets 4 points for her daring style alone.
The episodes gravitate around her because she is the rock that holds the foundation of the show together. If her life was uncomplicated and unrelentingly happy the series would have trouble drawing us in. The beauty of being a leading lady is that you aren’t expected to be perfect because that’s not what the public wants. They want someone they can relate to and see themselves in, so when the character overcomes an obstacle or battles through a horrific ordeal, the audience can imagine themselves in the leading lady's designer shoes. Blair may consisently make bad decisions and constantly allow Chuck to play games with her heart, but what girl isn’t foolish when it comes to love? What the audience will take from all that drama is that no matter how many times Chuck breaks her heart or tears her down, she battles through it and survives. She’s a strong woman who doesn’t let a man get the best of her. If that’s not admirable then I don’t know what is. This girl earns an extra 3 points in the survivor department.
Total: 7 points
Sophia Bush – One Tree Hill
Put a girl in a tight, cheerleading outfit and you’ve got the male audience hooked, but you’re going to need to do a little bit more for the rest of your fan base to maintain their attention. Sophia Bush’s One Tree Hill character, Brooke Davis, becomes your classic transformation story. A girl who started out the show as your stereotypical party girl/head cheerleader/harlot, decides to turn things around and make something of herself. Yes, she still has her cheerleader pep and a flirty attitude, but she becomes a more mature version of herself and transforms into someone high school girls can admire. Four points for a stellar B-Davis attitude adjustment!
Think of the traumatic things that have just happened to her over the course of the past few years: being viciously attacked in her own store, enduring constant ridicule from her mother, and discovering that she may not be able to get pregnant. Life hasn’t been easy for this girl, but it has given her character more depth and has made her become a major asset to the show itself. I’ve got to give her 3 extra points: 1 for each obstacle listed above.
The main plot of the show used to center around the two brothers: Lucas and Nathan, but I believe that it’s the strong female roles that have kept the OTH going. Even when Chad Michael Murray left after the Season Six, the show remained strong and centered more on its female characters, like Brooke and Haley. These ladies get a lot more face-time and not just because they’re nice to look at. The show made heroines out of these women, making them the foundation for most of its plot lines. Whether it was done on purpose or out of necessity since Murray left the show, it’s definitely been to their benefit and proves that women can make a show stand on its own two feet -- and look good doing it. We give Bush 2 points for taking the spotlight from ex-fiance (Murray) and another 2 points for looking like a total babe while doing it.
Total: 11 points
Rachel Bilson – Hart of Dixie
Rachel Bilson will also be joining the CW family this fall as Zoe Hart in the upcoming show Hart of Dixie. While Bilson is no stranger to the small screen, having played Summer Marris on the OC, it’s not all going to be all tanning, shopping, and laying out on the beach with this series. Zoe is a city girl who moves out to Alabama for a job offer as a doctor and experiences the joys of Southern hospitality (or lack there of). Bilson is really kicking it up a notch with this role – combining her adorable charm with some serious, real-life issues. We couldn’t all relate to a privileged high schooler living in a mansion, spending all her time at the beach, but we can understand what it’s like to move away from the comfort of your own home and explore the unknown. In this economy we go where the jobs are even if we’re not that thrilled at where it takes us. Now, Zoe has to completely start over in a new location and make new friends, which can be exciting, but also incredibly nerve-wracking. We won’t just be able to sympathize with this character; we’ll empathize with what she’s going through, which makes her a powerful symbol for the modern working girl. She may not be slaying demons, but she’s a doctor who saves lives and that earns props in my grading system, so I’m giving her 5 points.
The fashionista in me also can’t ignore just how adorable and stylish this petite actress looks in the promos for the show. Granted she supposedly comes from New York City, so it’s almost a given that she’d have incredible fashion sense, but it’s still important to give credit where it’s due. I have a feeling that this girl will even be able to rock the whole white coat-stethoscope look while on the job and that kind of skill can’t be ignored. She gets 3 extra style points.
Total: 8 points
And the winner is...
After tallying up the points the results are as follows: in 4th place is Leighton Meester with 7 points, Rachel Bilson ends strong in 3rd place with 8 points, Nina Dobrev and Sophia Bush tie for 2nd place with 11 points, and our crowned Queen of the CW is our leading lady of television drama, Sarah Michelle Gellar with a whopping 15 points. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised – I mean let’s face it, no one is better than Buffy. But hats off to all the competitors – you’re all leading ladies in my book!
All the glamorous Catherine Zeta-Jones has to do is tap her heels three times and, just like that, she's returning to her humble homeland of Wales to do the independent film Coming Out. Under the direction of another Welshwoman, Sara Sugarman, Zeta-Jones will produce and star in the film about a Welsh rugby team whose coach unexpectedly dies. Their only hope is to rely on the deceased coach's gay son to "choreograph them to victory." But don't think Zeta-Jones is bowing out of the limelight forever. Oh, no, she wants that Oscar. So, Zeta-Jones also will star with her equally famous husband Michael Douglas in Smoke and Mirrors. The period drama follows the efforts of a French 19th century illusionist, along with his female sidekick, to expose a sorcerer who is inciting anti-colonial revolution. Production will start mid-fall.
Roberts' Atlantic crossing
Julia Roberts, following the leads of Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Sliding Doors), will most likely have to take some serious dialect lessons to perfect a British accent for a new untitled film (the one she had in Mary Reilly doesn't count). She will take on the real-life role of a Yorkshire woman whose murder led police on one of their biggest manhunts, followed by one of the most controversial miscarriages of justice in the United Kingdom. Roberts will play Wendy Sewell, whose gravitation towards elicit sex gained her the nickname "The Bakewell Tart," London's The Observer reports. Sewell was murdered in 1973. Maintaining his innocence, 17-year-old Tim Downing was convicted of killing Sewell. Local newspaper editor Don Hale spent six years trying to clear the young man's name. Interesting. Let's see what the Oscar-winning actress dishes up.
Hallstrom and DiCaprio play "Catch"
Speaking of more true stories, director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) is in final negotiations to direct DreamWorks' Catch Me If You Can, with Leonardo DiCaprio, who certainly has taken the heat off himself in the last few years, attached to star. This is based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., the only teen to ever make the FBI's 10 most wanted list for impersonating several hundred different people and writing bad checks between 1964 and 1966. Abagnale Jr. passed himself off as a Pan Am copilot, a chief resident pediatrician and an assistant attorney general. He had written $6 million in bad checks in all 50 states and 26 foreign countries by the time he was caught. That's one busy bee. And with Hallstrom and DiCaprio together again, after their other quirky but compelling film What's Eating Gilbert Grape (DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar), Catch might one to watch out for.
Allen looking at the stars … again
Hey, why mess with a good thing? Tim Allen is no dummy. After his success in 1999's comedy hit Galaxy Quest, Allen is in talks to star in Paramount Pictures' comedy StarChild, about another romp with aliens--Roswell aliens, to be exact. A socially challenged CIA agent is assigned the task of getting a young Roswell alien back home before interplanetary war erupts on Earth. Peter Segal (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) will direct. Think about this one carefully, Tim.
"I know nuuuth-ting!"
But we do. Looks like the brainy fellows at Revolution Studios have decided to bring the wacky and popular '60s and '70s TV sitcom Hogan Heroes to the big screen. We'll get to see all the shenanigans of Hogan (maybe Tim Allen should think about this one instead) and his oddball band of World War II POWs, as they run an underground Allied base of operations at the camp while pulling a fast one on the incompetent Col. Klink and his sidekick, Sgt. Schultz (Chris Farley would have been great). And why not? The studios haven't completely tapped out the arsenal of old TV shows as possible movie material. Ironically, the original series' star, Bob Crane, is having his own life brought to the big screen by director Paul Schrader. The film, Auto-Focus, highlights the sordid details of Crane's life after Heroes that ultimately led to his brutal murder in 1978.
Court TV makes movies
Court TV, which owes its popularity to the sensational trials of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers, has decided on its first original movie. It is a project on the aftermath of the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, during which four black girls were killed. The case made headlines recently when an Alabama jury convicted Thomas Blanton of the crime. Blanton is the second man brought to justice in this case after the 1977 conviction of Robert Chambliss. Tentatively titled A Bombing in Birmingham, production will start in the late summer for a 2002 airing. Not sure, though, if anyone can outdo Spike Lee's extraordinary Oscar-nominated documentary on the same subject, 4 Little Girls. That's a hard act to follow.
The power of three
Indie gal-pals Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk will star in Enter Fleeing for writer/director Rebecca Miller. Based on Miller's collection of short stories, Personal Velocity, the film tells the tale of three women-Greta (Posey), Delia (Sedgwick) and Paula (Balk)-who each struggle to flee from the men who confine their personal freedom. Sounds like the ultimate chick flick--an empowering chick flick, the best kind. Shooting begins this week in New York.
Rap Queen large and in charge
Rap singer/actress/talk show host Queen Latifah is in negotiations to star and executive produce the comedy In the Houze for Disney and Hyde Park Entertainment. A man takes to the Internet to find a date but ends up embarking on an online relationship with a convict (Latifah) who makes up several stories about herself. When she's finally released, she seeks out the guy and wreaks havoc on his upper-middle-class life. This will mark the versatile Latifah's first starring role in a film, having played mostly supporting characters in films like The Bone Collector and Living Out Loud.