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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Making a spoof movie ain't what it used to be.
Comparing his latest endeavor, writing and producing this week's Scary Movie V, to his vast body of comedy work, David Zucker admits that life was a bit easier in 1980 when he and his collaborators set off to shoot Airplane!. Widely considered the pinnacle of spoof cinema, Airplane! riffs on a select number of films. It's Zero Hour!, Airport '75, and few dashes of Saturday Night Fever and From Here to Eternity for good measure. The Scary franchise is a different beast.
Following in the footsteps of the Wayans' first two Scary Movie films, modern spoofing had a new demand for Zucker when he took over the franchise for Scary Movie 3. "This is the hardest thing to do, to weave together plots from different movies," he says. "You have to make your best guess. In all these movies, we end up reshooting. You have to put it in front of an audience. What happened in [Scary Movie V] is that we used Paranormal Activity, elements of all of them, and Black Swan, and Planet of the Apes. What we found out was, none of those movies had an actual monster. We didn't realize that until halfway through. Fortunately, Mama came along."
When Zucker describes the Scary Movie process, it sounds grueling, sporadic, challenging, and ultimately gratifying when a moment of clarity emerges from the chaos. As a true auteur of comedic filmmaking, Zucker has long lived by a listed mantra, 15 rules that help keep him on track as he makes a movie. The glossary earns laughs on its own (terms include "Gilding the Lily," taking a joke so far that it's no longer funny, and "Floocher Dialogue," filler lines recited by foreground characters to enable the audience to focus on a background joke), but they're important to Zucker's approach to making movies.
"The rules are just us trying to not repeat the same mistakes," says the producer. "You disobey these rules at your peril… One of the things is, movies have to be grounded in reality. It's something BASEketball didn't have and Top Secret didn't have. They didn't have character arcs."
That's why Mama helped reinvigorate Scary Movie V — but not in the scripting stage. "Much later into production we incorporated Mama and even Evil Dead," Zucker says. "We actually spoof the trailer [laughs]. I always say, 'Kids, don't try this at home.'" The producer admits that Scary Movie V began production without an antagonist, a no-no in the Zucker book of comedy. Including the ghastly villainess of that film gave the movie a new arc. "How well a job we did, I can't judge, because I'm right in the middle of it. But for sure, we just really knocked ourselves out trying to make it into a cohesive plot structure. That's what Mama gave us, because Jessica Chastain had such a good character."
Don't get him wrong: Zucker prefers a calmer, more structured filmmaking style. He doesn't like endless nights of rewriting and reshooting. In fact, Zucker wasn't even planning on returning to the Scary Movie franchise until two of Hollywood's most influential producers asked him to. "The Weinsteins asked us to do this. They had to make Scary Movie, so I did it," he says. "It's not something I planned on doing, but it's still what I love to do."
Working on Scary Movie V with Bob and Harvey Weinstein is a bit of thankless task, rounding up all the ideas that must be in the movie, and piecing them together into something watchable. When asked if it's anything like writing Kentucky Fried Movie, his wonderfully manic sketch comedy film from 1977, Zucker politely says, "Well, that's a theory."
"There were some instances where we were directed to throw some things at the screen that didn't fit in the story," Zucker says. "And that's not the right thing to do, so those things didn't work. But we cut them out. No matter how crazy and zany these spoof are, and they're pretty crazy, we still have to obey plot, structure, and character. It has to be coherent. If you take a side track, it won't work."
One thing Zucker had little to do with was Scary Movie V's stunt casting, which brings back Scary Movie vet Charlie Sheen, and enlists newbies Lindsay Lohan and Mob Wives star Big Ang. Zucker was happy to reunite with Sheen ("[He's] just a dream to work with. It's like driving a fancy car."). The others… well, he didn't know who Big Ang was, but he made it work. "The studio has this franchise and they know what they want to do with it," he says. "So they have very strong opinions on who they want to cast. And we accommodate that." Zucker laughs at an on-set title he's earned from keeping production on its toes. "They always joke about me because I come in in my scrubs and operate on the patient."
The reason Zucker believes he can work in this fashion is because he's well aware of what has and hasn't worked past. One thing that didn't work: his 2008, right-wing skewing An American Carol. "If I had to do it over again… I don't think I ever would have done it," he says. "Again, it has to be more entertainment than preachy. The talking points were too much out front. I just wanted to make it funny." Zucker recalls having an amazing experience making the critically-maligned Carol, which he co-wrote with his writing partner Lewis Friedman (who he points out is "a liberal New Yorker and a far left Democrat!"), and thought would play to all audiences. "We just wanted to make it as funny as we could while poking fun at the left, which nobody does," Zucker says. "People who know me know I'm not that serious about anything. I don't take the politics seriously. I don't think Republicans go to see movies, that's the other thing! It was a misguided thing."
With Scary Movie V in the can, Zucker is ready to get back to the movie he originally intended to make before the Weinsteins rang him up. He says it will take its cues from The Naked Gun. "The Naked Gun style is a sane way of doing a movie," he says. He hopes to direct his next script, which preys on popcorn movies in a method akin to his police spoof series (a Bourne-style update, anyone?). He also sees potential in reviving Naked Gun.
"You could do another Naked Gun, with a reboot. Like Star Trek," Zucker says. The immediate retort is, really, how could anyone live up to Leslie Nielsen? "There are people who can do that and they're not famous. You wouldn't know who they were. But I know actors who can do it. Again, I think Paramount has an international brand in Naked Gun and I think there's something you can do." For now, he hopes to revive the spirit of Naked Gun rather than the actual property. "There's room for a Naked Gun style. A bumbling guy in a position where he's respected. Leslie Nielsen played Lieutenant Frank Drebin and nobody seemed to have a clue that he's an idiot. I want to do the character, but not the specific [job]. Not Naked Gun."
Zucker thinks Scary Movie V survived the turbulent process of tinkering on the fly. He came to the movie prepared to break it, start over, reconfigure, and put it out into the world while looking forward. It's in the rules. "That's another glossary term we have: 'Apollo 13,'" he says. "When your spacecraft is in trouble and you have to get it back alive. So you use spare parts and do anything that you can to save it." So however Scary Movie V is received, he's ready to go back to the drawing board and make new movies. "One of the important things is not to blame other people for your failures (and that goes for regular life too). If a movie tanks, you have to look at what you did and figure out what happened."
Follow Matt Patches On Twitter @Misterpatches
More: 'Scary Movie 5': Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan Jump in Bed — TRAILERSurely We Didn't Talk to Robert Hays About The 'Airplane!'In The Event Of These Airplane Movie Emergencies...
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
The 2012 Producer's Guild of America Awards are approaching, celebrating both Theatrical Motion Pictures and Long-Form Television with a new batch of nominees that the PGA has just released. Many of the films are no surprise—crossovers with the upcoming Golden Globes nominees abound. For theatrical motion picture include The Artist, The Descendants and Midnight in Paris; nominees for animated theatrical motion picture include Rango and The Adventures of Tintin.
The television nominees also offer some unsurprising names, including Mildred Pierce, Downton Abbey, Parks and Recreation, Boardwalk Empire,Game of Thrones, Mad Men and The Colbert Report.
Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
Producer: Thomas Langmann
Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Clayton Townsend
Producers: Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
Producers: Ceán Chaffin, Scott Rudin
Producers: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Brunson Green
Producers: Graham King, Martin Scorsese
THE IDES OF MARCH
Producers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Brian Oliver
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
Producers: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN
Producers: Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg
Producer: Denise Ream
KUNG FU PANDA 2
Producer: Melissa Cobb
PUSS IN BOOTS
Producers: Joe M. Aguilar, Latifa Ouaou
Producers: John B. Carls, Gore Verbinski
The Producers Guild of America Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures
BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE: THE TRAVELS OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
Producers: Michael Rapaport, Edward Parks (*additional producers eligibility pending arbitration completion)
BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK
Producer: Philip Gefter
Producer: Simon Chinn
Producer: James Gay-Rees
Producers: Cameron Crowe, Michelle Panek
The David L. Wolper Producer of the Year Award in Long-Form Television (Movies of the Week and Miniseries)
CINEMA VERITE (HBO)
Producers: Zanne Devine, Karyn McCarthy
DOWNTON ABBEY (Masterpiece) (PBS)
Producers: Julian Fellowes, Nigel Marchant, Gareth Neame
THE KENNEDYS (ReelzChannel)
Producers: Jon Cassar, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steve Michaels, Michael Prupas, Jamie Paul Rock, Joel Surnow
MILDRED PIERCE (HBO)
Producers: Todd Haynes, Pamela Koffler, Ilene S. Landress, Christine Vachon
TOO BIG TO FAIL (HBO)
Producers: Carol Fenelon, Jeffrey Levine, Paula Weinstein
The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:
30 ROCK (NBC)
Producers: Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Marci Klein, Jerry Kupfer, Lorne Michaels, David Miner, Jeff Richmond, John Riggi, Don Scardino
THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)
Producers: Chuck Lorre, Steve Molaro, Faye Oshima, Bill Prady
Producers: Ian Brennan, Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy, Kenneth Silverstein
MODERN FAMILY (ABC)
Producers: Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Morton, Jeffrey Richman, Dan O’Shannon, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker
PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC)
Producers: Greg Daniels, Dan Goor, Howard Klein, Amy Poehler, Morgan Sackett, Michael Schur
The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama
BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
Producers: Eugene Kelly, Howard Korder, Stephen Levinson, Martin Scorsese, Rudd Simmons, Tim Van Patten, Terence Winter
Producers: Sara Colleton, John Goldwyn, Chip Johannessen, Robert Lloyd Lewis
GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
Producers: David Benioff, Frank Doelger, Mark Huffam, Carolyn Strauss, D.B. Weiss
THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)
Producers: Brooke Kennedy, Michelle King, Robert King, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, David W. Zucker
MAD MEN (AMC)
Producers: Jonathan Abrahams, Scott Hornbacher, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Blake McCormick, Dwayne Shattuck, Dahvi Waller, Matthew Weiner
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television
THE COLBERT REPORT (Comedy Central)
Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart (*additional producers eligibility pending arbitration completion)
THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW (Syndicated)
Producers: Mary Connelly, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Geiger Schrift, Ed Glavin, Andy Lassner, Kevin A. Leman II, Jonathan Norman, Derek Westervelt
REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER (HBO)
Producers: Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Marc Gurvitz, Dean Johnsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC)
Producers: Ken Aymong, Steve Higgins, Erik Kenward, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney
THE 64TH ANNUAL TONY AWARDS (CBS)
Producers: Ricky Kirshner, Glenn Weiss
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television
THE AMAZING RACE (CBS)
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Elise Doganieri, Jonathan Littman, Bertram van Munster, Mark Vertullo
AMERICAN IDOL (FOX)
Producers: Charles Boyd, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Simon Fuller, Patrick Lynn, Nigel Lythgoe, Megan Michaels, Ken Warwick
DANCING WITH THE STARS (ABC)
Producers: Ashley Edens Shaffer, Conrad Green, Joe Sungkur, Rob Wade
PROJECT RUNWAY (Lifetime)
Producers: Jane Cha Cutler, Desiree Gruber, Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Jonathan Murray, Sara Rea, Colleen Sands
TOP CHEF (Bravo)
Producers: Daniel Cutforth, Casey Kriley, Jane Lipsitz, Dan Murphy, Nan Strait
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:
30 FOR 30 (ESPN)
Producers: John Dahl, Connor Schell, Bill Simmons
AMERICAN MASTERS (PBS)
Producers: Susan Lacy, Julie Sacks
ANTHONY BOURDAIN: NO RESERVATIONS (Travel Channel)
Producers: Christopher Collins, Julie Lei, Lydia Tenaglia, Tom Vitale
DEADLIEST CATCH (Discovery Channel)
Producers: Thom Beers, Jeff Conroy, John Gray, Sheila McCormack, Ethan Prochnik, Bill Pruitt, Matt Renner
UNDERCOVER BOSS (CBS)
Producers: Chris Carlson, Susan Hoenig, Eli Holzman, Sandi Johnson, Stephen Lambert, Allison Schermerhorn
ANDERSON COOPER 360º (CNN)
BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA (BBC)
NBC NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS (NBC)
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW (MSNBC)
60 MINUTES (CBS)
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL (ESPN)
REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL (HBO)
SPORTS CENTER (ESPN)
30 FOR 30 (ESPN)
2010 FIFA WORLD CUP (ABC / ESPN / ESPN2)
U.S. OPEN TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP (CBS / ESPN2 / Tennis Channel)
DORA THE EXPLORER (Nickelodeon)
PHINEAS AND FERB (Disney Channel)
SESAME STREET (PBS)
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS (Nickelodeon)
ASK A NINJA (blip.tv)
THE GUILD (WatchTheGuild.com)
PARKS AND RECREATION PRESENTS: "APRIL AND ANDY'S ROAD TRIP" (NBC.com)
30 ROCK PRESENTS JACK DONAGHY, EXECUTIVE SUPERHERO (NBC.com)
WEB THERAPY (LStudio.com)
*These programs were not vetted for producer eligibility this year but winners in these categories will be announced at the official ceremony on January 21st.
Source: Producer's Guild