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Where there was no love to be found

Hook was playing at the Aero Theatre in 70mm; I've never seen it, and 70mm FILM is an awesome thing, so I went.

The slightly-Goth gal at the ticket counter must've had a really good night or a bad morning or both, because she was soooo not in the mood to have some fat sweaty Latino stick out his debt-ridden credit card to her and ask for 1 ticket (please). It didn't matter if this fat fuck was using his Be Nice At The DMV-voice to assure her that he was, indeed, one of the good guys, one who understood. As far as she was concerned, I deserved the dagger-eyes and Go Fuck Yourself body language. She made this all very clear after handing me my ticket and immediately looking back down at nothing, without even a "Thank you" or fake job-smile. The older lady who took my ticket, on the other hand, was very nice. Because with advanced age, comes an understanding of Life -- not to mention a worldly confirmation to your soul that says You Are Not The Most Important Person In The World (Nobody Is, Except The Rich And Famous), so quit acting like a cunt who's been wronged by everyone and Be Decent to your fellow man, for Christ's sake.

So this flick, Hook, it's a Spielberg joint and I remember back in '91 this was, like, a huge fuckin' mega-extravaganza of stars and movie-magic. At least that's what I gathered from the never-ending onslaught of advertising for it. Anyway, for whatever reason, it never grabbed my fancy, let alone tickle it. It stars Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman, and back then, those guys were money-making mega-stars; nowadays, they're still big names, only now they're the kind of big names that do better at the box office when matched up with other big names in an ensemble cast.

Williams plays one of those white-collar characters of High Position who is so busy being a fuckin' Boss, that he ends up fucking it up in the Family department. Hollywood loves making movies about guys like these -- successful suits who make big deals, working their asses off for the Corporation, treating the lowly underlings as human beings (meaning he's a Cool Boss) -- because the studio execs who read these scripts (well, they read the coverage from the lackey who read it for them, anyway) see themselves as that person, the best-case scenario of what they could only hope to be, rather than what they really are.

But rather than making themselves better people in real life, they greenlight these fuckin' movies and demand rewrites upon rewrites (to justify their position), and they believe that by having the character go through a grueling 3-act redemption, that somehow wipes the slate clean of both the sins of the main character AND them. As if watching Rich White Guys learning to become better people in a movie serves as a bona-fide act of self-flagellation for these motherfuckers: Ah yes, now everything is right again! Johnson, bring me a coffee with two sugars, a Sweet & Low, and half-a-Equal, served at slightly below scalding temperature. In a French demitasse from Tangiers. With a plastic spoon. From Target, not the 99 Cent store. And reschedule my sauna/cocaine session with Michael Bay for 2:34. Oh, and re-write my speech for the Hollywood Democratic Fundraiser I'm giving tonight, because I'm all about the working man. I was a working man, once -- I interned one summer at Orion, rather than stay with my folks in Martha's Vineyard. Go! Now, Johnson, now! GO NOW OR IT'S YOUR ASS!!!! I'LL THROW YOU AND YOUR FAMILY INTO THE FUCKIN' STREET!!!!!

So yeah, this movie. Williams was too busy showing off his cell phone holstering skills at the office to make it to his son's baseball game in time. The son (played by The Kid from Dick Tracy) is understandably upset by this, and demonstrates it by drawing a picture (during a flight to see his grandmother-in-law) of his father falling to his death in an ocean teeming with Mork-hungry sharks. After they arrive in England (where grandma Wendy lives), the old bird is disappointed to see that Williams is acting like some big-time studio executive; always on the cell phone, barely acknowledging his kids (except to scream at them).

It turns out that this Wendy broad is THE Wendy, as in, the Wendy from the Peter Pan story -- and not only is the story real, but it's none other than Robin Williams who was the real Pan. But you know how it is; first you spend your youth having fun with your boys, having food fights, experimenting with your sexuality by crossdressing in tights, and never growing old. But next thing you know, you fall in love with a chick and forget about your boys and suddenly it's 25 years later and you're rich & miserable, you got two kids, a wife who's keeping in better shape than your fat hairy ass, and you're like What Happened To My Life, I Used To Be Cool.

Meanwhile, in Never Never Land, Captain Hook (played by Rain Man) is still keeping it real. Sure, it's not so cool to be older and still playing the I'm Young game with your crew, but whatever, he's living his life the way he wants to live it. I guess Spielberg is using all this shit as a metaphor or whatever you'd fuckin' call this shit: You become an adult, do adult things, and accept adult responsibility -- or -- you stay single and immature and fuck around with your buddies, playing pirate, and hitting the nightclubs with your old ass (wearing an unconvincing wig to disguise your gray balding pate).

I guess Hook is missing his old nemesis and wants to relive the old times, so he has his boys break into grandma's house and jack the children while the rest of the family is out at some ceremony/function, where they're dedicating an orphanage wing or something to Wendy. After getting Detective Inspector Phil Collins on the case, Williams tries to chill out with some booze, but along comes Tinkerbell to try to convince him to become The Pan again, because the hooooooooook brings you baaaaaaaaack....

You know, that ceremony sequence I mentioned in the last paragraph? It's actually my favorite scene in the entire film; Williams is giving a treacly (yet sincere) speech about how awesome Wendy was for taking in so many orphans (himself included) and raising them, teaching them well, letting them lead the way and showing them all the beauty they possess inside, gimme some more crack Bobby, etc. It ends with all the orphans in the audience standing up and applauding their love for this old broad; most of them are pretty old themselves, and I'm sure they all live pretty respectable lives, which is why it's so touching to think that it all came out of this lady taking care of them, when no one else would. Biologically, she may not be their mother, but while they were in her care, she put most moms to shame. In any other film, this would've been the ending, some Mr. Holland's Opus kind-of shit, but in this joint, this happens in the first 30 minutes or so.

Which is why it's kind of a drag that the majority of the first act feels kinda....draggy. That scene is so awesome, but what preceded it and what follows it feels pretty lame. In fact, it's kinda funny that this film ultimately mirrors the Peter Banning character (that's Robin Williams to you); the more he finds out about who he used to be, the more fun the movie gets. Until he finally becomes The Pan (spoiler for a 20-year-old movie about Peter Fucking Pan) and the movie finally gets off the ground with some medium-level Good Times. But that also means that for the first half, this shit's almost as boring as the main character's non-Pan self.

Supposedly, Spielberg publically admitted defeat on the cinematic battleground with this joint, saying that he failed with Hook and that one of his mistakes was not allowing Robin Williams to get all Robin Williams in the movie. I don't know, man. I mean, the point of Banning not being funny for the first half (and some may argue the second half as well) is that he isn't the awesome fun-loving Peter Pan anymore. Shit, if you ask me, they should've just done what they've been doing with so many Peter Pan productions and had some chick play him. That would've been entertaining; get Meryl Streep or whoever was big in '91 to play Banning. Then when Banning goes all Pan again later in the film, it wouldn't look so fuckin' gay when he/she is prancing around in tights.

Calm down, people; by "gay", I mean no offense. I'm clearly referring to men having sex with other men.

I wouldn't say Spielberg failed, because from the second half on, Hook becomes a pleasant family adventure joint. You have amusing sequences like when the Lost Boys (and Ruf-i-ooooo!) fuckin' Eye Of The Tiger Banning back into prime Pan shape, or when Banning falls into the ocean and is saved by 3 hot mermaids who give him the Kiss of Life (the film cuts away before they take turns blowing him; being mermaids and all, that's pretty much all they can do sexually, aside from using their hands). The final battle on the pirate ship was fun to watch too, with the egg cannons and fat black kids who double as their own pirate-smooshing weapons (no pirate can withstand the power of the Rolling Fat Black Kid, except for the pirate known as Captain D.I.A. Betes).

You also have awesome old-school soundstage production design, old-school effects, and magical Dean Cundey anamorphic cinematography (this was a couple years before Spielberg's joints started getting Kaminski'd). John Williams' score is beautiful, which is a waste of a sentence because, c'mon, it's John Williams, of course that shit's gonna be tight. I also like that it's one of his scores that have a holiday feel to them, even though I don't think Hook takes place during Christmas, I'm not sure.

I also liked watching Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, all cute & pixie-like, back when she was the new girl in town, not the seasoned seen-it-all Lady Of A Certain Age that she is now. Apparently, her direction on this film was to just act like Julia Roberts With Wings, so here she's all cackles and smiles. Meanwhile, Eric Roberts was like, Muthafucka, I hooked her up with her first gig and now she won't return my fuckin' phone calls? (Then he'd take a hit of some sweet stress-relieving cheeba.)

Gwyneth Paltrow has a cameo in this, well, actually, no. It's not a cameo when you're not famous yet; at the time of Hook's production, she was just a girl struggling to make it in the business, working hard and starving while waiting for that One Big Break...and then she got it when Steven Spielberg picked her out of a sea of thousands of aspiring actresses -- haha, just kidding.


(I'm sorry, give me a second here to get over what I just wrote there about her.)


OK, where was I?

I saw this on a Sunday afternoon, and that's really the kind of flick it is: a Sunday afternoon adventure. Sure, it's no great shakes, but I guess decent Spielberg is like bad sex & pizza -- still pretty good (unless combined). But you can tell he was shooting for Classic status with this one, and when you're Steven Spielberg, anything less than Oscar-caliber is an outright disappointment (unless it makes record-breaking ducats like The Lost World: Jurassic Park, because taking a celluloid dump will always be justified/excused if said 35mm fecal matter makes boffo box-office. If decent Spielberg is like bad pizza, then bad Spielberg is like awesome pepperoni, yet no pizza to put it on. It really IS always about food for me).

Someone behind me was crying towards the end, and I figured that person was one of the many who grew up on this flick and had nothing but pleasant thoughts towards this movie over the past 20 years. I'm not hating, good for them, I wish I felt the same way; I'm sure if I caught this flick back when I should've caught it, I'd like it a whole lot more. But alas, I waited until now, in my bitter old age during a bitter old time on this bitter old planet and -- Jesus Christ, it's been 20 years?! TWENTY YEARS!

The print was good; there was the occasional scratch, grease-pencil mark, and skipped frame -- but it was still impressive in its overall seventy-millimeter-ness. See, this is part of why I'll miss Film when it's eventually liquidated by the studio Nazis from the Krakow Ghetto that is the revival circuit; sometimes, with the best prints, I'll lose myself for a second as I fall under a movie's spell and briefly -- too brief! -- I'll imagine that this is what it looked like/felt like to watch this film at the time of its release. Because it's in the same format it was presented in back in the day, right? So it might as well be 1991 when I saw this film, in a 70mm theater in Los Angeles, on a crisp December afternoon. Look, I don't know what the death clock is on 70mm, or if it's even ticking for it at all, the way it's currently ticking for 35mm, but who's to say that shit won't be next?

Anyway, the film ended and I ambled my pear-shaped mess of a body down the street over to Father's Office, where I gorged on sweet potato fries and their titular burger, while some English broad in the next seat stared at me, probably thinking to herself "Typical American". You shut your limey mouth, lady. Or I'll eat it. Because I'm hungry, you see -- I eat the burger, I eat the mouth, I eat every muthafuckin' thing.

Click here for the follow-up, if you're not already bored out of your fuckin' mind by this shit

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