Red Riding Hood's Heaving ChestMonday, March 14, 2011
In my long life of going to the movies I have felt sick exactly three times. Previous to that third time, last night, the films, per se, had nothing to do with my ill feelings. The first involved seeing all 15 episodes of the 1948 (in 1950) Superman in one sitting with my grandmother who emerged unscathed while I had one of the worst stomach aches of my life. The second occasion was in 1956 when I saw Grace Kelly in her swan song film The Swan. I filled myself, non-stop, from a huge bag of pistachios. I was so sick I avoided pistachios (even pistachio ice cream) until a couple of years ago.
The third get-sick-at-the-movies I can really blame for the questionable review (a somewhat positive one) of Catherine Hardwicke’s (Twilight so I should have been amply forewarned!) Red Riding Hood by the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis. I went to see the film yesterday evening with my granddaughter Rebecca (13) at the multi-roomed Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, downtown.
I should have known better as it was Dargis who had previously convinced me to rent the 2007 film The Flight of the Red Balloon directed by a (I purposely positioned that deprecating a) Hsiao-hsien Hou. With the film we drove with Rebecca and Lauren to Lillooet where we sat down one evening to see it with our daughter. We thought this was going to be a fine sequel to Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon. Its supposed homage/sequel featured that delicious croissant that is Juliette Binoche. Even the French pastry fell as flat as a soufflé in a suddenly cold oven. Rebecca said it all very well, “This film was as exciting as watching a wall of red paint dry.”
Little Red Riding Hood offered promise. Dargis wrote that Amanda Seyfried (she plays Red Riding Hood)
“makes a delectable treat [for the wolf I presumed, when I read that] whether heaving her bosom of boogieing in a bacchanal that’s more Burning Man than Bruegel."
When I read that I should have had bright warning lights with a built-in buzzer telling me to avoid the film at all costs. To begin with any 13-year old would not read a NY Times film review and even if she did she would not understand that comparison between Burning Man and Bruegel.
We arrived at the huge complex early. There was a long line to buy tickets. On the wall to our left there was a long line of bank machines that resembled a row of slot machines. Strangely, on the other wall there were two public phones.
We gave our tickets to a young girl in a uniform resembling a MacDonald’s uniform but in navy blue. We went up the mechanical stairs which led to a huge floor with side windows and with an even larger counter where pop-corn soft drinks (and bubble tea, too) and candy is served. On another wall with several entries to the multiple “salons” there is Burger King. On a third floor there are more salons. The prevailing smell is fake buttered pop-corn, sugar and french fries.
We sat quite close (I will never do this again) as I though we would enjoy being able t stretch our feet out as it is the entry aisle. I chose not to go in until the allotted show time of 4PM as if you are in the room before you are bombarded by short segments into new technology gadgets, or interviews with extremely ugly young men who are musicians in bands that still resemble Seattle Grunge. All of these short segments end with the mantra, “Enjoy the show.” (Yea, and live and prosper with forked fingers of the right hand the way Angelique Pettyjohn did in the Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion.)
We sat down and I watched that most beautiful and most competent Vancouver actress, Lindsey Angell enter with her equally looking hunk partner enter and sit somewhere (smart!) in the back. They had been behind us at the ticket line and I had ever so slightly smiled in her direction as I photographed her in 2009.
We were then exposed to four or five trailers that featured extremely loud music. Two of them had a young peroxide blonde with false eylashes blast her way in and out of trouble. In one case it was out of the insane asylum she had been incarcerated. Another trailer featured a more mature peroxide blonde (with false eyelashes) who vied for the attention of two young men (they looked like they were more into each other) with a mousy brunette. Guess who gets the blonde in a parallel universe?
Between trailers there was an annoying Maybelline Fit Me™ ( I am not sure if that TM is part of the logo) add that featured a non-mousy brunette with false eyelashes and perfect skin (Fit Me™ is a foundation product) uttering in a most sexy manner (or was it the narrator?) “Fit me, fit me!” Maybelline is going to have to hire the long departed (perhaps they can channel him) Victor Borge to figure out a way of inserting TM into the sound.
I am sure that hundreds of thousands of girls, Rebecca’s age, after seeing this ad, will go home to starve for weeks and figure out how Clearasil can word in tandem with Fit Me™. Then with a beckoning finger they will gesture in front of a mirror and say, “Fit me.”
The film finally began and within 10 minutes I watched Lindsey Angell make a quick exit. She assured me (in a pleasant email) that her partner also made that exit. I wasn’t sure if they might have had a spat or only Angell found 10 minutes of Red Riding Hood the limit in her threshold of intolerance.
Rebecca had purchased for me a bag containing little Rolos and a large root beer. My mother always thought I loved root beer. She told my Rosemary that I loved root beer and my daughter must have told Rebecca that I love root beer. In fact I don’t and I am old enough to remember that root beer tastes like Kolynos toothpaste. Rebecca was smarter and she slurped her bubble tea while I ate every one of those overly sweet concoctions. A few minutes past Angell’s threshold I was dizzy and my head felt as if it was going to explode. I had a pain behind my eyes telling me a migraine was on its way.
I have seen bad films, so-so films, terrible films, lousy films, campy films, films so bad that they are good. I have seen serious films so bad that I laughed through them. But Red Riding Hood is in a different league that I cannot pin down.
My friend Rick Staehling told me (he has not seen the film) that the film was geared for my granddaughter and not for me. My friend John Lekich an active writer/reviewer of BOTB films (bottom of the barrel films) for the Georgia Straight (he has not seen the film) that most of the films he reviews are much worse. He says he will go home and watch (for relief) a Cary Grant B-movie and that it will shine in comparison.
It is in a different league in that I seriously question how this kind of film will distort, twist, deaden, and modify the mind of my granddaughter so that when she grows up she will not know the difference between the good and the bad.
The acting is atrocious. The dialogue is banal. The leading actress, Amanda Seyfried parades her beautiful (but in this film droopy) eyes and her not so droopy chest that heaves and heaves in that lay (almost) in the hay. Shiloh Fernandez induces the chest heavings. It is my belief that the director might have given us a few far more subtle indications on who the terrible wolf really was by giving both Fernandez and Seyfried’s father played by Billy Burke, eyebrows that met in the middle. All indications pointed in the direction of grandma, played by the Yankee sounding Brit, Julie Christy who obviously stays away from Maybelline products.
The only laughable part of this film is the wolf itself. It is no improvement over the monsters that graced that 1974 (awful) fantasy film, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad directed by Gordon Hessler. The animal/monsters (using stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen) were no less realistic and just as laughable as the big bad wolf of Red Riding Hood. John Phillip Law plays Sinbad (he was better and so was Jane Fonda in Barbarella) but the movie is worth suffering through just to gaze on Brit-born Caroline Munro (her chest heaves, too) in a skimpy outfit that would not have passed muster (and perhaps induced the nuns to cane her) in the Catholic convent school she was discovered in.
By the time I arrived home with Rebecca I was a mess of confusion trying to figure out who has set the “rules” for the way films are now made. After dinner, Rebecca, Lauren, Rosemary and I slipped a Vancouver Public Library film DVD David Copperfield directed by Simon Curtis and which featured a very young and glassless Daniel Radcliffe as the young David Copperfield. Bob Hoskins is excellent as Micawber (and does not have a large red nose). Maggie Smith melted my heart as Betsy Trotwood (who will not tolerate asses on her lawn) and Welsh actress Joanna Page (as David Copperfield's wife Dora Spenlow) made me forget heaving breasts with her beautifully long and white neck.
We stayed up until late and when I took my granddaughters home, I wondered (I didn’t dare ask) if Rebecca had noticed any difference in our movie faire of the day. But she did say, “These British actors really have acting down pat.”