Archives for February 2013

Oscars Come And Go, But "Gigli" Is Forever

It can’t really be that bad, can it? (Yes, yes it can.)

It looks like Ben Affleck is primed to consummate his return into America’s hearts this Sunday: “Argo,” his third project as a director, is the front-runner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Though Affleck himself was not nominated for either Best Actor or Best Director, I think we can agree that a Best Picture win would be a win for Ben Affleck first and everyone else involved second.

I’ve written about Ben Affleck before (“Ben Affleck Suffers From Drew Barrymore Disease”), and even after seeing “Argo,” which was a good movie even with him in the lead role, I stand by my appraisal of his strengths: he’s best in supporting comic roles, and his mid-aughts downfall was the result of Hollywood trying to squeeze that square peg into the round hole of a dramatic leading man. (“Argo” works with Affleck in the lead largely because his character listens a lot more than he talks.)

Affleck’s career was in a downward spiral thanks to a string of missteps including: the unwatchable comic-book adaptation “Daredevil”; trying to follow Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford into the Jack Ryan franchise with the crappity “The Sum of All Fears”; a string of forgettable action thrillers (“Reindeer Games,” “Changing Lanes,”); and the leading role “Pearl Harbor,” one of the worst big big blockbusters ever aggressively marketed to the moviegoing public.

But it was his pairing with then-ladyfriend Jennifer Lopez in “Gigli” that really turned his career into a crisis. The movie got universally bad reviews and people still joke about it to this day — it’s the go-to shorthand for “bad movie.” But has anyone other than movie critics ever actually seen it? I haven’t seen it. Have you seen it?

I’m curious: what went wrong here? “Gigli” was directed by Martin Brest, who is responsible for one of my favorite movies ever (“Midnight Run”) and a bona-fide all-time classic (“Beverly Hills Cop”), both comic crime films, which if I’m not mistaken is what “Gigli” is. With Ben Affleck playing to his strengths (light comedy) and with a beautiful costar whom he apparently had some kind of chemistry with offscreen at the very least, why did this movie turn out to be such a disaster? Is it really even a disaster, or did people just pick on it because they disapproved of his relationship with J-Lo, or because he had worn out his welcome before this? Is this one of those movies people just didn’t understand? I didn’t love “The Big Lebowski” the first time I saw it but it has since become my favorite comedy ever. Could the same thing have happened with “Gigli”?  

Strap in, folks, ’cause we’re about to find out!

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Our Son’s Ethically Compromised 6th Birthday Party

Our precious, sweet, hilarious, infuriating little boy turned six last week, and now that he’s firmly ensconced in kindergarten, with a whole new set of friends, it seemed like we should consummate all his new friendships the way little kids’ friendships are consummated: with an invitation to his birthday party.

Of course, throwing a birthday party in Brooklyn (or any borough of New York City) is a little more complicated than the birthday parties I grew up with, where you invite eight to ten of your little buddies over to your (relatively) nice, roomy house, take a couple of whacks at a Piñata and play Pin the Tail on the Donkey, cut the cake, open the presents, and call it a day.

To begin with, we ended up inviting 16 kids to Henry’s party. When I went to kindergarten in the *ahem* late ’70s, kindergarten was a half day: there was the AM class and the PM class (I was AM). If I formed any strong, lasting relationships in kindergarten, I don’t remember them (other than the love/hate frenemy crush with a girl named Gretchen that would last until the 7th grade when my family moved to another city).

Whereas, Henry gets on the school bus at 8am and is picked up from the afterschool program at 6pm, so he spends ten hours a day at school, so he’s forming intense attachments to the other kids, and has more close friends now than I do. It’s great, I love it, I’m glad to see he likes the kids he’s with and that they like him, but the reality of Brooklyn class sizes plus the reality of Brooklyn real estate means we just don’t have the space to accommodate all these kids for anything other than a lineup. Initially, my idea for this birthday party was to invite a bunch of kids over and have them watch a movie on our big projector screen. Six kids we could do. Eight kids maybe. But as Henry’s guest list grew to 16, my wife Jennifer pointed out the insanity of trying to throw a party like that in our own home. It’s partly a matter of space, and partly fear of the raw destruction that many kids would inflict on the place, which is already a wreck even with the three of us there together for about two waking hours a day.

My wife tells me that this is what everyone does here: they find an outside venue for their kids’ parties. Seems a little weird to me, but I don’t want to be the one to clean up after 16 kids — and I would be the one to clean up after them — so, when in Rome, right?

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Who Do I Root For In The Super Bowl?

I don’t really have favorite sports teams. I’m not a huge sports fan to start with — I find regular season games too low-stakes to pay them much mind, though I always tune in for the playoffs in pro basketball and the NFL. Like I do every year, I’ve been watching football for the last few weeks and am looking forward to watching the Super Bowl (the game, not the commercials or the halftime show) this Sunday.

But it presents a small dilemma, because I don’t know who to root for. Usually, since I don’t have favorite teams, I always root for Drama. That is, whichever team is behind, I root for to catch up. If they catch up and get ahead, I start rooting for the other team. My primary desire as a spectator is for sudden-death double overtime Drama.

But this year I happen to have connections to both the teams. I lived just outside Baltimore from 1985 to 1995, and I lived in San Francisco from 1995 to 2001, so both the Ravens and the 49ers have a legitimate claim to my loyalty. But from there it gets complicated.

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