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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

It only makes sense that in mounting his own biopic in tandem with director Eric Appel, beloved musical parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic would render it as a parody of biopics. Now that is not a new approach. Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow did the same thing 15 years ago with “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” right down to the bullying father seeking to thwart his own son’s dreams that “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” also comically employs. (“It’s confusing and evil,” says “Weird Al’s” father, as played by Toby Huss, of the young Al changing the lyrics to Amazing Grace, a pretty funny joke equating parody lyrics with blasphemy.) “Walk Hard,” however, was more barbed in its satire, seeming to exist partially as a point-by-point rebuttal of each clichĂ© spouted by 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line,” a call to arms, almost, as much as a comedy. “Weird Al,” though, the person is lauded as a true nice guy, generally always asking for permission before recording his parody songs. And so even if there is a scene where Weird Al’s father beats a door-to-door accordion salesman to a bloody pulp, in spirit, “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is less satire than spoof, having as much fun with the character’s own persona as the genre.

In his 2020 New York Times profile of “Weird Al,” Sam Anderson theorized that Yankovic’s secret sauce was normalizing weird. And in a sense, Appel’s faux biopic honors that diagnosis, emblemized in the moment when Al’s mother discovers a Hawaiian shirt hidden in his bedroom, the music swelling as the shirt seems to glow like Excalibur. In the world of “Weird,” polka parties are cool, the accordion is a rock star totem on par with the guitar, “I Love Rocky Road” at some heavy metal club becomes Bruce Springsteen at the Harvard Square. A “Boogie Nights”-like party at the home of “Weird Al’s” mentor Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson), meanwhile, puts the parodist on par with artists like Andy Warhol and Salvador DalĂ­ and when rock ‘n’ roll’s great evangelist Wolfman Jack (Jack Black) espouses non-belief for “Weird Al’s” parodic preferences, “Weird Al” makes him believe by taking up the famed disc jockey’s dare and inventing his Queen spoof “Another One Rides the Bus” on the spot.

The moment might specifically be a send-up of a similar one in the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but spiritually it is a send-up of every cinematic A Ha! Moment ever blended with a kind of “8 Mile” battle rap by way of accordion, made all the more hysterical by Black’s ardent dedication in playing an overconfident foil. The genesis of this parody song, like an earlier moment when “Weird Al” summons “My Bologna” out of the sandwich-making mist, teases his own gift for parody lyrics by inflating it to epic proportions just as the nifty reversal that in the world of “Weird” imagines his “Eat It” parody as an original and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” as the spoof has fun with the sort of artistic discontent the late Coolio expressed about “Weird Al” parodying “Gangsta’s Paradise” and then disavowed. 

The songs as performed in the movie are lip-synched by the real “Weird Al,” not unlike how “Get Up” had Chadwick Boseman lip synch to James Brown’s real vocals; you can’t fake The Hardest Working Man in Show Business and you can’t fake “Weird Al.” That, however, is to take nothing away from Radcliffe, who is wholly committed to the part. And that is to say he is completely committed to playing “Weird Al” as an angry, lewd, self-serious rock star, the increasingly bewildered intensity of his expression as the plot amusingly devolves working in superb juxtaposition to all those Hawaiian shirts. The descent of this version of “Weird Al” into VH1 Behind the Music territory is exacerbated by the character’s love interest. As the old saying in show business goes, if you have the chance to write yourself into a fictional relationship with Madonna, you have to do it, and “Weird Al” does, paving the way for a gleefully game Evan Rachel Wood to play the part by taking gum chewing into the realm of performance art. If “Weird Al” is sending up its character’s squeaky-clean image than it does the same with Madonna’s relentless ambition, seeking out Al to further her career by having him cover “Like a Virgin,” before the Material Girl becomes the Yoko Ono, or what the clueless perceive Yoko Ono to be. She is the villain, in other words, an offensive banality stretched to the point of joyful absurdity by essentially transforming Madonna into Dan Hedaya in “Commando,” which has the double joyful effect of ultimately making this “Weird Al” a martyr for daring to be stupid. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Some Drivel On...Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

If just a few months ago I was lamenting how every sports documentary produced by ESPN was sterile and aesthetically dead, well, thank God the French exist, to quote Woody Allen in “Hollywood Ending,” because I found my wanting soul soothed by “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” (2006). Taking place entirely within the space of a 90-minute football match between Real Madrid and Villareal on April 23, 2005, directors Douglas Gordon and Phillippe Parreno eschew all the pesky pertinent details – like, you know, the score – to instead create a museum piece with Real Madrid’s star Zinedine Zidane as the subject. Utilizing 17 different cameras, Gordon and Parreno keep their gaze almost entirely focused on French-Algerian player throughout. And if occasionally quotes of Zidane’s are superimposed on the screen, and if a traditional soundtrack is largely shunned for the sounds of the game, “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” mostly does not seek to put us in his headspace or the ground alongside him, ineffably leaving us to linger just outside, on the edge, to observe. 

Now this is not like me watching Chicago Sky basketball games last year when I would frequently just keep my eyes on Candace Parker whether she had the ball or not to watch how she shrewdly moved and positioned herself. No, because those Sky games were still presented in the manner of all televised basketball games, in wide shots encompassing most of the court, I could keep my eye on everything and everyone else. Not so in “A 21st Century Portrait.” Gordon and Parreno’s preferred shot is the close-up; of Zidane watching the run of play just as often as moving within it, frowning, scowling, and spitting, constantly spitting. (Hey, all that running builds up saliva!) And when the filmmakers do go wide, it feels pointedly less than spectacular, an aerial shot from above reducing the players to tiny ants on the grass, maybe an aliens’ POV wondering what these weird earthlings are up to, or Zidane from below and framed against the backdrop of an electronic ad constantly circling the stadium, momentarily putting him in the pose of a football-playing salesclerk. 

“A 21st Century Portrait” also deploys these wide shots not so much to diffuse the tension within the game itself but to demonstrate how the game’s tension repeatedly diffuses all on its own. When Zidane is rewarded a free kick just outside the penalty area, the camera cutting wide to take in the full scope of the suddenly altered situation instinctively suggests something dramatic is about to happen. It doesn’t. The kick is low, harmless, play proceeds. In being made to feel as if something is about to happen that, then, doesn’t renders the disappointment as profound. This moment exists as the inverse of one of Zidane’s quotes laid out on the screen, in this case “Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all.” Here, nothing is very close to magic.

That quote is obviously what the directors want us to take away from their “21st Century Portrait” of Zidane, which is why they open and close the movie with it, an unfortunate case of insisting too much in a movie that favors and succeeds most in its lyrical ambiguity. Because if these myriad close-ups of Zidane’s charismatic glare and even his cleats seem to cast him in the role of something approximating god – like we can almost touch the hem of his jersey – the staggering amount of these close-ups also takes on the opposite effect, a larger-than-life figure gradually reduced to just another jamoke hawking some loogies.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Some Drivel On...Moving Target, or: A Modest Election Night Proposal

Though I have a hazy memory of the 1984 American presidential election, the first electoral event I recall with anything like true clarity was Iowa caucus night 1988. Then again, I was ten years old, and so even if I lived in a small Iowa town just a few miles outside Des Moines, it’s not the caucus I remember so much, or even the results, but watching a Jason Bateman TV movie while waiting for the results. Now, I have an active imagination and tend to remember things, events, movie scenes, that didn’t happen, and I wondered if perhaps I mis-remembered this too, if I conflated an episode of “The Hogan Family” with caucus night in my memory. But cursory research confirms that on the same night of the 1988 Iowa Caucus, Monday February 8, that, indeed, a Jason Bateman TV movie called “Moving Target” aired on NBC. “A teenage musician goes on the run from killers and the police,” explains IMDb, “when he returns home to find his home empty and his family gone.” The musician part I didn’t remember, nor that the movie co-starred a pre-Wilson Phillips Chynna Phillips. Really, the one mental image I have is of Bateman’s character laying out a sleeping bag, and Google Images seems to confirm this mental image as correct, though mostly I just remember the collective emotion of the experience, the idea that the Iowa caucus was happening concurrently, but I was watching “Moving Target,” and that even if “Moving Target” was about “a teenage musician…on the run from killers and the police,” there was no need to preempt it until the official outcome of the caucus was safe in hand.

This all came back to me last Tuesday evening, election night here in America, as the various television networks seemed to spend more time not calling winners of various races – because polls were still open, too little info was available, they were too close to call, etc. – than they did calling them. It naturally led a person to wonder what they were doing on the air in the first place. True, the media’s role is, or can be, one of transparency, to explain that all these election results are not complete and might not take some time to properly evaluate, as the invaluable Bryan Curtis explained CNN did on Tuesday night, cautioning people not to draw conclusions from partial or incomplete numbers. But, as Curtis pointed out on his Press Box podcast, CNN would then proceed to “just keep showing” us this partial and incomplete information anyway. “‘No, no, no,’” Curtis said in speaking for all of us, “‘you just told us these numbers are horribly misleading and don’t mean anything right now.’” Of course, as Curtis and his co-host David Shoemaker went on to say, this all stems from the oversaturation of election coverage and subsequent air to fill. But when airtime and the advertising dollars I assume go hand-in-hand with that airtime begin to impede democracy, that’s where we have a problem.

The previous American presidential election, the networks may have explained both in the run-up to and during Election Day that the results were not necessarily going to be in that night (and they weren’t, they really, really weren’t) and yet they forged ahead with their election night coverage despite the slow, inconclusive drip of results, providing a foundation for His Imbecility, POTUS 45, to claim the election was being stolen from him. If these rantings of a fraudulent vote were manifestly untrue, why did so many believe it anyway? “Because (they) saw it on television,” to quote the political operative Conrad Brean (Robert DeNiro) of “Wag the Dog.” Indeed, that was the same film where Conrad’s cohorts Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) derided TV for having “destroyed the electoral process.” That movie was released in 1997 but Ames may as well have been predicting the 2000 American presidential election, the one where networks called Florida for Al Gore before rescinding their call, and then called George W. Bush the President-elect before that call, too, came under suspicion, triggering an electoral fiasco that still reverberates as Leon Neyfakh outlined in his aptly titled podcast Fiasco, wondering without being able to determine if television’s seesawing that night influenced the ultimate result. 

That brings me back to “Moving Target.” It’s true that Iowa caucus night is different from election night, the former merely the first step culminating in the latter, meaning comprehensive TV coverage is more necessary the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November. But there was something refreshing, revealing in the networks that February night in 1988 eschewing perpetual faux analysis of results still TBD for a simple TV movie. At some point during election night 2020, the former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs showed up on MSNBC and chuckled at the early doom and gloom, at least for us pro-democracy enthusiasts, saying “We don’t know anything yet.” We didn’t! So, what we were doing?! 

It could never happen now, I know, in the streaming age, but I still found myself dreaming about it last Tuesday, the old ABC and NBC Sunday Night Movie reimagined as the Election Night Movie, something to air in lieu of election night coverage that in reality is not covering anything beyond how there is nothing to cover. Now I know this means I’m lobbying for movies as a distraction, a term I generally I don’t like applying to them because I view the film de cinema as something more than commerce and content. But if on Election Day you have gone out and voted, or perhaps already voted early or mailed your ballot in a few weeks before, then you were not distracted; you did your civic duty and can sit down and watch “Moving Target” and when there is something to report, they can report it. And if there is nothing to report, if we still don’t know anything, well, at least we can find out if Jason Bateman and Chynna Phillips are going to escape the mob. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

To Leslie

Though the eponymous character (Andrea Riseborough) of “To Leslie” wins the lottery as the movie begins, this proves less the driver of the plot than a mere detail, underlined in how director Michael Morris moves it aside after a brief prologue. That winning lottery ticket becomes akin to the opening line of a sad country on a jukebox, a recurring motif in this indie drama, how Leslie’s story starts but not really what defines her, no matter how many times she drunkenly brings it up in a bar unprovoked. Indeed, it is alcohol that plagues Leslie most, and in that way, winning the lottery also becomes a kind of commentary on how there are no quick fixes for such a substantial drinking problem. That makes it more than a little strange when “To Leslie” elides much of the hard work of her recovery with a flash-forward near the end, as if the movie was suddenly pressed for time, and probably was. Up until the denouement, though, “To Leslie” is highly effective, defined by Riseborough’s desperate and even obsequious performance. If there is something inside her that is worth saving, Riseborough makes it virtually impossible detect, and which makes her eventual friend ship with a hotel proprietor named Sweeney (Marc Maron) all the more complex and moving. 

“To Leslie” picks up six years later with Leslie destitute and evicted from the grimy motel where she has been living, begging her fellow tenants for money and then excoriating them when they won’t cough it up, a swift evocation of her tendency to alienate everyone in her orbit. That includes her estranged son James (Owen Teague). He welcomes her in but always appears to be looking at her out of the side of his eye even when looking at her right in the face, warning her she can only stay with him if she does not pick up a bottle. “Baby, I don’t drink no more,” Leslie says, and the way Riseborough has her say it is something less than agony to get things right than pure wickedness. As soon as he’s out of the house, she goes rifles through his drawers looking for a money, and when his neighbors down the hall have her over for a drink, an enraged James assaults them. The fight, though remains fuzzy in the background as Morris maintains focus on Leslie in the foreground, visually highlighting the messes she leaves trailing in her wake.

She moves on to her hometown, briefly holing up with a couple one-time friends (Alison Janney and Stephen Root) who treat her more like an enemy, not encouraging but almost mocking, taunting, letting her into their homes but turning their backs. It’s this pointed lack of family, emotional or otherwise, that sends her back to the bar over and over, like the scene where she flirts with a rancher (Scott Subiono) just passing through town. This sequence could have gone the way of a sequence in Charlize Theron’s “Young Adult” or a thousand other pictures, but becomes something else instead, the thumping bass of Waylon Jennings’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” becoming the suspenseful incantation of a horror movie as Leslie pulls the reluctant rancher onto the dance floor and he delicately tries without setting her off to extricate himself from the situation, saying “Be well” in a voice so earnest and well-meaning that Leslie only becomes disgusted by it. 

That moment of emotional generosity, the one she’s not willing to hear, foreshadows Leslie’s emergent relationship with Sweeney who at first chases her off his motel property for sleeping off her drunken revelry there and then gives her a job as a maid with a room to stay in. Sweeney has a backstory that fills out this generosity but it’s already accounted for in Maron’s air, halting and hesitant, struggling to make eye contact with Leslie at first, understanding his actions probably won’t go well but knowing it’s the right thing to do. Maron’s down to earth countenance plays off Riseborough’s aggressive self-persecution perfectly, and for the most part, Morris is content not to rush this gentle rhythm of someone helping someone else get back on her feet. That makes it all the more disappointing as the movie gradually slides toward conventionality, Leslie and Sweeney attending a dance together where mutual attraction blooms even as the locals condescend to her, and a decrepit old diner becomes a beacon of hope. The immense work it would take to get this diner up and running is all off screen, a little too magical, though then again, there is almost no natural way for this story to end. If it’s all about one day at a time, it’s in each of them that “To Leslie” finds the truth. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Contractor

“The Contractor” opens with a scene of several soldiers standing in front of a church congregation, including SFC James Harper (Chris Pine), being blessed by the pastor ahead of their deployment. Not long after, James is involuntarily discharged from the military for having used steroids to treat a knee injury, though a superior officer tracks him down in the hallway after to indicate this is more about making cuts, evinced in James losing his pension and health benefits, putting his family in dire financial straits. If the former scene suggests how our society tends to venerate the military in public, the latter suggests that among its own, behind closed doors, the veneration stops. This set-up is not unlike a movie about a downsized blue-collar or white-collar worker forced to find alternative if not illegal means to make ends meet. As the title implies, James turns to private military contracting, and though it’s pitched as an antidote to the military leaving him out in the cold, the seller is played by Kiefer Sutherland with tattoos up and down each arm, the dead giveaway that it’s not on the up and up. Indeed, in the language of “The Contractor,” contracting for the military is no different than Bonnie and Clyde robbing banks.

That similarity is furthered in the casting of Ben Foster as Mike, James’s friend and fellow veteran Mike, the one who pulls him into a private military contracting job with the promise of financial rewards in the first place. They played bank robbing brothers in 2016’s “Hell or High Water,” which was moderately successful at using its neo-western trappings to explore post-financial crisis America. Despite a solid set-up, however, Tarik Saleh and writer J.P. Davis seem to have no such explicit designs for “The Contractor,” the intriguing conspiracy never becoming the ingredient for the kind of paranoid thriller that present-day cinema woefully lacks, minimized to a mere plot point. Once James tags along with Mike for an operation in Berlin that goes belly-up, leaving him injured and on the run, unsure if he can return to America to see his family, “The Contractor” goes the way of Jason Bourne, one man trying to survive while simultaneously seeking revenge. Those movies, though, especially the Paul Greengrass variety, reduced the narrative to such a degree that they simply became supreme exercises in suspense and action. The action in “The Contractor,” on the other hand, is not especially inventive or gripping. With baseline aesthetics and emotions, “The Contractor,” then, is mostly just handsomely mounted tedium.

Pine, if not able to elevate the material, at least finds an agreeable way of operating within it, exemplified in the scene where James and Mike are tasked with assassinating Salim (Fares Fares), an ostensible bioterrorist. When Salim claims the work he is doing will save lives, one shift of Pine’s eyes denotes both immediate suspicion that this operation is not the up and up and that he is nevertheless duty bound to see it through. It conveys how “The Contractor” is far more interior than exterior, in so far as that goes, which is about as far as Pine can manage to take it. When Sutherland’s character gives James an oration about how the American military has hung guys like them out to dry, the truth is less in his words than Pine’s expression, having his character look past Sutherland, as if into the abyss, as if he is trying to decide whether to sign over his soul for a little bit of money. The best moment, though, comes early, after James is discharged and is leaving the base. As he does, he passes an American flag being raised and Pine has his character not so much dutifully but robotically turn and salute, a programmed gesture that speaks multitudes about blind loyalty. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

“This is the best work we’ve ever done”: Boogie Nights at 25

“Boogie Nights” (1997) was not Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature film, that was 1996’s impressively controlled “Hard Eight.” In a way, though, “Boogie Nights” feels more like a debut than “Hard Eight.” That is not because it is any less controlled; if anything, Anderson demonstrates even greater control by ensuring so many sequences pitched at the edge of chaos, some of which even tip over into it, never themselves become chaotic. No, “Boogie Nights” feels likes an entrance given so much swaggering exuberance, epitomized in the opening Steadicam shot moving from the street into the club, effusing joy in introducing us to all the main characters in one take. If there are distinct echoes to Scorsese’s Copacabana shot in “Goodfellas,” they are not precisely alike. Grandmaster Marty has explained his storied Steadicam shot as Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) seduction of Karen (Lorraine Bracco) while Anderson’s Steadicam shot is a seduction of us. Many of Anderson’s subsequent films, like “The Master” and “There Will Be Blood,” evinced enormous, exacting metaphors of America, but in “Boogie Nights” he utilizes the adult entertainment setting as an illustration of the movies, both in making them and watching them, as pure pleasure. 

That sumptuous opening shot is punctuated by Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), an adult filmmaker holding court in a booth in the disco-era bar with his wife and adult film actress Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), seeing Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a 17-year-old high school dropout working as a busboy, across the way. Reynolds is deft in this moment, his disinterested expression suddenly freezing in electrified disbelief. If cinema has ever captured the moment of realizing someone ineffably has “it,” it’s Reynolds right here. He is just as good a few moments later, seeking out Eddie in the kitchen to recruit him as an actor, a scene in which Anderson switches to a handheld camera, underlining the divide between the lights and music on the stage and the drudgery behind it. It’s a scene that could go a very different way, of course, and teases that direction, though Reynolds’s manner is crucially not off-putting or soothingly predatory, just soothing, and deliberately standing in stark contrast to scenes of Eddie’s emotionally abusive mother (Joanna Gleason) and passive father (Lawrence Hudd). Not long after, Eddie leaves home, Anderson delineating the transition by literally having Eddie’s mom slam the door behind him and Jack opening the door for Eddie as he arrives at the director’s lavish San Fernando Valley pad, raising the curtain on the movie’s most rollicking sequence.

I’d seen hangout movies, of course. I came of age in the 90s, the era of indies in which misanthropes and neurotics and slackers did nothing but hang out. But I’d never seen a movie do something quite like this, just suddenly stopping in the middle of itself to hang out, suddenly deciding to put the narrative up on the clothesline to dry and serve us a pitcher of margaritas. “Boogie Nights” is a movie of great scenes, and none are greater this one. If the opening is our introduction to this world, this sequence becomes Eddie’s introduction, an entire community of colorful characters opening up around and opening its arms to him. It’s a sequence embodying the whole movie’s generosity of spirit, never satirizing or lampooning the adult movie industry, or adult movies themselves, the eventual sequence of Eddie’s first performance suggesting the fix the cable scene of “The Big Lebowski” as directed by Jonathan Demme. When Maurice (Luis Guzman), owner of the opening’s club, expresses his desire to be in one of Jack’s movies, he comes across like any greenhorn fresh off the bus in Hollywood.

The sequence begins in the sunlight with Jack declaring “Eddie Adams from Torrance” as the teenager strides up to the door and concludes in a hot tub under the stars, with Eddie pitching Jack a stage name, one he imagines in lights, Dirk Diggler, meaning he starts the party as Eddie and ends it as Dirk. If it’s a spiritual kind of transfiguration, what’s also notable is how the then 26-year-old Wahlberg not only believably embodies the air of a 17-year-old but never quite eschews the childish innocence. Though the distinct Wahlberg voice would eventually take on a different quality as he assumed more traditional tough-guy roles, that unmistakable, occasionally short-of-breath cadence, the incredulity it often possesses as a more venerable actor is reframed through “Boogie Nights” as a kind of guilelessness, and then a clueless pompousness as the character’s career flourishes, convincingly charting Eddie cum Dirk’s rise and fall without ever deposing his inner-naif, a tricky rendering that believably and wonderfully epitomizes the kind of anti-arc that feels truer to life. 

As good as Wahlberg is, however, Moore is even better, effortlessly, impossibly blending a carnal lust for Dirk and a motherly affection for Eddie, wrapping it all up in a space cadet ambiance that would make it seems as if she was eternally out to lunch if Moore didn’t somehow imbue it all with zany sincerity. Reynolds, meanwhile, was famously public about his dislike for both the movie and his own performance, even as it brought him damn close to an Oscar, and even later in life, where his stance never really softened. His air in those 70s and 80s blockbusters always came across so jokingly indifferent that it could mask just how much respect he craved, revealed sometimes through interviews and in his memoir, and a quiet resentment for not earning it. And though this is mere speculation, in “Boogie Nights,” Reynolds so brilliantly embodies a man struggling to get the respect he caves, I always wondered if he washed his hands of his own performance because it was too good, cutting too close to his own bone. 

If the party sequence heralds Dirk’s rise, it is another party sequence set on New Year’s Eve that ushers in his fall, as the 70s give way to the 80s. The financial powers-that-be force Jack to maximize profits by switching from film to videotape while Eddie winds up estranged from his surrogate family, the bell literally tolling in Michael Penn’s ominous musical score for both men in parallel scenes in which their artistic yearnings have been reduced to nothing more than scouring the streets, shilling sex, while the drug deal gone wrong sequence finally brings all this desperation and greed to its spectacular (il)logical conclusion.

But even if this long denouement gets dark, Anderson ultimately proves himself a humanist, with Dirk begging and receiving forgiveness from Jack and weeping in Amber’s lap, finding not quite redemption, or even salvation, but a kind of preservation through family, summarized in one last tracking shot through Jack’s home, a Rockwellian portrait of a Russ Meyer world. And though “Boogie Nights” suggests everything is destined to end up commodified, the movie itself becomes a refutation of that very idea, transcending commodification by becoming just the sort of film Jack Horner always dreamed of making. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Possible Sequels to Plane

Last week a trailer dropped for (or: I discovered the existence of) Gerard Butler’s 2023 movie “Plane.” That’s it. That’s the title: “Plane.” It sounds like a working title that the people in charge forgot to expand on when the official title came due and just submitted with a real-life version of the clenched teeth emoji. I assume they only went with “Plane” because “Airplane” was already taken, though I guess technically the title wasn’t “Airplane” but “Airplane!” That evoked the movie’s spoof nature which is, frankly, what “Plane” sounds like it should be, a spoof, though it’s not, it’s clearly not, it’s really, really, truly, honestly not. In my first grade class, your reading level was designated by, as I recall, three different books, Bears, Boats, and Balloons. I don’t remember which one correlated to which level, but whether you were on the top or the bottom, all three titles were acutely first grade. And that’s what “Plane” is – a first grade movie title. And while I should probably leave it there, I couldn’t. Because this title, as it absolutely had to, got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about the potential title for the “Plane” sequel. Why is Cinema Romantico even continuing to crawl along in the dying wilderness of blogs if not for just this very reason?

Possible Sequels to Plane

 “That’s not a plane! It’s a jet!”

Blimp. Higher concept.

Spaceship. Probably can’t go to space until the third movie, though.

Boat. Obviously. 

Ship. “A ship can carry a boat,” the saying goes, “but a boat cannot carry a ship.” 

Canoe. Like “Ambulance,” but entirely in a canoe. 

Pontoon. 4th of July turns deadly when various pontoon boats on an overcrowded Lake Havasu go to war.

Yacht. A rich man’s “Pontoon.”

Catamaran. A sporting man’s “Yacht.”

Car. I’m seeing this as a 1986 Isuzu Gemini.

Van. A #vanlife Instagram account opens a portal to hell. For Halloween.  

Minivan. Family-friendly version of “Van.”

Truck. Imagining Gerard Butler of the “Plane” poster but with the pilot uniform swapped out for flannel.

Bus. Store brand “Speed.”

Coach. “Die Hard” on a cross country coach trip. 

Train. The producers will probably suggest we change this one to SUV.

Forklift. Action-packed “Straight Story” sequel.
Bike. What if the four dudes from “Breaking Away” reunited for a Nevada getaway and accidentally peddled on to a missile testing site?

Trike. 25 years ago I penned a short film spoof of “Speed” called Pedal in which a bomb was strapped to a tricycle. (This was real. This is not a bit). Let’s have lunch, Gerard.