The Sweetest Thing (by Maris Kreizman)

Today’s 10YOM is guest-written by Maris Kreizman. She’s a writer and creator of the brilliant Slaughterhouse 90210, which you should read as soon as you finish this.

Year 2002 Trademarks:

  • Discussion of how fat-free chips cause anal leakage
  • Charlie’s Angels hair
  • Chokers

“Your penis packs a wallop, your penis brings a load. And when it makes a delivery, it needs its own zip code.” Forgive me if the first time I saw The Sweetest Thing I didn’t recognize it to be a sly subversion of male fantasies, a ballsy feminist statement in an age of raunch. Maybe that’s because The Sweetest Thing is a terrible movie. It really is. It is sloppy and random and rarely witty. Its brand of humor is the broadest of broad, with sight gags galore and almost no plot to speak of. There are puke jokes and fake tit jokes and cum stain jokes and post-Indian food shitting jokes, and there is a crotchety old grandpa wearing a “Who farted?” T shirt. And yet.

There was something perversely charming about the movie when I saw it in 2002, probably because it pulled off a nice little bait and switch: starring Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair, on the surface level The Sweetest Thing seemed like it would be just another generic chick flick about a bunch of single gals looking for love. But then you start watching and something goes down that’s so utterly absurd, so egregiously disgusting, that you realize there’s little that’s formulaic about it. Four years after Cameron Diaz’s breakout title role as a non-threatening dream girl surrounded by a bunch of wacky, hormonally-charged men, here she is in a movie that’s a hundred times grosser than There’s Something About Mary. And this time around she and her lady friends are the ones who get to be nasty. Picture Mary rhapsodizing on the odor of her poonani, or fantasizing about eating an enormous bowl of calorie-free ice cream while Mr. Right goes down on her, and you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about. The Farrelly brothers’ dream girl has dreams of her own, after all.

Ostensibly, The Sweetest Thing is about what happens when a smoking hot party girl named Christina (Diaz, duh) who’s left a trail of broken hearts in her wake, meets-cute the man of her dreams (Thomas Jane, in a role almost entirely devoid of personality) for a few minutes in a nightclub and then spends the rest of the movie trying to track him down. More importantly, it’s the story of three women whose friendship is more passionate and multi-layered than any feebly constructed romantic relationship (it’s apparently based on screenwriter Nancy Pimental’s friendship with Kate Walsh of Grey’s Anatomy fame). These women have their own language (the adjective “bejiggedy” means “bent out of shape”), their own songs (more on that in a sec), and scores of inside jokes and banter—most of which is absolutely filthy, and gleefully so. Say what you will about the quality of the conversation, these women—the characters and the actresses—are clearly having fun.

If you’ve only seen the edited version of the movie on TBS or TNT on some hungover Sunday, please, do yourself a favor: find a copy of the unrated version, because it features a full-fledged production number that startled the shit out of me a decade ago. It starts out at a Chinese restaurant, where Christina and her BFF Courtney (Christina Applegate, in a role that would make Kelly Bundy blush), are quizzing Jane (Selma Blair, doing that prudish thing she does so well) about her new boyfriend. They remind Jane that a new lover must be flattered, and the best way to, uh, stroke a male ego is to hyperbolize about one particular body part. Cue “The Penis Song,” (co-written by the three lead actresses) which begins with the ladies moaning, “You’re too big to fit in here”, as they motion to various orifices. Then a beat gets dropped, a synthesizer appears, and chop sticks become drum sticks as the entire restaurant partakes in a penis-themed song-and-dance number that involves a conga line, the Electric Slide, and some rapping. Basically, it’s like the most inappropriate bar mitzvah reception ever. And this WTF group number is echoed later on, when Jane gets her tonsil stuck on said boyfriend’s dick piercing, and Christina and Courtney come to her rescue. They decide that singing is the only way to relax Jane’s throat enough to free her, so, obvs, they choose to perform “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” AKA “That Aerosmith song from Armageddon” and an entire roomful of people—including the cops, some EMTs and a few leather daddies—happily join in. This is what true friends do.

I mention these super random scenes because, ten years later, they make that shitting-in-a-sink scene from Bridesmaids almost look tame. My fingers are crossed that Bridesmaids will get some Oscar love, and I’m counting the days until Bachelorette comes out. I love all the think pieces about female-oriented comedies these films have generated, and lord knows I’m looking forward to a time when the idea that “women can be funny/gross” isn’t a revelation. From this vantage point, it’s hard not to see The Sweetest Thing as a part of this spectrum: a film that may not be particularly well-written, or acted (Diaz appears to emote more with a wiggle of her tiny tush than with her face), but is still really enjoyable and maybe even progressive. Here’s hoping that more nuanced, thoughtful films—that happen to be hysterical—are directed, produced, written and acted by women in years to come. Till then, well, we’ll always have this

The Most Mediocre Movies of 2011

Around this time there are a lot of posts listing the year’s best and worst movies, but none honoring those films that land squarely in the middle. I thought it’d be fun to list some of the most mediocre films of 2011. These are the movies you’d be cool with if they showed one during your flight to Des Moines, but will otherwise never think of again. They’re not 10 years old, but honoring random movies destined for obscurity is one of the missions of this blog.

The Way Back

Peter Weir used to make strange choices that you had to respect, even if you disagreed with them: in “Witness” he made the Amish cool, in “The Mosquito Coast” he had Harrison Ford act like Dennis Hopper. Most controversially he put Ed Harris in a Kangol hat in “The Truman Show.” But since 2003’s swashbuckler “Master and Commander,” Weir has nuzzled into the comfortable genre of historical dramas, Hollywood’s most fertile genre for harvesting a mediocre movie (we’ll get to “The Conspirator” in a second). “The Way Back” is about a bunch of tough Soviet POWs who escape the gulag and trek 4,000 miles to freedom. Inspiring? Sure. But you’re still just watching Colin Farrell walk south for over 2 hours.

Most mediocre part: The ambiguous poster line, “Inspired by true events.”

The Conspirator

Move over, “Glory,” there’s a new obligatory movie for teachers to show when they’re hung over! “The Conspirator” plays like the best reenactments in a History Channel special you’ve ever seen. It’s a dramatization of the hysteria that gripped America following the Lincoln assassination, and the politically outspoken director Robert Redford was clearly trying to say stuff about our post-9/11 handling of detainees, so it’s a testament to the film’s mediocrity that it’s most incendiary feature remains the casting of Justin Long in a period drama.

Most mediocre part: Entire movie is in sepia tone

Larry Crowne

"Larry Crowne" is the "Citizen Kane" of mediocre movies. I’d save it for last if that wasn’t self-defeating. No, when it comes to a list honoring mediocrity, here in the middle is the prize spot. "Larry Crowne" is as pleasant as Julia Roberts’s audience-approved smile, as edgeless as Tom Hanks’s baby fat, and as safe as the mopeds the characters in the movie drive, instead of actual motorcycles. Insurance salesmen who wear Dockers and like Frank Caliendo would kill to reach the mildness Hanks achieves by simply throwing on a leather jacket in this picture.

Most mediocre part: Did you not hear me mention Hanks’s leather jacket?

The Lincoln Lawyer

"The Lincoln Lawyer" was the mediocre film I was most excited about this year. It was going to be a return-to-form for Matthew McConaughey. No more intentional self-parody, like "Tropic Thunder." Or unintentional, like "Surfer, Dude." This square-jawed whodunit was going to remove the air quotes from McConaughey and show us what the man was capable of when you made the dude wear a shirt. But the film reaches neither the intensity of "A Time To Kill" nor the mellow buzz of his current bongo-playing persona. I now realize I was wrong to demand a civilized McConaughey. Just keep livin’, hombre. Just keep livin’.

Most mediocre part: Based on a novel by Michael “Your Aunt’s Beach Reading” Connelly

Water for Elephants

Circus movies are like the actual circus: nice things that haven’t changed their basic structure in a century. Hollywood is convinced the majesty of the big top is timeless (or some shit). In reality, the last good circus movie (“The Circus”) was produced during the Coolidge administration. There’s something underneath the ragtime charm of a circus that seems awkwardly archaic. I can’t shake the feeling that carnival life is depressing and involves the exploitation of animals, the disabled, and obese women with beards. Maybe that’s why the most intriguing part of “Water for Elephants” is Christoph Waltz as a sociopathic circus owner who’s like Hans Landa for animals.

Most mediocre part: The fucking title.

Honorable mentions: One Day, The Company Men, The Adjustment Bureau

Big Trouble

Year 2001 Trademarks:

  • Postponed due to cataclysmic event that has come to define the 21st century
  • Dennis Farina

Ten years ago 19 angry men gave America its worst Tuesday ever, even by Tuesday standards. Since countless talented writers have shared their personal biographies of the events of 9/11, most of whom have practice writing about topics more important than the influence of Alicia Silverstone, I will keep my own memories of that Tuesday brief. But you can’t talk about Big Trouble without talking about the rise of global terror, which is something you really can’t say about many Tim Allen films.

What sticks out in my brain are the little changes. The images of the collapsing towers and what such images meant were too mind-bogglingly huge for a high schooler to instantly comprehend. What brought the enormity of the disaster into relief for me, living just north of New York City, were the small disruptions to daily routine, and back then this daily routine consisted entirely of channel surfing and going to the movies.

Before 9/11, breaking news only disrupted the networks, not cable. No matter what was happening in the world, I knew I could always pick up the remote and escape to the higher altitudes of basic cable. But on 9/11, even the most nihilistic channels halted their regular programming and turned their airtime to affiliate coverage of the horror in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. And since these channels were a (too big) part of my life, the unprecedented grounding of all US flights shook me less than MTV’s sudden disappearance. The party was over, specifically the MTV Beach House: Summer in the Keys party.

I don’t mean to trivialize the attacks. On the contrary, the disruption of film and TV are only important as eerie aftershocks of the true catastrophe that caused them, like signs of struggle at a crime scene or a really nasty hangover. It’s a small part of a big day, a footnote. But even footnotes serve a purpose, just ask an English professor.

Big Trouble is a goofball crime film starring Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Heavy D and every That Guy in Hollywood, and it’s al Queda’s least-important victim. The movie was scheduled to come out on September 21, 2001, which would have made it the second major motion picture released following the terrorist attacks. (The first, in case you were interested, was The Glass House, which came out on schedule on 9/14). Then planes were hijacked and Big Trouble's plane hijacking finale became the worst-timed ending since Twin Peaks. Disney postponed the film’s release, and somewhere in Tora Bora a fundamentalist who really didn’t like Home Improvement laughed at a job well done.

When it finally came out in April 2002, Big Trouble was a box office disappointment and received mixed reviews. I found Big Trouble charming,but was not surprised by its lukewarm reception. The movie, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, was a noble attempt to revive the ensemble farce, a long-dormant type of comedy that produced a string of successful, silly films in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World created the formula in ‘63, filling a dozen wacky roles with movie stars and witty To Tell The Truth panelists, and placing them in lots of scenes involving hot air balloons. Mad World was a hit and remains one of the most successful films of all time, despite premiering the week of the the Kennedy assassination.

Other ensemble farces followed, including Cannonball Run, Spielberg’s 1941, Caddyshack and Clue. In the ’90s they began a hibernation, taken over by heartfelt domestic comedies like Father of the Bride or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, out-and-out parody like Hot Shots! Christopher Guest kind-of filled the void with his wide troupe of mockumentarians, but his movies were always more witty than outrageous. The ensemble farce had become corny and immature, living on only in the hearts of The Simpsons writers, who ended a season-5 episode with a screwball chase scene honoring the sub-genre. In 2001, after There’s Something About Mary proved there was a shit-ton of money to be made in lowbrow laughs, two ensemble farces were produced: Rat Race, which came out in 2001, and Big Trouble, which very much did not.

It’s really only the climax of Big Trouble, in which Tom Sizemore’s character sneaks a gun and a nuke through a comatose airport security checkpoint, that got the movie shelved for a year. When I watched this scene, it all honestly seemed pretty harmless to me. A little edgy, perhaps, but acceptable given a year of waiting, and not without purpose. Plus the hijacker in Big Trouble is an idiotic crook whose motive is money, not a homicidal fundamentalist who’s motive is an imaginary brothel in the sky, and the good guys win in the end with zero casualties. So I was surprised to read fresh hostility from critics reviewing the movie. Even Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times was perturbed by the airport scene:

Reviewers found it at best misguided satire, at worst deliberately offensive. I think Big Trouble’s pithy attitude toward airline danger took on a new meaning after its delay, a meaning that was defiant and, in a way, reassuring. Airports in the post-9/11 world are fascinating places: at once both terrifying and mind-numbingly dull. Depending on your state-of-mind, Delta is either your last stop before certain doom or just a boring formality. Big Trouble took these two interpretations and threw them together in a scene that’s as nerve-wracking as it is unabashedly silly. As if to highlight his message, Sonnenfeld cast as the hijacker’s hostage Zooey Deschanel, the reigning queen of bored exasperation, the ultimate airline passenger.

Once America realized the world was not going to end, we remembered there were still 99-dollar trips to Orlando to buy and weddings to dutifully attend, and only one way to get there fast and cheap. So we threw our hands up and packed our bags. Airports had always been unpleasant places, if global terror was going to make it a bit more unpleasant, so be it. Today, the guy with the cell phone clip scarfing down a Cinnabon as he boards a flight to Santa Fe is an American warrior, defying jihadists with a quiet bravery. I salute you, sir.

A Knight’s Tale (by Will Hines)

Today’s review is guest-written by actor/comedian/2001 film aficionado Will Hines.

I didn’t expect A Knight’s Tale, the 2001 this-has-to-be-for-teenage-girls-only-right? movie starring Heath Ledger and Paul Bettany, to be funny. But it was. I saw it on a plane in December of 2001, and I expected it to be lots of slow-motion shots of Heath Ledger doing dreamy things like being in love and maybe punching while sweating. I expected the story to be predictable and all the characters to speak in obvious first-thought dialogue (“That knight’s plan is so crazy it.. just.. might.. work”). I expected it to be like a Disney Channel movie but with like two swears.

But A Knight’s Tale is much closer to a simpler, less-pretentious Shakespeare in Love than She’s All That. Although the story is predictable (you know The Knight? He wins), the characters are smarter and more cynical than you’d expect, the jokes are great, the sad moments are sad,  and overall there is an impressive sense of fun. I kept wanting to shake strangers on the plane: are you watching this? This is good!

The story: Heath Ledger is a squire named William Thatcher who serves a knight who dies during a joust. Impersonating his master, Ledger wins the match and then tries to keep fooling everyone that he is the late knight. He befriends Geoffery Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who becomes his hype man. And he romances Shannyn Sossamon (presumably because they are the two best looking humans in the movie).

What stands out the most of this movie is its willful use of anachronisms: the crowd chants “He Will Rock You!” a la Queen when Thatcher takes the field. At a dance, the 14th century band is somehow playing “Golden Years” by David Bowie. Thatcher’s blacksmith friend forges new armor, and arbitrarily puts a Nike swoosh across the chest plate. When Chaucher introduces our hero at matches, he does so with the same cadence as the “Are you ready to rumble?” dude, which was not such a dated reference when this movie came out.

Too gimmicky? The writer/director Brian Helgeland noted in an interview around this time that MOST medieval movies have anachronisms — just less noticeable ones. You’ll see King Arthur dancing to Mozart, or Robin Hood bathing himself more than once a year or whatever. So he picked ones that made his movie more fun. Hey, I’m on board Helgeland! David Bowie IS more fun than Mozart!

The second theme of the movie is the use of Chaucer. The title of the film is the title of the very first Canterbury Tale, and there are a fair number of Canterbury Tale in-jokes throughout. You see Chaucher become irritated by someone, only to confirm their occupation “What are you, a Summoner? I’ll remember that” — referring to what I assume is “A Summoner’s Tale. “

Like Shakespeare In Love (I swear that I have also seen movies aimed at men), A Knight’s Tale makes great use of showing highbrow characters in lowbrow situations. Chaucher is a compulsive liar and gambler (he instantly gambles away all of his money and clothes whenever he is left alone). The princes and noblemen are conversational and naturalistic.

And that Heath Ledger guy? Good actor! He carries the film through several dramatic turns. I predict this guy makes a good movie or two.

I tried raving about this film to friends after my vacation, and was met with the same suspicious glances askance when I talk too much about The Smiths or Kate Bush. But trust me: this is a short, funny smart movie.

Vertical Limit

Editors note: I started writing this post on New Years’ Eve 2010. This will be the last entry for the year 2000. Keep checking for the next post, in which we’ll be boldly going into the world of 2001 cinema…

Year 2000 Trademarks:

  • Features Chris O’Donnell’s last theatrical starring role to date
  • Released on Superbit DVD
  • Mountain Dew-esque extreme view of snow

I was born on the day after Christmas in 1984. I have no grudge about this. True, it meant a traditional birthday party was a non-option. December 26, after all, is the National day of recovering from the copious ham and alcohol consumption of the previous night. Moreover, mom and dad needed to decompress from the previous month of shopping, Mariah Carey music, visiting relatives and TNT’s godforsaken 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon, a programming gimmick that has single-handedly sucked every bit of joy from an otherwise classic film, as though Ted Turner needed to gobble up America’s yuletide memories to power his hyperbaric energy chamber, located in Atlanta eight stories below the World of Coca-Cola. But birthday parties at that point in my life terrified me anyway. Not the getting older part, of course (I was still counting the days until I turned 16 and the local comic shop would sell me a laser pointer). No, what scared me was giving my schoolmates, who even as pre-teens were well versed in repulsive yo’ momma jokes, eyewitness to my family. I was protective of my little after-school bubble of solace. Besides, Jesus had it worse than me. His birthday is actually on Christmas.

Instead of a party, my childhood birthday tradition went as follows: every year around 6pm my brothers and I would pile into the capped flatbet of our dad’s Toyota pickup truck and head to dinner at the Olive Garden, followed by a movie at the Galleria, in whose parking lot the Italian chain eatery was located. The food was salty and reliable and delicious (really, is there a better vegetable minestrone for less than 5 dollars?). But the quality of the movie portion? A lot more hit-or-miss. I wish I could say teenage Patrick had the refined cinematic sensibilities of a snob thrice his age. But the only people I was trying to impress were my overcaffinated, House of Pain-obsessed siblings. Thus the selections I made today look like the overzealous mistakes of a pre-teen drunk on Alfredo and complimentary bread that they were. Instead of Toy Story, for example, I asked my dad, if he’d please, to procure us five tickets to the :8:00 presentation of Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Pending a substantial critical re-appraisal of both films, I will admit this was the wrong choice.

How, you ask, is this lengthy and self-indulgent biography connected to with 2000’s Vertical Limit? The man-versus-mountain adventure had the dubious honor of being my 16th birthday selection. Was this tragically forettable movie another in my long line of bad birthday choices, or was I simply the most forward-thinking pre-teen in the Hudson Valley, seeing a potentical future classic between the explosions and icy fistfights? I’m not claiming there was any way in hell I would’ve chosen All the Pretty Horses or one of the other Oscar contenders on the marquee that day. But Dude, Where’s My Car? was right there for the watching.

Vertical Limit, it turns out, is not a bad movie – it just really wants to be. But mountain climbing, like boxing, is one of those activities that seem impervious to boring films. When they’re not bad they’re pretty good, and when they’re terrible they’re not bad. And when they’re great they lead to five sequels and Dolph Lundgren. Ask most people what they remember about Mission: Impossible II and they won’t talk about Ethan’s love triangle or the theft of Chimera. They’ll recall T.C.’s sick rock-climbing from the opening credits. This scene has absolutely nothing to do with the movie except giving Cruise a chance to show his shoulder muscles, and yet it’s that movie’s signature shot. Cliffhanger is a movie so full of bad choices its embodiment of evil is portrayed by the cherubic John Lithgow. It’s directed by Renny Harlin, who I’m certain would be cultural shorthand for big-budget hack if Michael Bay were to retire. But it’s an action classic thanks to a handful of gorgeous, vertigo scenes and the unbearable tension of fraying cords and bending carabiners.

Vertical Limit’s opening borrows heavily from both Cliffhanger's and M:I-2's, with the rock-climbing Garret siblings Peter and Annie cragging up a gorgeous desert formation, led by their expert father. A few equipment failures later and Peter is forced to tearfully cut his father loose in order to save his sister's life. Petter and Annie dangling over vomit-inducing heights by a literal thread is undeniably tense, which is a relief, because you're unlikely to go three minutes in Vertical Limit with some variation of this setup. Peter and Annie are played by Chris O’Donnel and Robin Tunney, which makes you feel like you’re watching a bizzare Reality Bites or Empire Records sequel in which mountain climbing has replaced documentary filmmaking as the hippest job for 20-somethings.

Cut to 10 years later: Annie, a renowned climber, is recruited for a risky expedition up K2 in the Himalayas, commissioned by the arrogant airline entrepreneur Eliot Vaughn. Vaughn is played with brilliant assholeishness by Bill Paxton. It is the kind of smarmy shithead type that Paxton does so well, but far too rarely. His Texas charm always lands him folksy everyman roles, but in scumbag mode that same charm is used against itself to magnificent effect. Paxton nearly stole the show from Arnold Schwarzenegger with his 10-minute cameo as a scumbag used car salesman in True Lies.

When the leader of Vaughn’s party (The X-Files'sNicholas Lea) demands they turn back before an approaching storm rolls in, Paxton munches on an energy bar and flashes a shit-eating grin. “What did you think,” he says, pointing to the summit, “she’d just lift up her skirt and pull her panties down for us?” Paxton, with his high-tech equipment and inability to feel what the mountain is saying is to Chris O’Donnell what Cary Elwes was to Paxton in Twister. Which is to say it’s best part.

As we all know, a lack of respect for Mother Earth is to a natural disaster movie what sex is to a slasher film. Mr. Vaughn’s huburis finds the climbers in the middle of an avalanche and stuck shivering at the bottom of a ravine. It’s up to Chris O’Donnell to save his sister from chilly doom. He assembles a rag-tag crew including a supermodel doctor, two alcoholic Brits, and an insultingly calm Pakistani. Leading the pack is a GRIZZLED-AS-SHIT Scott Glen. Glenn does admirably well in the role of an aging climber who spends his days searching the icy mountains for his lost wife. When he actually finds his wifesicle in the mountains, in fact, it’s only kind of hilarious:

What is Vertical Limit missing at this point? Not nitroglycerine. But that didn’t stop the filmmakers from adding it. Ascending the most dangerous terrain on planet Earth wasn’t EXTREME enough for this picture – oh hell no. O’Donnell and his team strap canisters of explosives onto their backs, turning each climber into a walking future action sequence. Compared to the authentic threat of the mountain, the nitro stuff feels like somebody snuck it in from a different movie when no one was paying attention. A worse movie. The only redeemable part of the nitro is that it leads to the film’s accidental funniest scene, in which a someone’s shoe explodes.

This leaves us with the most era-specific part of Vertical Limit : Chris O’Donnell. Vertical Limit marked O’Donnell’s last starring role in a feature film. He’s since gone on to a cozy role on CBS’s NCIS: Los Angeles, which according to most recent Nielsen numbers is watched by, roughly, all. But once upon a time he was 1996’s answer to Tobey Maguire. What happened? The vicissitudes of a fickle career in Hollywood are far to complex to boil down to a single word. But I will venture to boil it down to three: Batman & Robin (two words if you don’t include the ampersand).

I often hear George Clooney on Jay Leno or some other late night sofa make a self-deprecating comment about his involvement with 1997’s disastrous Batman and Robin, and while I find it refreshing he can laugh at himself now that a decade’s worth of brainy political thrillers and an Academy Award separates him from his latex-clad days, I wonder if his eye-rolling is not inadvertently flipping the bird to his co-stars Mr. O’Donnell (Robin) and Alicia Silverstone (Batgirl). Let’s face it, those two are truly bearing the albatross of the film. When Clooney encounters drunk fans, there are countless cultural touchstones he’s involved in besides the Caped Crusader. They’re just as likely to ask about ER. But if I ever stumble out of Planet Hollywood drunk on Demolition Man-themed margaritas and bump into Mr. O’Donnell, his stint as the Boy Wonder would be the first stupid thing to roll out of my mouth.

Mr. Shumacher’s movie didn’t just rob us of $8.50, but by hobbling two talented young stars in the formative part of their careers, may have altered the course of Hollywood AS WE KNOW IT. Kind of a reach, I know, but Silverstone’s and O’Donnell’s careers follow eerily similar trajectories: a breakout role in 1993 as a high school student (Clueless, Scent of a Woman), leading to a series of quirky romantic comedies (Excess Baggage, The Bachelor, Mad Love, Blast From the Past, et al.), only to be fatally sidetracked by the gaudy Carmela Soprano necklace that was Batman & Robin and enter an era of quiet — if admirable — supporting roles. All we can do now is wait for the current crop of young filmmakers who grew up on Clueless to write interesting roles for the two and spark Tarantino-esque career revivals.

Perhaps I knew, even at the ripe age of 16, that Vertical Limit would be my last chance to see Mr. O’Donnell at the helm of a blockbuster. And so, in solidarity, I chose that movie as my birthday present instead of my other option that 2000 weekend: Batman in the critically-acclaimed O Brother, Where Art Thou? Or maybe I just wanted to see Bill Paxton playing an asshole and Scott Glenn diving away from nitro explosions. Either way, it was the right choice.

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