Tuesday, May 26, 2015

No shame in loving "dumb" movies

© 2015 CTMG, Inc.
I have to be very careful sometimes when I talk about movies I like.

When you’re in any group of “serious” movie fans, those of us who talk about awards season like people in movies talk about horse races, there are certain standards you’re expected to uphold. Anything that won a major award is usually acceptable – the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes are always safe, though you get extra points if you can get something slightly more obscure.

Even better is if the movie was nominated, but lost to something that wasn’t quite as “good” but came from a bigger studio. In general, your favorite films should be mostly dramas, though Wes Anderson’s movies (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Moonrise Kingdom”) get a special exemption.
Major blockbusters may be liked under certain circumstances, but only if they’re well made. It helps if you can spin some explanation of how, for example, all the explosions are really symbolic of the destruction of modern society. (It goes without saying that you have to say all of this with a straight face).

I’ve seen many of these movies, and there were some of them I actually liked. As a former English Literature major, I can talk about the thematic significance of nearly anything, which meant that even if I didn’t like a movie I can talk about it in appropriately serious tones.

But I’m tired of hiding the fact that there’s a part of me that absolutely adores dumb movies. Though I haven’t seen the sequel, I actually liked “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” (I actually had to physically fight the urge to go back and delete that sentence out of embarrassment, or qualify it with something like “even though I know how stupid it is.” Truthfully, I’m still fighting it, and it’s hard enough that I’ll be amazed if this entire paragraph makes it online).

I love the most ridiculous action movies, the kind that defy both common sense and the laws of physics, and want to be able to gush about my love of “Furious 7” without apologizing for how wonderfully absurdist it is. I want to be able to watch Reese Witherspoon use a terrible Texas accent (at least, I think it was a Texas accent) and fall over stuff in “Hot Pursuit” without having to pretend I wished it were something like “Wild.”

I will admit that Witherspoon was really good in “Wild,” a tough, searching movie about grief and self-identity. But do you know one thing it wasn’t? Fun. And sometimes, all I want to do when I go to a movie is switch my brain off and watch idiots crash into each other onscreen.

So if you honestly want to see a movie, go no matter how many insults movie critics or your “serious” movie friends pile on its head. Even if I’m the one lambasting the movie, feel free to ignore me if that’s what you want. If you end up deciding I was right, e-mail me and we can trash the movie together.

But if it turns out that you love it – or even like it just fine – there’s nothing wrong with that. Shout your love from the rooftops.  No matter how “dumb” the movie is, there’s absolutely no reason to be ashamed.

Yes, even if it’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.”

Friday, May 8, 2015

Getting to Know You: Beauty (the Kat Dennings edition, not the Emma Watson one)

Photo from katdennings.com
Because I like to torture my characters in small ways as well as large ones, I will occasionally make them fill out those “getting to know you” questionnaires (this one came from http://www.signupgenius.com/groups/getting-to-know-you-questions.cfm).  This one is from Beauty, one of the lead characters in my new book “Beast Charming.”

1. Who is your hero? 

My older sister, Grace. She pretty much raised me, and is definitely the reason I haven’t been arrested yet.

2. What was your favorite family vacation?

Technically, being abandoned in the woods probably doesn’t count as a family vacation, but the ogre that found us was incredibly nice. He had some absolutely hilarious stories about his grandchildren, and was really good at making cookies.

3. If you could choose to do anything for the day, what would it be?

Read. Drop me in the middle of a well-stocked library with snacks, and you won’t see me for a week.

4. What did you want to be when you were small? 

A dragon. The idea of having teeth and claws, as well as being able to fly, all appealed to me even when I was a kid.

5. Do you like or dislike surprises? Why? 

Strongly dislike, because when you work with dragons, knights, witches and sorceresses on a regular basis there’s at least a 30 percent chance the surprise will kill you. And even if it doesn’t, it usually does something like turning you green for a week. I definitely don’t recommend the experience.

6. What’s your biggest complaint about your job? 

Well, like I said – the potential for death is annoying. But not quite as annoying as getting locked in a tower with this one particular shut-in who keeps coming up with fake jobs so she can tell us all about the sweaters she knits (with her own hair, apparently – don’t ask).

7. What’s your favorite thing about your job?

It’s hard to get bored when you’re picking armor out of a dragon’s teeth one week and helping a group of dwarves baby-proof their home the next week (they’d decided to adopt a human girl. I’m hoping for everyone’s sake that she grows up short).

8. Who would you want to be stranded with on a desert island?

For company, I’d have to say Beast (I’ll admit, I’m a little prejudiced). But for practicality, I really should say Waverly – he’d figure out a way to get us both back to civilization before nightfall hit.

9. What was your first job?

Technically, it wasn’t a job, but Father would dress Grace and I in rags and sneak us into the palace to pretend we were serving girls. I’m not exactly sure what the next step was supposed to be – no matter how much he likes to think otherwise, Father really isn’t that great at planning.

10. Who is your favorite author? 

Jenniffer thinks that she’s being so clever by putting this one in here, but I’m not about to let her get away with it so easily. So I’ll say Terry Pratchett. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

My superhero (for a few minutes, at least)

Sometimes, the smallest things can have the biggest impact on people. You may never even realize that you've done anything at all.

I was at my second signing of the day for "Beast Charming," an independent bookstore that had barely anyone in it. The few people who were there couldn't have cared less about the book, a fact that become even more ludicrous when they insisted I still do a reading. The seats were absolutely empty, except for my best friend in the front and the one dude who'd taken over planning the event (which was no help. It was literally his job to be there.)

So I started the reading, feeling profoundly stupid and just trying to power through it. Occasionally someone would wander through the back, not even slowing down slightly on their way to wherever they were going. I kept going – the people who'd asked me here still clearly wanted me to do it, no matter how ridiculous it was – but I told myself I could stop whenever I just couldn't take it anymore. Every paragraph, I was sure I would give up at the next one.  

Then I saw a guy in the back – clearly following his girlfriend around – who actually sort of looked like he was listening. His girlfriend couldn't have cared less about the reading, her focus clearly on whatever book she was looking for, but the guy's head was cocked in a certain way that happens when you've got an ear on something that's not in front of you. And when she left, wandering on to another section of shelving, he actually stayed and listened. Not even halfway this time – body turned completely to me, focus on me, leaning a little against the edge of a bookcase like he'd settled in for the duration. 

I have no idea why – he was actually on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of the book's potential target audience, so I can't imagine he was actually interested. But the fact that he was there, honestly listening without being obligated to (another employee wandered over after he did), was such an immense shot of comfort and courage. I went all the way through the reading I'd planned, and it was all because of him.

If it hadn't been so wildly inappropriate – like I said, girlfriend – I would have hugged him. As it was, I hope he had an amazing rest of the day. He deserved it.