Bad Movie, Good Christmas

December 26, 1997

  I'm getting an early start on writing tonight's entry. Beth and I hit the local Blockbuster tonight and rented some movies; hers is up first and I refuse to watch it, so I'm writing.

Beth's choice was Chasing Amy, a film which has the dubious distinction (in my self-esteemed opinion) of being possibly the worst movie ever made. I say "possibly" because there are two other very strong contenders for that title: Clerks and Mall Rats. Guess who's not a Kevin Smith fan?

I honestly don't get the hoopla surrounding this guy. I've hated every one of his movies and continue to be stunned that he has fans. In a charitable moment I could probably get past the bad direction, clumsy blocking, choppy editing, inane stories, and low-rent cinematography, but I have two major sticking points that nothing can help me through: dialogue and actors.

Smith's movies all sound the same to me because his dialogue sounds like...dialogue. There are two ways to write dialogue. You can write it so it sounds the way people really talk (which is not easy to do) or you can write what in your head as you're writing it sounds like sparkling, witty conversation. The first isn't easy to do, but your characters sound real when you pull it off. The second is (IMO) self-indulgent and it gives all your characters the same voice and sounds stilted and contrived. To my ear, Smith is all over the witty sparklies like a bum on a sandwich. I can practically hear the keyboard clicking as his characters speak.

Then there are the "actors" he keeps using. Ben Affleck is okay, but the rest are painfully bad. I don't know their names, but the worst offenders are Smith himself, the young kid who always plays his friend, Smith's girlfriend, and the guy who always plays Affleck's smart-ass friend. I half expect to catch them SNLing -- looking offscreen for cue cards. And as for Smith appearing in his own movies: bad idea. He's the worst actor of the bunch even when he doesn't have any lines and has less screen presence than Tarantino -- and you don't want to get me started on him.

So the upshot of this diatribe is that Beth is watching Chasing Amy and I'm not. Onward.

Christmas was really nice this year. I just recently came to realize that it's perfectly normal for tempers to flare and arguments to rage 'round the Christmas tree, but we didn't do any of that. Maybe we got one of those new Xanax trees or something, I don't know, but Beth and I didn't fight with each other or anyone else this time around. Everybody got along with each other and everyone was happy-happy. It kind of annoys me, actually, because leaps of self-awareness like "fighting at Christmas is normal" are rare for me and I hate to waste them. But there's always next year. I'll start stocking up on old hurts now.

Christmas Eve we went to a party where they held a gift exchange. I'd never done one before and it was a lot of fun. The way it works is, everyone brings a gift and puts their name in a hat, then as each person's name is drawn they select a gift and open it. The fun starts after the first gift is opened. As each subsequent name is drawn, that person has the option of taking one of the already-opened gifts or opening a fresh one. If your gift is stolen that way, you can then take a different already-opened gift or go for a fresh one. Gifts can circulate round and round, and did in this exchange. Beth and I got hit hard: we opened four fresh gifts -- an indoor grill, candlesticks, a martini set, and a feather boa packaged with a gift certificate to an upscale store -- and had them all taken from us. We ended up with some picture frames and a candle-holder, which suited Beth just fine. This was fun, but probably the best part of it was watching Zoe. She had no idea what was going on, but seeing all the adults laughing made her want to laugh too. She was a laughing fool.

Christmas Day we spent the morning with Beth's family and the afternoon with mine. I won't bore you with an itemized list of who got and gave what, but there is one item that merits mention if only because of the personal upheaval it's going to cause me. When we were in New York in October Beth's dad came across an incredible chest of drawers in an art gallery. It's about five feet tall, wide at top and bottom and tapered in the middle, and looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland, or maybe The Simpsons. I've got a picture of it that I was going to scan and put up here, but I don't have a scanner, so I'll just hold it up to my screen as I write this and you can pretend you see it. Isn't it nice? And so colorful!

Anyway, Zoe made a beeline for this thing at the gallery and started putting all her toys in the bottom compartment. She loved it. So Christmas morning at Jack's house, there it was. The personal upheaval is that since it's such a striking piece of furniture it's going to require redecorating Zoe's room, and as long as we're going to do that Beth wants to make my office the nursery and the nursery my office. So now I get to pack up all my books and files and computers and cables and all the mess I have in here and move it all into the next room. A pain, yes, but Zoe's room is going to look really cool when we're done and I'll finally have a window where I can see something besides the neighbor's roof.

We should all have such problems, eh?





Copyright © 1997
Chuck Atkins