Tag Archives: Christina Ricci

Addams Family Values

The Addams family home is all shook up: the kids are playing Marie Antoinette with a real, working guillotine with their new mustachioed baby brother Pubert, and Gomez and Morticia have brought in a new nanny named Debbie to sort them all out. Uncle Fester of course falls madly in love with her.

There’s just one problem. Well, clearly there’s more than one. But the big one, aside from Wednesday and Pugsley trying to kill their baby brother, is that Debbie (Joan Cusack) is a black widow. She has a nasty habit of marrying wealthy men and murdering them on their wedding night. And Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is indeed a wealthy man. Well, he’s wealthy anyway. And he’s smitten.

The rest of the Addams family, not so much. Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) try to wish him well, even when he cuts them out of his life, but little Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman), though somewhat neutered by summer camp, are naturally more suspicious. But now that he’s estranged, can anyone possibly reach him before it’s too late?

Addams Family Values is a rare sequel that seems to have gained in momentum from the first. It introduces new characters that add new dimensionality to the family. Fester really comes into his own in this film, and Joan Cusack is an absolute dish. It’s also exceedingly fun to watch the Addams siblings do a sleepaway camp. Never have two people belonged anywhere less. And the way in which they ruin a historically inaccurate play is the absolute most fun. I could watch this as a spin-off all day long. I should also note that Granny gets replaced in the sequel; Carol Kane replaces her. And Carol Kane is god. She’s also younger than Huston, who plays her daughter, but watcha gonna do? Huston gamely gets back into character, and I love the way they’re lighting her face, with just a beam of light across her eyes. It’s so strikingly different from everyone else in the room. And I know I said this last time, but I’ll say it again: Christina Ricci is a child actor tough to outdo. She really nails Wednesday and makes sure the kids aren’t just placeholders in these films.

All told, Addams Family Values good fun. It’s not great, but it’s like training wheels for future horror fanatics and the freaks and creeps in all of us.

The Addams Family (1991)

The Addams family are a bunch of creeps, goths, freaks, and misfits. Merry makers of mayhem but also a paragon of suburban goals: a husband who adores his wife, a father who dotes on his children, a mother-in-law’s presences embraced and appreciated, children allowed to test the boundaries of their identity, given the space to think deeply and creatively, inventing games and new forms of play. There are few such tight-knit, loving nuclear families depicted on screen today.

Still, the Addams family isn’t quite normal. Mother Morticia (Anjelica Huston) has a sickly pallor and father Gomez (Raul Julia) an obsession with seances. Daughter Wednesday (Christina Ricci) has devised a game called “Is there a god?” and brother Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) allows himself to be electrocuted in its name. The family is attended to by a grunting butler named Lurch (Carel Struycken) and a detached hand. Their fondness for the macabre, and for weaponry in particular, might intimidate most guests, but longtime lawyer Tully (Dan Hedaya) is quite used to their eccentricities, and Gomez’s grief over a 25-year estrangement with brother Fester has left him vulnerable in a way that makes the financially strapped lawyer’s eyes glisten. He enlists an imposter to pose as Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in order to claim the family’s fortune.

Cher wanted the role of Morticia and Kim Basinger briefly had it, but it was Anjelica Huston who had to suffer through the transformation. To give her eyes the signature slant, make-up artists attached strings with spirit gum to the outside corners of her eyes, tugging them to give them a lift, and anchoring the strings to her head. If you think that sounds painful, it’s only because you haven’t yet heard about the metal corset that gave her figure that very structured look. A restrictive dress gives her walk the wiggle. And some neck lifts and long fake nails and you’re almost there.

Meanwhile, I think my favourite performance comes from a very young Christina Ricci, who has to be one of the world’s most consistently good child actors, serving up many iconic roles before she even hit puberty.

The family is unfortunately a little failed by the script, which never quite works as well as it should. But the happy news is, we’re soon to have another dose of our favourite spooky family, in theatres this weekend – an animated version with Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloe Grace Moretz as Wednesday, Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, Nick Kroll as Fester, Snoop Dogg as It, and more. Lots more. Can’t wait.

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and daughters: a relationship so often mined by Hollywood that maybe all the diamonds are gone and all that’s left are duds.

This movie is a dud, but not for lack of trying. Susan Sarandon, plus real-life daughter Eva Amurri Martino, and Sharon Stone, and Courteney Cox, and Selma Blair, and Christina Ricci, and probably more besides that I’m forgetting. That’s an awful lot of leading ladies covering pretty much every angle of motherhood that you can imagine. In fact, one of the maxresdefaultreasons this movie fails is that it tries too hard. The script is just so stupidly earnest. It makes wonderful actresses say such flighty, cliched things. And everyone cries all the time, at the drop of a hat. It made me really wonder why the script writer has so many fucking hats, and why she’s always dropping them. Secure your hat to your head, lady.

Mira Sorvino. That’s who I was forgetting.

Anyway, are your tear ducts all clogged up? Do you have some salt water that needs purging? Were you hoping to remove one tiny strip of makeup all the way down your face? Then have I got a movie for you! Mothers and Daughters doesn’t just ask you to cry, it begs. The director probably owns stock in Kleenex. But it’s the kind of shame-crying that only makes you mad at your stupid emotions and the things that make you feel them. I watched this on Netflix at 2am, when it is perfectly acceptable to cry watching a movie you loathe as long as you have Doritos to keep you company.

The writing is ambitious, but ambitious in the way that a 19 year old writes a memoir. People will be so impressed when I use all my big words! I have a thesaurus and Irs_1024x759-160502103124-1024-courteney-cox-mothers-daughters.ls.5216 want you to watch me abuse it! I’m going to write a trite little movie that wishes it was a pretentious little novel! Script writing 101 says I should put in a conflict here! [Insert conflict]. I wonder if Sharon Stone can do polysyllabics? Either way she’ll be impressed when I whip out this tired metaphor! And I’ll make it super relatable by including a variety of white women with down-to-earth jobs like bra designer, fashion icon, and celebrity photographer. And I wonder if I can work in cancer? Watch out, heart strings!

In conclusion, Mothers and Daughters is a movie I found randomly on Netflix, having never heard of it before despite starring at least 3 Oscar-nominated actresses. It will be palatable to neither mothers nor daughters but it’s definitely a movie that exists. The end.

 

 

 

Mother-Daughter Movies

TMPIt’s time for Thursday movie picks! This week we’re covering movies featuring mother-daughter relationships, which means I for one have been through about 6 boxes of tissues while deciding which are my absolute favourites. Thanks once again to spectacular blogger Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting this weekly meeting of the minds.

Matt

While I’m relieved not to be watching live-action fairy tales or YA movies anymore, this was harder than I thought. About a month ago, I had no trouble making a list of classic father-son dynamics but to mother-daughter relationships- that call for not one but two great roles for women- are a little harder to find in Hollywood.

Mamma Mia! At first, my strategy was to name as many Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton moviesmm7_L as I could. This only got me a third of the way there when I remembered Mamma Mia!, the only American movie on my list. Judge me all you want but I love this musical. Yes, the cast was clearly chosen for their comic timing and definitely not their singing voices but their energy with the help of lots of Abba music make this a party I wish I was at. When searching for the father she never knew, a 20 year-old soon-to-be bride comes to realize how little she appreciated the mother who brought her up all by herself.

Jay: Consider yourself judged, Matt.

The Piano Teacher The dynamic between mother and daughter can be as messed up as any piano-teacherand who better to explore just how bad it can get than Austrian director Michel Hanake. Never afraid to make his audience squirm, Hanake (Funny Games) cast Annie Giradot as a mom that makes Carrie’s look permissive. Isabelle Huppert plays a forty-something pianist who shares not only an apartment but a bed with her controlling, perfectionist, and manipulative mother. All this withholding and repression leads to some pretty bizarre behaviour when the daughter meets a young man that she can’t help but be attracted to. Watching it can be an uncomfortable experience but it’s never dull and is sure to inspire lively discussions- even debates.

Volver Penelope Cruz got her first Oscar nomination for Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 Spanish volver-cruz-cobocomedy-drama. Carmen Maura plays mother to both Cruz and Lola Duenas, seemingly back from the dead to seek the forgiveness of her estranged daughter. There’s some serious stuff here but Volver is also surprisingly funny. It’s a hard film to categorize but an easy one to love.

 

Sean

terms_of_endearment_3_maclaine_wingerTerms of Endearment – I saw this movie for the first time yesterday and right away I wondered how I had not seen it before. The opening credits contain so many recognizable names and everyone lives up to expectations. It is not an easy movie to watch because it seems so real. It’s not often a happy movie but it’s so genuine and for that reason above all else I think it will stick with me for a while. I highly recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t seen it.

Spanglish I didn’t even realize until now that this was also written and directed by James L. Brooks (just like Terms of Endearment). Score two for him because this movie is also fantastic. Like Terms of Endearment, it is also not very happy but comparing these movies is a disservice to both. Spanglish stands on its own as a story of true love and sacrifice. Just don’t watch these two movies back to back as you may never recover from all the heartbreak.1112065277

Jay: I can’t believe I let you do this one! I love Spanglish because their cultural isolation really pits the two of them against the world. Even when they occasionally hate each other, they’re still each other’s entire universe, and when other options start to present themselves, this mother is prepared to make the hard choices. You know this movie gets me every time, to see how close the mother gets to love and fulfillment but turns her back on it because she knows it’s best for her daughter.

Freaky Friday (1976) The third slot was a tough one because while I watched several other Freaky-Friday-classic-disney-18104673-900-506mother-daughter movies this week, I felt the other tearjerkers didn’t hit the mark. I went another way. I have to make 100% clear that this is the original Freaky Friday, not the remake. I did not see this movie as a kid, mainly because I confused it with the Friday the 13th series and horror movies terrified me. It’s very dated but it’s fun to see a young Jodie Foster try to act like a regular kid and then do a very accurate impression of herself as adult who happens to be pretending to be a regular kid.

Jay

I’m having a tough time paring down this list. I watched Autumn Sonata (Ingrid fucking Bergman!) which succeeds in being uncomfortable and intense despite subtitles. And I watched Imitation of Life, which pitted parenting styles against each other with equally depressing results. And I watched Because I Said So because frankly, how could I not? As Matt pointed out,acc3e0404646c57502b480dc052c4fe1 Diane Keaton is just screaming to be on this list, and this film with 3 sisters and a meddling mother is a comforting exercise in voyeurism. And Pixar’s Brave – I love the circularity in that relationship, the growth experienced by both women and the understanding that comes with it. And The Kids Are All Right – there’s so much here in terms of a family coming to terms with shifting roles, and it’s striking how much the two mothers complement each other. And Sherrybaby. And Easy A (love Patricia Clarkson in that!). And Anywhere But Here. And Mother and Child. Nothing like a major health crisis to flush out your Netflix queue!

But fuck it. Steel Magnolias, baby. There, I said it. It’s goopy and sentimental but you know 5a64037be0d86f25_steel_jpeg_previewwhat? The relationship at its core, Sally Field and Julia Roberts, feels absolutely genuine. Julia Roberts plays a young woman with diabetes, and Sally Field the constantly-worried mother. Both are headstrong but you can tell that Mom is secretly proud that her daughter is determined not to let her illness stop her from living on her own terms. Sally Field will give anything, including body parts, to keep her daughter going, but when the worst happens, the grief and anger are palpable and real.  For my money, Sally Field talking to her comatose daughter is just about the most heart-wrenching tribute to motherhood you’re apt to find.

And Mermaids. I can’t help it. The family situation reminds me so much of my own – just a mom mermaidsposterand her girls on their own in the world. It’s not always easy, or friendly. When you fight you fight big, but you love big too. And the dancing in the kitchen: yes! I love Cher’s awkward stabs at motherhood – the funny little food and the ill-timed advice – and Christina Ricci’s weird little pumpkin-headed wiggles.

 

Now Voyager is the ultimate in family dysfunction. A hateful and over-bearing mother stifles her daughter NowVoyager-Still6(played by the inesteemable Bette Davis) into a nervous breakdown that turns out to be her weird salvation. Of course, upon return, the now glammed up and self-assured daughter is again reduced to a puddle in the face of her unfeeling mother.

Best Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

TMPIt’s Thursday again and you know what that means – this week we’re being asked to list our favourite live-action fairy tale adaptations. Not such an easy feat for some of the Assholes, but we’re giving it a go! Thanks, Wanderer, for your inspired themes.

 

Jay

It’s probably telling that though we owned copies of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, I was never a very Princess-oriented little girl. Even as a kid, I preferred darker stories, and so my go-to fairy tale was always and still is Labyrinth.

I’m sure you know it: it’s about a teenaged girl (Jennifer Connolly) who makes a stupid wish that actually makes her baby brother disappear. Realizing her mistake, she has to win her brother back from the Goblin King by solving his labyrinth in just 15 hours. This movie combines two labyrinth-2_1389186934things that are so awesome I might call them otherworldly, and putting them together just multiplies their effect. First, David Bowie as the Goblin King: absolute perfection. To this day you couldn’t cast it better. The hair, the pants, the eyebrows! Second, Jim Henson. He brings some fairly complex puppets into the mix, some inspired by the genius work of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. Henson surrounds Bowie with a cast of Goth Muppets that create this hyper-real fever dream. The story’s fairytale roots stoke the fires of Jim Henson’s imagination beautifully, and we’re absorbed and suspended into a world where anything can happen.

For my second pick, I’m going with Penelope. Penelope is lovely girl (Christina Ricci) from a wealthy family who was born with the face of a pig. The pig-face is the result of a curse put on her family by a witch in retaliation for their rejection of a  house maid turned away when a penelopemember of the house impregnates her. Generations later, Penelope bears the brunt of her family’s indiscretion. To break the curse, Penelope must find “one of her own” to love her. Her suitors (including a roguish James McAvoy), however, may be more interested in her money than in true love. The movie gives life to the other side of the tale, a modern girl born only to be hidden away in shame, and what that has meant in terms of self-worth. I think it’s also an interesting example of how, with a little suspension of disbelief, we can invest in a fairy tale without a lot of big-budget effects and other trappings familiar to the genre. The fairy tale is made much more accessible and relatable on this plane.

I’ve been waffling over this third pick for a while. I felt like maybe I should go with a more classic adaptation, but damn it to hell, I’m going with a Cinderella story because it’s one that’s been told more than 700 times, in many different ways, all around the world. We just saw Disney’s live-pretty-woman-GCaction effort last night (quite good), but the one that will still stands out to me is Pretty Woman. It’s actually a pretty faithful adaptation, if a little modernized: a young woman with no family is forced into a life of hard work (prostitution, if you will). She meets a handsome prince (or millionaire businessman) and they start to fall in love, but she’s not from his world, so neither of them thinks the love with last. However, with the help of a fairy godmother (called Visa) she is magically transformed. But the prince must love her for who she really is, so she feels, and he follows, searching her out on her turf, his heart (and possibly other organs) swollen with love. And because this is a fairy tale, the ho and the ethically-questionable businessman live happily ever after. We assume.

Matt

If you joined us last Thursday, you might have noticed that I gave Luc a bit of a hard time about his lack of interest in black and white movies made after (or even before) 1970. Well, I’m hoping he loves live-action fairy tale adaptations because I can’t seem to find the same level of enthusiasm this week. It’s not that I object on principle. I don’t see any reason why stories that have so often inspired such great animated films can’t be reimagined as great live-action ones, especially with less pressure to conform their content to a G rating. Maybe because we can’t bring ourselves to set aside our cynicism for even two hours without the obviously manufactured world of animation but it’s a lot harder to believe in magic when it is Elle Fanning- not Sleeping Beauty- who can only be woken by True Love’s Kiss and almost every recent film in this sub-genre is almost embarrassing to watch. Still, after thinking about it all week, I have managed to come up with 3 worthy exceptions especially when allowing myself a little leeway with the rules.

Babe- When I say that Babe is one of my favourite films of the 90’s, I don’t mean “favourite babe-james-cromwellfamily movies”. I don’t know if it can be called a fairy tale under the strictest definition but it seems to think of itself as one. There may not be any fairy godmothers, pixie dust, or spells, but there are singing mice, scheming cats, an unlikely hero with the most innocent of hearts, and one of the most genuinely magical experiences of its decade.

 

Hook-  Steven Spielberg makes my list two weeks in a row. Technically more a Peter Pan sequel than a peter Pan adaptation, Spielberg’s 1991 film is one of his most underappreciated. Now a cynical corporate lawyer who hates flying, Peter Pan (Robin Williams) is all grown up and has literally Hook-1forgotten about Neverland. With the help of Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts), he must learn to fly again to save his young kids who have kidnapped by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) who is still holding a grudge. Hook makes great use of almost every one of Williams’ many talents and Hoffman is brilliantly cast and will likely put Garrett Hedlund to shame in this summer’s Pan.

Into the WoodsSome of the most memorable fairy tale characters of all time meet in the intothewoodswoods in last year’s extremely entertaining adaptation of the Broadway musical. The stories take on a darker tone than we might be used to but the spirit of the stories survive.

 

 

Sean:

The Princess Bride: the best of the best. This is a fairy tale that a teenage boy could not only princess_brideenjoy and relate to, but could talk about with other teenage boys. The Princess Bride is endlessly quotable, sincere but not serious, and effortlessly original while remaining true to the essence of a fairy tale. I still love this movie and I expect it will be one that continues to be discovered and enjoyed for as long as we watch movies.
wizard-of-oz-original1The Wizard of Oz – this is a timeless movie that still holds up. Even the changing technical limits of the day add something to the movie, being in black and white initially, with colour then appearing once Dorothy gets to Oz. It’s so well done, the songs are catchy, the characters are memorable, and the big reveal at the end is one of the best twists ever. One of my favourite parts about the movie is that even after the curtain is pulled back, everyone still gets to live happily ever after, the very definition of a fairy tale.
Cinderella (2015) – we just saw this last night and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. rs_1024x759-141119042502-1024_Cinderella-JR-111914No surprises, no changes, no updates to the classic Disney tale, and that’s probably for the best. It was the definition of a fairy tale made into a live action movie, line for line, shot for shot, and mouse/horse for mouse/horse. At our screening, all the little (and some not-so-little) girls in their princess costumes clearly loved this movie and I could see exactly why they did. I would have said Cinderella is this year’s Frozen except that this year’s Frozen is going to be Frozen Fever, the short accompanying Cinderella, which made a little girl in the theatre gleefully exclaim, “Look at those dresses!”

Monster

This movie came out in 2003. I bought the DVD and watched it once and never again – until now. Fifteen years later, it’s as rough as I remembered.

Aileen “Lee” Wuornos is a hooker past her prime. She meets Selby at a bar one night and it’s the oddest case of love at first sight. Lee (Charlize Theron) is smitten, and self-centered Selby (Christina Ricci) loves the attention she lavishes upon her.

Anyway, girlfriends are expensive. Pretty soon Aileen has to start working the highways again. One night, a trick goes wrong. Not that they’re ever right, but more wrong than usual. A john drives her int the woods and beats her unconscious before waking her back up with sodomy. Oh god. I can’t believe I just described that scene so flippantly! It’s HORRIFYING and I’m traumatized and I’m coping by being weirdly light hearted about it. Anyway, Aileen is in a bad way, but what he doesn’t know and she does is that she’s armed. She manages to to break away just long enough to shoot (and kill) him.

Is it weird to describe murder as empowering? Aileen is unsuitable for any other kind of work and though she’d like to quit prostitution, she and Selby can’t quite partying, so it’s back to working truck stops, only this time she only uses sex as the bait, and then murders them for cash and cars. This becomes another one of her addictions.

Aileen Wuornos is a real-life serial murderer. A lot has already been said about Charlize Theron’s physical transformation to play her, so I’m going to concentrate instead on what an interesting character she is. I mean, there’s no denying that Aileen herself is a victim. She even convinces herself it’s a justification for her increasing blood lust. What she does is undeniably wrong but society had already left her in the dust. Where, exactly, was Aileen’s place? That’s what earned Charlize her Oscar. She didn’t try to excuse away her crimes, but she did find empathy for her. Theron is intense as hell in this movie. Her eyes shoot laser beams with such focus you’d think her life depended on it – and in fact, for Aileen, it did. A moment’s inattention could have cost her her life. But otherwise she’s not at home in her body. Theron prowls as Aileen, her shoulders curling, discomfort in her very posture. Her performance is one for the ages.

Director Patty Jenkins treats Aileen with compassion, and she might be the first to do so. Monster doesn’t feel exploitative. Aileen might have had the morals beaten out of her, but we haven’t, and Jenkins’ framing of her always keeps this in mind. The first time Aileen kills, it’s in self defense. Subsequently though, she kills for every time a man has done her dirty, and that’s a very long list. When a tiny sliver of redemption offers itself, Aileen is unequipped to take it. But Jenkins refuses to objectify her; she treats her humanely, which is possibly more than Wuernos ever got in life.