I walked out of Ed’s house in Brooklyn this morning and said WHAT. Because it is snowing. I mean, WHAT?! You can send a California girl all over the world but you can’t make her accept that deconstructed sno-cones pop out of the sky every so often.
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?”—Rainer Maria Rilke
This morning, I woke up in my shoebox apartment in Alphabet City, angry. When I say “morning,” I mean that it was in the A.M. sometime between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Some guys were yelling outside, probably drunk. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was loud and annoying. Also, I didn’t understand why they were outside when it was 20 degrees F and why they were so drunk on a Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) and what, on earth, could possibly be so important that they had to get it out, right there and then.
And for some reason, this bewilderment and anger at these anonymous voices outside my window, reminded me of the emotions I felt towards the entities that brought Four Christmases, starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, into existence. Watching this movie was one of those choices you make when enclosed in a very tight space for a long period of time, like a prisoner in solitary confinement closing their eyes as hard as they can to get the visions to appear or a guy on an island making a volleyball into his best friend. Except I was on a plane crossing the country and I had the luxury of an entertainment console installed right in front of my face. Was it fate? Was it poor decision-making skills? Both? What compelled me to try my hand at the sort of romantic slapstick comedy I usually run away from, arms flailing in the air? Why did I not stop myself the minute the guy next to me (who had been making a habit of tut-tutting my incorrect selections on the in-flight trivia game) said to me, conspiratorially, “That’s a great movie,” as soon as I selected Vince Vaughn’s face?
I suppose I’m still trying to process it all.
The plot is this: a pair of people in San Francisco who allgedly used to be dorks growing up (I don’t buy it) turned into hyper-successful people who don’t want to get married because each is the product of a divorced household and hate their respective families. Or something. Due to a stupid plot point that would never happen in a million years, they get caught in a lie and have to spend Christmases with each side of their families. Conveniently, they all live in driving distance in the Bay Area. I guess. Hijinks ensue. Whatever.
I will say it straight out: I hated this stupid movie. I hated this movie so much that I will try to run down the grief process I felt while watching it for the first time using illustrative examples using one of my favorite all-time movies, Election. That Election shares a star with Four Christmases is further evidence that we are all going to hell. Thanks a lot, Reese.
MY GRIEF PROCESS WHILE WATCHING FOUR CHRISTMASES
1. DENIAL – Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual.
“This probably won’t be that bad,” I said to myself as I settled back in seat, trying to treat my neighbor’s endorsement as a good omen. “Maybe this guy has great taste. Sure, I haven’t seen a Vince Vaughn movie I’ve liked since, um… Gosh. Anchorman? Probably Anchorman. Well anyway he was pretty funny in Anchorman. Even if he didn’t star in it. And didn’t my old coworker say this movie was good? Or was that Fred Claus? Why does Vince Vaughn make so many Christmas movies anyway? Come to think of it, that old coworker had terrible taste in everything. Hmm. Well, it can’t be THAT bad. Plus, it was directed by Seth Gordon and I really loved A Fistful of Quarters. I probably made a great pick! I am excited for this film! … I probably won’t ever tell anybody I actually watched it, though.”
2. ANGER – Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. The person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt, or at the world, for letting it happen. He or she may be angry with him or herself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.
“What is this crap? What is this movie? What am I watching? Who are these people? What the hell? Who signed the check to make this movie? HOW MANY PEOPLE WENT TO GO SEE THIS MOVIE? SETH GORDON, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? I rescind every movie you have ever made, Vince Vaughn. And Jon Favreau. You made ELF, for godsakes, the movie that is delightful and so much fun and charming and lovely. And now you’re doing THIS? And Reese. Oh, Reese. I remember you. I remember you wandering around Brentwood when I lived there and I was so happy for you and your family and this is what you repay me with for my warm thoughts? I WISHED YOU WELL, REESE. REMEMBER ELECTION? I DO. THAT WAS A FABULOUS MOVIE. ONE OF MY FAVORITES. I would rather illustrate any future pieces I write about this crapfest with Election because then I will remember that you used to be of value. Or something. And may I not forget you, Mary Steenburgen, you who were a not-quite-so-integral part of my favorite film series of all time! What would Doc Brown say about this? Why do you look so weird? Why did they bring a nest of COUGARS into the mess? WHY ARE THERE FIVE ACADAMY AWARD WINNERS IN THIS MOVIE? FIVE. FIVE! Who was in charge of judgment on this film? Who wrote this piece of crap? I am going to send an angry letter to this person or individuals! Yes I am!”
3. BARGAINING – Now the person may make bargains with God, asking, ‘If I do this, will you take this away?’ NOTE: As I am agnostic, God didn’t factor much into the process.
“I’m going to turn it off. I’m going to turn it off. I am just going to switch to something else. I think there was an episode of Top Chef Masters I haven’t seen. I am just going to switch channels and it’s going to all be okay. I won’t have to see any more jokes about older women or country people. It’s going to be okay.”
4. DEPRESSION – The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.
“Letter-writing won’t change anything. Changing the channel won’t change anything. This mess exists. I caught it after it all happened. Way after the fact. Nothing can change. People love this kind of stuff. The guy in the seat next to me loves this kind of stuff. It made $163 million dollars worldwide, twice its original budget. No matter what I say, people are going to lap up this insipid crap and checks are just going to keep getting written for it.” At this point I was trying not to self-medicate with airplane wine. And by “airplane wine,” I don’t mean the tiny bottles from the cart, I mean a derivative of prison wine—raisins, sugar packets and crushed up pretzels fermented in a motion sickness bag.
5. ACCEPTANCE – This is when the anger, sadness, and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the situation.
“I can’t believe I watched the whole thing. Predictable movie, predictable ending, horrible stereotypes and now it’s over. Thank god. Now, about that episode of Top Chef Masters…”
So my final thoughts are these: Was this the worst movie of all time? No. Did it pass the 80-something minutes it took for me to watch on a plane? Yes, yes it did. Would I recommend it to other people? Dear god, no. Do I think the guys who were outside my window arguing at 2 a.m. this morning would have probably enjoyed it? Yeah, I guess. Because if they’re stupid enough to be outside in 20 degree weather and rude enough to be yelling so loud to wake me up, they are exactly the kind of people who would have enjoyed Four Christmases.
P.S. I miss Tracy Flick.
Michelle Said is a writer living in New York City. She tumbls here.
“In nineteenth-century China, it was perfectly acceptable for a young woman to marry a dead man, an arrangement called a ‘ghost marriage,’ which enabled families to consolidate their wealth and power and allowed enterprising young women to pursue their ambitions without the interference of a living husband or children.”—Hitched by Ariel Levy, The New Yorker - discussing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed
I just got a notice from Tumblr that Filmosophy will be taken down within the next 48 hours unless we change the name and url. Apparently, the name itself was already copyrighted by a guy in California, and he is threatening legal action if Tumblr doesn’t take it down or have us change the name - which, obviously we will. However, this means a HUGE headache for me, and the loss of a name which 1) I really liked and 2) a lot of people outside of tumblr followed - meaning we’ll lose a lot of (non-tumblr) readers.
So, yeah, that sucks.
I’m also trying to come up with a new name within the next hour, and have no time to think about it. Any ideas?