Sunday, September 30, 2018

The disappointed optimist






I have friends and coworkers who will bring up a movie and then tell me what Rotten Tomatoes has given it, as if I care. I'm far too nice to tell them that I don't give two shakes of a lamb's tail what Rotten Tomatoes has to say about a movie I want to watch. I have no use for that stupid critical barometer because I want to know as little as possible about a movie -- aside from what I already know that got me interested in the first place.

Also, I really don't care what other people think about a new movie that I want to see. At most, I'll search out a couple reviews from critics I respect, but it'll be after I see the movie. So I don't waste my time with Rotten Tomatoes. Get out of my face with that garbage.

So I was on the Rotten Tomatoes website one day when I noticed a feature there called Five Favorite Films where whoever was promoting a movie on the site would give his or her list of, yup, you guessed it, their five favorite films. They had Amy Adams there promoting a film, and of the very few people in Hollywood that I can stand, number one with a polite bullet on that short list is the lovely and talented actress known here as The Adorable Amy Adams. Regular readers of the blog have known about my admiration of Ms. Adams for years, and new listeners of this podcast have known about it as of about five seconds ago.

As for her five favorite films, The Adorable Amy Adams gave the following: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Vertigo, The Shawshank Redemption, and the 1998 family film Paulie directed by John Roberts. 




In the interview, Adams admitted that Paulie stood out like a sore thumb on that list but she wanted to be honest and include a film that she's watched many times. She also brought up Paulie in another more recent interview on Leonard Maltin's podcast "Maltin on Movies"; in that interview, both Maltin and his co-host Jessie Maltin gave Ms. Adams plenty of praise for her performances in her new films Arrival and Nocturnal Animals and they were sure Oscar was going to finally -- finally! -- give her her long overdue gold, Best Actress-style. Which of course, did not happen because Emma Stone won that year for La La Land.

But I don't blame Emma Stone; she did a great job and I guess all pale redheads look the same to the racist Oscars. No, I blame the Academy for instead giving Our Amy's nomination slot to the much-ignored Meryl Streep, finally giving that criminally underrated starlet some much-needed awards attention for some movie called Florence Foster Jenkins about an old lady who can't sing and it's funny funny funny oh ho ho she can't sing! It's com-e-dy!

While I had already seen the other films she mentioned on the list, I hadn't seen Paulie, and so I put it on my watchlist along with the thousand other movies I'm sure I'll get around to as soon as I win the lottery and then I can just stay home all day & night catching up to these movies and not have to worry about how I'm going to pay my rent.

Oh, it would be beautiful too, I would just sit there and watch movies and eat and watch movies and eat and occasionally use the bathroom and if there's company coming over, I guess I could take a shower. Then I can become one of those fat hogs who are too big to leave the house, then my body will give and I'll die and my fat 800-pound corpse will be somebody else's problem. Ha ha ha, kiss my fat dead ass, you skinny necrophiliacs -- and don't forget, I want to be buried, so good luck recruiting six pallbearers with both the strength and disregard for the concept of hernias.

So I was reminded to watch Paulie when I saw my friend Cathie mention it on her Twitter timeline, and so I tossed away the movie I had intended to watch that night -- take a hike, The Rules of the Game -- and here we are.

The film begins with Tony Shalhoub as Misha, a Russian immigrant in the United States, beginning his new job as a night janitor at the kind of research laboratory where animals of all species are kept in cages that I'm sure in no way affects their well-being and therefore ensures that any research done to them is 100-percent accurate. I'm just saying, if you want to know what shoving an electric prod up a monkey's ass will do to the monkey for the purposes of research, maybe you want to get a monkey who's been living a comfortable life in something remotely resembling the monkey's natural environment.

Because if you take a monkey that's been living in a small cage in a strange room and shove an electric prod up its ass, I'm guessing at that point the monkey has already given up on life and is all like "eh, my life has been shit ever since they took me away from my family in the jungle, my confusion and fear of this new place has faded, and now I'm just resigned to this hellish existence of having different shampoos applied to my fur and being injected with various experimental vaccines until I'm embraced by sweet, sweet death and the rest of my eternity is in a black void because animals don't get to go to Heaven or Hell because apparently only humans have souls. What's another twelve inches up my ass?"

No monkeys get electric-prodded up the ass in this film, by the way. I'm just saying. And for the record, animals do have souls and they all go to Heaven. All of them. They're too pure to ever end up in Hell. Fight me on this and I'll make it so that you find out personally whether you're going to Heaven or Hell.

Anyway, a couple of nights into the job, Misha is by himself and he's busy Good Will Hunting the floors when he hears somebody singing from the basement. He goes downstairs to this dark dungeon and finds out that the singing is coming from a conure (or parakeet or parrot, if you want to be that way) who is all by himself in a cage that is chained with a padlock, as if it were resided by some kind of psycho Hannibal Lecter of birds.

Soon he finds out why the caged bird sings -- courtesy of the bird himself, whose name is Paulie and he not only sings but he can talk, and I don't mean the standard bird talk where they're just mimicking what they hear, this bird is capable of having conversations and can even be a real smartass at times, or maybe that's just a side effect of having Jay Mohr provide Paulie's voice.

As Paulie proceeds to tell Misha his story, the film flashes back to when he was born and given to a little girl named Marie, played by Hallie Eisenberg, best known for a series of Pepsi commercials that ran in the late 90s. Everything is great between Marie and Paulie; they enjoy each other's company and Paulie even helps her with her stutter as they both teach each other words and how to pronounce them.

The film never explains why Paulie has the gift of speech, or if they did, I missed it. He just can. The best I can come up with is that the power of pure unadulterated love can make the miraculous happen. Yeah, sure, whatever. Tell that to Nadia Sandoval. I loved her so much, that if you were to harness the positive energy I gave, you'd be able to power rockets with it -- and yet all the e-mails and the letters and the songs in the world couldn't convince her that I was the one. I even held up a boombox in front of her house like my man John Cusack in Say Anything but then a Chinese dude came out and he told me that not only did she move to Paris five years ago, but she also makes a six-figure salary and is married and has two kids and there's no way I can compete with that, not unless I get a big raise at El Pollo Loco or Taco Bell or whatever taco truck I'm working at, like, right now.

I told him I couldn't get a raise and that not only was that statement about me working in a Mexican fast food establishment racist, it was also the truth. Then I asked him if he wanted to go out for coffee and he told me that he was gay but not desperate. Or at least that's what I think he said, I mean, he had both the Chinese accent and a homosexual lisp, so excuse me for not having the best ear in the world to be able decipher Gaysian.

Speaking of speaking, I told you that Paulie not only talks, but he can carry a tune. He and Marie even share a song together, the Randy Newman classic "Marie". If you've never heard it, it's a beautifully depressing tune about some neglectful asshole who doesn't have the balls to express his deepest heartfelt emotions to the woman he loves unless he drinks enough liquid courage to do so.





What this has to do with the love between a girl and her bird, I don't know. I never saw Paulie sip on bird-booze from a bird-flask nor did he ever ignore her. If anything, he couldn't let her out of his sight, he loved her so much.

That leaves another disturbing possibility when you consider that the song was taught to Marie by her mother. So maybe the mom's a drunk, like one of those secret boozer housewives that used to run rampant back in the day, because there was only so much one can do to keep from going mad staying home all day because they hadn't yet invented the Internet or youth soccer organizations. There's only so many dishes you can wash, and there's only so many loads of laundry to launder, and there's only so many pot roasts to make. Soon you're gonna want more than just your common everyday Benzos to help you deal, you're gonna want to wash those down with some white wine. And then some more white wine.

Eventually nothing matters in your numbed state anymore except for your little girl Marie. But even then, you know she's not gonna stay little forever. Marie will eventually grow up. And then what? I'll tell you then what -- you keep drinking and you keep pilling, because the more you do, the easier it'll be to push the thought of the inevitable to a far off foggy place in the back of your mind.

Or maybe they just sing the song because the girl's name is Marie.

We soon find out that mom, Marie, and even Paulie have totally legitimate reasons to hit the bottle; one day, the father comes home and that's when we find out that we have a goddamn Great Santini on our hands with this military motherfucker. Marie goes up to him and this piece of shit actually tells her to shake hands with him first, then eventually they'll work up to kisses later. That left me immediately asking two questions: What the fuck? and Why the fuck?

Dad apparently was gone for a long time, because upon his return he's upset that Marie still stutters. He can't handle that, and after Mom puts Marie to bed, she then has to go downstairs and catch an ear-beating from him about Marie's uncured speech impediment, as if that was an issue he set his wife to fix while he was out killing commies for his country. Poor Marie might have a stutter, but she's not deaf, she has to hear all of this and the poor girl can only escape by dressing Paulie up as her fairy godmother and hoping he/she will grant her the ability to speak without stuttering, and it breaks my heart, man.

I don't care how many yellow or brown throats you slit in the name of Freedom, don't be like that with your daughter. Don't be a distant fuck. All right, look, ladies & gentlemen, if you're gonna have kids, please don't. But if you still are, at least be good to those little fucks once they're born. When I see shit like this in movies and especially in real life, it makes me thank God/Allah/Yahweh/Xenu/whoever-the-fuck for blessing me with the parents I ended up being life-saddled with.

I still remember this one time, way back in the day that I stopped at a friend's house and I listened to the way his mom was saying some fucked-up passive aggressive shit to him about what a fuckin' loser he was in her eyes. No wonder he had an underage drinking problem and seemed increasingly depressed with each passing day. I swear I wanted to run home to mommy and daddy and give them a big hug and apologize for whatever fuckin' bullshit I might've bitched about that morning. I can't handle seeing that shit, especially if its happening to the little girl from the Pepsi commercials. The fuck did she do? She never bothered me, she's not her brother Jesse.

By the way, this movie was made in 1998 but I bet you if this were made today, you'd have "patriots" losing their shit about how this military dad was represented. God forbid if this dude wasn't portrayed as a beautiful saint with red, white, and blue wings and an erect penis in the shape of the Holy Cross. I can see those diddle-faced twats on "Fox and Friends" bitching the live long day about how terrible it is that liberal Hollywood is making Our Boys looks like assholes.

Oh my god! Can you believe this? They're disrespecting our troops in this talking parrot movie! Of course what else would you expect from Hollyweird!
 -- wait, what? -- another school shooting? Yeah, whatever, anyway, for our last story of the day, America haters are now saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas! Can you believe that? We've made three God's Not Dead movies and they still don't get it! 

Anyway, this piece of work father buys a cat and is somehow surprised that Paulie and the cat mix about as well as oil and water, and he has the gall and the balls to be upset by that. Next thing you know, Lieutenant Fuckface over here puts Paulie in a cage and takes him away to God-knows-where despite Marie's crying and pleading for Paulie to come back to her.

What follows is a kind of bird version of Au Hasard Balthazar, in that we follow Paulie as he goes from owner to owner across the country -- that is, if Balthazar the donkey talked and actually participated in the lives of his owners instead of being an overall passive lunk who observed things and let things happen to him.

Nah, Paulie doesn't go out like that, he takes action -- he talks, he sings, he kinda dances, and the only time people get the better of him is when he's overpowered or as in one unsettling scene, he gets his wings clipped while he's screaming in pain and I'm like "this is for kids?!"

Yes, it is for kids -- there's an unnecessary fart joke that comes out of nowhere to prove that. It feels like something that was added in post-production at the last minute because the studio got all cowardly about sending out a family film that didn't satisfy every quotient including the scatological dollar.

Among the people he encounters on his travels: Jay Mohr in the flesh as a douchebag, Buddy Hackett as a pawn shop owner, Gena Rowlands as a widow, Cheech Marin as part of the problem in this great country, Jay Mohr again as a douchebag, and Bruce Davison as -- holy shit, Bruce Davison? I just talked about you in the last blog entry, the one about Crazy/Beautiful! Welcome back, bro!

So how are you doing, Bruce? You're playing the head of the research facility where Paulie ends up? That's cool. Are you as understanding and compassionate as the guy you played in Crazy/Beautiful? No. Ah man, fuck you then. Nah, you're cool with me Bruce, you were in Willard, bro. Remember that, when you were dealing with all those rats? And then they made a sequel without you and Michael Jackson sang a song about one of the rats? Now here you are dealing with birds, and unfortunately they didn't get Michael Jackson to sing a song about Paulie. That's kind of a missed opportunity, don't you think?

But that's OK because  -- talk to you later, Bruce -- that's OK because they do have Cheech Marin sing "Cancion del Mariachi" from the film Desperado, which I thought was a great choice because it meant the filmmakers didn't have to rack their brains too long while trying to look for a good Latin song for Cheech and Paulie to perform. That movie was probably playing on television in the background while they were having a script conference -- it would've been a dead heat between that song and "Babalu" by Desi Arnaz, if it weren't for that stupid intern accidentally changing the channel before "I Love Lucy" came on.

So let me talk about the Cheech stuff; he plays Ignacio (which they pronounce Anglo-style), the owner/operator of a taco truck that specializes in burritos. He and Paulie meet in East L.A. and become friendly business partners in performing song & dance routines for the patrons. I'm watching this and going, OK, this is cool -- Cheech is just a good dude running a business, nothing too unusual or stereotypical about him aside from the fact that he's played by Cheech. So I'm watching and I'm digging this, and then later it comes out that he's an illegal alien. Because of course he is.

At one point, somebody tries to fuck him over by falsely reporting to the cops that his business is unsanitary and that he's serving alcohol to minors -- hey, I wonder if he sold any to my friend with the shitty mom? You'd think that should be enough. But no, they had to add the most important detail that he's here without papers, and have that be the true part of the bogus police report.

Fine. Be that way, movie. At least Ignacio came off as a nice guy. I guess I should be grateful for that.

Speaking of nice immigrants, Misha the janitor is a really nice guy as well. Once he gets over the shock of meeting a talking parrot, he makes for a very patient and understanding person for Paulie to talk with. Everybody in this movie gives really good performances, including the 14 or so birds they used to portray Paulie before they threw them into an incinerator or wherever you put out of work birds. But Tony Shalhoub stands out in particular with his exceptional work here, especially during a monologue he gives Paulie about the regret he has for not talking to a girl from his past with whom he had fallen in love.

I want to give the writer of this film, Laurie Craig, extra points for the connection between Misha's inability to tell a woman he loved her and Randy Newman's song "Marie", which if you remember what I said a few years earlier during this blog entry, is about being unable to tell someone you love them. Except of course, in the Marie song, that problem was solved via the miracle of alcohol, while apparently Misha is the one Russian on planet Earth who doesn't drink. Let that be a lesson for you sober straight edge motherfuckers.

There are other examples throughout the film of characters who have hesitated in doing something they wanted to do, and how the passage of time ultimately fucked them in the ass for not going through with it:

Misha didn't speak up to the woman he loved, and so she went on to marry his best friend.

Paulie was afraid to fly, which led to an accident that resulted in his separation from Marie.

Gena Rowlands' character gave up on her dream of going to the Grand Canyon after the death of her husband, and ended up spending the rest of her golden years going nowhere.

Ignacio never fixed his pesky naturalization issues and is now back in the old country teaching OTMs how to say "Waas Sappening".

And Marie's mom hesitated in tying her piece of shit husband to a bed before setting that motherfucker on fire.

I was surprised by how Paulie was able to sneak in such serious internal struggles in a goofy family movie about a talking parrot. Yeah, I know, you're right -- it's a stretch. Speaking of stretching, you should really limber up before you go fuck yourself.

Amy Adams has said that this movie makes her cry, and my friend Cathie on Twitter warned me that I would get teary-eyed while watching it. While I enjoyed the film and was touched by certain moments, I did all right in the Man Up department and was ready to call out both The Triple A and Cathie because not a single tear was shed -- and then the ending happened. Upon watching the final revelation that hammered home the film's running theme, my balls faded away as I gradually turned into Matthew McConaughey during those couple of scenes in Interstellar when everything was not alright alright alright.

Paulie is a sweet-natured film with the occasional laugh and a couple of tearjerker moments. It is truly a movie that the entire family can enjoy; the kids will like it and the adults won't feel like hostages while watching it with them. And it's good enough for grown-up solitary shut-ins like myself. It's a nice movie. It put a smile on my face. And it makes such precious sense that who I perceive to be The Adorable Amy Adams would call Paulie one of her favorite films.

I'm happy that I finally saw the movie, but if there's one thing that disappointed me about Paulie is that it failed to wipe away the memory of my old neighbor who had gotten a parrot of his own and took to having it perched on his shoulder. Everyday, I would arrive home after work and run to my door before the newly retired gentleman across the street noticed me. Because if he did, he would call me over for a little chit chat, which would mean I would have to talk to him and try my best to ignore that the man's shoulder was always caked with bird shit. He had to know what he had going on there, he had just had to! And yet he did nothing about it, which meant that he didn't care and he was consciously or subconsciously getting off on being nice to me in behavior while being incredibly hostile towards me in appearance.

In conclusion, I'm glad I called the cops on his drug-dealing son. That's what the little fucker gets for not giving me a discount.