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I have been tagged by hip to code to list seven things I approve of. Since “things” is a little too general for me, I’m going to narrow it down to seven bad television shows I approve of. In no particular order:
Best Week Ever This half-hour show at first looks as dumb as the other VH1 pop culture shows like I Love The 80s. But even though it has the same lame ADD format (people you’ve never heard of talking about a short clip shown several times), this show is truly funny. Not only do you get to catch up on the “news,” but you get to see some of the best comic delivery on TV. No, I’m serious.
Intervention Ever toy with the idea of just letting go and getting addicted to meth or crack or alcohol? Every think that maybe things would just be easier if you finally took up that eating disorder? You should probably think again and just get addicted to Intervention, like me. The episodes are like hour-long windows into a person’s life gone wrong. I find it not only fascinating but really well done – they aren’t preachy or damning and they don’t treat the addicts like monsters or freakshows. Instead, they’re compassionate about the causes and powers of addiction. It’s like getting to watch a really well done documentary every week.
The Colbert Report With the writers’ strike, The Daily Show and other similar shows have really suffered and declined. But Steven Colbert has pushed forward, carrying the entire show on his back. It just gets better and better the more empty time he is allowed to fill on his own.
Biggest Loser This is the only reality show that doesn’t make me feel bad about myself – like I’m a voyeur who revels in other people’s pain and bad judgment (although this is generally true). Since the contestants are working together toward a common goal instead of fighting against each other, it’s more about teamwork than anything else. In fact, the lamest part of the show is the forced competition that the producers have wedged into the show. Still, if you ignore that and focus on the part where people reclaim their lives after years of letting themselves go (in more ways than physically) it makes for pretty good viewing.
The Wire I’ve already written about this one.
Rock of Love I’d like to know how one could go wrong by putting a few dozen strippers (and your odd small-time porn actress) in with a over-the-hill mediocre rock star. I think the thing that fascinates me about strippers is that they are a self-selecting group of women who 1) will do anything and 2) lack the ability to do anything well (except perhaps lick their own breasts). I also think this show is the best argument against plastic surgery that I have ever seen.
Flight of the Conchords So we bought HBO to watch the last season of the Wire, and now we can’t stop watching this other HBO original series, a musical comedy about two New Zealand friends who have an unsuccessful band in New York City. Although it looks and sounds a little too quirky and indie rock (even for me), it is truly funny. Don’t bother searching for a plot, though.
There you have it. Now I get to call out people specifically to list seven things they approve of? How about if you’re reading this, feel free to answer. And, of course, if you are watching some good/bad TV, please alert me! God knows I don’t watch enough already.
I’ve been catching snippets of this new A&E television show Paranormal State. The show chronicles the investigations taken up by a number of paranormal enthusiasts and mediums. I’m not sure if I’ve seen enough of the show to actually know the thrust or structure of the show, but I have seen enough to get the idea that it mostly consists of adults holding flashlights up to their faces, sitting in a circle, and listening for weird noises and claiming to get chills.
“Do you smell that?” one of them will say. “I smell tobacco! There is a spirit here!”
It’s very similar to a fourth grade sleepover except that they have some sort of a thermal sensor, which seems to be a vague way to detect ghosts. I find it mildly interesting, although much less interesting than one of A&E’s other shows, Intervention, which I am ironically addicted to.
In any case, as I was lying in bed not sleeping last night, with the heavy footsteps of our upstairs neighbors above me and the sounds of boring, floral bedspread sex coming from our neighbors across the way, I realized that if a city apartment was actually ever haunted, no one would really notice.
Every time I hear weird sounds late at night, I immediately accredit them to any one of the weird families and couples that reside in our building or any one of the sketchy structural problems our apartment suffers from. If there were a ghost, who perhaps tried to freak me out by speaking in tongues through the wall, I’m just going to assume it’s the vaguely Eastern European family upstairs, talking in their sounds-like-Russian-but-definitely-isn’t-Russian language. If there were a ghost who tried to freak me out by making strange tapping and creaking noises, I wouldn’t be able to differentiate them from our crazy radiator noises. If there were a ghost who blew tobacco smoke into a room in order to alert me of his presence, I would probably just assume that our chain-smoking landlord was within a 50-yard radius of our building.
I love the image, though, of frustrated ignored ghosts trying so hard to haunt loud, rickety apartments to no avail. After a few years of fruitless attempts to scare the crap out of people, they would take up ghost checkers or ghost knitting. A few years after that, the murder they’re trying to avenge or the spooky message they are trying to relay would be forgotten. They would probably sit around and watch Paranormal State, too, and think about how easy those rural farmhouse ghosts have it.
Many of you have written asking me why I haven’t been writing my Sarah vs. Spears installments during a time of such rich deposits of Britney Spears-related celebrity news. How could I have missed out on commenting on Brit leaving her kids in a locked car while she went on a chandelier shopping spree? How could I have resisted writing a scathing blog about Brit’s sister being preggers what with her mother having just finished up that book about parenting?
And now, in these prosperous Britney-Spears-Acting-Crazy-Again times, how could I not cover her dramatic mental breakdown and custody loss?
The answer is two-pronged. First off, it’s just too easy. Too many people are doing it and as soon as I come up with a clever stretcher joke, I read about it with slightly different phrasing on TMZ or somewhere. Secondly (and this may shock you) I’m kind of starting to feel bad. It’s one thing to make fun of someone chandelier shopping and it’s another thing to make fun of someone landing themselves in a mental hospital for the weekend. This might go back to my earlier point of things being just too easy.
I mean, I don’t want to be the bully who makes fun of the fat kid or the kid with acne or the poor kid whose parents are divorced. I want to make fun of the popular girl or the guy who thinks he’s hot shit when in reality his shit is only lukewarm. Britney used to be that popular girl, but I’m not sure if she really qualifies anymore.
These recent reports that she’s not even hooked on any foreign substances are even a little scary to me – if she’s not on something, she might seriously be in trouble. I mean, she slept with a member of the paparazzi, people. And now you’re telling us she was sober during it? (And you’re also telling me he didn’t get any pictures?)
I might have to find myself a new youthful diva to hate on – I think Ben thinks Lindsay Lohan is hot, maybe I could fabricate an intricate fantasy in which I am locked in a life-long competition with her. Or Paris Hilton? Or is she too skinny for me?
In any case, until Britney Spears gets her act together to the point in which her life is only as screwed up and sad as mine, I’m going to lay off a bit. If I dig down deep enough, even I can start to see some difference between being dumb and wanton and socially irresponsible and being in need of some mental counsel and professional help.
But – mark my words – if we are to find out that this is a stunt, and that Britney is merely SO dumb and SO wanton that she physically needed a stretcher, I will come back with full force and full vengeance. Or, if we find out she’s merely on a smorgasbord of illicit and prescription drugs, all washed down with alcoholic beverages and fried chicken, I will not be kind. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Over the last year or so, Ben and I have watched the first four seasons of The Wire through Netflix. For a while, I thought that it was just something pretty okay to watch after we had exhausted every other HBO drama in existence. If anything, I found it a little hard to follow. But now, having finished Season Four last week and having just subscribed to HBO for the sole reason of watching Season Five in real time, I’m going to step out on a limb and say that it’s the best show on television.
To put it simply, I feel passionate about it. While watching a documentary on the show (on HBO On Demand, which comes with our new and more expensive cable package) one of the producers of the show pointed out that it had never won an Emmy. “Never won an Emmy?” the producer asks, “I think it should win the Nobel Prize in literature.”
I know that statement sounds completely ridiculous, but it sums up how I feel. Some other critic described it as “the best book I’ve ever watched.” And it’s true. The show has a very literary feel. More than that, I’ll go out on another limb – I guess this is maybe a smaller twig-like limb that juts off from the earlier limb- and say that the show seems Shakespearian to me. The language, the plots, the characters – they all reach for something higher and ring truer than anything else I’ve ever watched instead of read.
But let’s move on to some solid description and examples: at first glance, it’s a cop show that takes place in Baltimore. You’ve got your policemen, your drug dealers, and your lawyers. But this show goes so much deeper than shows like Law & Order (which I also enjoy watching on a different level) that the writers and actors succeed in creating a huge, complex universe in which every action follows to a necessary end. Each group and community has their own language and their own way of living and you can see how amorphous “the right thing” is – an individual’s moral code, a community’s moral code, and the code of the law can all be completely different entities.
In Season Four alone, Ben and I counted ten separate storylines that are followed in each episode – ranging from a mayoral election to a corner war to a stolen police camera to a group of four boys starting the eighth grade. And yet, slowly, the stories weave in and out of each other and bounce off of each other. Solid, deliberate connections aren’t made, but by the last episode you can begin to feel the huge inner workings of the city and the complexity of the problems that cities like Baltimore are facing.
What I’m trying to say is, The Wire doesn’t simplify anything. It might have an easier storyline to follow if it did, or it might even have a character who you could point to and say was all good or all bad if it did, but it doesn’t. Sure, it’s hard to understand the drug dealers’ street talk and the lawyers’ deposition talk and the policemen’s detective talk, but when it all starts clicking, it’s well worth it. And like Shakespeare’s tragedies, even though you see the tragedies of The Wire play out slowly and inevitably, you’re still riveted. I think it comes down to the complexity of the characters: each character’s strength is also their weakness.
Let’s take my favorite character in the series, Omar, for example. Omar is a black man who lives in an abandoned building and steals from drug dealers for a living. He is a living legend in the city. He carries a shotgun and wears a bullet proof vest. He’s a homosexual. He kills people in cold blood, although he never “works” on Sundays or swears. He never kills taxpayers. He never sells the drugs he steals to users. He’s in the game, but he doesn’t play by the rules of the game. You might say that he’s been alienated by others and treated as inhuman by his culture, and so he is inhumane – but that’s way too simple. It’s a lot of things. It takes about four seasons to halfway understand why Omar might do what he does.
I feel like I’m gushing a little, so I’m going to stop. I certainly can’t do the show justice in a blog post. Just do everyone a favor and rent the first season if you haven’t seen it.
Upon moving into a new house with her new husband and stepdaughter, Dina Myer (from the Saw movies and Starship Troopers) discovers that her house is haunted by the ghost of a little girl. The little girl is mistaken for her stepdaughter’s imaginary playmate, but soon the ghost’s more malicious intentions become clear. The girl was murdered by her father and is trying to avenge her death by… um… doing a bunch of confusing things to the family.
I’m not going to go into the various boring plot twists and turns of Imaginary Playmate – it’s your basic haunted house plot – but I would like to focus on the underlying real horror of this movie, which seems to be the terrifying real-life tale of having to deal with your new stepdaughter and husband, both of whom seem to still love their dead mother/wife.
Far more frightening to Lifetime audiences than a dead child ghost haunting your dream house and ripping your family apart is the idea that your hunky new husband might not be as perfect as you thought and that – gasp! - he might love his daughter from a previous marriage more than he loves you. I know. I had to cover my eyes and shriek several times.
Although at first Dina’s husband seems utterly perfect – he’s both hunky and financially stable — we soon find that he has some traits that would make even a Saw fan scream in terror. Upon arriving home from work, he drinks a beer! And often, he stays late at work in general! And, worst of all, when Dina starts to think that her daughter is being harassed by a ghost, her husband is skeptical!
Just when we’re sure that there’s no hope for Dina – the ghost causes her to miscarry her own baby (which would, unlike her stepdaughter, actually love her for real) – she gets advice from an old friend. Her friend is the opposite of her husband. He doesn’t tuck in his shirt, he is slightly less hunky, and, most importantly, he does what every Lifetime movie lover wants in her life: he hands her a bouquet of flowers, looks her in the eyes and says, “I don’t think you’re crazy.”
In the climactic scene, as you might guess, her stepdaughter has to choose between Dina and her dead mother. The ghost brings the girl onto the house’s roof and commands her to jump off in order to join her and her dead mom. Dina tells her stepdaughter to ignore the ghost and come to her, her fake mother. After much thought, the stepdaughter chooses her living stepmom over her dead mother (it’s a tough call to make).
The movie, bafflingly, ends without telling us much of what happened after this point. The hunky husband who has shown his evilness through drinking single beers and not believing every crazy word that comes out of Dina’s mouth, is left splayed out at the bottom of a staircase, unconscious and perhaps dead. I guess we’re not supposed to care whether he lives or not?
Want to know the fastest way to piss me off? Advertise a buffet at your bar on New Year’s Eve and then, after I buy a $75 ticket for said night of promised eating and drinking, deny a buffet was ever included or mentioned. Really, The Anchor Bar in New York City? Then why does this webpage say that there will not only be a buffet, but a delectable buffet?
And that was only the beginning of the problems with The Anchor Bar in New York City, all of which were made worse by the fact that I and everyone else was starving all night, having assumed that our $75 investment would buy more than a few weak rum and Cokes.
In fact, The Anchor Bar in New York City was so bad that I’m determined to mention The Anchor Bar in New York City in at least two percent of this entry, so that it is search engine optimized and when someone searches for The Anchor Bar in New York City this article will come up and save them from the trouble of going.
What else was wrong with the place, other than the huge offense of telling people there would be food in the bar that we were being trapped in for seven hours?
For one, upon entering the bar, we decided to have a seat. Moments after sitting down, the manager came over and asked us if we were VIP. Since we were not, we were told that we couldn’t sit down all night, although he said, and I quote, “Maybe one of the VIP would let us sit on their ottoman.” Really, asshole manager? If one of the VIP doesn’t want to prop up his feet, I could sit where his feet usually go? That would be great. And since when is simply sitting considered the act of a very important person? Don’t they get back rooms and cocaine and plush collections of velvet cushions? Not at the Anchor Bar in New York City. There, the basic act of sitting down in a bar is a special service that you must pay extra for.
For two, the bar that we paid $75 for served almost nothing. My refrigerator has a much better selection of beers, and my refrigerator doesn’t have a good selection of beers. That’s the reason I like to go out somewhere sometimes, in order to choose from a wider selection of beers at an establishment such as a bar, which should specialize in having more than bottled Bud Light and Becks.
For three, the bar oversold tickets, cramming 275 people into a space half the size of my apartment. I’m assuming they were banking on the fact that the good people who uphold fire code laws were out doing more important things on New Years Eve. Good thing most people were forced to stand up, because that was the only way we were all going to fit. By the time we left (well before midnight), The Anchor Bar in New York City was very much like a clown car, if you replaced the clowns with guys wearing t-shirts paired with sports coats and girls who couldn’t seem to take a picture without sticking out their tongues — pictures which I’m guessing are being posted on their Facebook pages as we speak.
For four, The Anchor Bar in New York City’s women’s room lock broke about 20 minutes into the night. Women who needed to use the restroom got the titillating choice of either 1) not locking the door at all and getting walked in on with their pants down a few times or 2) locking the door, getting stuck in the bathroom, and then banging on the door and screaming frantically to be let out. Although the asshole manager said he was working on it, it seemed like he just spent the night working the problem over in his head. He didn’t even feel the need to, I don’t know, post a sign.
I could also mention the $4 coat check, the mean bartenders, and the terrible music, but this is going a bit long.
In any case, Ben and I left early. We bought a pizza and some wings, selected a fine beer from our refrigerator, and watched episodes of The Wire while sitting down in our spacious living room. At midnight, we kissed, petted the cat, clinked our non-Bud Light beers, and toasted to a Anchor Bar-free 2008, filled with sitting and food. Delectable food.
I very badly want to write an angry letter to the Anchor Bar in New York City about how they ruined my New Years, but I know that my letter will be read by someone like me, who hates her job and is in no way involved in the shitty service of The Anchor Bar. She’ll probably read it, reply with a form letter apology, and be just a tiny bit sadder than she was before. Instead, I’ll just entreat you to warn the people you know in New York City. The Anchor Bar lied about a buffet and profited from it – is there any greater offense?
I’m not much into New Years resolutions, but I am into best-of end of the year lists. I mean, really into them. Not only do I keep detailed lists of what I read and listen to each year, but I also read everyone else’s top-ten lists and make my own. What’s the greater purpose of this, you ask? Well, I say, let’s not run around asking questions.
Since I don’t read brand-new published-in-2007 books all year long, I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite books and mention a few books you should stay away from at all costs. The complete list of what I read this year is down below – it’s shorter than most years because I spent a solid three months at the beginning of the year reading nothing but short essays. Not that I’m making excuses.
This might also be a good time to tell you about my favorite book website, GoodReads. If you’re on it, you should be my friend. And if you’re not on it and like reading (and making exhausting lists) you should join.
Also – if you read something awesome this year, leave me a comment about it so I can get my hands on it.
Without further delay…
The best book I read in 2007 that was published in 2007: Like You’d Understand Anyway by Jim Shepard.
Runner up: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. So I thought the movie that she wrote and directed You, Me, and Everyone We Know to be completely unwatchable. And I found her author photo to be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. And when I was feeling cynical, I found her stories to be trying too hard and a little too focused on some sort of weird Daddy issues she might have. HOWEVER (and this is a big however) she has an unbelievable ability to describe small moments and tiny emotions. It is amazing and it is worth reading through all of the other stuff for these alone. Ignore the Aimee Bender weirdo quirky Hipster-Realism stuff and focus on the little bits of humanity.
The best book I read in 2007 regardless of when it was published: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I had read most of Hemingway’s popular stuff over the years but hadn’t ever picked up this one. I read it while Ben was gone on a business trip and it might have been the most intense, weirdly isolating three days of my life. His writing style makes me want to give up. I sobbed while reading the last page – and I don’t usually sob over anything. I’m more of a whimperer.
Runner up: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Ben and I have been nothing less than evangelical about making our friends, family, and strangers read this book. I’ve talked to weirdos about it on the train. Ben has mailed copies across the country. We should really make a pamphlet that outlines the major points about why this book will make you love the people you love just a little bit more than you thought you could. I don’t know anyone who has taken more than 48 hours to read it.
The other runner up: West With the Night by Beryl Markham. I love reading about totally badass women and I love adventure stories. And I love beautifully written prose. I just wish I had read this book when I was 12 – it might have formed me into a better person. Buy it for your daughters and nieces. Hell, buy it for your sons and nephews.
The worst book I read in 2007 that was published in 2007: Flower Children by Maxine Swann.
The worst book I read in 2007 regardless of when it was published: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. This is also the runner up. That’s how bad it was.
The complete list (highlighted books link to my blog reviews of them)
- Money by Martin Amos
- Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
- Leviathan by Paul Auster
- March by Geraldine Brooks
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
- O Pioneers! By Willa Cather
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
- The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
- But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz by Geoff Dyer
- The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer
- The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
- Modern Love edited by Daniel Jones
- No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
- The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
- West With the Night by Beryl Markham
- No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Atonement by Ian McEwan
- On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
- Fooling With Words by Bill Moyers
- Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessel
- Three cups of Tea by George Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
- Like You’d Understand Anyway by Jim Shepard
- Great Dream of Heaven by Sam Shepard
- Caucasia by Danzy Senna
- The Best American Sports Writing edited by Glenn Stout
- Flower Children by Maxine Swann
- If the Creek Don’t Rise by Rita Williams
Did you know that Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal’s father, Stephen, has directed a daunting mountain of TV movies? It’s true. One of them is The Patron Saint of Liars, based on the novel by Ann Patchett. Unfortunately, Steven isn’t quite as talented as his kids and the movie in question is inversely as awesome as its totally awesome title.
Rose is a woman who can’t help but run away from the people who love her most – and when she finds out she’s pregnant she abandons her loving husband to move across the country to a Catholic shelter for unwed mothers. The only thing she truly loves is driving. At the Catholic home she marries the handyman, Son, has her baby, and runs away from them, too, after 15 years (or approximately 45 minutes of meandering and episodic plot and about 30 Target and Nair commercials).
In the end, after a lot of driving, which she loves and which everyone always mentions, for some completely unknown reason that has nothing to do with the story, she comes to her senses and returns to her family (the second family, that is. Her first family is left forgotten and abandoned). Hugs all around.
What interested me most about this movie was how perfectly the handyman, Son, is as a romantic interest in this movie and for the entire Lifetime Movie Network demographic (the LMN demographic, in case you didn’t know, consists of women, 25-55 who are wearing sweats, thinking about folding clothes, and eating low-fat yogurt as I write this (I am one of the masses!)).
He’s not adventurous or dashing or ambitious. He’s simple. He just wants to love and be loved. Best of all, he quickly and accurately fixes things around the house, from carpentry to wiring to gutter cleaning. He won’t say anything about your sweatpants. I mean, his name is SON – what more could a woman want? I’m sure LMN women everywhere swooned – oh, to have a man who complains when you aren’t around and who would fix that light fixture in the kitchen! Oh, to have a man totally understand that you love to drive and that this is the only defining characteristic of your personality!
The other thing that really caught my attention in this movie was how bad God seems to be at special effects. He performs two miracles during the movie – one near the beginning and one near the end – and he’s not winning any Emmys for His work. He’s not even getting nominated. It looked like all He did, really, was shake the camera so that it looked like the ground was rumbling and rent a couple of smoke machines.
In the end, though, The Patron Saint of Liars is one of the more directionless, wandering TV movies that I’ve seen yet. The plot isn’t so much a plot as a string of things that happen. Maybe Ann Patchett or Steven Gyllenhaal misunderstood the meaning of “character-driven” and took it literally?
I’d be curious if the book was any better than the movie. In any case, I bet you’d have to sit through fewer Nair commercials.
Just as a puggle is somehow more adorable than either the pug or the beagle, the best Lifetime Original Movies are the ones that blend two Lifetime genres together. In Stolen Miracle, we are treated to your basic stolen baby plot (so deeply loved by Lifetime fans) and your basic Christmas miracle motif – creating a superior film that has both larger, floppier ears and wiser, droopier eyes.
On Christmas Eve, a bipolar woman named Mary kidnaps a newborn baby boy from a hospital. Months before, she suffered a miscarriage but continued to believe (and tell her live-in boyfriend) that she was pregnant. While the birthmother (who has an actual husband, making her less evil) spends the movie so distraught that she barely has a speaking part, Sgt. Jane McKinley takes on the case – perhaps putting her own family aside in order to do her job and recover the baby in time for Christmas.
To fit the Christmas miracle genre, several vague symbolic Christmas themes were added. For example, the boy was stolen right before Christmas and is “delivered” home by Christmas Day – kind of like how Christ was delivered on Christmas Day (it’s left unsaid whether the baby is any sort of messiah). Also, Mary seemed to be a sort of “anti-Mary,” in that she can’t conceive even though she’s totally having sex and praying for a baby. In Mary’s house, there’s a nativity scene that the camera likes to focus in on from time to time.
Mary, as she gets crazier and crazier, begins ranting about how all she wants is a Perfect Christmas. And, as we all know, Perfect Christmases involve stolen Christ-like babies, car chases, leather-jacket-clad common-law husbands, and stopping your medication. I also like to throw in some eggnog and carols.
However, Sgt. Jane McKinley seems to have forgotten what a perfect Christmas means: she’s never home with her family, she’s fixated on her career (supporting her family) and helping others (charity), and she refuses to get her whiny son the expensive material object that he constantly complains about not having. This means, of course, that she doesn’t love her family or understand the meaning of Christmas.
Slowly, through a series of obvious leads and clues (I’m guessing Lt. Lennie Briscoe could have knocked this one out during a Law & Order commercial) McKinley solves the case, returns the baby to his family, and vaguely patches things up with her family. In the final scene, her whiny son gets his expensive material object from the family that bore the Christ-child.
Mary, the mentally ill and heart-broken woman who only wanted a chance to be a mother and a shot at a Perfect Christmas, is happily forgotten by everyone, including whoever wrote the teleplay. Merry Christmas, everyone who is not incarcerated and who also has the ability to successfully reproduce! We deserve it!
For regular readers of my Lifetime Movie installments, I’d like to unveil my new Lifetime Movie tab, located at the top of my blog. Clicking on it will get you a neat, alphabetical list of the movies I’ve reviewed so far as well as other related Lifetime Movie posts. It’s crude right now, but it should start looking more filled out in the next couple of days.
There’s also a comments section at the bottom, if you’d like to contribute your own deep Lifetime movie reactions, share your own story of the time your identity was stolen by your brother’s bulimic killer, or alert me when an especially good (or bad) movie is scheduled to come on either the Lifetime channel or on the Lifetime Movie Network.
The day after Thanksgiving I watched more Lifetime movies than any one person should. In between eating plates of leftovers, popping Extra Strength Tylenol, and assuming the gym would be closed without actually checking, I watched and watched. I covered all of the major Lifetime themes: the accidental killing of a family member, the on purpose killing of an abusive family member, the shoplifting addiction, the teen pregnancy, the eating disorder, the schizophrenic, and the murder mystery that seems to be a mystery to not only the actors, but also the writer, and the director.
One of movies that I watched from start to finish, though, was Too Young To Be A Dad, a fun twist on the teen pregnancy genre of LMN flicks. Instead of following the girl’s story as she made hard life decisions, the movie focuses on ninth grader Matt Freeman (played by Paul Dano, who has since gone on to bigger things like Little Miss Sunshine).
It’s not a bad idea – I didn’t feel like anyone had explored what teenaged boys go through when they get a girl pregnant. Did they ever want to keep the baby? Did they ever go to alternative high schools? Was it possible for males to have feeling for babies, too?
The main problem with the movie, aside from the conspicuously missing 15-year-olds-doing-it-on-camera sex scene, was that the girl Matt gets pregnant is portrayed as a heartless whore – not because that would be an interesting story, but because it makes you, the person watching the movie, have an easier time caring about the teen dad and ignoring the teen mom.
She heavily pressures Matt to have sex with her, even after Matt voices his reservations (Matt is established as Purely Good within the first minutes of the movie, where he is seen doing well in math class and thanking his mother for making him snacks after school). The teen whore reassures Matt that she does it just to do it all the time, you know, since she’s a whore without feelings.
After he gives in (and gets her pregnant on the first try), she basically disappears from the movie. Her father keeps them from talking, she doesn’t want to see Matt after the baby is born, and she doesn’t make a fuss when Matt tries to adopt the baby himself. This is because whores hate babies and see them merely as the unpleasant side effects of having loveless unprotected sex with multiple partners.
It felt a lot like the pregnant girl was playing the part of the stereotypical Lifetime Dude Who Accidentally Gets a Teen Girl Pregnant And Runs. Much like her male counterparts, who usually don leather jackets and devil-may-care attitudes, she’s a flat character who the screenwriter didn’t want to complicate things more than he had to. I mean, there’s already a baby to deal with. Why add the problem of a relationship?
But the most enjoyable part of the movie for me what the subplot played out between Matt’s mother and Matt’s older sister. Matt’s sister, a rare unpregnant teenage rebel, wants to continue to work at McDonalds when she graduates from high school. Matt’s mother would like her to get a college education and follow any sort of dream other than one involving fast food.
Through Matt’s baby daddy issues, however, the mother comes to the conclusion that her children’s dreams should be her dreams, even if those dreams involve flipping burgers or producing infants. The same day that the family decides to keep Matt’s baby for good, Matt’s sister is promoted to manage the flipping of burgers. Family hug!