Thursday, January 29, 2004


In which our erstwhile hero suffers for your sins.

small screen - january 2004 - the worst

Alright, first things first: It's not that bad. Don't get me wrong, it _is_ bad. Just not THAT bad. More's the pity.

Allow me a story. When I first moved to New York, I had a place to stay, a bit of cash and lots of spare time. I had always dabbled in being a film geek prior; but once I discovered the Museum of Modern Art, it was all over.

In 2000, the MoMA had two full size theaters with films playing on both screens, open most of the day, six days a week. A 75 buck outlay of cash gave you free admission to the museum and any movie for a year. Best dough I ever dropped.

In eight months, I probably saw two hundred films; from Griffith's Intolerance (with live piano backing) to Heavy Metal Parking Lot and most everything in between. I got a sense of what kind of diversity there was in film and gained a healthy appreciation for the depth of the media. I'll forever be a neophyte; only those who study this stuff obsessively can really claim to be experts in the field, but I was a voracious autodidact and I watched damn near anything that they'd put up.

The most difficult pieces would be "art films", often done in 8mm, video or digital and not uncommonly without plot, script, actors or focus of any kind. I'd sit through these hoping that there might be some payoff; some sort of message, knowledge or catharsis would be imparted by the filmmaker. I'd watch these films with around a hundred retirees and film geeks and bag ladies, "Titus-heads", so called after the theater's benefactors and namesakes Roy and Niuta Titus.

The name of the worst film I ever saw at the MoMA escapes me now, but the scene is still fresh. There were maybe sixty people in the theater when the film rolled. It was a little over three hours. It had no real plot, mostly distorted imagery, double exposures, constant wheedling background narration... genuine "artsy" stuff. The movie's only thru-line was the obsessive documentation of some balding bespectacled guy masturbating. Masturbating lying down, standing up, in closeup, in wide angle, in a refractory lens, in fisheye lens, ejaculating, withering to flaccidity, flogging the old soldier back up to attention. This was about as enthralling as you would imagine it would be for your average male het, but I was an impressionable kid from the sticks. Maybe there was a point? I'd hang in there and see what I learned.

After an hour of watching some nerdy guy masturbate, maybe half the audience had left. They've given up. Not me. I believed.

Two hours. More of the same.

Three. Three hours of mumbling narration and masturbation from trick angles. I wasn't even sure it was over when it ended. No discernable hint as to an end or... well, no money shot. Just: over. By the time the lights came back on, there were enough people left in the audience that I could count them on one hand. A geriatric man sleeping, a junky on the nod, a homeless guy and someone who resembled The Simpsons Comic Book Guy. And me.

Then, the punchline. A director of the MoMA program takes the stage as the curtain drops to introduce the filmmaker. Shoulda guessed it: the director was the masturbating guy.

He asked us if we had any questions.

What do you say to that?

See, THAT was excrutiating. THAT was uncomfortable. THAT was a bad film experience. Compared to that, Gigli was... well, it still sucks. But not quite that bad.

Gigli is the heartwarming story of two tough guy thugs (Aflopez) that kidnap a retarded kid to blackmail a state prosecutor. They do this in a really foolish way that makes no sense.

Then they bicker and bitch and deliver long, pointless monologues towards no real end except to showcase how fucking smug and impressed they are with themselves. Needless to say, although Affleck is an obnoxious uninteresting dipshit and Lopez is a lesbian with the philosophical depth on the subject that would match any second year college freshwomyn's, they end up having lukewarm sex.

Note that although cunnilingus is CONTINUOUSLY referred to throughout the dopey story, Affleck does not go down. We DO get the notorious "Gobble Gobble" line, but honestly it's no stupider than any other piece of dialogue that gets cooked up in this septic soup.

Then the crime boss who told Aflopez to nab the kid gets called to the mat by his boss (Al Pacino, apparently playing a crime boss who thinks he's Al Pacino) and gets shot in the head for reasons that don't bear closer scrutiny. Then for some reason our heroes are allowed to leave the murderous crime boss' den so that they can... well, it's not clear WHAT they're supposed to do now.

Apparently the focus group rooked into shepherding this bastard child decided that Aflopez should "do the right thing" and release their retarded ward onto the set of Baywatch in the hopes that spaz-o will "get some". I honestly wish I were kidding. Then Aflopez drive off into the sunset, into a brighter more beautiful world where they may shave one another's assholes in peace. Roll credits.

Where to begin with lowlights? The outrageous, offensively-written retard who vascillates wildly between Tourette's cursing or cute and cuddly sweetheart as the scene demands (as an aside, imagine how embarrassed Justin Bartha, the Screech likealook who got stuck with this part, must be. This was his FIRST movie. Ouch.)? Lopez's deadly lesbian thug who is forever promising to beat up a man twice her size, but never gets around to doing anything even remotely threatening? The baseless plot twists that leave you yelling, "Morons: if you cut off a corpse's finger, they'll fingerprint it and know that it's not the kid's" or "Why are you driving around with a kidnapped child in broad daylight? Aren't the feds looking for you?" or "SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!" at the screen? Leave us not forget the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE (HORRIBLE) five minute monologues that Aflopez deliver on oral sex and the superiority of the vagina and scooping out eyeballs and how tough and smart and desirable they are (that vagina monologue is the Bizarro equivalent of Kidman's "Navy Fantasy" in Eyes Wide Shut; as embarrassing and poorly done as Kidman's was classic)? And how about that forgettable but astonishingly bone-dumb script? Or the overbearing "Hey Look! I'm Making A Movie!" direction? And why the hell name a film with a title so confusing that the lead has to keep correcting the pronounciation of it by OTHER CHARACTERS IN THE GODDAM FILM? News flash: If YOU can't say it, I sure as hell don't want to bother.

Acting? I've seen Lopez do good work: in Out of Sight. I'm presuming that Affleck MUST have a good film somewhere... seeing as I'm damned to see Paycheck (it's a P.K. Dick adaptation and I have a weakness for those), I'm hoping that's gonna be it. All things considered though, I'd be okay if neither one ever went near a camera again.

The direction, the acting, the writing: everything is tremendously self-satisfied and bored. There's a sense that everyone is peeved by the fact that they actually have to MAKE this film. There is no joy, no chemistry, no frisson, no nothing. At least the masturbating guy looked like he was having a good time; this cast looks like it's in a hurry to get to catering.

The only highlight is a bit cameo by Christopher Walken (playing a policeman who apparently thinks that he's Christopher Walken) wandering in on Aflopez to question them. When he doesn't get the answers he's looking for, he launches into some nonsense about taking them out to get pie that "tastes so good you put it on your head your tongue will knock your brain out to get at it... MMMMMMHMMMMMM!"
Walken realizes he's in a dog and decides to not only gnaw but eat and then shit the scenery.
That's about as good as this gets: fifteen seconds of self-mocking hysterics done by a slumming actor.
Don't even ask about Pacino; you don't want to know.

BUT IT'S NOT THAT BAD. It's just a bad Hollywood studio film. Lord knows, worse must have come out last year. Bad Boys II? Cat in the Hat? Hell, I disliked Thirteen just as much, only for different reasons. Thirteen was GENUINELY offensive; Gigli just wasn't capable of being taken seriously enough to be offensive. No, this monstrosity achieved punchline status because we like to see hubris repaid. Hardly fair, but this abortion certainly don't merit a cheering section. Saying that Gigli deserves better critical treatment is like worrying about Saddam Hussein's living conditions.

My fear is that a wave of would be hipster film watchers are on their way to rent or tune in Gigli in hopes of finding a so-bad-it's-good antifilm. Look elsewhere. This is only bad enough to be bad.


the espn review - the astonishingly low "rotten tomatoes" rating -
Cleaning Up Razzies - the Official Site - The Gigli Experiment -
The Onion Reports