Sunday, October 29, 2006
My Damp Brush With Mediocrity.
Last night I finally gave in and watched "Poseidon" the big-budget special effects spectacle re-make of the "The Poseidon Adventure". I love big-budget special effects spectacles as much as the next guy. And I love disaster movies even more than the next guy; give me a burning building with a shit load of aging stars and I'm all set for two to three hours. "The Poseidon Adventure" has a special place in my baby boomer brain. It was one of the first 'adult' movies I remember going to see (at the Ford City Cinema 3). It was also one of the few times that I did something with my brother. (He is twenty years older than me and I never really saw him except for his legs sticking out from underneath a car he was working on.).
The film must have had some profound effect on me because for months afterwards I was taking toy boats and turning them upside down in the kitchen sink, or wrapping a tablecloth around my waist pretending it was evening gown crawling and jumping all over everything in the basement. "You have to go up to get out." My story and connection with this film isn't anything new or I've learned uncommon. A local theatre troop Hell in a Handbag did a musical on just this subject and they expressed these feelings about this movie better than I ever could.
However, I had another reason for seeing the remake. I used to be friends with the screenwriter, Mark Protosevich.
When I knew him was calling himself Mark Pro. In high school, I was friends with a group of guys, Dino, Al, and Fred, who were all basically filmmaker nerds. They all wanted to make horror movies; or at least watch horror movies. I had spent most of my teen years sitting alone in my parents basement watching tv, so it was great to finally have friends who I had a common bond with -- even if was only to talk about the movies that we've seen. In the group, Mark was the Dali Lama of nerds. Everyone respected him as the eldest one of us, (he was only one year older) and they would listen to him wax on about Sam Peckinpah, or how brilliantly a certain shot was done in "Apocalypse Now". Looking back now, Mark was sort of the Uber-nerd, with his thick glasses, and the nasal tone of his condescending voice. Mark was the leader of our style, we followed his advice about what was important. He was the first of us to break away from his parents, get his own apartment, have sex. You name it Mark had did it first and was glad to tell us how it should be done.
It's funny the things you'll remember about someone twenty years later. Although I was never one of his close friends. (I recently found a comedy skit we did together. See below). My senior year, I had a big crush on his sister, Nancy. And I think that at one time everyone had a crush on Mark, whether they would admit it or not.
But this memory of Mark I'll keep forever: Everyone had gone some school event, and Al was going to have people over at his house. Instead of going there with 'the group' I stayed behind with some other kids from school. For some reason this was the wrong thing to do. Later in the evening when I went to Alan's I knocked softly on the basement window, and waited at the door to be let in. Mark came to the door and said, "You can't come in; no one wants you here. Go Home!" For whatever reason lost in time, Mark had decreed that I was no longer 'Wanted'. It was one of those teenage angst moments that stung for many years and always had his face on it.
The last time I saw him was maybe ten years ago. Everyone was getting together for drinks because Mark was back in town. He was then a script reader for Paramount; meaning he got scripts, read them and put them in a pile to be read by someone else. I remember him looking slick and smug. The uber-nerd who made good had come back to rub his nerdly success in our faces. It was as if the high priest had gone to heaven and come back and said "Yes, it's beautiful there, too bad you can't come."
I hadn't thought of him for years, then I found out he had written the Jennifer Lopez movie "The Cell". Which granted wasn't that bad of movie, but it had a horrible, mean streak against woman, and coincidently has several scenes of women drowning in it. I followed his career here and there, finding out he'd written a script for one of the Batman movies, but it was never made. Then I found out about "Poseidon". Mark Pro was going to remake my childhood's favorite film, with one of my least favorite directors, Wolfgang Peterson. Not to be confused with Wolfgang Puck who makes a wonderful canned soup.
The first reviews of "Poseidon" were bad. Really, really bad. And unlike any other movie that I've read reviews of, most of the critics weren't pointing to the actors or the director, but singling out the screenwriter; many saying that the director's biggest mistake was using Mark's screenplay. I must admit I was a tad gleeful that the great Mark Pro had fallen flat on his face.
The main problem with "Poseidon" is that like most movies of this sort, it's completely soulless. It looks great; the ship being hit by the wave is pretty impressive. But the characters who you are supposed to be rooting for are so badly written that they are pretty much interchangeable. The women even look alike; at times I had no idea who was trapped or why I should care. It really didn't matter. The original has broadly drawn characters, played by actors that are capable of breathing life into them. The last time that I watched the original, I think I cried a little when Shelly Winters died. In this movie when a character died I felt like a video game scoreboard should have popped up. One down six to go! In fact, there is a character of some drunken guy who pops up and is dead in less than five minutes of screen time. In those few minutes he manages to spit out some of the most juvenile dialogue I've heard in some time. As Mr. Cranky said on his review site: "The only star in this film is the water. The faster it got into the boat, the faster "Poseidon" was going to be over, which is why I rooted for it."
The funny thing that Thax pointed out when he saw it, is that there is a small boy named Connor in it. His name is called out almost continually through the whole movie. Hmmm... is Mark trying to tell me something...
In a nutshell, this version of the story is already forgotten, much like the NBC Hallmark remake with Steve Guttenberg. Egad! Long live the original! Oh, and Mark is now working on a remake of the 1973 film "Omega Man". Please write your local cineplex and start the petition to stop him now.
Here is a skit I did with Mark Pro in 1983 Click Here for: Two Old Friends Don't judge me on this please, I was 19 years old and all I knew of life was what I'd seen on Dean Martin roasts.