Monday, December 21, 2009

The Greatest Celebrity Crush Guilty Pleasures of the Decade

Next week will bring us not only the end of a year, but the end of a decade as well. With that comes the obligatory "Ten Greatest Movies of the Decade." I couldn't possibly attempt to compile such a list. There are so many movies out there, there's no way I've seen every worthy contender and even if I had, it would be ridiculous to try to quantify them into a list. It's too much of an apples-to-oranges comparison, and I imagine my tastes would change daily.

So I started thinking about subcatagories I could rate instead, and while that was rattling around in my brain, I saw this article about Mr. Skin rating the best nude scenes of 2009. Since one reason a person might seek out a particularly movie is that they have a crush on a particular celebrity starring in it - particularly if that film is rumored to have a LOT of that particular star on display - I decided to make celebrity crushes the focus of this Best/Worst of the Decade list.
With a lot of these "crush" films, I rarely expect the movie to be good - though over the years I've been pleasantly surprised when a few of them turned out to be pretty decent - full-blown guilty pleasures even.

The rules for this list: to qualify, a film MUST be one that I watched solely or almost solely because of the crush. For instance, I like Kristen Bell, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a film I'd have seen even if it didn't star her. So even thought that might be better than most of the films on the list, it doesn't count.

With that in mind, I present you with my personal five Greatest Celebrity Crush Guilty Pleasures of the Decade:

5) Into The Blue - Jessica Alba in a bikini. A lot. As it turns out, that isn't the only watchable aspect of this film. Not only is the underwater photography by director John Stockwell gorgeous, but the plot is a fairly serviceable one about treasure hunters who run afoul of drug dealers trying to recover a lost shipment that happens to have crashed right on top of a legendary shipwreck. Yeah, it's a shameless rip-off of The Deep, but you won't be bored.

4) P2 - I've talked a lot about this one before and despite my affection for two-handers, I can probably state that it's because of Rachel Nichols that I went out of my way to seek this out. I've covered the script's flaws here, but this is the perfect sort of film a first time writer/director should tackle. The limited cast and locations keep the budget down, and it forces said writer/director to develop all the right muscles. One must work harder at character development, building tension, and finding interesting ways to shoot the same location.

3) The Girl Next Door - I'll be honest. If this Elisha Cuthbert vehicle had crossed my desk in script form without anyone attached to it, I'd have given it a PASS. In that respect, I can't offer any great screenwriting lessons here. However, the cast - particularly supporting actors Paul Dano, Christopher Maquette, and especially Timothy Olyphant - spin straw into gold here. The protagonist himself is a bit blah, and it's best not to think about how someone as young as Elisha's character is supposed to be is already a major porn superstar. (Seems like she'd have to have something in common with Traci Lords.) Still, Olyphant cracks me up every time.

2) Blue Crush - A formula picture done right. It might not be brimming with originality, but again some spectacular photography - again directed by John Stockwell - makes this more than just an exercise in watching babes in bikinis. It's easy to take shots at formula movies because they often feel so familiar, but it's hard to argue with results like this. It's a feel-good story that moves at a decent clip and is likely to entertain an audience while providing a stock plot populated with some colorful characters. I'm all for diving outside the box, but there are times it's worthwhile to examine the cliches and understand when and why they can work.

1) Bring It On - This is a deceptive formula picture in that it seems to follow the usual road map, only to subvert the typical cliches. They had me at Eliza Dushku, and I went in not expecting much. Instead, this turned out to be a film I can't help but watch every time I run across it on cable. The first thing a screenwriter can learn from this is "wit." From the opening song, the script's dialogue is clever as it both mocks and celebrates cheerleaders. Lots of solid dialogue not only defines the characters, but provides many quotables.

The other bit of genius is that our heroes are actually sort of the bad guys. The previous Toros squad leader had stolen the winning routines from a better squad - the Clovers - that was unable to compete. Now the Clovers are actually going to be in the competition, giving them not only the superior routines, but the moral high ground. It's a good reversal on making the opposing team total assholes who the audience wants to see ground into dust.

As I've said, never underestimate the value of a good supporting character. Not only does this script have a deep supporting cast - it has one killer player in the form of Sparky Polostri, a choreographer/drill sergeant with the most quotable lines who tries to whip these "sweater monkeys... dancers who have gone retarded" into shape.

Oh, and there's a bikini car wash, if you're into that sort of thing.

Of course, when you watch for T&A, you're probably a lot more likely to get burned. Here are five times my celebrity crushes led me astray.

5) The Gift - There's a reason this film is known as "the one Katie Holmes is naked in." There really isn't much else of interest here. It's not terrible, but it's not memorable either. It's infamy comes from then-It Girl Holmes' topless scene, released at a point when she was still Dawson's sweetheart, long before Tom Cruise sent her stock falling faster than Bear Stearns.

4) The New Guy - Eliza Dushku's made a lot of bad movies. I've learned to avoid them, but I got suckered into this one hoping it would have more in common with Bring It On than Soul Survivors.

3) Havoc - Another instance of a goody two-shoes actress trying to prove her edginess by taking off her top in a dark drama. The actress in this case was Anne Hathaway, while she was still known as Disney's live action princess and before she'd crossed over into more mature fare. I recall a lot of buzz about this one on the internet when Hathaway's nude scenes became known. The result is a pretty bad movie about spoiled rich teenagers who hook up with gang members.

It didn't get many viewers and I think this proves a pet theory of mine - the novelty of seeing an actress get naked works best as a lure when the scenes in question are either funny or sexy. The nude scenes here and in The Gift veer towards the disturbing (and somewhat gratuitous). While I can see that making things more interesting for the actress, it could also make said nudity less useful as a marketing tool. If you're not riding on a good script, don't count on a scene like this to save you. Most of the bad nude scenes I read fall into this catagory. Keep that in mind the next time you're writing a scene when your lead female strips down.

2) Femme Fatale - This was marketed as a sexy thriller starring Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as a seductive con woman. A few critical raves - particularly Roger Ebert's - made this Brian De Palma-directed film sound like more than a skin flick, so I was surprised with how bored I was by it. It really feels like De Palma's direction sucks all the energy out of the story with its glacial pace. I hate to say it, but someone like Brett Ratner probably would have made this film more watchable. There were many times I was tempted to hit the fast-forward button and in the end, the film "rewarded" my patience with a copout ending that suggests that most of the film was either a dream or a fantasy. Skin fans, I honestly can't remember if the former Mrs. Stamos bears all in this film, but if that's the only reason you'd want to check out this film, your time would be better spent looking up the lead actress's old photo shoots. They're probably sexier and have more life to them.

1) Closer - Tell most guys "Natalie Portman plays a stripper" and they'll line up faster than you can say "Queen Amadala." Unfortunately that means they won't hear the rest of the warning - namely that this is a pretentious, ploddingly-paced film that could bore an audience into a coma. I'm sure there will be vocal opponents to this opinion, and I genuinely wish I could see what they saw in this film. Five years later what sticks with me the most is how I nearly fell asleep and how aware of the performances I was (in a bad way.) Oh, and that Portman has got to be one of the least convincing strippers ever committed to film.

What are your best/worst "Crush" films?


  1. Meg Ryan in "Sleepless in Seattle." Meg Ryan at her most Meg Ryanest. The story is a bit of a snoozer, but she is effervesce personified. Sooo easy on the eyes, sooo easy to like...

    Jenna Elfman in "Ed TV." One of the most adorable love interests in cinema EVER. Wish Jenna Elfman was in more romantic comedys. LOVE to watch her in CBS's "Accidentily on Purpose." Don't really care for the show's set-up or supporting characters, but Jenna Elfman carries that show. She is a very good actress.

    Sandra Bullock in "While You Were Sleeping." Sweet kind of hometown girl kind of appeal.

    Amy Adams in "Enchanted." Sweet kind of hometown girl, elegant, and happy.

    Naiomi Watts in "King Kong." Very beautiful blonde -- and she has a presence about her too.

    Bitter Script Reader there are so many actresses I have crushes on the list goes on-and-on. The only rub here is you see potential in these hotties, but is has yet to be realized on the screen in a romantic setting: Elisha Cuthbert, Heather Graham, Anne Hathaway (best young actress in Hollywood today -- in my opinion, sooo good, may be Hollwood's next Meryl Streep), Phoebe Cates (80s fame), Charliz Theron (I don't know what it is, but it feels like there's a dirty, sexy vibe to her), Cobie Smulders ("Robin" in CBS's "How I Met Your Mother"), Jennifer Love Hewitt (I've writen lots of roles that afterwards I thought would be great vehicles for her. She actually did a very sappy romantic movie once, "If Only." Only see this IF you are a weepy woman), Jennifer Aniston (on the surface I think she's gorgeous, but I've NEVER seen her in a movie where her personna got me interested romantically. She's got all the trappings, but something's missing).

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

  2. I only went to see NEW MOON (the crappy twilight sequel) so I could see Taylor Lautner, shirtless. mmmmmmmm