Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Out Cold": "Casablanca" as a stoner snowboarding comedy.

*I’ll explain a bit about both movies, but this article will be much easier to follow if you’ve seen both movies. So...SPOILERS.

Casa Rick pointing his gun sort of up Cold Rick's ass was unintentional when I made this. 

It probably would have made a lot more sense to write about
Casablanca (and Out Cold, actually) before Valentine’s Day, but...I didn’t. I guess if there’s a topical tie-in, it would be looking back at a classic movie (guess which one I mean) around Oscar time, but it’s late for that, too. Honestly, I decided to write about these movies because Out Cold came on HBO a couple weeks ago, and I remembered how much I liked it (even if I do acknowledge it’s not a very good movie). As I watched it, I remembered that it was actually a remake/rip-off/homage(?) to Casablanca. And I bought the crazy ultimate edition (it came with a passport holder and luggage tag!) of that film years ago and haven’t watched it since. In other words, I’m writing about these two movies just because. Enjoy.

Out Cold: Casablanca, but with snowboarding, sex with hot tubs, and lesbian chat rooms.

Out Cold is basically just an updated '80s ski movie in which a ragtag group has to save their town from an evil rich guy who wants to ruin it. For reasons unknown (I couldn’t find any, anyway, and I watched this with the fucking audio commentary), it is also a loose remake of Casablanca. Let’s get into the similarities.

Both films feature a lovesick protagonist named Rick (for the rest of the article, Out Cold’s Rick will be Cold Rick and Casablanca’s will be Casa Rick), who is known as the coolest guy in his remote town. They both had flings with a woman and thought they had met the love of their life, but the woman disappeared without an explanation, leaving them bitter. Just as Rick seems to be dealing with his lost love, she shows back up...with a fiance/husband. Rick is left to decide if he should help the couple or try to break them up so he can reclaim his love. Ultimately, he decides to help them get away so they can live happily ever after while he stays behind.

Aside from the basic plot similarities, here are more things I noticed, in no particular order (as usual, it wouldn't be one of my articles without part of it in bold for no reason thanks to blogger):
  • Cold Rick’s lost love is French, a reference to the Paris setting of Casablanca’s doomed relationship.
  • At one point Cold Rick sports a tuxedo identical to the one famously worn by Casa Rick. 
  • The closeted bartender Lance could be Louis, mainly because Lance, like Louis, talks constantly about trying to get with women, and then there’s the line, “If I was her I’d be getting with every dude on this mountain,” which is similar to something Louis says about how he’d be interested in Casa Rick if he were a woman. 
  • Both Ricks are kind of dicks, especially to other women who are interested in them. 
  • Both Ricks notice their lost love because of a song. 
  • The plane flying over Jason London and Galfianakis is an homage to the scene when the plane flies over Bogart and Rains in the beginning and end of the film.
  • Casa Rick is given a backstory in which it is revealed he is a freedom fighter at heart. He's also shown to be cool and collected and deserving of respect. With Cold Rick, aside from Galifianakis flat out saying he's meant to run the mountain (we're never shown or told why [more on this in Random Thoughts]) and being good at snowboarding, there's no reason for him to get the respect he gets. And he damn sure isn’t as cool as Bogart.
  • The amount of drinking is actually about the same. If they showed all the implied weed smoking, that might be on par with the cigarette smoking too.
  • Both other men are established as being good dudes, but with Casablanca, there are at least a few scenes between Rick and Laszlo. In Out Cold, they barely even meet. Not to mention, the fiance in Out Cold is a non-character. Sure, he has a few lines, but he's oblivious to what happened with Rick and Anna. Laszlo knows what happened and even asks Rick to take Ilsa away, because all he wants is for her to be safe. This is what convinces Rick to help him. Out Cold guy just exists, and that's good enough for Cold Rick.
  • Casa Rick doesn't have a love interest that makes more sense living near him (although who knows if that lady he gets rid of near the beginning is a good woman or not). His sacrifice is greater. Cold Rick is just like, “Yeah, she should stay with her fiance. I've got Jenny here anyway. Even though, at this point, she should tell me to go fuck myself.”
  • “Of all the bars in all the ski towns in Alaska, why did she have to come to this one?”
  • “We'll always have Pedro O'Horny's.”
But some aspects don’t work as well or make much sense. With Casa Rick, he was doing something noble: saving a freedom fighter from Nazis. Not to mention Ilsa didn’t know Laszlo was dead when she was with Casa Rick in Paris. With Cold Rick, Anna was cheating on her fiance with Cold Rick. And her fiance is simply a doctor/pilot in a wheelchair. He’s not some noble hero fighting injustice in the world. How lame would Casablanca had been if Casa Rick was sympathetic to Laszlo because Laszlo had a limp or something? To be fair, Out Cold shoehorns in Majors disapproving of Anna’s fiance simply because he’s in a wheelchair, but it’s one line near the end of the movie, and Anna never says anything about it (also, her fiance must have superhuman hearing, because after Majors’s line about him being a cripple, the fiance looks down and gives him the finger). So suddenly Rick is saving the couple Majors? The guy can still find them, and Anna didn’t seem like she wanted to disown her father or anything. Basically, the movie just needed Anna and her fiance to fly away because that’s what happened in Casablanca, and that’s just lazy. Plus, Majors is a dick, but I don’t think he qualifies as a Nazi dick.

If you look into the whole situation with Majors and his daughters it makes less and less sense. So they end up making it seem like he’s terrible to them, and they both want to ruin things for him and get away from him. Inga does this by having...public sex? And Anna and her fiance help the locals destroy the presentation to the investors. But why are Majors’s daughters there in the first place? They’re not little kids. Do they go to all of his potential new properties and try to ruin them? Why was this not mentioned. And until the last few scenes, neither Anna nor Inga seem to dislike their father. I just don’t understand why they didn’t fix with this with some short scenes of dialogue earlier in the movie. Just have Inga tell someone earlier that her stepfather insists on dragging her to all these places, and she hates him for it. Have a scene between Majors and Anna in which they argue about Anna’s fiance. It wouldn’t take much more screen time to establish these things that seem to happen randomly at the end. But perhaps I’m just expecting too much out of a stoner snowboarder movie.

At first, when I realized what was going on I thought it was kind of cool. Here’s a throwaway snowboard comedy that’s only truly memorable quality is the introduction of Zach Galifianakis. But it’s also a kind of remake of Casablanca. At least that’s showing the filmmakers’ will to be different. But when I rewatched Casablanca, it made me start to hate the Out Cold Rick (from here on out referred to as Cold Rick) even more than I already did. Casa Rick has his problems, but Cold Rick is kind of cruel to Jenny. And it’s infuriating that Jenny is so understanding and accepting of everything Cold Rick does. Cold Rick is bad enough on his own, but when you look at him compared to Casa Rick, he’s kind of a piece of shit.

Of course I’m thinking, and writing, way too much about this, but that’s actually a testament to what a good idea it was to make Out Cold like Casablanca. I truly doubt I would have revisited this movie to this extent if not for that connection. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t thought out a bit better, but hats off to the filmmakers for trying.

Random Thoughts

I didn't square this up at all, but I had to use it. Perfect caption, caption guy.

Out Cold

I watched with the audio commentary (don't judge me) and the directors (who decided to include their grandmother in the commentary to zero comedic effect) seem to have never even seen Casablanca. So they didn't provide much insight about the influence of that film.

They did, however, mention many times how this was originally going to be rated R. I just don't understand why an R rated version wasn't released on DVD. I guess it didn't make enough money to warrant the cost of creating another edit. I think this could have been a Saving Silverman situation and vastly improved the movie.

So there's a deleted flashback or opening scene with Papa Muntz and Rick. Papa not only tells Rick he wants him to run the mountain, he also reveals that he started the resort with Rick's dad. The scene also shows the inspiration for the statue of Papa. Why leave this short scene out of a 90 minute movie? The only thing I can think is that Papa also talks about hating the idea of the mountain being sold and turned into a tourist trap. With that line in the movie, Rick looks pretty bad buying into Majors's shit so easily. But still, the line, “Bull Mountain, don't go changin’!” is known by everyone, and Galifianakis reminds Rick that Papa wanted him to run the mountain. So that opening scene should have stayed. What should have changed was everyone's reaction to Rick becoming Majors's bitch. They complain about the changes, but they should be questioning Rick much more intensely. “Why are you helping with the very thing Papa hated, Rick, you dick?!”

That said, what better way to open a movie than with a crazed David Koechner giving some exposition?

One of the only movies I can think of that features Goldschlager.

David Denman's character still cracks me up. And the fact that he ends up coming out at the end makes it less offensive than you might expect from a comedy from fifteen years ago.

That said, Galifianakis does make a joke about having “fag practice” at one point in the film, so there are still some problematic elements.

Is it racist that the one black character is bad at snowboarding, even though he lives and works at a ski resort? Is that a stereotype? Wait, am I racist for even wondering? I'll just stop now.

The first few minutes made me worried that this was going to be mainly scenes of snowboarding with a plot peppered in. That is kind of the case, but it does tone down in the middle of the movie.

Jenny is more of a male fantasy than real character. Throughout the course of the movie, she pretty much tells Rick that she'll be waiting for him to figure everything out. She's cool with it when he stands her up, and she's fine when his ex shows up and he tries to win her back. And she still ends up with him, even though he only chooses her because his ex was no longer an option. I wish she would have told him to fuck off at the end.

And Lee Majors as himself.

Maybe I just don't like Rick as a character. He is kind of a dick to everyone, and it's unclear why everyone thinks so highly of him. I don't hate him, but I definitely did not find him very likable, either, especially in regards to his treatment of Jenny.

The Pig Pen fantasy sequence is odd as it is the only fantasy element of the film, and it serves no purpose. I did find parts of it funny, though.

This was my first introduction to Galifianakis. I think he's one of the better parts of the movie. His reaction to the spinning car prank is still a highlight.

I think of this movie every time I hear “Island in the Sun.”

Lee Majors presented as a skier is the most ridiculous part of this movie, and this movie features a fantasy sequence with Solid Gold dancers.

That random insert shot of Koechner asking Pig Pen if he's ever been on a “lesbian chat room” always gets me. And his answer of “yeahIdon'tknow” as one word has become part of my daily vocabulary. I'm a strange person.

“Man, I love chicks! And chicks love me so it's all good!”

“It was called the '80s. Ford was President. Nixon was in the White House. And FDR was running this country into the ground!”

The funny thing about Koechner's crazy rant is that he's right.

Pig Pen just types “Awesome!” for nearly every response in the “lesbian” chatroom.

I love this movie, but the middle of it is a bit of a slog.

Koechner should have had at least ten more minutes of screen time.

There are some odd moments that make me laugh:
Majors talking to Rick and then giving him a card that says exactly what he just said.
The two guys who high five after posting an eviction notice.
Majors saying, “That's a $300 hat, bitch!”
“So what's up?” “Guard duty.” “Nice!” *High five

“So there's a few bad apples! So my daughter's a whore! But this is a good deal!”

It's rare when a movie goes into the gag reel before the credits rather than during them, but whatever.

Is there a version of this movie where Jenny ends up with Pig Pen? She flashes him, he’s nuzzling her on the poster, they’re hanging out getting high on the couch at the party, and she tells Rick that Pig Pen told her about Anna showing up. Obviously they talk and flirt with each other. Was there more there? I wish there was. I would like Out Cold so much more if Jenny ended up ditching Rick. And if she ended up with Pig Pen? Well, that would make it that much better since Rick is kind of a dick to Pig Pen for no fucking reason.

Though I did take a lot of shots at this movie, overall I love it. I find most of it pretty funny to this day, and most of all, it did a good job of building a world. The bar and town overall seemed like a cool place to live. Even if I wouldn’t want to hang out with cool-guy Rick, I would want to hang out in his town for a bit.


Man, I hate music in old movies. It’s just so damn overbearing. They really did not trust the audience to know when things were dangerous or sad back then. Thankfully, it’s toned down a bit through most of the movie.

They really went all out with the Ultimate Edition. I didn't have a passport when I bought this, but now that I do, that passport holder will come in handy…

The guy who gets shot at the beginning does that great, old-timey “I've been shot!” pose.

The second part of Grim Fandango made a lot more sense after I watched this.

I always liked Peter Lorre in this. I wish he had more to do, though.

This is one of those rare classics that I truly enjoy. Usually with an old movie universally declared one of the greatest films ever made, I can appreciate why it was so important, but I end up being bored by it (*cough* Citizen Kane! *cough*). With Casablanca, I honestly enjoy it each time I watch it. It isn’t a simple movie. I’m always left a little conflicted with Rick’s decision in the end, even though I always agree with it. And atmosphere is always important to me in a film, and Casablanca does a great job of creating a world you want to stick around in, which is quite the feat since every character wants to get away from it.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

And the Oscar (Maybe, Probably Not) Goes To...

*This is the article I annually write for my local newspaper. I'm including it on my website this year. Also, I got lazy and just wrote the movie title for the screenplay awards instead of writing out each nominee.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, so it’s time for my annual article weighing in on the nominees and predicting the winners. This year is a bit different for two reasons. First, I disagree with these nominations more than ever before. I know my tastes are hardly mainstream, but only one film out of my top ten (Black Panther) was nominated for Best Picture. Some of my honorable mentions are there, but I can’t get over the lack of respect shown for First Reformed, You Were Never Really Here, and Annihilation. But then again, it took me a while to come up with my top ten list because very few movies clicked with me last year, so maybe the Academy members went through the same issue.

Second, speaking of Academy members, they added a ton of them since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy a couple of years ago, so predicting the winners is getting harder each year. Add to that the fact that there is no clear front runner, or even a clear head-to-head race, and you have a perfect storm of uncertainty. I know I point out that I’m not all that great at predicting the winners every year in this article, but I sincerely mean it when I say I’m blindly guessing with a few of these. Normally, I am aware of a clear favorite for nearly every category, and there’s one, maybe two other possibilities. This year, it truly seems like anything and anyone could win in every category.

That written, I’m still going to try. And even if I’m not crazy about all the nominees this year, I didn’t find any of them to be bad movies. I was just disappointed by many of them. I expected a transcendent experience watching Roma. I thought Rami Malek would make me believe he was Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. I was sure Vice was going to make me laugh, infuriate me with its exposure of the truth, and give me Christian Bale’s greatest performance yet. You get the idea: I did not get a strong reaction from most of these films. I did like most of them, however. Black Panther is my favorite of the bunch, but I also enjoyed A Star Is Born, The Favourite, and BlacKkKlansman. With all my complaining out of the way, here are my predictions in the usual format: my prediction, my pick from the nominees, and my favorite overall (including unnominated movies and people).

Best Original Screenplay

The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, and Vice

My prediction: The Favourite

My pick and favorite: First Reformed

The screenplay categories have become the spots for voters to reward movies they like a lot but don’t want to give Best Picture to. This is why it’s likely The Favourite will win. A lot of voters loved the twisted historical film, but it’s probably too weird to win Best Picture, so they’ll just give it Best Original Screenplay, even though First Reformed deserves it so much more.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, and A Star Is Born

My prediction and pick: BlacKkKlansman

My favorite: Annihilation

Just like with Original Screenplay, I think the Academy will use this category to reward a film without giving it Best Picture. In this case, I think it has a lot to do with Spike Lee. I don’t think he’ll win Best Director, but I think they still want to honor him with Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma, Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite, Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman, Adam McKay, Vice, and Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

My prediction: Alfonso Cuarón

My pick: Yorgos Lanthimos

My favorite: Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here)

Filmmakers and critics have been very vocal about their love for Roma this year, mainly focusing on Cuarón’s direction. The words “genius” and “masterpiece” are commonplace when this film is brought up, so he’s one of the few safe bets this year. I was just happy to see Lanthimos get nominated, though I think his previous work (The Lobster, Dogtooth) is more impressive. And Pawlikowski getting nominated instead of Paul Schrader or Lynne Ramsay is ridiculous.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, Vice, Marina de Tavira, Roma, Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk, Emma Stone, The Favourite, and Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

My prediction, pick, and favorite: Regina King

This is another category that is one of the few safe bets. King is the best part of Beale Street, and that’s saying something because the film is full of great performances. Honestly, I found that film to be much better than Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’s previous Oscar-winning film. The only thing that might have kept King from winning was one of the women from The Favourite being left out. As it is, Stone and Weisz (both excellent) will split votes ensuring King gets the win.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Green Book, Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman, Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born, Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Sam Rockwell, Vice

My prediction: Mahershala Ali

My pick and favorite: Sam Elliott

Green Book has gone from favorite to afterthought this awards season, but I think it’ll still pick up an award for Ali. Ali is fine, but I would love to see Elliott pick up this award as a kind of lifetime achievement award, not to mention he provides some of the most emotional moments of A Star Is Born. I doubt he wins, though. And I have no clue what the Academy was thinking nominating Rockwell. He’s okay as George W. Bush, but he’s such an afterthought in that movie. Why not nominate Michael B. Jordan for Black Panther? I would much rather have Marvel’s most compelling villain in years over Rockwell’s SNL-worthy impression of Bush.

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma, Glenn Close, The Wife, Olivia Colman, The Favourite, Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born, and Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

My prediction, pick, and (pun not intended) favorite: Olivia Colman

Glenn Close has been the front runner for this for a while, and she’s still very likely going to win. But I just think that not enough people have seen The Wife (odds are you haven’t even heard of it), and it’s certainly not a very talked about film. Colman could piggyback on that Adapted Screenplay award as evidence of the voters’ love of her film. Also, when voters see that they have to choose between Stone and Weisz for Supporting, they may feel inclined to vote for Colman for Best Actress so that at least one amazing performance from The Favourite is rewarded. Then again, perhaps A Star Is Born gains some last minute momentum and Gaga wins. Any of those three would not surprise me.

Best Actor

Christian Bale, Vice, Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born, Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate, Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

My prediction: Rami Malek

My pick: Christian Bale

My favorite: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)

This category angered me the most. Why did Dafoe and Mortensen get nominated over Hawke? It makes no sense to me. None of them have a chance of winning, but it’s the principle. There’s nothing wrong with Dafoe or Mortensen’s performances (well, Mortensen’s is nothing special), but Hawke is doing some of the best work of his career, and it’s like no one cares. Anyway, I think Malek will win, though I don’t understand the overwhelming love that performance is getting. I just couldn’t get past the fake teeth they made him wear. If this was an award for “Best Performance Despite a Ridiculous Set of Fake Teeth” I’d be all for it. As it is, I didn’t find it to be the best of the year. I’d rather see Bale win, but he already has an Oscar, so I think it’ll be Malek.

Best Picture

Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

My prediction: Roma

My pick: Black Panther

My favorite: First Reformed

*For some reason this last paragraph is bold no matter what I do. Blame blogger, not me.
I'm just going with the same logic I used with Best Director with this pick. People can't stop praising the film, so they'll probably give it Best Picture. The only competition, in my opinion, is from Green Book and A Star Is Born. It just doesn't seem like those two movies are very popular with the Academy. Neither one of them is nominated for Best Director, and that's never a good sign. But I could be wrong (and probably will be). No matter what, my favorite films won't be winning anything come Oscar night. Maybe next year the Academy will see things my way.