Kicking the Tweets

Red State (2011)

Chapter and Versus

When Kevin Smith announced his retirement from filmmaking earlier this year, I was disappointed. He's made some of my favorite movies of the last sixteen years, and it pained me that he'd let a couple of box-office disappointments sour him on the business so much that he'd leave it altogether. Granted, I don't know Smith, and am only speculating that he'd still be in the game had Zack and Miri Make a Porno or Cop Out been smash hits, but I can say that he's taking the scorched-Earth route out of showbiz.

Even as he preps his last project, a two-part hockey dramedy called Hit Somebody, Smith has established a mini-podcasting empire, where he and his friends host multiple, weekly roundtables covering everything from movies to marriage. I guess it's his way of hermetically sealing the pot-smoke-filled hate bubble he constructed to fend off withering criticism. But making movies is not like podcasting or blogging: one can't just "riff" a good film into existence and then claim that anyone who doesn't like it is a square or a hater.

Case in point, Smith's second-to-last feature, Red State. The writer/director shifts gears from the slacker comedies that made him famous to tell a horror story about religious fundamentalism and the hyper-militarization of the U.S. government. This might have worked had Smith actually had something to say beyond foul-mouthed versions of Hollywood-liberal* talking points filtered through a lite version of the long-dead torture-porn genre.

Three high-schoolers, Travis (Michael Angarano), Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun), and Jarod (Kyle Gallner), learn of a Craigslist-type service for sex workers, and arrange a foursome with a middle-aged woman who lives in the next town. On arrival, they're drugged and taken to the compound of a religious fundamentalist named Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), who intends to sacrifice them to his angry, gays-and-sexual-deviants-hating God. A cross between Fred Phelps and David Koresh, Cooper preaches scripture to his modest, armed-to-the-teeth flock of twenty and leads them in publicly protesting the funerals of gays and soldiers.

Two of the three boys escape, but are gunned down by Cooper's men and, in a case of mistaken identity, the closeted local sheriff (Stephen Root), who's part of the S.W.A.T. contingent staked out in front of the compound. Much of Red State plays like an extended version of the opening of The Devil's Rejects, with feds and fundies exchanging heavy gunfire and pseudo-philosophical musings. As the lone, surviving teen, Jarod plots to escape and runs into Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé), Cooper's eldest granddaughter, who wants to get her handful of siblings to safety. This proves to be difficult, as the head of the S.W.A.T. unit, Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), is operating under orders to kill everyone inside.

I'll give Smith this much: Red State doesn't feel like a Kevin Smith movie. It feels like a Rob Zombie movie, complete with archetypical redneck characters, twisted violence, and just enough visual trickery to keep the audience from nodding off. The movie's downfall is its screenplay.

From the beginning, we're meant to hate Cooper and all the members of his Five Points Church, which is fine. Every good movie needs a great villain. But Smith doesn't say anything about the group's inner workings or discuss the roots of their philosophy aside from a vague "passed on from one generation to the next" reference; they're Jonestown 2.0, Kool-aid-drinking automatons with automatic weapons who hate the government and the world of the flesh. We've seen this easy stereotype many times before, and Smith's big mistake is that he neither differentiates his lunatics from any other popular portrayals nor goes out of his way to make us believe that these people could actually exist. In the Red State universe, all believers are violent, stupid nutcases, just as all gays are walking sex acts. People are reduced to Good Guys and Bad Guys whose only function is to die spectacularly and for no good reason.

While Parks is alternately captivating and annoying (note to filmmakers: unless your lead actor is actually Jesus, no one--and I mean no one--wants to sit through a ten minute sermon in the middle of a seige/horror movie), he's just a collection of speeches wearing the skin of a man. Not even Oscar-winner Melissa Leo can do much with her role as Cheyenne's hysterical mother because she's so thin on paper. The only actor who does semi-well here is Goodman, but he, too, stumbles over Smith's ham-handed soap-box diatribes as if constantly wondering where the dialogue got off to.

Speaking of these diatribes, I could handle and even appreciate Smith's use of creatively harsh language back when he was writing about convenience-store clerks and mallrats. But when he stuffs reaction-craving-hipster-speak into the mouths of government bureaucrats, I have to wonder if he even knows how to write a character that in no way resembles himself. The penultimate scene involves Keenan sitting through a private hearing on the compound raid; once his interrogators turn off the video camera, they begin chatting like twelve-year-old boys who've just discovered Noam Chomsky. When one of the men says, "Patriot Act, bitch!" with pseudo-ghetto ease, I sprained my eyes from rolling them.

I almost forgot the most important thing I learned from this film: making kids cry for real isn't cool. When a little girl starts bawling as she's ordered up to the attic with the other children during the siege, I wasn't watching acting; I was looking at a genuinely freaked-out toddler, and I don't even want to think about what it took to get her to react like that.

After Cop Out and Red State, it's easy to say that Kevin Smith really should hang it up. But I can only recommend that from a writing standpoint. He's at his best when penning movies about people he knows; his one attempt at horror--while noble--is an offensively boring failure. That said, I'm really impressed with the way he's grown visually on his last two features, proving to the naysayers that he's more than a two-shot hack. He just needs to attach himself to projects that aren't rooted in sub-par material.

*This is not a slam against liberals or Hollywood, but a recognition that sometimes famous progressives really are as cartoonish and clueless as the stereotype suggests. I don't know if Kevin Smith is clueless, but his film doesn't suggest any knowledge of his subject matter deeper than headline outrage.


Contagion (2011)

Fluke Season

Don't worry: I'm not going to compare Contagion to Outbreak. There's been a lot of talk and a lot of hate directed at the trailers for Steven Soderbergh's new out-of-control-disease thriller. The handful of times I've seen the preview in a theatre, audiences straight-up laughed at parts that I'm sure the director had meant to be dramatic--likely because, thanks to Outbreak, The Stand, The Walking Dead, and a host of other a-pop-calyptic fantasies, people feel like they've seen this all before.

They're half-right. The big question is: What can Soderbergh bring to this genre that hasn't already been tried? The hypothetical answer is: A realistic look at how government agencies and average citizens would cope with a new, fast-moving virus that's transmitted through the most casual of contact. The reality, though, is far less sexy than that setup might imply. Indeed, Contagion, like Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, is an art-house horror movie meant to entertain people who consider themselves too good to watch any of the films it so blatantly steals from. And, like Black Swan, this movie is incredibly dull.

If you've seen the trailers, you've seen the whole film, minus the implied pulse. It opens pretty strong, with Gwyneth Paltrow playing a businesswoman returning to the states from Hong Kong. She's saying good-bye to the guy she hooked up with during a layover in Chicago; this is the film's only real moment of intrigue, because we know from the previews that she's married to Matt Damon.

I take that back. The second surprise is that her character dies in the first five minutes of the movie. The montage of Paltrow in the previews is played out almost as quickly in the actual film, intercut with workers from the Centers for Disease Control and various other agencies getting wind of sudden deaths in Asia. Within fifteen minutes, Damon has lost his wife and their six-year-old son; doctors determine that he is immune to the disease, but he's not willing to take any chances with his teenage daughter, who hadn't been home since mom got back from her trip. He locks her away in their house, foraging for food and supplies when the world eventually goes to hell.

We meet other characters, like Laurence Fishburne as the head of the National Something-or-Other Agency. He sends Chief Specialist in Charge of Martyrdom Kate Winslet to Minnesota to investigate Paltrow's death and to set up emergency quarantines at National Guard armories. Then there's the lovely Marion Cotillard, who heads to Hong Kong to track down the origin of the disease, at the behest of the Culture-shock Committee. She is taken hostage by one of her co-workers and held ransom in his village until the U.S. government sends enough vaccines to save what's left of his doomed people.

I haven't mentioned any of the characters by name because, frankly, I don't remember them. Chances are, neither will you as you walk through the lobby to your car. There are so many narratives introducing so many facts, points of view, and messages crammed into this hour-and-forty-five minutes that it's impossible to hold onto anything. I guess Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns are going for a real-time approach to capture the devastating speed at which disease, bad information, misinformation, and panic can spread. But the result is a movie that lacks cohesion as it jumps from location to location and event to event. In one instant, Fishburne is breaking protocol to tell his wife to get out of the city; in the next, there are riots at drug stores and food rationing. Contagion plays like an extended trailer for an excellent, star-studded HBO miniseries; it's Traffic for germaphobes.

But it's not a miniseries. So I have to contend with it as a singular piece of cinema. In this area, it fails to do anything but look pretty. Soderbergh knows how to frame a shot, I'll give him that much. But the rest of the picture is pure gimmickry and plain bad taste. For one thing, it may be true that every actor in Hollywood wants to work with Steven Soderbergh, but that doesn't mean he has to put them all in one film. I can count the number of unknowns in this movie on one hand; the star-power is distracting, especially since the filmmakers go so far out of their way to make these glamorous people so un-glamorous that I started to ask myself if everyday people really look this shitty--regardless of whether or not they're harboring a brain-eating spore.

They all do fine in their roles, but the second big problem is that they're not playing actual characters. They're delivery systems for "Hey, betcha never knew this" facts and social commentary. I mentioned Marion Cotillard earlier. She disappears from the film for so long that when she pops up later, I experienced a brief shock of recognition--it doesn't help that, like all of the other characters with the exception of Damon and his daughter, we never find out what happens to her. I'm not saying that I need to know if she dies at age seventy or sixty-two, but it would be nice to know what the hell happens after she runs out of the airport, having learned some particularly nasty information.

The closest we get to a thesis or an arc is Jude Law, who plays the first blogger to discover the disease. He's either a crazed conspiracy theorist or he's right on the money, with his claims of the government and the pharmaceutical companies doing their best to profit from the disaster. We never find out because his storyline is derailed by a sub-plot involving his taking money from a hedge fund representative to either push or not push a vaccine that may or may not be an over-the-counter drug. I honestly forgot which is important to whom, and no one bothers to re-enforce or develop these threads. There's just more piling on of crap, leading to a sting; but it's okay, because twelve million of Law's readers come up with his bail money and he's let go. We last see him walking the streets, taking pictures of FEMA camps.

The central problem, I think, is that Soderbergh invests so much into being a "cool" director that he forgets how important warm and likable characters are (or at least ones that are interesting beyond their descriptions). People give him crap for making the fluffy and obnoxious Ocean's movies, but in terms of characterization, I see little qualitative difference between his indie and studio pictures. He could take a page from David Fincher, who manages to create slick worlds inhabited by intelligent and memorable people, instead of unrelatable vessels who act as if they were born when "Action" was called (he came close with Bubble and The Informant!, but doesn't appear to have learned anything in the ensuing years).

Contagion is a wholly unnecessary waste of money, both yours and Warner Brothers'. Had no stars signed on to play these roles, I could easily see this as a three-hour Discovery Channel special narrated by Bill Kurtis (complete with music that sounds like Cliff Martinez did a mash-up of 1980s movie-of-the-week orchestrations and Trent Reznor's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo score). Despite my negative comments, I don't hate the film. I'm as ambivalent towards it as I am the last cold I had, which, despite not being a very pleasant experience, eventually left my head.

Note: I should mention that Contagion features one of the worst, most pandering endings I've ever seen. Soderbergh rips the art right out of his opening shot by spoon-feeding a wrap-around to the handful of mouth-breathers who may have thought his beginning with "Day 2" meant that their print was missing several frames.


Friday the 13 Part 6: Jason Lives (1986)

The Wry Stuff

When I was a kid, Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives was my favorite Friday film. It's still up there, but much of the sheen has worn off. Adult eyes are often hard on childhood classics, and this is no exception.

What I appreciated most about Jason Lives was the fact that writer/director Tom McLoughlin delivered a different kind of "Jason" picture. His take is sillier than many of the other installments, but it also harkens back to the grimness and brutality of the original. Had he reined in some of the campier elements, Jason Lives might have been one of the strongest horror sequels ever.

The movie opens on a dark and stormy night. Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) and his friend, Allen (Ron Palillo), drive to the Forest Green Cemetery to unearth and cremate the body of serial killer Jason Voorhees (C.J. Graham). In Part 4 (the hilariously named "Final Chapter"), Jason killed Tommy's mother--and just about everyone else near Camp Crystal Lake--before the pre-teen hero hacked him to death with his own machete. Tommy then spent several years in a mental institution, where he battled a Jason imposter and eventually became--or did not become--a new incarnation of the hockey-masked maniac (don't ask).

After digging up Jason's rotted-out, maggot-infested shell, Tommy has a flashback so traumatic that he rips a pole off the cemetery's gate and stabs his dead enemy repeatedly. While hunting for matches, a bolt of lightning strikes the giant metal rod that Tommy left sticking out of Jason's chest--thus introducing the world to the first* incarnation of Zombie Jason. Tommy narrowly escapes (Allen isn't so lucky) and hauls ass to the sheriff's station to warn the authorities that there's a killer on the loose. Meanwhile, Jason dons the mask that Tommy very helpfully brought with him, and sets out on a not-so-quiet walk in the woods.

Of course, Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) doesn't believe Tommy, and has his firearms-obsessed deputy, Rick (Vincent Guastaferro), lock up the hysterical punk until someone from the nut-house can retrieve him. His daughter, Megan (Jennifer Cooke), drops by the station with her group of hot, young friends and falls instantly in love with the jailed bad boy. Garris warns her to stay away from him, and to get back to the summer camp where the gang works as counselors.

As with most of these movies, the post set-up plot is not very interesting. What makes Jason Lives remarkable is the variety of victims and the sick humor with which McLoughlin dispatches them. Jason doesn't just eviscerate horny teenagers: he takes out a Yuppie couple; a drunk, fourth-wall-breaking caretaker; and a group of corporate executives on a paintball retreat. To help the audience feel better about watching (mostly) innocent people get butchered for ninety minutes, McLoughlin packs his movie with precious horror-film references, playful music cues, and a World-Record-worthy amount of cutesy edits and scene transitions:

  • Jason chucks a dart at a cop's face. Cut to a closeup of a dart board hanging on a cabin wall.
  • Two counselors discussing the whereabouts of a third: "He said he was going to look for things that go bump in the night". Cut to an exterior shot of an RV bouncing wildly about as the occupants have sex.
  • During a car chase, Megan warns Tommy--whose head is in her lap--that she's about to make a "hairy turn". Cut to Tommy's close-up view of the skin-tight "V" of Megan's blue jeans.

And on and on. It's not that I don't appreciate the jokes, wild over-acting, and front-loaded expository dialogue that plays like the "Previously on..." intro to an 80s TV show. I just wish the film had been balanced better. Because for every smug allusion to Boris Karloff, there's a cruel moment of pure terror that I'd somehow managed to block out of my memory.

Zombie Jason doesn't fuck around. He's intent on murdering anyone who stumbles onto his land, including--for the first time, if I'm not mistaken--a camp counselor who shows no evidence of having had sex, used drugs or alcohol, or even so much as made a snide remark towards a person of authority. I'm talking, of course, about Paula (Kerry Noonan), perhaps the series most good (best? goodest?) "good girl". She does nothing but show concern for her missing friends and try to keep the dozens of kids in her care safe and calm. For her virtuousness, she gets ripped apart and strewn across the inside of a cabin like a chunky, red coat of paint.

You know who does survive, though? Megan. And in another series first, the "survivor girl" is an obnoxious whiner. I assume Cooke did with the character as she was asked, so I can't fault her performance; instead of invincible, teenage bravado, we get total cluelessness. When she finally figures out that the whole evening isn't just some kind of kinky thrill ride with her mysterious, would-be (possibly homicidal) boyfriend, the climax is half over and all we care about is Tommy's last stand against Jason.

And what a last stand it is! Tommy lures the psycho out into the lake and intends to anchor him to the dirt floor below (he read a book on the occult that said the only way to permanently stop an undead person is to return them to their original resting place). Jason Lives ends with a real action-movie fight scene, with Tommy and Jason wrestling on a row boat in the middle of a fiery lake. Rather than a half-out-of-her-mind girl fending off a lumbering, knife-wielding monolith, McLoughlin opts for an unexpected, refreshing man-to-man brawl. He tweaks his own tweak by finally giving Megan something to do; I won't spoil her finest hour, except to say that it's "pulpy".

As a sidebar, some have argued that it's not fair for a critic to judge a movie based on what they want it to be, rather than what is is. I disagree. Wishing characters had been omitted or suggesting that moving around scenes would've made a story stronger doesn't make me a snob or an armchair director. Everyone does this, every day; from calling "bullshit" on the mechanic who says your leaky tire means it's time for a new transmission, to thinking about that shirt you would've bought if it had been a slightly darker shade of blue, criticism is our natural, sentient reaction to things that offend our education, taste, and life experience.

So, yes, I'm fine with describing Jason Lives as a flawed slasher masterpiece whose horrific elements are far more effective than its humorous ones. While one or two gags might have been fine, there's a difference between sly winking and an epileptic seizure, and Friday 6 gave me the spins. It's a shame, too, because McLoughlin creates an atmosphere so chilly and spooky that I wanted to wrap a blanket around me while watching his film. But in his attempt to lighten up his modern-day version of a classic Universal monster movie, the director put a clown nose on Frankenstein.

*Despite popular perception, Jason wasn't killed at the end of parts two and three, only part four. Ostensibly, Jason would never have been a problem for New York, psychics, or outer space had Tommy just left him in the ground.


My Name is Jerry (2009)

The Lovely Jones

I'm hard-pressed to think of a better independent film than My Name is Jerry.* Going into it, I was not at all confident that I'd enjoy it. On one hand, I love Doug Jones, and was curious to see how he would fare as a leading man when not hidden by monster makeup. On the other, the movie was co-created by Morgan Mead, who wrote and directed one of the worst indie films I've ever seen, My Bloody Wedding. I'm happy to say that Jones is wonderful here, and that Mead wisely spends his bullets on making a gorgeous, expensive-looking picture--while leaving the screenplay to a professional.

Jones stars as Jerry, a mid-40s door-to-door book salesman with an estranged teenage daughter and no enthusiasm for his dead-end career. His best friend, David (Don Stark), sets him up with an interview at another company, and it takes every ounce of long-lost enthusiasm to convince the recruiter, Dana (Catherine Hicks), that she should offer him a probationary position. Soon, Jerry and David are running a satellite sales office out of the public storage unit in which they keep the stock for their day-jobs.

To further lift his friend's spirits, David invites Jerry to a 4th of July party at his big, new house. He puts the wrong address on the invitations, though, sending Jerry and many other guests to a punk party a mile away. In this sequence, Mead and Jones beautifully state the film's thesis: a young girl named Jordan (Katlyn Carlson) answers the door and informs Jerry that he's come to the wrong place; he's smitten with her, but also with the house full of carefree, dancing twenty-somethings. Moments later, he shows up at David's place, which is packed with fat, middle-aged suburbanites wearing polo shirts on their day off. Mead doesn't make a big deal of this contrast. He lets Jones' face tell the whole story, and it's as if the actor literally ignites a spark behind his own eyes that had been burnt out for decades.

The next day, Jerry goes out for the first sales call of his new job. Afterwards, he pops into a record store across the street and meets Chaz (Steven Yeun), an employee who recognizes him from the party. Chaz invites Jerry to see his band play at a bar; the bartender happens to be Chaz's good friend and housemate, Jordan, who begins a fast friendship/hipster-mentorship with Jerry. Soon, the buttoned-down square is catching up on the history of punk music and tearing the sleeves off his suit coats.

From here, My Name is Jerry blossoms into a surprising relationship movie built on conventional premises. David Hamilton's screenplay (based on a story idea by Mead and Andrew Janoch) is full of archetypes and situations you've seen a hundred times before (the cute, Asian neighbor with the non-English-speaking mother who wants his daughter to marry a Nice American Boy; the strained father/daughter relationship that wouldn't have been so strained had dad bothered to send the years' worth of holiday cards that he keeps in a box; and on and on). The film succeeds both because Hamilton tweaks these elements just enough to keep the audience on its toes, and because the actors are so sincere in their performances that they make the material feel very original.

Not only are there no lousy actors in this bunch, they're all stellar. Mead knows the value of a great face, and aside from Jones--who I'll get to in a minute--My Name is Jerry is packed with people who don't look like actors. I've seen Stark in many beaten-down, half-deluded career men. I've known cute, alternative girls like Carlson, who could've been models had they not looked down on the profession as the height of vapidity; I've had meetings with perky yet brutal managers who look like Hicks, people whose childhood dreams of greatness eroded with the perceived security that only a 401(k) can provide. The handful of "known" performers in this film made me forget within minutes that I've seen them in other things.

Of course, the big star is Jones, who makes Jerry into much more than an American Beauty-style sad clown. Though known for his elegant pliability in movies like Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, here he stretches both his physical and non-physical gifts, creating a wreck of a man who is at once sympathetic and just plain pathetic. At the beginning of the film, he carries himself like a zombie and speaks like a defeated, slightly nervous slave. As Jerry opens up to new experiences, Jones peels back layers of spiritual grime to reveal, in the end, a spark of empowerment. My one critique of his performance is the bit of Buster Keaton in his earlier scenes, which feels out of place. Jerry is a drone, not a performance artist, and there's a brilliant scene in which one of the punk kids at the bar sidles up to Jerry and puts his hand on his shoulder, as if to stifle the manic energy.

I'd be remiss in not mentioning Allison Scagliotti, who plays Jerry's teenage daughter, Trisha. She's fantastic here, imbuing the role of the skeptical, grumpy daughter with a wit and a callousness that hits way too close to home. Like Jerry, Trisha is on a journey, the goal of which is to not only figure out who her dad is as a person, but also to come to terms with her own abandonment issues. She's a vocal reminder for Jerry that the youthful mistakes he never stopped making (his lack of self-esteem and drive tore his marriage apart) have harsh consequences outside of the lonely cocoon he's built for himself. Scagliotti effortlessly illustrates the nature-versus-nurture struggle that her dad must recognize in order to save both of them.

Did I mention that My Name is Jerry looks amazing? On an estimated budget of just $65,000, Morgan Mead has pulled together a production that looks more like a slick television show than a cheap indie film (I can't quite put my finger on what keeps it from having a consistent "motion picture" quality--maybe it's because the lighting in the bar scenes reminds me of One Tree Hill).

Just as the screenplay tweaks storytelling conventions, so do Mead and cinematographer Nathan Wilson put playful spins on fancy "film school" shots. From the hackneyed water-cooler scene that's shot at a harsh angle to accentuate the oppressive, ice-cold block-windows of Jerry and David's office, to the surprising take on the two-people-sitting-at-a-very-long-table shot, the number and variety of interesting-looking scenes enhance even the most mundane settings (the cutest example is the "Dead End" sign outside of Jerry's house, which I didn't pick up on until almost the end of the movie).

The key to Mead's success, I think, is that, like Quentin Tarantino, he realizes that even the most clichéd premise can be made into a wildly entertaining, interesting movie. My Name is Jerry has a terrific "first film" quality to it that shows how badly the director wants every aspect of his shot at the big-time to be note-perfect. The result is a surprising, touching film whose message is as relevant to weary travelers struggling with forks in the road as it is to those about to take their first steps into adulthood. If you haven't seen My Name is Jerry, please, place it at the top of your queue and enjoy. I love this movie.

*No, I haven't seen every independent film ever made. If you'd like to suggest a contender, please drop me a line.


Something Borrowed (2011)

The Language of Love

Sigh. Each year, the Oxford English Dictionary brings our species one step closer to Idiocracy by lifting the velvet rope of language and legitimizing a handful of silly non-words from popular culture. This year's winners include "LOL", "OMG" and "sexting". In no particular order, here are a few new gems I'd like to contribute, inspired by Luke Greenfield's Something Borrowed:

Miss Ogynist: n. Any female author whose work serves to repress her readership through unattainable and/or unflattering depictions of women (see also "Emily Giffin").

Glameo: n. Brief appearance in a romantic comedy by the author of the book on which the movie is based; denoted by a waitress/receptionist character who's spent way too much time in Hair and Makeup to be a casual background player (see also "Emily Giffin" "park bench", and/or "reading Something Borrowed").

Haagen-Date Movie: n. Any romantic comedy targeted at single, socially awkward women whose drug of choice is ice cream (i.e. women whose limited knowledge of actual romantic relationships allows them to buy into sexist Hollywood fantasies--thus perpetuating a loneliness loop that sustains the twin markets of bad movies and frozen treats).

Frumpet: n. In a romantic comedy, the allegedly "hot" actress whose horrible personality highlights the virtues of her mousy best friend (see also "Kate Hudson").

Blowmance: n. 99% of the movies in which Kate Hudson has appeared.

Fauxmance: n. Any romantic comedy in which the female lead ends up with absolutely the wrong guy (see also Reality Bites).

Bar-nun: n. Any movie character in law school, denoted by nerdy clothing that unsuccessfully masks his/her attractiveness (see also "Ginnifer Goodwin").

Shrugly: adj. Describes any non-blonde, leading female character in a romantic comedy. A knock-out in real life, this person will be sold to the audience as someone with low self-esteem who just can't get no man (see also "Bar-nun"). 

Cruise Line: n. Any male lead who looks uncannily like a cross between Tom Cruise and another actor (example: Colin Egglesfield = Tom Cruise + porn star Peter North).

Dorkmat: n. In a romantic comedy, the male best friend who pines for the shrugly lead actress but is doomed to lose out to a character fresh off the Cruise Line.

Jimeo: n. The appearance in a romantic comedy by an actor from a popular TV show in which he/she plays a variation on the character that made him/her famous (see also "John Krasinski", "Jim", and/or "The Office").

Clueless Douchebag: n. The leading man in any romantic comedy whose inability to recognize the girl he should really be with artificially pads the run-time.

Infiduhlity: n. In a romantic comedy, any extra-relationship sex between two characters who will inevitably wind up together.

Forfuckingever: n. In a romantic comedy, the amount of time it takes for the male and female leads to realize that they belong together.

Bad Romantic Comedy: n. A myth (female).

Bad Romantic Comedy: n. An oxymoron (male).

Guynocologist: n. Any man brave enough to suggest to his spouse that a romantic comedy might not be as great as its trailer promises.

Five-glasser: n. The romantic comedy so bad that men will not be the only ones drinking before it's over (extremely rare).

Four-bottler: n. A romantic comedy so packed with clichés that the audience loses track of how many drinking games are being played during any given scene.

Non-demand: n. The point at which the home audience realizes the film they're watching is a colossal waste of seven bucks; usually reached while un-pausing after a wine/bathroom break, when sheepish viewers see that there's over an hour of non-jokes and predictable outcomes still remaining.

Guymax: n. The point at which female audience members realize their guynocologist spouses were totally right about an awful romantic comedy; once reached, snide comments may be welcomed instead of shushed.

Femnesia: n. Typically occurring ten minutes after a romantic comedy has ended, the period when women swoon over the next rom-com preview they see on television--even if its plot and/or cast mirrors the awful movie they've just watched (related form, "Mannesia").

Pointless: adj. Describes detailed reviews of 99% of romantic comedies (see also "Blowmance", "Fauxmance").