26 December 2009

Jacob Marley And Me

Christmas is an odd day...it always feels like an anticlimax by about 5 pm, no matter what you're doing after. It IS a perfect day for watching movies on TV, though. So I watched "Christmas Carol" and "Marley and Me". (-By "Christmas Carol", I mean the PROPER one, the Alastair Sims version. The Jim Carrey version is unthinkable-about. ) I'm going to skip "Christmas Carol" in this entry  (except to observe that you could also call it "Jacob Marley And Me"), and talk a bit about the Dog Movie.

"Marley and Me" was a HUGE hit this year. It stars the perkily inhuman Jennifer Aniston, and the tiny and dreadfully lost-seeming Owen Wilson, whom I like and feel sorry for simultaneously.  Aniston makes a living out of doing chilly, businesslike impersonations of Wacky Free Spirits. In this film, she's doing an impression of a Perfect Wife 'N' Mom which is pretty good, as long as one knows lot of Wife 'N' Moms who only have very photogenic emotions. I keep expecting her face and body to entirely crack open one day, and a metallic cyborg to step out and announce that the world is now Theirs, and They Will Be Enslaving Humans to Do Their Bidding, but They are Still Keeping Bryan Lourds As Their Agent.Just In Case.-But I digress.
I missed the first part of the film. Apparently, from the flashbacks--and this is the kind of movie that has a movie's worth of flashbacks--the golden Aniston and the butterscotch Wilson got a suitably Aryan-colored puppy some years ago. {I was a bit surprised they didn't get a darker puppy, as well, to work as staff.]
He chewed a lot of stuff, and then they had children. Wilson works for a newspaper, although it's hard to see where either of them find time to do anything, because their matching perfect highlights must require CONSTANT touching up. -So: He is the kind of writer who gets fired for Pursuing His Vision No Matter What. -My feeling about that is, unless when you look in the mirror Edgar Allen Poe is staring back at you, getting fired from a newspaper for Pursuing Your Vision doesn't mean you're a genius. It actually sort of says to Me The Viewer that you might be kind of a selfrighteous pain in the ass. -By the time I tuned in, they were moving to a place in Pennsylvania that is actually, objectively, sort of a  mansion, but a mansion just eccentric and attainable enough to lure the hapless viewer into thinking she might actually own something like it some day.-Poor,deluded hapless viewer. -On a columnist's salary?
Maybe Aniston's character has a trust fund? -But I digress.
The dog gets older, and then one day it dies. That 's the plot.-No, really. That's the plot.

Now, I am no stranger to the "God Spelled Backwards Is Dog" school of  animal writing. As a kid, I LOVED Albert Payson Terhune books ("Lad:A Dog") , and Farley Mowat (who could also be Marley Fowat, now that I come to think of it...)...and Cleveland Amory's "I Am a Closeted Upper-Class Gay Man in Boston Who Writes A LOT-A LOT-- About His Cat" books, and loved them all. Because they were heartfelt. Albert Payson Terhune may have hated everyone in the world EXCEPT his dogs, to judge from his constant, randomly inserted, semi-Brechtian diatribes against "day trippers", "speed demons", and "indecently clad young people" (he wrote around 1912) , but man, he LOVED those dogs. Farley Mowat never met an animal he DIDN'T like enough to write about, and Cleve's books about his cats are very moving. The point here being:
They meant it.
"Marley And Me" is so patently phoned in, so "yeah, let;s give the rubes a dog movie, throw in some snow,we'll get the Christmas crowd" that it makes me mad. This is a movie in which everyone concerned seems beyond caring. Case in point: In one scene, Owen Wilson is outside in the snow with his three kids, giving them detailed instructions on how to make the BEST snow angels. Jennifer Aniston comes to the door and announces that her stand in has made lunch, everybody come in!-and the three kids get up from making labor-intensive snow angels, and run in...without ONE actually turning around to see what his/her angel actually looked like. This, to me, says that the director was having it off in his trailer with an ambitious extra and let a PA direct the scene.
I'm cool with the scenes of the dog miraculously always knowing when the kids schoolbus arrives,in order to meet it: anyone who's ever owned a cat can tell you, if you normally give your cat dinner at 5 pm, and one day you're a little forgetful, at 5:01 SHARP you will have a helpful reminder in the form of ten claws in your calfmuscle. So, yes. Animals and time? No problem. And I'm cool -sort of--with the wife calling the columnist at work that the dog isn't feeling good, and he rushes home, although I'm going to say he's got a rather more tolerant boss than one would expect in a newsroom.
But the Dog Death Scene was just...too much.
Owen Wilson takes Marley to the vet and they have to put him down. -Marley,that is, although Owen is so mopey in this movie that I bet it was touch and go for a minute there. ("Which one, Doc?" "The Blonde One.""O..kay..."  Ooops!)
What ensues is a death scene worthy of Lucia de Lammarmoor. I mean, this thing goes on for 7 minutes. -Now, I would like to say that I love animals. A LOT. When my cat Eddie Sebastian Private Eye died last year, I was really inconsolable...he'd been my friend, my amusement, and my enigma for 22 years. So, please,understand, this is not an anti-dog rant, or unsympathetic to ANYONE who's had to have this painful and sad experience.--HOWEVER. It's a dog, not the Hindenburg Dirigible Disaster. Some perspective here, please,people. But, um...no. Sooping camera work, close up of dog, close up of Owen Wilson,closeup of Owen Wilson AND dog, closeup of vet who finally Understands That This Is No Ordinary Dog, ethereal music, you name it. I mean, Abraham Lincoln died quietly in a boardinghouse room...I think we can let a dog go with rather less Drama than that.
Finally, the weirdest goddamn scene ever, where Owen digs a huge hole and puts the dog in there and his children are traumatized...I mean, his children are asked to recite poems and put drawings in the grave. (If they were Neanderthals, it would be flowers. I just like that, is all.) One child declines to read his poem for Marley, simply choosing to say, gnomically yet insufferably, "He knows."
-Well, no. He doesn't. He's a dog. A dead one. They can't read minds. So, no, he doesn't actually know.
But two points for getting out of writing a poem, creatively,kid.-Also, if Owen is so adept at digging backyard boneyards, does that mean he has PLANS for Jennifer Aniston's character? Is he going to be out there two weeks later, shoveling like mad while muttering "Highlights...perky...highlights...perky...MUST STOP...perky...Brad..."

I'm sorry I seem like such a grump about this. I love dogs, I love movies, I love kids, I have even, in the distant past, kinda sorta loved Owen Wilson. But I must raise my muzzle and howl against the corporate cynicism, the disingenuous dog appreciation, the condescension and carelessness that is "Marley And Me."

Aside from that, Christmas was awesome. I took Courtney Love to Norman Mailer's house for Christmas. But that, as they say, is another story.