30 Day Film Challenge – Day 22

Posted: July 1, 2021 in Uncategorized

Dursin’s getting upset!

I actually was glad to see this prompt, because it made me think of my favorite line in the first Avengers movie, when Captain America suggests that Bruce Banner get angry, and Banner responds, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.” And then…

I guess that proved that he could turn into The Hulk whenever he wanted? I don’t know, but it was a cool moment because everyone loves Big Green.

But yeah, my reputation, when it comes to movies or anything else, is that I’m either kind of grumpy or generally angry all the time. Obviously, this is an exaggeration because I see myself as a regular, down-to-Earth person, however I will admit to wanting people to adhere to the rules of society and when they don’t, well, I get a little peeved. Then I go a little George Costanza for a few seconds and it quickly fades.

Very few people have seen me get really angry as an adult. When that happens, I don’t actually say anything. To paraphrase Bruce Banner again, “You wouldn’t like me when I‘m silent.”

When it comes to movies though, some of them do make me a little angry (or annoyed, or miffed or whatever) because, like society, there are rules to follow to make them good, and when those rules aren’t followed, they can be bad. Sure, a creative writer or director can play with the structure a little, but the good ones usually stick to it.

For example, I was always taught in my screenwriting classes that you know a script is well-written if you flip it around and it still makes sense. The textbook case they always gave was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Basically, if you turn it around and write it from Nurse Ratched’s perspective and make her the protagonist, then this crazy R.P. McMurphy is coming in and screwing everything up. I’m not sure if that’s what that Ratched Netflix show was about, but I kind of doubt it. A more modern example is Thanos, the utilitarian who seeks to save the universe by eradicating half of it, so we’ll have enough resources to go around. He is definitely, like all good villains should be, the hero of his own story.

But this isn’t always done well, and such was the case in this movie that made me really angry back in 2007: 

Juno 

Before I begin shaking my first at the clouds, I want to point out that this movie stars the actor now known as Elliot Page, but who in 2007 was known as Ellen Page. I have nothing bad to say about Elliot, and I applaud his recent gender reassignment. But when I use the female pronoun in this rant, it’s because I’m talking about the character of Juno, who was decidedly female. On to the fist-shaking…

If you haven’t seen it, or have forgotten it like I wish I did, Juno is a 16 year-old girl who is impregnated after one attempt at sex by her friend Bleeker, played Michael Cera, who isn’t really playing anyone at all other than Michael Cera. Juno decides, at the abortion clinic, to have the kid and give it to a couple looking to adopt. Despite the fact that she is described as being pretty intelligent, she finds a couple, Vanessa and Mark, in the back of a Penny Saver and meets them. They seem like a nice couple, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, and they try to navigate this whole process together. Yay?

Not so fast. As we get to know them, we find that there are some cracks in their marriage. Vanessa is a bit controlling and really into being a mother, while Mark is a little more “meh” on the subject. It’s not really even the kid that Mark isn’t into. It’s more that Vanessa is literally making him throw away or hide all of his stuff because of it. And it’s not like he was playing with G.I. Joes or anything (which also wouldn’t be that bad). He had a few guitars and had a thing for horror movies, which he shared with Juno. His job, by the way, was composing musical jingles, which isn’t exactly what most musicians set out to do at 16, but it’s probably a steady gig, so why Vanessa was so flustered about him having instruments around is beyond me. But hey, those are the characters as written, and you have to have conflict.

The movie takes a weird turn all of the sudden when, just before the baby is due, Mark tells Vanessa that he is leaving her to figure his life out. He says he doesn’t really want to be a father right now and has other stuff he wants to do first. Juno literally watches the marriage fall apart before her eyes, and that’s a real bummer for her, because she was holding them up as the standard for how marriage could be. Sorry kid.

This is where I feel the movie went downhill, and made me angry. Instead of portraying Mark as this poor guy in turmoil, who just doesn’t want to be with his controlling wife anymore, and decides he better end this now before the kid arrives and he’s trapped, and making him the hero of his own story, they decide to go the basic route and just paint him as a cowardly man-child who leaves his beautiful, hopeful wife right before all her dreams are coming true. And I’m not necessarily saying that he’s not a cowardly man-child. I’m just saying it’s not written well enough to show any other perspective. They clearly want you to think he’s a dick.

Lots of Gifs today

And before I get anyone else as angry as I am, Vanessa is pretty much a caricature, too. She is the sort of fun-killing fish-wife that permeated movies for decades before a few smart women came along and said, “Hey, we’re people, too! And we can be funny!” I know the movie is about Juno and her journey, but I also learned in Screenwriting 101 that there are no insignificant characters, but Mark and Vanessa are total affectations that you could have pulled out of any 80’s rom com.

But what really makes me mad? Juno won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that year. Looking at the other nominees, I don’t know who else I would have given it to, but just about anything would have been better than this. Did not one Vin Diesel action movie come out that year? The dialogue, especially the stuff given to Juno’s Dad, is that terrible, cutesy stuff that was kind of funny in the early 90’s when it was new and different, but died out when people realized that no one actually talks like that. And the plot? Teen pregnancy? Really? Best Original Screenplay? What’s original about this? It’s basically every Lifetime with better actors.


I better stop now before I go all George Costanza.

We’re in the home stretch, though, so come back tomorrow and check out the ol’ linktree for comics and T-shirts.   

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