Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#37: California Dreaming


California Dreaming (previous title: Out of Omaha
Directed by Linda Vorhees
Written by Linda Vorhees
Released to DVD...

There have been a couple of decent (some even great) films made wholly or partially in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Sean Penn's The Indian Runner. Alexander Payne's first three films, Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt. Parts of The Assassination of Richard Nixon. Terms of Endearment (okay, that was Lincoln and Kearney, but still...).

Linda Vorhees' California Dreaming is not one of those finer films.

In fairness, no film could hope to follow The Night of the Hunter, so I swung in the opposite direction and went with something that had the stink of dogshit on it before I even hit the Play button.

To explain, I need to go back a few years, to when I had just moved back to Omaha to start a second bachelor's degree, this time in Nursing. I was spending my days working at a record store called Drastic Plastic, and my weekend nights DJing with a friend of mine at a bar called the Goofy Foot. Not long after my arrival in town, filming on California Dreaming began (it was called Out of Omaha at the time. I remember there being the slightest bit of buzz that Lea Thompson and Dave Foley were in town, and I figured I'd bump into them at some point.

Thompson and Foley began to frequent the Goofy Foot, among many bars in town, as they seemed on a sort of drunken parade... probably trying to drown the fact that they were co-starring in what would obviously be a straight-to-DVD movie. Thompson, who was married, even went so far as to have an affair with a musician who was a part of the local music scene, and whom shall remain nameless. To Thompson's credit, she did at least go "method" in this affair, stopping by our record store and buying pretty much every major release by almost every available local band. She was at the bar one night when I was DJing, but did not seem to get the joke when I played The Rolling Stones' "Miss Amanda Jones" (the song appears in Some Kind of Wonderful, Amanda Jones being her character's name in that film). She did, however, yell "WOLVERINES!" whenever anyone asked.

Well, at least they were having fun, right? They were drunk. I just really wonder what everyone else's excuse was.

Honest to God, California Dreaming might be the worst movie I've ever seen. If you knew the movies I'd seen, you'd know what a bold statement that is.

It's so ineptly made that they should teach it in film school. Don't Do This 101. God, I wish I could show it to you so you wouldn't think I'm overreacting. I've seen locally produced commercials with more attention to the simple details of filmmaking. Simple details like: if you're going to have a dog chase through a "park," try to make it less obvious that your film permit covers about 30 feet of space. Details like: rehearsing a shot at least one time, so you don't have to jostle the camera to keep an actor in frame when someone moves. Details like: if you're going to make what seems to want to be a comedy, WRITE A FUCKING JOKE.

My brother called me a few days ago to tell me he'd seen this movie (it's airing on Showtime this month), and that I should get my hands on a copy as soon as possible. He told me it was awful. I just called him back to tell him he undersold how much it sucked.

For what audience was this movie made? No one from outside of Nebraska is going to know what the hell these people are talking about, and no one who lives here is going be happy this thing was made within our borders.

Jesus. I'm embarrassed for Foley and Thompson. I'm embarrassed for anyone who helped make this movie. I'm embarrassed for humanity itself. I had a moment while watching this movie where I noticed a few of the extras, a few little kids sliding down a park slide behind the "stars." I felt bad for those kids, that they would have to sit through this thing just to be able to say, "Hey look, that's me." Sorry kid, you didn't get to be in the background of E.T. or even that most recent, awful Indiana Jones movie. Nope, your 15 minutes of fame are right here, in a movie you will NEVER get to brag about. To anyone.

This movie is truly one of the worst things to happen to me. I swear to you, I'm not joking. I felt physically ill afterwards. I only had to watch it. It's a wonder I didn't catch Thompson or Foley in a dumpster behind the record store, with heroin needles jammed into their eyeballs.

A closing message to Lea Thompson:

It's going to take a lot more than a few stiff drinks and a torrid affair with a kid half your age (at least) to erase the memories of this blight on your career. And you were in Howard the Duck, for Christ's sake.

For more on California Dreaming:

Who are we kidding? You're not watching this movie.

The official trailer:

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