The Lindsay Lohan Filmography, Part II

In this edition of the Lindsay Lohan filmography, we have a trifecta of Disney movies. The Disney era was probably the most successful period for Lindsay with all the accumulating buzz and whatnot, but it did not always produce high-quality movies…

10. Get A Clue (2002)

I wanted to be nicer to Lohan here since she was so young, but screw that. We know perfectly well what she is capable of since The Parent Trap was all sorts of amazing and she was only twelve when she made that. Age is not her limiting factor for sure. In this movie, she plays the daughter of a wealthy journalist who is aiming to be a journalist herself. Basically, all she has to do was act like a wealthy brat who gets into other peoples’ business. It does not sound like work; rather, it sounds like the dream life of any teenager. Thus, it was shocking to me that Lohan was so unbelievable in this. The dialogue was shoddy and the plot barely held together, but Lohan was unconvincing nonetheless. Perhaps, she felt too comfortable in the role, so she phoned in the performance; it was a Disney Channel production. On the other hand, it is possible that this was early enough in Lohan’s career that she did not know how to be a brat yet, although I sincerely doubt that is possible when your mom is Dina Lohan.

One remitting factor for Lohan, though, is that her character’s actions make little sense as written. She tells her father what she has done, which is pretty horrible when you think about it, and her father leads her to believe that such meddling is appropriate for someone her age. Consequently, she feels no remorse for embarrassing her teachers, potentially putting him in danger, and generally breaking the rules of decorum that would be found at any school grounded in reality.

9. Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)

As it was her last movie for Disney, you could tell Lohan was just itching to leave that phase of her life behind. Looking back, I bet she would much rather have her Disneyfied career rather than the one she has now, but there is something to be said for breaking out of Disney’s shadow. You know you are beyond Disney’s target when they have to digitally reduce your boobs for a movie (as was done for Lohan here). It seems that the bigger the cash cow you are for Disney, the harder you fall when you leave. Take Spears v. Aguilera and Lohan v. Duff as examples. If the pattern holds trues, Miley Cyrus has a few rough years ahead of her.

Despite taking this role to fulfill contract obligations, Lohan was actually pretty good in Herbie. She showed the tomboyish drive of her racer and stayed consistent with her character throughout the film. The plot is most likely exactly what you would expect it to be from a racing movie. Lohan’s car is the underdog, but she works hard and puts up a fight against Matt Dillon, who is up to all kinds of no-good shenanigans. And as if that was not cliché enough, Lohan must do all of this against the wishes of her father, played by Matt Dillon. When watching a Disney movie, though, one must expect the clichés. In fact, it would be quite the unpleasant surprise if you were to pick up a Disney movie and not get the clichéd plot twists and happy ending you were expecting. So, in short, Herbie had nothing surprising, but nothing bad either.

8. Life-Size (2000)

Ah, a younger, more innocent time in Lohan’s life where she could cry and it would still feel genuine.  Lohan plays a child who has recently lost her mother and desperately wants to bring her back. Instead, she brings a doll that looks like Tyra Banks to life. The rest of the plot follows a traditional trajectory where the doll serves as a catalyst for Lohan’s self discovery and then disappears to re-establish the status quo.

The problem with this movie lies not with Lohan, who was quite charming and spunky, but with Banks who is a terrible actress. Tyra Banks as she is now is a very scary-looking woman, especially when she “smiles with her eyes.” Well, Banks in 2000 was not as scary-looking, but said equally ridiculous things in that gentle, but patronizing tone of voice. It’s the same one she uses in ANTM when she starts her “Two beautiful girls stand before me…” speech. Being the surrogate mother/friend to Lohan’s half-orphan, Banks was actually justified in using that voice in this movie. Call it irrational, obvious, or both, but Banks ruined this movie for me.

Part I


The Lindsday Lohan Filmography, Part I

The Lindsay Lohan Filmography

Now that Lohan’s film career has come to a screeching halt and she is contemplating full-time modeling, it seems like a good time to examine her filmography. Counting down from my least favorite to the best:

13. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)

This high school melodrama was painful to watch, mostly because of the aural atrocities imposed throughout. Also, the costuming was all sorts of ridiculous. I am not sure if anyone wears day-glo orange, nor should they. Honestly, I don’t even remember the plot, but it seemed like it was trying to be a rehash of Clueless, except without any of the wit.

12. Just My Luck (2006)

This was Lohan’s first “grown-up” film where we were supposed to believe she could hold down a job. She cannot. Perhaps her level of immaturity in real life transcended onto screen, because the entire time I could not figure out why this child was running around New York by herself. In fact, this movie was even worse than New York Minute in which the Olsen Twins also ran around New York on their own. However, in that film, the girls acted their age for the most part and their hi-jinks were age appropriate whereas Lohan was horribly miscast in this movie as a career professional at the ripe old age of 20. I, however, am very eager to see what Kristen Bell does with When In Rome, yet another movie involving magic, luck and romantic entanglements.

11. Chapter 27 (2007)

Neither Lohan nor Leto could save this film. Admittedly, Lohan played her role as an innocent Lennon fan that becomes increasingly freaked out by Leto’s Lennon stalker perfectly. However, she was in the film for a maximum of five minutes. The rest of this arduous film was filled with Leto rambling to himself and battling some inner demon speaking to him. The character of Mark David Chapman must be fascinating, I am sure, but inner psychopathology never translates well to screen. All the good psychiatric conditions portrayed on film have had some outward manifestation such as John Nash’s writings on the wall and imaginary friends or crazy in the form of Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. In fact, in Girl, Interrupted, Jolie’s flashy role is the only one anyone can understand and Winona Ryder’s borderline condition seems quite innocuous in comparison. This is not to say that Chapman’s brand of schizophrenia or Ryder’s borderline personality disorder are any less important than the other conditions; they are just not suitable film. Thus, it is not that Lohan or Leto were particularly bad in this film; they were just in a film that never should have been made.

Part II

Changeling (2008)

Changeling has a 142 minute run time and I still can’t find anything substantial to say about this movie…except does anyone else find the name of this movie awkward when the “The” is dropped? Also, why did the guy from Burn Notice have an accent in this movie? It sounded like a Southern drawl. So as not to leave my legions of readers (legions I say!) hot and dry, I give you the following conversation.

A: I watched Changeling last night.

M: That movie does not interest me in the least

A: I knew you were going to say that, but you are justified this time. It was pretty boring and too long.

M: What can I say, I am predictable.

A: And Angelina was not good.

M: Is that Clint Eastwood directed?

A: Yes.

M: Yeah, the impression I got was that her part mostly consisted of her screaming “Where’s my child!”

A: Yes. If I had the patience to watch it again, I would count how many times she screamed “my son.” It would give Michael from Lost a run for his money


A: Know what’s funny? The kid’s name in this movie is Walter.

M: Oh god, so much synchronocity!

I will say one last thing. Angelina is truly at her best when she plays crazy (Girl, Interrupted) or sexy badass (Wanted, Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sky Captain, Gone in 60 Seconds, etc), which bodes very well for the upcoming Edwin A. Salt. Angelina is by no stretch of the imagination an ordinary woman and I honestly don’t think she has the acting chops to make me believe she is.

An Imagined Interview with Stephen Daldry, director of The Reader

A: Hello, Stephen. How are you feeling today? Or more appropriately, how did you feel on January 22?

SD: Well, I can’t complain. It always feels good to be an Oscar nominee.

A: Not just any Oscar nominee, you obviously know. I believe you may be the only director to ever be nominated for three Oscars for his first movies!

SD: Oh thank you. I’d like to say that I planned it that way, but I certainly didn’t.

A: Was the nomination for The Reader a surprise to you?

SD: Well, wasn’t it a surprise for everyone? This movie was getting wildly mixed reviews from different critics, so I had no idea what to expect. And the release of the film was so rushed and there was so much controversy over Kate having two movies out at the same time. I try and stay out of all that happens after I make the movie.

A: What was your interaction with Harvey Weinstein like? The media makes him out to be a shrewd, calculating marketing genius.

SD: Well, he’s certainly shrewd. I will give you that. It’s funny that all three of us – Harvey, Scott [Rudin] and I – wanted the same thing. We were all looking out for the best interest of the movie. It was sort of like the three of us were going through a rough patch in our marriage and we had to keep our tempers on hold for the sake of our baby. I was not willing to release The Reader in a sub-par format and Harvey was not willing to release the movie at a time when it would make no money.

A: Can you give us any insider information on why Scott Rudin bowed out of the film? The rumor mills are saying it was because he had to choose between Revolutionary Road and The Reader and he went with Revolutionary Road.

SD: Much of that is speculation, but all I want to say is that Rudin is listed as a producer for Doubt as well. When you are involved in as many movies as Rudin is per year, you will always run into the problems of playing favorites. I think the dispute over The Reader had other political groundings that I really don’t feel comfortable commenting on.

A: Can you tell us about why you chose The Reader as your third feature film?

SD: I love literary adaptations and when David Hare signed on to be the screenwriter, I knew it would be given justice. I was eager to visualize his words again after working with him on The Hours. Also, I felt that the movie had an important message and profound talking points.

A: It actually may have had too many talking points. As I was watching the movie, I couldn’t figure out if this movie was about an unusual romance, about literacy or about the Holocaust.

SD: Can it not be all of those things?

A: Sure, but the first half and the second half seemed like they were two separate movies.

SD: Well, they were two episodes in the life of Hanna Schmitz, but it is all one life, so I cannot see how they are separate. If you view the movie as a character essay on Hanna’s life and analyze her motives for doing the things she does, everything will fall into place. The movie can be about those three things you mentioned, but at the same time, they are not about any of those three things specifically.

A: Since you bring up motives, a lot of criticism has erupted over both Hanna’s motives for seducing the young Michael Berg and her motives for letting the 300 Jewish women burn. Can you comment?

SD: I don’t think Hanna has her own morality. As the director, I was not trying to justify the actions of Nazi guards, but rather just delve into this woman’s psyche. In the post-World War I era, Germany was in such a state of despair and disillusionment that people were fighting for jobs and very willing to simply take orders as long as it put food on the plates. As evidenced in the courtroom scene, Hanna’s reason for not unlocking the gates was because she could not let the women escape; that was exactly what her job was supposed to prevent. So, the question becomes do we fault Hanna for being blind to the genocide she was part of or do we find her guilty of being anti-semitic?

Similarly, the morality of bedding a sixteen-year-old boy did not play any role in Hanna and Michael’s affair. As far as Hanna was concerned, Michael was a “kid” and lover that showed interest in her. In the scene where Hanna first bathes Michael, she looks down at him and says “ that’s why you came back.” Both of their intentions were known at that point. Everything was hanging out in the open so to speak. It was not like Hanna was attempting to seduce Michael or take advantage of him clandestinely. A lot of the controversies over the sex scenes, I believe, come from American prudishness or just the uncomfortableness people feel when they see an older woman with this young boy. As a director, though, my goal is never to make a comfortable film and so the fact that this film is getting people uncomfortable, getting people talking means that I did my job. I hope people are not just saying they think these things wrong, but really take time to analyze why their morals are shaped the way they are.

A: So you find nothing wrong with a woman in her 30s sleeping with a sixteen year old boy?

SD: I think we are too traditional with our definitions of appropriate relationships. Michael and Hanna made each other happy. They provided each other with things the other needed. Isn’t that all it should take to make a relationship work?

A: Do your own personal relationships have an effect on the way you see other relationships?

SD: Certainly, my personal life affects my opinions and as much as I try to separate that from my work, some will spill over. I am a gay man with a fulfilling romantic and sexual relationship with my wife, so yes, I know a thing or two about unusual relationships. I still stand by my statement that as long as all parties involved are mutually benefiting, there is nothing wrong.

A: Both The Hours and The Reader are very different in tone from your first feature, Billy Elliot. Do you see yourself sticking to dramas or will you make another light-hearted feature?

SD: The Hours and The Reader were certainly grimmer than Billy Elliot, but I disagree that Billy Elliot is light-hearted. Sure, there was much music and dancing but there were deep, universal themes in the film. Billy Elliot was as much about escaping the world one is confined to as The Hours was about the inability to do so. I think it is very important for people to not let societal pressures be the barrier to keep you from living the life you think you are destined for and I try to embody that theme in all my work. Too many people in this world are unhappy. If you are one of the lucky ones to know what it is you need to do to make yourself happy, whether it is dancing, getting out of suburban life or learning to read, by golly go and do it. We have become so in love with conforming that we have become afraid of making ourselves happy.

A: In The Reader, Hanna does teach herself how to read, yet she is not happy. How do you explain that?

SD: Well, one of the things I liked about The Reader is that Hanna is a dynamic character. I truly believe she had time to do a lot of soul-searching in prison. At the time of the court scenes, Hanna felt no remorse, but I believe she formed a guilt she could not live with in prison. When Michael came to see her the week before she was to be released, Hanna saw the lingering disapproval and intentional distance Michael was keeping from her. Hanna literally had nothing but her guilt to keep her company.

A: This year, you have directed your fourth actress to an Oscar nomination – Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and now Kate Winslet. How do you know women so well?

SD: Haha, I wouldn’t say I understand women. Much of my success in that department has come from the screenwriters writing such compelling characters for these talented actresses to bring to life. Not every woman is a happy housewife sex object. Women have as many layers as men do. A good example would be the relatively simple role of ballet instructor that Julie brought to life. She understood something about the very blue-collar environment in which her character lived and infused that culture into all her actions.

A: Well, that was certainly a more sensitive answer than Melvin Udall [from As Good As It Gets] gave! Thank you for sitting for this interview and I wish you the best of luck on Oscar night and on your next feature. You know I will be there!

Sophie’s Choice (1982) v. The Reader (2008)

These two films share so much in common that it is surprising strong parallels have not been drawn before. Both films highlight strong female performances (coincidentally both include German accents), the holocaust, a difficult decision to be made that changes the protagonist for the rest of her life, tragic endings, younger men falling for older women and holocaust victims that move to the United States.

If we go one step further in analyzing Meryl Streep v. Kate Winslet, the similarities get more eerie. Both were 33 years old when their respective films came out. Streep gave the performance of her lifetime in a flawless Polish accent and won an Oscar. Winslet has been evolving ever since her debut in the mid-90s and many agree she has peaked in 2008 and expect her to win this year’s Oscar. Her performance was in a natural German accent. Both actresses were double nominated at the Golden Globes. Both actresses are versatile in both drama and comedy. Both hold records when it comes to Oscar nominations: Meryl Streep has the most Oscar nominations of any actor in history and Kate Winslet is the youngest actor to reach six Oscar nominations. And of course, both are nominated against each other for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The characters themselves were fundamentally different, as one was a prisoner in the concentration camp while the other was a guard. Yet, the trauma in the camps tore both sides apart. Both Streep’s Sophie and Winslet’s Hanna shrouded their pasts in mystery to cover up the decisions they made in the camps. Sophie was more conscious of her wrongdoing than Hanna, but both lives were irreparably damaged in the end, precluding them from leading normal lives once they had reached “freedom.” Their decisions destroyed not only their own lives, but impacted those of the men around them. While Nathan was a paranoid schizophrenic in Sophie’s Choice, his suspicions of how Sophie managed to survive the concentration camp fed his paranoia. Furthermore, Sophie’s story dashed the optimistic naivete Stingo embodied. In The Reader, Michael Berg was never able to have another successful relationship after Hanna. It seems that anyone that went through the camps, either prisonder or guard, emerged as only a shell of who they were before. After they are let back into society, their emptiness acts as a black hole, sucking the life from everyone around them and exponentially magnifying the emptiness.

Neither film attempts to answer which decisions or which actions were right nor do they place blame on their protagonists. At one point while on trial, Hanna says “What would have you have done?” and the same question can be applied to Sophie. Both women had to make decisions that fractured their humanity, but they were placed in situations that none of us could fathom being in. None of us can know what we would have done and we should pray every day that we will never have to know. And thus, we cannot judge either of these women for what they had done. We should not judge these women for making impossible decisions in situations that never should have existed.

As Good As It Gets (1997)

As Good As It Gets is my second favorite movie of all time. I have prolonged writing this review for years because I fear that I cannot put into words how this film continues to entertain me every time I watch it; how it makes me smile with its lightness and liveliness; and how I am still shocked/taken aback/mesmerized by the words coming out of Melvin Udall’s (Jack Nicholson) mouth, even though I know exactly what he is going to say.

I love the pacing of the plot as it flows from one event to the next with no evidence of predetermination. The first time we see Melvin go into Carol’s (Helen Hunt) restaurant for breakfast, we never think that by the end of the movie, they will both go on a trip to Baltimore. Yet, they both accompany Melvin’s gay neighbor and victim of a robbery, Simon (Greg Kinnear), as he goes to Baltimore to ask his estranged parents for money. The fact that the two leads reach the climax of their storyline as they are on a plot diversion for the storyline of the supporting character seems so random, but it truly embodies the way that life is. Life is rarely a series of linear events that happen in a logical and predictable order. There is always a bit of chaos in it, such as not knowing if the woman you depend on to bring you eggs in the morning will call in sick or if you will suddenly have to get up in the middle of the night to take a train across town and walk through the pouring rain to tell a man you will not sleep with him.

A story about life should not have only one protagonist since life is all about interpersonal connections. Arguable, Melvin is our protagonist as he does interact with the two other principal actors, but the movie exists in parts without him. By the time the trio gets back from Baltimore, Carol and Simon are as chummy as if they had been longtime friends. It is true that Melvin’s insensitivities were the catalyst that brought these two together, but they managed to form a relationship built on nude sketching and independent of Melvin. Ironically, a far more iconic relationship built on nude sketching came out in the same year, obscuring this one behind its titanic shadow.

The screenplay was smooth, witty and rife with memorable quotes, most of them belonging to Melvin. In response to being asked how he writes women so well, he says “I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.” When asking Carol her age, he says “Judging by your eyes, I’d say you were 50.” When introducing Carol to Simon, he says “Carol the waitress, [meet] Simon the fag.” But one quote, and really the entire scene, trumps every ridiculous thing Melvin has said throughout the movie. After insulting Carol’s dress, Melvin offers up a circuitous compliment and then delivers the most heart-melting line of the entire movie: “You make me want to be a better man.” Jack Nicholson’s voice gets deeper and the gravity of the statement slowly sinks into Carol’s mind. She gets up and moves to the chair closer to him and the camera stays fixed on her face as it pans around the table. For the first time in the entire movie, Carol has let down her defenses and allowed a man to impress her and you can see it in her face. Finally, Carol says “Why did you bring me here?” and after some stuttering from Melvin, she says “If you ask, I’ll say yes.” This scene is undeniably the literary climax of the movie, but the denouement is rapid, as good situations with Melvin usually are.

I have seen this movie at least ten times and the characters get more nuanced each time. This is one of those few films that actually gets better and better with repeated viewings since it is not immediately showy, but emotionally rich.

Worst Supporting Actress 2008: Mary-Kate Olsen

In a time when everyone is focusing on the “best” accolades, I would like to present an FYC for the Worst Supporting Actress of 2008. This will surprise everyone that knows me, as I am an ardent fan of Full House, but Mary-Kate Olsen gave the worst performance of her career in The Wackness and yes, I have seen New York Minute. This award is deserved 50% because her role was a paucity of substance and 50% because she spent her two scenes doing this:

Somewhere along her misguided career, some agent told her that it would be awesome if she just put on oversized clothes and waved her arms around in a fluid-like motion. Mary-Kate must have taken this advice to heart since her life emulates art or her art is just an extension of her life or perhaps she did not even know she was on a movie set. The girl is a billionaire and her hair looks like it has not been washed since 2004 when her and Ashley got their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also, I do not think she has learned a new facial expression since 2004.

Mary-Kate on the left with her patented duck face.

Back on topic… supporting actresses have made do with far less in a script than Mary-Kate was given here as a druggie New York vagabond (art imitating life again). Her portrayal of the character Union was one-note, unbelievable, and completely evident that she did not even try to see if there were any layers to her character. Show me that your character has a purpose; show me a reason for her existence. Show me that even though your character is in a constant altered mental status, she is still a human being underneath. In the same movie, Jane Adams was given an equally eccentric role and only marginally more screen time, yet she made me CARE about her. On the other hand, I cannot even remember a single line Mary-Kate delivered and I was PAYING ATTENTION especially for her. As an outsider watching the movie, it is quite possible that the only role for her character was to make out with Ben Kingsley, but as an actress, Mary-Kate needed to step into her character, however small the role. Within the cosmos of The Wackness, there is no way that Union could know that she was fated to tongue wrestle with Dr. Squires, so she has to exist outside of the occurrence of that event, a fact which Mary-Kate Olsen fails to recognize. To make matters worse, in the infamous make-out scene, all I could see was a cross between a tiny troll and a wood nymph climbing all over a great British actor with bad facial hair.

A word of advice to Mary-Kate because I still love her: you are only young in Hollywood once. Choose your roles carefully and do something that is not a shallow one-note “free spirit” character. Pick a character with emotion and real problems to which your audience can relate. Somewhere underneath the baggy sweaters and dark red lipstick, there is still a decent looking girl who could clean up and star in a romantic comedy. If you don’t want to be an actress and want to focus on fashion, start wearing clothes that fit. And for the love of God, start washing your hair!

This post is a part of the Supporting Actress Class of 2008 Blogathon hosted by Stinkylulu.