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Two Weeks[’] Notice

Seen: 2002.12.24   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.01.19

A Christmas Eve afternoon film. Oh, why not? Christmas is an humbug.

I arrive at the Paramount on deserted streets behind a passel of Japanese teenagers just exiting the Chapters. Yes, I can tell them apart (from Chinese, Koreans, and other Orientalists), at a glance, from a distance, and also they were speaking Japanese, which I took for a year. More girls than boys, the latter of whom looked like they were being dragged along. After all, they’re in an alien country surrounded by gaijin. That’s the problem with living outside Japan: All the damned gaijin.

I have the usual rigamarole getting the gear. I have my now-normal conversation about lazy-arse playaz failing to Windex reflectors upon their return.

We’re in the much smaller Cinema 11. To my great surprise, it’s packed. Where were all these people? Not on the street and not milling around in the lobby.

I espy one and only one seat along the lateral centreline. It’s one or two rows farther back than I’d like. I make my way through, deploying my usual surfeit of politeness to smooth my passage. (“Excuse me. Thank you. Sorry about that. Thanks for going to all that trouble.”)

The Js are in the row behind me to the right. I sit next to this wee blonde chick, who is fascinated by the gear, and also somewhat worried by it. I can tell she’s that kind of girl. Querulous. A worrier. We get a lot of inverts like that, too.

So I explain its purpose matter-of-factly, going out of my way not to encourage further questions. Throughout the “screening,” I note that one or more persons surrounding me stinks.

Now. Le film. I hope I have learned my lesson from Murder by Numbers – not to pre-insulate myself from the movie, and not to prejudge it, merely because butch-number hack Sandra Bullock is in it.

The movie is grounded in a kind of nuanced realism you don’t find in Hollywood studio pictures: S. Bullock is a “community-based” lawyer (but to become a lawyer, you have to be rich and go to law school and be conservative, right?) who defends the architectural heritage of her neighbourhood but also agrees to work for a rapacious developer. In other words, she’s a progressive with issues or a capitalist with issues, or both. (And later she ends up in a legal-aid clinic, where, according to Hollywood script orthodoxy, any lawyer who isn’t an outright shark must work.) Even her parents are pinko lawyers.

The script nonetheless infests itself with lovable little quirks that are dragged out far too long by an actress congenitally (Miss Congenitally) incapable of being funny: Ordering extended binge meals from a Chinese restaurant, “pratfalling” left and right. These rhetorical devices are intended to prompt simpleton American women in the audience to love the movie.

But the film should have stuck to its own logic: S. Bullock is all business, knows H. Grant is a cad, and works for him anyway while resisting his charms. Till the very end, that is, when the confession of love is almost believable, but it seems that way only because we’ve been spared script-cliché telegraphing of S. Bullock’s blossoming love for H. Grant all the way through. By forbearing from triteness till the very end, a triteness that undercuts the film’s entire logic, my instinct was to forgive the movie, to actually eat the dog food.

I hate myself for being tricked in this way. Were the movie genuine and honest, S. Bullock would have gone back to work for H. Grant and simply remained a loyal employee.

The phenomenon of the female assistant who works for the male executive is poorly represented in Hollywood cliché. It is not uncommon for male executives to bring their own career assistants along with them from job to job; both parties have respective spouses and there’s nothing romantic or sexual about the “relationship,” merely the structural near-inevitability of a male executive’s having a female assistant. These days, female executives and/or celebrities will put up with gay male assistants, but that’s the creative end of the business range, not the hardcore corporate market.

In this model, S. Bullock would simply retain her position as a lawyer with mixed feelings about working for a rapacious developer. Oh, but I forgot: H. Grant isn’t rapacious enough for his brother, who fires him from the business. So I guess it’s all right, according to hackneyed Hollywood logic, for S. Bullock to declare – out of the blue, absent any other indication in the preceding two hours of exposition – that she loves him. It’s safe now because he sacrificed something. We’re supposed to look favourably on this novelty because women tend to sacrifice for men (Cf. Breaking the Waves, inter alia).

I have hughgrantist tendencies (loved him in About a Boy, a film particularly memorable for its actors’ inability to pronounce “McDonald’s” consistently within a scene), and I note that his character’s name, George Wade, is an indirect reference to Batman. But if he’s a billionaire, how and why does he fetch his own coffee from the staff kitchen (he isn’t staff) and eat kebobs from street vendors?

Caption quality

Did you ever read "The Constitution of the United States"? Oh, it goes in quotation marks now, and gets a capital T?

How about "The Declaration of Independence?!" Oh, it also gets quotation marks and a capital? The question mark and bang go outside the quotation marks. (Are they in the title of the document? You mean “the Framers” wrote like Valley girls way back in the 18th century? “Like, the Declaration of Independence?! We so totally hold these truths to be like self-evident?!”)

In fact, the ?! construct was seen three full times, I would say three times more than necessary.

editor of "The Law Review": Law reviews tend to be generic terms (like the newspaper, the gossip column, the yearbook) unless specifically named, as in “the Harvard Law Review.” And no frigging quotation marks.

but in an issue of "Public Policy" magazine: I’m really hardening against these quotation marks. I’ve proven the Caption Center can’t use them consistently, they interfere with possessives, and they defy the nature of an all-ASCII display that cannot show italics. Quit with the "tits on a bull."

Also, several times I saw the forbidden practice of starting a sentence on one caption and ending it in the first half of a combined caption. (You know, the ones that begin with a dash, but are centred instead of left-aligned and don’t type a space after the dash, which errors WGBH stubbornly clings to.)

However – however – they correct the title’s error: Please consider this my two weeks' notice. It’s possessive.

We never actually bother to mention that Hugh Grant speaks with an English accent. This is a profound and ongoing error in captioning, and it’ll have to be fixed. But in two captions, we see the equivalent of the following actual example: (mimicking English accent).

Let's go Mets! Is that like going crazy? The phrase is “Let’s go, Mets!” Name of addressee is always preceded by a comma. (Just remember the Abba “S.O.S.” rule: “So, when you’re near me, darling, can’t you hear me?”)

Hey, next time go to a Yankees' game: It isn’t possessive.

The film is marred by its infuriating Boomer soundtrack. “Respect,” for fork sakes. (♪ Take that, T-C-B ♪ errantly reads the caption. It’s an abbreviation.)

Is the token fat black chick’s name Polly St. Clair or Saint Clair? One’s notes are inconclusive as to how the captions spelled it.

Description quality

I’m sure “pratfalls” is le mot juste to describe S. Bullock’s tiresome physical acting, but the word does not adequately explain what she is doing. You don’t get this very often – e.g., in sports one should use the actual term for the action (grounder, lay-up, deke).


No worries.

Exit interview

People started bailing before the credits ran!

I think I chatted up the manager at the desk for a while. I don’t remember why. But halfway through, coming from straight behind me, a woman of a certain age dropped off a reflector and said a clear “Thank you,” smiling to both of us. We couldn’t figure out where she had come from. I didn’t see her in the auditorium.

I then went to a Christmas Eve dinner date with a lovely man who, after I futzed with his television controls to turn description on, stated “That’s that blind shit. Turn it off.” As an acquaintance put it, the remark was “a fact to be placed in his growing asshole folder.”

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