Monday, December 28, 2009

The 2000s, A Decade in Retrospect...I discover The Godfather

[from The Godfather: Part II]

The 2000s, A Decade in Retrospect is a series where I will be professing my love to the pop culture wonders that I discovered during this decade, but not specific to this decade.

When I was eleven, the only legitimate live-action "classic" I've seen and loved, released before 1990 was Rain Man. I loved the movie to pieces. Thought Dustin Hoffman was fantastic. Tom Cruise as well. The ending touched my tremendously. I still think positively of that film, though repeated viewings have diminished my heightened adoration.

But The Godfather was the film that turned on my curiosity for the realm of cinematic classics. I'd like to think that, without The Godfather, I would have never touched It's a Wonderful Life, The Philadelphia Story, or Roman Holiday with a ten-foot pole. Anything before the 80s would still be, sadly, off-limits for me, as far as my interests go.

I saw The Godfather by accident.

I was surfing the TV Guide website on my old dial-up Internet connection, looking for a movie to watch with my mom for the remaining duration of a lazy Saturday afternoon. I told her that The Godfather was going to be on network television today later in the afternoon. While I may have been bored, sitting in front of the television for four hours watching a single movie didn't sound very inviting.

But my mom managed to live forty years of her life avoiding The Godfather movies altogether. She said she wanted to see it. I told her I was uninterested.

I remember seeing The Godfather movies on the shelves of the local video rental store and while I was curious about them, a 70s mafia epic was never supposed to suck me in. I still preferred Mary Kate and Ashley movies at the time.

But I was really bored. When the movie started, I decided to sit down and give that sepia-tinted world a whirl. I knew I could leave at any time. But I didn't leave, unless you count in the occasional bathroom breaks.

While I wasn't too impressed with the first half-hour or so (I have learned to appreciate those scenes by now), the iconic scene when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) goes to the restaurant and shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey to prove his allegiance to his family pulled me right in.

There aren't many scenes like that and even less that are so well-acted and well-directed. The intensity boils at such a high temperature that the moment everything cracks, it feels like someone just kicked open that imaginary cinematic door for the film and the audience become one.

Pacino's performance was the reason I stayed around to watch that phenomenal scene. He is simply an incredible actor. While his recent film choices have been questionable, Pacino has unquestionable screen presence. I couldn't leave my seat, not after the moment where Michael tells his girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton) about who his family is and what they do.

While I wasn't completely sucked in yet, but I was already partially invested in Michael Corleone. I tend to forget about Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) altogether. I haven't seen many Brando films, but from what I have seen (this and A Streetcar Named Desire), I don't care for him, but that might as well change in the future.

That said, Michael Corleone is my favorite film character of all-time.

This is perhaps why I love The Godfather: Part II. I saw it two years after I've seen the original (I don't know why it took so long) and thought it was absolutely brilliant. In the winter break of eighth grade, I watched The Godfather: Part II four times. And considering it clocks around 3 hours and 20 minutes, I believe I achieved something fantastically awesome. Or that I have no life. But either way, it was worth it.

Parallel storytelling has never been done better. Robert De Niro is intimidating, touching, devastating, cunning, and self-assured as young Vito. The scene where Vito kills Fanucci is a powerful scene, the kind that you watch and gasp for breath afterward. And when Vito joins his family and tells baby Michael that he loves him very much, we get a telling glimpse into the Vito-Michael dynamic.

We realize that Michael's destiny has always been to inherit Vito's crime empire. While Vito may have respected Michael's initial wishes to not be part of the bullet parade, Vito knew, deep down, that Michael was the only son with the potential to keep things in order.

We see Vito's rise juxtoposed with his son's modern personal downfall. Michael has everything a mafia don desires: Intelligence. Power. Success. Michael is sucking up the American Dream with a vacuum. But his personal relationships are crumbling.

Michael's wife, Kay is pregnant and unhappy; Michael has failed to keep his promise to make the family business legitimate. Michael's brother, Fredo (John Cazale), is jealous and angry of his worthless and easily replaceable position in the business. Michael's sister, Connie (Talia Shire) is still mad at him for what he's done to her husband and tries to distract herself with escapades with randon men.

While Vito was loved and respected by his family, Michael is too cold to be embraced by anyone. He can get the job done, but no one close to him is going to bother to congratulate him at the end of the day.

The Godfather: Part II also features two of the most criminal Oscar snubs of all-time: John Cazale and Diane Keaton. Sure, Lee Strasberg is an interesting antagonist and Talia Shire delivers a good performance, but Cazale and Keaton's performances are explosions in epic proportions. I think of Cazale in the boat house scene. I think of Keaton in the hotel room scene. The fact that their performances were dismissed by the Academy back in 1973 was, and always will be, blasphemous. I can't think of better examples of Academy injustice.

But it goes back to Pacino, who is brilliant in every frame of the film. I have never felt so much sympathy for a fictional murderer in my life. I think of the person Michael was, and the person he became. He didn't want any of this. But he's completely capable in fulfilling his duties. He's incredibly good at the job he unwillingly (and over time, willingly) does. Somewhere down the road, he got lost. He doesn't know if he's doing this for his family, his deceased father, or for himself. But he's constantly keeping everything together when he so desperately wants it to all shatter.

The last scene is heartbreaking, every time I think about it. It masterfully creates the desolate state of loneliness. Michael has lost everything he cares about. He has become the man he feared he would become.

But the transformation is complete and there's no going back.

Yet he does in The Godfather: Part III. I love that movie and will defend it when necessary. I even wrote a self-titled "love letter" to the film this past summer because I wanted to.

Pacino is, once again, excellent in The Godfather: Part III. Michael is softer now and more like Vito. But his ex-wife, Kay, still doesn't respect him. Michael's family business is still not legitimate, although he really is trying this time around. It's a riveting portrait that is indeed crumbling, yet everything still feels so alive.

It is an inescapable spiral that never ends.

I became obsessed with The Godfather for a while. I went on GangsterBB practically everyday to read the posts. I watched films that Godfather fans enjoyed (Scarface sucks, GoodFellas rocks). I watched a crapload of Pacino movies for a period of time because damn, the man's thrilling to witness as any character in any movie. I even read Mario Puzo's novel, which pales in comparison to the films.

While the choice trilogies of my generation usually included only The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, I rebelled and embraced The Godfather. Because there is no other story in cinema quite like it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmastime once again...

In celebration of the most wonderful time of year, I'd like to share a Christmas song that is often overlooked during the holiday season. It is John Williams' "Somewhere in My Memory," the theme to the 1990 Christmas classic, Home Alone. It's absolutely the sweetest thing. In fact, it purely reminds me of church choirs, candy canes, homemade cookies, and warm, friendly fireplaces. Please enjoy...

I hope you all are able to spend Christmas with your loved ones! And wear plenty of layers to fight the winter frost! I do know it's surprisingly chilly here in the west coast.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The 2000s, A Decade in Retrospect...Gossip Girl

[from the "Vanity Fair" August 2008 photoshoot]

The 2000s, A Decade in Retrospect is a series where I will be professing my love to the pop culture wonders that I discovered during this decade, but not specific to this decade.

Teen drama has never been so sensationally addictive and relentlessly glamorous until Gossip Girl entered my life in the summer of 2009.

When the ultimate Upper East Side teenage high society queen, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) and the sunny, charming "it" girl Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) finally meet eye-to-eye on a rainy day in Central Park, I was sold. Blair spills her heart out to Serena: Blair's father left her mother for a male model, her boyfriend has been acting weird...and her best friend wasn't there for her as all this unfolded.

Bitching, back-stabbing, and uncomfortable confrontations. All that comes to an abrupt halt. Instead, we see Blair and Serena as who they really are and who they really want to be: best friends. Could Gossip Girl be a show with a...soul?

After years of rejecting the glitzy teen phenomenon, I became a fan. Gossip Girl turned out to be less shallow than I initially thought it was. Oh, yes, it may take place in a delusional universe of impeccable fashion sense, poreless skin, lovely make-up, drool-worthy shoes, and last but not least--perfect hair! served with a fair share of teen drinking and sex. But it's also a show with surprisingly likable characters and a cast with young, attractive talents who can deliver surprisingly engaging performances.

And to top it off, the picturesque New York cinematography and hip-chic soundtrack is literally to die for. Kristen Bell's narration as the mysterious title blogger adds to the scandalous! factor to the show, just like sugar and spice does to any dish.

On an aesthetic level, Gossip Girl completely dominates.

But underneath all those fabulous designer items, it's really, a superbly entertaining television show. Especially season one. I'm sad to say that it has gone slightly downhill, or, slightly crooked, in terms of quality. But season one is blessed with so much pure, melodramatic fun to a point that it's deliciously irresistible.

I was familiar with Gossip Girl producer, Josh Schwartz's previous project, The O.C., a teen soap focusing on the privileged youth of Orange County. I didn't watch the show religiously, so naturally, I didn't have high expectations for Gossip Girl. I also knew that Gossip Girl was adapted from a series of books by Cecily von Ziegesar, but trashy teen novels were never my style. If I had to spend time pouring over hundreds of pages of words, I prefer to read something that would stimulate my mind, thank you very much.

(I did admittedly finish the first book in the series recently. So why are people complaining about Twilight being a literary atrocity when Gossip Girl exists? Thanks for the idea, von Ziegesar, but thank goodness Schwartz and co-creator Stephanie Savage came in, like the TV superheroes they truly are, and reconstructed von Ziegesar's ridiculous UES world from an annoying toxic wasteland of robotic idiots to a world that's a little more...human.)

The pilot episode of Gossip Girl drew me in immediately. Peter Bjorn and John's "Young Folks" always remind me of that alluring opening sequence. The entire cast is fueled with endless chemistry.

The fairy tale romance between middle-class loner, Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) and redeeming party girl, Serena van der Woodsen is the most endearing romance since the mini love story in Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" music video. Their romance was briefly threatened by the arrival of Dan's blatantly boho-styled friend Vanessa (Jessica Szhor), but then Dan and Serena just continued being awesome. Too bad the refreshing take on the Ross-and-Rachel concept only lasted one season until it all went downhill.

The troubled golden couple, Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) and Blair Waldorf added some tension to the seemingly pitch-perfect landscape of lovely penthouses and sparkling martini glasses. While I originally thought Serena may be the continuously threatening corner of the central love triangle, it turned out to be the notoriously boozed-up local bad boy, Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), who has his hard-to-crack heart set on Blair.

Then there's Dan's ambitious, social-climbing little sister, Jenny (Taylor Momsen), who tries to fit into her snobby private school--especially Blair's inner circle--without a pricey outfit from Bendel's. And it wouldn't be a proper teen soap opera without some middle-aged romance added into the mix: Dan's ex-rocker father, Rufus (Matthew Settle) and Serena's socialite mother, Lily (Kelly Rutherford) were once old lovers in their wilder days. They inevitably reconnect.

Season two happened. The sometimes-frustrating, sometimes-interesting will-they-won't-they cat-and-mouse game between Chuck and Blair commenced in a style that even John Hughes would have found to be too angsty. Then Jenny destroyed her pretty face and hair with a heavy load of eyeliner and a constant bad hair day. Then Dan had an unnecessary affair with an English teacher that I didn't give a damn about. Yet Nate was useless (as usual), until we met his horrifically devious family that happens to include the most badass grandfather ever.

There goes a completely unbalanced season. Ended on a fairly high note, though.

Unfortunately, the first ten episodes of season three didn't do any favors for the show. But with the amazing mid-season cliffhanger, there may be hope for Gossip Girl after all. The most recent episode brought back what I loved about the show in the first place: blackmail, back-stabbing, bitching, the great relationships, and the surprisingly good acting.

Ed Westwick continues to be criminally underrated, simply because he's on a CW teen soap opera. He has convincingly molded Chuck from the bad boy/date rapist he was back in season one into this mature, caring young man who is destined for great things. There were moments in season two, despite the overly angst-up writing, where I just thought, damn, why doesn't Ed Westwick get major award recognition for this? This is character development done right. His achingly touching performance in "The Debarted" (3x12) proves that he can strike gold twice. Just like any good actor would.

While I wouldn't call myself a super-duper "Chair" (Chuck/Blair) obsessive, I do like their scenes together. Westwick and Leighton Meester have this electrifying, passionate chemistry that I can't deny. Their unforgettable limo scene in season one, ingeniously set to Sum 41's "With Me," has been etched in my memory forever. But I prefer to see Meester's Blair as a lone warrior, fearlessly tackling her enemies on her own, with vulnerabilities to boot. That is when Meester is the most fierce and interesting. The funny thing is, Blair's a bitch, but she's just too human to fill us with despair.

Another thing I adore about the relatively impressive latter half of season three (so far) is Taylor Momsen's Jenny. She may have the drabbest outfits (and isn't she supposed to be rich now?), but her gradual rise to teenage queendom is completely enticing. I love that Jenny is becoming a bitch--a drug-dealing bitch, no less. I love that she practically has no friends since she alienated her gay stepbrother Eric (Connor Paolo) from her queen bee lifestyle. And since they called truce, it makes you wonder: Did they really mean it? In short, I love Jenny's storyline this season and I don't care if you disagree.

And...who knew Chace Crawford had such good comedic timing? The days where Nate constantly looked stoned, confused, and clueless are officially a thing of the past. I welcome the randomly lovesick Nate who learned to emote and do heroic deeds that I actually want to root for.

While season three may be looking up, season one is still one of the most perfect seasons I've ever witnessed, especially by teen soap opera standards. Even if Gossip Girl never returns to its former glory, it will still hold a certain place in my adolescent heart. Every teenage girl needs a show in her life that's totally corrupt, full of random love triangles, and acted out by gorgeous people. Gossip Girl successfully fills that void to the very brim. With sin, squalor, and lots of xoxos.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 2000s, A Decade in Retrospect...ION airs The Wonder Years

[images courtesy of The Wonder Years]

The 2000s, A Decade in Retrospect is a series where I will be professing my love to the pop culture wonders that I discovered during this decade, but not specific to this decade.

"Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house like a lot of other houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back, with wonder."

In the uneventful summer of 2007, I stumbled upon the late-eighties coming-of-age half-hour dramedy, The Wonder Years. The show delicately chronicles the adolescence of Kevin Arnold during the escalating confusion and violence of the Vietnam War.

I was immediately hooked. ION played three cycles of the entire show, thankfully. I was able to consume all six seasons in a very short period of time. I was completely in love with a television show for the very first time.

The performances. The script. The amazing soundtrack.

Fifties, sixties, and seventies pop never sounded so cool and timeless. I used to listen to The Stylistics' "You Are Everything" and Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight" back-to-back because those songs always reminded me of the scenes in the show and how much I wished my adolescence was filled with that kind of innocent puppy-love romance.

While I've always love nostalgia when used effectively in every artistic medium I've ever encountered, I've never seen it done like this. The show is, and always will be, a sweetly sentimental masterstroke of television genius. You don't have to live and breathe knowledge of mid-twentieth century Americana to completely relish the hormonal antics of The Wonder Years. It simply the best television show I've seen about the process of growing up in suburbia.

Fred Savage's brilliant turn as Kevin showcases an adolescent under the influence of angst, infatuation, humor, heartbreak, brattiness, and confusion. Savage is a natural; the obvious crux of the show. Season four highlights Savage's capability to believably deliver the most heartbreaking moments of adolescence.

Speaking of season four, it is perhaps one of the best seasons of any television show ever. I was left speechless when I watched the captivatingly dramatic, achingly devastating two-parter, "Heartbreak" and "Denial." I got teary-eyed when Kevin discovers the necklace Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) leaves on his bus seat, shortly after their break-up. I got even more teary-eyed in the aftermath of the break-up when Winnie tells Kevin that she wants to be friends and Kevin insists he doesn't want to be friends. He honestly believes, in his achingly fragile teenage heart, that he loves her. And we believe that too.

To me, Kevin and Winnie are the ideal sweethearts, simply because they aren't perfect. Their relationship is confusing, like all relationships are. But they keep coming back to each other because well, they can. I've always wanted a relationship like Kevin and Winnie's, but I'm already at the latter edge of adolescence, so I guess it's a little too late.

Being a Kevin and Winnie fan, I embrace season six with opens arms, which is my second favorite season of the series. Some fans may feel cold towards season six, but after those random missteps in season five, season six is a refreshing surprise. But it's the most human and consistent season. It makes me wish there is indeed a season seven. But thanks, ABC and the TV gods for annihilating the existence of a season seven for me. My life is sorrowfully imperfect without it.

I especially like how Kevin and Winnie matured into two teenagers who can be a steady couple and work out problems together. Kevin is no longer pining for Winnie because he doesn't have to. And Winnie isn't playing games with Kevin anymore because she knows that Kevin cares for her--always have been, and always will. Winnie may not be the most likable character, but McKellar's performance makes us see her the way Kevin sees her: flawed, yet a desirable object of affection.

And in one of my favorite episodes (from season five, amazingly enough), "Double Double Date" shows the chemistry between Savage and McKellar at its most electrifying and fantastical:

It's good to be a teenager, right?

While I may adore The Wonder Years for the adolescent romance between Kevin and Winnie, the supporting characters are also memorable.

Jack (Dan Lauria), a middle America breadwinner, who is, I believe, what 80% our fathers really are like. Jack Arnold is the anti-Bill Cosby because fathers like Jack are real, not products of the laugh tracks of sitcom land.

Wayne (Jason Hervey), is another character that strikes a chord with me. He's a bully of an older brother, but he's also human, susceptible to all kinds of vulnerabilities. One of the great things about season six is that Wayne matures into the kind of man who can be relied and trusted. The New Year's episode shows Wayne at his most authentic; he's more than a caricature of childhood or a comedic stereotype--he has a heart that can be broken.

Daniel Stern's narration as the "older Kevin" is also one of the grander highlights of the show. The lines that hit home and choked me up are mostly in narration, a role that Stern plays wonderfully.

The Wonder Years is not a perfect show, though. There are episodes that are terribly preachy. There are several rotten episodes (mainly in season five) that I try to weed out of my memory. Kevin's best friend, Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano), always annoyed me. Thank goodness most of the episodes does not focus on the Kevin and Paul friendship because I couldn't care less. I was actually glad when Kevin found new best friends in season six because well, people change.

But despite these minor flaws, The Wonder Years is still amazing. There is so much emotional authenticity to the very best episodes that most shows of its kind can barely achieve or even come close. I feel like a thorn get stuck in my heart every time I re-watch some of the scenes on Youtube. Now, all they have to do is release the damn show on DVD...and perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but I'd like the original music on it too, please!

Elf, a Christmas classic in the making

This has been a depressing decade for family-centric Christmas classic wannabes. Truth is, there hasn't been many. Thankfully, Jon Favreau's 2003 Christmas family comedy, Elf exists.

When Will Ferrell delivers a great performance, he delivers a great performance. The man has legitimate talent, which makes you wonder why he even allows himself to star in distasteful atrocities of cinematic doom. Just watch Ferrell in The Producers and Stranger Than Fiction. He can convincingly sing and dance and search for the meaning of life.

Most members of the (not so) prestigious Hollywood "frat pack" are capable of some sort of acting greatness, but not when they resort to the downgraded cheapness of bathroom humor.

But Elf is a delightful mixture of semi-distasteful humor (toned down for the kids) and genuine warmth that celebrates the over-the-top sentimentalism of the Christmas spirit. Ferrell sells it, through and through. Even if it means running through the streets of Manhattan in yellow tights.

The film opens in the North Pole. Buddy the Elf (Ferrell) is obviously bigger than all the other elves at Santa's Workshop. He finds out that he's really human. Buddy's mother gave birth to him, without his father's knowledge; his mother has since passed away.

But Buddy's adopted father, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), encourages Buddy to find his adopted father in New York City. Before Buddy begins his adventure, Santa (Edward Asner) warns Buddy that his father is on the naughty list.

Buddy arrives in New York City, dressed in his laughably cartoonish elf costume, eager to meet his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). Walter is a frustrated workaholic at a children's book publishing company and clearly thinks Buddy is insane. Walter initially tries to escape Buddy's constant pursuit of a father-son relationship, but after a DNA test makes it clear that Buddy is indeed his son, Walter brings him home.

While Walter's family (son, Daniel Tay; wife, Mary Steenburgen) quickly warms up to Buddy, Walter sees Buddy as another problem for him to solve. Walter's already under pressure to produce a new children's book idea for the company.

Meanwhile, Buddy falls for a department store employee (Zooey Deschanel), who can sing a wonderful rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Very few comedies make me laugh out loud. That might be a reason why I avoid them or show very little interest in them. But Elf makes me laugh. It's filled with clever one-liners and ridiculously absurd scenes. The film is also surprisingly touching; it's almost a coming-of-age, search-for-identity film, disguised in red-and-green wrapping paper.

Caan embodies a disgruntled modern Scrooge terrifically. The character doesn't call for ditzy comedy, but the way Caan delivers those cold-hearted lines is funny in its own chillingly sarcastic way.

While some may argue that Deschanel's deadpan deliveries and astounding indie chick quirkiness is not everyone's cup of tea, she is a damn good singer. She makes "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" sound like an essential for a Christmastime mixtape.

The arrival of an egocentric children's book author (Peter Dinklage) is a hilarious scene. Dinklage establishes how much of a fearless comedian he is, who can nearly overshadow Ferrell's overbearingly optimistic joker. In fact, Dinklage even beats up Ferrell's Buddy because of an unintentional insult Buddy makes. It's a scene that you expect to get old, but doesn't.

Elf fits into the Christmas film genre scheme perfectly. Christmas in New York. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Gimbels department store. Central Park. Mean corporate workaholics. Kickass Christmas soundtrack. It's a silly, endearing family movie. But that's not all there is to it.

Instead of being one big, sloppy continuation of cliches, the film is surprisingly original and warm--a quality that we don't see very much in the genre anymore. Yes, it is predictable, but it's the journey that matters. There is some sort of heart and good intentions to be found in Elf, underneath all those sparkling Christmas lights.

Time to make room for Elf...right next to Frank Capra's 1946 classic, It's a Wonderful Life. And no, that is not an exaggeration. Elf is, undeniably, a Christmas classic in the making. A-

Friday, December 11, 2009

Katharine Hepburn: the woman, the romantic

This entry was written for the Katharine Hepburn Blog-a-Thon over at Encore Entertainment.

On-screen, Katharine Hepburn epitomized independence, intelligence, and talent.

But off-screen, she was human, even a romantic. In Hepburn's autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life, I connected with an actress without a script in sight. Her autobiography may not be a literary masterpiece by any means, but it is achingly personal and extraordinarily touching.

Hepburn was often a fiesty spitfire on screen, yet her off-screen persona was merely a reflection of that. Deep down, she was just as vulnerable as the rest of us.

Hepburn grew up in an educated, progressive family. She was the first to discover her brother's dead body, presumably a suicide. After her divorce from her supportive husband, she felt a sense of guilt that she finally repaired towards the end of his life. She also had to overcome a tough "box office poison" phase, which ended with the success of classic romantic comedy, The Philadelphia Story.

Behind the scenes of Woman of the Year, Hepburn and Spencer Tracy fell in love. Tracy was married. The affair created quite a scandal, yet in Hepburn's autobiography, she didn't feel any sense of regret. It is widely understood that Tracy and Hepburn's romance was not perfect, but in her autobiography, Hepburn wanted to remember the affair the way she wanted it to remember it. Tracy was a complex man, but Hepburn saw him as her greatest object of affection. Like us, she wanted to believe that they were indeed soul mates.

While Me is far from a Hollywood tell-all, it is an engaging window into the life of one of the silver screen's most iconic, striking film stars and the industry she lived in. Hepburn may not have been the most eloquent writer, but I have a feeling that she was one helluva conversationalist.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The cute stalker or the dreamy coward? Take your pick.

Wow, Duckie is lurking in the shadows, just like a creepy stalker he actually is.

This entire post is a spoiler. So beware.

Love hurts. But you already knew that.

Yet that is precisely what Pretty in Pink is about. Duckie (Jon Cryer), Andie's (Molly Ringwald) sweet-faced, puppy-eyed best friend, is also deeply, deeply, deeply in love with her. He is so in love with her that he would ride his bike by her house everyday and pretty much stalk her at the record store where she works. But in the end, he loves her enough to let her go, so she can end up with the dreamy, popular Blane (Andrew McCarthy).

In the original ending, Duckie and Andie were together in the end. The test audience didn't like it and Ringwald didn't like it either. Ringwald confessed that she would have liked to see Duckie and Andie end up together if Robert Downey Jr. had played Duckie because she thought Downey was "cuter." Quite understandable.

The official ending has been the topic of much debate over the past twenty-three years (or at least IMDb makes it seem that way). I believe that most women, twenty-three years later, realized that, if they had the chance to go back in time, they would choose the "Duckie" of their high school lives, over the "Blane." Nothing screams love more than undying dedication, no matter how unnatural and creepy it is.

Unlike Andie, most women saw how Duckie has matured. He is finally able to let Andie go. They sympathized with him and loved him for his heroic act. Andie doesn't see those qualities in the same light.

But I'm still a teenage girl. To me, Andie's choice is completely justified. Compared to Duckie, Blane seems the more mature throughout. Blane is most likely not deliberately failing his classes or obsessing over her in a disturbingly prepubescent way. While Blane is a douche-slash-wimp, he genuinely cares for Andie. And Andie is completely infatuated with him. The heart wants what it wants. And let's face it: On a superficial level, McCarthy was a more handsome young man than Cryer was. McCarthy was certainly the dashing knight in a shining armor in every sense.

And for the short time I have been alive, I have only learned one important lesson about love the hard way: A person isn't the perfect match for you unless he/she loves you. (Everything else, I learned from the movies.)

Despite how accurate Pretty in Pink is, the film itself is still pretty mediocre. Those eighties John Hughes teen movies aren't clicking with me. The film is rather tedious. Ringwald is rather unlikable and difficult to connect with. I want to shoot Duckie in the face the entire time for being stalkerish and annoying. But hey, McCarthy is really, really dreamy every time he shows up on screen.

The central question remains: Who would you have chosen--Duckie or Blane--and why?