*Editors note: Leonard Maltin’s opinions are his own. He insisted on another column to which we begrudgingly allowed.
Greetings, cinephiles, movie lovers, and misanthropes alike. It’s your old pal Leonard Maltin here, fresh from a long hiatus to bestow my infinite wisdom on our current times. I’m sure there’s a movie review or two hidden in my latest screed.
Fear not, my passion for cinema hasn’t faltered, nor has my love of the arts in general. With the amount of dreck clogging our stagnant culture, you might be asking if art even still exists. It all depends on where you look. Modernity is often about accepting things for how they are, like when my clothes were stolen from the local laundry mat. I couldn’t fathom who would take a load of faded slacks and tattered underwear. Maybe they needed it more. Maybe it was a misunderstanding, or better yet, a sick prank against your beleaguered host. After opening an empty dryer with a single sock remaining, I took a deep breath and punched my hand through a nearby vending machine. Then I got the hell out of there.
Take the recent Presidential election, for instance. I know they didn’t talk a lot about it in the media, but it was apparently a hot issue. Everyone has their views. I was disappointed in the outcome, not over who won or didn’t win or who stole what from whom, no, I was aggrieved over my own dismal performance. I didn’t get more than 0.08% of the vote. That comes down to approximately eight votes across three counties. Allow me to explain.
I ran for President on some drunken bet from my gambling buddies. They positioned me as an outsider, a populist, a cranky old man who had seen too many movies. They thought it’d be a hoot. I fought to get my name on the ballot in the aforementioned three counties through an extensive letter writing campaign. It was actually more of a vindictive blackmail operation, but that’s not important. Once official, I didn’t campaign, and I forewent rallies for “members only” Zoom calls, where I danced around in my boxers. My defeat and subsequent Tweet storm received less attention than the last Terminator movie and Hunter Biden’s laptop combined. Zing! In the end, my efforts amounted to a handful of votes and several pending lawsuits for the blackmail thing. I give up on American politics.
Where are the suave, silver tongued Presidents like Michael Douglas in The American President, or Harrison Ford jaw-jacking Russian terrorists in Air Force One? Different times, I guess. Jack Nicholson battled Martians in Mars Attacks!, Morgan Freeman, asteroids in Deep Impact, and Robin Wright, a terrible script in the last season of House of Cards. Granted, she didn’t have a lot to work with, given the circumstances. Yikes! What about good ol’ Bill Pullman, commandeering a fighter jet to blast aliens in Independence Day? Nothing but Hollywood hogwash. After watching four hours of Oliver Stone’s Nixon, I prayed for those same aliens to come and vaporize the White House again. I’m just kidding, Ollie, but I still haven’t forgiven you for Savages.
You can’t speak about anything today without someone throwing a hissy fit. You can’t even complain about it before someone calls you a boomer. Sure, I’m a boomer, and guess what? You know that $27 trillion national debt we’ve been adding up? It’s all yours, kiddo. TikTok that, LOL. I’m told that using the term “hissy fit” is problematic, because it implies that only children can act immature and that snakes are irrational. It’s also sexist, apparently. To say that I don’t make the rules would imply that there are rules, when there aren’t. They change every day, because people are insane, everyone but me. Case in point, I posted about how the current Golden Globe nominees are as remarkable as a passing fart, and I was promptly suspended from all my social media accounts, even Myspace! I forgot I was still on there.
The “reason” I was given was that I had violated their terms and services agreement against posting opinionated thoughts someone didn’t like. In my case, one person had complained. I’m pretty sure it was Gene Shalit or Rex Reed. They’ve always had it in for me. I fired back with a deluge of censorship accusations against various technocrats and was further suspended for “insolence.” They actually said that. I told those Silicon Valley stooges where they could stick it. I also told their fact checkers to “CHECK THIS!” using a peach emoticon and a middle finger, like so: 🍑 🖕
At that point, they just ignored me like I didn’t exist. They took glee in erasing a harmless old movie critic who lives alone in a studio apartment with an overweight cat named Orson. My YouTube channel was demonetized, my Twitter and Facebook were suspended, and my “Malty Mugs” Etsy page was taken down. What a shame. To make matters worse, that slob Rob Reiner found an old review of mine he didn’t like for his 2007 film The Bucket List, where I had accused him of “phoning it in.” He demanded my immediate removal from the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC). Talk about a thin-skinned tyrant. I also ran over his foot outside a Beverly Hills steakhouse a few years back but give me a break. It was an accident.
Aging wench Sharon Stone jumped into the fray and criticized my blistering review of Basic Instinct 2 from years ago, where I said, “This is one turkey I hope keeps its legs closed.” I was referring to the movie! Does anyone understand puns? Granted, I was on a lot of methamphetamines back then, but how else could I sit through that trite exercise? I knew I had hit rock bottom when even Pauly Shore attacked me for bestowing the “herpes of cinema” title on him in the nineties. With all these vengeful has-beens coming out of the woodwork, I never had a chance.
At the eleventh hour, I rallied my fans to my defense. I was being unfairly maligned, besmirched, and assailed from all sides. I announced “Stand with Maltin” virtual rallies all across the nation. But my Wi-Fi crapped out in the middle of my address, leaving my eight followers baffled. The media had a field day, with headlines like “Maltin Rally D.O.A.” and “Embattled Movie Critic Embarrasses Self Once Again.” The Atlantic even ran a hit piece on me for “disgracing my profession.” By then, I had forgotten what I had done in the first place to warrant all the attacks. People Magazine seemingly agreed in their wrap-up, admitting they had no idea why I was in so much trouble, but that it must be pretty bad. This is the state of journalism, folks.
It had all started from my dismissal of the Golden Globe nominees. Was I being too harsh? You be the judge. The nominees for Best Picture are The Father, Mank, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. I don’t know about you, but that’s one unforgettable lineup. That’s all I’ll say. Most of these films are from streaming services I don’t want to pay for. I miss the theater-going experience. It was a big part of my job. I shudder to think of theater chains going the way of 1970s porno theaters. We can’t let this happen. We must don our three masks, slip on our gloves and face shields, march to our nearest theater chains, slap fifty dollars onto the counter for snacks, and take our seats during coming attractions. Think of the jobs; the marquee filler, the popcorn cook, the projectionist, the restroom attendant, the ticket checker, and so many more. Someday, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, we will miss these occupations, mark my words.
Coming to America 2 or Coming 2 America is one of those upcoming nostalgia sequels to a 1980s blockbuster that might just remind us how great movies once were. Naturally, it’s streaming on Amazon and due for a March release. I’ve heard about this Twins sequel, Triplets, for years. It’s rumored to star Eddie Murphy as well as the third long-lost brother, with both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito reprising their roles. A Beetlejuice sequel, Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, has been languishing for decades as an unfinished project, along with Gremlins 3 and Doctor Zhivago Returns. There’s also talks of another Indiana Jones film, as though they didn’t learn the last time. I’m not sure where I stand on these late sequels and/or rehashes. Recreating or extending the success of a classic film made at a certain time with a certain cast and director is nearly an impossible feat, like recapturing lightning in a bottle or winning at horseshoes. I should know, I’ve been petitioning for a Jaws prequel for years with myself in the leading role as the shark. My script is very metaphysical this time around.
And what of our current crop of films? Wonder Woman 1984 or WW84 seemed to land with a thud for audiences bemoaning its overlength and dizzying spectacle. I’m curious how this was a problem with bloated superhero franchises all of a sudden. I caught it in IMAX, excited to see Gal Gadot fly around like an eagle. The lights went down, and my escapism was interrupted by text messages from my ex-wife. She accused me of slashing her tires, when I had done no such thing. The brick through her window, that was me, and I had paid for the damages. Now, she was blaming for everything. We continued our text spat long into the film’s third act. I looked up just in time to see Kristen Wiig turn into a cheetah and wondered what the hell was going on. The movie gave me a headache, or maybe it was the ex. I’ll watch it again when I have five hours to spare.
Speaking of headaches, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet proved successful in the midst of a pandemic, despite being another cerebral time-traveling excursion more confusing than Inception. You just have to pay attention to his movies, and I have a surprisingly short attention span for a film critic. I gave it three stars for casting Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh in the same movie. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Pixar’s Soul is another supposed winner from the legendary studio, exclusively on Disney+. Excuse me? Is that supposed to make me purchase your streaming service now? Nice try. If I want to see a movie about a jazz musician contemplating his life choices, I’ll just watch Mo’ Better Blues. The 1990 Spike Lee film features Denzel Washington as a trumpet player who doesn’t die and isn’t computer animated. I guess it all comes down to movie preferences.
I had mentioned reigniting my passion for music in my last blog, and I’m proud to say that the show will go on. I’ve been practicing my clarinet almost daily, much to the chagrin of my neighbors behind paper thin walls. They tell me to keep it down, so I just play louder. Orson buries his plump head into a pillow, covering his cat ears with his paws, if that’s possible. These are all just distractions meant to dissuade me from my dreams. I don’t give up so easily and neither should you. Pursue what you want before it’s too late. Block out all the static and embrace that of which you were meant to be.
You might be wondering where this positive motivation is coming from. It looks like they slipped some Prozac into my medications again. I better get practicing on this clarinet before it wears off. Until next time, cinephiles, I’ll see you at Mindy’s Pub off Fourth Street for Open Mic Night, once Dr. Fauci says we can open. I may not have all the answers, but I’ll always be somewhere in the third row, watching movies for your enjoyment. In the words of Herbie Melville, an eager young projectionist I knew with no relation to the famous writer, “Put on your 3-D glasses and enjoy the show!”