When you work at home, you have contact with your colleagues by chat and telephone, but you have a fair amount of very silent time to fill as you’re plugging away at tasks. I’m not proud of this, but I fill a lot of that noise void with movies. And I have 10-12 hours a day to work, and a distinct lack of quality programming out there. Unless you work nights or have serious mental issues, I have seen many more terrible movies than you have. While there are a slew of directors responsible for the celluloid disasters I have witnessed, there are also a few actors I hold primarily responsible.
Today, Saturday Night Fever came on. Great googily moogily, this is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I have the feeling that most people either haven’t seen this flick, or they just like the Bee Gees so much that it they’re willing to overlook the quality of the movie in favor of the soundtrack. Let’s dub that “the Xanadu Effect.” It’s like the director set out to make a cult classic, only he forgot to tell people that it was supposed to be campy. Travolta runs around throwing racial slurs, embracing the exact same idiot that he portrayed in the movies that followed and on Kotter, and not even really dancing that well. The film has the same bullshit plot as any John Hughes 80s flick, only without the snappy dialogue or the round robin of stereotypes.
And look at the dates – this movie pretty much launched Travolta’s career. The next movie he got? Grease. Unbelievable, because someone saw Saturday Night Fever and said, “We have to get this guy to star in our feature film!” I’ve heard people say with admiration that Travolta has been able to come back over and over, but if he had slightly better judgment in terms of the roles he takes, he wouldn’t need to. You could break his career into a couple of phases, had you the mind to:
Disco Idiot & Semi-Teen Punk
1977 Saturday Night Fever
1975-1979 Welcome Bace, Kotter
1980 Urban Cowboy
1983 Staying Alive
1989 Look Who’s Talking
1990 Look Who’s Talking Too
1993 Look Who’s Talking Now
1994 Pulp Fiction *
1995 Get Shorty *
1996 Broken Arrow
1997 Face/Off *
1998 A Civil Action *
2000 Battlefield Earth
This guy works more than a hooker at a sex addicts’ convention. I’ve omitted a whole series of movies that even I’ve never seen, so if you’re favorite isn’t on this list, you should give some serious thought to your taste in cinema. And in case you’re curious, the asterisks denote all the films over this man’s entire career that I thought were worth a shit.
I don’t mean to single Travolta out as an awful actor just because he’s trying to get his thetans under control. Dennis Hopper is the poison pill of his generation – he’s had a couple of decent roles (True Romance comes to mind) but generally his name showing up in the opening credits means that I probably won’t like the movie, or like Kevin Costner, I might like it despite him. Our generation has horrible actors who work too much, too: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Ben Affleck for starters.
Why do I blame the actors as much as the directors? Because if you put Kevin Bacon in a film, people will go see it. Try putting Dean Cain (of Smallville fame) in a bad movie and see whether it even hits the theaters, or ever gets shown again outside late night.
So with John Travolta, critics are always gushing how he makes comebacks. I’d like to say that his career started finally circling the drain when he did Battlefield Earth, but who knows? He’s more than a bad penny that keeps turning up over and over. Analogized to so many bad movies that he hasn’t necessarily been in, he’s more like a zombie. He lurches along from film to film, taking shots and going down, but getting up and coming after the audience again — always with the goal of eating your brains and stealing any intelligent thought in your head. The wooden acting and moaned lines are all in keeping with this status. What we need more than anything is a director or talent agent who has seen enough zombie movies to aim for the head.