Monday Morning Critic – Lindsay Lohan in Playboy, Halloween (1978)

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the more disappointing stories this week was that of Lindsay Lohan and Playboy magazine. It’s not all that surprising, considering she’s been alleged to have some severe money woes on top of a film career which is almost officially going nowhere. One can see the desperation in doing this; her NY Magazine photo spread sparked some interest back in her career and one imagines full frontal nudity from the actress could be one final effort to restart a film career that had some promise. And here’s the thing I don’t think she, or any of the sycophants on her payroll, have taken into consideration.

It won’t do a damn thing no matter how powerful the airbrushes employed by Hugh Heffner are.

I’ve pointed out how sad that Lohan’s decline has been before, as she was taken off a potentially a huge comeback film for an actress with nowhere near the visibility that Lohan has, but the fact that she’s taking it off for Playboy is kind of sad. It’s easy to see what she’s trying to do; she’s trying to pull off a Marilyn Monroe affect and slingshot her way back to relevance, as if the act of getting naked will be a cure all for a career that needs a kick in the pants.

Call it the “Diane Lane Effect.”

Diane Lane was a young star who took a couple years off and found her career in a bit of a limbo. A couple films that could’ve made her a star she passed on and the only meaty role she had in the years since that is really memorable was in Lonesome Dove. Then one film, and a couple of insanely hot sex scenes with the bad guy from SWAT, made her relevant again: Unfaithful. After that she was a name and has become a bigger star than she ever was before, including during her days as a young star opposite members of the “Brat Pack.”

I can see why Lohan and her handlers would think a one-shot in Playboy bearing it all could do this. She still is remarkably attractive and with some air-brushing from Heffner it could potentially be something that makes people remember the kind of effect she formerly had people: that she was a vibrant, young, beautiful actress who had everything in front of her And not as a drug-addled tabloid queen who has pissed away most of her burgeoning career, becoming a punch-line at best (or a cautionary tale at worst) about the perils of fame, money and youth. But it won’t be one magazine shoot that makes people avoid all the major negatives going against her currently. But it’s not as if her career isn’t beyond salvageable.

Far from it, actually, it’s just that she needs to take a page out of another actor’s book with similar problems and a similar past who has gone on to become one of the biggest actors in Hollywood: Robert Downey Jr.

The key with Lohan has always been that she has a wealth of talent buried deep inside that’s come out. It’s the one thing that’s been evident throughout her career; she has a lot of talent and still could be the next Julia Roberts, as she was declared by many back when Mean Girls became a surprise hit. While it seems like the phrase “and it was all downhill from there” would be the epithet on her career in retrospect, there are a handful of things she can do that could make her a bigger star than she was when she was the new “IT” girl. Call this the

Robert Downey Jr. Guide To Getting Back on Top

5. Get clean …. and stay clean

I feel badly for Lindsay. I’ve known plenty of people with substance abuse issues over the years and getting clean & sober off of anything is one of the toughest things a person can do. Lohan’s current legal problems stem from her inability to stay sober, too, and the one thing that seems to be universal is that this attempt at sobriety is pretty rough. And the first thing she needs to do now is to get good and sober for the final time. It’s the one thing Downey Jr. did after he washed out of Ally McBeal and one thing he’s maintained ever since.

4. Avoid reality television shows

After a while out of the spotlight, it’ll be awfully tempting to want to star in your own show and let America see your struggles to win back fame, et al. But here’s the thing: no reality television show has ever worked out that way for any serious actor. Denise Richards actually made Charlie Sheen sympathetic, for pete’s sake, and reality television makes any serious actor into someone laughable.

Think of the genre’s biggest star: Kim Kardashian. She was a rich slut who became famous for making a sex tape with a rapper, then seeing it being released back when celebrity sex tapes were still a novelty. This isn’t all that special; she just happened to find a rapper who was famous instead of still trying to make it.

Me, I imagine there are plenty of rappers with sex tapes hidden away from supermodel types waiting for them to make it popular so they can cash it in. Heck, if my buddy Short Fuze ever became famous I imagine there’s probably a whole bunch of hot women who’ve secretly videotaped themselves having sex with him who’ll try and become the next Kardashian type. And it also makes a nice segue so that you can listen to my buddy on a YouTube clip.

3. Look for film quality, not your place on the marquee

One thing Downey did that helped revitalize his career was to take good parts in good films instead of waiting for a star vehicle to be based around him. He just took supporting roles at every available venture because they were good parts. And he also knocked them out of the park, as well, as he slowly but surely went from being a drug-addled washout to a great actor again. Eventually by being great on the indie scene in smaller roles he worked his way up to bigger ones, et al, and eventually back to leading man status.

If Lohan worked on three to five films a year in smaller roles, became a true working professional and got buzz based on her strong performances and work habits, then the time will come to be the big star again. Life can go full circle if you work hard enough at it in Hollywood.

2. Work the indie scene early and often

One thing that made Downey bankable enough that Marvel would take a chance on him and cast him as Tony Stark in Iron Man was that he was an indie film warrior. He worked with enough names and enough people, and reinvented himself on set as clean, sober and a professional. The one thing you can’t say about Lohan right now is that she’s viewed by Hollywood as a professional’s professional on set; if it was she wouldn’t have been pulled from Inferno. Someone would’ve justified her behavior with “once she gets on set she’s money, so don’t worry.” This is Hollywood, the same place that keeps giving work to any number of professional screw-ups who happen to be great at what they do.

1. Pick the right comeback vehicle when the moment arrives

If Iron Man was a bad film Robert Downey Junior’s comeback wouldn’t have been as memorable. It would’ve been “ok, the film was bad but still made money, hurray” and perhaps we never see him headline Sherlock Holmes. It would be a much tougher sell as opposed to the “phoenix rising from the ashes” story that it ended up becoming. Same with Mickey Rourke and The Wrestler to a lesser degree; if The Wrestler was a horrid film then Rourke is a better footnote that same year.

So if and when she does get another chance to headline a major film, it has to be a good one. You only get one second chance to re-launch a career.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Halloween

There was nothing in my DVD rack that screamed that it needed to be watched this week, so I decided to hop onto Hulu and see if there was any fare worth watching before I dove back into the pile. And John Carpenter’s Halloween popped up on the screen, ostensibly with the holiday around the corner, and thus it felt appropriate to throw it on during a bye week. Football wasn’t all that interesting to me this weekend with the Bears on a bye week and I admit my homerism; I can only watch the game if the Bears are on or if it’s the playoffs. Outside of that … not so much. Thus John Carpenter’s classic Halloween felt right.

It’s a fairly simple story. As a child Michael Meyers (Will Sandin as a child, Nick Castle as an adult) decides to go murder his teenage sister. Committed to an insane asylum, he escapes and returns to his childhood birthplace of Haddonfield, IL, to go kill some more people. Amongst them is Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), whom he tirelessly stalks. Halloween night, appropriately enough, Meyers goes on the hunt and cinematic history was forever changed.

Made for under $400,000, the film would gross over $60 million at the box office and invent the modern slasher film. While not actually being a true definition of a slasher film, as the violence is actually fairly tame and there’s minimal blood in a genre that’s become known for both in mass quantities, this is a film that established the template for an entire genre. Even now, almost 40 years since it got release, the film holds up because it’s not about the violence; it’s about the setup. And in the setup there’s remarkable brilliance from John Carpenter.

That’s the one thing that I’ve always really enjoyed about this film. This is a film with a great score and a first rate setup. It’s not about the kills; it’s about the suspense. I’m not a fan of horror films, far from it, but I can appreciate the craftsmanship behind this film. This is a film designed around telling a good story and amping up the scares but without going for the cheap thrills. Every time you get scared, or the suspense goes up, it’s effective because it’s used so well.

This is the horror equivalent to The Maltese Falcon; it’s the film that inspired a million imitators and created the rules of the genre.

Strongly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Tower Heist – Ben Stiller and a bunch of workers at a ritzy condo complex in NYC get ripped off by Alan Alda. They recruit Eddie Murphy to help them do the same to him.

Skip it – This was supposed to be an R-rated, Chris Rock led version of Ocean 11 at some point, if memory serves me right, and now it’s come down to Ben Stiller and gang. I like Stiller but this just looks all sorts of bad, plus it has Brett Ratner attached and that’s never a good thing.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas – It’s a Christmas tale but with dick jokes and lots of weed.

See it – The Harold & Kumar films are perhaps the best of the guilty pleasure comedies to come out. I can’t imagine this one would be that appreciably worse than the other two; Penn and Cho didn’t repeat White Castle because it was profitable but because they found a good story to go with it. I imagine this’ll be more of the same.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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