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Friday, March 28, 2003



There's nothing to cleanse the palette of a quality moviegoing experience than by viewing something that features John Travolta.

Today, some of you may fork over approximately ten U.S. dollars to see the new JT vehicle, "Basic."

And normally, I'd discourage you from doing so. But today, with this whole war deal dealin' on, I feel there are bigger issues to tackle. Let's just go straight to the source and try to break America of its Travolta habit.

And normally, you'd expect to see this in the form of a conversation transcript between me and the Erstwhile Vinny Barbarino.

Not this time.

So a friend and I were walking out of "Basic" (you can exhale, it was free), and tried to recall a worse movie. I immediately used my estimable powers of induction to postulate that the reason that "Basic" failed its mandate to entertain was the presence of one John Travolta above the title. My friend agreed. I felt it necessary to explore this further, and we wondered what the last good Travolta movie was.

"Lucky Numbers?" my friend asked. It should be noted that this friend is Jack Nicholson, and that we were on our way to a surprise birthday party for three of the Laker Girls.

But I think you are starting to see my point.

It is said that great actors disappear into their roles.

It is now said that great movies disappear into the cavernous expanse of Travolta's head, which is perhaps why that bloated thing that sits atop his neck is starting to take on the shape of a burlap sack stuffed with genuine Idaho potatoes. Every moment that you watch Travolta stretched across a movie screen, you are acutely, presently aware that you are watching Travolta, and not the cop that plays by his own rules, or the lovable scamp with a half-baked plan to take something over, or a ten-foot tall space alien proselytizing for a scary semi-religion. It's just Travolta, doing his Travolta thing, which is chewing the scenery like the muff of the wife of a convicted man on his last day before a life sentence in Prison Rape Penitentiary.

Excuse me, my cell phone is ringing.

"You're not being very nice."

Sigh. Travolta.

"Excuse me, but I'm in the middle of a perfectly good ad hominem attack."

"Did you get around to the part where you make fun of me for naming my son Jett?"

"No, this purely covers bad movies that you made."

"I will defend 'Battlefield Earth' to the grave. You know, it actually made money overseas."

"There is a joke about France and bad taste there, which would be especially poignant given the rising tide of anti-French sentiment here, but I will refrain. Instead, I will counter that Scientology tithes do not count towards box office results."

"Touché. But you've already been to the Scientology well already."

"You didn't give me a chance to say that we should send your movies to Iraq to loosen up the entrenched soldiers in downtown Baghdad. I don't have the wording quite worked out yet, but that's the gist."

"That's really unfair. I support our troops. Look at how many times I've played the renegade military lifer who still essentially believes in the system."

"Uh huh. Well, I've really got to go. Gotta hit Google and find an unflattering picture of you to run with this piece."

"Ooh. Be gentle. You know how sensitive I am about how big my head's getting. See you at Nic Cage's pad later?"

"Yeah, but I'm going to avoid you."

"Do what you have to. I'm not getting into a Harrison Ford thing with you."

"OK, stop making movies. Hello?"

He hung up before I could predict a return to talking baby movies. Strictly speaking, he would counter, they were "thinking baby" movies, since the babies didn't actually speak.

And I would say, I think you see what I'm getting at.

About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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