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Episode 234 — Prelude To A Kiss

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The Ringer’s Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan (The Watch) join Paul and Jason in-sutdio for a special podcast cross-over event in which they discuss the 1992 romantic fantasy Prelude to a Kiss starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. They talk about the body switching, Stanley Tucci’s hair, Alec Baldwin’s dancing, the plantation house, and much more.

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If my wife asked at wedding to kiss creepy old stranger i would call priest and say unmarry us now 

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As one of the token Canadians on the board I guess I should weigh in on the Molson stuff? So here are some random facts that I know about Molson for those who want the info:

- Molson was founded in the late 1700s in Montreal, making it older than Canada as a nation

- it merged with Coors and is now a huge global brand as a result, though I think most of the Molson/Carling products would be found still primarily in Canada and the UK, and as imports for the US. Though if Coors co-owns the brand maybe it's no longer considered an import?

- its most popular brand for a while has been Molson Canadian, an adequate lager that had a huge advertising push from the late 80s to mid 90s, most famously this spot which leveraged nationalism (rare for us) and was very successful at the time:
 

I know. It's ridiculous.

Canada has had, I think, basically the same arc when it comes to beer: we have a lot more craft beer available and the kind of shitty, buy a case for the hockey game, watery 4% American style beer is still around but it doesn't sell as well as it used to.  I think that Molson did try to make some inroads in the US market around the time of the film, so the scene is probably just weird product placement.

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The least realistic thing in the movie is that the guy can just start styling Meg Ryan's hair after looking at pictures of her. One can learn Alec Baldwin likes Molson or spaetzle from a diary. But I definitely wouldn't just pick up how to style hair unless it was something simple like a pony tail or a simple braid.

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Info on the bar - I'm sure Chicago people caught right away that it was filmed in the Green Mill, an Uptown bar that was famous as Al Capone's favorite hangout - his booth is the one where you can see both entrances. They're still around, and have poetry slams, live jazz almost every night, and a variety show/"live magazine" on Saturday afternoons. There's a wood paneled paintings illustrating a poem about the time the place got raided during prohibition, and there are apparently escape tunnels underneath. It's a really cool place. So exactly like they show it in the movie.

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EVERYONE! I. Am. So. Excited. they did this movie!!! It really is all that terrible and then some. Right off the bat, Paul & Co. nail pretty much every uncomfortable thing about this movie. 

And yet. 

The PLAY (NOT the movie) has such a special place in my life. I was lucky enough to direct the play for our community theater group in Shanghai a few years ago. Of course, all the best things about it had to do with the friends involved and fun we had in making the show happen. But I'm also proud that the show really WORKED, although admittedly with a few tweaks. 

Because, YES, the biggest problem is that the most interesting part happens 45 minutes into the show -- which is the body swap! Solution? Move that scene to the beginning of the play. We opened with the groom's dressing room, wedding scene, and kiss, and just a bit of the honeymoon, giving such a dramatic strangeness to Rita before flashing back all the way to Peter & Rita's first meeting and then jumping back. With apologies to Craig Lucas, this worked out really well, lending suspence to relationship as well as making it a wonderful challenge for the actors to play with the physicality of the performances. 

But it was also that our production of Prelude to a Kiss was originally meant as a pitch to contribute to Shanghai Pride week. Doing community theatre in Shanghai is, well, problematic to put it euphemistically, and to do shows with queer themes is doubly difficult. Here was a way to have two men share the stage with a romantic relationship, and even kiss. Lucas had written the play at the height of the 80s AIDS crisis, when a young couple might face the very real possibility of waking up to one of them suddenly aged, weak and frail. Even in Shanghai in the 2010s, there's another equally serious parallel with the tremendous social pressure in China to marry, that often traps young people, especially gay men, apart from their true loves. 

Not that any of these things were in the minds of filmmakers in 1992. As part of our wrap party, the cast and crew watched the movie version at a local beef noodle soup restaurant, alternatively laughing at the show more than was ever intended, and ignoring it to let it run in the background.    

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48 minutes ago, DannytheWall said:

Because, YES, the biggest problem is that the most interesting part happens 45 minutes into the show -- which is the body swap! Solution? Move that scene to the beginning of the play.

That's interesting to know that moving the parts around works reasonably well.

I noted on my letterboxd review  about the structure, which was I think the major problem of the movie. (sorry for friends on here who already saw this)

A normal romantic body swap film would follow the lines of:

1. relationship
2. problems develop / confusion
3. body swap
4. realization of love for each other

This movie, though, goes like this:

1. relationship
2. body swap
3. problems develop / confusion
4. realization of love for each other

Which, I think, really makes it a total mess. The body swap should fix or clarify or lead to something, but here in the movie, it just leads to problems. And since the relationship is fairly fine up to that point, it's just weird and stupid and you hate it. If you're going to introduce a bit of magic into your realism, it should be fun or something, here it becomes a total drag.

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18 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

That's interesting to know that moving the parts around works reasonably well.

I noted on my letterboxd review  about the structure, which was I think the major problem of the movie. (sorry for friends on here who already saw this)

A normal romantic body swap film would follow the lines of:

1. relationship
2. problems develop / confusion
3. body swap
4. realization of love for each other

This movie, though, goes like this:

1. relationship
2. body swap
3. problems develop / confusion
4. realization of love for each other

Which, I think, really makes it a total mess. The body swap should fix or clarify or lead to something, but here in the movie, it just leads to problems. And since the relationship is fairly fine up to that point, it's just weird and stupid and you hate it. If you're going to introduce a bit of magic into your realism, it should be fun or something, here it becomes a total drag.

The other thing is that there isn't another body swap movie about someone who isn't part of the body swap. Alec Baldwin has, at best, the third most interesting story in this movie but he's the lead. Why are we following him? This is like watching Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead while being unfamiliar with Hamlet.

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I will also weigh in on the Molsons things for two reasons -- One, I'm Canadian and two, I tried to read the play, way back when. 

And the Molsons thing was part of why I put the play down. 

Because it's in the play. It's her little affectation, and for some reason it really bugged me. It seemed like it was signalling a personality, but in such a weird way. Because Molsons was/is ubiquitous in Canada and kinda a speciality thing in the US. I do remember that nationality was a big part of how Labatts and Molsons sold themselves back then (Tom Cavanaugh, of Ed and The Flash, first came to my notice doing a series of light beer ads and 90% of them slagged the US in positioning the beer as superior to other light beers.) The big thing back then was that our beer a) tasted better and b) had more alcohol in it. 

But these were our MOST common and MOST basic beers and they were not cool. They were the "I don't know what else to order that might be more interesting" beers. But in the US, they were imported and I suppose they have some kinda of cache? This was actually confirmed for me when I'd meet American tourists, who would talk about how much better our beer was. I really, really do not think this is the case anymore, and probably hasn't been for decades. Anyway. In the play -- It was so specific and so weird that it put me off a bit. Like instead of giving this woman some actual depth, we are going to make a big thing of her non-standard beer choices. (Then there's all the other stuff about not sleeping, etc -- I guess we'd now call this an aura of Manic Pixie Dream Girl.) 

As another poster pointed out, Molsons is still around, but has been bought by US beer companies and are pretty out of favour, particularly if you are a Beer Person, because those people have all switched to craft beer. 

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As someone who's mother's maiden-name is Sokol I found this move extra offensive and disturbing...

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Conspiracy theory: June refuses to do body switch movies. 

I mean her "technical difficulties" during the Face/Off episode? Don't buy it. 

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6 hours ago, grudlian. said:

The other thing is that there isn't another body swap movie about someone who isn't part of the body swap. Alec Baldwin has, at best, the third most interesting story in this movie but he's the lead. Why are we following him? This is like watching Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead while being unfamiliar with Hamlet.

I just finished the movie (haven’t listened to the episode yet), but this is 100% correct. It just doesn’t make sense to be told from his perspective. If the movie had fixed that, I think I might have really liked it.

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44 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:
6 hours ago, grudlian. said:

The other thing is that there isn't another body swap movie about someone who isn't part of the body swap. Alec Baldwin has, at best, the third most interesting story in this movie but he's the lead. Why are we following him? This is like watching Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead while being unfamiliar with Hamlet.

I just finished the movie (haven’t listened to the episode yet), but this is 100% correct. It just doesn’t make sense to be told from his perspective. If the movie had fixed that, I think I might have really liked it.

Yeah, not gonna lie. That does make a good fix. 

However, knowing more of the context helps understand why we see from Peter's point of view. Most people saw the play as a response to the AIDS crisis, which might have ravaged one's partner into someone unrecognizeable and frail. Makes the scene between Peter and the Old Man Rita trying to live life through board games more poignant.  

In the play, there's more opportunity to play with the body horror elements and existential threat that intrigued Paul and Jason. Plus, a fim version automatically emphasizes a different connection to the main character. For example, what is "narration/voice over" in a movie is actually a direct address to the audience as an "aside" and really connects the audience to Peter in a way a film simply cannot. 

That being said, the argument still stands-- why not have those same things with more prominent role for Rita? 

 

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6 hours ago, Dreamylyfe said:

I will also weigh in on the Molsons things for two reasons -- One, I'm Canadian and two, I tried to read the play, way back when. 

And the Molsons thing was part of why I put the play down. 

Because it's in the play. It's her little affectation, and for some reason it really bugged me.

But that tracks with Rita's character. She's this bartender with X number of choices before her, but she chooses Molson. Like much of her life, she understands its possibilites and choices but at the same time rejects them. She is scared of life, cynical to the point of giving up, characterized by ennui. There's a fatalism in her that connects her to the Old Man. So I'd argue not Manic Pixie Dream Girl as much as Mopey Pixie Fatalist Girl. 

Not sure Meg Ryan nailed that. Was there another casting choice that would have been better? In the early 90s would that be Janine Garafalo, or is my sense of timing wrong? Maybe a revival these days would be with Aubrey Plaza?  

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For the second show in a row, HDTGM does a movie that got Two Thumbs Up from Siskel and Ebert and surprise, surprise, both films have a clear connection to Chicago.

I love Siskel and Ebert and am grateful for what they did for film criticism, but man, their objectivity went right out the door when it came to all things Chicago.

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So I will say I didn't watch this movie, but reading the Wiki for it makes this seem like the template for every rom-com where the characters have to have certain quirks to make sure the audience feels that they should not be together, They Came Together might as well be a parody of just this  film. As a librarian I can say that there isro no real reason Baldwin should be a big muckity muck just from microfiche. By this point in the 90s that type of product was small, especially in comparison to the wider used format of microfilm which could contain months of information on a single roll, while microfiche were flat singular sheets. Even then, microfilm were bought in massive quantities as most libraries would only really get microfilm of their local paper for local history preservation and maybe one national paper if the budget allowed for it. Libraries in larger cities will usually get the local papers as well as a number of national papers, and university libraries will do the same depending on how big the college is. In essence, this film is really bullshit in making it seem this was a lucrative career option for anyone, not realizing or caring how niche the fiche really is. And no I don't regret writing that last bit.

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22 hours ago, theworstbuddhist said:

As one of the token Canadians on the board I guess I should weigh in on the Molson stuff? So here are some random facts that I know about Molson for those who want the info:

- Molson was founded in the late 1700s in Montreal, making it older than Canada as a nation

- it merged with Coors and is now a huge global brand as a result, though I think most of the Molson/Carling products would be found still primarily in Canada and the UK, and as imports for the US. Though if Coors co-owns the brand maybe it's no longer considered an import?

- its most popular brand for a while has been Molson Canadian, an adequate lager that had a huge advertising push from the late 80s to mid 90s, most famously this spot which leveraged nationalism (rare for us) and was very successful at the time:
 

I know. It's ridiculous.

Canada has had, I think, basically the same arc when it comes to beer: we have a lot more craft beer available and the kind of shitty, buy a case for the hockey game, watery 4% American style beer is still around but it doesn't sell as well as it used to.  I think that Molson did try to make some inroads in the US market around the time of the film, so the scene is probably just weird product placement.

As a listener from a Canadian border state (Michigan), Molson and Labatt are ubiquitous throughout our stores, are considered domestic beers in bars and are official beers of sports teams.  It wasn't until I traveled elsewhere that I realized Molson and Labatt are not standard light beers that everyone knows about. 

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Not much was said in the episode about The White Hotel, the book that Peter reads and discusses with Rita. Like many things in the movie, it’s brought up in a clunky way with Peter saying “I read The White Hotel today” and expecting Rita (and the audience) to know what it’s about as if it was a book that everyone was talking about and in the cultural zeitgeist at the time.  The White Hotel came out in 1981, 7 years before the play and over a decade before the movie.

But despite its awkward introduction, I can see why the playwright chose to have his characters discuss it.  It is the story of a woman who overcomes her neurotic fears of life through her therapy with Sigmund Freud only to be exterminated by the Nazis during the Second World War. The book posits questions like, given the world's cruelty, should she have refrained from seeking help, from pursuing a cure? What was the point of all her efforts to find health if she was only to die so soon after acquiring it?

In Prelude I think Rita is meant to be a woman consumed with fear.  Her insomnia, her reluctance to have kids, her questions to Peter right before the wedding, her getting her veil caught on her sleeve, and her tripping in the aisle are all meant to reflect that anxiety.  And so what the play/movie is trying to suggest is that we cannot, indeed should not, govern our present lives by our fears for the future. We do not know what life holds, but we do have the capacity to make choices in the present that can make us happy in the present.

The only problem is that Meg Ryan has such an effervescent presence on screen, that those fears come off more like quirks than deep-seated anxieties.

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I was in high school, working at a movie theater that showed this film when it came out. The only reason It sticks in my mind (I didn’t rewatch it for this ep and have no desire to) is that there was an EXTREMELY HIGH level of filmgoers who walked out saying how dreadful it was.

 

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I remember seeing this movie at the behest of my girlfriend at the time. We watched this on VHS and then followed it up with another Meg Ryan classic, IQ, where her character had no agency and acted against her own instincts by entering into a relationship built on lies by the film's end. Watching it then, Prelude to A Kiss felt stilted in a way that movies can feel off, but you really want them to make sense so you keep going with it (think the first time you watched The Phantom Menace; you want it to "get there," if only to justify the time you have given over to the film).

Watching Prelude to A Kiss again (because I'm a glutton for punishment), it dawned on me why this film feels ...weird. Sure the structure of the film's narrative is wonky, but the reason this move feels so off is that we, as the audience, are removed from the pivotal event (two people swapping bodies) and stuck watching said event unfold through Alec Baldwin's character's eyes; essentially forcing the audience to view these events through his point of view only. Who watched the watcher? We do! And we are limited this poor, put-upon yuppie's perspective; what's he going through? How is he dealing with all of this? How is he going to potentially resolve this problem?

Speaking of Molson beer: I remember they had a big ad push in the 90's here in the States. One television ad featured a contest to see Metallica, Hole, Veruca Salt and Moist play a live, outdoor concert event called--I shit you not--The Molson Ice Polar Beach Party. Now, while traversing Canada's abundantly icy tundra to watch rock bands play a "show in the snow" may sound like just another Wednesday night to our friends in the Great White North, I can see why some 'Mericans (even diehard fans of Metallica in their totally non-controversial and reemerged "alt-rock" form) wouldn't want to make this schlep.

 

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This was such a strange movie, and I was baffled to find out that it has 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was a bit disappointing that June couldn't make it to this episode, I'm sure she would've had a lot to say about it. 

After some research online, I've learned that apparently the play was intended as a metaphor for gay couples who struggle with the looming spectre of death after one partner develops AIDS. Additionally, the playwright, Craig Lucas, is gay and has written other plays about AIDS and its impact on the gay community. For me, this adds a lot of context about why it may have succeeded on Broadway since that knowledge provides significant depth and purpose to the plot. Maybe it comes across more clearly in the original play that this storyline is intended to be viewed in this light because it completely went over my head watching the film.

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13 hours ago, skoll said:

As a listener from a Canadian border state (Michigan), Molson and Labatt are ubiquitous throughout our stores, are considered domestic beers in bars and are official beers of sports teams.  It wasn't until I traveled elsewhere that I realized Molson and Labatt are not standard light beers that everyone knows about. 

Yeah, Labatt was pushed pretty hard back then too, but you reminded me of a pretty amazing ad for something called Labatt Maximum Ice that starred Canadian treasure Michael Ironside with.. death metal and a cheap set? This ad would make a pretty good mini episode of the podcast:

 

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2 hours ago, theworstbuddhist said:

Yeah, Labatt was pushed pretty hard back then too, but you reminded me of a pretty amazing ad for something called Labatt Maximum Ice that starred Canadian treasure Michael Ironside with.. death metal and a cheap set? This ad would make a pretty good mini episode of the podcast:

 

It took me a second to name the song in this commercial: "N.W.O" by Ministry.

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13 hours ago, TrueBreenius said:

After some research online ,...

LOL.
I would have written my previous posts more academically if I knew they might be counted as online research. Unless... Oh. Never mind. :) 

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