Monday, June 15, 2009

The Trash Vortex

Ask any writer, and s/he'll tell you that movies are a constant source of inspiration. Not, of course, to plagiarize, but to give you That Feeling that you need to write. Need the inspiration to write an action scene? Pop in The Bourne Identity. How about an intensely romantic scene? Last of the Mohicans, anyone? A funny scene? When Harry Met Sally, for sure. Sometimes, though, inspiration can even come from those so-bad-they're-good films.

In a highly amusing blog entry on, writer Chris Nashawaty talks about bad movies that pull you in while you’re channel surfing … and then you get sucked into what he hilariously called the “trash vortex” and can’t stop watching.

His top trashy pick was Into the Blue, that craptacular undersea treasure hunt flick starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba, who, to quote Dorothy Parker, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B in every film she’s in.

Which, of course, started me thinking about my own personal trash vortex….

Now even though I watched Into the Blue once, at the encouragement of my brother and trash-vortex connoisseur, Troy (see our American Idol blogs below), I can safely turn it on the television and find the willpower to back away slowly and turn it off again. Jessica Alba is my own personal TV-watching kryptonite. But like most people, I have haplessly run into other movies that have the power to make reaching for the remote an impossibility. And with that kind of love, of course they have to inspire.

Enter ... Tracy Montoya's Trash Vortex

Bloodsport: I can’t even count the number of times I've caught this martial arts Jean-Claude Van Damme classic (and I use that term really loosely) on cable in the ‘90s. Even now, the magic of JCVD delivering that flying split-kick thing he does is still an unstoppable siren call on a rainy Sunday afternoon. In fact, just the other night when the title popped up on our Tivo guide, my husband and I got into a frothing-at-the-mouth wrestling match over the remote. He wanted to watch some scintillating show about green home design on HGTV, and I, of course, wanted to watch the flying split-kick thing. Tragically, Jose won. Still bitter.

The Cutting Edge: I hate to call this one “trash,” because it remains one of my favorite romantic comedies ever in the history of ever, but since movie critics back in the day unanimously punched it in the face, turned it upside down, and stole its lunch money, I will refer to it as such, just this once.

Truly funny banter, lots of romantic tension, and figure skating—is there any more perfect combination? (Other than Copeland, Summers, and Sting, of course.) I love this movie so much, I want to write it creepy fan mail, then move to Hollywood and stalk it. Even though I OWN THE DVD, I still drop everything and watch when it’s on. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the two sequels, which make my head want to explode. This is the go-to movie if you need to get in the mood to write some sparks-flying banter.

That Lifetime Movie Where Connie Seleca is Flying an Airplane and the Ceiling Rips Off Mid-Flight (also known as The Holy Grail of My Trash Vortex): I started watching this one day and was forced to stop before it ended—and as this was B.T. (before Tivo), I didn’t have any blank VCR tapes lying around to record the end. Being that it was a Lifetime movie, I figured it would be on ad nauseum, ad infinitum, and I’d easily be able to catch the ending. But noooooo, I’ve never been able to find it, and it has left an emptiness in my psyche that nothing else can fill. My soul will not rest until I find out what happened to the stewardess who was crawling around on all fours clinging to footrests and screaming, “WE’RE GONNA MAKE IT!!!!”

Did she make it? Did she? Was anyone in the restroom, and did the restroom remain with the bottom of the plane or rip off with the top? (Because really, what an awful way to go.) Can you successfully land a plane that doesn't have a ceiling? Will it flip over or eventually blow up? What happened to the little kids on the plane since there were no oxygen masks up there? Sometimes it keeps me awake at night, wondering.

The Saint: It has four different endings, a horrendously convoluted suspense plot, and a cartoonish villain (although the villain’s son is nicely creepy). But I love this movie so much, I don't care about any of it. Most of my undying devotion is probably due to the fact that Val Kilmer is so smoking hot in this film, I think I once had a moment where I wanted to chuck it all and become a mindless, zombie celebrity stalker. It causes me actual, physical pain to see how puffy-looking and stringy-haired he’s become. Which reminds me ...

Dear Val,

You’re an actor—your job is to LOOK PRETTY. The fact that you cannot live up to your end of the fame bargain makes me feel my mortality in a way that is not pleasant. Please step away from the Cheetos and go get a haircut and a foil, stat. That is all.



Made of Honor: One of the great mysteries of my life is why I love this movie so much. I don’t have a raging crush on Patrick Dempsey (although there’s a definite appreciation there), it has a fairly predictable plot, and there are far more hilarious and poignant romantic comedies out there (see The Cutting Edge above). But for some reason, I love this one. And now it’s on TV ALL THE TIME, which is Not Good.

Cocktail: This is probably the most infallible of all my trash vortex picks. I shouldn’t even admit this in public for safety reasons, but its pull is so strong that if someone wanted to rob me blind, all s/he’d have to do is turn on Cocktail, and I’d be mesmerized for a good two hours. As long as they didn’t haul off the television and cable box and managed to get in and out in between commercial breaks, I wouldn’t even notice.

Center Stage: Other than Peter Gallagher and Zoe Saldana, the actors in this film are so horrifyingly bad, it makes me want to reach inside my TV and start scratching at their faces to see if they’re really cleverly disguised androids. But even a romantic lead (who much later turns out to be a jerk) with an adam's apple the size of a small bus doesn't deter me from watching every time this comes on the small screen. Never underestimate the power of a feel-good dance movie with a triumphant ending number to suck you in like the entertainment black hole of death that it is.

Major League: It’s thoroughly sexist, utterly juvenile, and did I mention really, really sexist? But I am a SUCKER for a triumph-of-the-human-spirit sports movie, and even the repeated sexual harrassment/assault of a life-sized naked paper doll can’t wake my inner feminist up enough to force me to change the channel. Once I hear “Wild Thing” blaring out of my television speakers, it’s all over.

Dirty Dancing: Right up there with Cocktail, this movie grabs me like a drowning adolescent every time I channel surf past it, and I cannot look away. At this point, I could probably recite the entire script, sing all of the songs by heart, and flawlessly execute the darn dance at the end, and yet I STILL keep watching.

“Sylvia! … Yes, Mickey? … How do you call your loverboy? …”

"...COME HERE, Loverboy!"

(Please, someone, make it stop.)

Hope Floats: This movie has a dead floating DOG in it, and yet I’m still sucked in by it every time. I’m going to blame it on Harry Connick Jr.’s insane charm, because otherwise, the world just doesn’t make sense.

The Replacements: Ah, Keanu. Such a lovely face. So very, very painful when he opens his mouth (see Much Ado About Nothing and Dangerous Liaisons, in which his every line of dialogue is a human record-player needle ripping across the grooves of a lovely classical album).

Fortunately, Keanu’s Shane Falco is a man of few words, so you can just sit back and watch him look pretty while enjoying this goofball sports flick for what it is. And I have enjoyed it. Again and again and again.

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory … lives forever.”

Infomercials: I am now the proud owner of an Eco-Canteen, regularly use Leeza Gibbons' Sheer Cover mineral make-up, and recently caught the Firm Wave. Once I almost bought a Blooming Onion, AND I HATE ONIONS! And I am totally embarrassed to admit that back in the '90s, I did, indeed, pay good money for a ThighMaster. There is no trash vortex more powerful. Infomercials are the devil.

What's on YOUR trash vortex?

Tracy Montoya
I'll Be Watching You--Daphne Finalist and 2008 Romantic Times
Reviewers' Choice Award Nominee for Best Intrigue!


  1. My trash vortex is the sci-fi channel movies; 90% of them are so bad, it's like you just can't look away(example:Sharks in Venice, OMG, horrible!)!! And I get a kick out of seeing older actors that I saw a lot of when I was a kid, (I caught Robert Wagner on one and even Derek Jacobi), LOL But every once in a while; you find a gem among the gravel....then you can say "See I told you they show good movies!!" :D

  2. TOTALLY Sci-Fi Channel movies, although I think they suck my husband in more often. I can't believe I missed something called "Sharks in Venice." I'll have to get Tivo to look for it now. : D

  3. OMG there is something drastically wrong with me. I have seen none of the mentioned movies and I will not watch Sci-Fi. Furthermore I pay no attention to and don't have movie channels unless they came with basic cable and Hallmark is about the only one that does. My trash vortex is the TV series of "Murder She Wrote".

  4. Ellen, you are a better woman than I. : D