Saturday, February 27, 2010

EVIL WHITE GUYS



I humbly submit that there is no better villain possible in cinema than a white guy in a suit. This position is reflected in the fact that every single bit of malfeasance in the world can, whether directly or not, be attributed to some white guy, somewhere, in a suit. Every single one. Even if you think you've got an exception to this rule, peel back another couple layers and some ofay motherfuck is sitting in an oak-paneled boardroom instructing an underling to do his bidding.

Whence these great political truths? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The Parallax View is one of the first wave of movies that realized, “Holy fucking shit, evil white guys in suits are going to kill every single one of us.” This realization came after evil white guys in suits conspired to kill president John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby, Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Patrice Lumumba, etc etc etc over the course of the 1960s. Warren Beatty, forward thinker that he was and is, noticed this damnable menace and decided to shine a light on it through the form of a Hollywood thriller.

Considered the middle installment of Alan Pakula's “conspiracy trilogy,” The Parallax View was bookended by Klute and All The President's Men. The narrative arc of the trilogy is clear: in Klute we are the not-yet self aware subject of the unseen evil white guys in suits, who oppress us with Jane Fonda's shitty acting. Then, in The Parallax View, Warren Beatty is basically Neo realizing what the Matrix is (only if Neo got his shit fucking wrecked at the end), and All The President's Men sees someone FINALLY ram it to evil white guys in suits, as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman teach Richard Nixon that if you're going to send CIA guys to break into the opposition party's HQ, you should send the first string, not a bunch of fuckheads who fucked up at the Bay of Pigs. Clearly, the evil white guys' worldwide cabal sold out Richard Nixon for forgetting that one of the most important parts about being an evil white guy is being competent.

And yet I digress. The Parallax View. Warren Beatty stars as kind-of badass journalist Joe Frady, who starts poking around the story of an assassinated U.S. Senator. The witnesses to the assassination have been mysteriously dying, and Warren Beatty's old girlfriend is convinced they're being assassinated as well. Warren Beatty is initially like, “yeah, give me a break,” but when she turns up dead, he starts getting the sense that she was onto something and continues her investigation into this whole mess.

Soon, a redneck picks a fight with Warren Beatty over the length of his hair. A tough situation, for sure: Warren Beatty is but one Hollywood homo with long hair, and there is a bar full of rednecks. To shine some light on this dynamic, let us quote the great sage, Eddie Murphy:

“If we're in a movie, and I'm the star . . . I'll kick your ass.”

Warren Beatty is nothing if not a movie star. And so he beats the shit out the redneck. The town sheriff, impressed, becomes very friendly to Warren Beatty . . . but it soon transpires that the sheriff is In On It, and Warren Beatty has to run for his life. After disposing of the sheriff, Warren Beatty goes to his house and starts snooping around, finding a whole bunch of paperwork referring to something called “The Parallax Corporation.” (Corporation: from the Latin for “tool with which evil white guys in suits fuck us in the ass.”) Dum dum dum dummmmmmmmmm . . .

After Warren Beatty is almost blown up on a boat trying to get some intel out of the assassinated senator's old aide—who gets blown up—he sees in the paper that he's been reported dead, so he tells his editor to play along with the whole “Warren Beatty dies in boat explosion, groupies worldwide have existential crisis about who they're supposed to fuck now” charade.

This is where Warren Beatty does one of those simultaneously totally fucking retarded and epically ballsy maneuvers that only Warren Beatty can pull off: having determined that the Parallax Corporation recruits assassins, he is going to go to a shrink buddy to give him good fake answers for the entrance exam, and he's going to apply to become an assassin. BECAUSE WARREN BEATTY IS A MAN AND THIS IS HOW MEN DO THINGS.

The evil white guys' HR guy, played by Walter McGinn, makes contact with Warren Beatty and is actually really friendly about it. That's how they getcha, those evil white guys . . . so, anyway, Warren Beatty goes to work for them, and the sheer stupidity/testicular grandeur of his attempt to bluff his way through with no papers or anything creates a lot of cinematic tension. Walter McGinn and his henchman (bizarrely) "buy" Warren's horrendous bullshit alibi in re: his first false ID, and Warren somehow gets away with blatantly fucking up his first couple assignments.

Part of what makes The Parallax View fun is that at this point, the astute moviegoer is so caught up in the technique—Alan Pakula knew his shit, and his DP on this picture was Gordon Fucking Willis, so the pace is just slow enough to drive you batshit with suspense and there's always cool shit to look at—that the nagging thought “wait a minute, the evil white guys have to be playing Warren Beatty for a chump” doesn't even start nagging until it occurs to Warren . . . at the very moment that he's totally fucked, when a second politician is assassinated. Then there's the iconic shot of Warren hauling ass down the hallway. And then the evil white guys kill him and frame him for the second assassination, attributing his motive to his irrational obsession with a “non-existent” conspiracy surrounding the first assassination.

The problem with The Parallax View is that it's one of those movies where when you lay out what happens in writing like this, it sounds stupid. The three reasons why The Parallax View is not stupid, and is in fact an important cautionary tale about the dastardly acts of evil white guys in suits that still resonates today:

Warren Beatty. It took me a really long time to come around on Warren Beatty, because the first movie I ever saw of his was Dick Tracy, which sucked walrus schlong, and thanks to one of the funniest song intros in the history of rock 'n' roll, I had this image of Warren Beatty as this old fuddy duddy. Au contraire, home fuck. Once upon a time, in a land far far away, Warren Beatty bestrode the earth, a behemoth, fucking anything that came across his path, starring in some of the finest motion pictures ever produced in the United States of America. Bonnie and Clyde. Shampoo (the fact that Warren Beatty made a really good, really cool movie called “Shampoo” is but another badge of his demigod status). And by Christ that motherfucker had some good hair.

Alan Pakula. The way this movie is directed, it could have come out this decade. (Not talking about stuff like Warren Beatty would have had computers and cell phones, just talking about pace, cuts, mise en scene, that kinda thing). Note also that he managed to make a good movie with Jane Fonda in it, so we're talking about a major talent. And in All The President's Men, Mr. Pakula proved that he could make a cool movie without the handicaps of shitty acting and/or ludicrous plot.

Gordon Fucking Willis. Look at this resume. Best DP of the 70s? Well . . . Michael Ballhaus, Vittorio Storaro, and Vilmos Zsigmond might want to have a word with you, but those cats are basically playing rock paper scissors to determine alpha status. In The Parallax View, every shot is awesome. The best ones are, of course, the slow push in on the tribunal at the beginning that rubber-stamps the evil white guys' skullduggery, and the slow pull out from the same tribunal at the end, rubber-stamping the evil white guys' villainous martyring of St. Warren Beatty, patron of fall guys with nice hair.

One could advance the theory that The Parallax View being imperfect is another clever ruse by the evil white guys to get civilians to not take their menace seriously. I say we resist this ploy, and venerate The Parallax View. Even if the political necessity to bring evil white guys to justice is a little deep for you on the wrong evening, pop in this DVD and just groove on Warren Beatty's fucking hair. And maybe, just maybe, the message will sink in anyway.