Tuesday, November 30, 2010

EVERYBODY NEEDS MONEY. THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT "MONEY"



Two things CHANGE when a MAN turns 63. "FUCK" and "ALL." That's what changes. The same broad turns up her nose at you, same guy tries to screw you over. It's fuck or walk.

Happy birthday, David Mamet.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

DON'T CALL US, WE'LL CALL YOU: A LOOK AT CASTING

Note: Some shitheadedness has been redacted from this post that distracted from its actual intent. Be advised and enjoy:

Today's topic of discussion is a thought experiment proposed by Salon's Matt Zoller Seitz outlined in detail here.

The what-if game can be interesting to play sometimes, and casting is certainly a very large element of a picture's success or failure. Here are five of mine:


Fired: Diane Keaton, The Godfather Parts I-III


Recast: Mia Farrow


One Woody Allen girlfriend is as good as another, right? Diane Keaton's performance in The Godfather has annoyed me for a long time, and while a good deal of the blame can probably be assigned to Francis Coppola, who had other things on his mind than Kay in this picture, there's still the problem of Diane Keaton being a little weak at heavy drama. Make no mistake, if you've got a light comedy with a mildly neurotic heroine, you want to cast the shit outta Diane Keaton, get the fuck out of her way, and make sure the camera's pointed in the right direction, because she's about the best there ever was at that kind of role. Kay Adams-Corleone, though? No. The first movie doesn't give her all that much opportunity to fuck up, because all she really has to do is stand around and look confused at Michael. Still, she's a little vacant and tremulous. But the second one . . . I've seen a lot of movies, and with my love for shitty movies, I've seen a lot of shitty acting, but the “It was an abortion, Michael” scene might be the worst acting I've ever seen. That you can't blame on Francis, that's Diane Keaton about twelve miles out of her element as an actor.

Mia Farrow, inversamente, could have played that part in her sleep. The whole point of the role of Kay (as created by Mario Puzo and refined by Puzo and Coppola) is that she's the achievement trophy Michael Corleone unlocks in Assimilation: The Video Game, by beating the “son of an immigrant marries a WASP” mission. Admittedly, not the meatiest part for an actress, as she has no purpose outside of a man's use for her, but there are two prerequisites: a) be hot in a dignified, WASPy way, and b) be able to create the character on your own and make your own choices, because the director, in this case, only cares that you look pretty and hit your mark. Diane Keaton is a solid B+ on the first, but struggled like hell with the second, and of course, in fairness, was playing a part for which her skill set was useless. Mia Farrow, on the other hand, had proven many times over—most notably in Rosemary's Baby—that she was both attractive and able to do good work with a sexist director who didn't care about anything other than her attractiveness (delivery for Roman Polanski's chin, package: these nuts). One gets the feeling, as Kay, she'd have probably said to herself, “Boy, this part sucks, what the fuck am I doing here playing this nothing role as the trophy wife, this is bullshit, I'm gonna quit—oh, wow, look at that paycheck. Eh, suppose I'll soldier on for another week or so” and ended up giving a really subtle, perfectly calibrated performance, and she'd have kicked Francis Coppola in the balls for the “It was an abortion, Michael” line in Part II.


Fired: Jane Fonda, Julia


Recast: Glenda Jackson


First of all, she looks a hell of a lot fucking more like Lilian Hellman than Jane Fonda did. Second, Glenda Jackson could act her ass off, whereas Jane Fonda never could (though ya gotta hand it to her, Jane Fonda works like hell in everything she's ever done, you can see her sweating blood, just a shame it's all for naught due to the complete absence of talent). Third, if you pop Glenda Jackson in a movie where she has to go behind enemy lines and duck the Nazis to find Vanessa Redgrave, the two of them, upon meeting, would form like Voltron to constitute an unbeatable leftist juggernaut that would end any and all forms of fascism forever (and even, through its might, warp space-time to the point where fascism never would have existed in the first place).

Fourth is most important: Glenda Jackson gets no love anymore, which is fucking bullshit because at her peak, she was the best there was. She deserves better than to make the “name all two-time Oscar winners” trivia question a headscratcher because everyone always ends up going “Glenda Jackson won two Oscars? Who the fuck is Glenda Jackson?” A shining beacon of the Left, boy. Currently a member of Parliament for the Labour Party. She turned her back on movie stardom, not to let the other also-rans have a shot at the Awesomest Actress in the World crown, but because she thought she could do more important work in politics than in the arts. Most definitely the cinema's loss, because with Glenda Jackson being as aware and politically astute as she was and is, if you caught her in the right frame of mind with that script, she'd have been like, “You want me to play Lilian Hellman? Sign me up, let's do this. Get me a dialect coach to learn the American accent, which I will of course nail, because I'm Glenda fucking Jackson.”

Seriously, the one problem with Julia is Jane Fonda. Everything else about it is amazing. Swap her out for someone who can act at all and it's an all-time classic, but swap her out for Glenda Jackson and you've got a picture that would never leave my DVD player.


Fired: Denzel Washington, American Gangster


Recast: Chiwetel Ejiofor


Blasphemy, I know, since to speak ill of Denzel is not only a sin but usually puts the “tard” in retarded, but he was wasted in American Gangster. The movie isn't all that good to begin with, as it's way too long and has a few too many moving parts for a story so basic and—by this point—clichéd. The production history was more interesting than the finished movie (directors and co-stars fired, I'm pretty sure Denzel got his $20 mil twice due to a pay-or-play contract, all kinds of other weird crap), which suffered from director Ridley Scott being a little out of his element, and (credited) writer Steve Zaillian having a tin ear for street dialogue. That being the case, this movie was a little beneath Denzel.

This should not be taken as a slight against Chiwetel Ejiofor. The first time I saw him, playing the illegal immigrant/former doctor Okwe in Steven Frears' Dirty Pretty Things, I walked about of the movie theater with tears in my eyes going “Okwe is a fucking superhero.” He's pretty goddamn rad, but to date he's mostly played supporting roles in the bigger-budget stuff he's been in (like American Gangster, where he played Denzel's brother). I say, let Denzel go do something that needs a Denzel performance, and give the English guy a chance to flash a flawless American accent and be so dope that US audiences are willing to put forth the effort to learn how to pronounce his last name. Hey, we did it for Hakeem Olajuwon. And I think, in American Gangster's case, the narrative of “hey, check out how awesome the new guy is” would have helped it financially, as opposed to “hey, here's Denzel doing this shit . . . for some apparent reason.” Even if it didn't totally work, it'd be worth a try.


Fired: Michael Douglas, Traffic


Recast: Harrison Ford


This actually almost happened. When Steven Soderbergh was first putting the picture together, one of the first people he talked to was Michael Douglas, who looked at the script and went “you must be out yo damn mind, no way I'm playing this no-character-development havin' ass motherfucker” (Ed. Note: Michael Douglas' finest achievement as an actor has been hiding the fact that he's secretly black for decades) and Soderbergh was like, “Hmm, let's work on this a bit.”

Lo and behold, Harrison Ford was smoking weed one day and said to his agent, “Get me in one of those indemependement pictures, baby,” and his agent, smiling fondly at his client's eccentric syntax, started looking around for independent and “indiewood” projects. By the late 90s, Harrison Ford had stopped doing good shit like Blade Runner and Witness and started doing boring fucking shit like Air Force One (which sucks) and that romantic comedy with Anne Heche that looked so goddamn bad I wanted to piss on the screen every time the trailer came on. Word came to him, maybe from his weed dealer, about the interesting, increasingly commercial work originating from independent cinema. Big movie stars were taking the occasional part in one of these pictures, either cutting their rate or taking part of it in points, and having critics be like, “Look at [movie star x], with his best performance in decades, he's actually a really good actor.” Harrison Ford, lighting another joint, sighed to himself: it had been decades since anyone had said he was a really good actor. It was thus that he ended up talking to Steven Soderbergh about playing the drug czar in Traffic.

They futzed with the script and gave the character all kinds of new depth and cut all the dumb shit like him lighting up a crack pipe in solidarity with his daughter, and Harrison Ford kept on being like, yeah, this is great, I can't wait to work with a director of Steven Soderbergh's caliber. Still, people couldn't help but notice he hadn't signed anything yet, and there came to be a sense, shared by many of the Traffic peeps, that Harrison Ford might have been playing them while waiting for some more expensive movie-star thing where he wouldn't have to exert as much effort acting took shape. This sense was reinforced when they asked him to cut his rate and he went “Um, no, I'm Harrison Ford, I get $20 mil.” This after they pretty much told him, “sorry man, we don't have a ton o' money,” and he evinced chill down-with-it-ness. Eventually, he quit to go make some piece of shit with Bob Zemeckis and Soderbergh et al managed to get Michael Douglas to say yes (he liked the script changes they'd made with Harrison Ford, but insisted on his full $10 mil since they were going to give Harrison Ford his full rate; shit happens) and the rest is history and Traffic was fuckin awesome.

But still . . . I think Harrison Ford would have been a slight improvement over Michael Douglas. We're talking about the difference between an A- and an A here. If you could get Harrison Ford motivated and ready to show up and put in some work, the character of Wakefield gains a few je ne sais quoi points. He gets that quiet, reserved dignity that Harrison Ford radiates, and it's also all that more shocking that his daughter is a junkie/crackhead. Michael Douglas' one flaw in the movie is nothing he can really help, and the only time you really see it is when he gets in that shoving match with the dealer who's shlonging his daughter, when Michael Douglas Face makes a momentary appearance. I've tried to describe Michael Douglas Face before and failed, but the best I've got right now is that it's an air of “I've done cocaine out of a hooker's ass crack while my dick was simultaneously somewhere highly illegal” that happens when his eyes shift focus and his mouth shakes. The problem with a guy who can do Michael Douglas Face is that it you'd be surprised if his daughter didn't end up turning tricks for smack. And, not only that, it makes it a teensy bit of a stretch that a guy like that could pass confirmation hearings for a Cabinet post. Senator Jackweed McJesus (R-Mississippi) would look at Michael Douglas over his reading glasses and go, “Mr. Douglas . . . the prostitute was how old now?” followed by a frantic discussion with counsel and Michael Douglas nervously replying “All five of them were over 18, Senator.” Ya know what I'm sayin? Harrison Ford, you have none of those problems, the whole Senate would be sucking his dick and asking for autographs. He's just, outwardly, that slightest bit more “electable.” I know it's an appointed post, but Harrison Ford looks and sounds a hell of a lot more like someone who'd be successful in politics. Assuming, of course, he just did a pinner that morning and isn't too baked when he's giving the speech.


Fired: Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz, Any Given Sunday


Recast: Russell Crowe


and Hilary Swank


And finally, because it's Sunday, we close by getting ready for some football. Oliver Stone, jagoff to end all jagoffs, is, nonetheless, capable of making a good picture every ten years or so. Any Given Sunday was a pretty good idea: an attempt to look at the realities of the modern NFL and tackle issues like racism, the commercialization of the game and its effect on players, and how football players get their enormous balls in those tight pants. Stone made a number of inspired casting choices, like real-life football god Lawrence Taylor (who fucking kills it in this movie; when he's sitting in the sauna and says to Jamie Foxx “Nigga you led . . . but did anybody follow?” that shit's some thesping the pros envy) and the bizarre realizations that LL Cool J would make a good running back (he was) and that Jamie Foxx was capable of handing drama (which he also was). But he whiffed badly on two very important roles: the head coach and the new owner.

Al Pacino is Al Pacino, a living god, the one human being who could deliver the line “This city is like a great big pussy just waiting to get fucked” with a straight face, among his other lesser accomplishments (Michael Corleone, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, etc etc ad infinitum). But he ain't no head football coach in the National Football League. This is a head football coach in the National Football League:


Or, since there's only one Rex Ryan, this is an acceptable alternative:


Note the salient characteristics here. A proper head football coach in the National Football League must, at the very least, either be very very large or the type of Southern man who can spend 16 hours a day styling his hair in the morning without anyone ever accusing him of fagmosexuality. Al Pacino fits neither of these templates, nor the last acceptable alternative, the avuncular, zillion-year-old Tom Landry/Joe Gibbs God squad beloved dude whose playbook is ten years out of date but who is nonetheless an institution. Al Pacino would make a terrific high-blood-pressure college basketball coach, one of those little 5'6” dudes who made his college team with hustle, balls, and nonpareil hoops nerdiness and then became an assistant coach before getting the head coaching gig and going on to a couple NCAA titles and a few embarassing recruiting violations. (Ed. Note: someone call Hollywood, that story would fucking rule). But he's too little and not the right kind of badass to own an NFL locker room. He does try, and he has a couple scenes that he acts so well you forget that he's hideously miscast, because he's Al Pacino and a living god.

Cameron Diaz has the opposite problem: physically she's absolutely perfect for the role. Her lanky, rangy physique and tomboyish posture suggest plausibly that she's played sports and done so reasonably well. Cameron Diaz's problem is she's kind of a mediocre actress. She doesn't suck; she was quite good in There's Something About Mary and Being John Malkovich in two radically different roles, but in each case she had a solid script and/or really good director. In Any Given Sunday, she has an underwritten role and a space-case, drugtarded director, so she has no one to tell her that what she's doing sucks, which, as in Diane Keaton's case in The Godfather doesn't mean it's all her fault, but still, you'd want to get someone who, given that kind of apathy-bred autonomy, could come up with something cool.

So what do we do about this two-headed, movie-eating monster? The Al Pacino problem is easy: replace him with Russell Crowe. Russell Crowe may be a difficult cat to work with, and he really shouldn't have thrown that phone at that guy, but he's a goddamn genius actor, on Al Pacino's level talent-wise. More than that, he has the size and the right kind of physical vitality to be a head football coach in the National Football League. Plus, imagine the fucking pregame pep talk Russell could give by busting out some Maximus: “On my signal, unleash hell.” Large men on steroids with trace amounts of blood in their testosterone streams would respond very well to such exhortations. Also, I saw Russell on TV a few years ago talkin about football with the football guys, and he was simply dazzling with that rumbling Antipodean accent, demonstrating a beautifully erudite and insightful grasp on the sport, shocking the shit out of the American TV doodz, who by the end of the thing were eating out of his hand. Charisma, intelligence, balls: head football coach Russell Crowe will win you championships in the National Football League. Believe.

Replacing Cameron Diaz is a little trickier, because it's tempting to just find someone who's a better actress and leave it at that. Problem is, you can't go too girly, otherwise it's like “Okay, why the fuck didn't Barbie just sell the goddamn team.” So I recommend Hilary Swank. The timing doesn't quite work as far as her being someone a casting director would think to hire back then—Any Given Sunday came out the same year as Hilary Swank's breakthrough Boys Don't Cry—but she's the perfect match of really good actor and capable of balancing the “I'm clearly, unambiguously a girl” and “I know just as much about football as you if not more” requirements of the role. Even if she isn't actually a fan, she's the type who would do a bit of research and end up totally plausible.


I gotta hand it to Seitz, this is a fun thing to geek out about. Any other good ones? If you can figure out who to replace Woody Allen with in Hollywood Ending, someone who it's less laughable that he'd be choosing between Debra Messing and Tea Leoni, let me know.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

THE LINK BETWEEN LOVERBOY AND NO WAY OUT


I'm up in Massachussetts, having an absolute fucking blast. I've been reading, writing, listening to tunes, getting into alpha-dominance battles with my mom's cats (man conquers nature, believe it), and of course, watching movies. Two in particular warrant mention, both childhood favorites, that you wouldn't think have anything in common . . . BUT THEY DO. Loverboy. No Way Out. What does a critically-dismissed, little-seen sex comedy that no one (much to their eternal discredit) still gives a fuck about have in common with a stylish, popular thriller that the average civilian remembers only for the limo shtup scene? I'm glad you asked, for the answer is simple: gay panic.

Now, I won't spend too much time sucking my own dick for being progressive, since that image works better as a joke than a reality (I'm not as flexible as I used to be), but I don't get why people trip about the 'mos. I regard the lesbians as natural allies; anyone who knows what it's like to be frustrated by women can drink whiskey with me anytime. Gay guys even more so: I'm a guy, they're guys, no more need be said. Recent years have seen the radical, shocking suggestion that gay people are normal people in movies. Colin Firth in A Single Man, for example: you could have replaced Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult with chicks and it'd basically be the same movie (well, except the whole Julianne Moore “why don't you want me?” subplot wouldn't make as much sense) and Colin Firth would be no less or more awesome (Ed. Note: he's massively awesome in that movie). But the fact that he is gay in it and he's a normal (if really smart and stylish) dude is great; I was actually rooting like hell for him to nail Nicholas Hoult for the whole second half of that movie.

They weren't making pictures like that in the 80s, alas. Progress had advanced to the point where you could mention that homosexuality existed in a movie, but it was this weird thing that freaked straights out. People used AIDS to excuse a lot of homophobic bullshit, but it really boiled down to the problem of your average civilian not realizing that s/he knew a whole lot more gays than s/he thought. And so your average civilian thought of the gays as being either flouncing, lavender jumpsuit-wearing faggots or linebacker-sized baritone broads in combat boots, if they were able to even process the concept. The unknown is always scary.


Loverboy, from veteran director Joan Micklin Silver, is a fairly progressive movie for the late 80s in that it laughs its ass off at gay panic. Young Patrick Dempsey (who, ironically, would go on to star on a TV show called Gay's Homosexuality) starts out the movie as a poseur punk college student with dumbass blond streaks in his hair whose sole use for his textbooks is to smash his hair into those dumbass “punk” spikes. We meet him listening to Edie Brickell (which isn't gay, but it does kind of make him a middle-aged woman) and making sincere but clueless romantic preparations for a quiet romantic evening with his girlfriend. The scene establishes him perfectly as a giant retard whose heart is in the right place.

And then a staggering, awe-inspiring collection of 80s college-movie stereotypes all arrive at Patrick Dempsey's room and throw the massivest fucking dorm room party of all time. Within a minute of their arrival, people are funneling beers, breaking shit, and generally setting a new land speed record for total destruction. It's really pretty awe-inspiring how quickly and totally shit gets fucked up in this scene, as Patrick Dempsey, who tried impotently to get this nuclear decadence flash mob to leave so he could Edie Brickell his way into his lady's vagina (in the Biblical sense), succumbs immediately, and is dancing around shitfaced with a gigantic duck head on (as one does) when said lady, Jenny, arrives. She rather primly objects to her room—they live together—being trashed by the 110th Airborne Booze & Pussy Rangers, and kicks everyone out.

A very hung over Patrick Dempsey wakes up and fights through the taunting of yuppie jagoff Jory to get back in the room and sweet-talk Jenny into forgiving him. She tells him he needs to learn to nut up and not let people walk all over him. Patrick Dempsey assures her he absolutely will. He'll even—pick your jaws up from the floor—tell his father that they're dating. She's quite happy about this, until Patrick Dempsey's father shows up to pick him up for summer vacation, and Patrick Dempsey starts in with some bullshit lie about how Jenny's his tutor. Naturally, she storms out; who the fuck wants a spineless choad like that for a boyfriend, much less one with such retarded hair?

To add to his problems, Patrick Dempsey's hideous academic record (“Oh, those are incompletes. It's cool, I can make those up”) pisses off his blue-collar dad, who runs a construction business, off to the point where he says fuck you I ain't payin for this shit anymore, get a job fucko. Mom Kate Jackson thinks Dad's being a little harsh, but defers to his authority. For now.

Patrick Dempsey then gets a job at a pizza place called Señor Pizza, where he has to wear a hilarious fake mustache and a sombrero strapped to his back. The paychecks are going to be a bit light as well; as co-worker Rick Diesel (Ed. Note: Canadian actor Bernie Coulson, tragically, ensured that he will be called nothing other than Rick Diesel in perpetuity with his hilariously terrible, scenery-chewing performance in Eddie & The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives; sorry, there's nothing I can do about this, it's the rules) informs him, it will take Patrick Dempsey approximately forever to earn a semester's tuition. Patrick Dempsey is, as the kids say, crestfallen, though Rick Diesel exhorts him to appreciate the side benefits of the job, like there being plenty of chicks to flirt with. Rick Diesel demonstrates, putting on his suavest act, only to have his two bubblehead targets fascinated sexually by Italian stud Tony (former Cher boyfriend Rob Camilletti) and utterly oblivious to the Rick Diesel charm. “I can't believe they fall for that Pepe Le Pew shit!” says R. Diesel.

In a lesser movie, it would take Patrick Dempsey the whole movie to grow a pair, but in Loverboy it happens in the middle of Act One: he's out delivering a pizza, bemoaning the loss of his one true love, when he spies a well-dressed woman who smiles at him. Patrick Dempsey ignores the obvious possibility—that she's laughing at the fact that he's driving in a fucking blue Jeep with a sombrero on top—and decides to ask her out in an upscale clothing store. Stupid? Sure, but nonetheless an impressive demonstration of balls. She does, alas, turn him down (in a really mean way: “You're just a boy. I don't date boys”), but the richer, hotter, better-dressed Alex (Barbara Carrera), who owns the place, is impressed by Patrick Dempsey's bravery and starts an impromptu makeover, which is cut short by a traffic cop ticketing the pizza car.

Back at the pizza joint, Patrick Dempsey bemoans the missed opportunity for wild Bond girl sex to an impressed Rick Diesel. Lo and behold, Barbara Carerra is so taken with Patrick Dempsey that she places a massive order that'll take him all day to deliver, bringing him to her fancy hotel room for none other than wild Bond girl sex. Patrick Dempsey calls his parents to tell him he won't be home, as he's crashing with “a guy from work” named Alex. However, Barbara Carrera thinks it'll be funny if she starts sexing Patrick Dempsey while he's talking to his dad, and she's absolutely right, because the last thing Patrick Dempsey's dad hears when the phone call ends is Patrick Dempsey making an orgasm sound . . . with a “guy from work.” Hmmm . . .

Matters are complicated further when Rob Camilletti shows up at Patrick Dempsey's place with a jacket, which Barbara Carrera has bought him and included a note that says “Although you know I prefer you naked, if you must wear something, wear this.” It's signed Alex, and since Patrick Dempsey tells them that the flamboyant, European Rob Camilletti is Alex, the guy from work (Ed. Note: all European people are gay), Patrick Dempsey's dad announces to Kate Jackson, “Our son is a fruit.”

Although Patrick Dempsey is having fun—and wild Bond girl sex—with Barbara Carrera, he confesses to her that his heart belongs to Jenny, and that out of fairness he has to break off the fling. Barbara Carrera is disappointed, and though she's quite fond of young Mr. Dempsey, she nonetheless plays a rather elegant prank on him, extracting a very fond and gentle revenge: she distributes the phone number for Señor Pizza far and wide, with the instructions that all a bored and affluent woman of a certain age need do is ask for “extra anchovies” and personally request Patrick Dempsey, and for $200, Patrick Dempsey will sex her well.

This leads to much hilarity and personal growth for our intrepid hero. After his initial misgivings at becoming a prostitute, he grows to genuinely like his clients, most prominently the trio of Kyoko, who is kept as a trophy/geisha by racist fuckbag Vic Tayback (who sets a new standard in this picture), Kirstie Alley, the doctor wife of philandering doctor Robert Picardo, and Carrie Fisher, the photographer wife of a massive, jacked personal trainer (former NFL lineman Peter Koch) who is similarly shtupping around. They, in turn, are reintroduced to the concept of fun by young Dempsey, who is soon—due to Fred Astaire enthusiast Kirstie Alley's influence—flouncing around the house practicing dance steps, dressing well, appreciating fragrances, and thoroughly freaking his macho father the fuck out. Business starts booming.

Of course, one woman orders a pizza with extra anchovies, and actually wants the pizza, which is both an obligatory joke and a really fucking funny one, leaving Patrick Dempsey to scramble to put his pants on as he runs out the door to a very confused look. The comedy gods demand certain sacrifices.

Patrick Dempsey's boss doesn't seem to give a shit that he's never there, and happily counts money and restocks his anchovy supply. Rick Diesel both covers for Patrick Dempsey and gradually assumes the role of business manager.

Despite that smooth confluence of apathy and complicity on the Señor Pizza front, Patrick Dempsey's blissful run of success as a hooker is bound to end sometime, and it does as he's enjoying an afternoon bath with Kyoko and Vic Tayback comes home unexpectedly. Patrick Dempsey is forced to hide in a storage room where Vic Tayback has shelves and shelves of little toy robots from Japan that he intends to market as a home security system and reap massive filthy lucre. The beat where Patrick Dempsey sees the robots, and they all turn on in a wave and start hollering “VIOLATOR! VIOLATOR! BAD BOY! BAAAAAD DUDE!” and so forth is comedy perfection.

As is the moment when Vic Tayback realizes that Kyoko is getting some side dick because “You're too friggin' cheerful!” He does a little retarded amateur detective work and deduces that Kyoko is fucking Robert Picardo. Vic Tayback, upon confronting Robert Picardo, realizes that he's being cuckolded as well (Robert Picardo noticed that Kirstie Alley had her Fred Astaire records out, and was similarly too friggin' cheerful), and Robert Picardo has the idea that it might be personal trainer Peter Koch. They go over to Peter Koch's house and tire-iron his front door, with Vic Tayback yelling: “COME OUT! YOU, WHO'S BEEN PORKIN' MY WIFE!” (Ed. Note: Best. Syntax. Ever.) The maid, jabbering in Spanish, comes to the door and hands Vic Tayback a silver candleabra. Peter Koch comes home, a wounded giant, distraught by the news that Carrie Fisher, his wife, is cuckolding him as well. The three form an asshole husband triad and put their heads together to figure out just what the fuck (quite literally) is going on.

Eventually, due to Rick Diesel's decision to start letting Patrick Dempsey's clients pay by credit card, the husbands look at credit card bills and see a whole buncha $200 pizza orders. Even they, dumbasses of the highest order, realize that this means that the guy slipping their wives extra anchovies must be the pizza guy.

Meanwhile, Patrick Dempsey's parents are involved in an argument over the severity with which they should be regarding Patrick Dempsey's terminal case of The Gay (Kate Jackson, in typical mom fashion, is all for it, while Dad is devastated) and a series of misunderstandings wherein Kate Jackson has been led to believe that her husband is shtupping his squeaky young secretary (he sort of intended to, but was so shitfaced he just passed out) and having shower threeways with hookers (an accident involving a nicked water main at the building site, combined with Dad's matter-of-fact “Oh, that's just a coupla hookers, honey”). Kirstie Alley, Kate Jackson's doctor, gives her the number for extra anchovies. Patrick Dempsey, needing only one more delivery to make his tuition, goes to “deliver,” only to freak out and ask Rob Camilletti to deliver the pie and tell her “there are no anchovies.” (Rob Camilletti, confused: “But we have many anchovies.”)

Upon being confronted with Rob Camilletti and his “Pepe Le Pew shit,” Kate Jackson can't go through with it and declines Rob Camilletti's polite offer of sex. But, since no woman has ever turned him down before, Rob Camilletti becomes erotically obsessed and the two of them engage in a hilarious car/Vespa chase.

While all this shit is going on, Jenny finally gives in to all the heartfelt phone calls Patrick Dempsey's been making all summer and goes to see him at the pizza shop, only to be told by old rival Jory that Patrick Dempsey's been fucking cougars. Patrick Dempsey is in the process of throwing down with Jory in the parking lot when The Asshole Husband Brigade shows up with ass-kicking intent. They're after “the delivery boy” and are all about to beat nine kinds of shit out of Patrick Dempsey when Vic Tayback (an acquaintance of Patrick Dempsey's dad) stops them. “Wait a minute, it's not him . . . he's a homo!” And they drop Patrick Dempsey and start wildin' on Jory.

Patrick Dempsey tries to smooth things over with Jenny, who nonetheless takes the (admittedly reasonable) position that, hey, you've been schlonging every upper middle class MILF in southern California, dude, I as your girlfriend am mildly displeased with this. Still, he convinces her to accompany him to his parents' anniversary dinner or whatever the hell it is, which naturally becomes the nexus at which the entire cast converges for the climactic confrontation.

After much physical comedy, the following things happen: Patrick Dempsey's parents realize that he's not gay, even though they're totally fine with him being gay; the asshole husbands trash the place; Patrick Dempsey somehow manages to slapstick his way through it all with his ass intact; Vic Tayback's toupee gets set on fire; Rob Camilletti recovers from Kate Jackson's rejection and sweeps the squeaky secretary off her feet; Rick Diesel somehow gets laid without paying for it; a piano smashes the fuck out of a cop car; Patrick Dempsey's dad agrees to pay for him to go back to college and be with Jenny; and all the husbands get arrested.

In a brief epilogue where all the wives bail their husbands out of jail, Peter Koch and Carrie Fisher decide to let bygones be bygones and he carries her off in his big strong arms (if anyone deserves that, it's Carrie Fisher; she looks like she's rather enjoying herself as he carries her offscreen and into bed); Robert Picardo and Kirstie Alley slap each other and then embrace passionately, because they're kinky like that; and Kyoko lets Vic Tayback's ass rot and goes out to enjoy her freedom. Happily ever after.

Loverboy is, I only just realized this time through, a note-perfect, classically constructed farce. There's mistaken identity, a whole lotta dudes' wives get fucked, some good pratfalls, and a happy ending. The act breaks happen at the exact, textbook point where they should, no time is wasted, everything's just right. I don't say this to justify the fact that I've probably seen this movie twenty or thirty times over the years, but because it's true: Loverboy may be the most underrated comedy of the past 25 years. Joan Micklin Silver for the win.



No Way Out, a radically different movie, is similarly underrated. All anyone ever remembers about it are the scene where Kevin Costner gives Sean Young the high hard one in a back of a limo and the “stupid” twist ending. The first is not any more memorable than ten other great scenes in the movie, and the twist ending isn't stupid at all. This is the problem with things that “everybody knows,” most of them are bullshit.

Kevin Costner had a couple years in the 80s where he walked on water, which turned it into wine, the finest wine the world has ever known. The Untouchables, No Way Out, and Bull Durham mark a period of supreme, flawless badassness; three very different movies, three very different roles, three of the mightiest avatars of masculinity committed to celluloid. His was one of the saddest falls from glory in the annals of Hollywood, as he's known more now for directing three-hour, over-budget wankfests, and getting pudgy and humorless. I'm not knocking the pudginess—certainly not after my heroic performance at Thanksgiving dinner—but the humorlessness? Say it ain't so. This was a man whose apex was noted for the twinkle in his eye and the appearance of deft, intelligent wit. You asked him where Nitti was, he told you, “He's in the car.”

Anyway, No Way Out finds Kevin Costner at optimum levels of badass. Actually, let me get a little radical on you here: I think the best way to appreciate No Way Out is to go into the whole fucking picture knowing that he's a Soviet agent, instead of having it sprung on you at the very end. It certainly makes the picture, and Kevin Costner's reactions to stuff, more interesting.

It's not like No Way Out needs help being cool: it opens with a shit-hot helicopter shot starting at the Washington Monument, then slowly pulling back to reveal the Pentagon, then taking us into anonymous Virginia suburbs. With a dope Maurice Jarre synth score. We then cut to an apartment where Kevin Costner is being interrogated by some anonymous dudes. Their identity isn't revealed immediately, but fuck it: they're Soviets. Kevin Costner is one of them. Isn't that already cool as shit? Kevin Costner as a Soviet mole?

The story is told in flashback, how Kevin Costner, resplendent in finest Naval dress uniform, meets glamorous, funny Sean Young at a formal DC to-do. They immediately click, and it's like “Sex. Now.” They hop in the limo and the famous limo fuck scene ensues, followed by an exchange of first names. Sean Young's best girlfriend is Iman, which is almost as hot as the fuck scene. Sean Young sure did look pretty with her clothes off back in the day. Ahem. Where was I . . .

So the vagaries of fate take Kevin Costner off to the Philippines, and to a bit of night-time heroism aboard a Naval vessel in some shit weather, which lands ol' Kevvo in a nice little feature in The Washington Post: “BADASS MOVIE-STAR LOOKIN' DUDE DOES SOME BADASS MOVIE-STAR SHIT.” Secretary of Defense Gene Hackman, after briefly wondering why someone doing a bad Zodiac Motherfucker imitation is writing headlines for The Washington Post, having a highly reptilian meeting with a cracker senator and CIA director Fred Dalton Thompson, and bantering with sociopathic gay aide Will Patton, tells Will Patton to get Kevvo's ass back to Washington. Will Patton, being nothing if not good at his job (doing what Gene Hackman tells him to), complies.

Kevvo returns and immediately starts fucking the hell out of Sean Young at any and every opportunity (being a man of common sense). Gene Hackman has brought him back to DC to spy on the CIA, which is a pretty cool job for anyone, but for a Soviet agent like Kevvo that's got to be like the best fucking job in the world. Kevvo displays a gift for political/intelligence type work (natural, being a Soviet agent; under as deep cover as he is without having been caught, you'd expect him to be good), but not as much of a gift as he has for fucking Sean Young.

There is, however, trouble in paradise. Sean Young is also fucking Gene Hackman, and has grown quite accustomed to the privilege and comfort this affords her. Kevvo bristles, wondering why Sean Young doesn't just bow to the supernatural majesty of his cock and break up with Gene Hackman. Will Patton, since he wants Gene Hackman all for himself, encourages Gene Hackman to break up with Sean Young, causing Gene Hackman to be like “Bitch are you crazy? Have you seen how fuckin' hot she is?”

It's easy to look at No Way Out and go, “Oh, it's the 80s, people didn't know as much about The Gay as they do today, Gene Hackman was unaware Will Patton had The Gay.” I think the truth is a little more complicated than that: I think Gene Hackman knew Will Patton was gay (even if he only knew this subliminally), and that Will Patton was smitten with him, and he used that to get Will Patton to do his every bidding. This kind of selfish, cynical shit is perfectly in keeping with Gene Hackman's political lizard SecDef character.

In fairly short order, Gene Hackman has other stuff on his mind than Will Patton being a 'mo, as he accidentally knocks Sean Young off a balcony to her untimely death. Will Patton suggests that they cover it up and engage in a bit of misdirection, to wit co-opting a DC intelligence community urban legend about a high-ranking Soviet mole named Yuri, and claiming that Yuri killed Sean Young. Gene Hackman, in a panic, goes along with it.

Kevvo comes into work the next day, and they give him his new prime directive: rather than liaising with and spying on the CIA, Kevvo is being put in charge of the hunt for “Yuri” the Soviet spy. Kevvo asks who the dead woman is. Will Patton tells him it's Sean Young. Whereupon Kevvo excuses himself to Gene Hackman's executive washroom and FREAKS THE FUGGOUT.

Let's pause again and remember that Kevvo is a Soviet agent. You're supposed to think that he's freakin the fuggout because he was in love with Sean Young and that he's devastated by her death. Remember, though, he's a military superstar with a shitload of intelligence experience. As far as betraying emotion, let's just say that kind of cat would kick your motherfucking ass at poker. So Kevvo's just gonna melt down like that if all he's upset about is Sean Young? Nuh uh, if all he's upset about is Sean Young, Roger Donaldson (the director) pushes in slowly on Kevvo's face while a tortured look slowly crosses his face. Instead, Kevvo has to leave the room and completely loses control for about a minute. Why?

Because in that moment, everything he's been working for his entire life is in danger of being unraveled due to the capricious decision of one closeted homosexual. He is absolutely fucked. He's double fucked, actually, because he did fuck Sean Young and he actually is a Soviet agent. Will Patton's arbitrary decision to blame Sean Young's death on “Yuri” turned out, ironically, to be damn near accurate as Kevvo/”Yuri” was in Sean Young's house like ten minutes before she got dead. Tell me you wouldn't freak the fuggout at that revelation, you're a liar; I would shit my ass if that happened.

A whole lot of tense, well-filmed thriller stuff ensues, where Kevvo tries to keep one step ahead of anyone finding out that he's “Yuri,” since he is “Yuri,” and wheelchair-bound computer nerd/good pal of Kevvo's George Dzundza does a lot of funny stuff with 80s-vintage computers. Kevvo saves Iman from getting killed by Marshall “Kuato” Bell and the other gorilla-looking death squad motherfucker, and after some fancy thinking and subterfuge manages to create some proof that Gene Hackman knew Sean Young. Unfortunately, Will Patton kills George Dzundza (for knowing too much, since Kevvo confides in Dzundza and Dzundza retardedly tells Will Patton; not only is it really nasty to kill the adorable George Dzundza like that, it perpetuates the nasty implication that you can't trust gays with gossip) and Kevvo gets his arm cut by the gorilla.

When Kevvo finally confronts Gene Hackman with his fabricated evidence bluff, we notice something very interesting. Even though Kevvo knows Gene Hackman killed Sean Young, instead of demanding justice, all he does is ask Gene Hackman to call off the investigation into “Yuri.” Now, knowing that Kevvo is a Soviet agent, it's obvious, he's covering his ass, but why would our upright hero let Gene Hackman off the hook like that? Especially after, when confronted with the evidence that Will Patton's shenanigans went as far as murder, Gene Hackman immediately throws Will Patton under the bus. And Will Patton, devastated, blows his brains out right there.

Kevvo, with everything pinned on Will Patton, splits from the Pentagon and goes driving. Eventually, the big scary dudes from the first scene show up and take Kevvo to his interrogation, whereupon it's finally revealed that Kevvo is a Soviet agent, in a neat bit of irony. End of picture, but first another nice helicopter shot and some more hot Maurice Jarre tuneage.

No Way Out is a solidly scripted, well-directed thriller where Kevin Costner fucking rules. Its one problematic element is the demonic sociopath 'mo Will Patton. They come right out and out him, in the scene where Fred Dalton Thompson and Kevvo's CIA liaison guy are sitting around trying to figure out what the fuck's up with the Sean Young coverup.

Liaison guy: We think she's either David Brice's [Gene Hackman's] or Scott Pritchard's [Will Patton's] mistress. Well, she was seen with both of them. It didn't seem a high priority matter, so my people have been a little lax in following it up.
Fred Dalton Thompson: Well, spilled milk. And you can forget about Pritchard. He's homosexual.
Liaison guy: I'll be damned.
Fred Dalton Thompson: So will he, if you believe the Old Testament.
Now, it's perfectly natural to hear that line and think “Right-wing Christian God Squad bullshit.” But there's something in FDT's tone, a hint of deadpan sarcastic irony, that he's saying that line to be witty rather than because he really believes that.

Either way, even if that exchange is just two guys sitting in a room cracking jokes, there still is the matter of the movie's token gay guy being a creepy, closeted sociopath who kills people all for the unrequited love of Gene Hackman. And it's not like the rest of the movie is some kind of moral message about the dangers of being closeted, or some kind of character study of right-wing gays (there do seem to be a lot of them in Washington these days, but this movie is almost 25 years old . . .) It's a manifestation gay panic, and unlike Loverboy the movie doesn't tell the dummies panicking that they're being retarded. Instead it's just kinda like, yup, the villain's gay. And he kills himself.

Much as I love the rest of the movie, the Will Patton thing sits badly with me. So here, as an antidote, is a much more enlightened parting note:


Peace, y'all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I OPEN AT THE CLOSE: THE HARRY POTTER MOVIES


(Note: If you're a kid and just randomly stumbled upon this post from a Google search or something, please note, the following—like everything else on this blog—is going to have a lot of strong, adult language. Blame no one but yourself if any of it offends you. Oh, and there're gonna be a lot of spoilers. Proceed at your own risk)


“Dobby” has been a trending topic on Twitter for over a week. While that sentence may read as gibberish to anyone on the wrong side of the generation gap, it is a mark of the Harry Potter franchise's immense popularity that a secondary character—one who everyone absolutely fucking hated upon his initial introduction—has been so widely discussed for so long. Of course, Dobby the house-elf's martyrdom at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange marks the dividing line between Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 and 2, making it a natural topic of discussion. (I had Ron smashing the Horcrux with the sword of Gryffindor as the last scene of the first movie, because I'm retarded).

So here we find ourselves near the end of the series. What a long, not very strange trip it's been. I had initially intended to save this post until part 2 of Deathly Hallows dropped, but fuck it, we're doin it live. We know how Part 2 is going to be now, because not only did Part 1 set it up damn near perfectly, the way all the movie adaptations have been, we've known since the book came out how the movie of Deathly Hallows was going to end: almost exactly the way the book did. “Almost” is the operative word there.

The real Harry Potter experience starts with the books. They're more detailed, obviously, with richer characterizations, but most importantly they are books about books, about reading, and about the value of reading. A whole generation of what we thought were irredeemable, post-literate fuckhead kids rediscovered literature through the Harry Potter series, and while the fact that step two was Twilight is a sign that those kids are irredeemable, post-literate fuckheads, hey, they still gave it a go. And the Harry Potter books are good books. JK Rowling's prose isn't fancy, but it gets the job done, and the seven volumes that make up the Harry Potter cycle constitute an epic narrative, not some foofy fancy prose writing Vladimir Nabokov fuckin' thing. Simple prose is what's necessary to tell this tale.

At its core, Harry Potter is about right and wrong. The protagonist, Harry, and the antagonist, Voldemort are both orphans raised apart from others of their kind (that is to say, wizards), but from there they diverge. Harry, against all odds, stays humble, does what's right, and most importantly, loves. It's not until the last book when Rowling makes it blatantly obvious that love was the most important thing all along, but it's not a departure in any way from what came before. Harry immediately makes friends with Ron, and in a matter of weeks they befriend Hermione as well, and that unbreakable triad sustains for the entire series. Voldemort, on the other hand, is too wounded from the horrors of his youth to ever trust anyone else enough to truly love, and too vengeful against his Muggle father (who, admittedly, is a gigantic douchebag fuckface rich guy, not the best the Mugs had to offer by a long shot) to ever accept a non-magic person as anything other than Avada Kedavra target practice, or even another wizard as anything other than a subordinate to help him to his goal of absolute power.

With the Harry/Voldemort, good/evil dichotomy set up, it's very important to note that the antagonists are so because of choice. There's a bit of misdirection in the books—especially the early books—where it looks like Rowling is taking a simplistic, determinist “Harry good, Voldemort bad, that's that” stance, but when Dumbledore finally starts taking Harry seriously as a grownup in the next-to-last book and starts clueing Harry in on what needs to be done, and that to defeat Voldemort he must first know Voldemort, Harry—and the reader—realizes that Voldemort didn't have to be Voldemort. He could have been Tom Riddle, ivory tower scholar. Tom Riddle, Hogwarts professor. Tom Riddle, normal dude. But he gave in to the anger that Harry only struggles with in one book (not coincidentally, the most annoying book, because you know Harry's not going over to the dark side, but he does have to confront his dark side and not in a cursory manner). And he thus becomes Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named, the motherfucker so bad people won't even say his name. But, and this is one of the most important things in the whole series, he always had a choice. Well, up until the first time he pulled his heat and Avada Kedavra'd a bitch of course.

There was no way that a movie of anything near a normal length could even include the whole story of each book, not to mention all the cool little details. The first book was a little misleading, in that it was just short enough that nothing of consequence had to be cut, and it still made a two-and-a-half hour movie, and the second book was pretty much the same, but after that . . . changes had to be made.

The most impressive thing about the Harry Potter movies so far has been how few truly noticeable changes have been made in adapting the books for the screen. For this, screenwriter Steve Kloves should be commended. His adaptations of Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Half-Blood Prince and now Deathly Hallows (Michael Goldenberg did the adaptation for Order of the Phoenix, about which more later) have probably been more scrutinized than any other book-to-movie adaptations in the history of cinema. If there'd been an Internet when they were making Gone With The Wind, maybe that's your closest equivalent (Ed. Note: once I learn enough of the details, that's a post fo yo ass; fuckin Gone With The Wind had a fascinating production history). Kloves, of course, pissed the odd Harry fanatic off, but that was mainly the kind of people who know what House they'd have been sorted into and write fanfic (I'm not judging, I'd have been a Beater on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team and gotten a gig as a wizard movie critic for the Quibbler through my wife Luna Lovegood; say one word or crack one smile and you die). Kloves wrote some damn good scripts, if we're judging the movies as movies independently of the books. Every single criticism I've ever had of his scripts has fallen into the “but what about [insert cool but ultimately inessential scene from book here]?”

It's hard for me to say whether the movies would make sense if I hadn't read the books, but what I can do is ask people who've only seen the movies. My mom's a good example: she kind of violently doesn't give a fuck about science-fiction and fantasy, but has seen the first five Harry movies. I tried to get to the bottom of this question once:

Me: So, Mom, do you like the Harry Potter movies?

Mom: Sure.

Me: Is there like a whole lotta shit missing to you, like assumptions of things they think you should know?

Mom: Not really.

Me: So . . . they make sense?

Mom: Sure. As much as they have to. It's Harry versus Voldewhatthefuck, right?
And, yes, the kind of fan who's read the books a half-dozen times each might cringe at the idea of everything being boiled down to “Harry versus Voldewhatthefuck,” and hardcore cineastes might similarly recoil at the idea that cinema, as a medium, is incapable of handling the level of nuance of a novel, there's nothing objectively wrong with the movies being streamlined a bit. They do have to be. The thing about reading as opposed to watching a movie is you can go back and re-read a paragraph a couple times if the asshole writer hits you with some massive run-on sentence or 250 word mid-sentence parenthetical aside (Ed. Note: the author has no idea why you're smirking at him right now). Watching a movie in a theater, you can't do that, so no matter how brilliant you are and how close attention you're paying, you might miss something and not be able to go back and clarify. Doesn't make you any less brilliant or attentive, or cinema an inferior medium. Just the way shit's stacked.

The movies have been pulled off with varying degrees of success. The first two, Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, had a few problems. They were the first movies, based on the two least ambitious books of the series, were dependent on 11/12 year old actors to carry the story, and were directed by Chris Columbus, who as of this writing is trapped inside a wet paper bag with a pair of scissors clutched impotently in one hand. I'm sure he's a really nice guy, good to his wife and kids, helps little old ladies across the street, all that jazz, but giving that fuckin guy a movie camera is kind of like giving a gorilla a subscription to the New York Review of Books. I know I already went through this, but seriously, Warner Bros: buy some fuckin Pepto-Bismol, free up some liquid assets for when he goes over budget, and hire Terry Gilliam next time.

Granted, as badly as Chris Columbus fucked the dog on the first two Harry pictures they still weren't all that bad, due to the source material being strong enough to withhold the malignant incompetence, kind of like Harry himself growing up locked under the stairs with the Dursleys. However, just because that's a perfect textual analogy for the first two movies (Ed. Note: the author wrote the remainder of the post with his arm in a sling, having dislocated his shoulder patting himself on the back) doesn't mean that Alfonso Cuarón's descent upon the Harry franchise was the equivalent of Harry arriving at Hogwarts.

Now, Alfonso Cuarón is so far above Chris Columbus' level as a filmmaker that even crediting Columbus with working in the same medium is an insult to Alfonso Cuarón. I refuse to even compare the director of Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire with the director of Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men. This isn't some horseshit comedy vs. drama thing, either, don't get me wrong. It's choad vs. visionary genius. That being said, in a bizarre way—and it hurts me in the testicles to even type these words—a yes-sir, unimaginative type like Columbus works better within the parameters of a big-budget franchise. Granted, you want your director-for-hire to actually be able to direct, but the last thing Alfonso Cuarón is is a director-for-hire. He was given a freer hand to adapt Prisoner of Azkaban, since Columbus' fidelity to the source material had become almost a fault.

Prisoner of Azkaban ended up an uneasy mix between fuck-yeah-anarchy scruffball cinema and Harry Potter movie. In spite of being the longest Potter book yet, it was the shortest movie. The kids at Hogwarts all suddenly had really long hair, and hung out in their dorm rooms eating gumballs that made pot smoke—sorry, enchanted steam, ahem—come out their ears. And I had never pictured Lupin as looking like David Thewlis, or thought of Lupin's being a werewolf as being a metaphor for being gay (Mike Leigh ruined David Thewlis as anything but a gay hustler for me, sorry), but like I said, this is the problem with being so attached to the books when trying to be objective about the movies. Still, stuff like squandering the climax/plot twist in the Shrieking Shack and ending the picture on a freeze frame of Harry ecstatically flying on a hippogriff when he already knew how awesome flying was (this ain't The fuckin 400 Blows, Alfonso) is reason why no one was particularly heartbroken about the series changing directors for Goblet of Fire.

(EDIT: Goblet of Fire sucked. I had a bunch of stuff written here based on a poorly-remembered, long ago viewing of the movie. The book's great, the movie combined the worst aspects of both Columbus' and Cuarón's approach. We won't dwell. Moving on.)

After all the jumping around from director to director, Order of the Phoenix brought on David Yates, who would stay with the series until its conclusion. Despite the fact that the movies all made mountains of money, Yates was still under pressure to keep the running time reasonable (since the movies had all been a bit long; the books, no matter how many forklifts you needed to turn the pages the further you got into the series, were always exactly the right length). New screenwriter Michael Goldenberg proved what a good job Steve Kloves had always done by coming and saying “Hey, all Kloves did was cut shit, I can do that.” In so doing he outed himself as the guy Eddie Murphy talked about in Delirious and Raw, who'd do his routine but only get the cursing, and thus not be funny at all. Order of the Phoenix is the one movie in the series that makes almost no sense whatsoever without the book for that reason. Still, Yates does a great job with what he's given, getting the atmosphere exactly the right and the pace crisp (really, all a director needs to do with these pictures). Also, we must not underestimate the achievement of Emo Harry being less excruciating than he was in the book, where every other page he's got sand in his vagina about something retarded and somehow he goes the whole book without Ron and/or Hermione putting a foot in his ass. I mean, the fact that all the emo bullshit's what ultimately gets Sirius killed, and that Harry realizes this and snaps out of it and is cool and everything, but we're still stuck with Harry having his fucking period for like 500 pages. Yates somehow managed to minimize the damage on the audience, as I barely even really remember Dan Radcliffe whining at all in the movie, a sign of both his increasing polish as an actor and the skillful direction.

Half-Blood Prince is where Yates really hits his stride, though. With Kloves back to make sure the edits/changes make sense, Yates is free to fuck around with green filters and generally pull the best “lookit how cool I am” act of any director in the series, out-Cuaróning Cuarón in a surprise twist. The best part of the book, which we were able to see in retrospect was all the elegantly indirect protection and reluctant tutelage of Harry by the endlessly fascinating and layered Severus Snape, is the biggest narrative loss. But then again, it's only re-reading the book that one sees stuff like, “Yeah, Snape taking the job as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher meant Harry could continue Potions, which he'd need to be an Auror; yep, there's Snape totally making sure that Harry got Snape's own Potions book with all his brilliant notes and shit; wow, yeah, when you think about it, that's Snape giving Harry really good advice even in the middle of their running wizard's duel after Snape kills Dumbledore.” The movie implies all that, though really it's something your mind fills in because you know that's what Snape does.

By the way, Alan Rickman as Snape? Casting so perfect it verges on lazy, except Alan Rickman fucking brings it. He said a few years ago that since he started playing Snape, his kids both think he's cool and actually listen to him now. (Ed. Note: the idea of being that dude's kid, fucking up, and getting grounded by Hanseverus Grubersnape, Sheriff of Nottingham, is hilarious and terrifying).

Deathly Hallows, of course, is as yet incomplete. I was a little too bitchy about it over at Tor the other day; if I wrote that review today I'd emphasize what a skillfully made movie it was over the incomplete nature of the story. The fact that Yates almost made Dobby's martyrdom into a big enough event to be the climax of a movie is a demonstration of some serious skill. Because, let's be real, Dobby getting killed was sad, and I cried that scene the first three times I read Deathly Hallows, no false macho, but it's an event in the story, it's not the event.

So, Part 2 is basically going to be breaking into Gringotts to steal the Cup of Hufflepuff, which should be fun, followed by the massive Battle of Hogwarts. (Christ, when Neville raises his fist/sword in the air and yells “DUMBLEDORE'S ARMY!” I am going to fucking lose it). Most of the narrative/character stuff was dealt with in Part 1, leaving a bunch of action for the grand finale. As one would expect. And it should be just fine, David Yates knows what he's doing, and Steve Kloves does too, and the kids are all pretty decent professional actors at this point.

What I and the other obsessive fans of the books all need to remember, of course, is that the movies are not the books. The last scene of the movie of Deathly Hallows will never have the same impact as Jo Rowling peeking nineteen years into the future and assuring us “All was well.” (If you're going to sit there and tell me that series could have ended in any other way other than a mildly cheesy, wistfully optimistic, British, “All was well,” you are going to get a very sternly worded rebuke). But it doesn't have to.

The Harry Potter movies do not have the same responsibility as the books did, nor do they have the same quality standards. All that is required of them as movies is that they be reasonably entertaining, look cool, and not insult us, and they do none of these things. They're never going to be the books, because the books are so profoundly books. Their story makes for one of the more compelling movie franchises around, but there's no way they can have the same impact, as movies, as the books did. For one, most of the people seeing the movies have already read the book and know what's going to happen (with the odd exception like “Whoa, what the fuck? We're only meeting Bill for the first time in the last movie, after the werewolf got him?”) For another, a huge part of the Harry Potter experience is the act of reading the book itself.

For me it went like this: I borrowed the first four books in turn in Fall 2000, senior year of college, became obsessed (if memory serves, I actually cut a class because I was on the Shrieking Shack scene in Prisoner of Azkaban, which was more important), and later acquired my own copies. Got my copy of Order of the Phoenix on my way to work the day it came out, and quit my job so I could start reading sooner (okay, not really, my decision to quit had to do with the job being commission-only and a soulless time-waster, but quitting meant I could get a head start on my reading, which I finished within 72 hours). Picked up my copy of Half-Blood Prince and managed to really fuck with some loudmouth at the post office in so doing (it was one of those rare moments of total, unambiguous win), finished in two sittings. And picked up Deathly Hallows at one minute after midnight on pub date, went straight home and read through the night, listening to “My Ever Changing Moods” by Style Council on repeat for some OCD reason that's lost to history, finishing at about 9:30am; instead of going to sleep, I got some coffee and breakfast and said “Wow” about thirty times.

Even though I've got a good memory and a strong belief in the experiential aspect of art appreciation, I'm extremely hard-pressed to recall movie experiences as vivid as the first time through the Harry Potter books. This is not to say that I can't; the experiences just don't come as vividly or as immediately. Harry's special, what can I say.

As a valedictory to the Harry movies, it must be said that with very few exceptions, no book or series of books as widely and passionately beloved has ever been turned into a movie with such success. The Lord of the Rings movies were all great, to be sure, but the books are ponderous gibberish. (Ed. Note: Refer your indignant protests to my dick; I'm right). The Harry Potter movies may not be as good movies, but they're damn fine. Also, Dan Radcliffe is (barely) taller than a hobbit, and just refer to Keanu in Speed for the benefits of superior height. But, the clincher is this:
When hobbits get back from Mordor, they go back to the Shire and spend the rest of their life getting shit caught in the fur on their feet. When Hermione graduated Hogwarts she went to Brown and became a Burberry model. That's my kinda people.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

HEY HO LET'S GO



Let's go crazayyyy. . . There really is only one Nic Cage. The very universe would unravel if there were two. Let's congratulate Harry Hanrahan on another damn fine job editing one of these greatest-hits clips.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WHEN REAL SEX ISN'T PORN

This Tuesday evening I decided to get onto my freelance-writing, sports-obsessed, video-game-playing ass and watch a movie. Because, for someone who gets paid to write about them, I haven't been watching enough movies lately. Shit happens, life gets in the way, the sun going down at like four in the afternoon has been throwing me off, as has the fact that I'm trying to read three books at once. But no more. Time to watch some fucking cinema.

And, completely coincidentally, that meant the cinema of fucking. First up was Carlos Reygadas' 2005 picture Batalla en el cielo (en ingles, Battle in Heaven, even though it really means “battle in the sky.”)

I remembered exactly two things about it—it had graphically depicted (though apparently unerotic) sex, and it inspired extremely divided critical response. These kinds of pictures always really interest me; when everyone's like “meh” I figure fuck it, there's a Knicks game on. But when the “this is the most brilliant thing since Tarkovsky” people (like Esquire on that poster) are engaged in pitched battle with the “this is pretentious, willfully grotesque horseshit” people (like Lisa Schwarzbaum over at Entertainment Weekly), I start thinking, let's the roll the dice and watch it. I'd like to see the most brilliant thing since Tarkovsky. Why not? It's worth the risk of sitting through pretentious, willfully grotesque horseshit.

Now, I did not like Batalla en el cielo. At all. It's one of those weird male gaze psychological fuckin things where all the women are either nagging, shrewish wives or barely legal sex pixies (which is stupid; women are cooler and more interesting when you appreciate them for the way they really are), and you're eyeball deep in Catholicism for the whole goddamn movie. The (mostly real) sex is difficult to watch, and not for the whole “warped body image wrought by fashion advertisements and porn” reason that you might think. Reygadas' camera lingers on the lumpy, middle-aged bodies of protagonist Marcos and his wife in a way that suggests disgust with flesh, rather than merely observing a naked civilian. All the attractive women in the movie are prostitutes, and worse, the camera leers at them in a vaguely, Catholically disgusted way as well.

The story follows Marcos' descent into existential crisis after he and his wife kidnap a child who dies. Marcos feels intense guilt (go figure) and ends up losing control of his life, falling for, fucking, and confessing to his boss' daughter Ana, who he later stabs to death, following a lengthy countryside freakout. The cops quickly catch up to him, Marcos not having been terribly subtle about stabbing Ana, and then his wife touches him and he collapses, so like was it her who killed him, or symbolism or something? Then the closing shot is Ana (actually) sucking Marcos' dick, just like the opening scene, and they say “I love you” to each other.

However, not having enjoyed the picture at all, I should say I thought it was clearly the work of a real director. Just because I don't give a fuck about God and guilt doesn't mean Reygadas can just be dismissed. He is being a bit sensational at times (actually having Marcos and Ana, an implausible couple to say the very least, have actual sex) but he shows, at other times, a real knowledge of what to do with a camera; even if the images are grimy, they're pretty well composed and there are some nice long shots including one very long take in a car. In fact, his technique is strong enough that if he hadn't overdone the grotesquerie, the dramatic story might have been a bit more compelling. But Reygadas knows what he's doing. All that stuff is in there because he wants it there, so I guess me and him are never gonna be BFFs. Martin Scorsese liked his followup picture, though, which ultimately I'm sure means a lot more to Reygadas than the two cents of some jerkoff blogger, so I say go forth and auteur up a storm, Señor Reygadas. You're clearly doing something right if Marty S. likes you.

After watching Batalla en el cielo, I was a little discontent, so an impromptu double feature was necessary. I got out a Danish picture from the same year called All About Anna.

Like Batalla en el cielo, there is unsimulated sex in All About Anna. But it's from an entirely different perspective. It's not as simple as director Jessica Nilsson being a woman, though that's obviously a huge part of it. Anna, whom the picture is All About, is a far more cosmopolitan character than Marcos (or, for that matter, Ana), and the lack of guilt and horror about sex could be attributable to class, secularism, geography, race, any number of things. That's a discussion for another blog, though; I don't feel like getting all bent of shape with the very guilt that pissed me off in the first movie for liking this one more.

Anna (the beautiful Gry Bay) is a theatrical costume designer living in Copenhagen. She's got this guy, Johan (Mark Stevens), who's a damn handsome fellow and, as Anna says: “A friend once said that every woman needs three men. One for adventure and fun, one for stimulating conversation and one for good sex. Johan was all three.” Well, all right then. Johan, however, is in the habit of hopping on a boat and disappearing for a few years, so eventually Anna is like, all right, moving on.

She meets this nice, kind of boring dude named Frank who she has some fairly decent sex with, but whom she's not sure enough she's serious about that instead of having him move into her new apartment, she takes in kooky party girl Camilla (Eileen Daily). But then Johan randomly turns back up and Anna gets this hungry look in her eyes and they start fucking, with Frank asleep in the other room. Hey, sometimes you just gotta do it. When Frank wakes up, Johan hurriedly writes his phone number on the wall and splits, but Frank erases it before Anna can memorize, and there she is again, no way of getting in touch with Johan. She makes a half-assed attempt at stalking him, but gives up and rededicates herself to her work.

A bigshot French actor shows up and starts his whole ooh-la-la-mademoiselle routine (is it still racist when Danish people do it? Nope, it's fuckin hilarious) and Anna, sensing a career opportunity, flirts back (Ed. Note: flirting with a French guy is utterly redundant if you're a chick) and gets his business card and then, in a potential big career break, a job in Paris working on his show.

So, while Anna's in Paris, she rents out her bedroom to a boarder who turns out to be . . . Johan. She's tempted to stay when she finds this out—they start almost fucking in the stairwell when she's trying to shlep her suitcases to the cab to the airport—but comes up with a classic bit of girl logic: “I'll let him stay in my apartment with my sex-crazed roommate, and if he can go the whole time without hitting it, he can be my boyfriend again.” And she proceeds to thoroughly enjoy herself in Paris, even though she misses Johan and even Camilla.

The roommate situation between Johan and Camilla is tense at first. Camilla, having no idea that Johan is Anna's ex or that the two are still mutually madly, tormentedly in love, starts making a subtle play for Johan. This subtle play consists of walking around naked with bottles of champagne and insisting that she suck his dick (and yes, she actually sucks his actual dick). He puts up a fairly decent fight but does submit, but then he comes in her eye (and yes, you do actually see him come right in her actual eye) and she's like, “Yeah . . . huh . . . that was awkward” and they weirdly become pretty good friends thereafter, even though the sex part completely evaporates, partly because Camilla has her own dude who she's way into.

After Anna's hot French friend Sophie goes down on her (it's all real, except Anna keeps her panties on but she looks like she's thoroughly enjoying herself whether the orgasm is real or not), Anna realizes, yeah girl-girl action with goth-y French chicks rules, but I'm hetero, and I am extremely hetero for that big hunky blonde beefcake Johan, so I'm gonna bop back to Copenhagen ahead of schedule.

Naturally, Anna finds Johan and Camilla in bed together, except she doesn't realize it's just because Johan was keeping Camilla company because she was lonely, and it might as well have been brother-sister (the blowjob debacle having been totally compartmentalized by that point). So Anna freaks out and goes and gets wrecked, and in a scene that's simultaneously creepy and really funny (ya gotta trust me, Europeans are somehow able to pull this shit off) she gets molested by a co-worker of Johan's who keeps getting interrupted by cell phone calls. Anna, instead of freaking out, just goes “eww weird” and heads home to confront the horrors therein.

Only instead of finding Camilla shtupping Johan, Camilla's having “yay we really do love each other” sex with her own dude, and Johan's gone. Cue obligatory race against time and streaky mascara to find the dude before he gets on the boat, except instead of just getting there in the nick of time, she finds Johan fishing in an angsty I-wish-Anna-was-here mood, and they both are like all right, no more of this running around bullshit, let's have a good old-fashioned happy ending. So they get on the boat and they have some out-of-this-universe sex (for realz, including a really real lookin 'gasm from Anna) and the credits roll, and the single funniest closing credit song since Knock-Off—which recounts the whole plot of the movie in a really cute Casio-keyboard sort of way—plays.

All About Anna isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, in terms of craft and all that serious cineaste-nerd shit, Batalla en el cielo is probably the superior artistic achievement. But All About Anna is a lot more fun to watch. The reductive high-concept pitch—“It's a Dogme 95 rom-com”—pretty much sums it up. Gry Bay makes a very engaging lead as Anna, even if the voiceover is overused and a little too purple-prose “Dear Diary.” Gry Bay is, although a very beautiful woman, still plausible as that jaw-droppingly beautiful woman you actually know. Her guy, on the surface, is the total girl fantasy asshole I usually want to kill—damn those tall, muscular, strong-featured dudes and their big dicks—but he ends up being a reasonable-enough facsimile of an actual person that I'm okay with him by picture's end. Camilla's funny, even though people like her are exasperating in real life; the fact, though, that I looked at her and went, “Oh, yeah, she reminds me of [indie theater woman of a certain age] and [drunker,older version of anonymous ex-girlfriend]” is a good sign, ya know, recognizable as an actual person and all. The French people are French people, and are kind of cartoon characters, but hey, the chick could give lessons on how to go down (she's played by an actual porn star, though she's the one who keeps her clothes on for the whole scene).

That last aside segues into the next point: All About Anna, actual genitals going into actual other genitals notwithstanding, is not porn; Batalla en el cielo even less so. This is a debate I don't find terribly interesting: the standard line tends to be, if there's real sex going on, it's porn and that's that. I maintain that most of the people advancing this argument tend to be slaves to scripturally-derived morality and the rest of them are people who just say it because everyone else does. Sex is a very complex thing with, as the poet said, a “lotta ins, lotta outs,” but when you get right down to it, empirically, it's a physical activity. There are no prohibitions on scenes where characters eat; the actors tend to eat actual food (even if they take practical steps to avoid becoming overstuffed due to multiple takes and so forth). There are no prohibitions on showing characters running, the actor just runs. And hell, when their characters have to kiss, the actors kiss. There's no objective reason why sex should be any different, especially if you do it right (cinematically, of course).

The porn question, if you can get past that stupid unilateral “if there's sex, it's porn” bullshit, then tends to shift toward the intent of the filmmakers, and whether they use real sex to titilate. Batalla en el cielo is very much not porn; Reygadas is trying to shock, not get people to fap. All About Anna isn't either, because Jessica Nilsson doesn't candy-coat anything, she stages the sex scenes the way real people would do it (if they're really, really, really good-looking, but hey, it's a movie). The scene where, after Frank and Anna fuck and his mom calls (the look of “are you fucking kidding me” on Gry Bay's face is awesome) and Frank takes the condom off with come in the end, it's not like “ooh, look at how sexy this is” because it's really not, that stage of things is waste disposal, and it's not like, “eh, look at how vile sex is” because it's not that either, it's just, “yeah, when you're done fucking you have to take the condom off without spilling all the come out of the tip.” Because that's what happens when you're done fucking and you have to take the condom off.

All About Anna ends up triumphing over its occasional technical clunkiness and dumb writing by sheer goodwill. It's a shame that American/British uptightness (not to mention her “odd” name) is probably going to keep Gry Bay from being a huge movie star over here, because she's better at this kind of picture than 99% of the dipshits who star in them, and cuter than just about all of them.

The thing I ended up really liking the most about this mildly ridiculous movie is that it's a movie with a female protagonist who's smart, creative, and who gets laid without anyone tut-tutting at her. We need more sex-positive movies that are actually watchable and engaging; they don't even need to be this sex-positive—All About Anna is downright sex-zealous—but gaddammit, man. Can't we all just admit that people fuck, and that this is a good thing? It is the future, after all. Let's fucking act like it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I SEE EVERYTHING

Been too busy to post, and talked myself out of doing the couple things I was going to write about. But when times get rough, and existence seems to be a matrix of eternal vexation, I turn to a pillar of strength. I turn to Professor Francis X. Picard.



Mmm mmm mmm. Happy Sunday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

MOY NOYME IS MOYCHAEL CAINE



This post brought to you by the Society for Accurate Impressions.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

THE MINISTRY OF BLUE BALLS AND ITS TYRANNY


Hoo EE! This picture's had a troubled production ( the Chinese government didn't allow it to shoot on Chinese soil, then it did, then it didn't, then it insisted that it be released in China first, then hemmed and hawed about when it would be, etc etc no matter how bad it gets here totalitarianism is still worse etc etc also Harvey Weinstein is involved) but wouldja look at that fuckin trailer? And wouldja look at that fuckin cast? Far as I'm concerned, this could be half as good as it's supposed to be and still fucking rule.

Unfortunately, The Weinstein Company hasn't scheduled Shanghai for release, even though it's been done for a year. Clearly, something's going on. Director Mikael Hafstrom (1408, Derailed) apparently got into one of those patented Harvey post-production wars (his next picture is the first one he's done in English without the Weinsteins producing, indicating that he may, like so many others, have gotten sick of Harvey and Bob's bullshit), but my guess is that it's a combination between Harvey waving his dick around and some kind of shadiness with the Chinese government, who are noted for making unapproved things unhappen.

Since actual political shit ain't going so hot in America right now, let's hope activism about unimportant things still works: FREE SHANGHAI! We fucking need to see Chow Yun-Fat shooting guns, married to Gong Li, and being a gangster/hero! Right this injustice and give us a potentially unwieldy but nonetheless stylish costume drama!

(h/t IFC.com)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

DANNY GOT TROLLED


Careful readers of this blog may have detected, here and there, a sense of humor. From other subtle hints I've dropped you may also have surmised that I get a kick of out of fucking with people. Yes, I once mixed a friend a drink called a Fire Island Iced Tea, so called because it would fuck his mind in the ass. (Ed. Note: it did). It is important, if you're going to behave in this way, that you accept the possibility that people will fuck with you right back. And thus, when this Matt Damon/Randy Travis lookin' ass motherfucker lent me Freddy Got Fingered on DVD, I had the sneaking suspicion that I was being trolled. Yes, Mr. Yustin assured me that it was legitimately hilarious, but I've been down this road before (“sure, that second pill won't make you freak out, you'll be fine”) and, remembering the singularly passionate negative critical response the movie got upon its release, I approached watching it with great trepidation.

Turns out, ya know what? It's a pretty funny movie. Tom Green, who co-wrote, directed, and starred, is the kind of comedian one either gets and thinks is hilarious, or does not get and thinks is the Antichrist. His style of humor is he doesn't give a fuck. Observe this classic bit, a collaboration with the similarly divisive Andy Dick:

Bonus Bob Odenkirk: the pause that refreshes. Anyway, Tom Green's popularity itself was considered an act of trolling at his peak. Most critics had no idea what the fuck to make of him and subsequently wrote him off as a talentless hack who just mugged a lot and trashed shit. I freely confess to total confusion myself. I would, if someone asked me, “Are you a Tom Green fan?” say something like “Dear God, no. Heavens! Thinkst thou me hoi polloi?” without really having more than an out-of-context bit here and there or a trailer, and then see him show up in something like Charlie's Angels or Road Trip and be like “Whoa, that guy with the goatee is funny.” This is what happens when you let critical consensus do your thinking for you, kids.

Freddy Got Fingered, in truth, falls between the two polarities of Roger Ebert's “This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels . . . The day may come when Freddy Got Fingered is seen as a milestone of neo-surrealism. The day may never come when it is seen as funny” and A.O. Scott calling it “conceptual performance art”and Nathan Rabin declaring it a “borderline Dadaist provocation.” The truth is, Freddy Got Fingered is a movie by a guy trying to be funny, and whether he succeeds or not depends entirely on the audience's sense of decorum or tolerance for non sequiturs and immaturity. A) Just because something doesn't make any sense doesn't mean it's postmodern or Dada or whatever the fuck and B) far as I'm concerned, a chef should have taste, a comedian doesn't have to. That covers that.

The movie has a number of truly inspired and strange sequences. The opening with Tom Green skateboarding through a shopping mall for no apparent reason had me going “What the fuck? There're actually a couple sweet Steadicam shots. Is this . . . a real movie . . .?” The cinematics, the rest of the movie, aren't quite as flashy, but they're still surprisingly solid considering a laundry list of critics called this one of the worst movies ever made.

As for the cast, Tom Green is Tom Green, doing what he does. There's a point with him where you either have to turn the fuckin movie off or surrender to his insanity, because if you don't find him funny, you're not suddenly going to half an hour in. One thing Tom Green the director does that's very wise is make sure that Tom Green the leading man doesn't overwhelm everything; the supporting cast features any number of really solid performances. Harland Williams is pretty funny getting his ass kicked as Tom Green's buddy, and Julie Hagerty is good in the first thing I've seen her in in about 20 years, as Tom Green's mom (who takes Tom Green's advice that she go out and "have sex with basketball players" to heart and ends up shtupping Shaq, in a funny cameo by himself). Anthony Michael Hall is funny as a Hollywood douchebag (it's always fun for actors to play executives and producers, they get out all kinds of long-simmering resentments). Marisa Coughlan plays the love interest who, of course, is a wheelchair-bound amateur rocket scientist with a fetish for being caned on her paralyzed legs who loves giving head; this, of course, is proof that Marisa Coughlan either has a really solid sense of humor or really needed to pay the fuckin rent.

But above all else, Rip Torn is fucking amazeballs off the fucking reservation in this movie. He plays Tom Green's dad, which explains everything. Rip Torn could kick ass in anything, no matter how bad (and has devoted most of his career to proving this point), and when given some snappy text like in Men in Black or The Larry Sanders Show, he makes being awesome seem utterly effortless. Some examples:

Tom Green: Wow . . . it's a LeBaron!
Rip Torn: You bet your boots it's a LeBaron. Fine car. Convertible.

Rip Torn (about Tom Green): Miserable dead beat punk. Paid for his damn college. Sits around all day wacking off. Proud? My ass.
And of course, the scene when he comes in, shitfaced, and starts casually ripping up Tom Green's drawings. Tom Green nuts up and says “Fuck you.” Rip Torn pulls down his pants and starts waving his ass in Tom Green's face and goes, “Fuck me? Sure, go ahead! Fuck me!” This was some of the funniest shit I've seen in years, and if that means I never get to be grown-up pretentious movie critic like the cool kids, so be it.

What makes Rip Torn's performance so great is that he knows exactly what kind of movie he's in. He knows that, enjoyable though it may be in the right mood, you get what you paid for when you watch a picture called Freddy Got Fingered. We are not in hoity-toity land. We're in a movie where you get fucked up on Wild Turkey and wave your ass in Tom Green's face.

As much I enjoyed the movie, and as unapologetic as I am about so doing, there were large chunks I didn't find particularly funny. The notorious scene where Tom Green swings the newborn baby around the room by the umbilical cord? Not all that funny, though it's not offensive either, amazingly. The two women randomly banging tambourines the whole time make it wonderfully bizarre, like a reflection of something that makes sense in a parallel universe.

The role of animals in the movie is a strange one. Tom Green randomly pulls over to the side of the road to jerk off a horse at one point, because, hey, sometimes you have to randomly pull over to jerk off a horse. Then, following Anthony Michael Hall's advice to “get inside the animals” (Tom Green's initial pitch for his cartoon show lacks character depth), Tom Green finds a dead deer in the road and proceeds to gut it and wear its skin while running around Tom Greening. A bunch of other woodland animals serve as the audience surrogate, looking at Tom Green like “What the . . . fuck . . .?”

Overall, Freddy Got Fingered is kind of like a movie a Martian would make if he came to Earth, went to film school somewhere in upstate Ontario, and fell in with heavy acidheads. It follows the basic linear progression of a “normal” movie, except everything in it is as weird as weird gets. Strangely, though, at the end when Tom Green shows up in a helicopter with a bag of jewels and professes his love to Marisa Coughlan on the roof of her building (over the sound of the helicopter; she has to ask him to repeat himself a lot) and she says to him “I don't care about jewels. I just want to suck your cock” it's both pretty funny and oddly endearing. There's a whole bunch of business earlier about how all she ever wants to do is suck his dick, but Tom Green wants to go out on dates and stuff, so that's as close to “I love you” as you're going to get in a picture like this.

In a weird way, even though I rather enjoyed it, I understand why the critics all had to line up and pan the shit out of Freddy Got Fingered. It's indefensible, which is why I haven't been bothering to defend liking it. Real critics, though, have to defend their opinions; “fuck you, I liked it” works here at Movies By Bowes™ but I imagine the Chicago Sun-Times says “okay, lose the 'fuck' and extrapolate a little, wise guy.” I'm not, by any means, getting up in Roger Ebert's shit for not liking this movie; my mom took me to see Breakin' on his advice, for fuck's sake. Roger Ebert's cool. But his sense of humor, like most people's, has lines past which you ain't getting a laugh. The casual violence and the fact that the title is a reference to Tom Green falsely accusing Rip Torn of molesting Tom Green's brother flipped Rog's fuck no switch. I understand that. The evolution of popular culture has created a separation between an act and the idea of that act that's largely dependent on context. Molestation isn't funny. But Tom Green trying to “win” a therapy session by accusing his dad of molesting his brother is. Or, more to the point, it is when Tom Green throws a marble bust out the window for no reason and then jumps out after it.

I do not, the title of this post notwithstanding, feel like I actually got trolled (just as Freddy never actually got fingered). But do I ever want to see Freddy Got Fingered again? Probably not. Unless, of course, the time is right to mix someone else a Fire Island Ice Tea, itself probably the perfect mixological equivalent to this movie: a deeply irresponsible, mind-altering, and entertaining good time that actual mixologists (or cineastes) would find utterly appalling. But, ya know, sometimes you gotta pull over to jerk off a horse. And there's really no resisting inevitability.