Saturday, April 30, 2011

THE FAST AND THE FRENCH



French people are fucking awesome. That's totally an uninterrupted 8 minute and 40 second take of a French person driving dick-swingingly fast at dawn in Paris with a fucking camera mounted on the bumper. Could there be anything better for my 200th post? No. Not in this universe.

And, it also serves as a preview of my Fast and the Furious post, which you can expect sometime in the next couple days after I see Fast Five. Until then, bask in the existentialist glory that is this clip. Check the director credit at the end, by the way. If you say "holy shit!" we're totally best friends.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

INFERRED BIOGRAPHY


Sometimes, no summary can do a career justice. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the imdb page of one Paul Thomas (no Anderson involved, except indirectly).

Let me direct your attention to three areas of this cornucopia of goodness:

1) The trivia page. It's short (the only thing about him that is, apparently), but very evocative.
2) Read every entry in his filmography, as actor, director, AND designer. It's long (LIKE HIS COCK HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), and similarly evocative.
3) His earliest credit as actor, right before the "Actor - video" section starts. If that don't beat all, nothing does.

And, as per 3), Happy Easter!

(h/t Tom Berger for suggesting that his Facebook friends look this guy up. I hope you're happy with yourself, Tom).

Friday, April 22, 2011

I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU BE SAYIN': A LOOK AT THE CAREER OF CHRIS TUCKER


Why Chris Tucker, you might ask? Well, I might answer: why not? Not only, thanks to Rebecca Black, is Chris Tucker's now the good Friday (Ed. Note: fuck you, that was funny) he's responsible for one of my all-time favorite one-scene performances (in Jackie Brown), maybe two-thirds of the dumb shit I used to say when I was stoned (Friday), and one of the single most gloriously strange, gender-ambiguous pieces of magnificently irritating performance art ever filmed (The Fifth Element). My fandom goes back even further than that, though.

I first heard of Chris Tucker back when my dad and I would watch hours and hours of stand-up comedy on TV every weekend, that being one of the only compromises we could strike because he hated movies with explosions and I hated 18-hour PBS documentaries about soybean farming. It was the middle of the early 90s stand-up comedy boom, when you could catch stand-up on TV just about any hour of the day and night. We caught a lot of great comics and had many mutual favorites (Bill Hicks, Robin Harris, Richard Pryor, Marc Maron, Richard Belzer, and early Bill Maher, the one who was funny, not the one who became convinced he was the weed-smoking Walter Cronkite). I was more partial to women comedians than he was—Laura Kightlinger and Janeane Garofalo will always have special places in my heart—and he was more partial to middle-aged guys from Boston, because he was a middle-aged guy from Boston. But for the most part, we liked the same stuff, especially if Dad had had a bit to smoke.

One show we never missed, in its first couple seasons, was HBO's Def Comedy Jam. This was back in my Dad's hilariously disingenuous period where he'd retire to the other room and come back all giggly and think he was hiding the fact that he was high. Timing was such that he'd usually do this right around the time Def Comedy Jam was about to come on TV, which worked out nicely, as the general tenor of the show was perfect for a dorky 13 year old or a bombed-out-of-his-nards 43 year old. And so we discovered a great many mediocre comics, but just as many if not more who were really fucking funny. We had formed a secular religion based around Bernie Mac in about 1993. My dad came dangerously close to comparing Martin Lawrence to Steve Allen one night before I caught him in time. And, of course, with the subject of this post being what it is, there was Chris Tucker.



He was neither the best stand-up to appear on that show, nor the most original, but he made my dad and me laugh our asses off to the point where it took us two hours to find them again afterwards. One man's mile-a-minute non-sequitur shrieking is another man's hilarity, what can I say. I dislike analyzing comedy, because analyzing comedy isn't funny, so I'll keep this brief: there are many different types of comedians, from the great sage preacher types like Bill Hicks, the raw nerves like Pryor where you're like “holy fuck, did he just say that?”, the observational types, the quipsters, so forth. There is a shortage of straight up wiseasses who are actually funny, and I'd put Chris Tucker in that category. He's no beacon of enlightenment, doesn't mine any apparent demons for cathartic laughs, doesn't do a whole lot of “ya ever notice” and his jokes can be kinda corny. What sold it for me, with him when he was young, was his “I'm just that little wiseass motormouth hyperactive skinny dude”—ness. Sometimes it could be a bit much, but sometimes it really hit the spot.

Like a lot of comedians, when Chris Tucker started doing movies, he'd basically be doing his bits instead of playing a character, but for Friday, that was what was necessary. Ice Cube—no slouch in his ability to read the public's pop cultural appetite—wrote himself a more light-hearted “hood” movie than the ones with which he'd made his initial foray into movies, which were, while groundbreaking at the time of their release, a bit grim for widespread commercial appeal. While Cube could be quite funny at times, he'd yet to attempt outright comedy, and made the wise decision to cast himself as the straight man and Chris Tucker as the funny one. The result, one of the better weed-smoking movies ever made, more consistently funny than most, with great chemistry between Chris and Cube.

As an actor, with one notable exception which we'll get to in a bit, Friday established the template Chris Tucker performance, with slight variations: the endlessly talkative goofball, frequently either high or talking about Michael Jackson, never terrribly intelligent, but never so stupid that he can't pull it together to save the day, although ultimately very very silly. Some killjoys might extrapolate this lack of variation in his screen persona to imply that Chris Tucker is a shitty actor, to which I would say: whoa, whoa, whoa. Back the fuck up. First of all, the guy isn't playing fucking Hamlet. Second of all, lest we infer from that “first of all” that comedy is somehow easy, let's just remember that dude who played Hamlet who, overhearing on his deathbed someone talking about how hard it must be to be shufflin' off the ol' mortal coil, riposted “Dying? That's easy. Comedy? That's hard.” Sure that story's apocryphal, but the reason no one gives a shit that it's apocryphal is that it's fucking true. Maybe Chris Tucker isn't the guy you turn to when you're casting a John Osborne play, but Chris Tucker can do a bit about Michael Jackson as a pimp with Tito as his assistant pimp, and he can be really fucking funny in so doing. Call Nicol Williamson for the Osborne play, I'll stick with Chris for the MJ.

After establishing what would be an ongoing relationship with director Brett Ratner on Money Talks, a commercially successful if unmemorable thing co-starring Emilio Estevez's brother, Chris Tucker broke into movie megastardom with Rush Hour, which was heralded as Jackie Chan's breakthrough role with American audiences, but I noticed a couple things in the theater waiting for it to start: one, as was not unusual in my moviegoing history, me and my mom were the only two white people in the packed theater, and two, everyone in earshot was excitedly talking about the new Chris Tucker movie. Jackie Chan was a fun but secondary element.

But since then, able to command a $20 milion fee—which he's good for, if he ever came out with a new movie that looked even remotely un-fucktarded, it'd make back that $20 mil and more the first weekend—Chris Tucker has only appeared in the Rush Hour sequels, which are what they are, even though Rush Hour 3 is only a movie if you really give it the benefit of the doubt. Still, he made $45 million in salary from those two sequels, plus he had points, and as unmemorable as they were those pictures made a lot of fucking money, so you gotta figure those points made him even richer, so it's not like Chris Tucker has to work or anything. If he's happy, that's all that really matters.

The details of his personal life are, besides being none of our business, not terribly interesting in any tabloid-y kind of way. He's a big God guy and managed to turn his lifelong massive Michael Jackson fandom into a genuine friendship; that in itself is an interesting narrative to chart, watching Chris go from gently but respectfully poking fun at MJ to actually becoming friends with him, to the point where Chris was called, deeply upset, to testify in the last kid-fucking lawsuit. That might make an interesting movie: the dialogue scenes alone between Chris Tucker and Michael Jackson would be some shit out of David Lynch.

As for Chris Tucker's movies that actually do exist, here goes (Ed. Note: this is an incomplete list):


Friday/Money Talks/Rush Hour series



You can kind of lump these all in together and have it only be a slight oversimplification, as pretty much what Chris does in all these is a variation on his stand-up riffs, playing the annoying-yet-somewhat-charming wiseass fuckup. Friday doesn't require any kind of deep analysis; it's a movie you smoke a joint to, with a handful of classic lines, to wit “You get killed with somebody else,” in re: not passing a joint fast enough, and “You just got knocked the FUCK out!” to fallen villain Tiny Lister. Money Talks is dumb but I didn't change the channel that time I caught it on cable.

The Rush Hour series, though, I rather enjoy in spite of its escalating stupidity and the uncanny ability of director Brett Ratner's to make every picture he directs feel physically small (pardon the critical synesthesia, I don't know how else to describe it, his movies feel like crowded studio apartments). My favorite line in the whole series is not, surprisingly, one of Chris' or Jackie's, it's Philip Baker Hall talking to Chris after a horrendous Chris fuckup—casting Chris as a fuckup cop with Walter Mitty Harry Callahan fantasies is pretty much perfect, by the way—but Chris' response is what sells the line:

Philip Baker Hall (a police captain, nota bene): Every now and then we have to let the general public know we still know how to blow shit up.
Chris Tucker (a cop, nota bene praeter): You're goddamn right!

This has always been my philosophy toward cinéma policiers: I don't necessarily want my movie cops to resemble real cops—cuz who the fuck wants to sit through two hours of civil servants struggling to pay their bills and drinking beer watching Yankee games, really—and I certainly like movie cops to know how to blow shit up. Rush Hour, the first one anyway, is a terrifically enjoyable action comedy—easily the best thing Brett Ratner's ever done—and is so largely because of the terrific chemistry between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. It's also nice to have cats like Philip Baker Hall, Tzi Ma, and Ken Leung show up, and Ken Leung is quite good as the villain. The sequels exist, I've seen them, they're fine, whatever. As cable movies, time-fillers/background noise/what have you, the Rush Hour series has few peers. They're dumb, sure, but they're entertaining, even the third one in Paris.

Taking a step back chronologically, 1997 ultimately was a bit of a turning point for Chris Tucker's career. His three releases each represented a possible career trajectory: there was Money Talks, Chris' first team-up with the above-mentioned Brett Ratner, which could have lead to a sequel called Bullshit Walks (not a bad alternate title for Rush Hour 3, come to think of it), and represented the safe, unambitious, commercial route. This, of course, is the one Chris ultimately took.

What could be called “the middle road” was represented by Jackie Brown. A really good movie, by an actual director, with Chris giving something recognizable as an actual performance, as the doomed underling whom Samuel L. Jackson verbally manipulates into the trunk of his car with an empty shotgun only to be cranially ventilated by bullets from Samuel L.'s gun. It's basically Chris Tucker's standard boilerplate Chris Tucker performance—a weedtarded high-pitched voice wisecracking dude who talks really fast and loud when he gets pissed off—but with good dialogue and actual beats to hit, proving that when called on, Chris actually could thesp respectably. Only problem with this path is that it would have required, simultaneously, the ambition necessary to carve out a career as an actor in good movies and the attendant patience to content one's self with playing supporting roles for a few years. And it also presupposes that that's something Chris himself gave a fuck about, which certainly doesn't appear so from his subsequent career choices.

Last, and certainly not least, is The Fifth Element.



Oh, where do we begin with this one . . . The production design and special effects are seamlessly gorgeous. Speaking of which there's also Milla Jovovich, who makes quite an impression. Bruce Willis Bruce Willises his way through the whole thing without batting an eyelash, which sucks in bad movies but is awesome in good ones, Tiny Lister is the President of the Galaxy (as he motherfucking well should be), Gary Oldman gives what would be the strangest performance in any other actor's career but for him it's merely in a ten-way deathmatch with nine other duckfuckingly insane roles . . . and then there's Chris Tucker.

Chris Tucker's performance in The Fifth Element is like if you gave a drag queen LSD and, knowing exactly when she was going to peak, had her huff a balloon of nitrous oxide. It says something that in a movie where everyone's wearing Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chris Tucker's the one who looks weird, and this is in a movie with a whole marauding army of ass-faced aliens and Milla Jovovich running around wearing gaff tape.

There's no diplomatic way to say this, so I'll say it in the least-diplomatic way possible: you could be on first name basis with the staff at Marie's Crisis, have a dick in your ass and your mouth and one in each hand and be a Republican Congressman and not be as gay as Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element. He's not just gay in this, he's Little Richard Gay. This is kind of like the difference between being a pop singer and being Michael Jackson, for an analogy in Chris Tucker-ese.

Now, I'm not saying this like it's a bad thing at all. Chris Tucker flies the freak flag like it's fuckin Fort McHenry up in this joint. At his most sedate, Chris has a tendency to talk a little fast and chirp a bit, but in The Fifth Element—fittingly for a movie with lots of aliens in it—he talks so fast and in so high a pitch it's like he's speaking an alien language. If you ever want to make a civilian cry, watch The Fifth Element with the sound way up: Chris' voice fucking tortures civilians in this movie. Every thirtieth word or so is intelligible. It's fucking awesome.

Bruce Willis is supposed to find Chris Tucker irritating, and since Bruce Willis is the hero, he's kind of the audience's eyes and ears, but as an actor, the cat isn't exactly Daniel Day-Lewis in terms of staying in character. At several points over the course of the movie you can see Bruce Willis start to crack because Chris Tucker's balls-out batshit insanity is so funny at times that he can't help but struggle a bit.

It has been said that a few of Chris Tucker's lines in The Fifth Element are audible only to dogs. Anyone who's able to interview a dog to find out, let me know, but in the meantime let us be content with the extant evidence, which is that this is one of the truly strange performances ever in cinema. While I love it, I'm a little strange myself and understand it not being people's cup of tea. But oh fuck is it ever mine.

Knowing that he's capable of such off-the-map bizarre brilliance, though, makes it a little disappointing that Chris Tucker is content to restrict his acting to Rush Hour sequels once every five or six years. But hey, it's his career. It'd just be nice if he really tried to be Michael Jackson; while he's not exactly Tito, he's in danger of becoming Jermaine. In so doing, he's in danger of no longer being germane.

For that last joke, you are quite welcome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

LE 20 AVRIL EST TOUJOURS VENDREDI



A longer post on Chris Tucker is in the works, but here's a preview. This, after all, is where it all started.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ARNOLD RETURNS TO ENTERTAINMENT BIZ, SKYNET BECOMES SELF-AWARE....COINCIDENCE? HELL, NO.




Well, we're pretty much fucked. Skynet's self-aware. All those namby-pamby motherfuckers who say "oh, maybe AI isn't inherently hostile, maybe it could lead to all kinds of good things" are advised to go suck a lollipop and fap to pictures of unicorns. I'm acquiring arms and canned goods and small, insane muscular women and going to California to find Arnold and I am fucking digging in. Because the War Against The Machines is coming, y'all. Believe.

Revisit last summer's warning, on these very pages, here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"WHO'S THE BEST PILOT I EVER SAW? WELL, YOU'RE LOOKIN AT 'IM": YURI GAGARIN AND THE RIGHT STUFF




“It's Gagarin!”
“We know. Sit down.”

The Right Stuff



50 years ago today, one of the greatest feats in the history of balls was achieved by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Even if one discounts this entire Cracked article (which is unwise), which speculates that the Soviets fired a number of unlucky and soon extremely dead people into space and only publicized Gagarin's voyage because he actually survived, you're left with this scenario: a guy sitting on top of a fucking rocket about to be shot into fucking space, which no one's ever done before. That, my friends, takes yarbles. Enormous ones.

Due to the stupid Cold War, you got called a Commie if you properly appreciated how fuckin duro Yuri Gagarin was. This, of course, is unfair. It'd be nice if there was a well-written Yuri Gagarin biopic by a real director and a good actor playing Yuri here in Western media, but there isn't. The movies we made about astronauts were all about our own dudes, and while it's perfectly reasonable to roll your eyes and go “fucking Americans” (if you're not American) or “yeah man that's totally fuckin typical of mass media man trying to control the fuckin narrative and hide us from the fuckin truth man” (if you're American and smoke weed), why shouldn't we make movies about our own dudes? While it's certainly true that Yuri Gagarin made it up there first, the Americans who followed shortly thereafter only faced a marginally safer trip, and should be recognized for their membership in the same testicular weight class.



Now, lest you think that I'm only using Yuri Gagarin as an excuse to go rhapsodize about The Right Stuff for a few thousand words, there is a connection. Gagarin and the Soviet space program, while only referred to on a handful of occasions in the movie, nonetheless provide the impetus for the movie's story. Also, the fact that the protagonists in The Right Stuff aren't ever going to get there first humanizes them in a way. The rest of the movie goes to great lengths—and I do mean great lengths, it's over three hours long—to continue humanizing the astronauts, who in the popular media of their era were made out to be heroes.. And here's my Gagarin link: he is the movie's mythic hero.

The Right Stuff is not overly concerned with historical accuracy. It's a bit notorious for this, actually; even Tom Wolfe, from whose book the movie was adapted, who favored literary technique over straight reportage in his journalistic work, looked at the movie and went “Holy fuck, dude, this shit is made up.” (Ed. Note: paraphrase) Some of the factual changes in the movie did some historical figures a disservice: the scientists who built the shit that put the astronauts in space and got 'em back deserved a little better than to be portrayed as bumbling cartoon characters who needed design tips from the astronauts to even make the fuckin spaceships. Yeah, a lot of those guys who built the rockets worked for Germany in World War II and were only able to duck war crimes indictments because we needed them to compete with the Commies (who pulled the same thing so they could compete with us). They maybe weren't necessarily the best guys in the world, and a few of them probably had a bit of blood on their hands (or white lab coats), but good guy or no good guy: launching people into space and having them come back alive without tentacles is fucking impressive.

There are a ton of other things in The Right Stuff that are total horseshit, played for laughs, or heightened for the sake of drama. It would be one thing if it was purporting to be a just-the-facts-ma'am account of the space race, but that's not what this movie is about. Check the title, this movie is about The Right Stuff. The reason why it's called The Right Stuff is because societal mores wouldn't let it be called Men With Gigantic Testicles or Balls That Clank: The Story of How Seven Dudes With Dorky Haircuts Got Shot Into Fucking Space. The latter, anyway, is too long; you need to keep that shit snappy, especially back then when the paperback editions were so tiny. But the point is, that's what this movie is about: a bunch of guys who had unfathomably massive balls.

The alpha of the bunch, one of the coolest motherfuckers ever captured on celluloid, was one Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager, portrayed in the movie by Sam Fucking Shepard. Chuck Yeager is a very important figure in the history of masculinity, because he got into airplanes and flew those sons of bitches so goddamn fast even the sound of how awesome he was couldn't keep up. Since none of these goddamn kids these days has any sense of history, let me remind you little fuckers: breaking the sound barrier—long enough ago that Babe Ruth was alive, no less—is automatic win in any “can you top this” testosterone competition, unless somebody who can wrestle alligators with his dick without spilling his drink shows up.

Now, the real-life Chuck Yeager, on the merits of his accomplishments, may be more awesome than just about any other guy who ever lived, but he was this nice, humble guy who wasn't self-aggrandizing or anything, he just liked to go up in airplanes and fucking warp space-time for fun. But, you know, for the movie, you need to make sure the awesomeness reads. So writer-director Philip Kaufman, being a very thoughtful man and skilled filmmaker, decided not to take any fucking chances and cast Sam Shepard. Sure, some of Sam Shepard's plays are pretentious horseshit, but holy fucking fuck that guy looks cool, and that Midwestern drawl on top of it . . . look, just get the motherfucker a horse, light him with a sunset, and point the fucking camera at him, okay? There's your movie, cut, printed, wrapped.

The movie starts with Yeager breaking the sound barrier, and the resultant increased interest in test pilots, which brings most of the rest of our protagonists to the Air Force base that basically belonged to Yeager. The inner circle at the bar is Yeager and his wife, and a bunch of guys who do their best to play it cool but secretly are all like “Dude I get to fucking drink with Chuck fucking Yeager,” among whom is narrator Levon Helm (drummer/vocalist of The Band), a man whose voice basically is America. The new guys settle in awkwardly, with charmer Gordo Cooper (Dennis Quaid) having a particularly rough time of it with his wife, and Gordo's awkward, shy BFF Gus Grissom (Fred Ward) having no easier time of it.

And then there was Sputnik. The scope broadens as America launches the space program, and a number of test pilots volunteer, including Gordo and Gus, but Yeager is like, “They're just shootin the sumbitches up in the air and having them fall back down; the danger is disproportionate to the level of control the pilot can exert, so fuck that shit sideways, I'm staying right here flying planes, riding horses, and nailing Barbra Hershey.” Being enough of a mensch to willingly sacrifice fame and fortune because to do so would compromise one's own principles, well, that's the province of the truly exalted. I cannot say this enough: all fucking praise is due to Chuck fucking Yeager.

Gordo, Gus, and their little buddy Deke all get into astronaut training with goofball wildman Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) and Mr. Clean The Marine, John Glenn (Ed Harris), who's just a little too goody-good to be true, at least according to horndog Gordo, gruff hard-drinking Gus, and Martian immigrant Shepard, and they think he thinks he's better than them, when really, he's just a really wholesome dude who loves the crap out of his wife, who only gives off an aloof air because she stutters really badly and is too shy to talk most times.

Once everyone gets to know everyone else, and some highly entertaining hijinks take place in training, the astronauts all get to the point where they absolutely, unequivocally have each other's backs. And this is the point where they all start getting shot up into fucking space, without even the glory of being first, because Yuri Gagarin got there first. They never speak Gagarin's name, but without the pioneer thing of planting their flag in space, they're a little deflated, and it's only their camaraderie and own mindbogglingly enormous balls that get them through the ensuing travails.

There's no small amount of disdain for the astronauts back on the ground. At the Air Force base bar, the grumpy (and now older) dudes sitting around the bar are all like, “fuck it, a chimp could do this shit, fuck an astronaut” before Yeager—who, if we need a reminder from a couple paragraphs ago, is an authority on balls—quietly kicks some fucking knowledge: “It takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially when it's on national TV.” And because he's both Chuck Yeager and absolutely right, everybody shuts the fuck up and starts throwing some love behind the astronauts.

The recreations of the space flights are all meticulously done and as thrilling as just about anything ever put on a movie screen. You've got Alan Shepard going up, practically sleeping through it, and then pissing in his space suit because he forgot to before getting strapped in (and oh yeah, even though The Right Stuff cuts off before this, it bears mentioning, this is the fucking guy who brought his golf clubs to the Moon with him in the early 70s, which is so staggeringly badass it remains so even though golf sucks). You've got Gus Grissom having a technical malfunction and not getting to get any of the glory because NASA doesn't want to publicize a fuckup (and then the poor guy fucking died when his spaceship blew up on the launching pad a couple years later). And then there's the long, lyrical, magic journey of John Glenn (symbolically, he later spent a quarter century in the US Senate as one of those rock-solid “one of the good guys” politicians that seemed to good to be true but actually was one of the good guys; he didn't think it would be right to capitalize on the publicity he got from being portrayed as a really good guy by Ed Harris in The Right Stuff, thus lending greater weight to said characterization, and subsequently lost the '84 Democratic presidential nomination to Walter Mondale, who as we all know got skullfucked by Reagan).

All the while, cool as Chuck Yeager is, and as willingly as he foreswore the glory of participating in the space program, part of him (and almost certainly a part in the ball region) is going, “It'd be really cool to go to space.” A really bitchin' new plane gets dropped off at the base, that's so cool it looks like the MiG Clint steals in Firefox (the high water mark, at that point, of cool planes in cinema), and because he's Chuck fucking Yeager, he swaggers on up and takes 'er for a spin and nobody says shit (“Flight plan? He's Chuck fucking Yeager, it should be around here somewhere . . . wait, shit . . . uh oh . . .”)

And so, Chuck Yeager flies an airplane right up to the point where he's basically in space. He has just long enough to go “Holy shit, this is awesome” before the canopy starts to crack and the whole shithouse goes up in flames. His plane freaks out way worse than Maverick and Goose's in Top Gun, and Yeager proves both that he's cooler than they are and that he's in a better movie than them by surviving the crash with nothing more than a couple black eyes from depressurization and some burns from when the fucking thing caught on fire. He fucking walks away from the crash.

For the denouement, Gordo Cooper, that loveable lug, gets to go to space, and as Levon Helm narrates: “[on] that glorious day in May 1963, Gordo Cooper went higher, farther, and faster than any other American - 22 complete orbits around the world; he was the last American ever to go into space alone. And for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.” And that, in a nutshell, is what this movie is about: getting excited about how fucking cool it is that these guys went to space.

The factual inaccuracies, like LBJ being Foghorn Leghorn and all that shit, and the fact that everyone's a cartoon character except Yeager and the astronauts (and all their wives), are all attributable to the fact that the movie is about how cool Yeager and the astronauts (and all their wives) are, and how anyone outside their orbit (Ed. Note: you're welcome) just isn't where it's at. What you might call a stylistic choice manifested through content.

You could, if you wanted to be a gigantic penisface, complain that Philip Kaufman's cavalier attitude toward the facts, glib tone, and priority toward making a movie that was cool rather than truthful make The Right Stuff somewhat less than a great movie. Maybe you have a point, but you also have cooties. The Right Stuff is such a fantastically entertaining movie—and, at three hours long, it never flags or is anything less than compelling—that it being great art or even factually accurate don't matter at all. One fact the movie does not get wrong is that these guys this movie is about did something normal people could not do. They swaggered forth with such boldness, such disregard for fear, such ability to deal with their genitals' gravitational fields, as to render all other facts essentially irrelevant.

It still takes a lot of fucking fortitude to go to space now, with modern technology and safe(r) rockets. But in the early 60s? Fucking forget about it. The protagonists of The Right Stuff, and their silent, massively awesome predecessor Yuri Gagarin, these were fucking men. In the very best sense of the term.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

R.I.P. SIDNEY LUMET



For your humility, your compassion, for the practical approach you took to directing pictures, for the list of classics so numerous people are always like "whoa, the same dude directed all these movies???" For all of these, and for all that you were as a man, we bid you farewell and give solemn thanks, Mr. Lumet.

EBERT PRESENTS: THE EVIL WHITE GUYS IN SUITS THEORY



So. Thought I was just fuckin' around, huh? MAJOR MEDIA AGREES WITH ME, FOOL!

Friday, April 8, 2011

MAN, WHY'D YOU HAVE TO GO AND DO THAT?


As a very wise poet once said, “Nothing lasts forever . . . even cold November rain.” Among the many things that, it follows, does not last forever is taste for a particular movie. Occasionally, the movie in question becomes dated; some unforeseen historical event comes along and renders movies about pirate radio, the Cold War, or the World Trade Center obsolete. Even then, some of those movies can continue to be cool—The Hunt For Red October, to name one, is a classic that the absence of extant Soviets will never tarnish—as history isn't that particular movie's fault. But worse than that is the case of a movie with no such aging issues that becomes unwatchable due to one of the actors in it subsequently totally fucking it up.

Yes, I bring this up because of Charlie Sheen. I feel like a chump getting sucked into the pop culture vortex like this and writing more about the fuckin guy, but in light of this half-assedly charitable “ain't my fuckin problem” post and the fact that I had to shitcan a post about how awesome Major League is that I'd wanted to do for months because of his fuckin bullshit making it impossible for me to re-watch it in peace, I have to bitch a little bit. I really fucking like Major League. I had a good time with the Hot Shots movies before I grew up (the Hot Shots movies, interestingly, were fucked over twice, second by Charlie's unmasking as a raging penishead, but first by George W. Bush going all Nice Guy Eddie—e.g. “Stop pointing that fucking gun at my dad!”—on Saddam Hussein, thus making Saddam jokes that aren't in the South Park movie a bit unfunny). All his classic old 80s things like Wall Street and Platoon and his previously awesome cameo at the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off . . . forever tainted by the fact that when, to use the last as an example, Jennifer Grey asks him, “What are you in for?” the first thing that's going to pop into your head is some shit like, “Duh. Winning.” And that fucking sucks, because I used to enjoy that scene. And, not gonna lie, I used to enjoy that Sheen. But, alas, all becomes dust at some point.

There are a number of other movies with which I've had the same thing happen. Let's call this the “turd in the punchbowl” theory. And, since Captain Obvious is driving this spaceship, let's start with a real non-obscure one:


Punchbowl: The Naked Gun
Turd: O.J. Simpson



You can toss the sequels in for good measure, but the first one's the only one I really miss. It came out at kind of a perfect time. I was 9 or 10, still young enough to giggle properly at a good dick/tit/fart joke (actually, scratch that, I still am at 32), but just old enough that I knew who everyone was in the opening scene where Leslie Nielsen simultaneously arrests every geopolitical shithead (Gorbachev counts, I won't believe that's a birthmark until you show me the birth certificate. ZING! MOVIES BY BOWES ™ GETS TOPICAL!) of the time.

I was also old enough to know who O.J. Simpson was. I didn't become a football fan until some years later, but O.J.'s stature was such that I knew exactly who he was. I knew it was a really fucking big deal when Eric Dickerson broke his single-season rushing record, and I knew that Dickerson was Roger Maris to O.J.'s Babe Ruth (Ed. Note: non-sports fans, take the author's word for it, that analogy is fucking gold). And like Babe Ruth, O.J. was a beloved figure, starring in TV ads for years after retiring just like Babe would have done if his bad timing having ass hadn't died before TV took off. So when O.J. showed up in The Naked Gun as a character named Nordberg, a) it was funny because his name was Nordberg, and b) “Hey, it's O.J.!” When he showed up, you smiled. That was just how it was done.

But all that changed in June 1994. First O.J.'s ex-wife and her new boyfriend were found dead. Then everything on the TV started pointing to O.J. having done it. Then he flipped the fuggout and produced an impromptu remake of the Charlie Sheen picture The Chase (coincidence? Fuck that shit, just wait til I tie the Trilateral Commission into this shit right here) that concluded with him getting arrested, lawyering up like a motherfucker (seriously, he hired every single high-profile defense lawyer in the United States except Bruce Cutler; that shit was like the Traveling Wilburys in Brooks Brothers), and dominating every single headline in the known universe for the next year and a half.

By the end of all that, even if he was innocent he never could have played Nordberg again. There's a reason, over 15 years later, anyone of news-watching age you mention it to goes “Jesus Christ . . .” That's because that shit was ridonkulous. It completely changed everyone's perception of O.J. forever. But, check this shit out: before any of that shit even came to light, I'd already had Nordberg ruined for me. THAT'S RIGHT, SPORTS FANS! Ahead of the curve yet fucking again!

What happened, you ask? Quite simple. I was watching one or the other of Naked Gun 2 or 3 (I don't even think I knew at the time) with my mom, in the middle of which the following exchange happened:

Mom: Holy fucking shit, O.J. is coked out of his mind.
Me: Yeah, he . . . wow, he really is.
Mom: What the fuck is he doing?

It kind of weirded us both out to see him that strung out. And he was blatantly strung out. Who knows what would have happened if the whole murder/trial thing hadn't happened, but I do know that it had been a while since I'd watched any of the Naked Gun movies when everything went bugfuck. And it was years more until I could watch any of them again, and even then only the first one that O.J. wasn't in quite so much, and even then I winced like hell during his scenes.


Punchbowl: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Turd: Jeffrey Jones




This isn't nearly as bad (in the sense of it ruining the movie, it actually is pretty fucking bad), as he was playing the villain anyway, but it lends a weird edge to the movie that it really doesn't need. And, as if it wasn't already bad enough that Charlie Sheen fucked up that one previously awesome scene at the end with Jennifer Grey, Jeffrey Jones had to go and fuck the whole rest of the movie up, practically. How'd he do so? Well, turns out ol' double-J's a pedophile.

In 2003, he was arrested trying to take sexually explicit photographs of a 14 year old, and the cops found a bunch of other CP. He pled down to probation and counseling, and had to register as a sex offender, and then got busted again a few years later for forgetting to re-register. And, if you'll notice, he hasn't been in a whole lot of movies since then.

Why Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Well, look at the way he's on Ferris' ass for the whole movie. His obsession with Ferris seems a bit out of proportion to Ferris' actual “crimes.” Ferris is a bit of a douche, but in a reasonably benign way; he doesn't mean any harm, he just values his own pleasure more than he does his ostensible obligation to obey society's rules. And, because he does what he wants when he wants to, it would stand to reason that an authority figure, say Jeffrey Jones' Edward R. Rooney, might subsequently have a gray hair or two. Furthermore, in a “kids good/grownups bad” 80s movie, you need a villain who's so old he might even be, like, thirty, so having him be a tightass is totally in bounds. Even having him flip his shit and start chasing Ferris all over Chicago, hey, it's a comedy, shit needs to be a little heightened.

But . . . if Edward R. Rooney secretly wants to chloroform Ferris and fuck him in the ass . . . then it ain't really a comedy no more, even if Ferris is a senior. It's fuckin creepy as fuck is what it is. And when you're not laughing at Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it suddenly turns into this picture about this entitled little fuckhead who shanghais his friends into a frantic series of activities that they don't even have time to enjoy—like seriously, how long were they at Wrigley for, a fucking inning?—culminating with the destruction of a priceless work of art. Yeah, that's right, I'm on Cameron's dad's side in re: the '61 Ferrari. Nut up and talk to the old boy, Cam. You and Ferris both should get a foot in your ass for that one. Just, ya know, not Jeffrey Jones'. Because that would be creepy.

Note that, class issues and Cameron being a giant pussy aside, I used to thoroughly enjoy this movie, and I saw it a million times before '03. First time after that, though, I turned into fucking David Denby. My sense of humor is just the same as it ever was, and I'll cut a well-made movie a lot of slack for being politically questionable because, for better or worse, I'm a movie lover before I'm political. The only thing that had changed was Jeffrey Jones.


Punchbowl: The Beaver
Turd: Mel Gibson



Sure, this hasn't even come out yet: “Why the fuck are you being so prejudiced, Bowes? Aren't you the one always harping on your fucking Socratic Buddhist insistence on going in with an open mind?” You're goddamn right I am. But this is a very special case. Let's look at this picture:

(1) It's called The Beaver—lends itself to stupid jokes, but get-past-able.
(2) It's directed by Jodie Foster—lends itself to more “beaver” jokes, but seriously, grow the fuck up.
(3) It's about a middle-aged maybe sorta kinda evil white guy in a suit who can't deal with his life so he talks to people through a hand puppet—okay, this is getting a little stupid, but not irreversibly so. If you put David Straithairn or Richard Jenkins or James Cromwell or James Rebhorn or somebody who fucking rules like those guys in this part it totally works because those guys fucking rule, and if Jodie directs it like one of those Tom McCarthy pictures like The Station Agent where you're like, “I like this movie? How the fuck did that happen, this is the most whimsical-sounding fucking thing ever” it'd be salvageable. I mean, it was one of the legendary unproduced screenplays before Jodie bought it, after all.

Yes, that's a lot of “if”s. The point is, there are variables in this equation that, if given certain values, would result in a good movie. Maybe not the kind of thing you can convince me to see instead of Fast Five—oh, and trust me, I'm doing a post on those movies that will open your fucking Damascus-bound eyes—but something that could, potentially, in this universe, be good.

Add Mel, and the whole shithouse goes up in flames. I saw the trailer last weekend in front of Source Code (which was good, by the way) and I was stunned at how awful the picture looked. And the awfulness all has to do with my complete inability to see Mel as anything other than the guy who says indelicate things about blacks, Jews, and women when hammered and is so Catholic Catholics look at him and go “holy fuck, son, you are fucking old school.” He's doing this terrifyingly perfect Michael Caine impression that was seriously so good I'm wondering whether Michael Caine didn't ADR the shit uncredited because Mel couldn't stop saying the n-word. And, there's all this stuff that would work, like I said, if you had one of those Straithairn/Jenkins/Cromwell/Rebhorn guys. But then there's Mel.

Weirdly, I can watch old Mel movies no problem. I just watched Lethal Weapon 2 again recently and it ruled ass just like it always did. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome too. Same thing, I'm sure, next time I watch Payback, which I do every few months because Payback is the most underrated crime pictures ever and Mel owns in it, I don't care how racist he is. In fact, this is a wrinkle in this theory: Mel being a case where a guy can own sufficiently that his indiscretions—and don't think I'm blowing off his racism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny, Mel fucked up, and he is at best a deeply troubled person and at worst a fucking asshole—don't affect perception of his past performances. They do, however, cast a pall over the future.

I'm still going to see The Beaver, but I'm going to be fucking drunk, and I may get kicked out of the theater. More on this as it develops.


Finally, The People vs. Larry Flynt. And Courtney Love.



I know this post seems like I'm going after low-hanging fruit, but this movie, in 1996, was right up near the top of my best of the decade list to that point. It's the best performance of Woody Harrelson's career; he manages to be a total asshole yet come off as vaguely—if cynically—heroic (this is independent of the real Larry Flynt creeping me the fuck out). Milos Forman does one of those good Sidney Lumet “get a good script and stay the hell out of its way” directing jobs, but with a couple more flourishes. Edward Norton showed he was more than just the kid from Primal Fear, which is important because he went on to be quite awesome in several things that I'm very glad exist.

But, you'll recall, one of the big things everyone was on about when TPVLF was out was Courtney Love's performance as Larry Flynt's wife. As good as she was—and despite what all the cynics were saying like “well she's just running around naked and then getting strung out and dying, that's not acting,” fuck that shit, she did a good job—the degree to which her performance was considered a revelation depended entirely on how convinced one was that she'd legitimately “cleaned up her act” in real life.

Courtney Love's life story is both crazy and largely apocryphal, but suffice to say, whichever wild-ass stories you choose to believe, she had extensive experience with drugs, and was both married to a major rock star and later one herself upon the release of her band Hole's Live Through This. Her public persona, a seemingly out-of-control train wreck, was an act at times and an uncomfortable reality at others. The lasting impressions of her, up until 1996 or so, were of smudged makeup, torn stockings, bruises, uncontrolled emotional outbursts, incoherent speech, behavioral non sequiturs.

I was a pretty big fan of hers. I had a t-shirt with her photograph on it that I wore until it fell apart. The last great MTV period of my teenage years was when “Doll Parts” was on all the time, and I would sing along. Especially the line “I fake it so real I am beyond fake.” Shut up, I was 16.

That line says a lot about what started souring me on her, though. When she “cleaned up her act” while promoting The People Vs. Larry Flynt everyone was talking about how she'd made so much of herself, and that all that loud, abrasive, indelicate, unladylike shit was behind her. But that was what I'd liked about her. As much ambition and media savvy went into the creation of herself as a celebrity, there was always a vulnerability and a sense that even if part of her star persona was a pose, there was something real at the core.

I didn't get mad at her for “selling out,” that quaint old notion 90s indie people had that joining the system a priori meant surrendering everything meaningful in one's work. First of all, Hole was already on Geffen, that Rubicon had been crossed, that die was cast. Even at the time she was reinventing herself as a more conventional Hollywood celebrity, I was like, “okay, this is a new chapter in Courtney, didn't see this one coming, but okay, good for her.” It seemed as though she was doing it of her own volition, and like any good progressive, I support a woman's right to choose.

It was afterward, when she didn't get an Oscar nomination, and semi-dropped the “respectable” persona, that I started going “wait what the fuck.” First of all, her music got fucking terrible (leading to a lot of nasty rumors that Kurt Cobain had written all the songs on Live Through This, because it was good, she was married to him, and we all know chicks can't write good pop music blah blah blah) and she was never in another good movie. She, on the other hand, continued to act as though she was a massive star, and gradually the disheveled, incoherent, “on drugs” Courtney came back out, though in this new context it seemed less rebellious and more as though she was clinging to a moment that had passed. And that's sad.

I haven't tried watching The People vs. Larry Flynt in a really long time, and in fairness, it's not just Courtney. Larry Flynt only seems impressive in the movie because it's a well-made movie, he was more out for himself than he was any noble 1st amendment shit, and Hustler's fucking lame. The larger part of it, though, is watching Courtney in it desperately trying to be someone else but still being trapped in the same old fucked-up part. Maybe it's the movie itself that briefly only seemed profound until you thought about it for a second. Even if it was still good, I wouldn't be able to tell, though.


Anyway, I'm sure there are others. I guess there's a point somewhere about not confusing the artist and the art and about how I should take that to heart. Bizarrely, this never happens to me with Woody Allen. It barely fazes me with Roman Polanski. Hell, I could even compartmentalize about Ronnie Reagan; Bedtime for Bonzo was fun. You never can tell who's going to come along and fuck up for you. The only thing that's certain in life is, well, you get the idea . . .

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

AND YOU CAN DANCE: SUCKER PUNCH


Trying to avoid reading too much about a heavily-hyped movie rarely works. Because I was unable to see Sucker Punch until today, and I have the impulse control of a four-year-old with a drug problem, I've been reading a lot of reviews, and was fascinated by what little consensus there was. Where I at first was like, “Ah, Zack Snyder's biannual March action picture, should be good for a lark,” I spent a couple weeks reading about how it was, variously, a—

Misogynist jerkoff fantasy fetishizing teenage girls
Limpdick waste of time all about stupid chicks and their stupid feelings
Sensory overload
Snoozefest
Thrillingly visceral experience
Thought-provoking advocacy of sex-positive feminism
Call to arms for a new, empowered female
Crassly, cynically exploitative act of objectification

—and I was like, “Wait, what the fuck is this picture?”

I am not without my own prejudices regarding Zack Snyder. I never saw his Dawn of the Dead remake or his owl picture, but had deeply complicated reactions to his other two features, 300 and Watchmen. 300 was this big, booming, incredibly irresponsible thing about crazy people who kill the shit out of everything, and I really fucking enjoyed it, though I do think the young people need to be reminded, gently, that the Persians were not 8 foot tall drag queens with pet monsters. Just as long as we all understand it's not meant to be taken literally, and don't screen it in Iran, it can exist all it likes. It looked and sounded awesome, and for all the shit Zack Snyder catches about his slow-it-down-speed-it-up action scenes, the first time watching Gerry Butler put like forty dudes in a row to the sword with no visible edits ruled.

Watchmen, I maintain, is unfilmable. Zack Snyder tried like a sonofabitch, though, and his heart was in the right place. The result, if you didn't spend 20+ years wearing out multiple copies of the graphic novel, is a perfectly serviceable comic book movie, and the action scenes are stellar, even if they're a bit “yay awesome” for what in the graphic novel were brooding meditations on the ugliness of violence and the necessary moral ambivalence for those who must do violence in order to do their job. Still, it's skillfully executed.

I was intrigued when I first heard about Sucker Punch, because I came in with Zack Snyder with 300, a movie so male it was frankly a bit gay, and here he is doing a movie starring all women. I liked that willingness to try something new, and I got the sense from both 300 (where Lena Headey was awesome) and Watchmen that he'd avoid turning his Sucker Punch cast into total fetish objects, at least intentonally. That was my big sticking point with Zack Snyder; I'm very cerebral, he's very “Gosh! Let's blow stuff up! With swords! It'll be cool!” Not saying the guy's dumb or anything, he just seems emotional and exuberant. Not all artsy fartsy intellectual.

This is why it was such a pleasant surprise that Sucker Punch is so ambitious. I have no idea what picture the critics who thought this was a brain-dead action picture were watching; maybe some of the things Snyder is trying to do are telegraphed, maybe it's a little difficult to follow in places, but make no mistake: this is a movie with a purpose, and it deserves to be regarded as such. I don't think every single movie requires a full, multifaceted critical appraisal. Movies that are made as commodities can be consumed and discarded. But when a movie's director comes right out and says his picture is a critique of fanboy sexism and objectification of women, I say we take a look and see how he did.

Wouldn't you know, it's all right there. Sucker Punch, for all its flashy visuals and sequences of girls machine-gunning steampunk zombies and having sword fights with dragons, is a sincere and quite sensitive look at the way society traps women. Look hot. Be submissive. Don't be emotional. And it doesn't provide any easy solutions. Sure, there are some cathartic revenge fantasy sequences where the girls go and put high-heeled feet to a great deal of ass, but they do not make it out entirely unscathed. Sucker Punch feels for its fallen, and is cautiously optimistic about the future, but posits that first we must see a person as a person, not as an object, and not as a means to an end.

A friend of mine saw Sucker Punch with her boyfriend (neither of them liked it very much) and said that they spent the next day making jokes about how the action sequences were like video games. This, it must be said, is true: Sucker Punch's action scenes are like a hallucinatory feminist steampunk shoot-em-up video game, with Scott fucking Glenn as mentor. Putting aside the fact that I would play the living fucking shit out of that video game until my PS3 filed a restraining order against me, the rules are different in cinema. With the rise of increasingly sophisticated computer-generated effects—many of which are the same ones used in creating video games—this is a common thing with many action scenes, and it's a little surprising at first, that Snyder, with his genuinely unique eye for action sequences, would fall into this trap.

This, though, ties into the larger intent Snyder has for the audience to feel empathy for his heroine(s). The movie starts with Emily Browning's stepfather (probably) killing her mother and, enraged that Emily Browning is going to inherit mom's money, railroads her into a really fucked up mental institution and bribes people to have her lobotomized within the week. She's escorted into what the smarmy head orderly dude calls “the theater” (the movie's motif of performance and theatricality begins before the studio logo), where Polish shrink Carla Gugino (sigh . . . Carla Gugino, how I adore you . . .) is doing some experimental therapy on patient Abbie Cornish. The camera lingers on Abbie Cornish staring fascinated at Emily Browning, whose stepfather openly discusses his plans for her demise with the orderly as if she's not there.

Now. It does not take a terribly astute moviegoer to determine that this isn't exactly naturalistic, and it is not much of a jump to think that Snyder might not intend this opening to be taken literally. For one, the story of how Emily Browning came to be institutionalized is told almost entirely with images, not words—and really fucking well, too; Zack Snyder is one articulate sumbitch cinematically, let no one say otherwise—and then the dialogue when she's standing there in “the theater” with Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea) staring at her is so on the nose, it's almost as if it was a story Abbie Cornish was told: a little over the top, with some details and all the nuance omitted.

It was at this point that I realized it was actually Abbie Cornish's movie. Everything we know about Emily Browning, from that somewhat fanciful backstory, to the way she's casually called Babydoll by some sexist dude and then everyone calls her Babydoll for the whole rest of the picture, to the fact that Emily Browning is the one who thinks of the plan to escape that Abbie Cornish is too cautiously risk-averse to embrace any other way than reluctantly and nervously, to the fact that Emily Browning is the one whose dancing is so mesmerizing that dudes' worlds just fucking stop, to the fact that at the end, when they make good their escape and the fantasy heroic alpha female is no longer necessary—since Abbie Cornish is, herself, free at that point—the fantasy character is the one who sacrifices herself.

If Abbie Cornish is the actual heroine of the picture, the action sequences' “now sit here and watch the most elaborate video game of all time for ten minutes” feel makes a little more sense, since the audience takes the role of the heroine and watches sequences that Emily Browning's samurai swordswomanship and machine gun prowess drive. This itself can be read as a statement about how women are always being asked to take a backseat and forswear their own desires and be passive and all that fuckin shit, and if there's any Rosetta Stone to translate the fanboy hatred, it's this: the movie itself deliberately makes the audience take a “feminine” perspective in order to watch it.

Now that right there makes me want to buy Zack Snyder a fuckin beer. That takes fucking balls. To go and spend $80 million on an action movie and be like, “Hi, guys! It's Zack. So, like, we're going to subvert the male gaze and examine a group of girls who bond together in the face of the crushing societal oppression they face. Oh, and by 'bond together' I don't mean lesbian stuff. There's no lesbian stuff. Cuz ya know we're subverting the male gaze. See ya in an hour forty-five!” Of course fanboy dudes are going to hate this picture. It's a direct repudiation of their entire view of women, which consists of varying shades of fear, resentment, insecurity, and scorn.

Even if you get past the fanboy fear and loathing of women, there's another layer of moviegoers who judge the movie on the fact that it's a thing where lots of shit blows up and the girls are all in short skirts, and subsequently dismisss it out of hand. These are largely professional critics who are not accustomed to having to think, like Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel, author of some of the most violently stupid reviews in contemporary cinema criticism. Moore calls Sucker Punch “an unerotic unthrilling erotic thriller in the video game mold” and goes on to declare it “The Last Airbender with bustiers.” Books could be written about how lazy and stupid Roger Moore is, but suffice to say the only relevant words in those two selected quotes are “video game,” which he uses as a pejorative, trading on the fast-fading fallacy that video games are somehow beneath the notice of sophisticated society, failing to realize that it was a deliberate artistic choice that made a philosophical point. But that requires paying attention, and that really cuts into one's pandering time.

My take on Sucker Punch as a movie is that, beyond its empathy toward women, it's a very well-directed action picture, deriving its visual inspiration from comic books, video games, and a touch—just a touch—of classic film noir, that telegraphs a couple key plot points and, beyond Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, and Jena Malone (who's quite good in the classic “she's your favorite character so you know her ass is getting killed” role) doesn't develop its characters as fully as it might. The other two main girls, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung, are perfectly agreeable but distinctly secondary, and they're both killed rather blithely. Jon Hamm, who cannot help but rule, does so in a small part as the one dude in the picture (well, apart from Obi Wan Scott Glennobi) who feels any sense of guilt about brutalizing the girls (seriously, Jon Hamm must spend at least two hours a day thinking “what's the next randomly awesome small role I can take? How can I rule even more? Is it possible? Well, nose to the grindstone, Jon old chap, vigilance is all, we've got a rep to maintain, old boy.”)

I'm most impressed that Zack Snyder, who I'd previously thought of as a director whose concern was cool visuals and fight choreography to the exclusion of everything else, not only managed to make a movie about ideas but did so with such success. Sucker Punch is not mindless escapism. It's a surprisingly subversive movie about the need for escapism. The sucker punch of the title is Zack Snyder's greatest achievement to date as a movie director: “Hey, come see a big stupid action movie about hot chicks in fetish wear . . . PSYCH! You, audience member, are going to see through their eyes. Whether you like it or not.” It's unfortunate that in this cultural climate, that choice doomed the picture to commercial failure (well, until DVD, which could change everything). But, as the Dalai Lama told Bill Murray about total consicousness, Zack Snyder had the balls to try and see things the way people do who don't have them. So he's got that going for him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

THE GOVERNATOR IS NOT WELL



What the flipping fuck. Did Arnold ever exhale off that joint he toked in Pumping Iron? Did the Botox eat his fucking brain? Is Stan Lee the Earthly manifestation of Xenu? And, most importantly, we need to petition President Obama to sign a bill into law permitting us to hunt down and exterminate the Black Eyed Peas before they release any more music. However, if that's the premise of the cartoon, all protests about the crappy, sub-80s-midnight-stonervision-level animation and Arnold's alarmingly addled mind are moot. I would watch Arnold violently murder the Black Eyed Peas no matter how bad the animation is.

Friday, April 1, 2011

KIND OF SORT OF OFF-TOPIC....


What the hell, it's April Fools Day, so why not have a post that has nothing apparent to do with movies. My March 24th appearance at The Soundtrack Series is now immortalized for all time in podcast form; pop on over to their blog and have a listen.

This leads me to another, tentative announcement: my movie podcast inches ever closer to reality! All kinds of goodies in store. Stay tuned for more details!