Friday, July 29, 2011

BADASS WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE: AUSTRALIA


If the Badass World Cup was the real World Cup, Australia would be the Netherlands. For the non-soccer fans out there, this means: they might not win, but they're always fucking dope. I mean like world-shatteringly awesome. Massively goddamn fucking talented. They will fuck your shit up.

Johann Cruyff is the crystallization of the parallel between Dutch soccer and Australian action cinema. He played for FC Barcelona in the 70s and scored, among many, this one goal that scientists studied and went, “well, shit, Johann, you got us stumped.” He was hauling ass as fast as he could go, coughing up both lungs cuz he smoked, and right as the ball was going out of bounds about a yard to the right of the goal, Cruyff stuck out the back of his foot and doinked the ball, which curved just past the goalie, who must have been like, “motherfucker, are you serious?” Spanish people, who love their futból, believe that, went apeshit and couldn't tell whether they wanted to compare him to Jesus Christ or put him on trial for witchcraft. That goal was so ridiculously awesome you all probably think I'm exaggerating, but you can look it up, or ask old Spanish people to tell you about it (it'd take a couple bottles of wine, but shit, I'd drink a couple bottles of wine with an old Spanish person even if they didn't have cool Johann Cruyff stories.) No one had ever seen anything like Johann Cruyff before he came along.

Australian badasses are like that. Like, if I described Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper to you, you'd be like, “For real? A skinhead with nuance?” Sure, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but no, Romper Stomper is the picture American History X would have been if it had been better and less corny. Like look at this clip:



That shit is fucking terrifying. But note, Russell's the scariest motherfucker in the clip. That smile, what the . . . . GAHHHHHHHHH!!!! Romper Stomper will fuck you up (it's an object lesson in the difference between depiction and endorsement; Russell does die at the end, but the violence in that movie fucked me up and nothing fucks me up).

So yeah, Hando in Romper Stomper is also-ran number 5. He loses a lot of points for being a skinhead because it's an inexcusable worldview and a product of cowardice, but he's still Russell Crowe, and Russell Crowe will fuck your entire shit up. Hando actually only makes this list because he's Russell Crowe, who is as ferociously talented as any actor ever to live. No bullshit, on raw talent I rank Russell top 5 all time and for intensity, shit, he might wear the crown. This is why I'm having none of this silly ambivalence about Russell Crowe. There's a reason why in that making-of doc (if it wasn't too goddamn long, I'd embed it here) that Kanye West and Jay-Z put out about their upcoming Watch The Throne album, when they're recording, and Kanye raps something about Russell Crowe, the camera pans over, and Russell himself is fucking sitting right there. Ponder that for a second. Kanye West is not, to put it mildly, a man of low self-esteem. Neither is Jay; for fuck's sake, the reason why he calls himself “Hova” is because he's fucking comparing himself to fucking God. And yet, these two consider Russell an equal. And goddamn well they should. He was Bud White. He was Maximus. He was Captain Jack Aubrey. And once upon a time he played a smart skinhead and it fucking worked. That's talent.

Okay, on to the rest of the list:

4—Mick Dundee, Crocodile Dundee


I know what you're thinking. You hear Crocodile Dundee and remember fish-out-of-water schtick in New York and silliness. But credit's gotta be given where credit is due. Sure he's a goddamn cartoon character, but Paul Hogan deliberately based him on Tarzan, and I'll remind all you kids with no sense of history, that before decades of wackification, Tarzan fucking owned. And so does Crocodile Dundee. Mick's invincible, is one with nature, can kick anyone's ass who steps to him, and he gains as many points as Russell lost for being a skinhead for coming to New York and going, “these guys ain't so tough.” This is obviously not true (Ed. Note: the author wrote this piece while listening to Nas' Illmatic, there isn't one motherfucking thing you can say that will swerve his confidence in New York). But it's an indication of how invincible he is that he can come to New York, get mugged, and go “That's not a knife . . . [pulls what's practically a goddamn machete out] That's a knife.” And he doesn't cut the mugger, just his stupid 80s jacket, thus thoroughly owning the guy non-violently and doing him an enormous fashion favor. So don't sleep on Crocodile Dundee. Obviously, the most badass movie character in the history of Australia is not going to be the lead in a comedy, but still. Mick warrants mention.


3—Rollie Tyler, F/X


Another dark horse qualifier in the group stage. Obviously Bryan Brown was going to show up and say g'day, but the smart money would have been on Breaker Morant, in which Bryan Brown ruled. But we need to salute F/X, which even though it's an American movie, is all about the Australian guy swaggering around and fucking shit up, which is the Australian's default state anyway.

What makes Rollie Tyler so fucking awesome is: he's a special-effects guy. Now, anyone with a functioning cortex who works in the arts knows that the people who make shit, the techies, are the coolest people in the business. They have all the best stories, every last one of them can drink like goddamn champions . . . and they know how to make things explode. That's before we even add in the part about Rollie Tyler being Australian. I mean, shit, the Americans don't stand a chance.

Bonus points as well for Rollie perpetrating all his ownage in New York, again. He gets the nod over Crocodile Dundee because he owns the bad guys with his mind. And because I fucking love special effects people.


2—Zipper Doyle, Kiss or Kill


(note: I couldn't find a photo of Barry Langrishe in character as Zipper Doyle, so there's his headshot; picture that guy but fucking terrifying)

Kiss or Kill is a great little movie, and a demonstration of the formula “good thing 1 + good thing 2 = better thing,” in this case “Australia + film noir = FUCK YEAH.” It's a classic lovers-on-the-run story, the cops are great (there's a scene where they start out riffing on the “I don't eat bacon” scene from Pulp Fiction that turns into this awesome existential inquiry into the unknowable Other—can we really ever know anyone other than ourselves?—only to conclude with the one cop being like “Nah, I'm just fuckin with ya, mate.” Awesome, that's what that scene is) and the villain is both scary and bad.

That's Zipper Doyle. He's a pedophile ex-football player who goes apeshit when this tape of him fucking a kid gets out in the open and so Zipper starts killing the fuck out of everything in sight. It's only through Frances O'Connor's film noir heroine toughness (incidentally, she's definitely a contender for the Women's Badass World Cup, she's fucking great) that Zipper Doyle eventually gets owned, and that's the only reason why he's the second runner-up, but he's definitely the scariest villain in any Australian movie I've ever seen.


1—J, Animal Kingdom


If you're like me, you like minimalist acting, characters who don't ever let on what's really going on upstairs, and lay in the cut patiently for the optimum moment to take revenge. Which is to say, if you're like me, you thought Animal Kingdom was tits, and when the closing credits rolled murmured “Holy fuck that kid was awesome.”

J is the 17 year old protagonist of Animal Kingdom, who goes to live with his grandmother and his criminal uncles. Nothing happens as you expect it to. And—spoiler alert—at the end J kills the guy who killed his girlfriend in brutally calculating “fuck you” fashion and assumes the role of the man of the family. The whole movie, you know he's putting in a good performance, but holy goddamn fuck that ending vaults him to this unbelievable level of badassery. If it wasn't for the big guy, J would be repping Australia in the Badass World Cup.

And, as inevitable as it is, Australia's representative in the international stage is . . .


Max Rockatansky, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome


Look, this isn't about being some hipster and pulling some character you've never heard of out of my ass and crowning him so I can be like “derpy derpity doo, look at me, I'm so fucking smart, nya nya.” This is about ownage, people. And if I need to tell you Mad Max owns, you're reading the wrong fuckin blog.

People do horrible things to Max. They kill his family. They drop nuclear bombs and force him to wander the Outback, unshaven, eating dog food. They make him go up against malignant leather queens. They (in this case Tina Turner as Auntie Entity) take out their emotional baggage after their divorce from their abusive husband on him. But all through all that fuckin shit, Max stays resolutely crazy, fucks up the bad guys, and drives really, really, really fast.

Also, remember, before we found out the extent of Mel Gibson's duckfucking insanity, he was a fearsome badass. Martin Riggs, anyone? And Riggs was the watered-down-for-American-audiences version of Mel's ownage capacity. Max was the raw, uncut, 200 proof version, back when Mel fucked his ducks in private and drove faster and more dangerously than any sapient being in this universe. And for that, he reps Australia, a land of highly underrated badassery. The Dutch football team of putting foot to ass.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

BADASS WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE: SOUTH AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN


The most important competition in the history of competition continues with our other problem continent: South America. Now, like with Africa, it should be made abundantly clear before we go any further that the problem with South American cinema is not with South American cinema. They make some beautiful films down there, but therein lies the conundrum for our purposes here at the Badass World Cup. They make “films” in South America. With very few exceptions, the aggregate ownage in any given “film” is infinitesimal.

Due to this unfortunate mathematical obstacle, the continent that gave us Black Orpheus, those great Luis Puenzo and Hector Babenco films in the 80s, The Motorcycle Diaries, and The House of Sand leaves us precious little in the way of epic swagger, big explosions, and feats of grandeur in absurdly fast cars. It does, of course, give us some beautiful cinema in exotic (to norteamericano eyes at least) locales, but this inconvenient lack of conventional (non-metaphorical/allegorical) ownage means that we have to merge South America with Central America and the Caribbean.

I know, I know, this could be construed as me taking a giant shit on a continent with hundreds of years of fascinating history and rich culture. But do not so construe, my friends. I absolve them of their lack of contributions to le cinema d' ownage for one simple reason: they have so many goddamn revolutions, coups d'etat, insurgencies, uprisings, heavily armed uncontrollable narcotrafficantes, and Estados Unidos hippies on vacation that one imagines the average South American going to the movies and saying “Yeah, I could go for some escapism . . . how's about a lyrical allegory where the protagonist dies of old age instead of lead poisoning?” Even if this is totally off-base, I'm still standing by it, and assert that the relative paucity of traditionally badass movie characters should not be held against the South Americans.

Oddly, the Caribbean, thought of as a place where people sit in the sun and smoke weed (or ponder Marxist dialectic if you're in Cuba), picks up the slack nicely with regards to grisly violence. Of course, thinking about Cuba brings up the obvious . . .


Tony Montana, Scarface, Cuba


He's Tony Focking Montana, mang. And he is widely regarded as the most badass movie character of all time. Even when threatened with chainsaws, he merely snarls “fuck you.” Even if for nothing else than when he wants to do some coke he cracks open a fucking kilo on his desk and just dunks his fucking head into it and inhales, he'd be a contender to take the whole Cup. But no man who pronounces “Florida” “Flarrida” reps Cuba, however perfect New York-ese that might be. Tony's not in this bracket. (Ed. Note: stay tuned.)

“But, listen goddammit,” you might reply, “you simply cannot have a Badass World Cup without Scarface being included! Think of the rappers, you unfeeling fool, think of the rappers!” I would never be so cruel. Scarface must be mentioned.

“Ah, so you've come to your senses,” I hear you say. “And you're going with the less obvious choice, and the better one . . .”


Sosa, Scarface, Bolivia


“I told you a long time ago, you fucking little monkey, NEVER TO FUCK ME!” Pure verbal ownage, and from an extremely sophisticated, cultured, rich, and brutally autocratic South American man. But . . . Sosa loses out as well. He was played by an American, and as we'll recall from the Africa group stage, you cannot get out of the group stage to the knockout rounds if you were played by an American in an American movie. Which is a shame, because Sosa's fucking awesome. But, the Caribbean gives us two (three?) rock solid contenders who actually are eligible to advance.


4—Ivanhoe Martin, The Harder They Come, Jamaica


The Harder They Come is more famous for its soundtrack, but the movie is fun. It's extremely low budget, the pace is a little rickety, and it seems a bit longer than it actually is, but Jimmy Cliff rules fucking balls as Ivan, a thoroughly antisocial motherfucker who'll just straight up kill you. And, to boot, he sings like Jimmy Cliff, making him a through-the-looking-glass version of the Troubadors of antiquity, who sang of their deeds, loved women, and fought for honor. Ivan sings of his own deeds very indirectly and proleptically, for no other reason than stardom. He likes the girl, but he's awkward around her. And he fights because people fuck with him. But if you fuck with him, you stop existing. Ivan does get owned by the cops at the end, but his legend lives on, and unlike Othello, whose demise was his demise, the fact that it takes practically every fucking cop in Jamaica to kill Ivan only contributes to his legend. And holy shit that soundtrack.


3a/3b—Biggs/Wayne, Shottas, also Jamaica


Now, I have to offer the disclaimer that I never saw this whole movie, only catching a few extended clips from it on one of my fellow jurors' laptop on my much-lamented jury duty stint earlier this year (one of the exasperating aspects of which was that we had so many bullshit delays that we had the time to watch almost this whole movie in the jury room waiting for people to get their shit together; this also led to them docking us a couple days' pay. Goddamnit jury duty sucked . .)

Anyway, the movie itself is an interesting, low-budget story of a life of crime, much like The Harder They Come. The intervening thirty years saw massive changes in cinema, naturally, and Shottas is as much a product of its time as The Harder They Come was of its own. It's faster paced, more violent, and best friends Biggs and Wayne lack the aura of the legend that Ivan possessed. But they kill the living shit out of everything in sight. Wayne, in particular, is quite a magnetic figure, and the fact that he gets killed (and the way in which it happens) adds to his stature as a badass; he isn't so much owned as he is martyred. And Biggs totally gets away with it and wins, which is fairly badass considering the amount of brutal violence he survives. Anyway, Shottas isn't the greatest movie in the world, but it's a fun bit of escapism, and the duo of Biggs and Wayne deserving dark horse entrants in the Cup. They may fall in the early stages, but they go down hard and memorably.


The relative paucity of conventional ownage means that what we do have is clustered a bit. So, we had two Jamaican movies, and now the last two also-rans are from the same movie:


2—Benny, City of God, Brazil


Benny's one of my favorite characters ever in cinema. He's this laid-back dude who's kind to people, and yet he's a very powerful and influential gangster. “Benny was the coolest hood in the City of God.” He's got the goofy poofy hair, the shades, he's just the nicest fucking guy in the world. This is one of the (extremely) rare instances where being a nice guy is itself badass, especially given that he manages to be that thing in the middle of Cidade de Deus. The only reason Benny's not number one is because he gets killed. It sucks when Benny gets killed. I cried.


1—Knockout Ned, also City of God, also Brazil



Your classic agent of vengeance. Gets points for the fact having a badass nickname both in his own language (it translates inexactly, but in broad strokes it venerates his cocksmanship in a culture where anyone venerating someone else's cocksmanship is a sign the one being venerated gets fucking laid) and in the English subtitles. As a primary Anglophone, I think of him as Knockout Ned, because I think that's the coolest motherfucking nickname ever.

You have to have seen City of God to understand, going to war with Lil 'Ze and surviving longer than about a second and a half is fucking awe-inspiring. Lil 'Ze makes Sonny Corleone look like Gandhi. Lil 'Ze is like Marlo Stanfield but emotional. (Ed. Note: when you have to drag both The Godfather and The Wire into a discussion to explain how scary a motherfucker is, the motherfucker under discussion is, ipso facto, a bad motherfucker.)

Ultimately, Knockout Ned fails to reach the knockout stage not just because there are only so many puns one man can make, but because when one's own badassness is primarily defined in opposition to one's antagonist, it raises the question: would one still be a badass of equivalent stature given a different antagonist? It's a beard-scratcher. Also, it took rather extreme circumstances for Knockout Ned to go from being a mild-mannered bus driver who got laid a lot to ruthless gangster. Representing one's people in the Badass World Cup requires a bit more proactive behavior.


And so, we reach the one character who gets to represent South America in the Badass World Cup (and who hopefully won't result in a shitload of hate mail like “No has visto suficientes películas de América del Sur para escribir un artículo como éste, maldito idiota!”) Befitting a continent whose cinema tends toward subtlety and “Wow, now that I think about it for a second, that seriously fucking owned,” South America's surprise representative in the knockout stages of the Badass World Cup:



Ricardo Morales, The Secret in Their Eyes, Argentina



Note, not the main character in The Secret in Their Eyes, Benjamin Esposito, played by Ricardo Darin. Ricardo Darin fucking rocks in that, and he's the main dude (and he was awesome in Nueve Reinas, of which Gregory Jacobs' excellent Criminal is a remake). But the thing that makes The Secret In Their Eyes such a good movie is that Ricardo Darin's Benjamin Esposito isn't your typical swaggering he-man type in it. He's flawed, he makes mistakes, he gets emotional, all that jazz. As an ex-cop turned writer trying to make sense of his most vexing case—an unsolved murder of a woman—he runs through several versions of the story, and while fairly certain of the culprit after a certain point, he can never prove it. And, to complicate things, the killer has political connections that make it impossible to nail his ass through official channels. And, to further complicate things, the killer just fucking disappears.

Enter Ricardo Morales, the dead woman's husband. Played by Pablo Rago, Morales seems like he's this poor nebbishy dude who's just devastated by the loss of the love of his life. For most of the movie, Esposito pities Morales, and totally gets suckered in by the whole nebbishy widower thing. Until it looks like all the clues point to Morales having found the killer, and killed him (and he had, earlier, told Morales “My wife's killer will never go free.”) Kind of badass, sure, but number one? Seems a little flimsy, no?

BUT WAIT! It turns out Morales found the killer and didn't kill him, but kept him imprisoned in his house for years. Take a second and think about that. Here's the guy who killed your one true love. You don't kill him, you keep him locked up in your remote country house where no one's ever gonna fucking come by and find you (no one except Esposito, and he isn't gonna do shit, he's not even going to put it in his book.) Think of the restraint that takes. The killer has to be thinking, every day, I could get killed today. THAT'S revenge. THAT'S fucking torture, fuck waterboarding and all that played-out Jack Bauer shit. If the true measure of ownage is a feat that makes you go, “Wow!” then Morales qualifies, no doubt.

And that's why he represents South America. Like the best South American movies, Morales' candidacy for the Cup is something you have to stop and think about for a second, but when you do, you see all kinds of levels to that shit. Also, for a true Badass World Cup, you need at least one guy no one else sees coming, because surprise badass is an essential type of badass. Ricardo Morales, take a bow. You are no one to fuck with, sir.

Friday, July 22, 2011

FOR YOUR GENDER-PROGRESSIVE OWNAGE NEEDS



Ah, Steven Soderbergh. You do genre pictures so gloriously well. And, let's not forget, he has a history with getting good performances out of non-professional actresses in lead roles. There was Debbie Doebereiner in Bubble, who was the manager of a KFC in West Virginia before they made the movie, and was fucking awesome in it (seriously, Bubble is terrific and you all should see it). There was Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience; a lot of people gave her shit for her flat line readings but she held the center of that movie and it was a lot better than most people gave it credit for (and really, a considerable amount of the scoffing was people's prejudice against porn stars in particular and sex workers in general). And, of course, there was Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (BOOM HEADSHOT no but seriously Julia Roberts was really good in Erin Brockovich).

So, Gina Carano. She has IRL martial arts skills, which gives her a (quite shapely) leg up on Angelina Jolie. I have optimism. But also, I'm looking forward to seeing the performance Steven Soderbergh manages to coax out of Bill Paxton. Am I actually going to be forced to admit that Bill Paxton gave a good performance in something? I'll salute Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs because, damn, that'd be an achievement.

YOU GIVE RYAN GOSLING FIVE MINUTES, HE'LL GIVE YOU TWO HOURS OF OWNAGE


Do I need to say anything? Not really. We should take heed of the fact that this is an action movie that's apparently so fucking dope it won Best Director at Cannes. But other than that, nah. Just watch that trailer again. And look at that fucking cast. Christ on a Cornish hen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BADASS WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE: AFRICA


The Badass World Cup draws near! International competition, as we saw in the recently concluded women's soccer World Cup, rules. And speaking of rules, the Badass World Cup has very few. Every country on Earth is eligible. The catch is, that nation needs to have produced a movie character of sufficient badassery. Real people are not eligible, that's a separate competition, and the problem with using real people is you're like, who would kick whose ass in a fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris? Well, that answer is simple now, because Bruce Lee's dead (the shit'd still go a couple rounds; don't fuck with Bruce Lee, now). So then you have to get into “if 1973 Bruce, the Bruce who fought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death fought the prime, matured, grizzled, admittedly fearsome Chuckster of the early to mid 80s,” and at that point, you might as well just say, Bruce in Game of Death vs. Chuckster in Eye For An Eye (my personal favorite of the Norris oeuvre). Hence, the Badass World Cup is between fictional movie characters. (And I know it's going to look sexist that it's all dudes, but the standards of female badassery are just different enough that we need to have a separate Cup, which we will).

First up, Africa. The way it should be, goddammit. Actually, the greatest slept-on feat of historical badassery took place in Africa a really long fucking time ago. I forget where I was reading this, otherwise I'd link to it, but apparently some geneticists figured out that after having attained a pretty good level of prosperity like a zillion years ago (like seriously, hundreds of thousands of years ago), something really big happened that knocked humanity down to only a couple thousand TOTAL human beings. And they survived. And that bunch of human beings were the ones who spread out and settled the rest of the world over the next couple dozen millennia, I guess because they were like “fuck this, if we spread out, there'll still be some of us even if the Motherland takes another hit, let's explore.” The cats who had that can-do spirit, thanks to whom we all exist today? Africans. Give it up.

But as anyone who's ever been around “these goddamn kids today” knows, each younger generation is an order of magnitude bigger shitheads than the previous. It is thus that even though we owe everything we are to Africa and the early Africans' resolute refusal to bow to extinction, the whole rest of the world are just fucking horrible douchebags to Africa and have been for like ever. So even though even discussing it in such a light tone belittles the horrors that have been visited on Africa by the rest of the world, I'm here to set the record straight by putting them first in this most important of all international competitions. I know, Africa as one will roll their eyes and go “thanks, fuckface,” but goddammit I'm trying.

So, first, a list of the top four also-rans (that may be incomplete, and bizarrely there are no Djimon Hounsou performances on here, but as you'll see in a minute, it doesn't matter because the winner owns any omitted ones you can throw at me):


4—Othello, Morocco or somewhere


Has the advantage of having been written by Shakespeare. Gains massive amounts of points for the “put out the light, and then put out the light” business (Billy Shakes had a way with words) and his military career truly was spectacular. His one fatal flaw as a badass, though, especially in a competition, is that he lost. Iago fucks his ass up good. Sure, Iago is Iago, greatest villain of all time blah blah blah, but hey, Harry Potter killed Voldemort maybe before he even got laid (Ginny Weasley was a redhead, but still, ya never know). Othello was a stone badass, one of North Africa's best, but he doesn't advance to the intercontinental stage after getting owned by Iago. World-conquering badasses own, they don't get owned.


3—Desh, The Bourne Ultimatum, somewhere in North Africa


A definite sleeper, and he does lose fairly early in the competition (for the same reason as Othello, ultimately; he gets owned by Jason Bourne, though he puts up a hell of a fucking fight). And really, his badassness is externally defined: it's all in Julia Stiles' line reading when she looks up in the computer to see who the baddies are sending after Bourne and she goes “It's Desh.” Like, she's in awe, and even though she's standing right next to Jason Fucking Bourne, she has a moment of doubt, and this was after two and a half movies of him kicking everybody's ass up and down the known world. So, he doesn't advance, but he definitely warrants mentioning.


2—The Scorpion King, Egypt



An early upset. He was played by The Rock, and was thus enormously muscular. The sword helps, as does the horse—swords and horses are awesome—and you'd think he'd be in position to fuck everybody up and maybe even win, except for another fatal flaw: neither the Mummy sequel he initially appeared in nor his spinoff vehicle were terribly good. They're fun and everything, but still. Also, loses points for something I didn't mention in the first two entries, but I bring up now as foreshadowing for the winner of this group: he was in an American movie. You do not get to represent your entire continent if you were a character in an American movie. Unless you're repping America.


1—Christopher Johnson, District 9, South Africa


Not Wikus, because Wikus was cool and everything, but he had to evolve beyond putzhood, and if you're going to take the continent-wide Cup that just ain't gonna cut it. No, Christopher, the main Prawn character, represents District 9 due to being a member of an extremely oppressed ethnic group, risking life and limb to save his kid's life, and in spite of his ferocious anger toward his oppressors, was still a good enough guy to accept Wikus as an ally. His badassness is what makes Wikus mildly badass by the end of the picture, and if you're enough of a badass that you make your teammates better (pardon the sports metaphor) then that makes you more of a badass. Unfortunately, the reason why Christopher has to finish 2nd is because . . . well . . . he's not from round here. Even though District 9 is a big ol metaphor for race relations in South Africa with layers and layers of irony, Christopher Johnson was nonetheless not born in Africa (even though his kid was, I think; it's been a while). Thus, even though he was a wonderful character—so much so that by the end of the movie he'd ceased to be weird-looking—he comes just short.


Before we get to #1, a qualifier: there are a lot of wonderful movies made in Africa. The tenor of this list should not be read as ignorance or dismissal of Africa's extremely underrated cinema. When I was up on the Cape visiting Mom back in May we saw this really good, gorgeously shot picture from Burkina Faso called Rêves de poussière that told a very simple story through symbolism, allegory, and the composition of the shots. A movie about gold miners out in the middle of the desert where everything's a hot, dusty, searing, abrasive gold color, hey, that's unity of form and content. But, and this is not that movie's fault, nor is it in the rich cinemas of Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, and so on, but these movies tend to be a bit low on ownage. The destruction of dreams, tragic misfortune, fatalism? Sure, they got lots. Africa's got art cinema on lock. But where are the action heroes, you ask?

Fortunately, there is one. And ho boy will he kick your ass.


Makmende, Kenya



Makmende will fuck your entire shit the fuck up. Deriving from a really funny story—when Sudden Impact came out in Kenya, all the kids thought Clint was awesome but kinda funny, which is a solid take on Sudden Impact by the way, and they ran around making finger guns and going “make my day” except in a Kenyan accent it sounded like “makmende” and so they started goofing on the word “makmende” and whenever someone got to flexing his nuts excessively everybody'd smirk and and go “Hey, check out Makmende over here”—Makmende achieved international recognition through this awesome video by the group Just a Band:



It's important to note that although clearly everyone involved knows that it's funny, it doesn't make Makmende any less badass, and in fact that's actually an essential part of what makes him such a force to be reckoned with. Makmende is the perfect champion for this competition, because if you honestly think I take the idea of a Badass World Cup seriously I have a nice bridge to sell you . . . and yet I'm not entirely not serious either. Thus is the genius of Makmende. The whole idea is funny, but at the end of the day, his foot is right in your ass, and he gets the girl and saves the day. And also that song is awesome.

Bonus Makmende here (embedding disabled by request), as we see him leading the Allies to victory in WWII. When you can bend time and space to kick ass, that's when you know you're a worthy continental champion. Next up is . . . shit, South America? Australia? Who knows. It's a big world out there, with many badasses to be choose from.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A VALUABLE LEARNING EXPERIENCE


My good friend Mike Criscuolo gave a fascinating interview recently about his work many moons ago on the movie version of Super Mario Bros. It's worth a read, for Mr. Criscuolo's refreshing candor as well as providing some insight into the (bad) filmmaking process. Now, if I can just get my friend Ian Hill to sit for an interview about being an extra on The Stepford Wives remake, I could start a whole "Fireside Chats About Shitty Movies" series. Actually, remember I said that in case someone else comes up with the idea, you all can be like, "Nuh uh, Bowes did it first, yo."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

3D: THREAT OR MENACE?


Consider this: there have been a total of three movies that have even justified the existence of 3D. They are Avatar (which, a couple nice visuals aside, sucked elongated hippie Smurf dick), Tron: Legacy (which was barely more than something to smoke a joint to), and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (which I covered in all its shamefully entertaining glory over at Tor). None of these, if suddenly removed in one of those Stalin-era proto-PhotoShop “nah, fuck that guy, he never existed, who are you talking about?” maneuvers, would be missed in the slightest. And yet, 3D persists.

Yesterday I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I did this because I wanted to see the movie, as one usually does when going to see a movie. Note the repetition of the word “see.” So I'd heard that David Yates had shot this one in 3D because . . . well, I never found that part out. It was being shown in 3D but also 2D, so I was hoping the Pavilion, my local neighborhood movie theater, was offering the choice. But they weren't, so the ticket lady handed me my 3D glasses and I sighed and said, “well, let's hope for the best.” (It should be noted that they didn't charge me a marked-up price, they charged the plain old bargain matinee rate, so I won't be ranting about the expense. This time.)

You know how back in the day, when they'd project a movie onto a screen, they'd use . . . what was that shit called . . . oh, right, “light”? None of that faggotry for our friends the 3D Borg, they use some sort of ooze distilled from the blackened, avaricious hearts of executives. The result is, there is no fucking light in the fucking movie theater at all. So when I walked into the theater in which Harry was playing, I had no idea where to sit, because they'd started the coming attractions ten minutes early and so the dim projection was giving off no light at all. The result was, I almost sat on some poor woman before hastily repairing to the row behind her. So I missed the Dark Knight Rises trailer, if they even showed it (whatever, it's not like Chris Nolan would reveal anything from one of his pictures, he doesn't even give out a plot synopsis until the fucking thing comes out on DVD, practically). And then I spent the next couple hours holding the stupid glasses on my face, dropping them once, missing the occasional scene because THERE WAS NO FUCKING LIGHT, and failing to be moved by a single one of the 3D effects in the movie. (The movie itself was fucking awesome, let's be clear, I just wish I could have watched it in 2D with actual light).

What's the 3D experience? It's like when you were in college and the good drug dealers were all at Burning Man or a Phish concert or something and you had to cop a couple tabs from that one skeevy little child molester looking townie motherfucker and you took them and realized “shit, either this isn't acid or it's fucking weak as fuck” and then you decided for reasons of sheer perversity to watch a bad movie underwater with your sunglasses on, just as a fuck you to the universe for giving you this shitty acid that had all the skin griminess and none of the “holy shit the color red is my friend” fun stuff.

If the previous paragraph is something you can't really relate to and you think it's kind of dumb and pointless and not all that funny, then congratu-fuckin-lations my perceptive friend, you've found the hidden meaning: 3D is something no one can relate to because of the biological process by which the eye sees things and passes them along to the brain, it's extremely dumb and fucking pointless, and it's no fun. If we were on a spaceship and you gave me the choice to airlock James Cameron, Rupert Murdoch, or The Alien, I'd have a long moment of deep moral dilemma before using Murdoch as bait to lure The Alien over to the airlock door, because fuck man, Jim Cameron really fucked us up with this 3D thing this time around. It sure would be nice if it just fucking went away.

But no plague just goes away without doing something proactive. I propose that we think of 3D as a physical villain, or at least the diabolical plot of a villain. And you know what happens when you got a villain running around. You need a hero to show up and dispense ownage. So here's a list of possible ways I'd like to violently murder the very notion of 3D, and the avatars (BOOM! Take it and like it, Cameron!) of said ownage:



John Matrix, Commando

Method: Explosions, machine guns, impalement, wit.

Why this among all the plethora of classic Arnold performances? Because you don't want to waste one of Arnold's better movies on something as retarded as vanquishing 3D, and because frankly, in his entire filmography, Commando is the one picture that exists entirely to have Arnold strut around owning bad guys. There's no other purpose to that movie whatsoever. And it is a fucking classic. John Matrix would kill 3D dead and then Austrianly say something demeaning and the universe would right itself once more.



James Bond, Any Bond Movie That Actually Exists

Method: English/Scottishness, sex, everything in Arnold's arsenal.

James Bond's bread and butter is going after villains with dumb, diabolical ideas for world domination, which certainly describes 3D. James Bond could go in wearing a tux, order a really cool cocktail, beat 3D at cards, fuck 3D's wife, garrot 3D's henchmen with the wife's underwear, have a showdown with 3D on top of the Golden Gate bridge or Seattle space needle, and then sail off into the sunset with 3D's widow, her sister, Moneypenny, and Helen Mirren.



The Doctor, Doctor Who

Method: English/Scottishness, pure positivity.

3D is, let's face it, the kind of thing only a Dalek could think was a good idea: “YOU HUMANS HAVE BEEN ENJOYING MOVIES FOR TOO LONG! WE MUST EXTEEERMINAAAAAAAATE!”Also, the Doctor is so cool playing him turned David Tennant into a sex symbol (though if anyone who knows more about being attracted to dudes wants to argue that this is a chicken-and-egg thing I'd probably have to concede, but much like Doctor Who there's a lot I don't know about that).



Andy Garcia, The Untouchables

Method: “I got him.”

Cuz Andy Garcia's got this motherfucker. Believe.



Harry Potter, Harry Potter

Method: magic, lots of redheads and nerds on his side.

Bringing things full circle, Harry beat Voldemort (SPOILER ALERT!) and 3D is some shit Voldemort would come up with after establishing his National Socialist Wizard's Party and having Dumbledore whacked and so forth. “We will force the Mudbloods to watch movies in a pointless, stupid, often expensive format; soon their will to live will escape them, much like a Dementor's Kiss only even more cruel.” Voldemort's not the type to punctuate that with a villainous laugh, but maybe he'd arbitrarily kill one of his subordinates just because he could (that was one of my favorite moments in Deathly Hallows 2; after Harry destroyed one of the last Horcruxes—the repositories in which Voldemort keeps parts of his soul in order to ensure immortality—Voldemort turned to the first flunky he saw and just straight dropped his ass with a Killing Curse . . . now that's a fucking villain, by Christ).


I know there isn't anything we can do about it. 3D is here until it stops making money. My position is basically, until we have direct-to-brain, all-senses virtual reality, we do not need bullshit half-measures that serve only to pull moviegoers out of the experience. Granted, once direct-to-brain VR is introduced, that's a whole new can of worms, but we'll cross that bridge in about 25 years. Until then, if Roger Ebert is the Don Corleone of this shit, I'll be Luca Brasi: let's make 3D an offer they can't refuse. In the back of the fucking head.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I DON'T FEEL LIKE SURFIN' TODAY, BODHIIIIIIIIIIIIII.....



I'm a day late commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Point Break. I wrote on it in brief in my Kathryn Bigelow post way back when, and probably won't go into greater detail since, as the above clip demonstrates, Point Break truly has to be seen to be believed. What the hell, let's have another:



Oh hell, let's have another:



Point Break. There can be but one. But gimme two.

Monday, July 11, 2011

THE MAGIC OF EDITING



I wasn't going to say anything about the trailer for Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill, because the phrase "fucking retarded" lacks sufficient descriptive scope. George C. Scott does an excellent job playing every critic who has to go see this movie when it comes out. Sorry, y'all. That weekend I'll be covering Immortals, which might suck, but nowhere near as bad as a movie about Adam Sandler playing a privileged douchebag and his own twin sister. Add in the inevitable treacly bullshit third-act sentimentality and, really? I think Barack should sign an executive order saying that any critic who has to see Jack and Jill gets to legally commit one murder. It'll be messy, but fuck it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A FIGHTING FORCE OF EXTRA-ORDINARY MAGNITUDE!







From The Kentucky Fried Movie, that was "A Fistful of Yen," the greatest parody ever made, bar none. "Worse than Detroit?" Nothing is worse than Detroit, my friends.

(h/t to Youtube user Mofrakker for uploading these vids)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

THE KILLERS ARE NAKED AND THEY DANCE


Last night I had the pleasure of attending the second convening of Bastard Keith's Movie Club, the debut of which I missed due to the horrible bad planning of being somewhere other than New York City. The Bastard is a very serious cineaste and tends to keep the company of very good-looking women who have a hard time keeping their clothes on, so attendance at one of these things is basically fucking mandatory if you have any kind of taste or upbringing. Especially when the picture that's screening is Naked Killer.

My first introduction to international cinema was by way of Hong Kong, in the form of the handful of Bruce Lee classics at first and then John Woo's heroic bloodshed pictures when I was in junior high. Being 13 and discovering the early 90s Hong Kong film industry was basically like being seven feet tall and being handed a basketball, it was the absolute most logical avenue to explore under the circumstances. They still make some cool stuff, but things are a little different post-1997 return of Hong Kong to Chinese control (not as different as people were afraid beforehand, but still, shit's a little more buttoned-down now). Back then, though, the action was deliriously, spectacularly over-the-top, the heroes thunderous badasses, the logic optional. And, of course, the sex was just as mysterious and weird as 13 year olds think it is. Which brings us, for the second paragraph in a row, to Naked Killer.

Naked Killer is particularly violent, over-the-top, and illogical, even by Hong Kong standards. It's about the relationship that develops between a young woman named Kitty (Chingmy Yau) with a penchant for doing bad things to dudes' genitals when they act sexist, and a cop named Tinam or Tom depending on which set of subtitles you're watching (the inimitable Simon Yam) who's haunted by having accidentally shot his brother, and now throws up whenever he sees a gun and can no longer get an erection (SYMBOLISM!!!!!!!!) They meet when Kitty puts out a lit cigarette in a dude's face and crushes his nuts, with Timtam Tom right there going “ahuh ahuh ahuh she's pretty ahuh ahuh . . . oh wow, she just basically committed attempted murder in front of me, maybe I should go follow her, ahuh ahuh ahuh.” So he follows her, she threatens to accuse him of raping her unless he lets her go, which he does, but she steals his pager and forces him to take her out on a date, holding the rape accusation of Damocles over his head the whole time, getting him to buy her wicked hawt thigh high boots and showing off her legs and ass in all kinds of cool camera angles that end up curing Simonyam Tom's impotence, but she won't shtup him in spite of wantonly leading him on, so it's basically a lateral shift from limpdick to blue balls.

At this point, Kitty comes home to find that her stepmom (who looks like she's basically the same age as her) is screwing some asshole, and wants to offer Kitty's patsy dork dad a “deal”: give me 20 grand and I'll run away with your wife. Dad doesn't think this is much of a deal, and they fight, and the stepmom's asshole boyfriend kills Dad. Kitty, desiring revenge, acquires one of those amazing Hong Kong automatics that never runs out of bullets that Chow Yun-Fat used in his radical henchman herd-thinning experiments in John Woo movies, gets dressed up in baggy black clothing and about a tenth her usual amount of makeup and goes into the asshole boyfriend's office and starts plugging motherfuckers. After a fair bit of attempted rape and balletic gunplay, Kitty encounters a very well-dressed cougar in an extremely impressive hat named Sister Cindy (Wai Yiu), and Kitty takes Sister Cindy hostage to escape the building, only when they get to the parking garage, Sister Cindy loses the foofy clothes and starts jumping around in a black leotard and kills a car full of villainous males with some kind of garrotte/slingshot/boomerang thing and a whole bunch of acrobatic dance-fu.

It turns out that Sister Cindy is a professional assassin—who was probably, by a massive concidence, there to kill the same shithead Kitty was—and a lesbian, though she's fairly repressed about it, content to just grope Kitty's tits a bit and whisper to her and stuff. She teaches Kitty how to be an assassin, that there are so many rapists prowling the streets of Kowloon that one can simply bag one or two and chain them up in one's basement for kung fu/target practice, and how to coordinate all the flowy gauze and fruit in the bowls in one's mansion with the outfit one happens to be wearing that day. They team up and kill a bunch of dudes, one of whom they decapitate in full view of everyone on the dance floor after re-enacting the hilarious bad dancing nightclub scene from Basic Instinct (director Clarence Fok Yiu-leung claims Mario Kassar offered him the chance to direct the sequel, which judging by Naked Killer might not have been a bad move at all).

You'd think a professional assassin would avoid killing all her victims in a readily identifiable fashion, but no, all the guys Sister Cindy and Kitty kill have their genitals mutilated, crushed, or missing, and the haunted, vomiting (and only non-impotent with Kitty) detective Simon Yam catches each body, with his goofus partner, whose name is either Jerky or Dickhead depending on your subtitles, and who unknowingly eats the severed dick of one of the victims in a bit of “comic” business (to quote the great Joe Bob Briggs: “Hong Kong fisticuffs are great. Hong Kong comedy sucks.”)

Eventually, a contract is put out on Sister Cindy by the yakuza, who are pissed about one of the guys she and Kitty killed, and the contract is taken by Sister Cindy's protege, the even more lesbian-y lesbian Princess (you can tell she's more lesbian-y because she's groping someone's tits in every scene instead of just once every twenty minutes of screen time or so), who not only wears really big hats like Sister Cindy, she also smokes cigars, in the movie's 90 billionth bit of phallic imagery.

A whole bunch of homoerotic tension ensues, Simon Yam takes like half an hour to figure out that Sister Cindy's stylish young ward is Kitty even though she still looks exactly the same (I mean really, she's not even wearing glasses or a ponytail) and Kitty decides Simon Yam is Simon Yummy and she renounces lesbianism—which leads Sister Cindy to proclaim her obsolete as an assassin—right when Princess kills Sister Cindy with lipstick that turns into poison when you drink wine.

So the endgame is, Kitty has to kill Princess, and Princess' lunatic sub Baby. She goes about this by seducing Princess, even though Princess totally knows she's only doing it to get revenge for Sister Cindy, so they grope each other's tits for a bit and then go flying out the window into the swimming pool while Baby sulks (or something) and then Simon Yam shows up and guns start going off and a whole bunch of male henchmen appear from out of nowhere even though Princess had had the same two stupid faggots answering her phone and lapdogging for like the whole movie and no other staff other than Baby. And Kitty uses the same poison lipstick method to kill Princess, but also takes poison herself (the reasons why are unclear), so Simon Yam, not wanting to live without her, detonates the house (which has been rigged to explode), and that's the end of the movie.

Now. Making the argument that Naked Killer is a good movie would be unwise. But it is unimpeachable as a piece of feverish, kinky entertainment. It kind of seems like the filmmakers are trying to make a “feminist” action movie (the guys are literally invariably either pussies, rapists, or clowns, and often all three) except they overdo it and end up with softcore femdom s/m porn. This, of course, is why it was the perfect movie to have narrated by burlesque performers and fetish models in the middle of a big crazy DUMBO art space with a well-stocked bar.

The effect couldn't help but recall Mystery Science Theater 3000, and not in a bad way. The panelists—Bastard Keith, his wife Madame Rosebud, Darenzia, and Neil O'Fortune—all had sharp, well-timed observations on the movie and kink in general (Rosebud's delight that Kitty “extorted a cop for a pair of thigh-high boots” was memorable, and in keeping with the spirit of the movie and the evening, as was her terrific pre-screening burlesque performance).

Naked Killer works more as an artifact, demonstrating the kind of bizarre shit that results when a studio system cranks out hundreds of movies a year without complete oversight, than it does as a movie. It also works wonderfully in the context in which it was presented at Galapagos last night, and if this foretells the kind of picture the sick, twisted bon vivant Bastard is planning on screening at his Movie Club, all New Yorkers are recommended to keep their ear to the ground for updates on the next screening. But leave the kids and all your hangups at home. This shit's for grown folk.

Oh, and I also won a DVD of some fucking lunatic Japanese movie called Blood (gotta dig the straightforwardness of the title, and the fact that it costars a guy named “Guts Itsimashu”) by answering a trivia question right, so I imagine I'll be posting about that at some point. Good times. And remember kids, you can't spell “exploitation” without “awesome.” Wait . . . shit . . . you can. Fuck you, leave me alone, it's raining out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

CONFIRMED!!!! CHRISTIAN BALE IS . . . TAFT


HOLLYWOOD (AP)--Academy Award winning actor Christian Bale has decided on his next project, a biopic of the 27th President of the United States, Supreme Court Justice, and champion trencherman William Howard Taft.


Bale announced his intention to play the role without the aid of prosthetics or CGI, that he would instead gain almost 200 pounds to play Taft: "Ah think it's a fockin' great honor to play such a fockin' great man, and ah mean tha' as every bit the double entendre as i' looks," said Bale with a rakish grin after finishing his third breakfast of the morning.

Bale is no stranger to radical weight loss and gain, having lost 60 pounds for The Machinist and immediately thereafter gaining almost 100 for Batman Begins. But this will be the biggest (pun intended!) challenge of his career.

Director Michael Bay, attached to helm Taft in what many in the industry feel could be his long-elusive Oscar picture, had this to say: "Fat guys fucking own." He refused comment on rumors that the entire final hour of Taft would be Taft and Teddy Roosevelt machine-gunning their way through World War I, except to smile and repeat "Fat guys fucking own," with a wink.

Pauline Kael, however, was reached for comment despite having been dead for ten years. "This shit is gonna be fucking tighter than butt sex," said arguably the greatest American film critic. Although he declined a phone interview, Roger Ebert later cryptically tweeted "Citizen Kane? LOL, BITCHES!"

The lone voice of dissent thus far has been Armond White, who complained that the fact that Jason Statham was not cast as Taft was a clear indication of racism, and blamed Noah Baumbach and J. Hoberman. Bale weighed in on this minor controversy to say "Tha's fockin retarded, man."

Taft is being planned for a December 22nd, 2012 release, distributed by the Weinstein Company.



Additional reporting by Steven Gilpin