Archive for November, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Francis Lawrence (Dir.), Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffery Wright, Jenna Malone, Amanda Plummer, Elizabeth “Mutherfucking” Banks, Stanley “Boss-Ass Mutherfuckin’ President of the Universe” Tucci and Toby “Meh” Jones

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

Have you ever been so angry that a bird has popped out of your boob?

DISCLAIMER: There will be frequent, flagrant and flamboyant usage of nonsensical name-contractions throughout this article including, but not limited to: J-Law, J-Hutch, Lemsworth, D-Suths, Woody H, Len Krav, J-Wright, Jenna Malone (she was in Sucker Punch, that poor, poor girl), E-Banks and Stancci. Deal with it.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: There may or may not be serious spoilers abound in this article. But guess what? These books have been out for multiple years now. Your illiteracy isn’t my problem…and I realize the irony of that statement seeing as you have to read it in order to get offended. Whatever. 

ONE MORE DISCLAIMER, I PROMISE: I have a horrifying obsession with these books. I don’t know what it is. I read each one of the fuckers in a single sitting and, not only am I not ashamed by this fact, I take pride in it. Yes, they are the literary equivalent of Hodor from GoT wrapped in a infanticide blanket; and Susan Collins approaches sentences like I approach Gummy Bears (I’m coming for you, you delicious mutherfuckers), in that she forces them into her gaping maw of a mouth while slobbering manically over each and every one of her digits soaking in that sweet Haribo goodness (seriously, that stuff is like food porn to me). So, know that going into this review of both The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) that I will not spend the length of it shitting on the darkest set of pseudo-children’s books since Philip Pullman decided to take on the Catholic Church. My love and devotion to these tales is like a Ron Jeremy ass-spelunking expedition: long and deep. Also, they’re the reason why whenever I hear the Suburbs by Arcade Fire come on the radio, I can’t help but think about children getting stabbed in the face. And that’s awesome.

OKAY, I LIED ABOUT THE LAST DISCLAIMER THING, BUT SEEING AS I, AND THE REST OF THE LIVING, BREATHING WORLD IS IN LOVE WITH J-LAW, I SHOULD PROBABLY GET IT OUT OF THE WAY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER: Boobs. Tee hee.

Here we are my friends, the biggest movie of the not-quite-summer-not-yet-Christmas no-man’s-land that is the pre-Thanksgiving insanity consuming America. That’s right, as parents rush from supermarket to supermarket ready to shank the bitch with the last jar of Ground Cinnamon (I did not do that, I promise…I have to say that for legal purposes) and as department stores decide to forget that Thanksgiving is a Federal Holiday and, like Nazi Germany, have decided to annex it as part of the ever-growing and murderous Black Friday, we need a distraction from our self-imposed, food-fueled torment. What better way than to sit down with the fam and delight in a dystopian future where children are slaughtered in order to tamp down revolution? For food! (I knew there was a connection somewhere). Yes, ladies and gents, we have the second movie from The Hunger Games coming to dinner tonight. And it’s packing heat, bitches.

Of course, after gorging myself on the books in a fury of loneliness that can only be crafted by internet dating, my roommates and I stormed the first Hunger Games castle at midnight on a Thursday in the fateful year of Anno Domini MMXII. And, shit, there were so many teenage girls in the audience I would have thought people were stocking up for a Duck-face shortage. The Hunger Games was perhaps the most cynical grab for the post-Twilight sparkly-dick insanity in the last few years (other than The City of Mortal Instruments or Something Like That, I Really Can’t Remember the Title Because it’s Stupid). Directed by Gary Ross of Pleasantville fame, the first movie was about as serviceable as a movie adaptation can be without failing miserably. For the last year I have been afraid to make my true feelings on the first movie apparent, seeing as I might be murdered by hoards of teenage girls newly trained in the Zen of Archery, but I really didn’t care for it. When I strapped myself into the first book, it was a tense, brutal experience. I remember hyperventilating when the games began and that half-book of lead up exploded into sheer terror as twelve-year-old children were unceremoniously impaled for the sake of good TV. Told entirely in the first person from Katniss’s, at best, terse point of view, you fly through the book feeling like a rat trapped in a labyrinth. Rarely does Collins, a seasoned TV writer, pull on the reins to allow you to catch your breath. You never know what’s coming next. And the pages fly so fast, you don’t have time to think about it or the fact that you haven’t seen a worthwhile adjective or multi-claused sentence in three chapters or so.

"What is that thing around your neck, Jen? Is it a turtleneck? A scarf?" "It's whatever I fucking want it to be, Thor-lite."

Have you ever been so mad that you’re turtleneck and scarf had a baby and you didn’t care that half your body was cold?

And then there was the movie… Already, in pre-production, people were making a stink about this no-name Jennifer Lawrence whose last movie, X-Men: First Class was campy mess that encased her in unbreathable and unbearable latex for the entirety of its run time. Yes, she had an Oscar nomination, but what teenage girl gives a fuck about that? But Mr. Ross did his best to create a lived-in world for his tale, from the bonkers costume and hair design of the residents of the Capitol to the grungy Billy-Elliot-Inspired coal miners of District 12. Here’s the problem, for a district filled with believably starved residents, when Liam “Brother of Thor” Hemsworth shows up with a face torn from a cover of GQ and abs practically sponsored by LA Fitness, it sort of destroys the ambiance. Whenever we have shots of District 12 during the games, we are offered a blight of a community, all of the residents looking more at home in a concentration camp than in the US of A…and there, in the center, is Hemsworth looking like a Almost Famous-esque golden god, radiating balanced nutrition and a never-ending membership to Tan-Yo-Ass LLC with impunity.

This was only one example of the grand systemic issue of Ross’s direction and conception of the first movie. It was painfully obvious to see that Lionsgate had attempted in every way, shape, and form to twist this story of rebellion and political defiance into nothing more than a lovey-dovey tri-tipped love-turd. Not only that, but Ross is obviously not a man with a fantasy background. For every inspired design choice, there were five bland ones to discount it. While, we have both Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks offering performances worthy of legend, Mr. Harrelson phones in the majority of his performance, no doubt from his whiskey drowning cellar. Seriously, I don’t know if the guy decided to go method with this movie, but he certainly doesn’t look like he wants to be there. And then, finally, the true piss in the bonnet, is the construction of the games itself. While the book excels in its claustrophobic tension, keeping the reader guessing as to what unnamed horror will be assaulting you on the next page, the movie telegraphs everything in an almost clinical fashion. We are given numerous cutaways to Wes “The Plastic Bag” Bentley, who’s facial hair does its best to emulate a black shark’s butt decoration at all times,  as the Head Gamesmaker. It’s nice to see a few scenes between Crane and President Snow, Sutherland’s mustache-twirling uber-villain, but other than that it does nothing but destroy any tension. On almost every front, from lack of gore to lazy design to a minuscule CGI budget, the whole movie feels like a bald eagle with its talons clipped. You know there’s something majestic and ready-to-steal-a-freaking-baby buried underneath it all, but it seems muffled and diluted.

And that Bald Eagle is, of course, Jennifer Lawrence. If it weren’t for her spot-on performance, with steely eyes ready to gouge themselves out rather than express any sort of weakness, and a voice more monotone than a tone-deaf kazoo, the movie would have unraveled into nothing more than a forgettable farce. She is the flashpoint, the eye of the storm, the focal point of all things. Poor Josh Hutcherson. The kid does his best to hold onto the lady’s fleeting, talented tail feathers, but the charisma just isn’t there. J-Law sells every moment like she’s going for that Oscar once more. And she earns it.

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

Have you ever been so mad that you set you and your fiance on fire?

So…all of that being said about the disappointment that was the first movie…what about the second? Well, if I could sum up my reaction to it in the form of a religious set of genitalia:

HOLY BALLS.

The second movie, along with the two upcoming sequels, is directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation). You might remember him from such fucking gems of the Walmart budget bin as Constantine, I Am Legend and Water for Elephants. As far as literary adaptations go, this guy is 0 for 3. He also has the dubious honor of ruining one of my favorite book-endings of all time with that bullshit during the finale of I Am Legend. UGH. I was readying my steak knife, because I already wanted to eat this bastard alive if he ruined the superior sequel to The Hunger Games… and then I promptly put those knives away and lost myself in the giddy euphoric glee of a squealing fangirl. He doesn’t just do a good job, or even a serviceable job…he exonerates every ounce of the franchise. It seems that, along the way, Lionsgate was like, “Guys, we made WAY more money than we expected with that first movie. Who knew? And we’re going to make a shit load more with the next one. It’s a done deal! What should we do? Fart in people’s faces for two hours? Just give all the fans the finger? I’m just so excited!” To which, Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence (again, no relation), responded, “What if we made it…good?”

Lionsgate: “Woah. You just blew my mind.” So they did. And it’s good…like really, really excellent.

Catching Fire picks up where the first one ended, with Katniss (Ms. Lawrence) and Peeta (J-Hutch) pretending to be in love to try to stop the welling rebellion in the districts surrounding the Capitol. President Beardy Voldemort (Sutherland) pays her a visit and, in a scene that is the acting equivalent of Clash of the Titans, tells J-Law that she had better fall in love with this adorable puppy of a boy that she basically dragged through the first homicidal games or else he will murder her family. No jokes. No comic relief. Just sheer political brutality. After unsuccessfully touring the districts to quell the residents, the President Evil-Mc-Evilson announces that the next Games will include the victors from the previous games sending Ms. Everdeen and Mr. Whatever-Peeta’s-Last-Name-Is back into the ring. And oh, what a ring it is.

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

Have you ever been so mad that you had a sex dream about Finnick Odair?

It seems as though, due to the fact that the games are now populated exclusively with adults who previously won, the moral ambiguity of seeing children murdered is gleefully removed and Mr. Lawrence can up the gore factor to ‘passable’. While the games are just a bounteous tropical house of horrors, the true tension of the film is in the build up to the explosive second half. The first movie was too busy trying to convince us that the audience was watching The Hunger Games that it forgot to actually let people act. It’s the nervous new kid throwing his first high school birthday party, running around with hors d’oeuvres constantly asking his friends if they’re having a good time and if they’re still his friends. Catching Fire on the other hand oozes the kind of confidence that can only be generated by a $100 million volt up the ass. It’s the kid at the party who’s like, “I’m going to go throw bottles at a wall. You can come if you want.” And OF COURSE you go because that sounds so much better than doing the Electric Slide for another hour. Every returning actor has relaxed into their roles (except Hemsworth, but let’s be real; he’s the human equivalent of a Firefighter Calendar…pretty to look at, but the only information you’ll ever get from him is how many days there are in a month). It seems that every dollar of profit made on the first outing has been returned to the artistic design, offering grander locales, CGI that ain’t nothing to sneeze at, and an incredible Hawaii set for the second games.

Lastly, of course, there are the new additions to the cast. Firstly, we have the psychotic Joanna (Jenna Malone) who manages to redeem herself in the face of Sucker Punch once and for all. Then there’s Jeffrey “Black Felix Leiter” Wright as Beady and Tarantino veteran Amanda Plummer furiously muttering he only line over and over. Perhaps the only actor willing to bask in the light of J-Law and survive the fame-tan is Mr. Sam Clafin as the beautiful and impish Finnick Odair. The man gives a career-making performance that will only get better with the next two films. Even Mr. Harrelson seems to have sobered up and decided to flex those pseudo-hick acting chops. Lastly, and certainly not leastly, Philip Seymour Hoffman waltzes (let’s be real, there’s a bit of a waddle) into the film looking as though he just woke up from a nap…proving that the guy that act well in his fucking sleep. Seriously, the scenes between Hoffman and Sutherland make the Bentley/Sutherland tet a tets of the first film look like community theater. How often do you get to see acting of this quality in the adaptation of a Tweenie-bopper book? It’s insane.

There is something mildly revolutionary about The Hunger Games. It’s a sad thing to see that, still, every major motion picture of the last few years include only male protagonists with some lady-candy on the side. I don’t care how much the production companies attempt to force The Hunger Games into the Twilight mold, what with their bullshit ‘Team Peeta’ and ‘Team Gale’ t-shirts and obsession with Katniss’s choice as to who wins the coveted position of ‘baby-daddy’, The Hunger Games will not be contained. She will shove an arrow in your face and kick her way out to freedom. The love story in this film and in the books is about as central to the tale as Han and Leia in Star Wars. Sure, it’s there. Sure, it affects the story. Is it the point? NO. It’s part of a damn story. There are no ‘teams’. There are characters and there are themes. If Katniss Everdeen and Twilight’s Bella Bitch-face were stuck in a room together, while Bella was too busy chewing on her lip and crying about boys, Katniss would have already disemboweled her and started cooking her lower intestine for food. That’s right, because Katniss eats food, unlike the Barbie dolls trotted out for public consumption. When I eventually have daughters, I will lock them in their rooms until they finish The Hunger Games, no doubt banging on the doors begging to be free from this depressing mass of political cynicism. And then I’ll hand them 1984, lock the door and say, “Time to be a big girl.” Yep. I’m going to be a kickass dad.

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

Have you ever been so mad that you forced D-Suths and P-Hoff to reenact your favorite scenes from the West Wing?

If these books had been written ten years ago, no doubt they would have been forced to target male audiences and the protagonists’ genders would have been swapped because “girls don’t like violence.” Collins, after escaping the toxic wasteland of television production, has done a great thing. She didn’t set out to craft a harlequin romance or even chick-lit. She wanted to bear the world a mythos, a legend. There is no question that she knew of the grander scale involved in this tale, what with the future-historicization of the world as well as the basis in Greek Mythology (Katniss is decently veiled analog to the Labyrinth’s Theseus). Her gambit has paid off, offering a series that is almost as widely read as Harry Potter (as I’m writing this review, there is a 20-something hipster with a hardback copy of Mockingjay” sitting next to me in my extremely hipster coffee shop). Collins knew what she wanted to say, she invested to her characters and, like George Lucas before her, she stuck to the Hero’s Journey closer than a fly sticks to treacle. And what serendipity it was to cast Jennifer Lawrence. The woman is the new generation’s feminist idol. She’s equal parts demigod beauty, cornbread gentility, candor-escewing badass, sweeter-than-an-apple-pie-that-she-probably-made-and-then-will-eat-all-by-herself angel and sex symbol without removing any of her clothes. She is the female Harrison Ford. But, you know, with talent. It is to Mr. Lawrence’s credit (DEAR GOD, CAN’T THAT MAN CHANGE HIS NAME, I’M TRYING TO WRITE A REVIEW HERE) he never overtly sexualizes Katniss outside of her absurd array of evening gowns. We have no underwear scenes, no butt-shots and the costume for the second half of the movie, while skin-tight, is purely functional. In another person’s hands, we would have seen kevlar bikinis and cleavage up the wazoo because, let’s be honest, J-Law is not lacking in the chest department. But this movie, and the director, respect her and Katniss too much for such base intentions. Thank the lord.

If Catching Fire is any indication, The Hunger Games is well on its way to establish a non-gendered nerd legend for this decade. While the third book, trying desperately to stick to the formula of the previous two, falls flatter than a steam-rolled pancake, the next two movies will afford the characters what they didn’t get on the page: time to breathe. Collins tried to squeeze a national revolution into the book-equivalent of a nutshell while refusing to let us see the hugeness of the event. I hope and believe that these next two filmic chapters will push the books where they weren’t confident enough to go. Shit, they have the money for it. And, unless Ms. Lawrence is caught with dead underage hookers in her bed, the lady’s effervescence is nigh-impenetrable.

ONWARD AND UPWARD, FRIENDS.

by Andrew Mooney

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Alan Taylor (Dir.), Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth’s Abs, Chris Hemsworth’s Chiseled Jaw, Chris Hemsworth’s Back, Chris Hemsworth’s Baby Blues into which the Souls of Mortal Hetero Women Have Cascaded into a Furious Epidemic of Blue Tubes, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgaard, Jaime Alexander, Rene Russo, Chris O’Dowd, Ray Stevenson, Anthony Hopkins, Anthony Hopkins’ Body Double So He Can Spend the Day in His Trailer Sucking on a Teat Filled with a fine Chilean Chianti

Natalie: "Is Anthony Hopkins looking at my ass?" Thor: "YOUR arse? Have you even SEEN me?"

Natalie: “Is Anthony Hopkins looking at my ass?”
Thor: “YOUR arse? Have you even SEEN me?”

Ah yes, the Kingdom of Marvel has trotted out one of its lesser champions once more. This time: the eminently lickable and not-in-any-way-turning-me-gay dreamboat that is Chris Hemsworth’s utterly uncharismatic titular Thor. Now, about two years ago, before I had this blog, I charged from the movie theater frothing at the mouth after witnessing Kenneth Branagh’s ham-and-cheese scenery-chewing feast that was the original Norse-hero flagship. It was clear that the poor nerds over at the Marvel juggernaut had zero ideas on how to approach the most absurd chapter in The Avenger’s almost Sisyphean build-up. For some reason, in between coming up with men turning into angry big green monsters and mouthy teenagers getting bitten Jeff-Daniels-in-Arachnophobia-style by inexplicably radioactive spiders, Stan Lee said to himself, “I don’t have any more ideas right now. I mean, I think I’ve run through every animal and DC rip-off I can do…why don’t I just fucking steal an entire mythology?” Luckily aliens with infinitely dense hammers and really gay rainbow bridges beat out his other possibilities such as: Osiris with magical embalming skillz! Or perhaps even Shiva: The Bitch With Too Many Hands (note to self: awesome comic book idea). But no, we were offered a bemusing retelling of Henry IV, just with Frost Giants, indestructible robots, and a bad guy who wears a helmet that looks like a mountain goat after a visit to Bling Night in Boy’s Town.

"I'm confused...so is Loki king of golden dildos? I think he is. I'm going to make him king of golden dildos." Tom Hiddleston on the origin of genius.

“I’m confused…so is Loki king of golden dildos? I think he is. I’m going to make him king of golden dildos.” Tom Hiddleston on the origin of genius.

No. I did not enjoy Thor. Marvel had no idea how to marry a flamboyant romp through various realms of the universe with Iron Man’s pseudo-realistic character study. How do you solve this? That’s right, hire the fucker responsible for the slow motion CGI spear at the end of Hamlet…you know, the uncut 4-hour shitshow where Jack Lemon does to the Bard what I do to the French language (let’s just say ex-President Sarkozy won’t be inviting me round for a croissant anytime soon); the guy who not only directed and produced it, but also starred in it. I half expected the goateed British bastard to show up as EVERY CHARACTER. Also, Kate Winslet’s boobs. But that’s because she is legally obligated to show them in every movie ever. So, what does the Branagh do with Thor? Well, his job. He made it more glittery and Hopkins-ish than a Ke$ha/Silence of the Lambs themed rave. It was confusing. Tonally, it wasn’t just all over the map, it WAS the fucking map. We have ironic, flat hipster humor from Kat “I Have Boobs” Dennings, flashes of greatness of a man who’s diet is composed of nothing more than set dressing, Tom Hiddleston, as well as the best “I’m Getting a Fucking Paycheck” performance from Natalie “I Really, Really Don’t Have Boobs. Have You Seen Black Swan? Yes, the Groping Scene Confused Me Too. Is it Groping if There’s Nothing to Grope?” Portman since Anthony Hopkins was in Thor 2: Into Darkness.

"FOR THE LAST TIME, CHRIS, THOR DOESN'T SURF. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM SURF!" ~ Director Taylor fighting a losing battle.

“FOR THE LAST TIME, CHRIS, THOR DOESN’T SURF. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM SURF!” ~ Director Taylor fighting a losing battle.

But, guys, time passes. The Avengers happened. It seems that Mr. Hemsworth, a man whose very presence in this movie could be considered lewd and provocative (no joke, the theater applauded during his first shirtless scene. Notice how I said ‘first’?), has had time to settle into the duality of his character. It helps when you have Joss “Bitch, Please” Whedon helming you at some point. Unfortunately, Alan Taylor, of Game of Thrones fame, isn’t up to quite the same standard as Mr. Whedon. On countless occasions he forgets that this is an action movie and not a story enamored with the intricacies of mythological politics. Also, he must have had the job of having to prod Sir Hopkins whenever he was meant to speak, seeing as the guy somnambulates his way through every freaking frame of film. To combat the utterly incredulous battshitery of the first film’s almost Gilbert and Sullivan-esque bombast, he has cured the scenery chewing by simply adding so much goddamned scenery that Mr. Hiddleston would die of asphyxiation before he can gobble the thing down. Throughout the film’s lagging and nearly nonsensical first half, we are offered an expansive and intriguing look into the sure-to-be-a-Disney-ride fantasy of Asgard. Seeing as these days Marvel only needs to waggle its penis in the general director of a movie theater and they make a gajillion dollars, they can afford to throw some cash at the screen. And throw they did. Every second of this film, when not constrained to London, is gorgeous, offering a more vibrant and believable universe than Branagh’s towering columns and Hopkins-bellowing.

So, what is this one about? Well, there’s a lot of shit in it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. There simply is a lot of pointless refuse tossed into the script-crafting process that both muddles and stretches the run-time to excessive lengths. Much like its predecessor, Thor: Darkness Falls opens with a prologue almost literally torn from Peter Jackson’s excessive LOTR footage explaining more than you would ever need or care to know about the blandest blandies since Blondie bonded with Bono during a Battle of the Blahs. Otherwise known as ‘Dark Elves’. Why elves? Who knows! We have an evil Doctor Who (Eccleston) who seems to have gone full white-face Drow and, like a redneck teenager, grown his rattail to a length that makes everyone uncomfortable. He is Malekith…who we can tell is evil because 1) he’s white and 2) well…his name is Malekith. Also, did I mention he’s white? Anyway, this fella wants to destroy existence. Why? Why not? Sounds legit. He has this thing called the Aether, a catch-all uber-destruction device-cum-evil-infection cum-let’s-give-a-reason-for-Natalie-Portman-to-be-in-this-movie. Aaaaaaaaaaand that’s about it. Thor has to stop him. Now there is far more stuff concerning Rene Russo turning into a CGI bladed whirling dervish and the African guy from LOST turning into a lava rhino…but the entire movie is simply waiting, like a child slobbering over an empty plate, until Mr. Hiddleston shows up.

"So...do I have a character or am I just supposed to get punched in the face?" ~ Eccleston: a pro.

“So…do I have a character or am I just supposed to get punched in the face?” ~ Eccleston: a pro.

Seriously, thank god for Loki. Up until the second act, this movie has about as much humorous glee as a clown at a funeral. Once they finally manage to contrive the character actions and plot twists to the point that Loki can finally escape from prison and leap into a delightful will-he-won’t-he tet-a-tet/knife-in-the-abs with his Goldie Locks of a brother, the movie remembers that it is meant to entertain. And entertain it does. Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston play off of each other like a young Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart…if one of those two were basically Michaelangelo’s David come to life in a bizarrely classy retelling of the seminal Kim Cattrall classic Mannequin. Also, Natalie Portman is there, and this is true, ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS IN HER CONTRACT. I’m not saying that the Oscar winner phoned it in, but let’s just say her relationship with her character is as long-distance as that time my ex-girlfriend moved to China. I’m surprised she didn’t have her assistant carry around an iPad with her skyping into every scene. At least, if they had done that, Hemsworth and Hiddleston could have just started playing Words With Friends whenever the Port-meister got boring.

Luckily, however, the second Hiddleston joins the party, the movie takes off. Even Hemsworth is instantly revitalized, tossing about quips that legitimately made me giggle. It takes a long while to get there, but the director finally realizes that you can frowny face your way through a comic book movie, a la C-Noles, and come away with a pretentious cautionary tale with harshly mediocre fight scenes…or you can have Chris “If He Were an Ice Cream Flavor He’d Be The Opposite of Chubby Hubby” Hemsworth beat the shit out of Doctor Who. Luckily, once Mr. Hopkins was convinced to stop randomly yelling in a Merlot-filled rage at anyone with a beard, the movie leaps into action. I will say this, the final fight is possibly the most inventive the MCU has seen in a long while. It seems as though Marvel, after painting themselves repeatedly into a corner by making every movie in their brutally successful anthology about “THE WORLD IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED. MUST SAVE IT WITH BOOM-BOOMS”, instead of retreading the obvious ground, they’ve simply kicked in the fucking wall and decided they need more square footage. The final fight between Thor and Malekith is not only exciting but freaking hilarious, a flash of genius that, like Pope-Bubbles, the catholic body wash, almost totally washes its sins away.

"Oh...I'm sorry, I was waiting for you to want your movie to be GOOD. Well, you came to the right man."

“Oh…I’m sorry, I was waiting for you to want your movie to be GOOD. Well, you came to the right man.”

In the end, Thor: The Dark Side of the Moon: Transformers: Revenge of the Sith succeeds despite itself. Much like Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, it only truly feels fun when its characters get to banter. The explosions go boom and we get to see more of the same antics we know and love. Also, Tom Hiddleston should be required to be in every movie ever. Right next to Kate Winslet’s boobs. Shockingly, the Marvel gurus have managed to create an action-based universe where the action is the least interesting component. In a way, it’s genius. To see a Marvel movie from, say, Michael Bay or John McTiernan would be horrifying. This is no metallic ballet of mediocre misogyny. No, no! Mr. Kevin Feige, the supposed god of all that is this MCU juggernaut, has harvested a healthy crop of intelligent and unique directors who will hopefully supply us with another slew of quality character studies that just happen to go BANG BOOM. We’ve got Captain America: The Winter Solider: Why the Fuck Are There So Many Colons?: The Andrew Mooney Story coming up next directed by the boys responsible for NBCs insane and brilliant Community, as well as Edgar Wright’s sure-to-be-rikonkulous Antman. Most perplexing of all is the red-headed step-movie/money trap that is James “Slither/Super” Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which gets a teaser in the final credits of this film. With its nonsensical mis en scene and cheaply shot digital framing, to say the footage is out of place is to say the black man who accidentally walked into a KKK rally has a small case of egg-on-face. Let’s just say Benecio Del Toro shows up as his character from The Usual Suspects but if he went through a Liberace cloning device. Poor Jaime Alexander and Ray Stevenson, the two actors look utterly lost on the cobbled together set stolen from a lost episode of Doctor Who, their expressions captured by the most uncomfortable close-ups since my brother snuck into my room with a camera while I was dreaming about that time with the emu and the peanut butter sandwich.

Don’t ask. That story is only meant for my therapist.

Also, I’m really glad that the Marvel Comics Universe has finally incorporated Chris O’Dowd into its cast. I can dream that one day we’ll see him and Richard Ayoade offering S.H.I.E.L.D. IT help. That would be the tits.

by Alex Huntsberger (not to be confused by the one Andrew wrote)

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

It's like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it's GOD.

It’s like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it’s GOD.

God I fucking hated the first two Harry Potter movies. Like, seriously, you guys. Especially because I loved the first two Harry Potter books. (Well, okay, I basically shat my pants with rainbows when I read the first book and then read the second book and only really liked it.) I was in…lemme see (checks IMDB, realizes how long it’s been since these movies came out, weeps) my freshman year of high school and while most of my friends were definitely more excited for the Lord of the Rings movie coming out, I was 500% more into Harry Potter. JK Rowling didn’t waste 3 pages telling you the history whatever goddamn hillock her protagonists happened walking along at the time. Those books were lean, mean wish-fulfillment machines and their films were gonna wipe the floor with those stupid, prancing hobbits. It was gonna be great.

Until it wasn’t. Lord of the Rings got entrusted to some weirdo director of low-budget New Zealand gore-comedies, Kate-Winslet-starring teen lesbian psychodramas and Michael J. Fox ghost-buddy flicks whose strange, obsessive version of reality turned out to be just the thing that made Tolkein’s magical kingdom leap off the screen bestride a majestic steed and ram its motherfucking elvish blade right through your goddamn soul. Harry Potter got Chris Columbus, the guy who made Mrs. Doubtfire. He took a world teeming with originality and wit and flying motorcycles and moving stairwells and three-headed dogs and secret train stations and I MEAN QUIDDITCH FOR CHRISSAKES and he turned it into a fucking Thomas Kinkade painting with weirdly anti-semitic goblins.

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

So by the time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was set to open, I was pretty much over it. By then I was reading Hunter S. Thompson and listening to Bright Eyes and, you know, the country was mired in Iraq so I had that to worry about and I just really didn’t give a shit. I was still gonna see it, cuz I was still a nerd who didn’t like the outdoors, but I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

And then I loved it. And the reason I loved it was because someone over at Warner Bros. had realized that Chris Columbus was as good at making movies as the explorer with the same name was at sailing to India. Chris Columbus had been fired and replaced by a little known Mexican guy by the name of Guillermo Del Toro I know it didn’t happen but how freaking cool would that have been Alfonso Cuaron. Whereas Chris Columbus was like a quarterback who wasn’t trying to score a touchdown so much as he was trying to not turn the ball over, Alfonso was like a quarterback who wasn’t a quarterback at all, but was actually a sexy, bearded poetry professor who seduced his students (both male and female) and read them Neruda while feeding them Turkish wines out of handmade clay cups and who just sped across the football field one day on his moped, grabbed the football out of the other quarterback’s hands and zipped into the end zone as pages of his never-to-be-finished-but-still-brilliant novel  fell out of his bag and scattered to the wind behind him and the entire stadium was filled with a spectacular sense of effervescent joie de vivre. It was an upgrade, to say the least.

2 years after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuaron released Children of Men, a piece of dystopian sci-fi that remains to this day one of my favorite movies. But after Children of Men there was nothing. For years and years and years, absolutely nothing. One of the best director’s working in film had all but vanished. I personally just assumed that he moved to Italy to study the art of cobbling, because if everyone was crazy in the way that Daniel Day-Lewis was crazy then the world would be a better place. But no, Alfonso was not cobbling. Or rather, he was cobbling, but not with shoes. He was cobbling with the very nature of filmmaking itself. He was constructing and, for the most part, entirely inventing anew a rig that would allow him to shoot a live action film entirely in Zero G. And not just floaty-floaty Zero-G but floaty-spinny-out-of-controlly-zoomy-zoomy-law-of-Murphy Zero G. It took him 7 years to complete.

And it’s called Gravity.

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to "clear my cache."

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to “clear my cache.”

THE BASICS: During a routine mission by the crew of the Space Shuttle Explorer  to service the Hubble telescope, disaster strikes. The shrapnel from a recently detonated Russian satellite destroys both the Hubble as well as The Explorer itself, stranding long-time-scientist, first-time-astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in the middle of freaking space. Kowalski, who Clooney pretty much plays as a cross between George Clooney in real life and every other character he was ever played, calmly explains that he and Stone are simply going to mosey on over to the abandoned International Space Station and take one of their escape pods back down to earth. (They have a different and actually official name but, fuck it, they’re escape pods.) But when they arrive at the ISS it turns out that neither escape pod is a go-go for re-entry. Kowalski, ever the cucumber, says that this isn’t a problem, as they can just use one of the escape pods to jet on over to the Chinese space station a little ways away and use on of their escape pods.  It is at this point in the film that things really start to go awry. And remember, this is a movie that began with its characters getting stranded in the the middle of freaking space.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, (And don’t worry, I’ll be berating you in a second) I’m going to stop this summary here. Some things just have to be enjoyed in the moment. For instance, the act of wiping the poop of your pants after this movie makes you shit yourself with horror.

Now, once again, for those of you who haven’t seen the film…What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film but haven’t seen it in 3-D, let alone in IMAX 3-D… What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film in regular 3-D but had the option of seeing it in IMAX 3-D…What the hell is wrong with you? Go see previous instructions.

Certain critics have derided this film as pure spectacle, and this is not entirely inaccurate. The script is pretty pro-forma, with moment’s like the revealing  of Sandra Bullock’s tragic backstory coming off as such an awkward info dump, it’s like living at the bottom of the info outhouse and then hearing that Newt Gingrich just ate a whole buffet full of info and is currently headed your way, Wall Street Journal in hand. But to write this movie off as just a spectacle is to write the Grand Canyon off as just a pretty sizeable divot. Gravity is a visceral experience. It doesn’t set out to make you think, it just wants to make you feel. And in that regard the thing, is a friggin’ masterpiece.

AND THE NOMINEES MIGHT BE…

Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Production Design and, fuck it, throw in Short Film (Animation) too cuz this bitch is gonna clean UP!

While a lot of people have been calling Gravity an Oscar front runner, it is in these categories that it can really be considered a juggernaut. There is barely a shot or moment in this movie that is special effect free. This because the nature of the story that is being told. These characters are trapped in outer space, orbiting above earth. As this is something that cannot be captured casually (for instance they couldn’t pull a Joss Whedon and just go film it at Cuaron’s house unless Cuaron was secretly Magneto and lived in a floating asteroid fortress), so the special effects are an integral part to the story. And even the few shots in the movie that essentially amount to “look how fucking beautiful Earth is from space, you dicks” are so well done that you really are just sitting there thinking “damn, that shit IS purdy.” Without the special effects, this movie would not work. It’s why it took Cuaron so long to make. He was obsessed with getting it right. Hell, they filmed the thing in 2011. All the rest of that time was spent in post.

When I remember the sound of this movie, the only thing I can recall is Sandra Bullock hyper-ventilating. Since the movie is set in space, where sound doesn’t travel, there are far fewer ambient elements to work with. The sound design here is very sparse, very elegant, and very terrifying because of that. And while some people might ask, “well shouldn’t we be rewarding the films that had the most complicated sound design?” these are probably the same people who listen solely to speed metal because those musicians can play the fastest. The soundtrack starts out very gentle, with the reassuring buzz of Mission Control bantering back and forth with George Clooney. Once the shrapnel hits and the astronauts are cut from their communications with home, that silence become deafening. It didn’t even hit me until a later scene where Bullock is able to pick a transmission coming through via HAM radio just how nice it was to hear the electric whirr of static. It’s become such a signifier of connectedness, of home.

I won’t get too much into the other visual effects, other than to say that this movie is beautiful. I think Gravity stands to wipe the floor in these technical categories, possibly setting it up for Titanic-esque Oscars takedown. It could definitely challenge Slumdog Millionaire’s eight statues and possibly go after Return of the King’s eleven. However, it most likely won’t win as many as Titanic, which I’m pretty sure won all of them. All. Even the shorts.

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Yes. This is going to happen. Maybe in a stronger year with a stronger crop of leading ladies she could be edged out…except that no, she would still be in it. Right now I would even call her an early favorite to win the whole damn thing. One could even say she’s…driving the bus?

Bus

Keanu’s helping

Okay, with my requisite Speed joke out of the way, I can actually talk about her performance. Cuz it’s kind of a doozy. Bullock here is that thing she does best: she’s our every woman. Dr. Ryan Stone ain’t no spacetronaut. She’s just a normal brilliant scientist that for vague and/or unintelligible reasons has been called to service the Hubble Telescope. You know, cuz sometimes that just happens. What’s amazing about her performance though is a) the relative dearth of quality dialogue she is given to deliver and b) that she spends almost the entire movie in various degrees of nervous breakdown without ever once losing our sympathy. Never once in this movie did I think “God, Sandy, why don’t you just pull it together already?!” Instead I just kept thinking “pull yourself together, Huntsberger, it’s just a movie, it’s just a—OH GOD SANDY WATCH OUT.”

Throughout her entire career, Bullock has possessed this inner steeliness that’s made her Hollywood’s go to Tough-Ass Cookie. She’s an Oreo made out of coal and C-4.  Oddly enough, it’s also the thing that’s made her a pretty damn good romantic comedy lead as well. When allowed to bring the sass, she’s actually got a very down-home-style Katharine Hepburn vibe. In Gravity, she uses that steeliness to mitigate Stone’s outright panic. Even when the character is literally hyperventilating her air supply away, Bullock maintains this undertone of control, of inner strength the mutes the panic and keeps you on her side.

That steeliness is also why her entire character arc works.  Once Stone is called upon to take charge of the situation and get her ass home, Bullock turns into a one-woman wrecking machine of pure will. If Bullock didn’t seem like she had it in her from the very beginning, then this moment would be laughable. But I wasn’t laughing. I was cheering. I was yelling “Go Sandy Go! Fuck Space! Kick it’s fucking Ass! U.S.A!!! U.S.A!!!”

In summation, Sandra Bullock is a goddamn national treasure, so much so that the third National Treasure movie isn’t even going to have Nicolas Cage in it. It’s just going to be Sandy getting kidnapped and then saving her damn self. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar. Take that, terrorists.

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney

SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!

So yeah George Clooney dies in this movie. Now he goes out like a fucking badass, sacrificing himself so that Bullock can make it home and then floating out into space, just talking about life and bullshit. But he does die. This is why he is in the supporting category and not the lead. It’s because he dies. (He DOES come back in a later scene as, basically, “The Ghost of Christmas Clooney” but he’s only a ghost because HE DIES.)

It’s not that George Clooney is bad in this movie, far from it. I think he’s great. Matt Kowalski  a consummate good old boy, bantering back and forth with Mission Control about his various ex-wives and then later calmly prodding a panicked Stone into conversation in order to keep her calm. When he sacrifices himself, it feels like a huge loss because he was the one who knew (or at least pretended to know) how they were going to get out of this. The characters a security blanket, and nothing makes you feel more secure than the dulcet tones of El Clooney.

However, “security blanket” is different than “complex, human being.” Clooney serves his purpose in this film very well but he isn’t asked to do much. He is perfectly in his comfort zone. Hell, he is the movie’s comfort zone. His character exists long enough to get the audience situated and introduce some hope and then he floats away, taking the rug that the audience was standing on with him. Matt Kowalski is not a human, and the role is not a challenge. And while the Wrinkled Fuckers love them some Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie, they don’t nominate him unless he’s stretching his comfort zone. He won the Oscar for Syriana, wherein he was schlubby and bearded and he was nominated again for Up in the Air where he had to cry and be a person and stuff. This role is not either one of those. It is “Danny Ocean in Space.” I’m not feeling it.

Best Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron

The script for this movie is essentially the script for a video game. It sets the rules of how things work, bridges the gap between set pieces A and B and throws in a little pathos for flavor. But the quality of the writing is about the same. The only way that this script is getting nominated is if it gets swept in on the coattails of a bunch of other nominations. That could definitely happen, but it’s not very likely.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Clooney in repose.

Clooney in repose.

Look back at Cuaron’s previous films and Gravity is actually a very natural endpoint. It’s a huge leap forward, yes, but it is the movie that Cuaron has been moving towards for over a decade. Cuaron has always had a roving eye, wanting his camera to take in everything a scene has to offer. A lot of directors who wander in this fashion opt for either the 1st-person shaky cam (think Steven Soderbergh) or the sweeping tracking shot (Paul Thomas Anderson). Cuaron seeks to have both. He wants the scope that a tracking shot brings with the intimacy of the hand-held shaky cam. But both of those methods draw attention to themselves, to their sheer immediacy and/or virtuosity. Cuaron does not seek that. While his ambitions for the camera are far greater than probably any other living director (Orson Welles is honestly the best comparison I can think of) he does not want innovation for innovation’s sake. (Okay, so scratch Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is pretty much the original dick pic.) He’s a storyteller, who wants his stories to resonate at a deeper level than they have before. With Children of Men he pushed traditional methods about as far as he could go. With Gravity he creates something entirely new.

The reason to see this movie in 3-D is because it is movie that takes place in 3-D. When you take gravity out of the equation you go from a horizontal plane to a cubic one. The action can be moving in any direction at any moment. And with the complex rigging system that Cuaron constructed for this movie, so can his camera. The opening shot of this movie is 13 minutes long, covering the initial mission through all hell breaking loose. By never cutting away and instead staying in the chaos of the Stone and Kowalski’s world exploding he does not give you an out. He does not give you that split second to remember that this is just a movie. It is that immediacy, the result of extreme precision, that makes what Cuaron has done so amazing. Gravity doesn’t feel like it’s a movie. It feels like it’s just happening. Like it’s a force of nature. A force of nature like, oh, I don’t know, gravity ???

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Huntsberger, I hate you. I hate you so much.)

Best Picture: Gravity

The Wrinkled Fuckers love it when a movie looks expensive. They’re tacky like that. They don’t just want insights into the human condition, the kind of thing that can be executed solely through good acting/writing/directing. Nah playa. They want a little bit of grandeur in there too. You’re gonna set your story in modern suburbia with everybody wearing polos and sundresses and driving Nissan Ultimas? Well screw you, cuz THIS guy’s movie (note: it’s almost always a guy, and it’s almost always Ridley Scott) has got characters wearing doublets and they’re sword fighting in ballrooms and…oh my god is that a blimp! Holy Shit that is a fucking blimp! Oh I am SOLD. (note: it really should be called a zeppelin, and I’m pretty sure the film I just described is Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers.) When a movie like Titanic comes around, which isn’t often, the Wrinkled Fuckers are in heaven. Most other times they have to make do with a movie that wasn’t made with such an Ahab-like obsession, but they do often find a way to ultimately honor movies that have a little bit of technical oomph. Let’s look at the Best Picture Nominees from the past 10 years, shall we?

2013: Argo

2012: The Artist

2011: The King’s Speech

2010: The Hurt Locker

2009: Slumdog Millionaire

2008 No Country For Old Men

2007 The Departed

2006 Crash

2005 Million Dollar Baby

2004 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The most recent three were all period pieces which means that production values are naturally going to be on display throughout. Before that was a war movie and before the war epic was a high-budget fantasia set in a foreign country. The four before that were all actually pretty modern, but even then: No Country for Old Men was a western slash action-noir. The Departed was a cops and robbers epic and Crash won because lot’s of people thought two dudes kissing was gross. Even Million Dollar Baby was a sports movie. And then of course there was Return of the King: a restrained, low-budget chamber piece if ever there was one.

Remember, The Wrinkled Fuckers are not just actors and writers and such. Their ranks cover every inch of the industry. A lot of them are scenic artists and sound engineers and Mickey Rourke fluffers. They like to see the technical elements represented on screen too, not just the hoity toity “art” ones.

And holy shit are the technical elements well-represented in this movie. So what if the script’s not great when the movie’s also got an incredibly solid lead performance as well as an incredibly Clooney supporting one? The movie is riveting, in that it is like being attacked with a rivet gun and having your brain drilled into. This movie is getting a nomination for best picture. It’s getting a nomination for best director too. And best actress. And best all-the-technical-categories-that-no-one-gives-a-shit-about.

Internet, meet your 2014 Academy Awards juggernaut, courtesy of the guy who replaced the guy who eventually made Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I look forward to its eventual close defeat at the hands of Machete Kills.

by Andrew Mooney

Antichrist (2009) – Lars Von Trier (Dir.), Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, 

I will never look at Ents the same way ever again.

I will never look at Ents the same way ever again.

When I began this humble blog in twenty-aught-twelve Anno Domini ACDC Esquire, I decided I needed to expand my cinematic repertoire with a little more Film. That’s ‘Film’ with a capital ‘F’ for ‘Fucking Pretentious’. How appropriate was it, then, when my first course of many was the Lars Von Trier delight: Melancholia. And by delight I mean, “Bizarre dreamy fog of boobs and sadness”. Since that fateful day, locked in my room, my pajamas practically melting into my epidermis to become some kind of magical hangover-bark, I slogged my way through that 2.5 hour epic of wanton women and Kiefer Sutherland wearing glasses in severe not-torturing-people-to-save-the-world mode. It was a thing. Since then, I have also joked and jested about reaching into the Netflix Roulette jar and plucking out one of the more ‘rapey’ affairs, my main target and fear: Antichrist. Well, the fates of ordained it, the planets have aligned and chance has punched me in the dick once more, for, on that Halloween night in twenty-aught-thirteen in the year of our iPad, I drew the rapiest of the rapey. SPOILERS: it isn’t the lady who gets raped this time.

Before we begin, let me say, in these last few years wandering the sordid display of cinematic gems on display in the Flix of Net, I have grown a good deal. I have shifted from a wide-eyed moronic 23 year-old, practically still soaking in amniotic fluid (that metaphor is terrifyingly apt for this movie) to a fully grown Critique (it’s in French because it’s, you know, fancy ‘n’ shit) who grandly opines, tying the disparate threads of auteur imagination into a bundle of throbbing and mesmerizing humanity, a web of such intellectual and emotional gravity that would murder even Sandra Bullock. With that said, I would like begin with a simple statement of journalistic integrity:

EEEWEWWWWEEWWWWEEEWWWWEEWWWWW AAHA AHA AHHA MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP, MOMMY!

Just be aware there are SPOILERS in this bad boy. But then again, this movie has been out for almost 5 years. Deal with it.

Dafoe don't give no fucks about no chestnuts

Dafoe don’t give no fucks about no chestnuts

What is Antichrist? Is it a horror film? Is it smut? Is it Lars Von Trier’s wet nightmare? Is it the weirdest and least catchy Charlotte Gainsbourg music video ever made? Is it Willem Dafoe atoning for playing the stupidest incarnation of the Green Goblin ever known to man? Who the fucking fuck knows? Because Lars Von Trier sure as shit doesn’t. We begin, as you do, in super slow motion sex between a middle aged couple in the shower. And, as you do, you see full penetration. Then, while the aria peaks and both Mr. and Mrs. blow their so-called wads, their baby does its best impression of the kid from Ghostbusters 2 and tries walking out on the window ledge. Stupid baby. Much like Orlando Bloom’s career after the final Pirates of the Caribbean, the kid falls to its death. THAT’S IN THE FIRST FIVE FUCKING MINUTES. Granted, every movie could begin this way, apropos of nothing, and I’d be happy. Love Actually? Well, before the Hugh Grant gives his speech about Heathrow kissing, HOW ABOUT SOME FULL PENETRATION BABY SUICIDE. But it’s to classical music, so, you know, fancy ‘n’ shit. Wouldn’t Legally Blonde have benefitted from the terrifying countenance of Willem Dafoe’s vinegar strokes as a child hits the pavement face-first, skateboarder-style, before breaking into its overly pink beginning number? What about Monster’s Inc.? First we have to see the monsters in the real world before we can see the monsters in the their own world. And by monster, I am, of course, talking about Dafoe’s thrusting peen.

Well, after that, Gainsbourg, only credited as ‘Her’ in the credits (if you watch that far) has a mental breakdown. Dafoe (say his name like a bird call: will-em da-FOOOOOE) plays the eponymous ‘He’, a therapist who is, apparently, perturbed by NOTHING. Seriously, the entirety of Tim Burton’s Halloween Town could parade through his underpants and he’d be like, “Hmm, interesting. Where does it go on your pyramid?” THAT FUCKING PYRAMID. Anyhoo, Gainsbourg spends a majority of the film kicking, screaming, sobbing, wilting, walking in slow motion in the woods, mood-swinging, masturbating, leg-drilling, chasing her husband down like the dog he is and calling him a bastard for leaving after he painstakingly dragged his wound half-corpse of a body into a fox hole to hide. You know, like all woman. Dafoe, on the other hand, seems to have not read any of the script past that day of filming and is consistently horrified by what’s coming next…but sticks around because…well, fuck it, contract probably. That expressive half-mutant mug of his wears a look of half-interested bemusement the entire length of the film.

"I IMMEDIATELY REGRET THIS DECISION!"

“I IMMEDIATELY REGRET THIS DECISION!”

Anyways, after realizing that neither hospital nor home will cure the beleaguered Her, Him decides to take her to the place she fears, the completely-subtly-named and not-at-all-ironic “Eden” out in the middle of nowhere. Here, Dafoe envisions snowballing fragments of insanity, from a still-born deer hanging out of another deer’s vagina to a rather erudite fox covered in a mixture of amniotic sludge and gore (I assume he’s played by James Earl Jones because that would be AMAZING). Meanwhile, Gainsbourg goes from “understandably upset” to “genital mutilation” in fewer steps than one would expect. Everything about the movie is fairly surreal, with slow motion images of Dafoe getting rained on by chestnuts and random shots of hands coming out of tree roots as Dafoe’s flexing buttocks rhythmically ram his randy and rowdy spouse after she sprinted into nature to begin servicing herself with the fury of teen girl dry humping a cardboard cut out of Justin Bieber. I think the film piqued when Gainsbourg slams her husband in the dick with a 2×4 and then proceeds to jerk him off until he comes blood (I told you there were spoilers). I wish I was making that up. I think, at that very moment, my testicles decided “you know, this just ain’t worth it anymore” and crawled back into my lower abdomen, thus destroying any chance of actually growing any chest hair. Oh yes, then she cuts off her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors. I can foresee this becoming a family holiday favorite. It just isn’t Christmas until someone is in the corner curled in the fetal position.

I wish I could take a brillo pad to my brain and scour that shit right off. I think it will be a couple of days before I can have sex without envisaging sanguine ejaculations or babies falling out of windows. I have seen horror movies aplenty. I am affected by precisely none of them. The Conjuring? Yeah, freaky until bitch-face-mc-witch-a-lot appears and you’re reminded this is just a silly excuse for a haunted house ride. The Shining? Granted, there is very little more terrifying than Shelley Duvall’s explosive fucking eyeballs…but the rest of it wasn’t particularly perturbing. This movie, however…I had to start icing my genitals just from sympathetic pain. Perhaps its effectiveness is tied directly to its quality.

"Bitch, what you say about my mama?" ~ Text from the Urbanized version of Bambi

“Bitch, what you say about my mama?” ~ Text from the Urbanized version of Bambi

It’s from Lars Von Trier, and Lars Von Trier is a Director with a capital D. Incidentally, that D stands for “Dear God, You’re an Asshole”. He is the genius, nay, the sadistic auteur responsible for this clit-rip-fest of a horror film. He’s also crazy (no, really, he was committed). He is, on the other hand, extremely talented and skilled. Every art form has a craft and a vision. While his vision is something so demented I would encourage a visit to the ophthalmologist, he’s insanely adept at filming things. This was the guy who came up with Dogme 95…95 rules for making movies, essentially stripping filmmaking to its essential parts. That’s like writing a novel without being allowed to use metaphors or more than two adjectives. Sure, it’s boring as a day old turd, but it requires thought and skill. There is no moment in Antichrist where you lose the awareness of the fact that this is a movie made by a Director. Shots and techniques run the gamut of modern technology, cutting back and forth through styles faster than Tim Gunn’s wit can cut through a Project Runway prep room. We’re given juxtaposition, simplicity, overt symbolism, metaphor, slow motion, black and white, disconnected soundtrack, sound-mixing tricks and treats…everything. It’s as though the man is simply content to wave his dong at the filmmaking community while spitting a raspberry at their unimpressed faces; he has to dip it in whipped cream and personally dick-wich each and every one of them. Both Gainsbourg and Dafoe give shockingly believable performances even though a good deal of that is screaming in each others’ faces while attempting to reach orgasm. Both actors draw you in with harshly naturalistic portrayals of a couple trying to come back from the brink of insanity. So, when Her drives off the crazy-bitch cliff with the zeal of a dick-punching Thelma and Louise, one can only watch with a gaping jaw and allow the ensuring chaos roll over you.

What is the movie about? Why did Von Trier make it? I haven’t been able to deduce anything close to an answer. Does he hate women? Does he see himself as the woman? Initially it certainly seems as though the film sympathizes with her plight and Dafoe’s maddening need to calm and logic his way through the emotions turns him into something of an antagonist. But then satanic texts appear, Gainsbourg goes into full Witches of Eastwick mode and all semblance of sympathy goes the way of the drill she uses to attach a 30lb weight to her husband’s shin to stop him from running away. It’s amusing to note that when Von Trier submitted this film to Cannes before it was released, they didn’t give it an award but rather an Anti-award (see what they did there? Those pretentious hilarious pricks). Cannes is a festival celebrating humanistic values and they seemed to believe this film portrayed nothing of the sort. I believe it was at this point that Von Trier said something along the lines of “Hitler wasn’t so bad.” So, yes, asshole to completion. However, as much of a throbbing dong as he is, he’s still one of the most talented filmmakers out there. I almost wish Spielberg or Del Toro could tame the beast and lock him up Marquis De Sade-style, forcing him to craft the basics of their at least mildly human visions.

He's my spirit animal.

He’s my spirit animal.

In the end, Antichrist is a confusing mess of a movie. On the one hand, it is supremely made and shockingly far more coherent than the slop that was the latter half of Melancholia. But what can be said for a movie where a wife is driven to murderous rage by the elements of nature to the point that we cheer when her husband chokes her to death? It is an exhausting quagmire of a movie, one that requires patience and endurance to complete. However, what is the reward once we do so? A flood of women a la some kind of documentary about Auschwitz, flooding down the hills and flocking to their about to be Vader funeral-ed comrade-in-vag? Dafoe limping into the sunset smiling at the previously aborted woodland creatures who are now so happy the bitch is dead that it looks as though they might break into a rendition of Bambi?

Note to self: get Lars Von Trier to direct the remake of Bambi. It begins with Bambi’s mom getting rammed in the shower and ends with Thumper looking into the camera and declaring “CHAOS REIGNS” before having rage-sex with Flower.

Happy Halloween, guys. I’m going to go weep now.