by Andrew Mooney

Children of the Corn (1984) – Fritz Kiersch (Dir.), Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, a bunch of stupid children and one or two not stupid children

Is it a reference to communism? Nope? It's just stupid.

Is it a reference to communism? Nope? It’s just stupid.

Sometimes in life, all you want to do on a Sunday, the looming specter of a fierce head cold working its infectious way throughout your mucous-making passages, is to curl up in bed with a silly movie and allow the dulcet tones of women getting stabbed in the naughty bits while people ask dumb questions like “Is that you, Connie?” as a chainsaw revs up in the shadows lull you into a restorative and peaceful sleep. Sometimes you want to tell the world, “You know what? I give up. I can’t take it anymore.” With the pressures of work and watching Species with your girlfriend’s grandfather (article forthcoming), you beg the universe to stop the Earth on its eternal celestial cycle and offer even a sliver of respite in this cataclysmic life. So, I did. I did just that. And let me just say, for all the Internet to hear, as God and that weird golden cow statue as my witnesses:

CHILDREN OF THE CORN CAN GO FUCK ITSELF

All I wanted…all I begged for was a simplistic silly horror film with enough competency to simply say goodbye as I set off on the USS Forty Winks to the land of Go-The-Fuck-To-Sleep. I could have chosen The Avengers. I could have watched Thor. Or maybe some House M.D. But NOOOOO Andrew had to be an asshole and go into the fucking Halloween section of Netflix and think to himself, “Huh, I’ve never seen Children of the Corn, that sounds fun.” I’m a goddamn idiot. This movie filled me with such abhorrent and pestilent rage that I am now in a fucking bar, my cold be damned, drinking and fuming over a keyboard. Seriously, no, like, seriously, Children of the Corn might just be the stupidest fucking movie I have ever encountered. Like, there are middleschoolers who cannot point out the US on a world map who have a higher IQ than this turd. I think I have vomited more intelligence after 10 Irish Car Bombs than that travesty that just burned its hole in my iPad Netflix app. What cruel God, what demon in control of this pitiful universe was responsible for the existence of this fecal excuse for filmic flimsiness?

Alright, background. The movie starts on an incredibly promising foot. A bunch of kids murder a diner filled with old people. Sweet. Some dude gets his hand in a meat slicer and a kid’s milkshake gets covered in gore. Awesome sauce. Great start. I wish every movie could begin this way. You know, Love Actually, But Here Is Some Good Old Patricide (which opens with a sure-to-be-iconic shot of Hugh Grant being shoved into a sausage grinder). We then precede to the obligatory Stephen King “Prescient Child” character and are offered a hilarious, yet surprisingly effective history of the children taking over the town of Gatlin for the purpose of…um…corn. I guess. And this is where the film goes downhill: the main characters. Yes, I understand that the leads in any horror film are usually cursed with the wits of a mentally dilapidated duck, but COME ON. Linda “The Chick Who Killed The Terminator” Hamilton is a woman who wants to get married. Peter “He Came to Life Out of a Sears Catalogue – Kill it – Kill It With Fire” Horton is the man she wants to marry. He is a penis. Not a dick. Not an asshole. Not a pussy or any other derogatory term we have for opening through which fluids/solids/children pass, but a penis. He is tall, erect, constantly inappropriately dressed and seems to only be able to move forward. Like a penis. Well, Johnson Trouser-Snake is driving to Seattle, or somewhere, to be a doctor. Now, we are informed of this repeatedly because he keeps stating it. However, throughout the course of the movie, meeting dead kids, or getting stabbed, or watching his wife’s face get cut, he never does anything a self-respecting MD-having penile quack would do. In fact, when he sees his wife’s face, gouged by an incensed zealot ginger (IZG), he goes, “You got one too!” and they both laugh. That didn’t happen, but this movie is so fucking stupid IT MIGHT AS WELL HAVE.

Spot the difference! One of these is a stoned creature known for eating poop and licking its own genitals...and the other is a dog.

Spot the difference! One of these is a stoned creature known for eating poop and licking its own genitals…and the other is a dog.

So, Shit-For-Brains and the Mighty Doctor Dong travel through Nebraska in the longest “Driving to a location where the rest of the movie has to happen” since Terry Gilliam forgot to turn off the camera during Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and accidentally filmed Johnny Depp yawning for 6 hours. Now, our director, Fritz Kiersch, gradually guides his two lifeless meat puppets of humans towards their inevitable clashing with a town filled with religious crazies with the urgency of slug on methadone. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t actually a human being, but just a bunch of sloths sitting on each other’s shoulders in a trench coat. And all of them are addicted to horse tranquilizers. From the lingering shots of fuck-all to the incredibly awkward extended takes of Linda Hamilton looking at things without any actual agency.

So Tweedle Dumb and soon-to-be Mrs. Tweedle Dipshit hit a child. In broad daylight. On a straight road. A child, yes, a child covered in blood. What does Dr. Dong say? “I hope that was an animal!” Yes, you must have a PhD in Human Fucking Anatomy because when did humans not classify as animals? Not only that, but he then takes twenty fucking minutes to figure out that the red stuff on the suitcase, obviously carried by the dead toddler, is blood. He seems bemused by the simplest of visual stimuli, like a child wandering into his parent’s bedroom while they’re engaged in cross-gender c. This is my impression of Dr. Dickwitch for the length of this movie:

“Huh. I’m surrounded by murderous children armed with farming implements. Let’s have a chat about religion. DEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRPPPPPP.”

Linda after she finally read the script.

Linda after she finally read the script.

It’s pretty fucking perfect. You see, this story might have been chilling on the page. While his actual literary novellas are shockingly decent (the book versions of The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, pretty much everything in Four Seasons) Stephen King has written precisely two horror books: girl has destructive mental abilities and kills many people (Carrie, Firestarter) OR child can see into the future and religious zealots try to murder everyone (The Shining, Desperation, Children of the Corn etc. etc.)…oh, and another book about alien snakes coming out of people’s anuses (what the fuck were you thinking with Dreamcatcher?). In all these years of repackaging the same worn pair of scary socks, he knows how to wrap a fucking present. We have creepy this, atmosphere that, boobies here and swearing there, add a dash of biblical verse and VOILA…you have a King novel. He ain’t perfect, but he knows what he’s doing and what the people want. Here’s the problem with this sewage system of an excuse of a movie…maybe a horde of children with weaponry is scary on the page…but when shot by a sloth-filled-coat as director and Helen Keller as your cinematographer (totally in daylight, zero usage of shadows, dynamic lighting or shot framing of any kind), you realize the reality of this tale: if children attack you…you punch them in the face BECAUSE YOU ARE AN ADULT AND HAVE ADULT STRENGTH. Por example: the ending where Dr. Derp-a-lot fights the evil ginger kid…he kicks the kid in the fucking shin and the kid goes down like a sack of potatoes. OH. THAT WAS TENSE, GUYS. WHO’S GONNA WIN IN A FIGHT? A 16-YEAR-OLD CHILD WHO ALREADY HAS ENOUGH SOCIAL DISABILITIES WITH GINGER HAIR AND A FACE SHAPED LIKE A DRIED TOMATO OR A FULLY MUSCLED 30-SOMETHING MAN?

Ultimately, the movie deviates from the original tale. Apparently, in the short story, both of the adults are murdered because, well, it’s supposed to be the story of adult hubris and the assumption of child weakness. I guess. But…in this…well…here is a rundown of what occurs in the final scenes: Linda Hamilton is going to be sacrificed on a corn crucifix because, well, why the fuck not? Also, Ginger-Face-McGee usurps Isaac, the Corn God’s prophet and sticks the little kid (an amalgam of Haley Joel Osmet’s unfortunate inhuman acting style and premature Dave Thomas-esque jowl-age). The child is then attacked by, what I have assume is the cinematic embodiment of David Lee Roth’s libido, and turns into a zombie. Then they spray the fields with Gas-o-hol which, is that even a thing? I don’t even care anymore. And then everything blows up.

Is that the end? Fuck no! Because this piece of smegma isn’t done yet. If I could sum up the entirety of this exercise in utter incompetency, I would do so by showing you this, the final scene of the film:

DO YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE? I WITNESSED AN HOUR AND A HALF OF THAT? HE PUNCHES A LITTLE GIRL IN THE FUCKING FACE AND SAYS: “Oh, what are we going to do now?” YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IN HELLFIRE YOU IDIOTIC PIECE OF HORROR MISERY.

WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS MOVIE? WHY? WHY DOES IT STILL EXIST? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!

URGE TO KILL STEPHEN KING RISING…

Now…if you will excuse me, I have to sleep the sleep of the dead. Mucous. Blech.

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by Andrew Mooney

Trapped in the Closet (2005) – R. Kelly (Dir.), R Kelly, R. Kelly, Cat Wilson, R Kelly, Michael K. Williams, R Kelly some more and a midget

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

It is known that the pathway towards genius is a path well-trod and filled with obstacles, both emotional and physical, existential and intellectual, sexual and totally sexual. It seems that R. “Yes He Actually Made this Movie” Kelly has sprinted down the genius path hitting every fucking ugly branch on the way there. Trapped in the Closet is Kelly’s epic hip-hopera charting the events of a day in the life of some guy who has sex with a lot of women. There will be spatulas! Midgets! Lesbians! Omar from The Wire! Inexplicable edits! Flagrant racism! AIDS! This lyric poetry runs the gamut of western literary theory, dragging you through the truth, horror and beauty of what it is like to live in R Kelly’s brain. And trust me, it’s terrifying in there. So, be warned. Beware. Be ready to fucking do this people. There will be pizza! There will be shots! There will be a room of white people feeling really awkward! There will be flagrant mistakes about African American thespians including but not limited to: Morgan Freeman, Omar Epps, and Sean Connery. Join me, Erin and special guest star, and dragon, Ryan Lehmenkuler as we tackle this beast five ‘chapters’ at a time. Also, join us for our special Halloween episode airing on October 31st. It will be SPOOK-TAC-ULICIOUS.

The Breakfast Club (1985) – John Hughes (Dir.), Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Michael C. Hall, Paul Gleason

Set phasors to "Disaffected Youth"

Set phasors to “Disaffected Youth”

Alright, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Yes, there is a two ton elephantine lump of cultural awkwardness constantly resting in the doorway of my blog-based discussions. And, like the clown chasing me in my nightmares, it’s massive, pink, and has a mild obsession with the Youth in America. That’s right, I had never seen The Breakfast Club…until this last weekend. In fact, growing up in the UK, the antics of a bunch of North Shore brats drinking and charming their way through 1980s high school had very little cultural resonance for me. I barely understood what high school even was, despite frantically gobbling down Buffy the Vampire Slayer and to a lesser (read: far greater) extent Sabrina the Teenage Witch throughout my formative years (that might explain a few things). The work of John Hughes is unmistakably American. These tales are about American kids drinking American beers having American problems in American schools with American accents (unless they’re that one Asian kid in that one movie). Thusly, the extent of my Hughes-ian exploration was limited to the Chris Columbus scream-directly-into-the-camera-a-thon and Joe-Pesci-when-were-you-dramatically-castrated-fest Home Alone along with the bizarre exercise in repetitive futility that was Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It seems as though, like unicorns, Chimeras and the dinosaurs did with Noah’s Ark, I missed the boat on pretty much the most important thing ever. Children of the 80s practically subsisted on Hughes’ simultaneously bleak and unendingly optimistic image of teenagers. Unfortunately, as a Brit, all I had was Monty PythonTrainspotting and Doctor Who. So, when I realized that most people didn’t dress as women, walk sillily while dosing themselves with heroin and running away from toilet-plunger-wielding Daleks, I was sorely disappointed. But that’s what your 20s are for!

The Breakfast Club charts a single day in the life of five high schoolers incarcerated in Saturday detention for a whole slew of petty crimes, some obvious and others held secret until the ending. We have the nerd (Anthony Michael “Not Michael C.” Hall), the popular girl (an iconoclastic Molly Ringwald), an awkwardly puffy-haired and eyebrow-bleached wrestler-jock with a good heart (Emilio Estevez), a crazy chick (Ally Sheedy) and the most trying-too-hard badass since Rock Hudson married that lady that one time (Judd Nelson). Under the eye of a bored teacher (Die Hard’s Paul Gleason, RIP) these kids begin their day as five separate and parallel entities, content to operate and survive in their own tiny bubbles of social awkwardness and ineptitude. However, as Bender (Nelson) spends the day disrupting their individual peaces, he heats up the pot and those separate, rigid parallel lines soften and collapse into one another; a tangled mess of teenage spaghetti (Worst. Italian meal. Ever.) They skip out of the library to find weed, crawl through ducts, lock their teacher out of sight and out of mind, and, ultimately, in a beautiful climax of unspoken emotion, engage in perhaps the greatest teen dance sequence of all time set to Karla Devito’s “We Are Not Alone”.

Anthony Michael Hall's impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Anthony Michael Hall’s impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Now, I’ve never seen Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, the Ringwald Trilogy, as I’ve decided to label it. However, I’ve always found Hughes’ movies smart but lacking anything other than surface emotion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m basing this solely off of the hilarious, seminal and only-thing-that’s-going-on-Matthew-Broderick’s-gravestone Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as well as the ridiculously stupid, hetero-normatively problematic, and Robert-Downey-Jr-licious Weird Science. Here, though, it seems as Hughes set out to craft a treatise on teenager-hood. While, at the beginning, he seems to ridicule the meager maladies affecting these preparatory-protected progeny, it becomes clear that, as he strips each child of their obligatory masks and social veils, they are all essentially the same scared, good-natured beings underneath. Though it only lasts about 9 hours, this movie is a serious journey for these children. At the end, as each is picked up by their respective parental units, a simple and effective mirroring of the opening scene, we are coarsely reminded of how far each of these young adults have come.

More than once during the proceedings I was reminded of (PRETENSION ALERT) Satre’s No Exit, the existential tale of three people trapped in a hotel room for all eternity. In both cases, the protagonists, or antagonists, depending on your point of view, are driven by their sense of claustrophobia. The only inciting action in the tale is one of entrapment. There are key differences. While Satre was attempting to divulge the rotten innards of the human condition, eventually stating quite simply that “Hell is other people” (but in French so it probably sounds even more pretentious…and there’s probably a cigarette involved…and a croissant…man I could really go for a croissant right now), Hughes states the opposite. These kids are here for a finite stretch of incarceration. They will leave and everything will be fine. They could sit in silence, as they do for a stretch of the opening, refusing to interact and remaining on the separate islands. But for teenagers, without the benefit of time and experience under their belts, eight hours might as well be an eternity. These issues don’t evaporate when they leave that library. While in No Exit the three insufferable asses (because, let’s be real, everyone in that play is terrible) drive each other insane because they have nothing better to do, here, the five puncture each other’s bubbles out of sheer necessity. All five need to be saved. It’s no mistake that the teacher spends the second half of the film utterly absent, drinking beers with the janitor and lamenting the changing young. This isn’t any Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting. These children’s salvation is in one another. One by one they strip away their armor and show what they are within…just kids. They’re scared of everything. They barely understand the world and the few rules they’ve learned have done nothing but inflict horrors on their psyches. Every teenager feels like a felon until proven adult. I know I did. And I was a goody-fucking-two shoes for all 10 years (apart from one party where I probably could have died. You learn fast or you get fucked, I guess). Perhaps the best line in the movie comes from the janitor who, while listening to the embittered Gleason spew hatred after hatred on this generation, declaring them the worst he’s ever seen, finally interjects and says, “It’s not the kids that are changing. It’s you.”

"Hi, my name is Molly and I'm a child actor." "Hi Molly!" ~ They started counseling at a young age.

“Hi, my name is Molly and I’m a child actor.” “Hi Molly!” ~ They started counseling at a young age.

I never expected to be affected quite as strongly by this movie. I assumed shenanigans and antics and montages and boobies, you know, stuff from the 80s. What I discovered, on that harshly hungover Sunday morning, was something deeply touching. While I might have started with a sneer, especially balking at Bender’s heavy-handed attempts at basic authoritarian subversion, I didn’t want to let these five kids go after the end credits. As someone who has just escaped the event horizon of teenager-dom, I could still identify with the fears, the pressures and the insecurities of these five. We have the popular girl who despises her friends and is incapable of making a choice against the grain in fear of being ostracized; the jock who does everything his father tells him to, even to the point of descending to delinquency just because ‘that’s what boys are supposed to do’; the nerd who is so deathly afraid of a failing grade that he goes to almost unreal extremes; the troubled child of a broken home whose every day is a battle and, finally, the ignored weirdo who crafts her social isolation to be her defining trait because she’s afraid there’s nothing else below. Their adventures are impossible, almost surreal in their isolation. It’s as though these five have been transported to another plane, devoid of time and circumstance, where they can find this momentary connection across every social high-school divide. The climax, like an awkward threesome, is one of quiet contemplation and emotion. One of the most affecting moments in the entire film comes from Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian when he asks the damning question: “After today, will we all still be friends?” Ms. Ringwald tells him the harsh but inescapable truth: “No.” There has never been such a succinct assault on the terrors of high school’s emotional brutality.

In the end, they write a letter to their captor, a manifesto, if you will, declaring who they are, who they think they are, and who they want to be. It’s a carefully crafted set of words that I’ve heard quoted here there and everywhere. It’s good. It’s important. It’s Hughes’ thesis in a perfectly packaged nutshell. But that isn’t the point of the movie. Not for me. The most exhilarating moment that has plagued my brain in the most glorious of ways every moment of the day since watching this movie is the dance sequence. After these five have wept and connected and accepted that the future is scary and that perhaps they will never be together again, they do something so basic. They dance. All five of them, lacking any choreography or rhythm or talent or anything just begin flailing and kicking and cheering and head banging and air-guitaring and skipping and twirling and gyrating without giving any fucks whatsoever. If there was a sudden shortage of fucks spreading throughout the universe and these kids had vaults of the things…they wouldn’t give a single one. Of course the song’s refrain “We are not alone” couldn’t be more heavy-handed if it tried. But we see these five unhinged and free, each isolated in their own personal mangled dancing styles. Suddenly, though, we shift to their synchronized antics on top of the tables, dancing from side to side in tandem. It couldn’t be a more glorious catharsis.

Yep. That's all that needs to be said.

Yep. That’s all that needs to be said.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about The Breakfast Club is that at its conclusion, I wasn’t quite sure what I had just witnessed. It is epic. It is mythic. And yet, it’s probably the simplest thing you could ever fucking ask for. I sat there staring at the screen, mind blank and yet muddled with an infinite writhing mass of thoughts and considerations. It’s taken me three days to sort out that mess and order it into something at least partially coherent. I will say this, and I have never felt this in my entire life…entire life. The only thing I wanted to do when the credits rolled, watching Bender’s fist thrust into the air captured in a moment of victory and frozen modern mythology, was to press play again and witness this movie in its totality once more.

It was the most beautiful feeling in the world.

by Alex Huntsberger

Blue Jasmine (2013) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jssmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jasmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

THE BASICS: This is a movie about the financial crisis. I mean it’s not a movie that’s about the financial crisis. The financial chicanery that sets the plot in motion is more Bernie Madoff than Bear Stearns. But it’s about the financial crisis in a more holistic, spiritual sense.

FIRST SOME PLOT

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine (originally Jeanette), a Wife of Wall Street who is forced to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) when her financier husband Hal (Alec “I WILL PLAY WORDS WITH FRIENDS WHEN AND WHERE I FUCKING WANT TO” Baldwin) is convicted of fraud and hangs himself in prison. Jasmine, a nervous wreck, attempts to put her life back together, getting a job as a receptionist and taking a computer course with an eye towards an interior designer’s license. Oh, and she also sets about trying to ruin her sister’s life, mostly by throwing a Rip-Torn-in-Dodgeball number of wrenches into Ginger’s relationship with her boorish but good-hearted boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnavale). Oh, and also in the mix is Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie (the surprisingly not-dead Andrew Dice Clay) whose marriage to Ginger Jasmine previously ruined with some bad financial advice. Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard are also on hand, the former as…well…basically himself and the other as way older than I remember him and that makes me feel weird.

If that plot wrings a bit familiar, it’s probably because you were really cool in high school and read/saw/were involved in a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Tennessee Williams’ lyrical ode to the Dirty South.

Tennessee Williams (artist's rendering)

Tennessee Williams (artist’s rendering)

Much like Blanche lived in a world entirely of her own choosing, so does Jasmine try to block all the ugly truths that she has been privy too. Her refrain throughout the film is, “Let’s leave the past in the past.” Which is totally fine, except that one can only leave the past in the past when one has, oh, I don’t know, learned something from it. The film, in fact, frequently jumps back to the past, showing Jasmine’s glory years in the lap of East Coast luxury, and what it shows is that Jasmine remained as willfully ignorant back then as she does now. Whether it was Hal’s frequent philandering or his even more frequent financial shenanigans, Jasmine basically stuck her fingers in her ears and went, “lalalalalalalala,” if by “fingers in ears,” you mean, “cash money in her bank account,” and by, “lalalalalalalala,” you mean, “brunching on the weekend? Ugh, how gauche.” From beginning to end, Jasmine exists in a state of denial, much like a great deal of this country did so after a decade where investing in Wall Street was pretty much equivalent to buying stock in a textiles factory that manufactured The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have seen the enemy and it is…umm…us, Except that “us” is played by Cate Blanchett. (Looks in the mirror). Yeah, that’s about right.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

So, a lot of “Oscar” performances have that air of holding out one’s hand and yelling, “Oscar, please!” And it’s not that Cate Blanchett’s performance doesn’t seem like it’s gunning for an Oscar. It’s more like she’s an 80’s action hero who takes out an entire cartel’s worth of vaguely ethnic bad guys with nothing more than a Glock, a hunting knife and a pack of chewing gum. She doesn’t so much as ask for an Oscar as she does walk into your office with a bag full of bad guy scalps over one shoulder, the President’s daughter (who she just rescued from said bad guys) over the other one, dumps both of them on your desk, lights up a cigar and then just casually glances at the Oscar clutched nervously in your hand and mutters, “you gonna hand that thing to me, or what?” The lady’s been nominated for 5 Oscars so far and won best Supporting Actress for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. She won an Oscar for playing a multi-Oscar winner; so, she’s basically not fucking around in the slightest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a ‘bad’ performance.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Like, do you remember that one scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo shows Cate Blanchett the ring (and, yes, I’m mixing actor and character names: welcome to the Octagon) and Cate Blanchett gets all goggly-eyed and glowing and CGI? Okay, that’s basically Cate Blanchett in this movie. That level of intensity, that level of bone-deep wackadoo, for two hours straight. If it were almost any other actress, it would probably be terrible. But it’s Cate Blanchett, so it’s not.

Jasmine spends the entire length of the movie in a delusion: that she is doing fine and everything is going to be fine and that she doesn’t need to deal with all the fucked up stuff in her past because tomorrow is a brighter day. However, it is very clear that everything is not fine. She’s a middle-aged woman, newly poor, who has no discernible skills and whose refusal to reckon with her role in causing a great many people a great deal of pain is going to catch up to her sooner rather than later. And it is this tension, between Jasmine’s fantasy and the world’s reality that makes up the fulcrum of Blanchett’s performance. It’s like watching someone at a fancy party who really, really needs to pee but keeps pretending like they don’t, that they can hold it in, until eventually their bladder gives way and they just piss all over themselves. Except, instead of urine it’s, like, emotions and stuff.

And it’s fucking awesome. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar.

Nailed

Good job, Cate.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins

Maybe five of you might remember Hawkins from the film Happy Go Lucky wherein she played a woman named Poppy whose outlook on life was, wouldn’t cha know it, happy go lucky. That she managed to make this woman complex, sympathetic and actually quite admirable is a testament to her skill. As the uber-sane ying to Blanchett’s bats hit-crazy yang, she’s wonderful.

But honestly, the most important thing she has going for her is this: she’s playing a supporting female character in a prestige Woody Allen film. Because when it comes to getting Oscar noms (and wins) for the best actress in a supporting role category, Woody Allen is basically Orson Welles. Dianne Wiest won twice, for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway; Mira sorvino won for Mighty Aphrodite; and Penelope Cruz won for Vicky, Christina Barcelona. For a male writer/director, especially one who is pretty much confirmed as kind of a crepp (as will happen if you marry your own stepdaughter and are NOT a character from a soap opera) the guy has a knack and, more importantly, a rep for writing good female roles that win Oscars.

I would say that Hawkins stands a very good chance at being nominated, if not outright winning.

Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Dice Clay

Oh man, do the Oscar voters ever love a comeback story. See: Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children, Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls, Thomas Hayden Church for Sideways and, of course, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. (That last one is also attributed to The Wrinkled Fuckers’ love of blackface.) For those of you who have never watched VH1 (which should really change its name to The History Channel: Pop Culture and then eventually start doing shows about whether or not aliens were responsible for Robert Smith) Andrew Dice Clay was one of the biggest stand ups in the world back in the 80s. Motherfucker sold out Madison Square Garden. And he did it with material such as the following.

(Please image this as read by Morgan Freeman)

Hickory Dickory Dock
This bitch was sucking my kawk
The clock struck two,
I dropped my Goo
And dumped the bitch down the block.

Yeah, Jerry Seinfeld he weren’t. Thankfully, the gods of fate saw fit to serve Mr. Dice Clay and his “He Man Woman Haters Club” brand of misogyny his cosmic comeuppance. The guy hasn’t been in the public eye really for the past 20 years. The world moved on, Murphy Brown and Ally McBeal and Liz Lemon all happened, and the world was better for it.

Alec Baldwin remembers him...he's just not sure from where.

Alec Baldwin remembers him…he’s just not sure from where.

It’s hard not to bring all of this to bear when watching Dice Clay’s performance as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband and all-around big lug. Dice Clay comes off as a man’s man who has been chastened by the world. Augie and Ginger’s marriage was wrecked by their investing a lottery-winnings windfall in one of Hal’s illusory funds. He’s your classic coulda-been-a-contender who’s given up dreaming big and now just tries to get by. And you know what? Andrew Dice Clay is good. Augie’s exaggerated guido mannerisms all recall Dice Clay at his most horrifically ascendant, but here they are softened. He comes off not as a monster, but a relic. He’s the hardworking blue collar American guy who’s one big mistake was getting involved with those vampire squids of Wall Street. After disappearing during the film’s second half, Augie reappears for a single, critical scene, a puffy pompadoured Deus Ex Machina who appears out of nowhere to (unknowingly) rip up Jasmine’s happy little future like a pig rooting through the dirt for truffles. Honestly, it’s a moment of class warfare on the part of Allen, and executed perfectly by Dice Clay that is incredibly, viscerally satisfying.

Right now I think he’s…not a longshot, but not a lock either. Dice Clay doesn’t have the talent to pull off a comeback quite the same way that mickey Rourke did after The Wrestler, that’s apparent in the movie. But in these early Oscar days, his hat is firmly in the ring.

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen

This is category that favors dialogue over plot structure. For instance, Gravity, which I will spill countless words over into the endless vacuum that is space the Internet has very (very) so-so dialogue but is actually very well structured. It probably won’t get nominated. Blue Jasmine on the other hand is not a tightly-plotted script but on a line to line level is, well, it’s Woody Allen movie. The man knows his way around words, and more specifically, the way that highly-neurotic people wrap words around themselves like a dolphin drowning in tuna nets. Whether or not you prize plot over dialogue, the Academy…hold up, I’m not going to refer to them as “The Academy” cuz that makes them seem like, oh, I don’t know, worthy of our respect, which is not so. They’re voting on “Best Movie” not “Best Cure For Cancer”. (Oddly enough, the winner in that category is actually “prayer,” but only if you’re a practicing Satanist.) I’m not going to call these people “The Academy.” I am instead going to refer to them solely as what they really are. I’m going to call them “The Wrinkled Fuckers.” Let’s start this sentence again…whether or not you prize dialogue over plotting. The Wrinkled Fuckers prefer a screenplay with lots of shiny words. Deal with it. And boy do they love Woody Allen, who polishes his words like a 12-year-old boy polishes his…bald statuette. Allen has already won Best Original Screenplay 3 previous times, for Midnight in ParisHannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. Dude’s got cred. He’s getting the nom (nom nom).

Best Director: Woody Allen

Allen’s strengths as a screenwriter (he makes movies where people talk at each other and that’s usually about it) are his weaknesses as a director, at least Oscar-wide. In this category, I don’t think that the Wrinkled Fuckers are smoking what Mr. Allen is growing.

Nah, son.

Best Picture: Blue Jasmine

It’s written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett AND there can be up to 10 nominees? If the answer to this question were a 70’s prog rock band it would definitely be…

YES

Mr. Samuel L. Jackson doesn't much appreciate the Oscars

Mr. Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t much appreciate the Oscars

Well, the time has come. It seems as though life has caught up to me and is holding me at gunpoint in an old dam water run-off pipe. I keep yelling at it, “I need more time” and it responds in a Tommy Lee Jones Gravel Growl (TM), “I don’t care”. The only way to go is down, over the edge of the water fall and plunge deep into the reservoir below so that I can find out who killed my wife and framed me. Well, this man, Alex Huntsberger, is my waterfall to escape from the TLJ of my stupid life. You know ‘Life’, that old crotchety bastard, cobbled together from pieces of ‘career’ and ‘a girlfriend’ and ‘obligations’ and ‘eating not-trash’, prepared to stop me from doing exactly what I want and when I want. That asshole.

So, in an effort to expand the scope of this little blog, I have invited friends in to add tidbits of delight in all the areas far from my grasp. You might remember Mr. Huntsy as the man who touched his nipples while singing ‘Money, Money’ during our Abduction Whine and Cheese. Or perhaps as the fellow who defended Ryan Murphy’s insane attempt at creating something not-terrible by way of Dylan McDermott’s deflating career (American Horror Story). From now on, among other things, he will be this site’s major Oscars contributor by way of our nubile addition to this online literary repertoire. So, while the year winds to a close and all the studios start pumping out their attempts at statuette glory, Mr. Alex will scour, scrub and desalinate these puppies, stewing them down to their Oscar glory-essence. Five actresses enter the Huntsy-Dome; one best actress leaves. For she is the best. She has brutalized Meryl Streep; broken Kate Winslet and her boobs; and devoured the final sliver of Julia Robert’s non-cyborg components. So, remember, when you watch that self-aggrandizing fellatious shit storm of an awards show and you see Cate Blanchett drenched in the life blood of Sandra Bullock and Judi Dench, sporting a cold hearted grimace robbed of its final ounce of humanity, you’ll know why.

So, without further ado, let’s get on to the Huntsy-Dome…

Quills (2000) – Philip Kaufman (Dir.), Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine, Joaquin Phoenix

and

Mystery Men (1999) – Kinka Usher (Dir.), Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Reubens, Claire Forlani, Tom Waits, Eddie Izzard

"Girl With the Pearl Earring" this is not.

“Girl With the Pearl Earring” this is not.

Welcome back, y’all! Some of you might remember, but most of you won’t…in fact I’ll be amazed if you do, but my girlfriend and I began a new film watching club back in the day. The concept was that she would show me a movie I’d never seen and I’d show her something new in return. A “I’ll show you Geoffrey Rush’s peen, if you show me more G-Rush dick” situation, if you will. Due to our inescapable penchant for PTOFing like champions during even the most exciting of films, we named this little group the Narcoleptic Society of Film Watchers…or NSFW for short. Our first outing was a leap into Some Like it Hot and Die Hard. This time, however, the lady Vanderbilt took the reigns and got me to sit down and watch Quills with three words with such gravitas that they have their own solar system: Geoffrey Rush’s Penis. Well, what do more do you need? If one could only review movies based on the presence of aged thespian peen, I would. That’s the only reason I went to see McKellan’s Lear (fun fact: that man is PACKING. They had to give a disclaimer to the audience “First three rows will get wet”. No joke). Well, there was some mention of Kate Winslet’s boobs, but, I mean, when has Kate Winslet not shown her boobs? A movie with Ms. Winslet but without nip as like a one-handed clap, or a tree falling in an empty forest, or McKellan’s 16-foot trouser snake without a salivating audience.

Before we get into the article proper, yes, this article’s title is massively misleading. Much like Quills. Ever since I was a wee theatre major (yes, that’s ‘re’ not ‘er’ because I need to hold onto my dissolving dream of theatrical pretension with the last ounces of rigor mortis left in that corpse of a career-future), I had heard tell of the infamous Quills. It is, of course, the tale of the Marquis De Sade, France’s dirtiest, most outspoken bastard until Nicolas Sarkozy took office. The Marquis, after hopping from prison to prison, was famous for his sexual deviancy and obsession with scatological pursuits. Eventually, he was committed to the Charenton mental asylum…which is odd to me because, in France, I assumed obscene sexual deviancy was synonymous with ‘breakfast’. But I suppose he violated one sensibility too many. Quills is the utterly fictionalized and not-nearly-as-dirty-as-it-thinks-it-is film charting the last days of the loony libertine portrayed by an unbelievably extraordinary G-Rush. After the Marquis manages to sneak out a particularly grotesque tale of female pleasure, innocuously entitled Justine, France’s most eponymously complex monarch, Napoleon, sends Austin Power’s father (Michael “My name is Michael Caine” Caine) to sort the man out. Armed with torture devices and a rather posh top-hat, Caine takes over the asylum currently run by softy mc-loves-a-lot Joaquin “I Used to Be a Decent Actor” Phoenix. De Sade apparently is allergic to not being published (I know his pain) and goes to every length to set his sullied thoughts on the page…or on his bed sheets, or clothing, or walls… Eventually, you guessed it, he bites it. Literally. But you have to see the movie to know why that’s funny.

No, this doesn't end in an orgy. And for that, I am upset.

It’s like if the Mad Hatter was a dildo specialist.

Now, My thespian cohorts in college told me myths about this movie, larger-than-life fables charting the horrifyingly subversive insanity of this iconic shit-shoveler. This included, but was not limited to: anal sex, flopping dongs, boobies everywhere, Michael Caine, feces…and, well, lots and lots of feces. Thusly, when I sat down with my girlfriend to drink in these horrifying extremities, I was sorely disappointed. I mean, readying for this review, I charted my mental thesaurus for as many fecal references as I could muster…and trust me, I came up with some good ones…only to have my dreams dashed by cinematic prudishness. Poop? You say your movie has poop? IT’S IN ONE SCENE. THAT’S IT! AND IT’S ONLY ON THE WALLS! Guys, I’ve hung out with two-year-olds. Poop-covered walls is bush league. When I see a grown many urinate into his own mouth, I might wince…might. You say this man is sexually deviant? The most grotesque act in this film is watching a 17 year old bride wipe her mouth after performing an off-screen blow job. Where are the threesomes? The S&M? The awkward, wig-based cosplay (which, back then, was known as ‘sex’)?

"Is it me, or can you smell someone who is going to destroy their career with a mis-informed documentary by Casey Affleck?" ~ Winslet, shockingly prescient.

“Is it me, or can you smell someone who is going to destroy their career with a mis-informed documentary by Casey Affleck?” ~ Winslet, shockingly prescient.

This dashing of expectation was only the beginning. Mr. Philip Kaufman, the film’s director, worked from a script by Doug Wright, a writer who is a subtle as he is a fucking mongoose. In fact, he is more of a mongoose than subtle because mongoose (mongeese? Mongooses?) are shockingly apt at dredging up crap. It is a testament to Mr. Rush’s impressively seasoned chops (category: metaphors that work for actors and sides of pork) that he can carry off a role of such rikonkulous flamboyance with even a modicum of believability. I think at one point he screeches ‘MY CONSTANT ERECTION!’ Oh yes? If it’s so fucking ‘constant’ why didn’t we see some erect Rush peen instead of a sad and cold flaccid thespenis? Unfortunately, none of this movie is actually as good as it thinks it is. Kaufman channels every director he can get his hands on to emulate any chance of bringing home a golden statuette. We have impressionistic matte sunsets falsely framing the few panoramas we’re offered, ala Polanski circa 1975. We have the natural lighting of Milos Forman’s excessively superior Amadeus attempting to give the world an ’19th Century feel’. We even have Kate Winslet’s boobs (ala Cameron, Eyre, Field, Lee, well, let’s be honest, everyone). However, this is a tale you have seen perhaps more often than a pair of Winslet nips (okay, I’ll stop, I promise). We have the inmate fighting against the system and the system fighting back. In the end he wins but dies, driving his captors to madness or self-reflection. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s basically One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but with more hairpieces and mentions of labia.

It's as though everyone was given the direction to think about Geoffrey Rush's penis.

It’s as though everyone was given the direction to think about Geoffrey Rush’s penis.

Well, with such a disappointment under our belts, we followed up with a movie synonymous with “career-crushing flops”. With the help of Netflix’s insufferably upbeat and loquacious Siri rip-off, ‘Max’, we were offered Ben Stiller’s pre-Zoolander, post-There’s Something About Mary parody of superhero flicks, Mystery Men. What we discovered was one of the most nonsensical, bizarre, flamboyant, eerily prescient and absurdly esoteric movies I’ve ever fucking seen. I mean, what the hell? I sat on the couch, agog, witnessing this glorious mess of a shit storm. Mystery Men tells the story of three completely incompetent ‘superheroes’, Stiller’s ‘Mr. Furious’ with the power to get really mad; Macy’s ‘The Shoveler’, a man with exceptional abilities in the realm of moving dirt from place to place; and Hank Azaria’s bemusing ‘Blue Raja’, a pseudo-Indian, British-accented man who flings silverware. These three attempt to foil crimes in the shadow of Greg Kinnear’s unstoppable Captain Amazing, a Superman send-up decked out with endorsements and, like a groom’s penis on wedding night, the crushing need to perform. Bored with the paucity of adversarial quality, Amazing frees Geoffrey Rush from an asylum…and his name? CASANOVA FRANKENSTEIN. I shit you not. That is his actual name. Rush struts onto screen, decked in the finest disco-era nonsense, a sharpened pinky knife, and an accent that would make Bram Stoker’s Dracula blush. Within minutes of release, he goes about blowing up buildings and capturing Captain Amazing. It is up to the Mystery Men to save the man and the city. Along the way, they pick up Janeane Garofalo as a hipster girl equipped with a haunted bowling ball; a native American man called the Sphinx who only speaks in mantras; Pee Wee Herman as The Spleen, a man capable to knocking out even the most constitutional of stomachs with a carefully fired fart; and the Invisible Boy (Kel from Keenan et al) who has the ability to turn invisible only if nobody is looking at him.

"When I make this face, the ladies know I'm going to write on the walls in poop." ~ G-Rush is totes method.

“When I make this face, the ladies know I’m going to write on the walls in poop.” ~ G-Rush is totes method.

What seemed like it was going to be a nonsense romp through a slew of outdated references, proved to be something far more incredible. It seems as though Mystery Men was released a decade too soon. With the prevalence of superhero movies saturating the market, now would be the perfect time to lampoon the il-logic of these mega-blockbusters. Right now, all we get to rely on are the misfortunate slew of Kick-Ass movies. Usher’s film attacks specifically Schumacher’s Batman movies, mimicking camera moves, shots, lighting and going so far as to even film on some of Batman Forever’s sets. The satire is so perfectly crafted that it would be easy to mistake it for incompetence. And don’t get me wrong, this movie is largely incompetent. Usher seems to have stumbled onto genius by accident. I mean, what intellectual merit can a movie aspire to with a scene where a skunk humps the leg of a man who’s magical power is flatulence? Based on a Dark Horse comic, there is a good chance that the truly subversive aspects of the script are due to the source material. Firstly, H. Macy’s family is black. When was the last time you saw a biracial family in a movie? Think about it! On top of that, the entire inciting incident comes about due to pressure to provide companies with advertising opportunities. How can you not see the link between this movie and the questionable morals of the news media conglomerates, idiots subsisting on the constant flow of international tragedy for ratings? Without even trying, this movie has made the same thematic point as The Dark Knight without even trying…heroes create their own villains.

Ultimately, after Tom Waits shows up with an arsenal of non-lethal weaponry, Greg Kinnear turns into a human representation of an Munch painting, and Eddie Izzard attacks Garofalo with self-igniting hair spray, we are left with a tale of outsiders and underdogs fighting the status quo and succeeding despite themselves. There are references upon references upon references, some obvious (Captain Amazing’s alter ego hides behind glasses a la Superman) to the utterly bemusing (Garofalo makes fun of how William Shatner once argued with a director about the way he says ‘sabotage’…WTF?)  Granted, this thing is horribly made. If I had a seizure for every time there was a close up with a fish-eye lens…oh wait, I did. Now I’m dead. Seriously, though. As Mel Brooks once said, “comedy is tragedy in a long shot”. There is precisely ONE long shot in the entire film. Guess what? It’s the best joke in the movie. The rest of it is an exercise in nausea and chromatic dissidence. And not in a fun way. It’s like a one-eye trip through a Rob Zombie fun-house. But with more neon.

There is no caption necessary for this picture. Just drink it in. DRINK IT.

There is no caption necessary for this picture. Just drink it in. DRINK IT.

So, where are the connections between these two bizarre little ditties of cinema? Well, Geoffrey Rush and his member aside, it’s really about the expectation of subversion. Quills set out to be an Oscar movie. It has every ingredient: a tour de force performance by an old white man, Kate Winslet, Kate Winslet’s boobs (okay, okay, one more), fighting the system, accents, wigs, shocking material handled ‘tastefully’, biography etcetera ad infinitum. Unfortunately, the parts surpass the quality of the whole; what could have been a truly eye-opening examination of deviant sexuality and its relationship to literature turns into a dandy of a smut-fest with extremely problematic examples of mental health issues. On the other hand, Mystery Men is the strangest cobbling together of disparate elements that somehow coalesce into a mild stroke of brilliance. Rush’s ridiculous Casanova Frankenstein is perhaps the most hilarious of all his characters and a damn-side more devious than De Sade. What’s more terrifying? A French author with slightly distressed views on ink quality, or an insane madman with a sharpened pinky knife and an obsession with disco. I think we can all agree that The Beegees trump all things in the ‘horror’ department.

I will leave off with a final thought: originally I was going to link Quills to Children of Men, a movie known for its graphic violence and bleak views of humanity. In the UK, Children of Men is the equivalent of an ‘R’ rating, soaked in blood and swearing. On the other hand, Quills, with its tepid showings of actor schlong, is rated ‘X’. What is so horrifying about penises that even the presence of a flaccid dong is considered an unviewable travesty? I think this video says it all.

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, the infinite abyss of deep space, Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice in the back of my head going “Na-uh, not how it works”

Either that's Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

Either that’s Sandra Bullock falling into the infinite darkness of space, or someone who just did a sick break dancing move in zero G.

There is a place in Chicago. It is a dark place, its covert shadow hidden behind the facade of infinite twinkling lights and signs for Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. A world, a candyland, if you will, of actual candy and misappropriated dreams. It is, at once, a monument to a crowning achievement of civic engineering and, at second, a cesspool of fantastical nonsense. Yes, I talk of course about Chicago’s Navy Pier. It’s neither navy, and it barely gets under the rope of the definition of ‘pier’ but, this hellscape of a tourist trap is the location of the city’s only IMAX theater. The pilgrimage to this end of the universe, this Harry Carray-infested ring of the Inferno, is an ordeal both annoying and existentially testing for any who are willing to endure it. How much do you really need to see Gravity in IMAX 3D BS OMFG HPV ASAP? As much as you needed to see those three scenes from Iron Man 3 that are actually appropriate for a massive fucking screen? Hmmm?

Well, the lady Coleman and I braved the thronging masses of cheapened Chicagoan touchstones as we traipsed into the massive undulating snake tail that is the line into the IMAX theater. To call it insanity is doing a disservice to the mentally ill. It is putrid humanity at worst. And, because this place is run by the version of Schrodinger’s cat that was poisoned in that box and then clawed its way out by way of sheer will and a heart of throbbing evil, one cannot get both snacks AND a movie, seeing as the lines for both are a MILLION MILES LONG. So choose! Would you like sustenance but miss the first fifteen minutes of film? Or do you want a movie while sustaining a mouth drier than the Sahara in a drought? Choose ye and despair!

Erin and I chose the second option. And we were not disappointed. A little parched, but not disappointed.

For all my bellyaching, the concept of this IMAX in 3-Dimensions nonsense has probably saved the theatrical experience from itself. Too often, as technology makes a product more easily accessible, the industry that this practice hurts usually stamps its feet, gnashes its teeth, and holds its breath. However, eventually, people innovate or die. It’s a simple law of the universe. IMAX is an experience one cannot see anywhere other than those monstrosity orbs latched onto museums and theme parks like benign civic tumors. But, lordy, are they incredible. Assigned seating. No bathroom breaks. It’s like going back to school. However, the magic of IMAX is, if done correctly, you can truly be transported. Until this point in my life, I’ve never fully understood what this means, what with the meager offerings of The Dark Knight’s specially filmed scenes or the five minutes of Iron Man 3 that weren’t shot in extreme close-up on RDJ’s beard (don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine beard, but it’s not going to win the mantel of PORE-COUNTING: THE MOVIE aka Les Miserables)…that was, until I saw Gravity.

"Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother." ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

“Hey, all these screws remind me of your mother.” ~ George Clooney will never not be George Clooney

Mr. Alfonso “One Take” Cuaron, otherwise known as Mr. Children of Men, perhaps my favorite film of all fucking time, or as Mr. “The Guy that Destroyed Harry Potter 3”, as that one girl furiously stated on Facebook when Prisoner of Azkaban was released  is one of those bastards audacious enough to have taste and to encourage artistic merit even in his movies about fictitious wizards. What a piece of smegma. Well, after taking a break from, well, the universe, Mr. Cuaron has returned to the screen with his development-hell tale hanging in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Gravity is pretty simple. Sandra Bullock is a medical doctor inexplicably working on the Hubble Telescope, cracking jokes with George “He’s Never Not George Clooney” Clooney as a veteran NASA space-man. During a routine upgrade, the Russians blow up a satellite which then causes a barrage of 20,000 mile an hour debris to shred them like one ply toilet paper. From there, the script takes the hero’s journey in its elemental form: get from A to B to C. I’m talking physically. The script is basically a set of celestial GPS directions. And that’s just fine.

There are few things that have to be acknowledged with Mr. Cuaron’s achievement here, because it is an achievement of almost every kind. First and foremost: technical. I don’t know the name of his cinematographer, but the man must have been touched by god in the womb. This guy is the Jesus of the long-take. Cuaron approaches him being like, “Yo, I have like four shots…” and this guy shakes his head and, like water into wine, is like, “Nah, son. ONE shot.” I think you can count the number of shot breaks in Gravity on one hand. And, while in Children of Men this was more a gimmick, a penis-showing contest, if you will, in Gravity it is nothing but seamless. I completely forgot that the camera hadn’t broken from its subject after a while. Granted, with this thing showing more CGI than a George Lucas Weight Loss Convention, it might be considered a dubious honor. There is no question that Cuaron has crafted something harrowing, intense and all-consuming. In the few moments of breath Ms. Bullock takes before leaping into yet another Zero-G Shit Fest (note to self: open club called Zero-G Shit Fest), we too are forced to come up for air if only momentarily before being dragged into the emotional maelstrom on display. For the length of the film’s 90 minutes I never once tore my eyes from the screen. Such an act would be one of sacrilege, an affront of the gods of cinematography. You might miss a panoramic view of the Earth’s surface at sunrise, or Ms. Bullock sucking down the last of her oxygen while escaping the current of her suffocating panic attack. If seen in the right way, you won’t be able to look away. In this day and age, that demands an award of the highest order.

"Hey George, George, hey George...wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? ...George?" ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

“Hey George, George, hey George…wanna see my Mission: Impossible impression? George? …George?” ~ an awkward moment of realization for Ms. Bullock.

Though, with any experiment in technicality (because, let’s be real, that’s what this is) there are some drawbacks. Through Cuaron’s constant employment of POV and the excessive prevalence of CGI the action looks more of a video game than anything else. This is a meager complaint because that comment usually means that the movie is about as exciting as watching your 12 year old cousin play Call of Duty for about 10 hours straight. Here, the opposite is true. In fact, it seems as though Cuaron has finally realized the mecca of video-game cut scene excitement that all Call of Duty games reach for. Unfortunately, those network-connected plebs (read: most males between 18 and 30) are too locked into a video game to come and see this exercise in zero-G storytelling. The other drawbacks are that of character and literary theme. When most of the movie is people screaming and begging for lives versus nature, there’s little room for nuance. Granted we get snippets of backstory for both Clooney and Bullock…but who gives a shit? Other than one fascinating comment from Bullock about her daughter, their characterization is a futile experiment. Most of the dialogue is directional and plainly objective. Any subtext is fairly useless when the ISS is exploding behind you.

Between the eruptions and the tension, there are some clever strings being pulled. Cuaron is a smart man, smart enough to make a movie about a lack of child birth into something about hope for a dying future. This movie plays with a few themes in a subtle manner. Firstly: nature vs. humanity. It’s clear from the opening credits that space is uninhabitable. It seems as though Cuaron intends to encourage humanity to keep its feet firmly on the ground. Though it is called “Gravity“, that character never makes an appearance. It is the Godot to Bullock and Clooney’s Didi and Gogo. They beg for it to be there and yet it isn’t. Cuaron is careful that very little of this movie, in space terms, is extraordinary. The events of the catastrophe come from nothing more than routine work. Even when the missile strike is discussed over the radio, Housten is barely worried. The entire movie is an example of how deadly the universe is when humans are stripped of their basic assumptions namely: gravity, oxygen and heat. I mean, it seems obvious, but with movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek purveying absurd inaccuracies about the very nature of space travel, it’s refreshing to see a genre dragged back to its roots. Unfortunately, for the most part it’s a one trick pony, unlike its brilliantly bizarre and superior predecessor 2001: A Space Odyssey (SPOILERS: George Clooney is the massive space baby). It’s interesting to note that it’s a sad day for NASA when movie makers need to historicize a fictitious event that had to happen in the PAST when concerning SPACE TRAVEL. That’s right, since the shutdown of the space shuttle program, this movie is impossible. What the Carl Sagan fuck, guys?

In space, it's all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed my a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she's the strongest member of the 'SPEED' cast the world' ever known.

In space, it’s all a mater of perspective. Here it looks like Sandra Bullock is about to be crushed by a fucking space station. BUT if you turn your head, she’s the strongest member of the ‘SPEED’ cast the world’s ever known.

Cuaron carefully plays with both space and time (no joke intended – okay, fine, there was a joke but I was too lazy to make it. DEAL WITH IT). Firstly, though space is infinite, I’ve never felt so claustrophobic. Both he and his cinematographer are obsessed with examining the beauty of the cosmos…but that beauty is a distant creature. All they have in the meantime is the vacuum of nothingness. Every vessel they visit is the size of a boarding school bathroom stall, barely enough room to fit two children, even if one of them has their head in a toilet, and that kid is totally not me, I’m just using a hypothetical situation to prove a point and I certainly don’t still have a debilitating fear of clockwise rotating water. All things taken for granted on earth (100 meters, fire, momentum, etc.) are a mess in space. Seeing Bullock and Clooney handle each challenge moment to moment is thrilling and, somehow, never hits the point of diminishing returns. Even that video-game-esque excitement of the POV shots adds to the crushing sense of closeness, our protagonists’ faces always reflected on the meager barrier between them and the obliterative death of deep space. Likewise, time takes on a new meaning out in the black. You are constantly aware of the debris barrage coming every 90 minutes, though each second seems an eternity. There is a moment when Bullock reaches safety for the first time and removes her suit, she lies, floating in the airlock, like a baby in the womb, curled tightly into a fetal position. The seconds tick away and she doesn’t move an inch. It is not only a powerful moment of relief, it’s also a transformation where, for the first time, we see her as a fully-fledged and vulnerable human being.

From here on…there be SPOILERS. Beware…

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don't like it, you're an IDIOT.

Most of the movie is Sandra Bullock grabbing things. If you don’t like it, you’re an IDIOT.

This, as with Children of Men, is a story about hope. It’s the tale of a person facing insurmountable and deadly odds, one that will not only kill but utterly dehumanize before the end. It’s about people seeing the end of their fate and deciding to press on into the darkness. In CoM, because, yes that movie is so essential to society that it requires an abbreviation, we see Clive Owen beaten, slammed, shot, tortured, chased, and generally emotionally mutilated, all in service of saving the first child born in 20 something years. Gravity plays with similar themes though reduced like a fine sauce to a simmering and simple delicacy. The is no need to save earth, it’s just a tale of survival. For the length of the movie I expected Bullock to bite the proverbial space dust. However, she persists, hallucinating her way into action and doing the impossible to find her way back to Earth. Every inch of the way, your heart is hurting for this poor woman as she has to go through catastrophe after catastrophe all of it caused by a routine satellite SNAFU. Cuaron makes an interesting point of highlighting the deadliness of the mundane especially in Bullock’s story about her daughters death (hackneyed choice, b-tee-dubs, guys, but I’ll let it slide. The script isn’t exactly the work of a master. “GRAB ONTO SOMETHING, ANYTHING!” is just a teensy bit short of Shakespeare. But whatevs) she discusses that her kid tripped while playing, hit her head and died. Nothing more to it. It’s that spark of the minor devastations that drives this tale to its optimistic end. But while my heart yearned for her to survive, my mind begged this movie to be slightly more complex. It’s not. There was something chilly to the ending of Liam Neeson tour-de-wolf-punching-force The Grey (both literally and figuratively), where it becomes apparent that the film following the survivors of a plane crash in Alaska slowly succumb to the elements until they’re left as frozen meat-cicles. I hoped for a similar end to Gravity. Perhaps something mildly ambiguous…not Sandra Bullock standing in red mud while the orchestra climaxes (both literally and figuratively).

The only actual complaint I could have about Children of Men is the ending. The same is mostly true of Gravity. You beg them to survive, you pray and hope and clench and hold your breath and then…when they do, you find yourself lacking. We, the audience, are children screaming for a big-kid meal…but when we get it, we’re disappointed, unaware that we didn’t actually want a positive ending at all. It’s beautiful to think there is an intelligent artist doing good work in the horrifically existentially disemboweling creature that is Hollywood, pumping out tales of unfettered hope. I guess…I don’t want that. I wanted Sandra Bullock to die. And this is the first time in like two years that I wanted it to happen for a reason other than because she won the Oscar for The Blind Side. I wanted this to be about man’s folly in confronting nature, just like I did with Sunshine. But then people win against nature and, once more, it transforms a harrowing tale into one of a power fantasy. Where’s the ‘cautionary’ in the cautionary tale? Le sigh.

*SPOILERS OVER*

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I've ever seen.

Either Ms. Bullock is drifting into the abyss or this is the laziest Muse album cover I’ve ever seen.

In the end, sci-fi is a limping, damaged filmic genre. These days people are more content to settle for nonsense like Star Trek Into Darkness and everything to come out of the penis that spawned Transformers and Battleship. It’s refreshing to see something different, something challenging. Should it win Oscars? Maybe for technical achievements. Anything else? Not in my humble (read: not humble in the slightest) opinion. Remember Avatar? No? Good. This is a piece of technical brilliance with a thematically cogent tale laid over the top, like flesh over the metal innards of the Terminator. In a few years, these tricks and techniques will be old. Watch Avatar again and yawn. Why? Because it’s fucking stupid. The magic of newness died long ago. It’s amusing to read Neil Degrasse Tyson’s comments about the factual inaccuracies of this movie. A fire extinguisher will not propel you in a direction while in a vacuum. Why? Because science. Maybe, hopefully, one day this movie will simply be an artifact of past ignorance. Future children (new band name!) will view this on a zero-G hologram computer and laugh, much like I giggle my ass off at Bullock’s absurd indictment of the Internet in 1995’s The NetUntil that point, well done, Cuaron. You are still one of the most talented and interesting directors out there. And I love you.

Wait. Ignore that last part. I don’t want it to be creepy.