Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Withnail and I (1987) – Bruce Robinson (Dir.), Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths, Ralph Brown

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It looks like this was illustrated by some being held in Buffalo Bill’s pit while being screamed at about lotion.

Like a good boy who sets out to do wonderful things, I sometimes get sidetracked. When I began this blog all those one and a half years ago, I set out to educate my decomposing brain with some of the finer offerings of Netflix’s vast and abyssal cinematic catalogue. But, like Eve, the serpent of blockbuster idiotic chicanery led me astray and into the infinite stupidity that results from an overdose of Michael Bay (bayism affects millions of Americans every year a Transformers movie is released). Now I’m back! I have decided to dive into my bowl of dusty, two-year-old notecards emblazoned with the titles of mild masterpieces. Yes! Netflix Roulette is back! And unlike Anne Heche’s sexuality, it’s for good this time! (Wow, that joke is so old, it had to replace its hip before getting to the punchline). So, this Friday, after booking out a modest modicum of time to engorge on a randomly selected movie, I attempted the game once more. Unfortunately, I’d had a work event only an hour before. Pro-tip: if you are ever invited to a thing called a “Cocktail Challenge” and you haven’t eaten all day, please do not cook mac and cheese naked. Cheese is sticky. You will regret it.

Well, after riding the drunk train to Inebriation Station, I shoved my grubby paw into the bowl and drew out this little ditty of a cult English classic. It seemed as though the planets had aligned! The gods had spoken! How perfectly appropriate for my return to the game! With enough bloody alcohol coursing through my veins to get a vampire trashed, how apt was it for me to draw out a movie about the youthful generation drinking itself into oblivion? It was a sign from god that the game was afoot. The time was now. The mantle of my magnificence, the charge to bring enlightenment to the masses, the holy mission I’d been afforded was ready to be thrust back into the limelight. I had to, nay, it was essential for me to watch this movie. Right then. Right there. And so, sticky with mac and cheese, a glass of wine in hand, I sat down for this movie. I was on a mission from the universe.

And then I passed out.

"We have come to dine on your soul!" ~ Richard E. "KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!" Grant.

“We have come to dine on your soul!” ~ Richard E. “KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!” Grant.

I wasn’t deterred, however. The next night, armed with a bottle of wine and an inflated sense of grandiosity, I bounded forth into the wilds of the Lake District with the titular Withnail and I. This is a movie that lives in infamy throughout UK college dorms. To the young, it is a celebration of pointlessness, the hilarious revelry of the drunken class, a rallying point for the needlessly defiant soon-to-be-middle-income-households. To the old, it is a cautionary tale of two idiots unworthy of their admission to the citizenry of the human race. Withnail and the enigmatically eponymous ‘I’ (supposedly named Marwood at one point, though it really doesn’t matter) are two young, struggling actors portrayed by, at the time, two young, struggling actors. You might recognize one of them as the bad guy from the last season of Doctor Who (Richard E. “e. cummings” Grant) and one you definitely won’t recognize from that Doctor Who movie they made in the late nineties to try to encourage viewership in the US…nor will you recognize him from Alien 3 because NOBODY is recognizable from that movie, nor will you recognize him from Queen of the Damned because, seriously, who even saw that? (Paul “Smiley” McGann). These boys are drunks of the highest order. No joke…in that it totally is a joke peppered throughout this exercise in agony called a young-man’s unflattering self-portrait. There is a point, early on, where Withnail (pronounced ‘Withnall’ because the Brits truly know how to pronounce things in a sensible fashion such as “the River Temms”, “Edinbrah” and Worcestershire or “Wooster-sherr”) attempts drinking lighter fluid seeing as they’ve run out of wine and money.

At a loss for what they are meant to do with their lives and, more importantly, where they’re going to get their next meal from, they con Withnail’s gay and bizarre Uncle Monty (a massive and hilarious Richard “Mr. Dursley” Griffiths, RIP, sir) into lending them his Lake District cottage for a few weeks. The dynamic duo disappear into the countryside in a car equipped with a single headlight and a single windscreen wiper, to simply wait out the winter. There, they piss off poachers, pretend to be veterans and scream at raging bulls…that is until Uncle Monty joins them in order to woo the angelically framed McGann. It’s both a farce and a tragic journey, both of its heroes utterly ill-equipped for even basic living. One might expect for this to simply become a ridiculous fish-out-of-water tale, two city boys thrust out into the wilderness, unable to chop wood so they burn their furniture and completely ignorant of how to cook a live chicken…but there is something more intelligent humming below the surface. Made in 1987 but set in 1969, Withnail and I enjoys the advantage of hindsight, examining the shift in culture that was occurring at the end of the ‘Summer of Love’. Robinson, probably stealing from his own miserable youth, juxtaposes the insane self-incongruity of London living with the serenity of the countryside. While his two leads, specifically Withnail, spend 90% of the movie hammered, the cinematography constantly reminds us of the hangovers associated with such liquid mirth. Never once is this lifestyle glorified or even condoned but rather, through its bleak natural lighting and infinitely dour, cluttered mis en scene, we are reminded of the downfalls of their carefree existence. Both Withnail and I leap from frame to frame, unconcerned with where their feet will land, be it on terra firma or on the wrong side of a cliff face. However, still they carouse on, ‘I’ being the only one with enough sense to realize their Dionysian existence has an expiration date. Robinson is sure to highlight both actors’ eyes, these four irises of piercing color stolen by over-saturation. Grant’s baby blues are almost inhuman, lolling about in his skull and unable to focus longer than the lifespan of a fruit fly. Even McGann, a face stolen from a heavenly cherub, has his beauty sapped from him with the depression of their existence. There is no secret that these men are simply two wastes of being waiting to die. It’s just a question of when.

"If you mention Hogwarts again, I'll break your fucking thumbs."

“If you mention Hogwarts again, I’ll break your fucking thumbs.”

Robinson’s journey is one of subversion, but not of the type one might expect. While we live in a period of disdain for non-urbanized populations, Withnail and I is entrenched in a reactionary opposite. London, the major setting for both the beginning and end of the film, seems like a land dreamt up by the surrealistic movement. Withnail and I live in an aging townhouse, still decorated as though it once housed a duke or lady, its decor decomposed to an industrial blackness. Once they return to the countryside, it is their actions that are impossibly bizarre, not these “back-country folk”. Both men waltz about the land like beggar kings, assuming their London-ness and public schooling launches them into a position of god-like import, though they are little more than actual beggars…in that, they are actual beggars. It is only once they return to the urbanity that spawned them that the surreality enfolds the tale like a undulating liquid blanket. The final 30 minutes of the movie are dotted with bizarre breaks in normality, from a randomly screaming police officer and a washing-up liquid bottle filled with child urine, to a joint so massive it looks like a carrot and a humongous laughing black man spinning a globe and clucking. It paints the city for what it is, a nightmare and dream rolled into one, never real for long enough to lay even a tenuous grasp on one of its tendrils slinking away.

"Did you just fall from heaven? Because...have sex with me."

“Did you just fall from heaven? Because…have sex with me.”

Strangely (and by that, I mean not strangely in the slightest) my mind wandered during the film. Repeatedly, I was reminded of Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a spiritual retelling of Waiting for Godot using two of the most sidelined characters in all of Shakespeare. Stoppard melded the existential wait for God with the literary plights of two completely inconsequential roles in one of the greatest plays of all time, Hamlet. There are multiple direct references to ‘The Dane’ throughout Withnail and I, a sort of apex of high art these three losers all reach for, all unable to grasp a hold due to drunkenness or lack of attempt. Both actors stumble through the film as R&G stumble through Hamlet, the plot and scenery seemingly shifting around them while they attempt to keep their inebriated soles firmly on the ground. They are jesters of existence, two jokes who haven’t found their punchline yet. Even in the film’s climax, when ‘I’ rejects Withnail’s life of debauchery and moves on to, not grander things, but livable things, Withnail is left with an expensive bottle of red outside the Regent Park Zoo belting out a Hamletian soliloquy without an audience to listen. He is a king of a deserted kingdom, an immortal Ozymandias forced to see his universe leveled to rubble. And yet he stumbles on, disappearing into the mist. Robinson seems keenly aware of the follies of youth, unwilling to scream at the drunken louts to get their act together, but rather content with lifting the mirror just enough so that we can see the dull gleaming of a life of wastrels awaiting us in the absence of emotional growth. Seeing as there is a well-known drinking game where the contestants have to drink everything the two protagonists drink throughout the film, the message has not been heard in the University-attending public. Also, drinking everything they do will kill you. Literally.

In the end, we all have our Player Kings invading our lives and leading the way, telling us there is one path down which we must run/skip/stagger. Here it is the conspiracy-theorist, mop-haired, black-eyed drug dealer Danny. For R&G it was Richard Dreyfuss (which is terrifying in its own right). I suppose we all have a choice. We can put down the bottle, get a haircut and sprint towards possible failure, hope driving the engine that might break down at any minute; or we could belt high art to two wolves in a zoo staring on in ignorance before hobbling back into the past, bottle in hand, returning to that beast of Player King so he can keep playing us like the fiddles we are.

I don’t want to be that second one. Thank the Jesus I’m not single anymore.

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Possession (2002) – Neil LaBute (Dir.), Aaron Eckhart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Hollander, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, Queen Cersei, and some other British People.

Join us for the harrowing tale of poets and British and...(he collapses into sleep)

Join us for the harrowing tale of poets and British and…(he collapses into sleep)

Well, sometimes we decide on a movie to watch. Sometimes that movie is a turd so incapable of polishing that you soil yourself at the thought. And sometimes that movie is In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. It was my choice this time around and, after much arguing and whining, we decided that Uwe Boll’s tour de flatulence was simply too terrible for human viewing. Thusly, we were caught with a dilemma. We had the pizza. We had the people. We had the wine…well, we had way too much wine. The evening proceeded down the terrible, unending road of Flix-surfing. Every choice was an agony. Eventually, we discovered this little gem waiting at the bottom of the “Why the hell would anyone watch this movie?” pile. And, boys and girls, we were not disappointed…in that we were completely fucking disappointed. This was one of the most boring movies of all time. Starring Aaron “The Chin” Eckhart and Gwyneth “The Reason For All Evil in the Universe” Paltrow, this picture by Neil LaBute is so fucking boring that we decided to talk about something else entirely. Namely: bees. So, enjoy us being drunk and shitting on G-Palt. Because, seriously, she deserves it.

The World’s End (2013) – Edgar Wright (Dir.), Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, and everybody else ever

Has a beer every been so strong that it burns a hole in a fucking sign?

Has a beer every been so strong that it burns a hole in a fucking sign?

There are those people in high school. You know the guys. Their acne runs rampant and untamed across their goof-toothed faces, their dentures held tight with more metal than a steel mill, their hair perhaps yanked back into a slick oily ponytail, emphasizing each and every pore oozing shiny fluid in a constant stream of social awkwardness. They spend their days logging out the AV room to watch entire marathons of Tarantino films; they quote both Monty Python and Star Wars in their entireties; they own each and every one of the 151 Pokemon trading cards (NO, I REFUSE TO ACCEPT THAT THERE ARE ANY MORE THAN THAT, YOU WENCHES!). Their soporific disdain for general humanity reaches a level of sociopathy known only to the uni-bomber, thereby seemingly indicating intelligence where it might not perennially reside. They are the few. They are the brave. They are the nerds.

And I was one of them.

Now, usually, these fascinating creatures of obsessive delights and questionable hygiene tend to cultivate quality middle-management and the hellishly titled ‘IT Technician’ positions, their fetishes and dorkish fancies relegated to every other Friday night when crowded about a dimly lit Dungeon Master. But, once in a while, when the stars align just so, that bubbling and roiling pot of pop-culture primodial ooze creates something different…something genius. It was from this pit of eternal virginity and ridiculously bad Sci-Fi fan fiction that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright did crawl, two gentlemen of specific and boundless expertise. Along with their hilarious lady friend Jessica Hynes-Stevenson, they crafted perhaps the greatest and most referential sitcom of all time, Spaced. Oh 1999, a simpler time. A time of a Spice Girls movie. A time before The Phantom Menace. This trio of comedic brilliance introduced us to friends, nay, televised soulmates of all humans lucky enough to watch it, Daisy, Tim, Mike (Nick Frost), an artist who paints with his penis (Brian, oh how I love thee), a drunk land lady (Julia Deakin), a woman named ‘Twist’ and the most perfect dog ever to grace God’s green earth. (Awww, Colin). This mania of a serial nonsense, spanning references to Resident Evil, Damien Hurst, Trainspotting and an impressively long homage to Empire Strikes Back, allowed both our writer (Pegg) and our director (Wright) to cut their teeth better than a fucking orthodontic surgeon with a penchant for vampires. Eventually, once both seasons of the criminally short show (twelve episodes in all) passed the world by, their ball-blazing brilliance lost to the universe, Pegg, Frost and Wright teamed up to create the world’s first feature comedy about zombies, Shaun of the Dead.

He looks like the magician you book you your kid's birthday party and arrives with his own heroin and enough STDs to share.

He looks like the magician you book you your kid’s birthday party and arrives with his own heroin and enough STDs to share.

Since then, the Cornetto Trilogy, as it is named for their barely-edible eponymous treats omnipresent throughout all three films, has exploded into an international phenomenon. While Shaun of the Dead was a goofy musing on how the British would deal with an onslaught from the living dead (Bill Nighy says after being bitten, “Oh don’t worry, Barbara, I’ve run it under a cold tap!”), it flirted with intelligence by way of it’s exploration of adult male arrested development. Shaun is a man who must grow to fit the adult universe and leave behind his dead weight pal, the noxious and obnoxious Ed, in order to get the girl and a freaking job. Of course, as the film melts into its referential source, devolving into a mostly by-the-numbers zombie chomp fest, all of the supporting characters becoming nothing more than a human stand-ins for an oinky pal in a Luau, the comedy subsides in favor of drama and message. It’s good; it’s funny; but the men are children and the girls are women. The thesis is simple and exhaustive, rarely providing any fascinating realization. You come for the zombies; you stay for the comedy; you suffer the point.

After that, we were treated with the gut-bustingly gigglicious Hot Fuzz. Once again, it was a titter-filled juxtaposition of British mentality and quaintness against the explosive bombast and brutal violence of Michael Bay movies. Unlike Dead, which gets to the funny without delay, Hot Fuzz simmers and matures, warming its subject to a metaphorically and literally incendiary climax, fully equipped with old women getting kicked in the face, a homicidal goose, and Timothy Dalton impaling his chin on a model church steeple. Once again, you came for the laughs, you stayed for the old men pulling uzis from their bicycle baskets, you waited to get through the ‘message’. Unfortunately, Fuzz lost itself. While the buddy cop dynamic of Pegg’s impossibly competent Nick Angel and Frost’s obsessive and regressive Danny Butterman holds the focus for a majority of the runtime, its interest in adult male bonding does little to progress their already stated premise from Dead, this time the roles reversed.

"What happens in the Gents, stays in the Gents, alright?" ~ Boys, experimenting.

“What happens in the Gents, stays in the Gents, alright?” ~ Boys, experimenting.

Ah, yes, so now we come to The World’s End. It’s pretty much safe to say, this is my favorite fucking movie of the summer. There is no way I’ll accept any bullshit involving flying zombies, half-baked Men of Very Hard Things or the steaming pile of smegma that was Star Trek Into Darkness. This doesn’t just take the cake, it walks into the fucking bakery and shoves its face into every fucking cake it can find declaring, “NA NA NA NA NAH, MY CAKES, ASSHOLES“. Dear Jesus. To say I laughed would be an understatement of such absurd proportions that it is only rivaled by “This Black Death thingy. It’s bad, isn’t it?” (Don’t worry, I would have been fine. I watch House). There are lines forever more ingrained into my sorry fanboy skull (“Fuck off, you big lamp!” and “Smashy, Smashy Egg People” are going on my goddamn gravestone). It’s good. No…maybe it’s great. Now, there are people who might charge into the theater expecting some sort of comedic holy grail. You know, the perfect comedy. And those people are just as stupid as that one Nazi at the end of Last Crusade who chose poorly and turned into what we all know Sharon Stone would become once you turn off her Youth Sucking Device. You know the guy (Side note: I once had an acting class with that man, Julian Glover. He’s fucking old. He prodded me. Not in a sexual way. At least…not that I was aware. Oh god…wait…OH GOD). Now, it probably isn’t quite as testicle-tickling as the previous two installments, but what it lacks in giggle, it makes up for in messageTHAT’S RIGHT. YOU DIDN’T EXPECT THAT, YOU BASTARDS. Yes, it seems that the boys have finally grown up, put on their big-boy pants and discovered that they don’t fit anymore. The World’s End is one of the more depressing treatises on bromance I’ve witnessed in the last few years. While Judd Apatow continues to perpetuate his infinite comedic circle jerk, constantly sucking brighter stars into his celestial festival of cyclic self-abuse, Wright and Pegg use this film to ask the question: what does it mean to get stuck in the past? And how do we survive a parasitic friendship?

We have Gary King (Pegg with a dye job worse than a that old woman at the supermarket with a head of purple), the once and future, well, you get it, of his high school cronies. After an innocent inquiry from a gentleman in his support group, King decides he needs to finish a pub crawl he failed to complete back in the nubile days of yore (meaning 1992). To do so, he gathers his court of middle-aged jesters. What seems like an exercise in mild lampooning in order to up the offerings on the ‘sacrificial lamb’ menu, ultimately encourages you to actually care about these sad-sacks. Of course, there’s King, whose indefatigable abstruseness is the cause of almost everybody’s woe, as well as Frost’s recovering alcoholic, Andy. Those two are a given. Who knew that Paddy Considine (Detective Andy from Fuzz, and that guy that gets shot in the face in the third Bourne movie) would turn into the romantic lead? Also, Eddie Marsan is perhaps the most adorable dollop of corporeal pathos ever to open an account at Barclays. Even John Watson joins the fun, on break from foiling cases while Khan blows up Starfleet, to sell real estate and talk on a bluetooth.

All were shocked whenhHis 'Stop in the Name of Love' routine suddenly took a dark and homicidal turn...

All were shocked whenhHis ‘Stop in the Name of Love’ routine suddenly took a dark and homicidal turn…

Yes, we’ve all seen the trailers. The crawl quickly devolves into a eery ode to Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a peculiarly LEGO twist. While logic would dictate that those idiots should get the fuck out of the infectious town, filled with siren-spouting, hand mangling, easily-offended, unkillable blue-raspberry robots, the boys don’t. King lives up to his name, charging the gauntlet one pint at a time, his entourage doing whatever they can to drag him back to safety. It’s been six years since the Wright/Pegg/Frost band played their last gig, all of them going their own way, from duets (Pegg and Frost’s Paul) to solo pieces (Wright’s hilariously misogynistic and delightful Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), they have finally reached their acme. Pegg is on fire as King, igniting every scene like a dad covered in silly string; Frost successfully navigates the descent from depressed family man to hulking brawler; and Wright couldn’t be more on top of his game. As I once heard in a Community DVD commentary (yes, I am that fucking nerdy, alright? And yes, losing my virginity was exceedingly difficult. DEAL WITH IT), a director making a joke is like “a llama spinning a web. It’s really cool when it happens but no one expects it”. If that’s true, then Edgar Wright is the fucking Spider-Llama. Every edit is a gag. Even his mis en scene is precise and perfect enough to make Trouffaut weep with inadequacy. Together, this trio isn’t just dynamite, they’re a nuclear core of pure hilarity.

It’s a shame Ms. Hynes-Stevenson didn’t join them after her cameo in Shaun of the Dead. All of their movies suffer a distinct lack of vaginal population. It’s pretty much the boyiest clubs of boys since Boy George opened a buoy shop on Boy Bay. (They are fabulous nautical directional devices. Also terrifying and completely useless). In fact, I’m fairly sure precisely none of their movies pass the Bechdel Test. It’s a shame that boys can only talk about boys in an absence of non-penises. Le sigh.

Oh, yes, and Rosamund Pike is in this. And she kicks  a lot of Robo-booty.

Oh, yes, and Rosamund Pike is in this. And she kicks a lot of Robo-booty.

Well, while the climax, compared to Hot Fuzz, is little more than a wordy discourse basically stolen from The Day the Earth Stood Still…just with more ‘cunts’ thrown in, the magic of The World’s End is truly in the characters. It gets dark. Like really dark. Nostalgia isn’t simply a way of life for those of us too emotionally screwed up to take a leap out of the shallow end of the pool, it can be lethal. King is perhaps the most pathetic protagonist of the Wright/Pegg universe. In fact, by all definitions, he is both protagonist and antagonist, never really able to earn the title of anti-hero because there is literally nothing heroic about the man. Every choice is an extension of his brutal self-pity and solipsism, each decision dragging his friends further into the liquor-lined rings of Tartarus. Over and over we are reminded he is the King, the pointman, the Jesus to their Apostles. But King of what? His court has diminished to a band of tired middle aged John’s, none of them interested in reliving the former glory. In aging and losing the spark of youth, they’re all invited into the Collective, a world where mediocrity and homogeny aren’t simply encouraged, but essential. Wright and Pegg fear the mass of middle-aged zombism that so easily subsumes the middle class, each of their Trilogy attacking collectivism on opposing fronts. Here the assault has been perfected. The World’s End’s eventual postulation is that imperfection is human and any eradication of those mild maladies would be to fundamentally change what we are. But those errs come at a cost. And that cost is a man such as Gary King.

Finally, we have a tale of male immaturity that doesn’t simply spout, “Women are terrible and we should be able to act like a stoned bags of dicks. Just flopping about. Like a bag of dicks” (full disclosure: this is the second time I’ve incorporated the image of a bag of dicks into my work. I don’t know why. That image is just so tickling. Like…a bag of dildos…that are actually penises. I wonder if there’s a psychological meaning behind that. Huh). This is about growing up. Granted, it ensures that we know immaturity and acting like drunken louts is a cornerstone of human society, but at its core, The World’s End is a goofy cautionary tale. Growing up is terrifying. To be young is to be labeled a courier of potential, a seed shot out into the dusty earth, assumed to blossom into the grand arbor we all expect. But what if we don’t? What if that potential becomes the scars of our personal failure? What then? The pressures of adulthood aren’t simply great, they’re intoxicatingly horrifying. Gary King is the grandest example of what failure looks, tastes, sounds and smells like.

"I wonder if I'm part toaster, part Cylon? Does that make me a Toaster Toaster?" ~Existential Murder Robot is Existential.

“I wonder if I’m part toaster, part Cylon? Does that make me a Toaster Toaster?” ~Existential Murder Robot is Existential.

Finally, someone understands that childishness isn’t simply a choice. It’s a shelter. And it’s one that will always, always collapse. The question is, will you get out and make your way in time?

Sinister (2012) – Scott Derrickson (Dir.) Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred “I Ran For President Once” Thompson, James Ransone

and

Seven Psychopaths (2012) – Martin McDonagh (Dir.), Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton

This may, or may not, give away the ending of the movie. Thanks, poster. You dick.

Ah, the ‘multiplex’. To us film-loving types, it is a rite of passage. An act of daring. A maneuver of such dastardly elusiveness, only the most capable of cinematic scoundrels can pull it off! Well, that was back in the days of not-being-17 and wanting, nay, needing to see South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut in theaters (Damn you, Wild Wild West for your bloated ticket sales!). Nowadays, the only reason to sneak into a movie while paying for a different one would be because you’re too poor in your post-college life to afford two tickets to two movies you only kinda want to see. Never fear! I did the adult thing! I multiplexed the SHIT out of these movies!…In that I saw one, left, ate some Panera (like a fucking adult) and then paid for the other movie. I be a classy mutherfucker (P.S. my mom reads this – or, as it’s pronounced in England ‘mum’, or, on the rare occasion, ‘boodle-matron’. Just thought you should all know). So, yes, as a busy adult with busy adult things to do, I had to fit these two badboys of movie mayhem into a single afternoon. Armed with a Meg and a Huntsberger, we stormed the beaches of mediocre horror and meta-McDonagh-magic. Now, I could have written two articles…but guess what? I have shit to do. So you get one. But it’s a long one. (That’s what she said. Lucky girl.)

So, what have we here? Sinister, the not-so-awaited follow up to Insidious, and the prequel to Nefarious, which will be, in turn, a spin-off of the series: Iniquitous, Not Very Nice,  and Kind of a Dick, tells the tale of an asshole getting killed really, really slowly by always making the wrong choices (SPOILERS). His name is Ethan Hawke. Well, it’s something else in the movie…but who will ever actually remember? He writes books about murders and then goes to the places where the murders happen and…well, that stuff is boring. The interesting part is that he discovers a collection of ‘Home Movies’ made by a gentleman who could give Rob Zombie some hints on how to actually string a series of scenes together. This guy is, in fact, an ancient Babylonian deity with a penchant for Super 8 film named ‘Bughool’ or ‘Bug Drool’ or ‘Bunghole’ or ‘Not as Scary as The Ring; You’re Trying Too Hard’. This fellow eats children, like you do, and usually dines on the youngest in a family that he then murders in gloriously ritualistic fashion. If you have half a brain, you have to ask yourself, who is going to murder the incessant and egregiously penis-esque Ethan Hawke and what fun way will they do it? I won’t spoil anything…though I already have, but it is fairly amusing.

“Hmm…you’re only paying me how much? I won’t even phone it in for that price. You fuckers are getting a telegrammed performance.” ~ Ethan Hawke, his own agent.

So, after witnessing a good deal of horror movies in the last month and an unacceptable amount during my rather miniature lifespan, it’s become clear that the ‘horror’ well is running a little dry. Yes, every now and then, a delicious cup of water comes up with the bucket, glistening like gems in the light…right before that kid from The Ring turns your face into a Picasso. But, more often than not, the bucket just comes up with sludge. Sometimes you’ll find some lead in there as well, double trouble. Since most of the classic horror beasts were created in the 70s and 80s, people have been attempting to rehash the magic. And, in some cases, they literally rehash what they think is the magic, only to discover that it’s a bucket filled with turd-meat (I’m looking at you, Jason X). The only team that has perhaps come anywhere close would be that of Saw. Like it or not, the ‘Jigsaw Killer’ is now an accepted member of the collective imagination, no matter how hackneyed and painful the later installments may be. Those boys went on to make the gloriously bat-shit movie that was Insidious. Now, beginning screenwriters, you know those rules everyone tells you about structure and tone and dramatic arc? Well, eat those. Regurgitate them. Blend them. Drink them again. And then puke on a computer. That would about explain the narrative arc of that movie. However, it was surprisingly interesting, for the most part. And then, the final act, descends into a realm reserved only for the Marquis De Sade, Salvador Dali and Charlie Sheen. It was a mess of such colossal proportions that even Lindsay Lohan gave it a once over before saying, “Gurl, get it together“.

So, here we have their follow-up. Does it make more sense? Yes. Is it as interesting? No. I’ll give the boys props, Bughool, or whatever his name is, comes off as exceedingly, what’s the word I’m looking for?…It’s like evil, but more baleful. Menacing? No. It’s not ‘insidious’…oh, man, it’s going to bug me. I’ll let you know when I think of it. Anyway, as a villain, he keeps the creep factor in the land of ‘Uncles Commenting on Their 16-year-old Nieces’ Bikini Facebook Pictures’, even if his face looks like if Gene Simmons’ forgot his safeword on bondage night. if you’ve seen any of the commercials, you’ve already witnessed the ‘scary’ bits (the paused image looking at Ethan Hawke, the harem of missing children watching a Bughool movie in the attic, etc.) so the rest of it is just a dude wandering around a house with a baseball bat. What is truly rotten at the core of this otherwise outwardly delicious treat is Mr. Hawke. He does a fine job as an actor. However, his character is so utterly detestable that all you can do for the length of the movie is hope that his demise involves some sort of accident involving testicles in a blender (it doesn’t). When offered night after night of terrifying shit, he still lies to his hot British wife about the fact that they are living in the house where the last victims were hilawkwardly murdered only a few months before. It’s all in the service of him refusing to accept that he’s a shitty author whose fifteen minutes of fame are over. Perhaps the writers were attempting to create some sort of tragic figure with Ethan “I’m a Really Serious Actor, I Promise” Hawke…but he is simply another Horror-Movie-Alcoholic-Dad (TM). And we all know what happens to them. The thing plays out like a parable written by Aesop after a weekend doing heroin with Edgar Allan Poe. There are no shocking turns, no surprises. You can discern the ending within the first twenty minutes of the movie. Thus, when it all comes together in exactly the way you expect, all you can do is leave the theater with a shrug.

“Shh, mister, I can’t hear Slipknot over your loud talking!” ~ Deaf Children

Perhaps the only true moments of brilliance in this melange of mediocrity all involve the found footage (eh? Eh? It’s even in this one!). Bughool’s movies are delightfully sadistic and the true reason for this movie’s R-rating. I don’t want to give any of them away, but my favorite involves a tracking shot on a lawnmower. Each film is beautifully scored with the creepiest of tunes (in fact, the whole movie has an excellent soundtrack, keeping the events tense even if the script isn’t pulling it’s fucking weight. Lazy script. Get a job, you hippie!) and begins with a simple scene of idyllic suburban bliss before cutting to one of four unique bloodbaths. In a sense, these vignettes cut to the core of what film fundamentally is. Here, it’s a disturbing exploration of the art-form’s voyeuristic basis, going so far as to recreate the closest thing to a snuff film you can legally see. Seriously, they go to impressive lengths. It promotes the idea that this violence and these horrid acts are part of a collective evil running through our society, a need to see brutality in it’s purest form, a completely sinister…

THAT’S THE WORD I WAS LOOKING FOR! Holy shit. I’m glad I remembered it. What are the odds of that?

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, yes, Seven Psychopaths.

This is the grossest act of false advertising since McDonalds began their “Kind of Edible!” Campaign.

So, onto a better (kind of) movie. To those of you who don’t know, I have a minor love affair with writer/director Martin McDonagh. His plays The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmoore and The Cripple of Inishmaan are some of my favorite works I’ve ever read. He instills a deep sense of dark Irish humor with British violence and cynicism while managing to tie the package with the neat ribbon of pathos. His first attempt at film, Six Shooter, ended up with an exploding cow and an oscar. His second was the inconceivably hysterical and sad In Bruges, a semi-parody of another one of my favorite plays, The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter. So, basically, I’d have his babies. I know I don’t have the equipment, but I will find a way. I vow, here and now.

But then, the balloon was pierced and, instead of popping and scaring the shit of nearby babies, it just kind of wheezes. I attended a production of his new play A Behanding in Spokane in Chicago. Yes, the performance sucked…but what was at the center was a shallow, bland tale that used violence to cover up is completely surface nature. Gone was the Irish longing, the romanticism drenched in modern urban brutality, the deep roots in the art of storytelling. It was just a dude hurting two idiots. So, after seeing that and the trailer to his newest venture, I found myself nervous. Would this be a further descent into the mouth of blandness? Has Mr. McDonagh completed his path to hack-dom? Will Christopher Walken Walken the shit out of this thing?

Sam “Amateur Hat Enthusiast” Rockwell

Well…it’s complicated. I enjoyed this movie greatly, with my healthily guffawing theater friends flanking me on both sides. From the opening where we witness the incomparable Michael Stuhlbarg and the DSLicious Michael Pitt get randomly murdered by a guy wearing a parka, you know you’re in for something a little…well…screwy. And screwy it is, folks! The entire first half of flick builds up the belief that this is some kind of Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez/Pineapple Express action comedy where all the ‘psychopaths’ get into place for a final, fatal, self-fellacious showdown. But the second half is extremely not that. To some, it might disappear up its own ass. To others, something a little more subtle is going on.

Marty, Colin Farrell (and the name of the author? Hmmm. I see what you did there), is a screenwriter who’s been stuck on the same title page of a script for months. Every night he drinks and every night he does little more than piss off his shrewish and inexplicably Australian girlfriend, Abby Cornish. At the same time, Sam Rockwell steals dogs and returns them to owners for a profit. Chris Walken is, well, the most fucking Chris Walken I have ever seen. In fact, the levels of Walken-ness are so relentless that you eventually stumble from the theater with a randomly broken speech pattern and the completely shocking ability to softshoe. Woody Harrelson is a vulnerable and homicidal mob boss with a penchant for losing his temper. Tom Waits is a dude with a rabbit. There’s also a Vietnamese priest talking to a hooker. And then Harry Dean Stanton shows up in a story as a tenacious and murderous quaker. There are so many disparate elements on display that its almost impossible to predict how they’ll all slot together.

“What are you in for?” “Being in Joe Dirt, you?” “White Men Can’t Jump.” ~ Actor jail.

And then Mr. McDonagh cheats his fucking ass off. Now, that sounds bad, I know. But it isn’t. Well, unless you don’t like meta. If you don’t care for references within references within references within Leo DiCaprio making that squinty face within references, don’t see this movie. However, if you can handle a little self-reflexive media (let’s be real, unabashedly and unremittingly self-reflexive media) then you should. It’s like Adaptation with more grievous bodily harm. It’s as though, as I did, Mr. McDonagh examined his career, his body of work, and noticed a few glaring issues. First: he relies on violence far too much. He uses his flippant tone to whittle his characters down to nothing more than meat fodder. Second: his female characters have gradually evaporated from his repertoire, reduced to nothing more than whores or saints about to be butchered or simply cut from the story. Third: the love is gone. His earlier works are soaked in a dark reverence for the odd inhabitants of Gallway Bay, where he spent his childhood summers. Gradually, culminating with A Behanding in Spokane, he has lost all affection for his subject matter and that which seemed endearing parody has become ruthless ridicule. Seven Psychopaths is his literary path towards dealing and overcoming each and every one of these problems, while simultaneously engaging in them entirely.

We have Mr. Farrell, as a stand-in for McDonagh, at the center of two opposing ideologies. On one side we have the chucklicious and unhinged mind of Sam Rockwell (who I don’t think was given lines, he simply made it up as he went and the result is delightful), proposing to end their tale with the cliched and overwrought gunfight, a shower of titties and a veritable gore-bath. On the other, we have Mr. Walken, who has a strong love for the human condition. We see McDonagh’s/Farrell’s struggle with the compassion for these psychopaths and the frustration with trying to end the tale with love. How they do it is perhaps my favorite aspect of this film and terrifyingly similar to Naughty Sinister. They tell tales. Fairytales, folktales, horror stories, fables and all the rest. From the frightfully excellent Tom Waits telling his narrative of a vicious love story that hadn’t yet ended to the arc of Mr. Walken, we get some incredible links from pure sadism to touching human emotion. The movie is no conclusion and, for the most part, is surprisingly messy. And that’s fine. It has its shoot-outs, its chortlifying moments of dark comedy etc. But, like Sinister, the miniature vignettes stand out as beautiful deconstructions of their form. Sinister solely serves to study cinema as it’s seen, while Seven Psychopaths scrutinizes the skill of spinning a story.

All rabbits grow up believing that if they’re naughty, they have to spend an eternity living with Tom Waits and all of his REALLY hipstery fans.

I left Seven Psychopaths thinking hard about who I am as an artist. It takes a lot of balls to spend millions of dollars to tell the journey of a man stuck in his career’s mid-life crisis. Luckily, this guy knows how to make ’em laugh. Truly, though, the stories of a man avenging his daughter’s death, a Vietnamese priest avenging his murdered family, and Mr. Waits avenging his wife’s past are all deeply touching in their own, twisted fashion. So, in a way, Mr. McDonagh has found it again. Let’s hope, in the coming years, that he manages to dig his way out of his own ass and create something new. For now, we’ll let him wallow in his filmic colon because, you know what? His excrement is a damn side more artistic than half of Hollywood on a good day. 

Raising Arizona (1987) – The Coen Brothers (Dir.), Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Frances McDormand

I want a baby-sized lawn chair. Not for using. Just for having.

Aaaaaaaaand we’re back. I’m sure you’re all sick of my incessant posts and musings on the storied history of the less-than-consistent Batman franchise. So, like Alfred at the end of the trilogy, I have left the streets of Gotham and have returned to regular movie-watching life. However, instead of relaxing at a Venetian villa, sipping a quarter cup of mallort and boning up on my Italian periodicals, I have the mustachioed Nicholas Cage sprinting at me with diapers while being chased by a harem of rabid pooches. Yes, that is just a small snippet of what I witnessed during the runtime of the Coen Brothers baby-heist movie Raising Arizona. Holy Jesus Henrietta Christ on a Cross with Joseph, Mary and the other Joseph playing cards.

Now, I haven’t even attempted to touch any of the Coen films throughout this ordeal for one of two reasons: either a) I’ve seen it or b) those stingy assholes at Netflix are yet to make them available. I am an unabashed, slobbering, squealing Coen Brothers obsessive. I will see anything they make. Well, almost anything (Intolerable Cruelty, anyone?). And even their turds smell like fucking roses. These boys are two of the darkest, funniest mutherfuckers to ever grace the silver screen. Also, they created the Dude. All hail. I have seen and loved: Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man and True Grit. I am yet to see Blood Simple, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Miller’s Crossing (I attempted once at about 1 in the morning. Pro Tip: never watch anything with Gabriel Byrne after 11pm unless it’s the criminally underrated Ghost Ship. Did I say ‘criminally underrated’? I meant ‘abortion’.) and anything else they make ever. Netflix, you’ve been warned. Make them available now or else I will murder a box of Australian Red Licorice every day until you do. Maybe a box and a half, depending on my mood. So, that being said, it may startle and/or appall you and/or make you take off your sunglasses and declare to the heavens ‘Dear God’, but I had never seen Raising Arizona. To everyone who has seen it: holy pill-popping, monkey-loving Christ. To those who haven’t: Dear Willy-Wagging Jesus. It is one of the most cracked out, yet witty black comedies I have ever had the pleasure to witness.

That’s the face Nic Cage makes every day he wakes up and realizes he’s Nic Cage. And then he remembers “I’m Nic Fucking Cage” and he buys a Lamborgini. True story.

This little gem of pure insanity is about H.I. McDunnough (pronounced ‘hi’), a simple fellow who tends to rob convenience stores with an unloaded pistol and spots a follicle pattern on his head-region similar to the hellish spawn of Freddie Mercury and David Lee Roth. In other words: he’s Nicholas Cage. He falls in love, in true Coen fashion, with the lady-cop, Ed, who takes his mug shots every time he’s arrested. She’s got a lisp, is batshit insane and needs a baby to make her happy. Basically…she’s Holly ‘Coolest Badass Lady Ever’ Hunter. Anyone who doesn’t know Holly Hunter must rent Danny ‘The Olympics Made Me Shit My Pants’ Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary right now because she and Delroy Lindo play a pair of assassin angels whose only goal is to get Ewan MacGregor and Cameron Diaz to fall in love. It’s not very good, but it’s amazing. Anyhoo, they want kids, but she’s barren. So, they do the only logical thing: they steal a baby from a rich family with quintuplets. Also, John Goodman with horrifying facial hair and the crabby cop from The Rock escape from prison and live in their house. It’s 90 minutes of pure Nic Cage bliss. We have baby-stealing, an extended chase scene through multiple houses and supermarkets with flagrant suburban violence and a horde of barking dogs (also, a handful of Huggies), the most awkward fight scene you’ll ever see in a bungalow and a grungy vigilante who throws grenades at bunnies. There isn’t the slightest hint of sanity on display here. And it’s wonderful. Perhaps the strangest of the sequences takes place during the initial infant-heist. While the parents are downstairs reading, Nicholas Cage is upstairs in the nursery picking up babies and putting them back. Then losing them. Then chasing them. Then putting them back. Then picking them up. Then almost getting caught. And then he leaves.

WHAT?

Yes. People actually dressed like this. Fashion…you have a lot to explain for yourself.

It was like witnessing a Three Stooges Scene as directed by Samuel Beckett. You’re aware that slapstick comedy is occurring, but it’s so piecemeal and bizarre you can’t quite wrap your head around it. In fact, the entire movie could almost be construed as a Farrelly Brother’s romp, except, you know, good. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I cried. Sometimes, I stared at the screen, drool dripping from my jaw as my brain felt as though it had been transported to a parallel dimension where Nic Cage opened it with a crowbar and then took a shit in the hypothalamus before kicking it back through the time/space continuum and back into my cranium. Is there a deeper meaning to it all? Uh…maybe? It’s the Coen Brothers. I’m sure there’s something…somewhere…or maybe they just really love shitting on stupid crazy people? They did that with Fargo, but made it into a stomach-churning tale of how far the rabbit hole can go when humans are pushed to the brink. I mean…they get the baby back to the parents. And they get off scott-free. And someone explodes. But he has the same tattoo as H.I. And there are the prophetic dreams about happiness and offspring…My head hurts.

I would like to take a moment and discuss Nicholas Cage. I am sure that this will not be the last we see of him on my journey through the finer points of modern cinema. In fact, I am so certain, I might as well cut John Travolta’s face off and stick it over mine. By the way, that’s the plot of a movie. Think about that for a second. Did you have an aneurism? Not yet? Well, watch Ang Lee’s  John Woo’s Face/Off and then you will. Nicholas Cage is a Coppola, so, no matter how many times he might defecate on the collective creative consciousness of the universe, he’s always allowed back for more. Also, because he’s Nicholas Cage. It doesn’t matter what movie, what role, what hairstyle, what eye-style (there is a ‘crazy’ spectrum based on how open his eyes are at any given moment, going from Con Air’s 1 to Face/Off’s 10 and then Bad Lieutenant’s 19), he is always the most enjoyable thing on screen. Is he good? Ask Season of the Witch (that’s a resounding ‘yes‘ ‘what the fucking fuck just happened to my brain?). Here, he’s still in his young Valley Girl/Leaving Las Vegas, nubile period. His comedy is moderately restrained, his scenic presence is subdued and if your child watched him talk, they wouldn’t ask ‘Why does that man look like an exploding peach with a mullet?’ In fact, it’s a wonderful counterpoint to Holly Hunter’s impersonation of what would happen if the virus in Contagionwas actually the far more dangerous ‘Baby Fever’. You feel for the guy, though you understand that his mentally-deficient character is the poster child for why modern eugenics might not be the worst idea (kidding).

Probably the worst and most confusing ad for ‘Full Metal Babysitting Inc.’ It took some time to convince parents that he was protecting the child by murdering everyone else.

To the average movie viewer, who loves to cram handfuls of buttered/baconed (that’s right, bacon is now a verb, mutherfucker) popcorn into their gobs while witnessing giant robots beat the shit out of each other in 3D, Coen Brothers’ movies are weird. You know what? Those sad, carb-filled monstrosities (i.e. everyone) are right. They are weird. Over the course of their careers they have opened the doors to the oddest subsections of humanity, all folded between the cracks of every day life. Their writing has a sinister quality to it, rarely glorifying its subjects but rather mercilessly and mirthfully ridiculing the ever-loving shit out of them. Even in a movie like Fargo, where you care desperately about the extremely pregnant Frances ‘Awesome Sauce’ McDormand…they still have extended scenes of her just saying ‘oh ya’ over and over again. I can’t tell if they hate all of humanity or love it. On the one hand you have the devastating and enthralling No Country For Old Men and it’s labyrinthine exploration of what it means to be a man in the modern-day west (maybe that’s what it’s about…I was thinking about it for weeks) and on the other you have the epically nihilistic retelling of the Job parable that is A Serious Man.Perhaps the Coen brothers are what would occur if Hannibal Lecter made movies. Simultaneously curious as to the intricacies of existence and yet entirely flippant about its subjects. It’s as though humans are fruit flies and they are the scientists overseeing their interactions. The outcome is important to observe yet they are unaffected by death and pain. It’s all just data points.

The children are our future.

In any case, I will slurp up anything those crazy gentlemen choose to eject into the film-verse. They’re two of the most talented, darkly-hilarious men armed with a camera to waltz through the hell-scape that is today’s Hollywood. I will see everything. I will laugh. I will squirm. I will scratch my head. And I will enjoy myself. Even if it does make me feel dead inside.

And now: a montage of Nicholas Cage’s hair through the years. You’re welcome.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) – Alfred Hitchcock (Dir.), Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave

She didn’t vanish…she’s above the train. She’s right there, guys…

There’s a gentleman who existed once. Many years ago. He entered filmmaking, a hidden specter, pumping out films as though they were Irish babies (that’s three a year), subtly and gently redefining how we understand tension and visual storytelling. Part silhouetted shadow of night, part Winston Churchill impersonator, this man is a master of thrillers, a godfather of horror and a delight of British sensibility. I am, of course, talking about Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

We all know Hitchcock as the man who brought us Norman Bates, a fear of biplanes flying over our heads in corn fields, and James Stewart watching us get dressed from his rear window. Hitchcock’s name is synonymous with cinematic excellence and class (as well as ‘ornithophobia’, but that’s because ‘ornithophobia’ is recklessly difficult to say.). However, what you might not have known is that Hitchcock’s career spanned about forty years. Watching a movie from his earlier years (i.e. The Lady Vanishes) and one from 1960 (Psycho) would be like comparing Oliver Stone’s Platoon, a grim, well-shot, brilliantly scripted Vietnam thriller, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps a movie that thinks it’s better than the numeral ‘2’…and that Shia Lebeouf isn’t completely fucking terrible. It would be like comparing Scorcesse’s Goodfella’s to Hugo. Both good, but occupying opposing beds in the overnight train of Marty’s long career. A train fraught with gunfights, Jack Nicholson wearing a strap-on, and people demanding to know if you think they’re funny, like a fucking clown.

Speaking of trains: This movie. Hitchcock loves his trains. We have strangers meeting on them, we have people taking them North by Northwest. I’m not sure what about these locomotives endlessly fascinated the man, but every chance he gets, he cuts to a vehicle rolling by, pounding and steaming its way along. Inadequacy issues, perhaps?

Tell me I’m wrong. I dare you. Alright, that’s it, outside, after school. Gloves off.

Well, in a nutshell, this thing is about a spoiled spark-plug Iris (Margaret Lockwood, doing her best to confuse the shit out of me with a half-English/half-American garble of an accent. Which was it? IT DROVE ME CRAZY) befriending an old woman, Mrs. Froy (Dame May Witty – not sure if she was a dame or she was just badass enough to demand that it was put in the credits) on a train going through the Eastern European country of *muffled cough and change subject*. After getting hit on the head, she passes out and Mrs. Froy is gone. Nobody on the train remembers her. Everyone thinks can’t-decide-what-side-of-the-fucking-pond-she-came-from Iris is crazy. Except for famed parent of everyone famous, and Petyr Baelish look-a-like, Michael Redgrave. He had a character…I guess he played music and was writing a book…or reading a book…point is, he looks like Petyr Baelish and he is dashing as all hell. It seems that Mrs. Froy was just a pigment of Iris’ imagination, but, remember, this is Hitchcock…

While watching this classic, I decided that this was the same plot I’d seen before with a woman on a train going missing and whatnot. And then I remembered that I HAD seen it before…on stage when I was a wee little shit. About the point when they discover the magic cabinet, I had a moment of “Eureka!” And stripped down naked. My roommates don’t appreciate when I do this and I don’t appreciate them stifling me, both emotionally and artistically, so they can shut their whore mouths. Anyhoo…When I was about ten, my parents dragged my brother and myself to see a campy adaptation of this movie made for the London stage. If I remember correctly…it sucked. I never saw the second half because either I A) Fell asleep (extremely plausible) B) left in a huff because the two old women in front of us complained that my brother and I were “Eating our sweets too loudly.” Well, missies, you’re lucky you can still hear anything. As your bodies break down and the last wisps of youth flitter away into oblivion, you’ll be glad you could hear my damn sweets. Enjoy eternal nothingness. Jerks.

It was an apt translation to the stage, I discovered as the plot unfurled and the characters grew ever-more ridiculous. It’s about as campy as Ru Paul starting a musical theater company. Is this the same Hitchcock that made me fear tennis matches? That pushed Jimmy Stewart to the brink of madness? It’s almost easy to forget that Hitchcock isn’t just British, he’s as British as the bloody leg-before-wicket rule enacted at the third test match of the Ashes after a fortnight of raining cats and dogs. Or, simply, ‘British as fuck’, in American. We have these two men, Caldicott and Charters who wander from scene to scene, complaining about foreigners (their food, their language, their lack of up-to-date cricket information and their not-being-british). Now, I like to think I’m an enlightened person, an ally to the LGBTQ community…but these guys were about as gay and a sausage eating contest in a Nazi all-boys school. Like…prep school gay. Like…St. Paul airport bathroom gay. In summation: these two ‘hetero-life mates’ and their discussion of ‘cricket’ was nothing more than a prelude to good old, weepy, shameful, don’t-tell-your-mother penis-to-penis. And yet…it never comes up. Ever. Nobody mentions a word. They just accept these two confirmed bachelors climbing into bed together shirtless and don’t blink an eye. Oh the English.

“No, that’s preposterous, there’s no nob-gobbling here! We’re simply discussing the trade routes of the the Dutch-East India company’s…Caldicott, stop nibbling my earlobe!”

That aside, the whole ordeal waffled between taught political thriller and a damn pantomime. When the doctor (so obviously, gloriously malicious and yet NO ONE SUSPECTS HIM) tells Iris that Mrs. Froy “Never existed,” I had half a mind to yell “Oh, yes she did!” And he’d have turned to the camera and stated flatly, “Oh. No, she didn’t.” And I’d yell back, “Oh, yes she…” The point I’m trying to make is that pantos are fucking insufferable. They’re like strapping two toddlers to your head and dousing them in pepper. Entertaining for about six seconds until you have the sensation of a miniature foot kicking you in the temples from both sides for two hours. There was NO TENSION in the entire film. For about 20 minutes you question if Iris is just suffering from ‘crazy bitch-itis’ and this whole thing is just playing out in her head in some mental institution on the outskirts of *cough and mumble, change the subject*. But then you find out what’s going on. The second you question a motive, the motive is made clear. There is no suspense.

And then the fights scenes…oh lordy. There are two. And they are amazing. Both brilliant and horribly terrible that you stare on in utter shock. First, the fist fight. It’s like two virgins who decided they were both subs, thereby both of them are tied up, trying to dry hump each other into oblivion. And Iris stands to the side, gently kicking their bottoms. It reminded me why I’m so glad virginity is not a permanent affliction. Next: a gunfight so nonchalant, you’d think it was cucumber that was simply too cool for academics, thus it lies there, not giving a fuck. People are shooting, sort of. It’s the most painfully British shoot-out since the Queen decided that she didn’t want to go to the royal wedding and capped a few guards. I think that happened. I heard about it.

This movie didn’t seem to care. An overwhelming sense of distance hung in the air, forcing any connection with the characters into the sidelines, leaving these oddballs of British sensibilities to flounce further down the road of absurdity. This was codified for me when Charters (the tweedly named Basil Radford – I know, right? People actually have names like that) walks out of the train and gets shot in the hand. He doesn’t react. He doesn’t do anything. He just glances down and walks back inside. After getting shot. In the hand. WHAT? What’s confusing about the entire ordeal is that sometimes it exemplifies Hitchcock’s strengths: his ability to visually advance the plot, his sense of wit and character, his complex plotting…and yet the rest is a floundering mess of Anglican hilarity.

Is he shooting? Or just pointing out that there are people trying to murder them in that general direction?

It’s difficult to tell if this was intentionally a comedy or simply so soaked in goofiness that Goofie would have asked them to “cool on that shit.” (And then Goofie would knock down his sunglasses, rev his engine, look into the camera one last time and declare ‘Derrrrr. See ya later!’ He’d ride off into the night, just a light dwindling into the mountains, a ghost drifting from our lives as quickly as he had entered. We’ll miss you, Goofie. God rest his soul.) Excuse me. Sorry. To the point: Hitchcock  is a master, a genius even. Perhaps this absurdity was simply an extended piece of satire, singling out the British as completely disconnected from the international community, people who emulate their island dwelling, repelling all invaders attempting to broaden their world view. The central plot point is that there is a message that needs to get back to the Foreign Office about two major European powers joining forces. Since this was made in ’38, Hitchcock couldn’t say who it was…but let’s assume it rhymes with Shmermany and Shmussia. Perhaps he was kicking the Brits where the sun don’t shine, a very naughty place no one should mention in polite company, in order to force them into the international community on the brink of world war.

Or, perhaps, it was just really silly. Like…really, really, really silly. It’s a fascinating relic, a milestone on a career so prolific it would make Joyce Carol Oates say ‘Damn, son.’ See this movie. I laughed more during the length of its run-time than I have in a long while.